Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hammin' It Up

I grew up in the country in a neat little red brick house on a corner with fields all around. The fact that our house was brick and on a cement foundation still didn't keep the mice out come winter time. My mother is TERRIFIED of mice. I don't mean moderately scared or even a little creeped out. I mean, the woman would die if one ever touched her. I'm not joking.

[So please, any mice reading this, stay away from my momma. I like her a whole lot of a bunch and would like to keep her around. No touching the momma. Squeak squeak mcsqueaker squeaken. Got that?]

My momma is so terrified of all things rodentia that the first winter in the brand new house, when my sister was a mere four or five months old, she nearly flipped her lid when she saw the first critter run across the kitchen floor. She came un. glued. But my father who worked nights and didn't want his wife dragging his two children to his work and sitting at the end of the tire assembly line for his entire shift just because she might be afraid to stay in the house alone, fixed the situation by telling her that mice can't run on carpet. He said their little toenails got snagged in the carpet and they just stayed on linoleum. She had nothing to fear if she stayed on the carpeted areas of the house while he was at work.

Now, my mother is a very intelligent woman, but bless her heart, she bought this one hook, line and sinker. I'm going to blame post-partum depression.

And all went along smoothly for awhile. My father went to work every night and after dinner, Mom never left the living room. She even laid my little sister on a blanket in the living room floor to play and nap because, hey those mice can't run on carpet, right? Well, until while watching Hee Haw or Lawrence Welk one night, a mouse came scurrying his little tail off right through the dining room and when he hit carpet, never slowed down. My sleeping baby sister didn't slow him down either -- he just jumped over her and kept on bookin' it. He very well may have been competing in some Mouse Olympic event.

I saw it all happen. Mom saw it all happen. We looked at each other and without a word drew our feet up onto the couch. Then the shrieking began. Who was going to go get the baby? "Hey, lady, I'm like, not even four, not gonna be me." "Oh no, not me either. I have to remain alive to take care of your sister because obviously you are going to perish when you go retrieve her FROM THE FLOOR WHERE MICE ARE." Although, that conversation didn't happen out loud, I'm sure it went on in our heads. It was possibly our first mother-daughter telepathy moment.

She's 60 now and still just as terrified of mice. I'm not a fan either. We haven't had one in our country house in a few years. We're surrounded by either field or forest no matter which side you look at, so mice are kind of just gonna happen. This is why we have lots of cats. The last time we had one in the house, I wore shoes pretty much 24/7, tucked my pants into my socks and upon entering any room I would stomp and declare loudly, "HELLO MOUSE. I AM ENTERING THIS ROOM. YOU ARE NOT WELCOME WHILE I AM IN HERE. PLEASE DO NOT SHOW YOURSELF UNTIL I AM GONE. OH, AND PLEASE DIE. THANK YOU." If you think I'm lying, ask my kids. I totally did that. Every time.

Over the years the kids have asked repeatedly for hamsters. And every time I say no. NO NO NO NO NONONONONONONOOOOOOOO. But in August I was obviously ate up with the stupid with all the getting ready to homeschool my children and when my oldest asked for a hamster I dismissed her with, "Ask your dad."

We now own three hamsters. Three. Rodents. Live here. With me. Inna my house.

Abby had one named Elephant (after Little Bill's pet hamster. Remember Little Bill? He was so dadgum cute!), but Elephant got bitey, so she gave him away. She then bought a Robo Dwarf (Robo is short for Roborovsky, not robot, which would've been so stinkin' epic) and named her Hanna. Hanna is the Speedy Gonzales of the hamster world. I swear I hear her squeak "Andelay! Andelay! Ariba! Ariba!" every now and then. She is adorable and loves to perform for you, but holding her is out of the question. She no likey. She jumpy.

