{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: Vol 12

Lately it has been sort-of hit or miss with {7QT} but I’m here today!  Check out other more motivated bloggers at Kelly’s!

ONE.

Happy Inauguration Day!  There are Americans who are happy, Americans who are sad, Americans who are angry, and Americans who are resigned today.  But the point is, this is how democracy works.  This is how America works.  And I still think we have the greatest political system in the world.  Sometimes we don’t like the outcome of elections, or Congressional votes, or laws that are made.  And that’s OK.  Because we are able to disagree civilly, and work together to come to a compromise.  We can air our grievances, and work to change things we don’t like.  We are free to speak out.  And that’s pretty awesome because there are countries in the world who do not have that option.

At any rate, one of the paramount aspects of our political system is a peaceful transition of power (another thing many countries in the world do not have – hello Gambia).  So, like him or hate him, ecstatic or morose (or, I guess, the negligible percentage of Americans who just plain don’t care one way or the other about him according to the media), President Trump is the newest leader of this great nation and the amazing people within.

TWO.

I got a new phone.  I didn’t want to, my Samsung Galaxy III was working just fine, thank you.  Except for that I couldn’t get picture messages and it deleted all my contacts on me.  Hubby wanted to graduate from a 2000’s-era flip phone to something a little more sophisticated, for work, you know.  And since we were on different carriers, two different bills, two different kinds of coverage, we decided to simplify the matter by just getting matching phones.  Which is our romantic way of celebrating Valentine’s Day early.  (Isn’t that how the Millenials do it anyhow?  Skip the flowers & chocolates, opt for Apple products?)

THREE.

My baby turned 2 earlier this month.  Supposedly, she is our last one (according to Hubby, but I could easily be talked into another!) so I am going through the whole gamut of emotions relating to that and all my babies getting older.  Of course, kids growing older comes with its benefits obviously: they can strap themselves in the car, put on their own clothes, and can generally follow directions.  But, baby-lover that I am, I miss those days of little bundles sleeping all day and cuddling while breastfeeding.   I am getting more sleep these days, which is a plus.  But….still.  Sigh.

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Princess Evvie turned 2!

FOUR.

………….I am whisper-typing this, in case the Universe decides to play a trick on me….but I *think* I can claim victory on the Spike Potty Training journey.  He has been a trooper since Christmas, with accidents few and far between.  He really does excellent when we are out and about in town, it’s mainly when he is at home and distracted by tv or a complicated Lego creation that he sometimes forgets to go until it’s too late.  Yay!

FIVE

In just a few short weeks it will be….SIX MONTHS TO EUROPE!!!  More on that later.  So excited!!  It is really feeling more real now that everything is coming together, tickets have been purchased, reservations have been made.

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Coming soon!

SIX

One of the hardest things about living so far away from family is that you are not available to help in times of need.  Two days after Christmas, my mother fell and broke her leg really badly.  She is extremely independent and lives on her own, so this has caused her to completely reorder her life (including her willingness to ask for and receive help).  She is now recovering from a successful surgery but will be unable to bear weight on the offending limb for a few months.  In the meantime, my geographically-closer siblings have really stepped up to the plate and helped her with transport and shopping and stopping by to check on her morning and night.  My sister has taken on the bulk of this, for which I am really appreciative, because it is next to impossible for me to drop everything here and go there, what with kids in school, a husband on back-to-back business trips, as well as financial concerns.  It is hard feeling so impotent when it comes to helping out.  Anyone have any experience with this?  When you are unable to physically be there for someone, how can you Be There for someone?  Aside from sending money, what are some things I could do, both for my mother and my siblings who are taking on the responsibility for caring for her?

SEVEN.

Listening to Arianna Huffington’s Thrive on audiobook.

41a2znogcclIt is forcing me to think differently about our society’s definition of “success” as well as how to take better care of myself.  Huffington’s main mantra: Get enough sleep.  So I am trying.  The goal is to go to bed earlier so I can get up at 6 with the kids before school after getting a healthy 8 hours of sleep.  So far, so good.  I am hoping that in the long run I have more energy and am more focused.  Generally, I stay up late at night to “get stuff done”(which, incidentally, is what my mother always did growing up – and subsequently was a zombie all day) and then proceed to hit a slump shortly after lunch, where the world looks bleak and I am too tired to function.  Yesterday after 8 hours of sleep I didn’t feel that slump, which was awesome!  Hoping that will continue.  I will keep you posted.

Have a delightful week!  We’ll chat again soon!

 

 

 

 

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{7QuickTakes}Weekly mishmash: New Year’s edition and 2016 catch-up

Happy New Year!  And happy Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, if you will.  Here’s a long-awaited update about what’s been going on around here:

One

Six weeks ago Junior and I traveled to Washington, D.C. to celebrate my sister’s graduation from a prestigious law enforcement academy.  We had a great time.  It was so fun to spend time with my oldest son while showing him important places in America’s heritage.  We visited George Washington’s plantation home, Mount Vernon; went to dinner at a happenin’ farm-to-table restaurant called Founding Farmers; had a tour of the Capitol building; saw aviation history at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum; practiced our espionage skills at the International Spy Museum; and attended a delightful performance of A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre.  Junior and I got to spend time with his grandmother who we don’t see very often, and my awesome sister who I miss being away from very much!  It was a great long weekend.

Two

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Spike channeled Garth on Thanksgiving.

Three

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For my birthday, Hubby got me a new chandelier for our two-story stairwell.  Before it was a flush mount (read: boring) light fixture that I didn’t feel did the space any favors.  We got this chandelier at a really great Black Friday weekend sale and Hubby put it up before my early- December birthday.  I love it.  It really adds a new level of style to the steps!

Four

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Bellie performed in her 3rd annual Nutcracker.  It is a lot of rehearsals and late nights, but I really love being able to watch her and relive my glory days as an amateur ballerina!

Five

We had a lovely and relaxing Christmas.  Of course I entertained all sorts of ideas about crafts to do and cookies to make, but I only really got around to making a gingerbread house with the kids.  And I guess that’s enough!

