Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gramsy and Pops

So we've blogged quite a bit about the Johnsons. I haven't blogged as much about them since they've moved here, but that may be because we're spending more time together than we are blogging, now that they live 4-6 minutes (depending on the story) up the street. :)

I've posted the following picture once before - it's a picture of the first day we met Dave's parents in person on July 14, 2011:

They were excited to meet us and we were so happy to meet them, too. They expressed gratitude for our friendship with the Johnsons and for helping them feel welcome on their first travel assignment.

At this point, we had known the Johnsons for less than 5 months and they had done their first 3-month assignment near us and had then taken a second assignment about an hour and a half north of us, coming down to see us and stay with us most weekends. We excel at squeezing all we can into whatever time we can whenever we can.

Well, fast forward to a couple of months ago - September 2013. The Johnsons had now done 6 travel assignments, including a longer-than-usual one in Arkansas to see family, and had also lived "permanently" in Springfield, MA for about 8 months. They had gotten a one-year lease on a house and were trying to have a good attitude about having to settle down in that area, deep down sad to be far from us and this area (we were sad, too). We had visited their new home up there, which had helped a little, but they were having a hard time feeling like that area was really "home" and we were not loving them being that far away.

Then, in February, they found out they would have to move here. Remember that ecstatic, ecstatic, ecstatic post, complete with video and music? We were all ridiculously excited. And then in July, they officially moved here, closing on a house just 5 minutes up the road from us. It has been WONDERFUL.

So, in September, just a couple of months after the Johnsons had moved here, Dave's parents came to visit again. By now, it had been over two years since we'd met them (how does time fly by so fast?!?) and we'd now hosted the Johnsons at our house too many times to count, we'd visited the Johnsons in their various places often, we'd Skyped with them now and then, we'd done day trips together, we'd eaten out numerous times, we'd texted daily, and we'd missed each other non-stop. And we'd celebrated mightily when they found out they were moving here.

In other words, this amazing friendship had done nothing but blossom and strengthen even more in the 2+ years since we'd seen Dave's parents, Fran and John (or, as they are known to our kids, Gramsy and Pops).

When they came up to visit, we saw them every day they were here, except for the first day. Funny story there - we didn't want to intrude on their family time, so we drove right past their house and knew his parents were there, thought about stopping in, but again, didn't want to intrude on their time together. They all said we totally should've dropped in, and looking back, we really should have, because it is the ONLY day we didn't see them. And that's not because we suddenly started intruding on their time together. They invited us to hang out with them every. single. day. in whatever they were doing.

So, here's a sneak peek into that REALLY fun visit - we laughed and talked and joked and ate and went out and stayed in the entire week. We loved it. It's so easy and comfortable to hang out together!

We spent an entire afternoon on our back patio eating Brie cheese, 
fresh grapes from our grapevine, and homemade cookies!

Since our business is in our house, 
Mark was able to pop out as much as possible
 and hang out with us!

They brought us a very thoughtful Arkansas package with all kinds of treats for us,
including reindeer that John carved himself!

We visited a local dairy together and had homemade ice cream. Yum!
(We had also eaten at Friendly's on another night).

We ate at our favorite local Vietnamese restaurant together.

Since going out for ice cream three times in a week might be considered excessive,
we opted for frozen Yogurt this night.

On the morning they left, they all wanted to spend time at our house.
I kid you not.
So we made one of our famous, big farmhouse breakfasts.
We had dutch babies, fresh sausage, etc.

And Christie made her famous homemade crepes. Yum!

Mark and company

Stacy and company

The Folsons!
We use that name to describe the 8 of us.
It uses part of our name and part of theirs.
It's very handy, not only in conversation,
but also when we eat out and need to put our names on a list.
Rather than hemming and hawing about whose name to use,
we simply say, "Folsons! Party of 8!"

I wasn't sure how Fran and John would feel about the Folson name.
Turns out?
They love it!

(Our camera was on the fritz, so I'm sorry some of these are fuzzy).

All the Johnsons

Fran and John and our family

Here we are again!

The 6 crazy adults - we laughed so much this trip!
(Not going to lie, we cried a bunch, too).
Fran and I are both pretty emotional.
I cried when they left. We miss them!

Fran and I text now and then, 
but of course that's not the same.
Good thing they're coming up to visit again soon!

Gramsy and Pops and their Folson grandkids

Before they left, they gave all 4 kids spending money for our trip to the beach. How awesome is that?!?

Oh, I'm not done yet! We're going to fast forward yet again to this past week when Dave had his first-of-many weekly hospitalizations. We had his boys here most of the nights he was in the hospital so that Christie could spend some nights up there with him. Everyone around here was so great, getting them meals, snack baskets for the kids, and gas cards to help defray their costs. Just amazing! 

It was a pretty crazy week, but also a good one. One of the highlights was getting this fun surprise in the mail:

Fran sent us a really beautiful "thank you" basket for snacks and fruits.
We broke into it that very day and shared with the boys.
One of the treats was penguin-shaped "goldfish" crackers.
Brennan loves penguins, so we were pretty excited to show him those.
By sheer luck, the basket contained many of our favorite treats!
It was SO thoughtful of her to do that!

