Saturday, August 15, 2015

My Life on Full Throttle

 As I begin writing, my cat is sniffing my lips and sitting on the keyboard. This could get interesting...

So, I haven't written every week on the blog lately, and that's because I really feel like I have been going at full throttle since I returned from the Midwest trip. It's times like these when I realize that maybe, just maybe, I have indulged too many interests at one time, but I love them too much to give them up!

The house is a mess, the laundry is piling up, the dishes are only getting done because of my  husband, and the yard...well, I'd rather not talk about the yard and the possibility of a snake living there.

So, what have I been doing, you may wonder, that has caused me to neglect the basics? Well, you see, I have three kids...oh, you already knew that. I'd say we homeschool, but since we mostly unschool, it is very hard to distinguish "school time" from just living and learning and having fun.

Okay, okay, I'll stop messing around and tell you, listwise, a few of the things that I've been up to:

  • Helping out with my girls' musical theater camp by helping backstage, tie dyeing T-shirts with all of the kids, and, of course, going to see their show. Whew! That ended last week. It was great, but I'm glad when anything's taken off the schedule!
  • Planning and executing my youngest child's birthday pool party! Yay! Again, that was over yesterday, thank goodness! I was happy but exhausted by the end of the day.
  • Going to karate classes once a week. I've actually been in karate about 2 years give or take. I usually go twice a week, but I've had to go down to once because of ...
  • Play rehearsal! I am rehearsing to be in a play in September, a murder mystery called Murder Inn. I was in drama a bit in high school and college, but this is only the second I have done in my "adult" life. Rehearsals are a blast, and performing will be awesome. 

  • Going to my historical European martial arts class once a week for about two hours, where I am learning long sword alongside my son and other classmates. We also had an annual gathering and mini competition last week. I came home with two medals, and a big bruise on my arm from getting hit with foam swords!

  • Trying to edit more fiction. I am mostly an academic editor but am taking classes, building a web site, creating a new name for myself, and doing the work it takes to transform my business into mostly fiction editing.
  • Trying to write more fiction. I have written and promoted my nonfiction breastfeeding book, but my writing passion has long been fiction. However, I haven't put in the work it takes to get it off the ground (aka finished and published). With the help of a few really awesome books that I've read lately, I think I'm ready, if only I can find a few minutes here and there to get some words down on paper...
  • I'm still maintaining my YouTube channel and this blog, although maybe not as often as I'd like.
Did I mention that I have kids? Well, they always throw a wrench into things, but I wouldn't change that part for anything. I'm going to miss it when they are gone, and I have the quiet and time to get things done.

I am not going to start a new play once this one is done or start anything else new, though, because I really do want to spend some time getting the house back into a place I'd actually like to live in (maybe not so realistic with kids, but I can try!).

So, how has your summer been?  Is it just me, or does time really fly more quickly the older you get?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sandwiched between Growing Kids and Aging Parents: Glad to Be There

In a couple of days, I am going out of town for almost a month with my two youngest kids. No, not on some fancy vacation, although the beach does sound tempting on this 93 degree day.

No, instead I am headed inland to America's breadbasket to house sit for my sister and to take over as go-to person for a little while for mother and stepfather while my sister flies to Alaska to meet her wife, who went up a few weeks ago, and enjoy almost 2 months with her in one of their favorite places.

It has been a rough time for my mother lately. She and her husband still live independently but have come to rely on my sister, who lives less than an hour away from them, for assistance with different aspects of their lives, such as help with shopping and various errands and household duties, and of course, to call on during emergencies.

My mother has rheumatoid arthritis along with osteoarthritis, although the former was not diagnosed until she was already in her 70s. She has faced an increasingly difficult year with pain, lung disease, and a condition with her red blood cells that caused her to have to discontinue her pain meds for a while and undergo frequent transfusions. My sister has been with her through so much, which I appreciate more than I can express, especially since my stepfather has COPD and often has trouble getting around himself. I can tell it is beyond frustrating for my mother at the least.