Six

We spent the new year at dear friends of ours’s cabin up near Yellowstone National Park.  It was lovely.  The snow made it just like a wonderland.  We spent our time cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, drinking hot cocoa, and just enjoying each other’s company.

Seven

New Year’s Resolution:  Become an Ultimate Book Nerd.  Our library sponsors the challenge: read 50 books in 50 weeks.  My friends and I are doing it together!  I am pumped!  I am hoping I can do it!  I will keep you appraised of my progress.

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Hope everyone is settling into the New Year in a lovely fashion!  Check in with Kelly to see what more awesome people are resolving to do this year!  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

That darn perfection illusion

I apologize for my long hiatus…it has been insanely busy!  Between a post-election trip to Washington D.C., Thanksgiving, Bellie’s third annual round of Nutcracker performances, Christmas preparations and the like, I have been swamped.  But I promise to fill you in on all those adventures in due course.  Life has been good, I have been staying upbeat, but wouldn’t you know it…once the kids finished school for the year and I was finally allowed a break I came down with the flu (flu shot notwithstanding!).  It has been a fun three days of that but I think I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Right when I start feeling better I am sure the rest of the family will follow suit and get sick.  Right around Christmas day, I’m sure:-)  Oh well, c’est la vie.

I think I mentioned earlier that I have befriended a new-to-motherhood and new-to-the-area young lady who is married to a coworker of Hubby.  We’ve been hanging out every few weeks or so; I have been introducing her and her baby daughter to the various activities available in our town for family fun/child enrichment.  My younger kids get a kick out of hanging out with her baby, and I think she is genuinely appreciative to have the companionship.  It is fun for me, too, to experience, through her, how far I’ve come as a mom.  I mean, ten short years ago, I was that new, slightly uncertain and definitely appreciative for friendship – young mom.  Several years later, I don’t know if I would claim that I’m an expert or anything…but I am WAAAAAAAAY more laid back and more confident (sometimes) about my parenting skills.  Still, it made me dissolve in laughter when Hubby called me from work one day.

Hubby: [previously mentioned co-worker] told me his wife is super-jealous of you.

Me: What???!!!!  Why???? (silently thinking, “Did she SEE my four-year-old eat that gum off the bathroom floor at playgroup?”)

Hubby:  Yeah, she thinks you are like the perfect mom.  She thinks the kids are always so well-behaved and you discipline them so well.  And you always are on time and have your makeup and hair done when you guys get together.

Me: (Trying not to choke on my 8th cup of coffee that morning while the kids dump an entire box of cereal onto the floor)  !!!! Oh my gosh!!!  I have TOTALLY mislead her.  That was not my intention.

Thinking back, I really was only trying to not scare her off with my frumpy slovenliness.  Generally I am not on time, anywhere.  And I don’t usually do my hair, but I thought I should put forth a little more of an effort with someone I am getting to know. (It’s weird how friendship with other moms is sort-of like dating.  You want to put on your best face until you know you can relax a little around them in your own skin.)  I certainly did not mean to make her think I was…Perfect.

Hubby to the rescue:  It’s OK.  I set [previously mentioned co-worker] straight.  I told him that generally I come home to a house with cereal all over the floor and no one has gotten dressed for the day.

OK, that was once.  But if it serves to burst the perfection illusion my new-found friend has developed about me, so be it.  I don’t want to be seen as perfect!  That is a lot of pressure.

I think women, moms especially, are set up for failure with the perfectionism thing.  I mean, we start out young, unmarried and childless bombarded during our preteen and teen years with images on Cosmo and Vogue of these gorgeous supermodel/actresses and are convinced that is who we need to be (airbrushing be damned!).  Our images of perfection may also be tied up in being the smartest, getting into the best college, having the most prestigious (and lucrative) career.  We may spend hours on facebook and instagram looking at our friends’ “perfect lives”.  Then, we graduate to the competitive mom-ing.  Oh wow, that mom fits into her size-2 jeans and always looks like a million bucks, with her five beautiful children in tow who look like they stepped out of a Gymboree ad.   And that mom volunteers for Everything at school.  Isn’t she superwoman?  Plus she holds down a full-time job AND is going to grad school at the same time!  How is it possible this other mom keeps her home so immaculate with her two sets of multiples?  I have never seen her with a hair out of place, and she’s always cheery and friendly.  I’m sure her life is so charmed.

The danger in this “Projected perfectionism” thinking is that it tends to be a whole pack of bulls**tPeople, no matter how hard they try to make outsiders believe it is so, are not perfectionistic automatons.  There are happy, hard-working people who are living their best life, sure.  But they will be the first (often) to admit that their lives are not “perfect”.

Just yesterday, my little group of best girlfriends was blindsided out of the blue with some information that left us stunned and devastated.  A marriage we had always viewed as strong, a couple with a strong commitment to their family and community, had suddenly spiraled into a place none of us would have imagined.  Domestic violence, safe houses, and divorce proceedings.  The whole story is not immediately clear, but what an incredible shock for friends who have only ever seen the one face of their relationship.  How could we have missed if something so dangerous was going on with our friend?  Why didn’t she come to us for help before?  I always had (and still do) look up to her for mentoring with my parenting.  She was always so calm, so serene and so capable that I never would have imagined anything like this could happen to her.  And as a couple, they completed our little group that hung out camping and doing fancy dinners.  Our several families of combined children were good friends.  We were all so happy together.  I grieve for my friend and her family in this.  (Prayers greatly appreciated on her behalf)

The lesson?  Well, I could say “Try not to appear too perfect.”  But, in reality, it might be more prescient to say, “Don’t assume anyone’s life is perfect.”  Everyone has challenges.  Everyone has things they keep hidden.  If you suspect something with one of your friends that seems “off”, follow up.  They may not be ready to share, but they might be able to tell you how to help.

Meanwhile, next time I get together with my new-mom friend and her baby, I think I will put her more at ease by showing up 5 minutes late in my sweats, leaving that grape jelly smeared all over my kids’ faces and regale her with the tale of the “Floor Donuts” (that delightful time I let Spike carry the dozen-box of frosted donuts to the register at the grocery store.  He dumped them, the box came open, and all of them plopped juicily to the grubby floor, frosting side down.  And before I could begin cleaning them up, Spike wipes his hand over the frosting-smeared floor and begins eating it the delicious goo.)

