Jun 12, 2014 - Children    3 Comments

“Mom, can you come get me?”

Contrary to how it may seem, we really try hard not to “spoil” our children.  We don’t want them to grow up being disrespectful or feeling entitled to anything. Sure, they have TVs and X-boxes (Christmas gifts and/or purchased by someone else) and phones (our hand-me-downs), but they have chores and responsibilities as well. They make good grades; generally behave well (with the occasional attitude); help with laundry, keeping the house clean, and making meals; and, until recently, helped with farm work. We’re not short-order cooks (they eat what we cook or they don’t eat) and tell them “no” to new items more often than “yes” (“it’s not in the budget,” is a phrase they all know well). And though I often call my van their taxi, they’re not allowed more than 2 extracurricular activities during the school year.

photo credit: banpei via photopin cc

photo credit: banpei via photopin cc

I’m not saying all this to toot my own horn or claim that we’re perfect parents. We make our share of mistakes, just like everyone else, and I’m sure there’s something for which my kids will one day seek therapy. I’m saying it because I have a genuine dilemma, a question of good parenting versus “spoiling.”

It’s a question I’ve had before, but one that comes up so unexpectedly and so infrequently, that I don’t take much time to ponder if I’ve made the right decision afterwards. I’m pondering now.

The Girl, now 13-1/2, loves to go to friends’ houses for sleepovers.  She’s never been afraid to sleep away from home and has even spent multiple nights away (at grandma’s or her best friend’s house). Typically, these sleepovers happen without incident. I can count on one hand the number of times she’s called me late at night asking me to come get her. Last night was one of them.

The few times this has happened it’s been because she “didn’t feel well” (with no fever or symptoms) or “just wanted to come home.” Every time it has happened, I have had a (albeit momentary) struggle: Do I go get her just because she wants to come home or do I make her stay and “tough it out” until a decent hour? And every time I’ve gone to get her. Just like last night.

I tell myself that I’m doing it because I want her to know I’m always available … especially as she enters teen years … to come get her out of any situation that she’s uncomfortable in. But then I second guess myself, wondering if I’m just babying her, if I should allow her to work through the situation on her own?

photo credit: Chung Ho Leung via photopin c

photo credit: Chung Ho Leung via photopin c

And I’m wondering even more because she’s going to a full week of band camp for the first time next week.

Which is it? When I pick her up early, am I being a good parent or “spoiling” her? Am I doing more harm than good? What would you do?

May 16, 2014 - Children, Kitchen Sink    Comments

Our Next Adventure

For the last couple of months or so, hubs has been commuting to Hot Springs (about an hour and half drive from us one way) to work at in an interim position at a hospital there. He’s been staying there some nights and driving back others, mainly to not miss kid-related events. Yesterday, he accepted the position in a more “permanent” (i.e., non-interim) capacity. So, we’re moving to Hot Springs.

Before me moved into this house, we’d lived in 4 states in as many years, following hubs’ career trajectory. But we’ve been here for nearly 5 years now. What that means is that while our oldest has vague memories of moving, the youngest really has no idea. Last night, we gave the news to the kids, and their reactions were so fitting of their personalities.

The boys (though they’re 4-1/2 years apart) currently share a room. So when dad told Wonder Boy, the almost 7yo goofball, that he wouldn’t have to share a room with brother anymore, he threw his hands in the air rather dramatically, and said, “FINALLY! I’m free! I won’t have to share with that stinky turd anymore!” Then, looking to his brother, he continued, “No offense, I didn’t mean the stinky part.” Always looking for a laugh.

Boy Genius was not amused, but that’s just in his nature as well. He’s more of a worrier. He just kept saying that it takes him a long time to make friends. There’s some truth to that, because he stays inside himself so much. I get that and feel for him, but I also know that kids are resilient and he’ll be fine.