My brother and I try to contribute however we can from a distance (he lives a few hours from her, and I live about fourteen hours away) while we are busily raising our own families.

My sister's son is past grown, although she has a very busy and demanding job, and my brother's youngest daughter just turned 16. So, I am the only one of us left raising small kids, as mine range from 14 down to 6. I didn't have my first child until I was 28, so this "delayed" start of our family might have contributed to being in this situation at this time in our lives.

I often feel inadequate where my mother is concerned since we can't do much from so far away while still taking care of our own family. We cover the cost of an emergency response system every month and also let my sister know to let us know when she needs something.

However, that lack ends up being more than made up for in the time my husband spends caring for his father, who lost his wife of 40 years last year. She suffered a heart attack after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. It has been a long, hard road of grief and more, and there is still no end in sight. My husband is an only child and does his best to help his dad out in any way he can. It is a much shorter trip to visit him, although still a good part of a day's drive, but my husband does (and we do) it faithfully and often.

There are all sorts of things I can throw in to explain how hard things can be: dealing with special needs, homeschooling, freelancing, my own health issues, and on and on. However, we are doing our best and are happy to do it, occasionally out of a sense of duty but mostly out of love. These are our parents we are talking about, the ones who gave us love, time, money, and devotion as we grew up, went to college, and eventually flew the coop. They loved and still love us unconditionally, and it's natural that we return that when we are able.

I consider it a burden no more than caring for my own kids at home would be. (That means, yes, sometimes it is, but it's one I am willing and able to shoulder.) When a beloved family member is in need, you help out of love because you want them to be comfortable. You want them to be happy.

That's really the lesson I want to pass on to my kids—to care for those you care about. Love is give and take. Sometimes, you give, sometimes you take. If you're lucky, what you get back is almost always greater than what you gave because love is like that: that feeling and knowing that there is someone out there that has your back and is there for you whatever happens. I know not everyone has that, and I'm always grateful that I do.

Of course, there are moments when I feel that I am going to explode because I am so overwhelmed. Worrying about aging parents is usually only one small part of that. It's at those times that I have to stand back and take stock to see what can be put on the back burner until I can breathe again or how I can better juggle what I have. They are times that I remind myself to remember all I have to be grateful for.

It's not perfect, not by far, but if I had to trade caring for my growing children and aging parents against not having them at all, I know which one I would choose.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

35+ Road Trip Audiobooks and Books for Kids

So, my younger children (girls ages 6 and 8) are accompanying me on a road trip soon. We will be in the car about 7 hours a day for 2 days in a row. When we return home, we will be doing the same thing. I'm always concerned that they'll be entertained at least a good deal of the time in the car because that means I'll get a lot less "Are we there yet?" and "How long until we get there?" and "Can we stop???"

One of my favorite ways to pass the time on a long car trip is listening to audiobooks. However, my favorite ones are not always kid friendly, so I end up listening to them on headphones off my phone or something.

A few months ago, however, I got a good deal on a collection of Magic Tree House books from Amazon. These are great for my youngest, who is not yet a strong reader and is actually kind of resistant to reading. I put the collection on their Kindles, and they listen to it almost every night before bed.

I thought some new audiobooks would be a great way to keep them entertained on this road trip. So, I jumped onto my favorite homeschooling group on Facebook and asked for recommendations. I wasn't expecting the awesome response I got, and they are so great that I thought I would share them with you. Keep in mind that I asked for 6- and 8-year-old girls, but the recommendations I got were a bit more expansive.

So, here are the recommendations that I received, in no particular order. Depending on availability, I include an Amazon link for as many titles as I can (in Audible or CD format or just book format), but please check your local library and other web sites if you so desire. I certainly will be!

  • Catwings by Ursula Le Guin (Audible, book 1 of the Catwings series) 



  • Scat Like That by Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer (Audio CD): Another nontraditional choice: "musical and silly: tongue twisters, yodeling, scat singing, limericks, great silliness."

