Nov 19 2014

Jen’s Unbreakable Rules for Holiday Music

Jen's Unbreakable Rules for Holiday MusicI was in the car with the boys the other day when…

Jingle Bells
Jingle Bells
Jingle All the W….

STOP!!!!! No Christmas music in early November. Just no.

And so, like other important discussions that must be had only in the car, like peer pressure and drugs and sex, I had to have the When Christmas Music Is Acceptable Talk.

Rule One.

If Santa has made his appearance at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (hopefully with his pants still around his hips and not his ankles) and the confetti is flying and the credits are rolling and you can smell a gently roasting fowl, then and only then you may start to play (and sing) holiday music. Not a freaking moment before. The band could be marching down 34th Street, you could see just the merest glimpse of Santa, and I’d still say no. Santa, confetti, credits. Then music.

Rule Two.

Rule One may be bypassed IF AND ONLY IF your area (not your mom’s, not your college roommate’s, not your Facebook friends’ area) is under a Winter Storm Warning. Not an Advisory, not a Watch, not a measly little Alert. Winter.Storm.Warning. The kind of storm where you stock up on rock salt, bread, wine, toilet paper, and duct tape (for the kiddies). If Tom Freaking Skilling is shooting off meteorological record-breaking statistics like a machine gun AND doing the two handed point at the map, that is the kind of Winter Storm Warning I’m talking about. THEN you can play music before Santa, confetti, and credits.

Why Jen, you seem to have some pretty strong feelings about when to play, listen to, and sing Christmas music. Why is that? Are you possessed?

Yes indeed, I am possessed of a music education degree. And for the two long years I taught (each of which felt like Picard knocked out living a second life in an hour), we had to start holiday music in October. OCT-freaking-OBER. Colorado in October can hit 85 degrees. Teaching This Holiday Selection Passed Inspection by the Board of Education and the PC Patrol in October made for a very, very long fall and a very wearying holiday season. My cheer had ho-ho-hoed right on outta there long before Santa waved hello.

So no holiday music before next Thursday. None. I watched a little TV the other night (rare for me these days) and was about to chuck the remote through the screen when I remembered there was a mute button and I did know how to use it. But once we have the official Santa, confetti, and credits go-ahead, it’s all holiday music all the time for the season, which brings me to

Rule Three.

Holiday music can and will be enjoyed from a variety of sources, including but not limited to: school concerts, adult ensemble concerts, Pandora channels (I have probably close to ten), house-to-house caroling, and your worship service of choice. BUT!

Rule Three Point One.

At bedtime of the 25th of December, all holiday music returns to the DO NOT PLAY THIS UNTIL SANTA, CONFETTI, AND CREDITS vault, and the regularly scheduled music of choice may resume.

One more week, people. Contain yourselves.

Nov 18 2014

A kinder, gentler NaBloPoMo

I’m mellowing in my middle age. Last week I missed a day of NaBloPoMo and it only irked me a tiny bit. No guilt over it, no writing shame spiral, just oops and done. Today I’m thumb-typing this post between flute students. I’m eating a sandwich with the other hand, too. Multi-tasking at its very best.

There’s only so much stress to go around, and after last week’s full-body thud, there’s not much left for a self-imposed, entirely unnecessary (in the grand scheme of things) writing challenge. So if I get something something of quality up every day I’m pleased. If not, then that’s ok too, because it meant something more important took precedence.

Look at me, a full-on adult, and finally getting a handle on life triage. Go, me!

If you want some more in-depth writing, check out yesterday’s post for the GHF blog hop. From there you can surf to the blog hop page, and then the posts of all the participants. I’d link, but my thumb is very tired now.

Nov 17 2014

{GHF blog hop} To Be Both Normal and Extraordinary

To Be Both Normal and Extraordinary


Most Fridays during the school year we’re at our homeschool co-op. It’s a warm (in company, the buildings are freezing, but that’s why I have a down coat), comforting, supportive day for us. It’s the first (and still only) place Andy can hang with peeps like him, where we can both let our freak flag fly. No one bats an eye when a five year old is bouncing around in math class, giddy with excitement that he’s doing negative number algebra. Or a kid might need to pace a bit around the room to think. Or an advanced physics class has an age spread of several years, taught so all those interested and able can take it. It is all normal, and it is extraordinary.

Isn’t that what we all want? To be both normal and extraordinary? For our extraordinary selves to be recognized, and for that to just be, you know, normal? How wonderful that would be.