Here's a picture from the kids' playing that week.

So, after Dave got out of the hospital, we Folsons had a celebratory dinner together (don't get Dave started on the hospital food) and the next night, they invited us over for games. We readily accepted the invite and went with our arms filled with with a bunch of games, food, stuff the boys had left behind, tupperware, and . . . a fun package that had come in the mail to our house. We were to open it all together. We Skyped with Fran and John, so they could see us open it. It was a GREAT package! They sent advent calendars for all the Folson grandkids:

Folson grandkids and advent calendars from Gramsy and Pops

And these gems - Fran and John/Gramsy and Pops 
had these ornaments personalized for our two families - 
do you see what they say?
I told you she loves the name!
We LOVE these!
Ours is hanging front and center on our tree.
Very thoughtful - we love, love, love it!

Just a few more months and they'll be here again - we're so excited to get to visit with them and do more fun stuff together. They show us such gratitude and such love. It means so much. We are so grateful for how they've welcomed us into their family as if we're their own. Fran tells me repeatedly that she truly feels that way and I have to say that she shows us, too. It means a lot to us.

Thank you, Fran and John/Gramsy and Pops!
We love you!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Week in the Life - the "By the Numbers" Edition

Looking back at our Week in the Life posts it looks like I had a fairly easy run at the psychiatric hospital, and for the most part, I stay busy but not excessively so. I get a handful of phone calls throughout the day, and I rarely get a phone call after midnight. I've had such a crazy start to the week (Sunday was a full moon) that Stacy said to me, "You should blog about this." As part of my therapy, I think I will.

Tuesday - By the Numbers

30 - the number of charts I handled at the hospital in the morning (it's not as many as it seems, since some of those just need a signature or an order)
33 - the number of phone calls I received from nurses at the hospital between leaving on Tuesday morning and waking up on Wednesday
7 - the number of phone calls that came in after midnight
1.5 - the maximum number of hours I slept between phone calls
6 - the most phone calls I got about one single patient
12 (approx.) - the number of times my family heard me say "Tylenol 650 mg p.o. q4h PRN pain."
1 - the number of times I was overheard saying, "No, that patient is lying to you"
30 - the number of minutes it takes for me to interview a new acupuncture patient
6 - the number of phone calls that came in while I was talking to that new patient
0 - the number of phone calls made by the same nurse about the same patient during that time
5:45 - (a.m.) the point at which Scout barked at the phone because she was sick of being woken up
7 - the number of phone calls I received during the hour and a half I spent at the coffeehouse for our NaNoWriMo write-in
775 - the number of words I wrote during that write-in (don't even ask me how I pulled that off)
3 - the number of those words that I think were any good.
4 - hospital-free days starting Thursday morning
1 - number of continuous smiles I'll be wearing for those four days

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Random Thoughts - Full Circle

Mark and I are way behind on our word count
 and we're not particularly thrilled with either story we're writing.


My computer is so slow, it's positively maddening.


Slept like crap yesterday - all of us.
Let it be known that once you start having kids,
you stop getting good regular sleep.
People talk about sleepless nights with babies.
Oh it's not just babies.


Max couldn't sleep because the wind was SO loud
(it really is crazy loud in his room when it's windy).
Kate had a bad dream.
Once she woke me up, I couldn't sleep for an hour
(and I had just fallen asleep - 
you know how you shake all over when you get woken up
 right after you've fallen asleep?).
Then my mind raced on and off all night.
I was daydreaming about ways to infuse chamomile into 
various foods and drinks.
And Mark got calls every hour all night long.
And - get this:
we had gone to bed early to get a good night's rest.
That'll teach us.


Made myself a scrambled egg this morning.
It was not good.
Eggs only taste good when someone else makes them.


We have kids staying over at our house
5 of the next 7 days.


5 of the next 7 days.


I better get cracking on that chamomile thing.


Why do I always want to blog more when I'm supposed to be writing a novel?


Also, I started Fangirl, because I have a huge love of Rainbow Rowell
and no self discipline.


Our kids talk to us A LOT.
I'm not complaining - I love it.
I'm just saying you really notice it when you're trying to write
50,000 words in 30 days.


Today we have so many things going on
(sometimes multiple things at the same time)
and I'm looking ahead and seeing
how very behind I am on, well, everything.


I also keep finding "To Do" lists.
Sometimes it's fun to find them and see things you can cross off.
But it's also discouraging to find them
and see how many things you have neglected to do.


And this isn't because of NaNoWriMo.
That's an added bonus.
That's supposed to be the fun in all this stuff to do.


Except that I'm not loving our stories.
They have potential and good parts,
but I haven't hit a stride with either of them yet.


I'm hoping that writing this blog post
is like a warm-up writing exercise that really gets me going today,
because we are ridiculously behind on our word counts.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

10 Days of Gratitude

Okay, yeah, so I got behind. Such is life around here. What else is new?

I'm am grateful . . . 