  • Leo the Lightning Bug by Erich Drachman and James Muscarello (Book with Audio CD): "My all-time favorite audio version of a book."

  • Oh, The Places You'll Go and other Dr. Seuss Titles (Audible, this one narrated by John Lithgow): "There are so many Dr. Suess books and compilations of books—some read by famous actors, some not—that are really a joy to listen to."

  • Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins (Audible, book 1 of a series)

  • Fairest by Gail Carson Levine or anything Gail Carson Levine for girls (Audible)

  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein (Audio CD): "Recited, sung, and shouted by Shel Silverstein." "He is perfect! It's super entertaining!"

 Finally, I received a couple of nontraditional sources for audiobooks:


  • Sparkle Stories: A web site featuring a subscription for audio stories for children and families, including downloadable stories for traveling.
  • The last suggestion wasn't a specific audiobook but a great way to get audiobooks on the road, from an unlikley place: Cracker Barrel. They are all over the place when you're traveling, right? Well, they have an audiobook program, where you can rent an audiobook at one Cracker Barrel and return it to another. When you rent the book, you actually purchase it for the full price, but when you return it, you receive a refund for all of the purchase price except for $3.49 per week. I haven't tried them out yet, so I don't know how many kids books they carry or what is available at each restaurant, but it's worth a look!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Are You a Scanner or a Specialist?

I am so excited! I just learned some new words to describe how I am: a scanner, a polymath, a multipotentialite!

I have described myself before as a Renaissance soul–this is a term I only learned within the past few years. It was so nice to know that I wasn't alone, that there were enough people out there that couldn't seem to "stick" to a passion that someone had written a book about it (The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One by Margaret Lobenstine).

Today, I came across this TED Talk video by multipotentialite Emilie Wapnick.

She's a writer, a speaker, filmaker, musician, and the list goes on. She describes multipotentialites as being "wired differently." As the mother of a child on the autism spectrum, I've often thought about people and different wiring, but I never applied it to myself. Watching this was a bit of a revelation.

Wapnick discusses our culture's seeming obsession with finding your one true destiny, your one true calling. "What do you want to be when you grow up?," we're asked over and over again.

It reminds me of another one of our culture's obsessions, the idea of your one true love. It makes those who are or have the potential to be compatible with more than one passion (be that a person or an interest) seem a little odd and out of sorts. I'm not speaking about monogamy or polygamy, just the idea that there are multiple people with whom it would be possible for you to make a good life.

Careers are a little easier. Your career is not going to be upset if you cheat on it.

Embrace your multipotentiality, Wapnick says, and learn your superpowers, including adaptability and idea synthesis.

This is where I am now. I haven't figured out how to make a career out of intersecting all of my passions yet, but writing about them is a start.

I still remember when a tenth-grade teacher called me wishy-washy. That hurt, and it stuck. It has reinforced the idea in the back of my mind that something was wrong with me because I couldn't stick to just one thing.

I'm finding my multiple interests to be an advantage these days. It's certainly an advantage in homeschooling: my kids don't just learn one thing—why should I? Learning along with them is so much fun because I love to learn as well. Also, I am much happier when nurturing different passions and letting myself take a break and letting go when I am bored with one particular idea.

I love learning. I love mastering new skills. I have always had trouble understanding how someone could show an interest in a topic and not want to dive fully in and find out what it's all about deep down in the meat of it. Mastering skills also helps me build my self-confidence. I know that I will always be able to get by because I have not just one or two but many well-developed skills to fall back on.

So, what do you consider yourself? A specialist, someone with a dream, someone who has always known what you wanted to be? Or a scanner, a Renaissance soul, a multipotentialite? Someone with diverse interests who is always moving on to the next thing?

Tell me what your interest(S) are. If you're like me, maybe you will give someone an idea for his or her next big thing :)