The Girl, however, being the eternal optimist that she is (as well as always being cognizant of others’ feelings), was overly excited. Perhaps trying to compensate for her brother and be encouraging to dad, she said, “It’ll be great. It’ll be like an adventure, but without the spiders and such.” You know, because most adventures involve spiders.

So there will be a lot of changes over the next few months (pray for us that it doesn’t take longer than that). But hubs loves the job and we’ll be together; so bring on the next adventure (sans spiders, of course).

May 11, 2014 - Children    1 Comment

Mother’s Day 2014

This Mother’s Day post is dedicated to the teenager in the house, who remains the sweetest child of mine.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The boys have their sweet moments. The way hubs tells it, Wonder Boy (the almost 7yo) took extra special care in picking just the right Mother’s Day card for me yesterday, going so far as to sit cross-legged on the floor of the store while reading and rejecting at least half a dozen. And Boy Genius (the 11yo) has reminded himself (aloud) several times today, “no huffing, it’s Mother’s Day,” which he follows with the biggest smile. Plus, they’ve all given me peace today, peace from complaining or fighting; so much so that I’ve taken two naps! But it’s the Girl (the 13yo) who has the sweetest heart, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t have anything to do with it.

Teenagers are often the focus of a lot of negativity from parents. No doubt it’s a volatile time in one’s life, with so many physical and emotional changes and parents who just don’t understand (despite the fact that they all went through it themselves once). (Cue the Fresh Prince, a.k.a. Will Smith, circa 1988). And I know that, with one at 13, we’ve only scratched the surface of the years to come, but I want to take a moment to embrace the good that comes with her getting older.

This, I’m fairly certain, is the first year that she has taken some initiative and control over doing things for others. She has always liked to give her friends gifts (and many are ones she makes herself or gives from her own stuff because she’d rather her friend have something), and she’s been talking a lot lately about volunteering at an animal shelter this summer.  She’s always been caring, worrying about how other’s feel, and wanting everyone to be happy. That uber-sensitivity (as I used to call it) is something that I have complained about, saying “Ugh. She’s so sensitive,” when I’ve hurt her feelings somehow. I don’t think anyone would ever use the word “sensitive” to describe me (though I am getting mushier as I get older). I’m also pretty sure she gets her caring nature from her dad (I mean, he went into nursing, after all). But I’m reminded of a lesson we discussed in a Sunday School class at the church we attended in Tennessee: About how sometimes we try to change the things about our kids that are different than us, when we should remember that God made them that way for a reason.

This morning, she cooked breakfast for the family; she had a little help from dad, but it was her idea. They didn’t even wake me up until my plate of food, cup of coffee, and gifts (which she wrapped) were waiting at my seat at the table. Then, while dad and I finished our coffee at the table, she summoned her brothers to her room so they could call their Mema (dad’s mom); this without any prompting from either of us. And when dad said they should clean the kitchen, because they shouldn’t leave the mess for me to clean, she dutifully worked at whatever was needed (even while her brother complained that he “already did a job”).

Now I could use all this as evidence to say look what I great job I’ve done as a mother. But anyone who knows me wouldn’t let me get away with that.  I couldn’t even contain my cynicism when I hugged the Girl and told her thanks, adding, “You don’t want anything, do ya?” But I’m learning to appreciate her more and more and wouldn’t want to change her for anything. Yep, God gave my Girl the sweetest heart, and I think she might be wearing off on me.


Feb 14, 2014 - Kitchen Sink    Comments

Farewell to Farming

On Wednesday evening, February 12, 2014, our last goat left our property. That was only about a week and a half after I posted our herd of goats and cows for sale, though I’d been thinking about it for awhile. We still have a few chickens, but all our livestock are gone. So for the first time in almost 5 years, our pastures are empty, except for Max, the livestock guardian dog who has nothing left to guard. It’s bittersweet.