8. To be a wife - this is my tricky way to get around saying I'm grateful for Mark, because I'm feeling the pressure to come up with "creative and different" things like some others in my family are doing. They're not pressuring me. This is all purely self-imposed. Anyway, I like being married. It suits me. I don't think it's for everyone, but it is certainly for me. I love, love, love being a wife. I'm not perfect at it (who is?), not by a long shot, but I like being in a partnership with my best friend.

9. To be a mom - this is my tricky way to get around saying I'm grateful for my kids, due to the aforementioned explanation. I love being a mom. Like, love. I don't think motherhood is for everyone either. I can respect people who say they don't want to have kids because they know they don't want them - honestly, those people probably shouldn't have them. Me? I love my kids. I love hanging out with them, talking with them, working on things with them, learning with them, reading with them, snuggling with them. I love it. There are aspects of motherhood that are hard and it is, no question, 24-7. But it's one of the best things I've ever, ever, ever done and I'm so very grateful that I got two awesome kids who help me and love me as I figure this whole motherhood thing out, because really, it's an on-going, evolving process. I love my kids. They are, without a doubt, two of the best people I know.

10. Summer - Hot temperatures, shining sun, sandals, beach, sunny days, watermelon, bicycles, reading outside, ice cream, frozen yogurt, picnics, barbecues, hanging out on the patio, going to the park, fresh fruit, the smell of food on the grill . . . I really love summer.

11. Scout - OMG, I love this dog more than words can say. I swore I wouldn't become one of "those people," but oh well, I did. I have no regrets. I unabashedly love this sweet, adorable, snuggly, happy, demanding, funny, playful, loving little pup that has made our happy house even more of a happy home. She makes me happy. When people around me drive me crazy, I look at her and am reminded that all is well. She is the BEST and we loooooooooooooooove her.

12. Health - This is something I try not to take for granted. I am grateful that we are all in good health. It is something I think about a lot in our choices - we eat well, we value sleep (we could get to bed earlier), we drink a lot of water, we're pretty active, we have good friends, we have pretty good life balance, I like how I feel when I exercise (admittedly, I could do more of that). I know a lot of people are struggling in one way or another with poor health, for whatever reasons, and I know it's really hard, not just physically, but emotionally, too. I'm grateful for good health and try to use it for good, if that makes sense.

13. Pencils - I like writing with pencils. I'll generally choose a pencil over a pen. I like the sound of it scratching on paper. I like how it feels to write with them. And for some reason, my handwriting is a wee bit better with pencils.

14. Sushi - Yeah, I've probably said this one before, but hey, I love it. Whoever thought to wrap seaweed around rice and all kinds of good veggie and fish goodness on the inside and then eat that with chopsticks by dipping it in soy sauce and wasabi is a freaking genius.

15. Words - I loooove words. I keep a list of words I like (nerd). I like the sound of certain words. I love when I think of a great word to express what I'm trying to say. I love having lots of word choices. I feel frustrated when I can't think of a good word to use (this can be a frustrating side effect of knowing more than one language - sometimes there are great words in one language that don't exist in another). I get excited when others use great words around me. I hate dumbing things down or seeing others feel like they have to dumb things down. I love words. Also? Grammar is so much fun.

16. Feeling clean - I love how I feel after taking a long, hot shower and getting dressed in clean, comfy clothes. It feels good to be shower-fresh clean, smelling like soap and feeling good. I took a shower later in the day today, so as I type this I am feeling fresh and clean and I love it.

17. Fuzzy Blankets - I love cuddling with fuzzy blankets, especially when watching TV. It could be one hundred degrees out and I'd grab a fuzzy blanket to watch TV anyway. I love that Scout loves them and that whenever we sit with one, she is quick to jump up and sit with us. She even demands it of us if we sit down and forget to grab a blanket first. We have a basket full of blankets in our living room. We use them all the time. As I type this, at least 4 or 5 blankets are out of the basket - I am using one, Kate is using one, Scout is sleeping on one, and I'm pretty sure Max just walked through the room with one wrapped around him. They're so snuggly! Mark's next to me while I use one - so I guess he's involved in this, too. Even when guests come over, they know to help themselves to them, too. Sometimes we're all sitting around with them while we talk, watch shows, eat, play games, you name it.

* * * * * * * * * *

Mark's List - I am grateful for . . .

8. Holidays. I really like the feel of autumn, not only because I like the slight chill in the air, but because I love the feeling of the holidays. I've mentioned it before in other posts, but this time of year has a lot of nostalgia associated with it. Stacy and I started dating during this time of year. We got married in the winter. And we have so many wonderful family traditions at this time of year.

9. Movies. Sometimes we get on kicks and watch a bunch of movies, and sometimes we go a while between them, and lately we've seen a lot of really good movies. I know Stacy has an ongoing blog post all about the great movies we've seen and she keeps adding to it. We watched "Flipped" with the kids the other night and had a great time. Watching a movie is a really nice diversion.

10. Saturday night date nights. Last night Thing 2 and I spent a number of hours unlocking characters on Mario Kart and beating I don't know how many levels on Super Mario Brothers Wii. A nice night indeed!

11. Health. When you have good health it can be really easy to overlook how fortunate you are. I for one am really grateful that our family has been so fortunate to avoid not only major illnesses but also a lot of minor issues along the way.