Who’s a perfect mom, now?  🙂

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{7QuickTakes}Weekly mishmash: Halloween and the Couch that Smelled of Pee, or Scary Adventures in Potty Training

Hello!  We survived a scary week of Halloween being on a Monday.  It was rough,  and I can imagine even more so for my children’s teachers – having to get through an entire week of dealing with candy-addled youngsters.  I salute you, teachers.  Your courage and fortitude is beyond my capabilities.

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What is scarier than kids hopped up on candy??

Here is what else has been going on around here:

ONE

I realized that I am becoming a Bah-Humbug Halloween mom.  This is so extremely sad because, generally, I love Halloween.  It’s one of my favorite holidays, and not for the whole pseudo-occult-scary-zombies-and-skulls-everywhere reason.  I just like to dress up.  But this year, the day before Halloween, as I was rushing around trying to find all the pumpkin-carving tools and laying down newspaper on the table while trying to remember where I put the battery-operated tea lights, it occurred to me that THIS IS JUST TOO DANG MUCH WORK.  And, of course, the kids are running around in crazy anticipation of things to come (i.e. candy) like wolves who get a whiff of a wounded elk two miles off.  Of course, I suck it up and remember that this holiday is for them, not me, and power through.  But I lament the fact that I can’t seem to find the joy in Halloween any more.  I will need to work on that (and don’t even get me started on Christmas!)

TWO

Hubby and I met 16 years ago at a Halloween party at his college fraternity house.  I was a cowgirl….he was a  – flasher [because what other Halloween costume can you make up with things you already own – a coat and boxer shorts (luckily he was a G-rated flasher)? – excited to try to explain that one to our kids later…] but it always makes the Halloween season special for Hubby and me.  I like to try and go out to eat or something to celebrate our Anniversary of Meeting.  This year, we did something different and went to a sip-and-paint place (you can bring wine in and everyone in attendance gets instruction about how to paint a specific picture).  I had been there once before with my girlfriends, but I was pleasantly surprised how my analytical, science-minded husband really took to the creative experience.  He was really excited about his painting afterwards and talked about the experience for DAYS.  It was really a fun date night.

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He’s a better artist than me…his steps had WAAAAAYYYY more structural integrity than mine.

THREE

Yeah. So…my couch smells like urine.  I am so done with this “potty training” stuff with Spike.  He turns 4 in a month and I am pretty sure he will still be peeing his pants then.  We have tried everything.  Pull-ups are glorified diapers, people.  I have never successfully used them to potty train.  So we are just going the underwear route, along with a “potty timer” so that he has to at least try to use the toilet every 45 minutes.  This works well, except for when ha! Mommy forgets to reset the timer, or, he has the urge to go between timer dings.  Apparently I need to give him VIP-escort to the bathroom whenever I read his mind that peepee is coming, or no cigar.  Grrrrr!  Junior was a pain to potty train as well.  Bellie, on the other hand, was a breeze.  (She was so embarrassed about pooping in her auntie’s bathtub that she instantly decided poop would never again go anywhere but the porcelain throne.)

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Quit your smiling, McQueen! This isn’t fun.

FOUR

I ordered my Christmas cards already!  I am totally on top of things.  Of course, they will still probably not be mailed until the day before Christmas, but it’s the intention that counts, right?

FIVE

That is how many baskets of clean laundry I have in my living room that currently need folding.  Ugh.  Sounds like a Friday Fun-day activity.100_9805

SIX

We are hardly ever out and about after dark around here and the other day I had to run Junior to karate with the other kids in tow.  The sun had gone down and it was getting darker and Spike worriedly asked me if we were still going to be able to find our way home in the dark, or if we were lost.  It genuinely concerned him, and I was glad I could put his mind at ease:-)

SEVEN

I hope everyone remembers to vote on Tuesday!  Hubby and I were having a conversation about the upcoming election and he remarked, “I don’t think the country has ever been more divided in an election before.”  Of course he is not a history major, but I had to remind him of the election of 1860…

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…at least we’re not to the point of secession – at least not yet.  God Save Our Country!

And God bless you all in the coming week!

Be sure to stop by Kelly’s for more fabulous Quick Takes!

 

 

{7QuickTakes}Weekly mishmash: Vol. 11

Well, here we are approaching the last full week of October!  I can hardly believe it.  Time is flying so quickly.  Linking up with Kelly again for this week’s 7QTs.

~ONE~

My computer is boasting a sticky keyboard this week.  Thanks to Evvie kindly spilling my coffee all over it.  And I am too lazy to unscrew it and take the back off and clean inside it, so I am still using it while having to pressssssssssssssss (see?) really hard on some keys to make them work.  It’s an occupational hazard, I guess.

~TWO~

We went to a local corn maze extravaganza on Friday night.  The kids had a BLAST.  Hubby and I (who are more antisocial homebodies) tried to keep those completely fake smiles plastered in place while freezing our hinies off as the kids insisted on running in four different directions while we we kicked ourselves for not bringing more than one flashlight.

~THREE~

I had the opportunity to volunteer at my older kids’ school on Friday.  Since the public school system in Idaho is so poorly funded, classes like art and music have been cut.  In my town, the elementary schools greatly rely on parent volunteers to teach “FAME” or “Fine Arts Mini-Experience” once monthly so that kids can be exposed to art history and music appreciation.  I have been volunteering with this program for four years and I really enjoy teaching it.  I am always really impressed with how well-mannered and inquisitive the kids are.  One of the major highlights of this lesson (in which the art discussed was Grant Wood’s American Gothic) was showing the kids the different parodies that have been made of the artwork.  I think the overwhelming favorite was a Star Wars-themed one where the farmer traded his pitchfork for a light saber.

