Saturday, October 30, 2010

A kitty update.

The new kitty Patch went to the vet this week.

Poor Patch. He has ear mites (BAD), fleas (eww), intestinal parasites (ick), a fever, a head cold, and a brewing eye infection.

No wonder he seemed so laid back. He felt like poop.

It hasn't stopped him from making himself at home, though.

Look at Ladybug. You know she's thinking don't eat the kitty, don't eat the kitty. Or maybe what have you stupid humans gone and done now?

Ya' know how I'm always talking about simplifying life? Yeah, well, nothing about bringing a stray kitten into your home is simple. For one thing, I detest fleas. And I'm not crazy about having to teach a kitty to use the litter box, to use scratching posts, and that he can't sleep on my face. But I'm sure it will all be worth it in a few months when Patch is curled in my lap purring contentedly.

I can't wait for the first time one of my future grandchildren brings a stray home to Sam or Rachel and asks if they can keep it. Heh.

The good news is Patch is perking up quite nicely after just a few doses of antibiotics. Tomorrow he gets the treatment that will take care of all the pesky freeloaders, inside and out.

See? He's already gettin' feisty. 
Just look at those eyes.
Lord help us.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Beyond frustrated.

Sam has a little problem with authority. Always has. He used to take it out mostly on me and Steve, but as he has gotten older he has begun to spread the love a little more - to his teachers, his grandparents, anyone who would have the audacity to give him orders, or even politely ask him to do something.

He will be 12 years old in a few weeks. I know some of this behavior is typical of a preteen, but when we have struggled with him all his life it's hard to know what is "normal" and what isn't. Either way, there are some things that are just plain unacceptable. Unacceptable in our home, unacceptable at school or in society. 

As an added bonus, Sam's moods are unpredictable. One minute he could be quietly working on a project with his sister, all lovey-dovey, and the next he is hollering about how unfair it is that emptying the dishwasher is on his chore list again.

He is also a negotiator. Read: manipulator. He's always trying to make deals with anyone who will listen. "I'll let you have my iPod for two days if you take the dog out for me" was a common one until Rachel finally realized that he will renege every time. He'll come up with some loophole like "well I didn't say when I'd let you have my iPod" and he will insist he hasn't truly defaulted on his end of the bargain, which of course sends Rachel into a tailspin. These kinds of things happen every day in our house. It's like a power play for Sam, a way to feel in control; he thinks life is so unfair and everyone is out to disappoint him, so he's going to get revenge by disappointing someone else.

As a parent, this is exhausting. We are always on guard, always trying to predict his next move, always feeling there must have been something we failed at to have caused him to be this way. OK, well that last one is mostly me, but still. I get frustrated because while Steve is working away from home he's not here to give Sam the evil eye or back me up on discipline or be a good male role model for Sam. Steve gets frustrated because ... well ... for the same reasons. He gets the phone calls from me saying "I've handled it as well as I know how, now what?"

I hate that it is this way, but when things appear to be going really good with Sam I start to wonder what's up. I try to be an optimist and not assume all the good is about to come crashing down, but I've been disappointed so many times I just throw up my hands in defeat when it finally happens. Because it will happen, and it did happen last night.

After an evening full of struggles over chores and homework and all the usual suspects, I finally tucked the kids into bed and sat down to get lost in some mindless TV. About 15 minutes later Sam calls me from his room. He needs me to sign something, he says.


He came out from his room and brought me a packet of papers containing details about how he had been disciplined at school for disrespecting and defying two of his teachers, not doing his work, and disrupting class. He would not be allowed back to his classes until he brought this packet back to school, signed by a parent.


I might as well start beating my head against a wall. I swear it would accomplish more than trying to get this kid to make good choices.

We had a chat. He shed some tears. I sent him back to bed with the promise that I would be talking to his dad and together we would devise a plan to make Sam's life a living hell. (I'm kidding! Sort of.) I signed the papers and left them on the table for him to take back to school. I even put a check for his lunch money right on top of the pile so he wouldn't forget them. I set it all at his place at the table.

He took the check.

He did not take the papers.

Hear that? It's me beating my head against a wall.

More tomorrow ...

Friday, October 22, 2010


The kitty saga continues.

I had barely gotten used to the fact that we lost Snowbell when Sam walks in last night with an orange tabby kitten in his arms.

Like it's the most natural thing in the world.

Me: "Wait. Wait! Wha?"

Sam: "Can we keep it? Just for a little while?"