The two older kids have never been as interested in goat farming as me, though one did show more enthusiasm than the other throughout the adventure. So what was meant to be a family activity was more of me forcing my will upon them. Then there was the roller coaster of emotions that came along with the farming: the joy of goat babies all too often tempered by the sting of sickness and death. Any success becomes overshadowed by defeat. And when children start to expect, or become numb to, death, something needs to change.

So I’m no longer a goat farmer. Morgan expressed my own feelings perfectly when she said, commenting on her out of state move nearly 2 years ago and now this change: “It’s like our glory days are over.”

Maybe. Maybe not. I have to believe that this is just the next step in the journey we call life. And who knows what comes next …

Feb 2, 2014 - Farm    Comments

Herd For Sale

As of February 2014, we are selling our livestock herd. All dairy goats and cows are for sale. If interested, email: info AT applebottomsfarm DOT com

Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats

We currently have 5 does and 2 bucks for sale. All but one are show quality dairy goats. Names and prices are listed below. Click here for photos, pedigrees and more information. Updated 2/9/2014

Milky (dry/pet quality) $100 - SOLD
Crow (bred/show quality) $250 - SOLD
Leather (milking/show quality) $250 - SOLD
Melinda (bred/show quality) $250
Emma Frost (milking/show quality) $250 - SOLD
Orion (breeding buck/show quality) $250
Quicksilver (breeding buck/show quality) $200 - SOLD

Alpine Dairy Goats

We currently have 1 doe for sale. She is show quality. Name and price listed below. Click here for photo, pedigree and more information.

Pepper (never freshened/show quality) $250 - SOLD

Dexter Cattle

We currently have 2 Dexter cows for sale. Name and prices are listed below. Click here for photos, pedigrees and more information.

Ivy (breeding stock) $400 - SOLD
Storm (show quality/breeding) $850 - SOLD

Jan 31, 2014 - Writing    2 Comments

When I Grow Up

There’s a reason I don’t work a traditional 8-5 type job anymore. Well, actually, there are several; here are a couple, in no particular order:

I like naps. (Okay, if I’m being really honest, this probably would be number one).

We have three kids, and Bryan’s job is really demanding. So my schedule being flexible allows me to be available for day-to-day kid things. It’s a blessing.

I can’t stand traffic. I know no one likes traffic, but I mean I really can’t handle it. Last Friday, I had to stay on campus for a required composition faculty meeting until about 4:30 p.m., which put me smack in the middle of rush hour traffic heading home. As I rode my brakes and cringed as the sounds of squealing rubber all around me, I could feel my blood begin to boil, which I’m now convinced is a manifestation of feeling my blood pressure on the rise. But when I was stuck in that tense sea of red, one thing I noticed was that I wasn’t in a bad mood. When I called Bryan to tell him I was on my way, I said something like, “Well, at least I had a good day, was doing something I enjoyed instead of being stuck in all this after a crappy day.”

Me, in the 4th grade

Me, in the 4th grade

And that’s when it hit me. I finally know what I want to be when I grow up. At almost 40. But, hey, better late than never, right?

I’ve said before that I liked law school but hated practice. That’s not exactly true. I did like law school because I’ve always like school. I’m a nerd. My first year out, I worked for a judge in a one-year clerkship, which was mostly research and a lot of learning … so I loved it too. Then I went to work for a big firm, working long hours and stressing out a lot. I liked it at first, too. But it got old really quickly. I think my enjoyment of practice exponentially declined in direct correlation to the increasing amount of time I had to spend on the telephone.

Back in 2009, I started teaching. I credit long-time friend Tina Hall for this development. What started out as a lament on how I never really wanted to go to law school and really just wanted to be a teacher ended in a “well, duh,” moment when she suggested I talk to the local university about teaching as an adjunct. Since then, I’ve taught (either online or on-campus, or both) in the writing department at the local university, paralegal classes at the local technical school, and law classes at the local law school. While I’ve pretty much enjoyed all of the classes I’ve taught, my favorite has become evident over the last couple of semesters: freshman composition. It seems to satisfy my love of writing and love of teaching, along with a healthy dose of organization to appease my OCD. And I think I’m pretty good at it, too.