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courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago, artic.edu

~FOUR~

We babysat an 11-month-old baby girl yesterday.  She was sweet, but a big girl!  She was the same size as 21-month-old Evvie, and weighed much the same.  Evvie has always been at the low end of the size spectrum.  She’s growing, just seems to be petite.  It was interesting to watch Evvie interact with a younger baby.  Mostly she was just jealous because I was giving attention to another baby!   The parents sorely needed a break, Hubby works with the dad, and they are new to the area and don’t know a lot of people.  I sometimes forget how vital it is as a new-er mother to have other friends who are also traversing the journey of motherhood along with you.  It sounds like this mom is very lonely for other mom friends.  I am always so happy to recommend MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) to moms looking for that kind of connection.  Just being able to check in a few times a month with other parents who have kids the same ages as yours and who can commiserate with the ups and downs of parenthood along with you is such a blessing.

~FIVE~

I recently had a friend diagnosed with breast cancer.  They caught it early and her prognosis looks good, but she will still be in the throws of chemo for the next several months.  She is young (36) and is married with two young girls.  I have offered to help with whatever she needs, and I know she has many other friends doing the same.  I have never had a friend go through this before, and am unsure what would be the most meaningful way to help.  Any suggestions from anyone who has been there?

~SIX~

One of the best things about having kids get a little older is that you can pass on chores to them that you do not relish doing.  Having Junior clean out my car this weekend was SO AWESOME!  Of course he is not as thorough as I would be, but he vacuumed.  He threw away trash.  He put little trash bags by everyone’s seats to encourage them to throw garbage in there instead of on the floor.  It warms a mother’s heart!