12. Adventuresome eaters. It's so awesome to have kids that are up for anything. Sri Lankan cuisine fused with Middle Eastern appetizers? Sure! Seriously, they will try anything, which means we've all had some really great food through the years. It's almost a challenge to figure out what to cook at home sometimes since literally anything is a possibility. Nice problem to have, right?

13. Books. I've got a pile a mile high (not literally) of books I really want to read. I feel like I'm going from great read to great read and cannot even keep up with all I want to read. I mean, we were at a book store yesterday and I found out one of my favorite authors has two books I knew nothing about. And I already have about a dozen books to read.

14. Love. It is an incredible feeling to be loved by someone else. And it is an even more incredible feeling to love someone. I'm very lucky to have experienced (and still be experiencing) both.

15. Gratitude. It may seem a bit odd to say I'm grateful for gratitude, but feeling like I have things in my life that I appreciate makes me appreciate my life that much more. There's got to be some profound philosophy in there somewhere . . .

16. Fatherhood. I love having the chance to be a father to two great kids. I'm far from perfect, but I appreciate the chance I have to learn from them and try to make their lives the best they can be.

17. Humor. It's great to laugh, and I always know when it's been a while between good laughs. There is nothing like the release that comes from a good belly laugh, but even the little chuckles and smiles can be so therapeutic. There's enough sorrow and heartache in the world. A little levity once in a while is so healing.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Random Thoughts - "I Should Be Doing NaNo" Edition . . .

Every year, so many good books come out in October and November!
 NaNoWriMo temptations!!


People who are defensive and don’t own their crap – pet peeves of mine.


Ever feel like you spend way too much time trying to help people
 who love their excuses and don't own their crap?
Seriously. OWN YOUR CRAP.


Am I the only person who likes summer better than fall?
So many people call this their favorite time of year.
There are things I love, but the colder weather is NOT one of them.


Found the Vera Dietz book!
 $2 goes to Kate!


Kate says that she is always so sad when she sees
 a sad kid who has dropped his or her ice cream cone.


Speaking of sad.
Our kids very, very rarely ask for anything.
They just do NOT have the "gimmies" at all.
And when they DO get excited for something, 
they tend to save up for it.

Poor Max has had his eye on a specific Nerf gun for a while now.
He has been saving for months (they get $1 spending money/week).
Now that he has saved enough, it's a discontinued item.
On top of that,
when he finds one on eBay,
he keeps getting outbid.
 (They're selling for a bit more than what he's saved
 now that they're discontinued, plus that pesky shipping).


My daughter took a 1.5 hour break from our Gilmore Girls date
(and she LOVES our Gilmore Girls dates)
 because she wanted to watch a webinar on character development in writing.
 I kid you not. 
All. Her.


We have had a house full of kids A LOT lately.
 We host at least a dozen things a month here. It’s fun.
I love older kids!
 It’s also nice to enjoy the quiet afterward.


We're getting to that stage where your kids grow like crazy
and use expensive "toys."
We've recently replaced our Wii and an iPod
 and Max's laptop is currently on its last leg.

Oh! And shoes and clothes -
They are outgrowing them like crazy!
We are replacing shoes sometimes every few months - 
 I kid you not!

And winter coats and pants and and and . . .
Holy moly.

It's almost comical to think of those early years of buying diapers.
Diapers have nothing on all of this stuff.

Oh, and books! So. Many. Books.

Our daughter likes to remind us that she is coming up on driving age.
Oh boy.
I know the kids are eyeing the Saturn,
but speaking of being on its last leg . . . 


I used to love getting the mail.
 Now I’m terrified of it.
 PTSD from that stupid IRS mistake this past summer.


Our kids spent October counting down to NaNoWriMo,
 completely skipping Halloween countdowns – is that odd?


It's ironic that Max likes dressing up so much,
because he resisted it as a toddler at Halloween time.


We spent all day Saturday at a fantastic kid-lit festival.
We attended tons of great workshops and lectures and signings.
We got to talk to so many fascinating authors and illustrators.
It went by way too fast.

Kate's friend Mary was in town so we took her along with us.
It was a GREAT event.


I’ve had bangs since before it was cool.
Take that, fashion trends.


I love fuzzy socks.


Every once in a while, we play this game
 where we play songs on our iPods
 and see who can "buzz in" first to guess the song and artist.
Recently our kids each "buzzed in" and guessed
 a Stevie Wonder song (Max) and a Bill Withers song (Kate).
That's all kinds of awesome.


Both of our kids are what neither Mark nor I am – 
an older sister with a younger brother
 or a younger brother with an older sister.


We spent an evening with Edgar Allen Poe.
Double date and everything!
Very dark and so very different from our evenings with Charles Dickens,
but also so well done.

Dave, Christie, Stacy, Mark (with Edgar Allen Poe)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

7 Days of Gratitude

Posting together seems to be working well, so we'll do that with these, too. Maybe we're in the mode since we're writing books together. I don't know. But either way, here we go.

Every November, we put up a big poster board or a big sheet of butcher paper and all month long, we write down things for which we're grateful. We set out a box of crayons and anyone can write down anything they want.