So Abby bought a Winter White and named her Pearl. The same night, Sam bought a Winter White and named her Marley. Pearl is cuddly and lovey and possibly has an eating disorder (She stuffed 33 sunflower seeds in her cheek pouches the other night before she had to go unload. We need to take that girl to a buffet) and Marley is moody and chirps like a cicada if you mess with her on a grumpy day. The kids hold them and let them crawl all over them. They poop in their hands. Pearl pees on Abby a lot because she smells Hanna. It's like a scaled-down version of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom around here.

While I was getting the office cleaned out so it could be turned into a classroom, I was sitting in the floor cleaning out the craft cabinet. Abby decided to bring Pearl out to visit. And then Abby thought it would be HEEEELARIOUS to put the little critter in my t-shirt pocket. That was.....weird. Then she put her on the floor and Pearl, being a burrowing critter, went where it's.....warm. Yes, the hamster ran for my crotch.

There I was sitting in the floor, surrounded by Play-Doh, markers, pipe cleaners, glitter and used-up coloring books and a hamster scampering around my junk. I froze. Abby froze. Bug froze. Then without moving I squeaked, "There's. a. GET. HER. OUT. ...... NOW." Abby immediately fell over in the floor, completely unable to rescue my crotch -- or the hamster -- and I wasn't about to grab the squirming little thing. I pet the dang things with one extended, shaking finger, I no grab. I also didn't dare move for fear of crushing her tiny, furry body under my gigantic booty and other stuff.

So imagine me sitting, legs splayed, arms frozen in mid-air, file folder full of Shrinky Dinks sheets in one hand, face frozen in a mask of rodent-induced horror.....and my daughters lying on their sides, clutching their bellies, laughing so hard no sound is coming out.


Eventually Abby regained enough composure to fish her hamster from my no-no region, a bonding experience like no other, and order was restored.

Marlin Perkins, handler of tigers and gorillas, probably would've handled a hamster in his crotch with slightly more composure. But I bet he never homeschooled his kids.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Classroom Chaos

Being involved in youth ministry, we use the term "controlled chaos" a lot. We rarely ask the kids to be quiet and noise isn't an issue during most gatherings in the youth room. We want to the kids to holler, laugh and have fun. The only time I ask for quiet is when I am teaching them the Word. And I always keep it short because I know that there is only a small window I have their attention.

That being said, for me to embrace the concept of controlled chaos is HUGE. As I've mentioned before, I have diagnosed OCD. Not self-diagnosed, but actual diagnosed-by-a-doctor Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. (It drives me a little bit bonkers when someone says, "Oh yeah, when my sock drawer is a mess I just OCD over that." Uhm....OCD is a noun, not an adjective. But that's a rant for another time. :)) I enjoy order. I enjoy normalcy. I enjoy schedule.

So why on earth am I submerging myself into the bowels of chaos right now?? And it's not even controlled chaos! It's absolute, mind-bending, topsy turvy, make your brain melt CHAOS.

I'm doing it because WE'RE GETTING A CLASSROOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Yes, overuse of exclamation, but they are so totally appropriate here. Trust me.)

Awhile back I got this brilliant idea to divide our bedroom in half and make a classroom. Paul liked the idea - liked it especially more than my first idea to turn the playhouse turned storage shed into a classroom. The only problem was money and time and help. So the idea sat on a shelf and I would occasionally sigh dramatically and speak wistfully of the classroom I longed for and how much easier it would be to teach Algebra and sentence diagramming on a white board rather than paper. I would occasionally threaten to put up the 5-foot wide posters of the human anatomy or paint a living room wall with chalkboard paint or pin up the "East Meets West at Promontory Summit" poster from Union Pacific Railroad (Big thanks to Jenn T. for the heads up on that! Union Pacific sent out a free info packet on the railroad in honor of their 150th birthday.) right by Paul's recliner, but still the classroom idea sat.