Ideally, I think I’d like to do this for the rest of my life. I’d even like to do it in a full-time capacity (I could always set my hours to avoid rush hour traffic, right?). Of course, I’m not sure a J.D. and M.B.A. are sufficient degrees for a full-time composition faculty position, so maybe I just need to go back to school again.

Hmm, teaching writing and going to school at the same time. Man, wouldn’t that be the life?! ;)

Dec 6, 2013 - Children, Entertainment    Comments

Which superhero are you?

That was the semi-random question asked on the way home from guitar/voice lessons the other night. Only semi-random because, being the nerdy family we are, we’re regularly debating things such as “what superpower would you want,” “who would win in a fight” (hint: always Superman), and other *super* issues.

The 11yo (Boy Genius) instigated this one, quickly assigning The Flash to the 6yo (Wonder Boy), because he has so much energy and never. ever. slows. down.

The 13yo (Girl) is Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat, because she’s sort of sneaky (which seems negative but we don’t mean it’s always a bad thing); it’s just, sometimes she’s there, and sometimes she’s not.  And even when you think she’s no where near you, somehow she manages to know the details of a private conversation, like what someone’s getting for Christmas.

We all decided that the 11yo (Boy Genius) is Cyborg, though he seemed disappointed that that didn’t mean he’d talk like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator. Cyborg definitely fits him though because he has excellent information recall (like scary good sometimes) and regularly says things like, “I don’t need a calculator; I have one in my head.”

Everyone seemed pretty satisfied that Daddy is Mr. Fantastic without much explanation (perhaps because he wasn’t in the car to question it). But I’d guess that it’s because he holds us all together. And, given the stretches we all do in Taekwondo class, he’s definitely the most flexible.

Cyborg said I was Charles Xavier/Professor X, mainly because he said sometimes it seems like I can read his mind. (I didn’t tell him that’s just mom experience, yo.) He also said that no one really knows the extent of Xavier’s power; like if he wanted to he could get in someone’s head and destroy them from the inside out. Um … thanks?

So which superhero are you? It’s a fun little thing to consider. Here’s the real question though: is it the one you’d want to be?

Oct 9, 2013 - Kitchen Sink    4 Comments

It [was] my party

Today, my first thought of the morning — well other than the standard “man, I’m tired” — was of Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. There is a scene where she’s sobbing to Billy Crystal’s character, “And I’m gonna be 40!” He asks her when and she replies, “Someday,” to which he responds, “in like 8 years,” the ridiculousness of it all evident in his voice.

Well, I don’t have 8 years and I’m not sobbing either. I’m not necessarily dreading 40 any more than just the average “getting older sucks” funk that I’ve fallen into lately. And I’m certainly not conceding that 40 is old. It just goes back to the whole “no more firsts” thing I’ve already whined about. But 40 is the next milestone.

See, yesterday was my 39th birthday. Since I’m only teaching on-campus 3 days a week this semester, I technically didn’t have anywhere to be. So I spent the morning in glorious solitude on the tractor, satisfying my OCD by cutting the pastures in boxed sectioms and singing along with my music at the top of my lungs with no one to judge my lack of vocal talent but the critters and trees. Living in the country has its perks, y’all.

It was spectacular … other than the part where I backed into (and destroyed) the pond fence. Perhaps it was the brisk morning air or the bright warming sun, but even that didn’t get me down. I just kept on singing.

Then, I managed an afternoon nap before the kids got out of school and a dinner that I neither had to cook nor clean up after. All in all, it was a good birthday. What more could I ask for? Maybe I’m still high on sunshine, but I’m choosing to not answer that today.