There is such an unspoken dichotomy here in the States. There is an expectation for everyone to be extraordinary, but if you truly are, you’re marginalized for not being normal. These gifted and 2e kids can’t help but be extraordinary, any more than I can help being extraordinarily tall. This makes finding or creating a community where the extraordinary is normal even more pressing. We’ve been so lucky to have this co-op. My kid gets to truly be himself, and I can talk freely with other parents about the difficulties of homeschooling a gifted kid (hint: it ain’t all sunshine and roses. It ain’t even a light drizzle and carnations. It’s more like an imminent offshore hurricane and the entirety of Butchart Gardens; you’re never quite sure when it the storm will hit, or which way the wind will blow when, but damn isn’t it beautiful here?).

My sons are extraordinary. They are also quite normal, though I’m sure the rest of society cocks a skeptical eyebrow at that. A community where both are celebrated is a joy and a necessity. My job is to find those communities. I have one with our co-op and another online. Both are deeply valuable to me, to us.

Because the only way our kids, all of our kids, are going to thrive is if we celebrate their extraordinariness while we simultaneously treat it as the most normal thing in the world.


1507364_10204797988496874_5108667508715648633_oToday’s post is one of several on the topic of community, as part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum November blog hop. The theme of community was chosen to coincide with this week’s GHF 10 year anniversary. Ten years of resources, support, connection, and advocacy for gifted and 2e kids. If you’ve benefited from GHF’s work, I urge you to become a member of this non-profit organization. While the resources are free to everyone, membership allows us to reach more families and advocate more effectively for this community. There are a variety of benefits for members, which are listed on the membership options page. I’m proud and honored to be a part of GHF, not only as a member, but as one of the inaugural Ambassadors.

Happy Anniversary, GHF. I look forward to creating an even stronger community over the next ten years and beyond.

Nov 16 2014

Today I played a concert.

today i played a concertA few years ago (ok, a LOT of years ago), I wrote a short piece about playing a concert. Go read that, and pretend I wrote it today.

Because today I did play a concert. Not orchestra, which is what I wrote about before, but wind ensemble. And damned if I’m not exhausted. I’m getting dinner and wine and calling it a day.

Nov 15 2014

If only they were this exhausted every night


If you are not a married adult in this abode you need to immediately and without further ado depart from your current location and haul your young ass to the upper regions of this facility. Once there you must engage in the teeth brushing and bladder emptying portions of the evening, followed by some light reading and pillow fluffing, and end with the eye shutting and snore production. Why? Because I am a married adult in this abode and I require some quiet time with the other married adult living here, preferably with adult drinks and adult conversation and adult activities. But not that adult activity, because the house is small and the walls are thin and let’s face it you’re not sleeping anyway and I refuse to pay for anymore goddamn therapy for anyone other than me for the foreseeable future.

My god I hate bedtime. Not my own bedtime, that I love like spring afternoons and wool socks and wines that send shivers down my spine. That other bedtime. The one that involves young creatures with minds of their own. That bedtime wants me want to stab sunshine and burn rainbows and kick bunnies into the bushes to be eaten by bunny-eating monsters. Life lied to me when it said that someday the young creatures with minds of their own would sleep. No, life lied by omission. The young creatures with minds of their own sleep alright, just not at night when mommy would really like some quiet time so she can unwind and sleep and not toss and turn for 97 minutes prior.

But tonight! OH tonight! Tonight those young creatures are upstairs, passed out or on the verge, at the AARP-approved hour of 8 pm. Those young creatures nearly blew zzzzs into their dinners this evening. The older young creature went camping last night with the Boy Scouts, in sub-freezing temperatures, barely ate anything for 24 hours, and spent the day running around a campsite playing a variety of ultimate games. The younger young creature joined the older mid-day today for those games. Running up and down hills, playing capture the flag and tug-of-war, little bodies running high trying to stay warm in 20 degree weather…it wears a body out.

So this evening there will be no “hey mom, something-something-something-tech-something” and no “I’m hungry” and no “I can’t sleeeeeep,” because those two young creatures? Are asleep.

Nov 14 2014

At least I’m warm

at least I'm warmBack when I was in college I had this massive winter coat. No, really, it was enormous. Cherry red, puffy with down, reached my ankles…and my ankles are pretty far from my shoulders. My friends laughed and called it my mattress coat, because you really could spread it out and use it as a sleep surface. Unzipped it was like having wings; one time I was at a craft store with a friend and I turned around, knocking over a display in the process. Good times, good times. I didn’t care about the ribbing, I was warm. Delightfully warm. The music buildings on campus were all over the place, there was no one music building, so I was outside in central Illinois in the dead of winter all the time. I needed something to keep me warm from jaw to toe. This coat fit the bill.

I got rid of it after we’d lived in Colorado for a few years. It never got so cold that I needed a full length down coat, a regular winter parka served me just fine. Then we moved to Chicago, and last winter’s YOU WILL OBEY AND RESPECT ME FOR I AM WINTER AND I AM IN CHARGE BOW TO ME BITCH temperatures clued me into the fact that if I didn’t get something warmer my ass was going to quite literally freeze off. While I could really use a little ass reduction, an entire temperature-induced assectomy isn’t exactly what I had in mind.