Then one Saturday morning we had a rare opportunity to sleep in. This never happens anymore, so we all took advantage of it, sleeping in all the way until 8 (which seems strangely early compared to my younger days when sleeping in always involved waking up in the PM, not the AM). I had just finished my first cup of coffee when my phone rang and my mom asked, "What are you doing?" then immediately launched into a frantic plea to "hurry up and get around and get to Grove because there is laminate flooring in the auction and the auction didn't make it into the paper and there's hardly anyone here and oh my gosh, hurry".

We recently re-floored both girls' room with vinyl flooring because it is way cheaper than laminate and Paul didn't need any special tools to do it. He did both rooms in two days each and they look great. Ab's room has a dark wood texture and Bug's is very light, golden Oak. We did each room for about $120. Ab's allergies have gotten so bad we had to get the carpet out of her room and just planned to do a room at a time when we could afford it until the whole house was carpet-free.

But Mom's urging to get to the auction had us making scrambling. We started yelling for kids to get out of bed. That was fun. Then we called our pastor because he's a pro at laying laminate flooring and has all the tools. He advised what would be a good price and what would be an insane price and wished us the best.

We got to Grove as fast as we could. Fortunately the auctioneer hadn't made it even close to the flooring yet, which left us ample opportunity to bid on such necessities as a box of golf balls, a box of owl knick knacks, a box of spray paint and the bargain of the day: a golf set for Sam for the whopping price of $2. Unadvertised auctions rawk. And it also gave me the opportunity to freak out a little old Native American woman who wouldn't go near the box of owls and literally moved across the yard away from me when I started bidding on them. I know it's real to a lot of older Native Americans. I, however, have managed to live quite successfully even though my kitchen is full of the feathered harbingers of death.

Finally it came time for the flooring. I had in my mind what I would pay per box to get us the "insane" price Brother Jerry quoted us and was determined to not go above it. $12 a box was my price in my head. The auctioneer disclosed that he would be bidding to a point for an absent bidder, but when the price went above his bid, his bidder was out. He started the bidding as $12 a box and bid for his bidder. AGH! So by cracky, when he hollered out $13 I TOOK IT. And his bidder was out.

I got 41 full boxes and a partial box of laminate flooring for $533! Roughly, that works out to .50 a square foot. That is actually cheaper than the vinyl we put in the girls' rooms!

So that set everything into motion to get the classroom done. Fall Break is next week and even though we hadn't planned to take those days off like public school does, the pastor is a teacher and said he was free to do the work. Paul got two vacation days on the calendar at work and BOOM, Project Classroom is now underway.

Our bedroom is a converted garage, so it's extra long with high ceilings. The previous owners turned the garage into a den, put up a half wall in the back half of the room and that's where her elderly momma slept. When we moved here, we made the partitioned part of the room my office and the other half a toy room. Enter surprise Kady and we suddenly were the proud owners of a gigantic bedroom to make room for baby. Over the years our bedroom has become the black hole of the house - it's the largest room and therefore, everything that needs a home goes there. It's awful. I have never liked our bedroom for that reason. It's always cluttered. Always. It makes my brain hurt.

So now, we are removing the partial wall completely and constructing a full wall to divide the room in half.  We'll have to build a closet in the bedroom part since the classroom will retain the closet. We'll finally  have storage for all the out of season clothes, the classroom will have a large closet with doors and our bedroom will have a door. A real door. With a knob. And a lock. Right now, the door to our bedroom is a louvered folding door. It's a wonder we haven't scarred a wandering child for life, if you know what I mean. Hubba hubba.

So the countdown has begun to remove all the crap, clutter and mess from the bedroom/office and temporarily displace it to other parts of the house for the next week. I am overwhelmed beyond belief. So much so that I find myself blogging. Yeah. I am seriously avoiding the mess. It hurts me to look at it right now. But I have had a glass of sweet tea while I've typed this and find the anxiety ebbing away, so in a few minutes it will be back to the grind.

Unless I decide to look for classroom organization ideas on Pinterest.

We....the people

Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...