As the dog slobbered all over the poor thing I did a quick assessment. Kitty is in pretty rough shape. It had been hiding under grandpa's car and emerged at just the moment Sam walked outside.

Perfect timing, right?


I cannot say no. I am a sucker for kittens always, but this one just weaseled his way into my heart.

Meet Patch:

It's been difficult to type this because Mr. Patch apparently thinks I'm his mama. He likes to curl up on my chest, and he won't take no for an answer.

He's had a bath already, but it's going to take a few days to get him thoroughly cleaned up. He has something gray - paint, I think - all over his tail and on his ears. The insides of his ears are nasty; I cleaned them with Q-tips last night and it was not pretty. The pads on his paws are caked with grit, and he has a couple patches of missing fur (hence his name, Patch) where he's been injured or maybe got too cold outside.

But he's a sweet, sweet kitty. He is not bothered by the dog, who seems to think Patch is her new toy. I think he already has the litter box thing figured out.

He slept on my bed last night.

Oh, dear. This was not how I planned things.

Aren't life's little surprises the best? Heh.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sadness the way it should be: followed by laughter.

Bad news. I found our missing kitty.

Dead on the side of the road.


I was afraid of that.

But like I posted yesterday, we always kinda' know we take a chance with letting our cats outside. When I gave Sam and Rachel the news they took it better than I thought they would. Actually they didn't react much at all. Perhaps they had it in their minds as a possibility since Snowbell had been gone for three days already.

I told the kids I was sorry. Sorry that the story didn't have a happy ending. Sorry that life isn't fair sometimes. Sorry that our goofy, cuddly, beautiful Snowbell is gone.

I don't know what I expected. A moment of silence, maybe? A group hug? Someone to at least say, "He was a good cat?"

What I got was, "Hey, can we get two pets to replace him?" with a reminder that we never did replace the dead goldfish.

The goldfish Snowbell ate - and then puked up on the rug - while we were on vacation a few years ago.

I was processing the pet question when Sam started to chuckle.

"Well I guess he kinda' deserved that for eating the fish," he said.

Oh my. Did my son just say that karma killed the cat? Because it sounded like he just said karma killed the cat.

Now that right there is funny.

Morbid, maybe. But funny. We laughed ourselves silly.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


We have two cats. I haven't seen this one for about three days:

Snowbell is the mouthiest, but lovingest cat I have ever known. I think he thinks he's a dog; he'll greet you at the door, follow you around the house (I can't tell you how many times I've tripped over him as he tried to run ahead of me), and let you know when his food dish is anywhere near empty.

The cats come and go as they please. They have been spayed and neutered, so we're not concerned about adding to the kitty population, but out here in the country they have the potential to encounter any number of wild animals and who knows what else while they're outside. I suppose it's a risk we take, knowing full well that every time we open the door for them they might never come back. Especially Snowbell, because he likes to be outside at night. He's a great mouser.

Oh, dear.

Think good thoughts for him, will ya'?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ack! I just gotta' say it: nobody's perfect!

I appreciate a quiet Sunday afternoon when I can catch up on some of the blogs I follow, hoping to spark some creativity, see what friends and fellow writers have been up to, or sometimes just get lost in someone else's world for a while.

Inevitably I click from a blog I know and love to one on their reading list that looks interesting, and so on and so on. What a fun way to work my way around the world from the comfort of my own home!

But occasionally my journey into other's lives causes me to log off and smack my laptop shut in exasperation. I see perfectly-lit pictures of beautiful, clean homes and happy, organically-fed children, and I read about how they fill each day with fun and educational activities. It's all about love and hugs and rainbows and fuzzy little kittens.

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?!? Nobody's life could possibly be that perfect.

My name is Jane. I school my children at home and I feed them only foods we grow in our back yard, sans chemicals. I support baby-wearing and I abhor spanking. My husband is a genius and an entrepreneur. We never speak a harsh word to each other in any of the three languages in which we are fluent. We don't own a television. We have no debt. Our children don't know who Hannah Montana is. We make our own furniture and milk our own cow. Look at my beautiful home!

Seriously? Hhhhhhh.

There was a time when I would have been a little jealous of Jane's seemingly wonderful life and might have even tried to be more like her - the her in the snapshot she posted on-line, anyway. Now I just sorta' lift an eyebrow. Just a little. I don't judge Jane, but neither do I assume that her children have never thrown temper tantrums, her husband loves his job, Jane lives caffeine-free, and she has never been embarrassed by the state of her home when company stops by unexpectedly.

If her life really is that way? Well. Then more power to her. It sounds exhausting.