So I bought a new coat. Full length, down, toasty warm. Because of new technology in coat construction (or some odd BS like that), it’s not nearly as puffy and mattress-y as the previous one. It’s just…let’s just say the color on the website wasn’t entirely accurate. It looked a little more subdued on the screen than in person. It’s warm and cozy and all, but…well…

Let me introduce…



Nov 13 2014

Let Me Tell You About: Living Gluten Free

living gluten free

I keep seeing articles lately about the myth of gluten free, that really no one except those with pure 100% doctor diagnosed celiac should be avoiding gluten. That it’s a scam, the newest health fad, an expensive way to be trendy. Well, they got one thing right: it sure as hell is expensive. The grocery budget is second only to the mortgage.

Why does it matter to anyone if someone else is gluten free? Seriously, why? That makes about as much sense as getting your knickers in a knot about someone only wearing cotton because other options are uncomfortable or painful or make them break into a rash. Why do you care?

No, I was not 100% doctor diagnosed with celiac when I went gluten free 6 1/2 years ago. I’d been working with my doctor to figure out why I felt like the bottom of a worn out shoe all the time. The best he could come up with was stress, and to get more sleep, eat well, exercise. Well, I was already sleeping and eating well, and it’s pretty hard to exercise when even pushing the accelerator on the van to make it go vroom exhausted me. Western medicine fail. I started seeing an acupuncturist and the first thing he had me do was a two week food elimination detox. It was a very long two weeks; for several days in the middle there I was essentially a gluten free vegan. I got very good at rice, and started to feel like I was coming alive again. But funny thing as I started adding foods back in. No problem with dairy or eggs, but gluten? I had an english muffin for breakfast, and an hour later practically drove the van into a ditch because of the mind-blowing exhaustion. That scene repeated itself several times as I gradually came to accept that gluten was the culprit. I could have had the celiac blood test or endoscopy to confirm, but it would have meant returning to gluten for a minimum three months beforehand. No way I was doing that, I finally felt alive again.

I lose my mind when I eat gluten. No, really, it’s as though my mind is just somewhere else and I can’t remember where I sat it down. Full-body exhaustion, mind-blowing fatigue, brain fog so strong I cannot complete a thought for love or money, irrational anger at everyone and everything, increased levels of frustration, and an intense desire to crawl into a cave and not move until sometime in the next century. That’s for at least three days, and then the stomach problems hit for another few. I can easily lose a week to ten days to gluten poisoning. But it’s not celiac because an MD didn’t diagnosis it, right?

For the most part, I’m ok with eating gluten free. I’ve found great recipes, workarounds, and blogs to completely revamp how I cook. Usually it’s not a huge problem. Until it is. Like when Tom is out of town and there is little in the house to eat…I can’t just order carryout and have it delivered to my doorstep. Or when we’re all out running errands or at some sort of large event…we can’t just find the nearest hot dog shack or concession stand for lunch. Or when we’re traveling and need to bring our own food, though that also has a lot to do with Andy’s dairy and corn sensitivities (but also gluten!). It’s not easy, it’s not cheap, and even though I try for it not to be, it’s limiting as hell.

I used to be an adventurous eater. My dad introduced me to sushi when I was 8, loooooong before it was a trendy food and available at every supermarket deli. I’ve eaten chicken feet, think frogs legs are overrated, and loved to find little out of the way places for meals. A traditional Japanese breakfast is bliss. I can’t do that anymore and think I’ll eat safely and it breaks my heart. We stick to chain restaurants because there’s a greater likelihood there will be some sort of gluten free option for me (and, again, dairy/corn free for Andy). I miss eating without wondering if it’s going to steal so many days from me.

So when I read articles stating that it’s all in my head or just a diet fad (trust me, I have not lost weight being gluten free) or just a way to scam the easily spooked, I get a little pissed.

How I eat and what I eat does not concern anyone other than me and maybe my family because they eat what I make. I appreciate how celiac awareness has made it so much easier to find gluten free food (not so easy back in 2008), but the inevitable backlash just really isn’t necessary. Back off. Why I eat the way I do isn’t available for your comment. No, I’ve not been 100% doctor diagnosed as celiac, but based on the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, I have enough of the symptoms and/or conditions associated with celiac to warrant concern.

I’ll be happy when social media and the bored press move on to the next thing to bitch about. I have no idea why celiac and gluten sensitivities are rising rapidly, but gluten free is here to stay. I’m thrilled about that; it means I can make more of the foods I miss here at home.

I just miss how it used to be.