~SEVEN~

I recently discovered Overdrive from my library and have been having so much fun listening to audiobooks while I clean and do the dishes.  It makes those chores go soooooooo much faster.  I recently “read” (listened to?) the Ruby Red trilogy by Kerstin Gier…started out as a read for a book club but then I really got into it, even though I am not usually into the young adult/fantasy genre.  But I absolutely loved the narrator.  I love when you get a good narrator who does all the voices believably.  The three books were a really good listen.  Now I am listening to Z: a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler.

~~~

That’s all folks, Have a lovely week!

 

In the Land of Blahs: how to cure a tired routine

may-you-walk-a-lighted-pathI am really good in times of crisis.  Not that I am asking for one (kay, God, got that?) but I have observed that I wind up being resourceful, focused and disciplined when called upon if things get suddenly very bad, very fast.  When my dad had a heart attack.  When, at two separate times my children had to be hospitalized.  When hubby lost his job.  I think it is something about the immediacy, the necessity of a plan, the life-and-death sort of reality that is more concrete than abstract, if that makes sense.  There is one goal: to get through this.  Often there is one course of action – to just keep buggering on.  And I feel adept at that.

Where my resolve starts to falter and my focus and motivation leaves me is when the routine of daily life becomes so repetitive – so predictable – that each day seems more dull and difficult to find joy in than the last.  I don’t believe this is a problem unique to stay-at-home moms.  I know Hubby feels the same way about going to work, as I am sure most people do when the day-in-day-out tends to more repetitive than stimulating.

Don’t get me wrong:  I love my life.  I love my family.  I feel blessed and grateful that we live in such a safe and healthy environment where my children have enough to eat and the opportunity to go to school and extracurricular activities.  I have a roof over my head and don’t need to worry about where the next paycheck is coming from.  I certainly don’t take any of that for granted.

But lately, I have been feeling….I don’t know….Blah.  Part of it is probably the weather.  Part of it might be due to the fact that I pick up 10 million toys that are littered around the house about 15 times a day and it gets old.  I get tired of the routine of yelling at the kids to get their lesson stuff together and get into the car (a process that takes, at best, 30 minutes)  and then arriving at said lesson with one of them missing their shoes.  I get bored to death with having to cook dinner every night (fancy cuisine-preparing genius I am not) and change two sets of diapers on a regular basis, with an almost 2-year-old and almost 4-year-old (yes, he is resolutely not interested in using the potty!) fighting me every step of the way.  I groan at the end of the day when I see the dishes piled up still on the table (Hubby doesn’t get the memo that yes, on nights when I am running with Junior to karate, the dinner chores still need to be done).

On Monday, the younger two were taking turns whining and fighting with each other, while simultaneously following me around trying to bite me out of love (I guess?) and I couldn’t take it anymore.  I turned on Paw Patrol and locked myself in my office and researched lodging options for Europe.  For two hours.  It was as though after all the figurative trudging through the muck and mire of daily life I just needed a mind vacation.  The mind vacation of fantasizing about a real vacation.  A real vacation that I keep struggling with feeling OK about taking.  Needless to say, I feel like if I didn’t have that to look forward to, life would feel very bleak indeed.

Which leads me to try to come up with some other ways I can Fight the Blahs.  I can’t always be planning a trip.  (Or maybe I can, but I still need some other outlets!)

Learn Something New

I admit, I have a problem with this one.  I think it is because I have so many interests, yet once I start something, I lose motivation pretty quickly.  Especially if I get bogged down if I feel it is difficult or tedious.  I took up knitting a few winters ago because several friends were learning how to knit.  They all seemed to excel at it (rather quickly, silly overachievers!) and I was still struggling with how to count stitches while they were already on patterns.  They were knitting socks with circular needles while I only managed a lopsided pot holder.  So I guess the goal for me is to learn something new that might yield positive results right away and that I can learn at my own pace, which might be really slow.

Set a Goal

This ties in with Learn Something New.  It occurred to me that I haven’t actually set a goal in my life for a looooooong time.  And I am talking something realistic, not just “be the perfect wife and mother with zero stress and a supermodel body.”  Something attainable yet challenging.  Something to look forward to, not something to be viewed as an obligation.

Vary Routines

A lot of my day is set in stone, with the times and days of lessons being set.  But if I look at some pockets of time, I realize that I can vary what I do, and when.  The easiest thing to do is just to drive a different way to and from my destination.  I could drive by the river instead of through town.  I could leave a little earlier and take the scenic route.  Sometimes just a change of scenery can break you out of the Blahs.

Wear Pearls

Part of my frustration with my daily routines is that I don’t feel good.  I mean, I don’t really feel good about myself.  Going through daily life in yoga pants and a t-shirt might be comfortable, but it was not giving me the boost of confidence I think that would make my interactions with people more pleasant.  I read a blog posting a while back saying that stay-at-home moms should “dress for success” just like their working-mom counterparts.  Which is somewhat hard for me to stomach, when I spend the majority of my day cleaning up smushed floorbanana and poopy diapers and trying to avoid being used as human kleenex.  But maybe if I treat myself more “professionally”, my family might see me as less of a doormat and more of a woman worthy to be respected.  And that might make me respect myself more, too.  I am not talking dresses and heels or anything here; I am just thinking taking a little more time choosing what I wear and perhaps throwing on that string of pearls might be a positive boost for my day.

Practice Gratitude

One of my favorite books is Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place.  She and her sister were very religious and were sent to a concentration camp during WWII for hiding Jews.    While Corrie found it hard to stomach the conditions they were living in, her sister reminded her of St. Paul’s admonition to “give thanks in all things”- even horrible things, like life in a concentration camp.  Corrie tells her sister, “I see what you’re saying, but how are we supposed to be grateful for the fleas and the lice that are infesting this cell block?”  Her sister didn’t have a good answer.  Earlier,  Corrie related a story of how she and her sister smuggled a Bible into the camp, somewhat miraculously.  With the Bible, they were able to encourage fellow prisoners to keep everyone’s spirits up.  Later on, they thought it was incredible that the Nazis had never come into the cell block to confiscate the Bible (and, most likely, enact a brutal punishment on the women for smuggling it in).  In fact, they never entered that cell block at all.  The reason?  The lice and fleas that Corrie was reluctant to give thanks for.  Their presence had been the reason God’s Word could still be heard in the most unlikely of places.

This story reminds me that, even in the doldrums of daily routine, there is plenty to be thankful for!

Deepen Spiritual Life

I find everything is easier to deal with when I am focused on the most important routine of all: spending time with God each day.  Of course most of the time I don’t make this a priority.   There is always something “more important” to do.  Housework, for example!  Chasing the kids!  It is hard to find time with these more pressing, immediate, concerns.  I think God gets that.  So I wait around for a quiet moment and try to get in a bit of Bible reading.  I find that sometimes I won’t even be thinking about it, but will feel a little nudge as though God is telling me, “Spend a little time with Me right now.”  And I try to listen.   I feel that by making Him a priority, I can more easily get the rest of my priorities in order.

And perhaps that is why “The Blahs” occur anyhow – they are a call to take stock of life and figure out what is really important, what is really necessary, and what really brings joy to one’s life.

