Queen of the Castle

My daily thoughts are shared with you so that the boys will no longer see me walking around the house talking to myself!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Introducing Sam!

Meet the newest member of our family, Samwise. He is such a sweet, loving puppy. He is half Anatolian Shepherd, quarter Pyrenees, quarter St. Bernard. The picture above is at 7 weeks, but he is now 10 weeks old and 21 pounds! Everyone adores him, well, except the cat, but she is learning to tolerate him!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Standardized testing week

We are so off this year due to the move that we are just now completing our standardized testing. This is the week that always makes me question if I really should be homeschooling my kids. It is difficult for me to look at my kids' scores, and view anything less than stanines in the 7-9 as proof that I don't have a clue what I am doing. It doesn't help when I read about how homeschooled kids always have higher test scores than their public schooled counterparts. So I ask myself "what am I doing wrong?".

I have to tell myself that it is because of what I am doing right. I refuse to spend weeks coaching them on "how to take the test". The Stanford especially can have some confusing formats and directions, and I don't explain them in any way. Each year, I will tackle any confusions that arise after the test. As a result, their scores improve every year. But I am still not going to spend weeks giving some questions in the exact format of the test, because that is not "real world". We have better uses for our time.

I have to realize that my kids are not me. Heck, I have one who is most likely somewhere on the autistic spectrum, however mildly, so the fact that his reading scores are closer each year to average should be reason for me to jump for joy! I cannot lament that my oldest is only "average" in math, as he is doing his best, despite being the child of two engineers.

Mostly, this week is my lesson in humility. This is not about me! And I need to remember that as I place these test scores in their proper perspective, find areas we can concentrate harder on for next year, and move on to fight another day.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Our Michael

I've often thought about what I would say when I began to write on this subject. The last tumultuous year peaked in July with the hardest think that our family has ever faced. We had to both welcome, and say goodbye to our 6th child, Michael Kenneth, who was stillborn at 37 weeks due to a sudden, undetectable problem with the placenta. In just 12 short minutes, he went from being here to not. I knew exactly as it happened, what was happening, and was powerless to stop it. It was an utter shock!

I think that the most difficult part of the grieving process hit me last night as I checked in on my others in their beds. Philip had made a spinner out of a box with initials for each child in our family: B for Brennan, N for Nicholas, P for himself, J for Jonathan, A for Abigail, ... M for Michael. Still 11 months later, we talk about him, remembering the member of our immediate family who is no longer with us.

We still think of Michael as our "baby". When others ask me "how many children?" or the boys "how many brothers/sisters?", we think about Michael before we answer. I want to say 6, but then I would have to explain, because obviously people can count! And I don't really feel like always explaining, or even more I do not want to make others uncomfortable, and I know it will.

So I answer "5". I don't say anything about Michael. And my heart feels heavy all over again, because I feel that I have just denied our baby and his important place in our family. I continue to grieve in silence. And that is the hardest part of the entire process.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

In Bloom

I need to get a picture of the new house with the flowers in bloom! They are fabulous! What with me being a horticultural illiterate and all, I had no idea in January what the sad looking bushes were around our house. Okay, I knew the rose bushes, and that was pretty exciting with as much as I loved mine back in Houston. And I guessed that one tree was a plum tree (I was wrong). But now that a spring and summer have passed, I have a better idea. Hey, I at least know what color the flowers are!

First the rose bushes are beautiful: I have red, purple, white, orange, and a hybrid orange with yellow like I had before. The bushes in the front are junipers, which have tiny purple flowers (I don't have to tell anyone who knows me well how much I love purple!). The large bushes on the side are either hydrangeas or something similar with both light and dark purple blossoms! I could sit in a chair and just watch these beautiful buds! How crazy is that!

The "not a plum" tree turned out to be a fuji apple tree which has a couple dozen tiny apples on it right now. There is a gorgeous redbud, with a few pecan trees at the back.

And what is Colin's favorite part? That there are NO pine trees to drip sap on our cars!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Thinking back...

Today, I am in Lawton, OK with the kids while visiting my family. Today I will go to my brother Philip's "new" house. It will be exciting as he (okay, my sister-in-law) shows us the new paint colors and how each room will become their own. I love the excitement and anticipation of someone moving into a new home. But this will be a little surreal, because this home is not all that "new" to me. For the previous 42 years, this had been Grandma's home.