I think gratitude is healthy. Year round, we discuss being thankful before every meal and before bed, and of course we add the extra special traditions every November. Why not add some blog posts to the mix? The kids are doing daily posts. Mark and I are doing a handful of these throughout the month.

Stacy's List - I am grateful for . . .

1. Funny TV Shows - Freaks and Geeks, Friends, New Girl, I Love Lucy, Modern Family, Malcolm in the Middle, Go On, Frasier, Big Bang Theory . . . I love being able to tune into a fictional show and get lost in it for a little while and laugh and laugh and laugh.

2. Games - I love to play games. I'm a big fan of all the new European tabletop-style games that are becoming more well-known in the states, and I also like traditional games. Some of my favorites include Settlers of Catan (all versions), Trivia Games, Ticket to Ride, Scruble, and Smallworld. I also enjoy playing Mario Kart Wii as a family.

3. Food - I think food is one of life's great pleasures. I love all kinds of ethnic foods, particularly Mexican and Japanese. My favorite homemade meal is chicken enchiladas (which we're making and delivering for co-op tonight!) and I also love bacalhau (Portuguese codfish). I'm a big fan of seafood and of course, sushi, sushi, sushi.

4. Sunshine - I have a positive, visceral reaction to sunlight. On a cloudy day, when the sun breaks through and shines, I feel an immediate difference in my mood. It's palpable. I love bright, natural light, sunny days, and summer warmth. I am grateful for sunshine.

5. Books - Reading is great. I love when I get on a kick and read several great books in a row. Some of my all-time favorite books are Rebecca, Jane Eyre, To Kill A Mockingbird, and the entire Harry Potter Series. Some other favorites that get me excited include The Thirteenth Tale, Shadow of the Wind, Water for Elephants, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Wonder, The Fault in our Stars, The Chosen, Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Eleanor & Park.

6. Friends - I am grateful for my friends. I love the sense of community you get from good relationships with others. To me, this is a big part of what life is all about - the relationships we form and value and enjoy with others, whether we're related or not. Ever since college, we haven't ever lived near extended family, and while people may think that's lonely, for us it's not. It strengthens us as a family and we're grateful for the friends we have who become like family.

7. Blogging - This one is a special shout out to the many people who make blogging so much more fun by reading and following and participating through comments. I'm going to go ahead and specifically mention some people who are special to me because they always take the time to do all of that. I mean, I love to write for the pleasure of writing itself, but blogging is a great way to share and interact with others and of course that only works if others also participate.

So a big, special, particular thank you goes to Mark, Kate, Emily, LMW, and Jimmy - you guys are awesome to always comment. I love that I can count on that and I get so excited to hear from you. And I do not want to neglect other awesome commenters - Max, Dave, Nevillegirl, Jim, Sherri, Kim . . . thank you, thank you! I love to hear from you - you guys are great. To ALL of you: without your comments, I'm just talking to myself. Thanks for helping me feel heard and appreciated. I hope you know that I appreciate you, too. (And if any of you are lurking in the shadows, come out and play!).

* * * * * * * * * *

Mark's list. I'm grateful for . . .

(It is late and I'm severely tempted to write the first things that come to mind--family, friends, etc.--and it's not that I'm NOT grateful for those things. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I'd like to come up with the unexpected this year. That's all.)

1. My family. OK. I cheated. I just feel like I'm not accurately expressing my true feelings of gratitude if I don't list them first. I have an incredible wife, and two fantastic children, who are really more like little adults in training. We have a wonderfully neurotic canine, too.

2. Autumn sunsets. Lately we've been noticing some great evening skies. I don't know if any other season has the same kind of sunsets that autumn does with its brilliant oranges and yellows, and the amazing cloud patterns we've seen.

3. Writing. I don't think I'm a natural writer, and I don't even know that writing is my best form of expression. Although, the spoken word lets me down fairly often, too. Anyway, with each passing year I appreciate how therapeutic and rejuvenating the writing process can be.

4. Volunteering. We have a lot of chances throughout the year to do various volunteer activities. Our recent involvement with the Special Olympics has been especially fun.

5. Intelligence. I'm not talking about me. I'm talking about how great it is to meet and deal with people that are able to discuss a variety of topics with enough depth to feel intellectually challenged and rewarded. There is nothing like a good debate to stretch the brain to its limits.

6. Logic. I took a logic class in college once and thoroughly enjoyed it. There is something comforting about being able to break down a line of thinking into logical functions so that you can really start to assess the thought process involved in coming to various conclusions. Even a cursory knowledge of logic and logical fallacies will open your mind to how emotional we as human beings tend to be.

7. Individuality. How great is it that we all have our own personalities? It comes with a whole host of challenges, true, but in the end this diversity of thought and characteristics makes life way more interesting.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Week in the Life - Day 8

Mark's Version


Today is trash day and we are also attending a very fascinating presentation at the college, so I need to get up a bit early to make sure I get done with the hospital in time. It's cold so I work quickly with the trash, but it's not as bad as it was yesterday. Things go pretty smoothly and I'm out the door without a hitch.