I’d love to hear some other suggestions for how to Fight the Blahs!

 

 

 

 

 

{7 Quick Takes}Weekly Mishmash, Vol. 10

We’re into October…already?  with these 7 Quick Takes!  Log in to Kelly’s to see what everyone else is up to!

One.

It is Pumpkin Spice season!  I confess I am an addict of Starbucks’ PSL.  However, this is only the fault of my local grocery stores not selling Pumpkin Spice syrup.  Because if they did, I would be able to make my own at home.  But they don’t, so I can’t.  So if you find me running to Starbucks daily to get my fix, I blame it on Albertson’s.

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Two.

If you are the parent of the children who live next door, I heartily apologize for what I am about to say.  Well, kind-of.  Your 5-year-old daughter rings our door bell at all hours of the evening.  Like especially during dinner time (and if we decide to “ignore it” she will continue to ring that bell six or seven more times) and 9 at night.  We don’t mind little Sophia coming over once in awhile, but us setting boundaries for her does not seem to be working.  If we say, “please come back later” – she will wait 5 minutes and ring our bell again.  If we say, “we are busy, please go home,” she asks us what we are doing that could be possibly more important than letting her play.  If we announce, “It is 8 and we are getting the kids ready for bed” she wants to know why our kids go to bed so early!  So, anyhow, Sophia’s parent, it would be nice if you could maybe talk to her about that.  Like maybe only let her come ring our doorbell between the hours of 6:30 and 7:30 and maybe only on weekends?  Because I would definitely come over to talk to you, but your pit bull you leave chained up in your front yard seems to have taken a dislike to me, as it barks and growls angrily when I go get my mail and for some reason I am a little nervous!

Three.

School fundraisers.  Well, fundraisers in general.  I hate them!  And my elementary kids come home and give me the forms and give me a guilt trip about how they really really want to win that iPod or that trip or that pizza party if they sell the most.  So could I please please please help them achieve these goals?  I hate bugging my friends to buy stuff.  And my kids won’t bug my friends to buy stuff.  And I refuse to have Hubby take this stuff to work, it just seems weird to me.  So last year I just bought all the raffle tickets my kids were tasked with selling myself for the school carnival.  And surprisingly enough, Bellie ended up winning for “Top Seller” in her class.  I had to laugh.  This year I think I will just do the same thing, buy up $50 worth or so of raffle tickets and chalk it up to a donation.  I would so much rather donate than fundraise!

Four.

“Pretend” school update:  It is going rather well.  I think the main thing I have been focusing on is just to stay positive and not get too intense.  Also, being a little flexible about the schedule.  Spike thrives on a)storytime b)crafts and c)songs.  So I try to teach him his letters, his letter sounds, and a religious lesson while bookending it very strongly with stories, crafts, and songs.  Plus, today I decided to do the coloring pages I had earmarked for “C” along with him and that was surprisingly relaxing and fun!  Anyhow, we’ll just keep on keeping on with that.

Five.

This.

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Six.

You know when you are eating a graham cracker, and you love it so much you go “A-mmmm.  A-ummmm.”? And then you climb on the table, grab your sippy cup and say,”Tank-UUUU Mommy!”?  That’s just one of the fun things 1/4 of my kids do while I am trying to blog.

Seven.

Wake me when the election is over.  That is all.

 

Have a great week!

 

 

{7 Quick Takes} Bison, bears, and bathrooms in Yellowstone

A couple of days behind on this one, but better late than never right?  Linking up with the lovely Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum and the gang…

ONE

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    Even if they are just walking through the parking lot, it is still never a good idea to pet a bison.

Last weekend we took advantage of the post-Labor Day crowds and took the family to Yellowstone National Park to camp.  We are so lucky to live a short drive away from the park, so weekend mini-vacations there are easy.  We have friends who are storing an RV trailer in our yard that they are graciously allowing us to use, and we took that when we went.  Otherwise we would have had to bring tents to augment our itsy-bitsy slide-in pickup camper.  And no offense to tent-campers out there, but I am not brave enough to risk sleeping in a tent with four kids who smell like hot dogs and marshmallows  in Bear Country.

TWO

Did you know that in Yellowstone, there is this lake that straddles the Continental Divide?  Its significance is that one side of the lake drains into the Pacific Ocean and the other side into the Gulf of Mexico.  And if your son just happens to surprise you by suddenly urinating into it (which I am sure is totally legal in a national park…)his pee will likely travel both of those directions as well.  Keep an eye out for those “teachable moments”.

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This location holds a new meaning for us.

THREE

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2016 may be the year Old Faithful finally becomes female.

“Why is it called a “Guy”ser?  Where are the “girl”sers?” – Bellie gets feminist at Old Faithful.  Maybe Hillary will change that if she gets elected.

FOUR

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Looking up from the lobby fireplace.

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I love how they’ve incorporated natural logs everywhere

I love, love, love Old Faithful Inn.  Every time we go to Old Faithful, I drag the family in here to see the awesome log everything in this awesome old hotel.  I love going into the lobby and just looking up the several stories to the roof.  And that fireplace is just fantastic!  We stayed there once, and I thought I was in heaven.  It is just a fantastic piece of history and one of the biggest log cabins in the world.  We watched Old Faithful erupt for a second time from the front balcony.  Low crowds, a huckleberry mocha, the soft sounds of my kiddos fighting over a muffin.  It was lovely.

FIVE

I am so proud to announce that my oldest three are now JUNIOR RANGERS.  They worked so hard.  How, you may ask, does a child become a Junior Ranger?  Well, it involves many hours of study (i.e. completing fun activities in a workbook), going on a nature patrol (i.e. walking from the visitor center to the boardwalk by Old Faithful) and listening to a ranger’s talk (we watched a bear spray demonstration).  The kids had a lot of fun doing this.  My favorite thing was Spike’s drawing in his workbook of animals one might see in Yellowstone.  He drew two turtles and a dinosaur.

SIX

We are the champions!  We did UNCLE TOM’S TRAIL.  With kids.  With no injuries.  And we’re not even that in shape.

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The way down is easier. Across from the falls of the Yellowstone.

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The gorgeous Yellowstone Canyon.

So, I had forgotten that there were SO MANY STEPS.  I really wanted to get close to the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River and I figured Uncle Tom’s Trail was the best walk to take.  I had forgotten that it has like one million and eighty-two steps down the canyon wall (those scared of heights may want to reconsider).  Which isn’t that bad going down, but is really, really a joy going back up!  The last time we had done the trail, Bellie was a baby in the backpack (carried by Hubby) and Junior was about three.  He ended up falling on the metal grates of the stairs at the very bottom, skinning his knee awfully badly and not wanting to walk anywhere anymore.  So our friend Eric offered to carry him all the way up those million-plus steps.  Our friendship with Eric was solidified and written into the annals of friends-going-above-and-beyond history.  I am pretty sure we still owe him big time for that.  And as far as Hubby goes, babies in hiking backpacks are not a piece of cake going up and down that staircase with, either.

However, this time all went well.  No injuries, no kids losing their motivation halfway back up again.  Heck, I am super-proud of myself for not losing motivation halfway back up again.  It was tempting to stop at one of the landings and say, “that’s it, I can go no further.  Bid fond adieu to my mother for me.”  but I kept going.

The view really is to die for.  Well, not literally (there are always some really unfortunate fatalities in Yellowstone Canyon every season), but it is just gorgeous.  If you are into self-punishment (or just enjoy the stair-climb machine at the gym) Uncle Tom’s Trail is for you!  It is worth it.