It has been 13 months since I lost my grandma, who was a third parent to us growing up. She taught me so much, from sewing, how to clean (at least she tried - she was so patient with me!), and how to be there for family. Grandma was the one who picked us up, in that rust brown Buick, when Mom and Dad were late getting off work. Grandma was the one who always had a great breakfast on the table when you awoke, to having a wonderful dinner there in the evening. Everyone who comments about how I can make gravy, well that is thanks to Grandma. Grandma was the one who always listened with understanding, yet would bluntly let you know just what she thought, whether it was what you wanted to hear or not. And she was nearly always right!

I know that she is in a better place, as she was physically suffering at the end and I know it is great that she no longer has to endure that. But it still seems "off" to be back in Lawton, and know that I cannot spend late evenings reminiscing with Grandma. She always had a story to tell, even that last afternoon I spent with her just 15 short months ago. We still love her, and I miss her.

But it is time for new memories to be made in that house. I am thankful that it is still "in the family". My nephews and niece will continue to fill it with laughter and joy. I am excited to see where these new adventures will take our family!

Friday, June 08, 2012

Apartment Living

Colin and I had not lived in an apartment since we were first married. It was the two of us and the cat. I remember when we moved into that house in Houston, oh how big it felt! Fast forward 12 years and 5 kids later (with lots and lots of stuff!), and we found ourselves living in an apartment once more.

The biggest drawback to apartment living with children was the lack of a yard. Our kids were so used to spending their afternoons climbing trees, swinging, and playing ball. Our complex did not have any place suitable for these activities. Abigail, who is an outdoor child if I ever saw one, couldn't even be out without adult supervision, as she would end up in the parking lot. It is no wonder that our biggest "must have" for our new home was a large, fenced in yard!

I also was out of the habit of hiking from the back of a large parking lot with groceries (and now children) in tow. That added a good 5-7 minutes to any errand. But I did get my exercise! Our kitchen was small (as apartment kitchens are), but we didn't even unpack our dishes and used paper plates for 8 months. Don't know what that did for our carbon footprint, but boy clean up was a breeze!

We were fortunate in the inside space we had. We had 3 large bedrooms, one big enough for all 4 boys to share. We had a "loft" so the kids had a playroom for the first time ever (we loved that!). And we had a third bathroom! After a few months with that luxury, it quickly made our wants list for the new house!

Why were we in the apartment so long? Well, it took 6 weeks after we left our Houston house to get it fixed to where it could enter the market. The market was terrible, and at a slow time of year (Oct. - Jan.), so it took 90 days to sell our house, even priced reasonably and all fixed up. And then we bought a short sale - I may have a few interesting posts about that process!

But we love our new home! We are so glad we took the low risk route of selling before buying after hearing some real horror stories. Besides, now we have stories about teh memories we made in our cramped, but cozy apartment home! I will admit, though, that it is much easier to laugh about it now, than it was to actually live out the process!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

You want me to do what?

One of the more memorable weeks leading up to our move was the week the painters came. We had to have everything in our house painted. The walls (even where Philip had painted a "Harold and the Purple Crayon" scene on the back of the boys' bathroom door), the ceilings, the closets, everything. So it was quite the thrill when they said that it would be easier to do it if we weren't in the house. Okay I get that. But I also have 5 kids (one of which is a rambunctious 2 year old) and I am also not supposed to lift anything, by the way. It was August, in Houston. Well, after spending one day at Mr. Gatti's (yes, a day!), and another at the mall, very leisurely picking out Lego sets that we took to the only covered pavilion that I knew of (and it was still way too hot), I had three more days to blow. Well, we tried the dollar theater. The only problem is that Abigail still wouldn't sit through a movie. I am sure that the boys enjoyed Kung Fu Panda 2, although so much for my dr's orders not to lift my squealing 2 year old (I was wrestling her in the back the entire time). You know, I can no longer remember how we spent that Thursday (I think we mostly played in our own yard, my thought at this point was that the painters were going to have to deal with it), and then Friday I had a dr's appointment and we were able to spend the rest of the day at a friend's house.

That week was the worst. Fortunately, the movers came the following week, and the rest of the house work was done without us even in the state. I know we wanted to try and get the house on the market as we left (it didn't happen anyway) so I really wish that we had just waited to do any work until after we were gone! Lessons learned the hard way!