7:40 AM

I arrive in the exam room ready to work. It looks like a pretty light Tuesday so I shouldn't have any problems getting out in plenty of time. For once my initial thoughts are entirely correct. I didn't have any major issues. I didn't have anyone complaining about anything. I just did my work and got out. I've learned not to question days like these. It's like the universe is throwing me a freebie. I hope this is a repayment and not a prepayment.

8:30 AM

I make it to the gym in record time and I'm so early it's a different crowd than usual. Today there are a lot of third shift workers just getting off and hitting the gym before going home. There are also a lot of retired folks exercising. It's not too crowded so I get my first pick of equipment and use the treadmill for an hour.

9:40 AM

Before heading home I hit the store for a few things we need. Everyone is finishing up breakfast and making sure we are ready for a presentation at the college. While I make some phone calls and catch up on some emails, Stacy shows the kids some of "The Goldbergs." It's the Halloween episode, complete with quotes from our own Halloween evening. The funny thing is, just in recounting how things were "when we were kids," we hit all the highlights--examining candy for razor blades, crazy people who injected candy with drugs, x-raying your candy at the hospital on November 1. The kids thought it was hysterical.

After the show is over I show everyone a short video highlighting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, starting with Abraham and finishing with the U.N. establishment of the physical country of Israel. The kids have heard all of this before in some form, but it's a good reminder before leaving.

10:30 AM

What can I say about the presentation? I will say that we are so incredibly fortunate to have a gem like this college in our town. The population of our township cannot be more than a few thousand people, but we have a great liberal arts college that brings a lot of outstanding lectures and presentations throughout the year. This one is put on by a religion class studying Judaism. There is a middle-eastern lunch followed by students sharing stories about six individuals, 3 Jews and 3 Palestinians, highlighting the human side to the conflict in Israel.
Before leaving we compare heights. Max is catching up!

First of all, lunch is fantastic. Chicken kebabs, hummus, na'an, dolmas, tabouli, chickpea salad, tzaziki sauce, baklava (which I don't eat because it's way too sweet), and other stuff I'm forgetting. The nice things about these posts is that Stacy and I recount slightly different details of the exact same thing, so somewhere in all of this you'll get the total details. Anyway, we load up our plates and head in to the chapel where the presentation will be.

A full plate

Oooh! Surprises in layer 2!
As we're sitting there eating, music is playing while slides are projected with images of Israel. There are pictures of Jews praying at the Wailing Wall and Muslims at a mosque. We see the Dome of the Rock and pictures of Solomon's original temple in Jerusalem. Pictures are shown of the lush green hills outside the walls juxtaposed against the ancient city. It's very relaxing to eat and prepare for what should be a very good presentation.

All of the presentations are done by students in the class and are very interesting. Each one of the individuals they discuss have dedicated themselves to peace in one way or another. There is an Israeli soldier who has united veterans on both sides of the conflict. Another ex-combatant has joined those injured through the years, whatever country they support. There are mothers who fight for peace after losing children. The stories are very touching and our kids have things that they take away from each of them. We all marvel that people who are descended from the same ancestor can continue such hatred, all in the name of religion. It's sad on so many levels.

12:15 PM

We get home and jump into a flurry of activities, mostly relating to being ready for our afternoon write-in. Max has some computer issues that I attend to; Kate writes furiously like her fingers are possessed by some unseen force, guiding her process; Stacy realizes that since I'll be working when the write-ins starts it would be more economical to get a ride from the Johnsons rather than pay the meter twice when I get there, so she hurries to arrange the ride; and I help everyone individually take the General Orientation Test for the Special Olympics.

 1:30 PM

I start in the office with my smoking patient, who is finally done smoking. It took most of the two weeks to do it, but she did it. This is especially gratifying for both of us because she recently had a mastectomy for breast cancer and really didn't want to add lung cancer to the list of things she'll deal with in life. I also take care of some routine aches and pains, which in the end represents the vast majority of what I treat with acupuncture.

2:00 PM

While one patient is on the table I bathe the dog. Scout is not happy.

2:30 PM

While my last patient is on the table I clean the bathroom after bathing the dog. That's the usual routine.

3:00 PM or so

I gather my things and head downtown to the write-in. This one is at a different coffee shop, partly to change things up, but also to accommodate one of our NaNos who lives downtown. This place isn't quite so conducive to writing, so we mostly talk, write a little, talk, brainstorm more story specifics, grab some dinner, and talk. Christie is working tonight so we take the Johnsons home afterward. Tonight is the first night for the Special Olympics bowling activities and we really want to go, but we also are feeling a bit overwhelmed and over-stimulated right now. We decide that we could go for one game, just so we can meet the coach and athletes. We really do love being with all of the Special Olympics athletes.

At the write-in. Nice photography, Max!

5:45 PM

It's off to bowling for us. It is a flurry of activity when we get there. We recognize some of the athletes from going to volleyball a couple of weeks ago, but there are a TON of people there. We eventually meet the coach and he tells us to jump right in and encourage the athletes. Max and I stick together and Kate and Stacy head over to a group of girls. It's a lot of fun to cheer them on and joke with them and help them get up at the right time. One of the athletes really takes a liking to Max and even headlocks him and gives him noogies now and then. It is really cute.