Sep 13, 2013 - Kitchen Sink    8 Comments

Failing at Life

Foreword: In recent years, I’ve been trying to “watch my language.” I really try to limit my use of curse words. You know, because the whole “don’t let evil come out of your mouth” thing; and because I know my kids are listening and it’s hard to discourage them from using bad words when momma’s got a potty mouth. But this week, and today especially, that’s all gone to hell in a handbasket. Also, 9 out of 10 of the posts like the one that follows never make it from my notebook to the site because I write them in a fever and then realize how full of whine they are when I cool down. I decide not to share that whine with the world, or the handful of people who actually read this blog. Again, this week, and today especially, I guess I’m just gonna be a hot head. See previous statement regarding the handbasket. Consider yourself warned.

My friend MorganMorganMorgan and I have been commiserating a lot lately about our pitiful lives.

Disclaimer #1: Okay, so our lives aren’t pitiful. We both have healthy families with loving husbands and generally well-behaved children. We have roofs over our heads and food on our table and are generally healthy ourselves (with controllable physical issues and only slightly questionable – on good days – mental issues). So, yeah, we should be ashamed of ourselves for even complaining. Yada, yada, yada.

Disclaimer #2: “Lately” isn’t quite accurate either. We commiserate all the time. The foundation of our friendship is that we can be happy or sad to our heart’s dis/content without the need for a disclaimer like #1.

On with it, then. For this latest downward spiral of despair, I take full responsibility. Morgan’s been saying for awhile that she feels like she’s failing at everything … that her one responsibility in life is raising her kids and she sucks at it. Now that’s simply not true, but I get what she’s saying. Earlier this week, I texted her that I was severely depressed because the best years of my life were behind me. “I’ve no firsts left,” I said. I then went on to whine about how I wish my life was a book or a movie and some other such ridiculous nonsense too embarrassing to admit.  Instead, I’m almost 40 and can’t even maintain the very basics of life.

This morning neither of the big kids could find clean laundry … well, one of them just wasn’t happy with what there was but the other swore there was no clean underwear. My knee-jerk reaction in my head is “Well, crap, there’s something else I’ve f-ed up this week.” But then, the Girl walks in, while I’m drinking my coffee and trying to wake up properly before facing the world, and says, in the same judgmental tone she usually saves for her “Mother!” admonishments after I’ve cursed aloud, “Can you please wash some clothes today because I seriously had to dig in the hamper for running shorts.” (Well, they’re running shorts; it’s not like they have to start out clean.) And she just stands there looking at me, waiting for a response. (Here’s where the loving husband part comes in: he says to her very calmly, “Walk away now and pretend you didn’t say that.”)

Urging me to read The Bloggess‘ post Is it just me?, Morgan texted, “I don’t know if it’s normal, or if you, me and her are the only f-ups … but yeah, whatever.” The Bloggess’ post could have been written by me, about me, except that would mean actually accomplishing something other than getting out of bed. (And at least she gets comments on her blog, so I win at failing). Now, I don’t think we’re the only ones; and to anyone who says we are, I’m call bullshit right now. But that doesn’t make me feel any better.

The Bloggess says her biggest accomplishment some days is going to the bank. Mine is not crawling back into bed after the kids get on the bus, because, 5 out of 5 days a week, that’s exactly what I want to do. And I’ve no idea why. I know I didn’t use to be this way. But I can’t figure out what happened. Now fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, I can’t crawl back into bed most days; but I don’t feel any better about myself for that either.

Some days, some weeks even, are better than others. I’m able to maintain that perspective and blessed feeling related to disclaimer #1. Other days, I’m in what Morgan and I call a funk … which is more like a black hole … in which any light that remains is zapped from existence by the very fact that I should be happy but am not. So what’s wrong with me and how do I fix it? Or do I just accept that this is it?

See, if my life were a movie, this would all be resolved in 2 hours or less. And everyone would have clean underwear.

