Hair Extensions and Object Complement Nouns

I had the hair-brained idea to get extensions (literally I guess). Sometimes I worry my thought process runs on a permanent slippery slope fallacy.  I start out thinking about homemade kefir and somehow end up eating store bought ice cream. In my head the transition is always seamlessly logical.  I barely even notice going from kefir recipes, to raw milk sources, to researching ice cream makers on Amazon to settling for Trader Joe's coconut milk ice cream, to "Oh, well Walmart is closer and I'll buy the stuff with real cream and sugar" to "oh hey, sale on the store brand."  Ho hum. 

Some people are born with the ability to know what's socially acceptable and some people have to make themselves a spreadsheet and flowchart to know whether or not it's ok to shave your legs...but not your arms.  Or fake fingernails are ok, but not fake fingers. Push-up bras are fine, but fake boobs are suspect. For whatever reason, it's perfectly acceptable to color your hair, but not add fake hair. As someone with naturally curly hair, this has never really kept me up at night until recently when I was diagnosed with a subset of health conditions that has resulted in less than stellar locks. 

So I did what any normal person does and went straight to Amazon, then coerced a sister into installing my newly purchased 100% Human Hair Remy locks.  After I had an ethical crisis imagining some sort of Gift Of The Magi situation,  I pictured myself sauntering around looking like this. 

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Instead I ended up more looking like this: 

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Pros: I had more hair than Ariel, Elsa and Rapunzel put together (Ok, maybe not Rapunzel).  It braided beautifully, went up in a messy bun like I was born to be a nonchalant movie star with over-sized sunglasses, and my kids kept staring at me and backing away slowly.   

Cons: It clumped up and wouldn't blend with my regular hair, itched terribly, and I couldn't sleep. For those who don't like Jamberry or other sticker nails because of the way it feels like wearing a maxi pad on your finger... skip hair extensions altogether because that's exactly what it felt like, but on your head. 

Also, note to self: If the price is too good to be true, it will probably melt like green plastic army men. 

I stubbornly stuck with it though. My fake clumpy hair extensions were fabulous. I discovered a newfound appreciation for runway models, people with naturally long/heavy hair, and anyone else who has to endure weirdness in the name of aesthetics. I was trying to teach my 9yr old the difference between a direct object and an object complement noun and after the third time picking long stray hairs off his face, he said "Mom, I can't even take you seriously right now.".  Fair enough.  

So after a day of Jordan Petersoning all of my life's goals and taking a good hard look at my narcissistic tendencies, the hair extensions went back in the box and I resumed the normal pinned up and glasses look I've been sporting for years. It's fine. Better this way. On Mondays I teach a bunch of cute little preschoolers/kindergartners, and on Wednesdays I teach a bunch of equally cute but rather tall jr. highers, so channeling my inner Professor McGonagall instead of Trelawney is probably the better way to go. 

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Next I plan to shave my head and wear a different wig for every day of the week (I kid, I kid...maybe).  

Oh, and if you're in the same boat with the whole teaching nouns thing.  And "No No D.O (direct object), label verb transitive" is a common refrain in your house. You might also try "Replace? Yes. Amen, label O.C.N. (object complement noun)" or "Describe? Yes. Hooray, label O.C.A. (object complement adjective)". 

 

Mendelssohn and Spaceships

On the orders of an urgent care doctor who gave me instructions to de-stress my life , I'm attempting to start writing again (perhaps dubious advice since it came from inside a very glass house, the doctor being a self-professed stressed out mom herself... ahem),  Like half the country this year, we've spent the last two months in bed, coughing our lungs up, puking, blowing out radioactive gunk or trying to recover long enough to catch whatever new virus is trending that week.  All New Year's resolutions have been traded in for survival tactics.  Sometimes when we've eaten cold cereal for all three meals, gone through three loads of towels in a day, and bought stock options in paper plates and Clorox wipes, I wonder how anyone ever survived in the pre-Costco/Walmart days. 

It's embarrassing.

I cope with the guilt by pinning healthy things on Pinterest and liking Instagram pictures of beautiful people lifting weights and running on the beach.