The fun thing about blogging (and the Internet in general) is that we can present only the aspects of our lives we wish to share. We can stage our photos. We can skip blogging on our crappiest days and write twice as much about the best days. We can make our lives look as perfect as possible. Or we can use our space in the blogosphere as a place to dump all the drama and share all the frustrations of life. I try to land somewhere in the middle.

I use this blog as a sort of journal and even though I haven't been at it very long I look back on my previous posts and remember the good days, bad days, ugly days, and yes, even the seemingly perfect days. My life is about striving for ... I don't know ... goodness. Peace. My family's happiness. But it gets messy sometimes, and I'm OK with you seeing that because messiness keeps me humble. Messiness is real.

My friend B is forever reminding me, "progress, not perfection." Pretty good words to live by.

I can't help but think some people spend so much time polishing the facade that they forget to live the life, and that's a shame.

That's all. I just had to get that off my chest. I feel better now.

Oh, and chances are if you are reading this, my imaginary character Jane does not represent you. Jane is all those people whose real names I don't know but whose perfect photos and children and spouses and homes are just too sugary sweet for my taste.

Now I'm really done. Off my soap box. Carry on!

And for heaven's sake, enjoy the journey. It can be imperfect and beautiful at the same time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I applied for a job.

But that was three weeks ago and since I haven't heard anything I'm assuming I am not being considered for it.

And that's OK.

In fact, I'm kinda' glad. Because if nobody offers me a job I don't have to make the decision of whether I should accept it.

It seemed like good timing. A friend passed along the job posting when Steve was between jobs and I was doing my best not to freak out about the future. "Why not apply?" I thought. I really enjoy being a stay-at-home mom, but if it comes down to needing to support our family, of course I would look for a job. And if all turned out fine with Steve's work status (which it did) and I was offered a job, too, I might still consider it. Who couldn't use a little extra income these days?

Then I started to think about having to buy a whole new professional wardrobe again. And figuring out what to do with the kids after school. And commuting to work. And the inevitability of office politics. And how we'd have to leave the dog inside all day because she's a wuss in the snow. And the list went on.

There were positive points, too. For one, I would be forced to get out of my pajamas every day. (*ahem*) The particular job in question offered great benefits. And spending a few years working in an office again would end that gap I call "No Man's Land" in my work history - the big void that began when I quit my job in the spring of 2008 and will continue indefinitely.

That first week or so when I didn't get a phone call I was a little disappointed. I got over it quickly, though. I've been so busy with life and being a mom and wife and friend that I can't even imagine how I could do both - work full time and do all the other stuff. In fact, I'm not so far removed from that season of my life that I don't remember what it was like, and I can honestly say I couldn't do it all. All those years of trying just made me very very cranky. I'm not ready to put that kind of pressure on myself again.

Nope. I like things just the way they are. Is it an easy life? Nah. No one ever promised me it would be. But it is a good life. And for now I know I'm right where I need to be.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I love coupons!

You all know I am a frugal-minded mama. But I haven't posted much (or at all?) about using coupons because I'm not really sure what to say other than this: I love them!

I am not one of those women who gets all kinds of free stuff using coupons. I cannot get over the embarrassment I would feel over asking for three different transactions at Walgreens in order to get the most out of coupon-and-sale combinations. I don't know why. It's just a thing with me. I don't care when other people do it, but I won't. (Plus, I just don't like to shop that much - I like to get in, get my stuff, and get out.) Nor do I want to offer a how-to on coupon clipping or reports on which stores have the best sales; there are people who do this regularly on the Web and do a great job of it, and I would be happy to point anyone interested their way.

But today I just have to share my couponing success.

I am so blessed to have a friend who sends me coupons regularly, so between what she sends and what I can pilfer from my mom (ha!) and the coupons I get from the occasional Sunday paper I purchase, I have a pretty good stash going.

This is how I keep them:
I keep them like this because I had this old bill sorter lying around the house. Easy peasy.

I sort them by categories that work for me.

Often this is how my dining room table looks on a Saturday afternoon. I actually enjoy this. Which is good, because the time I spend sorting through coupons and matching them up with sales is worth the savings.

Especially this week.

It's been a few weeks since I last hit the grocery store, so I knew it was going to be a big trip. On top of that, it's fall and in the fall I always stock up on certain things, especially items I need for holiday baking.

I wanted to get it all done in one store. I chose Meijer because a quick glance at their ads showed some great deals and several items I wanted to stock up on. I spent some time last night perusing Meijer's Web site, adding items to my virtual grocery list (which I eventually printed out - LOVE that feature!) and organizing the largest stack of coupons I have ever used in one store.