Sep 9, 2013 - Entertainment, Movies    Comments

A Tempered Response to Batfleck

Logo revealed at Comic-Con (from www.empireonline.com)

Logo revealed at Comic-Con (from www.empireonline.com)

It’s been a couple of weeks now since the news hit that Ben Affleck accepted the role of the caped crusader in the Man of Steel sequel, the title of which writer David S. Goyer has said would be a toss-up between either Superman vs. Batman or Batman vs. Superman. (And it occurs to me now that I never posted my reaction to MOS. Well, I loved it. I could pick it apart and harp on this or that, but really I’d rather just enjoy it. To me, MOS brought Superman back into the limelight of mainstream, made him someone little boys want to be, and did justice to his story).

Anyway, as the story of Affleck’s casting spread like wildfire, reactions seemed consistently heated and so “Batfleck” was born (oh, Internet, aren’t you so clever?). Inexplicably, however, neither the announcement that James Spader would be Ultron in The Avengers sequel nor the rumor that the Shatner – i.e., the original James T. Kirk – wanted a role in the MOS Sequel, generated nearly as much venom. Damn it, Jim.

Honestly, my immediate reaction to Batfleck was somewhat similar to the masses (a “No, this hurts,” text to MorganMorganMorgan). I mean it wasn’t that long ago that I said I didn’t want Affleck as a super friend. But then I took a breath. I’m still not completely happy with the idea of Benny boy as the dark knight but not for the reasons it seems the majority of folks are in an uproar about. Mine is not a cry of foul, more of a whimper of worry.

Daredevil sucked. Yes, that’s true. But I don’t blame Affleck for that. Poor writing and directing prevented a good comic book origin story from translating well to the big screen. It’s not the first time dignity’s been lost in the translation, and it won’t be the last time a generally good actor looks bad because of poor packaging.

Yes, Affleck is a good actor. Yes, I’ve changed my tune on this; he’s a good actor, one who has gotten better with age. Did you see Argo? How about The Town (which I think is my fave of all his performances to date)? He goes all in, developing a look, a sound, a feel for a character; characters that aren’t all the same, and he’s believable in the different roles. Anyone who says Affleck can’t go dark should watch the scene in The Town when Rebecca Hall’s character tells him some guys harassed her so she takes the long way home now. He asks, with just a hint of edge to his voice, “What’d they look like?” The next thing we see is him telling Jeremy Renner’s character, “I need your help. I can’t tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it later, and we’re gonna hurt some people.” Yeah, he can go dark enough.

So do I think Affleck can pull it off? Yes. I think he’ll be just fine, maybe even great, as Batman. My problem, i.e., my worry, is about what this means for a Man of Steel sequel. It wasn’t long ago when Affleck said he wasn’t interested in taking on projects unless he could both direct and star in them. And it was about this very topic really, the idea of a Justice League ensemble. So here he’s already backtracking a bit because Snyder’s at the helm again. So what about the starring part? Coupling Affleck’s prior comments with Goyer’s title bombshell, I’m worried we’re awaiting more of a Batman reboot than a Superman movie. For someone who’s waited almost my whole life for a good Superman movie, I’m not ready to hand over my dreams of an awesome sequel of hope and home to yet another telling of billionaire-turned-bat. (And, seriously, I’ve nothing against Batman. He’s just not Superman).

But I’m tempering my response to Batfleck because I do still have hope.

I’ve complained early before and been happily proven wrong. I hated the idea of Marvel getting anyone other than Ed Norton to play Bruce Banner in The Avengers, only to eat crow and proclaim Mark Ruffalo the best Hulk ever.  I didn’t like the decision to get some unknown (to me) British actor to play the symbol of truth, justice and the American way, only to declare Henry Cavill as MY Superman. (Sorry, Tom Welling, though you’ll always be my Clark Kent).

So, I have hope that Affleck will rock the bat mask and black cape, that Cavill will deliver the goods again, and that Superman vs. Batman (or whatever the heck they decide to call it) will be epic.