But today we were all well enough to go on the symphony field trip and it was healing balm... literally, since the techno base in the spaceship piece was so heavy and vibratorious it worked as a legit medical procedure.  And for the first time William was able to sit through the whole thing which makes me feel like we hit a major milestone. He's been cracking us up lately. Ever since he started bawling his eyes out whenever he heard Pentatonix's "Hallelujah" we realized that he's super sensitive to music.  I'm not sure what career requires the ability to slowly choke up and sob on demand, but so far we have a repertoire of Brahms lullaby,  Gershwin's "An American in Paris", the Getty hymn "In Christ Alone", and Disturbed's "Sound of Silence". He can also keep a beat and count a rhythm better than any of his older brothers, but we seem to have been shortchanged when musical genes were being passed out, so there are no expectations on him to be some sort of prodigy.  Still, it was nice to sit in Copley auditorium and watch him laugh, cry and sit wide eyed through the whole performance. 

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The grammar and theory of music is just starting to click for my two older kids. I think they're finally reaching the age where explanations make sense to them.  The San Diego symphony put out a great lesson pack for their current concert and it's a fantastic resource just as a quick dive into any sort of musicology. I highly recommend it.  You can find all of the pieces on YouTube. And you can download the Symphony curriculum for free here.

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In the 21st century it's so easy to feel like everything is at your fingertips all of the time, but there is really no comparison between hearing Mendelssohn via an electronic device and hearing it played right in front of you in a large hollow space with hundreds of pieces of wood, stretched out sheep guts, and oddly shaped metal. 

It seeps into your actual bones. 

 

The Samson Toddler

My childhood brain nearly imploded once when I overheard a learned adult hypothesize Samson was actually a scrawny guy. Blasphemy! Didn't they see the super accurate pictures on my Sunday School coloring page? But in a way, it kinda makes sense. Would everyone have been amazed by his strength if he looked like the Hulk with muscles rippling out like four Dwayne Johnson's stacked two high and two wide? Or would they have been more shocked if he had the typical dad-bod yet could swing a lion around like a small cat and go on a mass murdering spree with nothing but a donkey jaw?  

That sums up how I feel about my two year old right now.  He's a bit tiny for his age, although he does actually grow occasionally because I noticed recently his belly was starting to stick out of his 9-12 month shirts (which is unacceptable because we don't allow immodest crop tops in this household, so I promptly took it off and let him go shirtless). But despite having three other boys whose antics were very similar, I can't seem to help but marvel at the sheer insanity that is me trying to keep up with my youngest. But since we wrote down his older siblings' stories it would be remiss not to also chronicle his shenanigans: In a way, he's both easier and more difficult than Jamie was. Easier because I already survived one child who never sleeps and climbs everything, so I can sit this one out from the lofty towers of complacency. But it's harder because I don't have the time, energy or desire to train this last one or work as hard as I did with the first one. It really is true the youngest is more spoiled. I thought maybe it was just my jaded perspective as a firstborn, but unless everyone else is doing a much better job with their caboose child (don't answer that), I'm thinking this can safely move from theory to fact.  

When Jamie climbed out of his crib, Jim and I waited in the dark below his crib, rose up and went all Walking Dead whenever he attempted to climb out.  That didn't work so well with William because a) it kept his brothers awake more than it served as a compelling reason to stay in his crib  and b) like all strict parenting books tell you, you CAN train a child to be obedient, but while he did eventually learn to go to bed at bedtime, that didn't stop him from getting up in the middle of the night and raiding the pantry and fridge like a raccoon. c) no amount of training kept him from getting up for the day at 4:30/5:00 am.  

So we bought a sleep tent for the tidy sum of $100 (which I blogged about before) but was guaranteed to give exhausted parents a safe place to put their child during sleeping hours.  Within a week he broke the front panel out...just pushed his finger through the rip proof nylon until he got enough of an indentation to get a good grip, rip it open and emerge victorious in the baby game of Survivor.  We fixed that which earned us a whole month of sleep before he figured out how to wiggle the zipper down enough to make quick work of the rest (if he was smart, he would have figured that out first).  We used a carabiner after that to lock the zipper shut and that got us all the way to last night when Jim and I had just settled on the couch for a relaxing evening of Sherlock, bourbon and sewing projects when we heard a suspicious amount of bumping and activity going on in the back bedroom.  Jim went to go check and discovered our small son razing havoc like a small Tasmanian devil ping-ponging around the room.  