SEVEN

You gotta love the worldliness of Yellowstone.  There are people there from all over.  We were following a family from France on our way up the Stairway from Hell Uncle Tom’s Trail.  There were Germans in line next to me at the restrooms.  And a very nice group of Chinese tourists wanted to join us for lunch in our camper.  They were very intrigued that there were four children.  They also found blonde-haired Evvie positively enthralling.  And she’s not even that blonde!  (On an earlier trip, we were on a trail and there was a family ahead of us with a toddler who had platinum blonde hair.  A large group of Chinese tourists surrounded the family and started touching the child’s hair and gestured that they wanted to take pictures with her.  So they began taking selfies with the little girl as though she were one of the Jolie-Pitt kids.  We felt relieved that our dishwater-blonde kids were wearing hoodies.  It would have taken us forever to get done with that walk around the hot springs!

It’s a good learning experience to be able to explain to the kids how things are different in other countries and in other cultures.  For example, the Chinese tourists were interested in the size of our family because in their country they had a one-child policy until just recently.  So families of our size are not seen there.  And blonde hair is likewise rare.  Even explaining how toilets are different (prompted by the kids seeing the following image in the restrooms in Yellowstone:)

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If there are footprints on the seat, someone probably ignored this sign.

was a good opportunity to discuss that the U.S. is not the only nation on earth and the way it is done here is not necessarily the way it is done elsewhere.  Not good or bad, either way…just different.

 

Have a fabulous week!

Asking for what you need and guilt-laden “me time”

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lovely image of Paris courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I have been struggling with two main emotions  challenges stumbling blocks lately.  And they are guilt and my struggle to be assertive.

I struggled with this last month when my in-laws were visiting.  I have been struggling with it this month while I try to plan my upcoming Europe trip, as well as take some much-needed “me time” in the form of my monthly Bunco get-together.  Hubby, understandably, is resistant to the times I spend away from the family.  It places extra burden on him and he really doesn’t get anything concrete in return.  (One could argue a happier, more rested wife, but we’ll get back to that in a minute…)

Things came to a head last week when I was discussing the aforesaid European trip with Hubby, complaining that there wouldn’t be enough time to comfortably see EVERYTHING, and he suddenly said, “I am not sympathetic; I am not supportive of this trip in the first place.”

Wow.

I was thrown for a loop.  Here I am, glibly planning this two week trip for next summer with friends and – heck- we’re almost ready to buy plane tickets, when Hubby suddenly brings to my attention the fact that, ahem, he is not supportive of this trip.  I admit I never really asked permission to take this trip with friends -a trip that I have been saving both my money and airline miles for.  I had, at first, mentioned to Hubby that we take a trip together, just the two of us.  I suggested Alaska, a place Hubby had always wanted to see.  I figured out a little itinerary (Denali! Kenai Fjords! A fishing charter!) and asked my sister if she would be willing to come out to Idaho to watch the kids while we were gone.  I had it all planned, and presented the plan to Hubby on his birthday.

The response was not as I had expected.  He replied that he didn’t want to spend that kind of money, that his idea of an Alaskan trip was much different than my idea of an Alaskan trip (think flying into a remote North Pole-ery location and rustic camping/fishing for a week) and he reminded me that we don’t travel well together.  (Which is true, we have very different traveling styles).  I told him that we had enough airline miles for both of us to fly to Alaska for no cost.  He said, “I’m sure you’d rather go to Europe with those miles.”  And I said, “Yes, actually I would.  Can I go to Europe with those miles if you really really don’t want to do Alaska with me?”  And he said yes.  So I really really thought he was completely OK with me going to Europe next summer.

After the conversation (the one where he said he wasn’t going to support my trip), I was wracked with horrendous amounts of Guilt.  Who was I, thinking that it was completely OK to ditch my young family for a couple of weeks, leaving my poor frazzled husband to deal with them?  Who was I to make my husband take vacation from work to watch the kiddos while I gallivanted around Europe while he was forced to stay home and be stressed out?   Why did I think I deserved that?  What if something happened to the kids while I was gone?  What if something happened to me?  How selfish was that?  How selfish was I?

While I kept trying to make sense of my emotions regarding this I tried to ascertain exactly why Hubby said he was non supportive.  What he had said was he wasn’t supportive of my trip.  What I heard is that he wasn’t supportive of me.  When I asked him to clarify, he said he thought the expense of travel was too great and that he didn’t believe I would be able to save enough money beforehand to finance my trip.  He also was unhappy about having to take work off, using up valuable vacation time that he would rather use for….um, vacation.  He also was worried for my safety, in light of the terrorism that seems to run rampant in Europe these days.  Additionally, and perhaps a little “selfishly” on his part, he was jealous.  When had he gotten to take a two-week trip with his friends?  I reminded him of the cool locations he had traveled to for work (Sweden, for example).  Also, I reminded him that I had tried to get us to plan a trip to Alaska, a #1 bucket-list item on his agenda, but he had declined.

Nevertheless, even after finding out the reasons for my husband’s reluctance to this trip, I still felt guilty.  I assured him I would try even harder to save money.  I would sell stuff I was no longer using on ebay.  I would pare down my spending.  I also assured him I would try to figure out childcare options for while I was gone, perhaps hiring someone or seeing if a family member would come out to provide babysitting.  I can’t do anything about terrorism or crime except to keep alert and stick with my traveling companions, and I told him I would be supportive of any travel scheme he came up with in the future – with or without me.  But the guilt remained.

As a wife and a mother, and especially as a woman of God, we are taught the intrinsic value of sacrifice.  We sacrifice for our spouse.  We sacrifice, especially, for our children.  Our sleep, our time, our energy, our bodies.  We are happy to do it because our families are worth it.  No one wants to be that mom or that wife who selfishly puts her wants ahead of her family’s needs.

So when, if ever, is it OK to say “Time Out!  I need to focus on my needs a little bit.  And they might look like ‘wants’ to you, but believe me, THEY ARE NEEDS!”  Like rest and rejuvenation.  Intellectual and cultural stimulation.  Exercise time.  Heck, a shower!

I guess, ultimately, I don’t want my kids to look back at me during their childhood as a woman who had no identity except that as their mother or their father’s wife.  I want them to see me as a dynamic, interesting, and joyful  woman who sacrificed for them but never forgot to take time out for herself.  I don’t want them to remember me as bitter and frustrated and failing to be a person in my own right.  I also don’t want them to remember me as a woman racked with guilt over following my dreams.

That said, I am forging ahead with the planning for my Europe trip.  I will try to come up with ways to make the time I am gone (and the expense) less painful for Hubby.  I am sure I will continue to struggle with feelings of guilt, but I need to focus on the actual goal which is to create enough joy that I come back to nurture my family even better.  One can’t feel guilty about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

{7 Quick Takes} Thoughts on Hamilton, “pretend school” and memory

Hello, gentle readers…hope your week has been lovely.  Linking up again with Kelly to let you in on what’s been happening around here…

ONE

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I am sort-of behind the times, but just recently discovered and immediately jumped on the Hamilton bandwagon.  I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on Amazon nearly non-stop for a few weeks now, and I love it.