7:00 PM

We get home and settle in to do some writing, but end up not getting to much. Stacy is feeling really tired and allergy-ridden. I'm feeling a bit off myself, almost like I'm on the verge of getting sick. We decide to have a low-key night and watch a couple of shows before bed. "The Goldbergs" warms us up and then we watch the newest episode of "New Girl." Then it's off to bed at a reasonable time.

Stacy's Version

7:00 AM

I wake up. Our stupid neighbor puts his dogs out at all hours and then does who knows what while he leaves them outside and they bark nonstop. They were at it this morning. 7AM isn’t too ridiculous, but he’s done this at 4AM as well.

I can tell my sleep is shifting earlier – I told you those hours we were writing about in the first few posts were really, really odd! I mean we’re night owls, but that got ridiculous. Also, it should be noted that I hate naps. I know that most people love them, but I don’t enjoy them at all – I don’t like sleeping in the day and I don’t like how I feel afterward when I do. It is very rare for me to take a nap.

I cuddle with Scout for a bit – I love, love, LOVE cuddling with her. She is super sweet and super snuggly and warm. She’s a sweetie – we love her! I read a bit and get up and get ready.

I think about these posts and all the little things we do all day that we don’t always document – putting dishes away, answering the door, getting packages, running upstairs and downstairs to get stuff or put stuff away, dealing with allergies, filling the dog’s kibble and water, getting water, reading, errands, exchanging texts, etc. There are so many little things that make up portions of our days.

9:00 AM

Kate is up. She got herself up and ready. She usually volunteers on these mornings, but she called the library yesterday to let them know we had something going on. We both got breakfast and talked and wrote. Max got up and ready. I showed the kids an episode of The Goldbergs, because it was the Halloween episode and made jokes about stuff we just told them regarding candy in the 80s. I’m enjoying that show more and more. It’s got nostalgia, details, fashion, humor, and heart. They get a kick out of it – probably not as much as Mark and I do, but they enjoy it.

We then watch a video about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We’ve discussed this before, so this is a refresher. We get our things together and head over to the college. It’s about 5 minutes from our house, if that. I love college towns and walking around campus!

10:45 AM

We arrive at the chapel and there is a big, beautiful spread of Middle Eastern foods – falafel, tabouleh salad, balela (garbanzo bean salad), an amazing red pepper hummus, delicious tzaziki sauce, seasoned pita bread with sea salt, chicken kabobs, stuffed grape leaves, spanikopita, baklava (we all passed on that), water, and iced tea. I might even be forgetting something. It was a fabulous and delicious lunch – honestly some of the best Middle Eastern food I’ve eaten. And yes, I’ve eaten it several times before this. If it’s ethnic food, we’re all over it.

The Chaplain greeted us and we took our loaded plates into the chapel and ate while we enjoyed student lectures about stories of 6 people – both Israeli and Palestinian and both male and female – who have been directly impacted by the crisis there. Every presentation has a power point presentation along with it with visuals and quotes. There was a Q&A afterward as well.

The stories are all amazing and several are quite touching. During one of them, I was struck by how a mother opened her mind as the result of seeing what her child was doing with his life. She changed her beliefs and ways for the greater good. It made me think of older generations who are so set in their ways and believe that they are right and that they automatically know more than their children do, not even opening their minds to the possibility that their children may very well know more.

It also made me think of myself as a mother and my relationship with my children. I learn from my kids all the time. I listen to them. I often change my opinions based on their thoughts and what they say and what they teach me. Who am I to think that I know more than they do?

I love homeschooling. This is just one of many reasons why. It’s mid-morning in the middle of a week and we can take our kids to a great college presentation, complete with an amazing spread of food, and learn more there than we could in weeks of textbooks or classroom work. I love, love, love it!

One of the slides from one presentation

12:15 PM

We get back and check our messages. Because we were one of the first 10 people to sign up for our CSA (community-supported agriculture) again, we have won a $20 gift card to use at the organic farm for produce or meat from their grass-fed animals.

There is also a message on the machine from this morning – a buddy of Max’s called to invite him over to play. That’s another thing – there is a misconception that home-educated kids are lonely and unsocialized. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are with friends almost all the time! Remember, other homeschooled kids are also home during the day. We get together to play and learn and do stuff . . . A LOT.

Max calls his friend, who is in a chatty mood. Another stereotype bucked. Max and his buddies talk more on the phone than Kate and hers. He is setting up a D&D afternoon for this week with 4 other kids. It sounds like they can all come, so it looks like we’ll have a house full of boys later this week having grand adventures!

Max is a GREAT storyteller and adventure leader. He is almost constantly playing adventure games, doing choose-your-own-adventure stories, playing D&D, etc. He often has an entourage of boys all around him all laughing and yelling out ideas and choosing adventure paths. It’s so fun to see.

I play with Scout and write a bit more. We have another write-in today, so I figure if I can get caught up on this, I can work on my novels at the write-in. Mark and I are behind on our word counts. The kids are not. Go figure.

Oh, the kids started keeping gratitude posts for the month of November. They’re really fun/cute. Be sure to check out their blogs!