We assumed he'd just busted the carabiner lock (which had happened before), but no...he had ripped the entire tent off its base.  I assume, judging by the five star reviews, that this is not a common occurrence for other owners of this tent. And he seriously looks too small to do anything remotely that powerful, which is why I'm henceforth dubbing him my Samson toddler.  He may not talk very well, and he may not be super well behaved, but just to be on the safe side, I'm going to lock up the donkey jawbones.  

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It's a good thing children look so angelic when they're sleeping? 

The Great "How-To" On Reading Comprehension (or how to read when you have no time)

The TV is back on the wall. Shame.  But I avoided a useless ER trip, so Yay?   

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I did fork out a fair chunk of change to be told my child is full of crap...literally full of crap, but hey, you win some, you lose some.  The TV rode in (magically transformed from dragon to knight on a white horse) to rescue Jim who had to work from home while I took the aforementioned kid to the Dr (with what I thought was appendicitis, but turned out to be an impacted colon). Thankfully it's nothing a bottle of magnesium and caution tape around the bathroom can't fix. 

I also added another boy to the brood for the week, which has worked out well (most notably it turned up the notch on hilarious conversations overheard and the amount of food consumed), but suffice it to say there isn't a lot of extra time for me to read the growing pile of books next to my bed.

Like any good (mostly) millennial worth her salt, I have read books on how to read books.  And my book stacks have baby book stacks.  So if your life is as crazy as mine and your Amazon and library lists are equally out of control, here is the cliff notes version of what some recent experts say and my own experience with their advice.

1. Books have grammar and not the punctuation kind. 

Thomas Foster talks about this in his "How To Read Literature Like A College Professor", but you also see it if you read blogs written by publishers, editors, and agents.  There is a grammar and structure to how the whole "written with words" world works (say that five times fast) and if you understand it, then your reading speed and comprehension automatically picks up speed because you can proverbially pick the cross-titch off the frame and look at the backside. It also sorta lets you see the motivations and humanity behind the author (for better or worse). I recommend reading the aforementioned book, as well as "Save the Cat" and any book on how to write non-fiction. 

My takeaway: Take a few books and really think about the structure and behind-the-scenes systems that go into making a book, and you'll find subsequent books are easier and faster to grasp. 

2. Speed reading may be pseudoscience, but it helps with the boring stuff. 

Tim Ferriss is the most recent hawker of speed reading, but he is by no means the first.  None of the methods truly work (for science or me) because they focus on the physiology of how your eyes and retina work. BUT I did find I could read super boring stuff a lot better without my eyes glazing over and my mind wandering. I do pause a lot as I think through things...especially difficult concepts or ones I'm unfamiliar with, so I don't think I'm the best candidate and a college student would find the theories more useful.  There's a nice summary of the basic speed reading strategies here.   

My takeaway: I think speed reading is a bit like being told spinach will make you strong like Popeye. It won't, but it's still good for you. The neuroscience peeps are undecided on speed reading, but I find it useful nonetheless. 

3. Write A Review and don't say "Love it" or "It Sucks". 

One of the best ways to transfer information from your short-term memory to your long-term memory is to be able to articulate to someone what you learned.  Even more important, doing something physiological and slow after you've done something mental and fast, is insanely beneficial for your brain and its ability to process, build connections, and operate smoothly.  Thus writing review accomplishes both of those things while also providing a good "reason" to do so (vs just writing it in a journal for the pure exercise of it).  In the book "Thinking Fast And Slow" Dr. Daniel Kahneman shows how our brains adapted to take in information a certain way and make instant judgments on it.  Slow thinking is harder, more meticulous and apparently more rational.  

My takeaway: Pick up a pen.  While fast reading and processing in this hectic age of information is a necessary and laudable skill, any way you can get yourself to also exercise and use "slow" thinking, will help concepts stick better and serve as a cautionary safety net.  

In case none of those are helpful, here are the honorable mentions (in no particular order):
Read lots of books at once
It's ok if some books take a few days and others take years
Figure out the central premise of each book by reading the contents and footnotes first
Realize that non-fiction can be more fictitious than fiction
Find books you think you'll disagree with, and read them anyway

 

And that's it, I'm off to disinfect the toilet and pay my library fines...we'll see if I actually remember any of this in a week. 