I was a history major in college and I always thought, reading about Alexander Hamilton, “what a stud!” first, but then, “this guy was the epitome of the American Dream”.  He rose from illegitimacy and poverty to become one of the most influential of the Founders.  He had such a fascinating, nuanced life and that’s why this musical really excites me.

Plus, the hip-hop?  That’s pretty darn revolutionary for a Broadway show about an 18th Century Federalist.  It could have been a tired, classical story about an interesting guy, but Lin-Manuel Miranda does such great things with his writing that it makes the early days of America fresh and exciting.  And relatable.  Which is a complaint I think a lot of young people have about the study of history.

(Why do I  have to learn about this?  What does it matter to me?  These people in the past are nothing like me, they have nothing in common with me.)

Miranda took it a step further and cast people of all ethnic backgrounds as the central (historically Anglo-Saxon/white) characters.  And it is brilliant.  The story transcends race and gender and solidifies the fact that no matter our backgrounds or ethnicity, ALL AMERICANS have a right to the heritage of our nation.  And that is just fabulous.

Plus, the music is super-catchy.  If you haven’t, I encourage you to check out the soundtrack (even if you’re not a musical fan…this one might change your mind!).  If you’re waiting to see it on Broadway, it is probably going to be a long wait – it’s basically sold out into 2018!

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Alexander Hamilton (left) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (right) as Alexander Hamilton

TWO

The older two started school Aug 28th.  I had to laugh at Bellie (1st grade) when she came home after that first day.  It was an excited, breathless, stream of consciousness about eating lunch at school and riding the bus with her brother and seeing her friends and she loves her teacher and she got to help in the library and she used her new pencils and she loves her teacher did she tell me she loves her teacher?  And Junior (4th grade) came home and grunted “fine” when I asked him how his first day was.  Haha, the difference between boys and girls.  (Or 1st and 4th grade?)

THREE

I attempted to begin homeschooling my preschooler on Tuesday.  I had tried to get him excited about the prospect (We did not enroll him in “away from home” preschool this fall because A) at almost 4 he is showing a stubborn lack of interest in being potty-trained and B) I really don’t want to have to shuttle anyone back and forth to a 2-hour preschool when it takes me 1 hour round-trip  to get there.  This is my one year to be free from that!).  Anyhow, I told Spike that I was going to teach him at home.  He responded, “I get to go to pretend school?  Yay!”  Initially, I thought, that’s cool he calls it “pretend”, I know it is real, and it will be awesome.  Well, it turns out he really thought we were only going to “pretend” we were at school.  I barely got through the morning prayer and the pledge before he got sidetracked and started throwing a fit about playing with his Lego car.  I tried to lovingly refocus him, I attempted to move onto something I thought he would enjoy (coloring), I finally resorted to giving him a time-out.  He sat on the steps screaming, “I hate pretend school!  I don’t want to do pretend school any more!”  So I decided we would probably just take a break for the day.  I don’t want him completely hating it if I push it on him.  I vow to try it again next week.  I will keep trying for a bit but if it appears he is just not ready, perhaps he might not be.  I will keep you updated.

FOUR

The baby has some weird skin thing going on.  It looks like a rash or maybe psoriasis, is mostly on her chin and around her eye.  It looks very dry and red and patchy.  The only thing I can think of is it appeared around the time the kids were doing swimming lessons last month.  So perhaps a reaction to the chlorine or something?  It has been a couple of weeks since we’ve been swimming, though, so I don’t know what is going on.  Junior had some weird eczema around that age that eventually subsided, but this appears different.  I hate skin conditions in kids…one thing can look very much like another thing.  Something serious that needs treatment can appear just like something else that only needs to be washed with a gentle soap and moisturized.  It could be a reaction to some kind of detergent or it could be an allergy to some kind of food.  In that case, it can take months to figure it out while removing and adding stimuli to the child’s life.  Gaaah.  At least it doesn’t seem itchy or bothersome to Evvie.  She just looks somewhat ghastly.

FIVE

Our garden is overflowing and I couldn’t be more irritated.  I know that sounds totally awful, but it is true.  I love the idea of gardening.  I like having fresh herbs and lettuce to pick when I am making a salad or cooking and need just a little bit of parsley instead of running to the store.  But…but…even when you plant just one, little, teeny zucchini plant you somehow wind up with 5,634,592 zucchinis that you need to figure out what the heck to do with!  I have at least 3 friends who begrudgingly took one or two to make zucchini bread.  Hubby’s been cubing it and sautee-ing it with butter and Parmesan cheese (yummy actually, but not when you have it served for every meal for every day for a month!)

We have tomatoes and plums and really hard, not delicious pears strewn all over my counter.  The fruit is not so bad: the kids eat it constantly.  Unfortunately, those children still in diapers (I’m looking at you, Mr. I Hate Pretend School) tend to bless me with delightful pants to change after consuming all of that fiber.  Hubby was raised with the Depression-Era mindset (I am pretty sure he is actually a vampire who grew up in the 30’s) that you use EVERY LAST available piece of food for SOMETHING, no matter how ugly it is, how full of worms it may happen to be (yeah, our apples didn’t do so well this year), or how bad it tastes.  If it is not rotting or full of mold, you better dang well figure out some way to cook it, freeze it, or preserve it.  Of course, since Hubby is at work all day, this generally gets “intended” my way….and I honestly have tons of things I would rather be doing.  Hence the resentment over my bounteous garden.  I am blessed.

SIX

I have to go to the library today.  My kids love the library.  I love the library.  But I hate going with my kids to the library.

SEVEN

I am reading this fascinating (although a little technical) book: Permanent Present Tense: The Incredible Life of the Amnesic Patient, H.M. by Suzanne Corkin (2013).

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I became interested in this subject because a new nonfiction book about the same thing was recently published:

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My library hasn’t acquired this new book yet (Patient H.M. by Luke Dittrich, who is the grandson of the brain surgeon who operated on H.M.) but a search led me to the other one.

Permanent Present Tense tells the story of Henry Molaison, a 27-year-old epileptic who underwent an experimental surgery in 1953 to remove part of his brain in order to relieve his seizures.  It seemed to work somewhat, but tragically included the added side-effect of Henry never being able to create any long-term memories.  His life really was in “permanent present tense” as he forgot everything after about 30 seconds.

As a result, for the next half-century, Henry agreed to be studied by neurologists to discover the intricacies and nuances of the brain.

Fascinatingly, only Henry’s long-term memory of things after his surgery was affected.  He could remember things from before, and his intelligence and personality remained the same.

Henry passed away in 2008, before that, he was only referred to in scientific circles as “Patient H.M.”  He contributed greatly to our understanding of how the brain works, most importantly memory.

I have always been very fascinated with the brain and the history of how brain injuries and mental illness have been treated.  In the first part of the 20th Century, lobotomies were considered appropriate and acceptable treatment for a wide range of conditions, among them depression and schizophrenia.  They were used, with some success, on patients with epilepsy, but up until recently doctors were not sure precisely which areas of the brain were able to be removed or damaged to yield results without damaging other brain functions (such as memory).

I’m only about half-way through but am engrossed.  I feel devastated for Henry and his family to have to have enriched science and medicine through their loss, but it really did open up a whole knew era of understanding about the brain.  Alternately, the book calls into question the lengths we as a society are willing to experiment on human “guinea pigs”(drug trials, for example) to further our goals to find treatment for disease.