This is how many coupons I used:

This is how much the coupons combined with the sales saved me:

I saved $92.48!! Totally worth the hour or so I spent getting it all organized.

For perspective, my out-of-pocket cost was $151.44, and my receipt tells me I took home 90 items which includes a $12 tub of cat litter (the priciest item).

Not bad, eh?

And to top off this sweet trip, as I was gathering my purchases at the checkout a sweet older couple came over to me and the woman handed me a $2.50 store coupon and said, "Could you use this next time?"

How cool is that?

I love coupons!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Color tour.

I shot these pictures with my phone out the window of the truck yesterday as I took kind of a round-a-bout way home from town.
They're not the best quality photos, but it gives you a little idea of the beauty we're experiencing here in Western Michigan these days.

 Seeing the fall colors in a four-season state is like our reward for enduring the winters here.

I love taking leisurely drives on the back country roads 
(which is ... oh ... all the roads around here).

This is a shot I say I'm going to take every year, and finally did. This is along the road we live on - I love how the hardwoods growing up on the edge of this pine forest provide bursts of color.
Hello, fall. I love you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Picture day!

Today is Rachel's school picture day. I had forgotten what a big deal this is for girls. It's almost as dramatic as picking the First Day of School Outfit.

Somehow I managed to convince Rachel to let me put her hair in a ponytail this morning after much debate about what to do with it. Her hair is thick and heavy like mine, so blowing it dry and straightening it at 6 a.m. was not high on my list of things I wanted to do.

I think she looks like such a doll when she pulls her hair away from her face. What a cutie.

So I, of course, had to take her picture before she left.

She, of course, got all goofy like she does every time the camera comes out.

Sam's picture day was a couple of weeks ago. It was as drama-free as a day can be for Sam. All boy, that one.

In fact, he was pretty unimpressed with Rachel's excitement this morning. I took a picture of him, too, but he was hiding behind his hoodie and growling at me so I cut him some slack and put the camera away. I can sympathize. I'm not much of a morning person, either.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

On to the next adventure.

So ... last Thursday I started writing this post about Steve going back to work, and then the phone rang and plans changed.

Seems like I'd be bracing for change every time the phone rings around here.

Steve had just left when he got the call that the job was pushed back a day; he had one more day to enjoy being home. So after saying goodbye, we said hello again. The kids were surprised to see his truck in the driveway when they got home from school. Good thing they're old enough to understand how quickly things can change or they'd never believe a thing we told them.  

Dad's leaving today. Oh wait! No he's not.

The dog needs to go out. No, really!

Your pants are on fire. YES they are!

And having your kids think you're an idiot and have no idea what you're talking about would be tragic now, wouldn't it?

Hey, wait a second.

Anyway. Steve ended up leaving for real on Friday and starting the new job on Saturday. So far, so good. The great part about this new gig is he is back in Michigan, in an area he is familiar with, and just a three-hour drive from home.

Three hours! Piece o' cake.

And just last night I went and stumped him with a parenting dilemma. Turns out parenting from three hours away isn't any easier than parenting from nine hours away. Hmph.

It's all about perspective, I guess.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Nothin' like a beautiful fall day.

There is nothing like a beautiful fall day to put me in a good mood and provide some motivation to get some work done around the house. I love being able to go about the day with a cozy-smelling candle burning and the windows cracked open just a little bit so I can hear the leaves rustling outside.

I love the smell of earth and leaves and crisp air. Cold nights and warm, sunny days. Squash with dinner and fresh apples for dessert. Turning the thermostat down and snuggling under an extra blanket when I go to bed.

And of course, the brightness of those hardy plants that hang on even after the first frost.

I hope you're finding as much beauty in these days as I am. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I hate Saturday morning cartoons.

How silly is that?

Of course I watched them as a child. And I used to enjoy cuddling with the kids on Saturday mornings and watching them. But somehow recently they have become the bane of my existence. (The cartoons, not the kids. Today anyway.)

We have to get up early every other day of the week and get ready to go; all I want on Saturday morning is to sleep in, wake up when my body decides it's ready, and enjoy the sound of the autumn breeze rustling through the trees outside, brew myself a strong cup of coffee, and have a nice, relaxing start to my day.

Remember how we hated it that there was no talking in the coyote and roadrunner cartoons? Just some dorky classical music playing while Wile E. Coyote opened his latest delivery from the Acme company?

Yeah. I'd love some classical music and a few "meep meep's!" right about now.