Nov 12 2014

Note to self: Balance isn’t just for tightropes

Note to self: Balance isn't just for tightropesI missed posting yesterday. Oh well. Such is life.

This week I’m learning…again…that if I don’t take care of myself, that if I burn the candle at both ends with a blowtorch to the middle, that I will flame out and end up on the couch. My couch is comfy and all, but I’ve been holding it to the floor since yesterday afternoon and I’m a little sick of it now. Tom has been sick for the last two weeks, my system has probably been busy keeping that crap at bay, and finally the stress of recent events just crashed me. Again. This is, by my best guess, at least the third time I’ve done this to myself. Not as bad as other times, but still.

Irony alert: my next book is on the needs of parents as they raise G2e kids, and how self-care must be a priority. Double irony: I’ve been so busy keeping plates spinning on everything around here that I’ve done close to jack squat diddly on that book. This is not tasty, tasty irony. This is sour and bitter irony and I’m not a fan.

Yes, pity party, table for one. Skip the bread basket, send over the sommelier.

I’m actively working on clearly things out of my life that no longer serve me and my family, and bringing in that that does. I wish it were easier, but I’m balancing the well-being of four people here, not just mine. It’d be super easy to balance everything if it were just me, and didn’t have to consider the effect of my decisions on others. That’s the truth for any mom, whether she likes to admit it or not. The trick is to not lose yourself while balancing for everyone. I’m very good at doing that.

This flailing back and forth between being totally on top of my shit and wanting to do more and doing too much and losing my shit has got to stop. Burning out is painful and a waste of time. I’d say energy, but I just don’t have any to spare, it is gone. Fumes. Nothing here. I gotta balance it out and not feel guilty when I take breaks and care for myself, or my body will do it for me at a most inconvenient time. Like right now.

My word this year was story, and I’ve done a miserable job of writing my own story. I’ve allowed others to hold the pen while I dictated. Too many words were lost, others deleted, still others transcribed poorly. It’s time to take back the pen.

It’s going to be slow-going for awhile. There are things I can’t change yet and more things that are entirely out of my control. But no more crashing. It’s too exhausting.

Nov 10 2014

This winding two-lane road

this winding two lane roadWhen I was a kid, we often drove to central and southern Illinois to visit family. Those were long honkin’ drives, to southern Illinois especially. Springfield was easy to reach, with an interstate straight to it, but getting down to see my dad’s side of the family took a lifetime and a half, courtesy of two-lane roads. Two-lane, winding roads, slowing at every “blink and you miss it” town, with Fred Flintstone “background on repeat” scenery, all back before iDevices and in-car DVD players made travel less tedious. It was books until you got queasy and then it was looking out the window until you fell asleep.

Those two-lane winding roads. I hate driving on them, myself. Oncoming traffic always seems to whip past at the speed of light, deer have a tendency to spook out of the scrub and into the cars, you get stuck behind a slow driver and you’re doomed until you can see far enough down the stretch to gun it and pass. God help you if the weather is bad, or it’s nighttime. You just can’t see far enough ahead to feel safe.

I remember one trip we were heading home from far southern Illinois. My dad was driving, and he pulled into the oncoming traffic lane to pass a semi. Damned semi pulled right in front of our van and hit his brakes. Accompanied by much gasping and exclaiming from all of us in the vehicle, my dad slammed on the brakes and swerved back behind the semi. It was a clear day, no other traffic, no reason we could see that the semi driver would do that.

At first.

From where he sat (higher up and ahead of us), the semi driver saw the upcoming four-way stop. The road was curving, we were behind a much larger vehicle, we couldn’t see it coming. He saved us from a potentially dangerous accident. Instantly the irritation and anger over what had looked like an irrational act turned to relief and gratitude for a stranger’s intervention.

I’m trying so hard to remember that sometimes life is this way too. That sometimes something (or many, many somethings) happens and you can’t see why until later. That at some point it all becomes clear and you’re flooded with relief that the semi pulled in front of your life when it did, as frightening and confusing and stressful as it was at the time.

We’ve been trying to pass a semi in our lives for years now and it keeps swerving to prevent us from getting ahead of it. Today it not only swerved again but slammed on its brakes. Repeatedly. I don’t know if the driver is saving us from ourselves or just pissed drunk, but frankly if I’m going to feel any kind of relief and gratitude for his ongoing intervention he’d better knock it the hell off already and allow us to pass. We’re bruised and battered and exhausted from being thrown against the safety restraints for so long, and we’re damned near out of gas. I sure as hell know I’m out of patience.

Get me off this winding two-lane road. Please.

Nov 09 2014

Day Nine Haiku

So much I could say
But can’t yet write what I want
Just a few more weeks.

And with that, I am going to bed and hoping for a less crazy day tomorrow. Oh, who am I kidding, it’s gonna be nuts ’till Christmas…

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