Lentils, Insanity and Dinosaur Trains

I used to hate it when my parents sat us all down for a "family pow wow".  They were epic come to Jesus talks that usually ended with us all getting up early, doing more chores and sorting out whatever major attitude problems were shaping up into WWIII.  I loathed them so much, that early in our marriage when Jim casually mentioned "let's pow wow" I broke out into a cold sweat and treated the poor man like he'd just suggested a flogging post and torture rack.  

Now I have four kids, and although the word "pow wow" is still strictly forbidden, I realized I totally do the same thing.  Negotiating with a two year old is a slippery slope where you think peeling a banana a certain way or watching a show in the morning is not a big deal, and then before you know it you're standing on your head, holding your mouth a certain way and angling the banana so it correctly lines up with the earth's magnetic field as you peel it at 5 am while you watch the same dinosaur train episode.  ...and you don't even know how it got this bad.  

Multiply that by four, throw in the end of CC and state testing and it's no wonder people commonly burn out this time of year.  

So I sat all of the kids down and told them we were having a week reset of absolutely no fun (you have to set the standard super low so something like playing math bingo feels like you're getting away with murder). We're doing nothing but learning poetry, reading books, doing math and re-learning how to play nicely with our siblings. I cleaned up our food while I was at it, because I figured you might as well bum everyone out with one swift kick in the pants.  Our diet had slipped from pizza occasionally and cold cereal as an emergency backup to such a high level of consumption that they need to come up with a new scientific classification of consumers for us: Herbivores, Carnivores, Omnivores and the Junkavores. 

It had gotten so bad even Jamie was craving healthy food.  He's become so big and responsible this year (mostly) that he can babysit for short periods and go places independently. So when he kept bugging me and bugging me for lentil soup, I finally just handed him my card and told him if he wanted it that bad he was going to have to do it himself.  

...and I was surprised he called my bluff, but he did. He walked to the grocery store and asked someone where the leeks and lentils were located, used the self checkout and was home in ten minutes total. Jim and I teased him later that the only reason someone didn't get him into trouble was because they probably had never met a potentially troublesome sixth grader shopping for lentils and leeks.  Ahem.

 I wonder sometimes if other families have to go through the monumental, boot slogging task of feeling like they have to troubleshoot every.single.area of their kids' lives. Oftentimes it seems like my kids only struggle struggle struggle, and never succeed.  Everything needs extra work and effort, nothing comes easy.  We were back to forming ABC's today like we're in Kindergarten to fix a bunch of letter reversals that have been cropping up lately. William probably needs speech therapy too, but there is a limit to how many "therapies" one can juggle in a week, and his issues are mild (in comparison).  But see? It's a constant state of triage on who needs the most help.  Of course after three kids who needed speech therapy to even start talking, I feel like at this point I should just write my own.   "Speech Bootcamp For Stubborn Toddlers: The at home guide for parents who want to hear something other than 'EEEEEEEEGHH!' all day" 

But hey, two days in and everyone is doing a lot better (food wise, school wise, and behavior wise) so maybe my parents were on to something with their "pow wows".  And honestly there are worse things than sitting home all day eating watermelon and homemade beef jerky while you build epic train tracks and read Laddie aloud.  But in defense of electronics and Netflix...  Jamie said there wasn't one thing on his common core state test that wasn't in Wild Kratz and Magic Schoolbus. So there. 

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Shiznobbers and giggles

My whole family likes to watch those video conglomerations where people do stupid stuff like faceplant off their unicycle and flip their cars into dumpsters. They have to talk me into joining them because I see nothing funny about watching people have possibly the worst day of their life.   Tonight we watched a clip that started out with a bunch of beautiful young people in a hot tub (I immediately start looking for clowns hiding in the bushes or someone about to jump in from the roof).  I hate that sense of impending doom! They're laughing and I want to warn them they statistically have less than three seconds before their fun implodes.  

 ...or in this case explodes in a cloud of brown water as one poor girl clutches her stomach and you realize she is really quite ill (you've never seen a hot tub vacated so fast).  