1:00 PM

Mark is handling a call from the hospital. He gets off the phone and we all take more tests for our background checks/approval to work with the kids in Special Olympics. Our family started volunteering with them this summer. We did a whole slew of background checks and safety quizzes and reading about ways to help keep the athletes (and us) safe. The organization has added even more safety quizzes and things – a big, recent overhaul (I suspect the Penn State scandal has something to do with that), so they’ve asked us to do one more test online.

We unload the dishwasher and clean up a bit. I read more. Kate practices violin. Max reads a Lego magazine. I think about what we’re doing this afternoon and figure out it makes more sense for us to catch a ride with the Johnsons to the coffee shop (a different one this time) than to take two cars since Mark is working for half the write-in. They readily agree to take us. Whee! THEY LIVE HERE NOW.

2:05 PM

The Johnsons arrive and the kids and I pile into their car. With Mark working this afternoon for half the write-in, us going with them allows us to not have to feed the meters for two cars. Christie is going to eat and leave us there to go to an appointment and then work. Mark is working and then meeting us at the coffeeshop more than halfway through the write-in. We wave at Scout who is watching us at her window. She is so cute!!

2:20 PM

We arrive at the coffeeshop and our friend Roselle greets us animatedly. She’s happy we’ve arrived and we’re happy to see her, too. Christie has lunch while she’s there and then she’s off to an appointment and then to work.

Theoretically, the rest of us are staying to write. All of us write some. Some of us write a lot (Kate). We’re all highly distracted. The food is good, though, as is the company. Just not the best writing session for most of us. The internet wasn’t working – in a way, that’s good (less distraction).

5:00 PM

We pack up and talk with Roselle a bit and then take the Johnsons home. We get back to our house and have about 15 minutes to see Scout and catch our breath before we’re off again to the next thing.

6:00 PM

We arrive at the bowling alley to volunteer with the Special Olympics. We’ve already helped out with volleyball. Now it’s bowling season. It is a PACKED house and the athletes are always a lot of fun. Kate and I work with a team of three girls – one is the self-appointed leader, another sort of does her own thing, and a third is the leader’s sister – she is unhappy tonight and keeps crying. French fries make her happy and seem to motivate her. At one point she is so mad that she bites her own hand really hard and then spends the next 20 minutes or so pointing at it to let us know that it hurts. We help all the girls fill out forms. And in between all this, they bowl.

There is a LOT of high-fiving at all Special Olympics events. LOTS. Mark and Max work with some of the athletes we got to know at volleyball. They’re all so happy to see us and we’re happy to see them. You can’t help but feel happy around them all. There is lots of teasing, smiling, laughter, cheers, and high fives. They’re such great people.

At one point, during the one girl’s second meltdown, her sister and I went over to get their “brother” – a caregiver and college student that helps out their family. He came over and helped her calm down and then I saw his eye catch Kate and he suddenly became very interested in her, asking her name and becoming seemingly unaware of me standing right next to her or anyone else around us. I interjected and said, “I’m Stacy,” but he didn’t hear or see me at all. He asked Kate if she’s in school and she responded that she homeschools. He then asked what grade she’s in. “8th,” she replied. He seemed surprised and suddenly remembered to go back to his own bowling lane. Aaaaaacccckkkkkkkk!! I tell Mark that story when we get home and he swears.

After volunteering there, we come home. I was feeling overstimulated even before we went bowling, so I really was desperate for some quiet now.

7:30 PM

I change into comfy clothes and settle in for a quiet evening of reading and writing. I’m having wicked fall allergies these days – moldy leaves? And sudden movements make my nose itchy or cause an all-out sneezing fit. I try to read and write, but my head is super fuzzy from all the sneezing, itchiness, watery eyes, tissues, and generally trying to breathe.

I’m fuzzy on what happened the rest of the night, since my allergies were so horrible. I tried writing for a while, but gave up at some point. We got the kids to bed, watched an episode of the Goldbergs (this show is really growing on me, plus they played a cool Run DMC song at the end), watched the new New Girl, and hit the hay early. I read for a bit and slept hard.

***I think we’re going to take a break now from doing these, since we’re behind on our NaNoWriMo word count. These have been SUPER fun to write. And we’ve loved hearing from so many of you.

This morning, I woke up between 7 and 8 and got up and ready for the day. I feel pretty fuzzy – one of those mornings where I’m allergy-ridden, exhausted, out of it. I ran out of hot water, the toilet clogged, and everything is messy and I’m too out of it to care. We have a lot of full days ahead:

Today, we have a presentation we’re attending all about the middle east puzzle. Coincidence that it’s around the same time as yesterday’s presentation. This one is being offered by a completely different university.

Tomorrow is a full day of violin, tae kwon do, friends, “Run, Jump, Play” class, delivering dinner, and more.

Friday, Max has a D&D group meeting here in the afternoon and then at night, we’re hosting 4 more couples for a Newlywed Game Night! We’re all super excited for that.

And this weekend is the kid-literature festival. We've been waiting for that for months!

So in between all that I’ve listed, we’ll be reading, watching documentaries, studying,  and, of course, writing our NaNoWriMo books.

Mark and I are doing some gratitude posts as well as some other things here, so we’ll be posting!***