This is the problem with life.  You never know when your super awesome "Spring Break" in Cancun will end with some bad tacos and you having to change your name and find all new friends.   Just sayin'.  

As someone with an overactive introverted brain trapped in an extroverted happy body, it's a constant battle to go through life imagining every possible outcome and yet still risk it open handedly. 

Case in point, I was listening to a podcast today on the dangers of not letting children play unattended (beware of intended double negative). In theory, (and like most primates) children's' brains need lots of hours in the sunshine figuring out how the world and human interaction works.  A child in 2017 gets less outdoor play time than an institutionalized patient in the 1950's.  The problem is it's a lot harder to get in that prime time than it would seem.  I'm lucky enough to have a fenced in backyard and a husband who pays for it all so I can teach the basic R's and pray I don't screw it all up somehow.  Right now we have roofers trying to squeeze in an entire new roof before California drifts away in a flood. Which is wonderful...Charlie won't have to sleep with a bucket next to his head, but I have to wear my watch on the wrong wrist, and remind myself over and over that if I hear the back door unlock or open... RUN! (Because the two year old is fast and there are ladders involved in roofing).   

I try really hard to juggle it all, but sometimes it's almost a relief when a virus sweeps in and knocks everyone off their feet.  Wednesday found us all bundled up on the couch with fevers, tea and tissue (and by "tea" I mean force feeding them elderberry and echinacea).  We were too sick to do school, but not sick enough for me to acquiesce to Vultron so we binge watched National Geographic instead. 

Which means we can add baby seals being eaten by killer whales to the list of things I don't like to watch.  But guess what new show they all clamored for this morning?  National Geographic.

I better get at least one marine biologist or orthopedic surgeon from all of this. 

 

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Bee stings, shrink wrapped strollers and wrestling with Lent

Babies in Scotland don't cry. 

...or at least not when they're shrink wrapped in their strollers.  It took a few days of me being jealous of all these adorably old-fashioned prams, before I realized I was not only jealous of the cool stroller but also of the apparently perfect child contained within.  Andria and I would see these magical wee things on the bus and wonder if maybe they were American Girl dolls all bundled up or something.  In all seriousness, we never did figure it out.  My theory is straight behaviorism. The babies learn fairly quickly that if the pram is buttoned up in plastic then they can't cry or they'll get soaking wet in the rain.  Perpetual sunshine may have its downsides.  

My babies do cry.  And then when they don't cry it makes me nostalgic for when they did cry. I don't mind it when someone tells me to "enjoy this stage while it lasts", much the same way I don't mind it when someone says "have a great day" or "Tatties o'er the side" (just kidding...no one ever said that no matter how closely I listened for it).  It's all ritualistic bee dancing to keep us connected.  One of my children came in and informed me he'd been stung by a bee. Normally this is a big ordeal that involves many tears and much angst, so it was with some alarm I checked for signs of sanity and went to go get tweezers.  He'd already beat me to it though, pulled the stinger out himself and smashed the flopping bee.  Well alrighty then.  Later, I caught the same child digging at his hand with a knife and needle...this time removing splinters from tree climbing gone wrong.  Again, usually my kids are allergic to needles and the word "splinter". It's an odd feeling not being needed to kiss, soothe and bandage.  

As amazing as St. Giles Cathedral was for the last two weeks, there's nothing like stepping back into your own "parish" with your own people and pastor.  There may not be ancient flagstone floors or gothic stained glass windows in our church, but it's a little easier to clean up with baby wipes when your kid smears buttercream all over the wall. 

I've been trying for years to figure out what I think about Lent (which turns out to perhaps be rather Lentish in and of itself).  On one hand, I grew up in a fundamentalist culture that put fasting on an unhealthy pedestal. But then fasting came back in style with Paleo so it seems everyone is doing it (and Lent) again. You can even do Lent if you're not religious at all! Everyone likes to talk about what they're giving up for Lent which seems like it should be against the first rule of Fight Club.  Also, there are levels to Lent like Dante's inferno or Mario Bros.  Except that each level gets you closer to God or something instead of farther away.  The Ulster-Scot, American, Protestant, Puritan and Presbyterian in me has serious historic and cultural reticence about such a thing.  Eating fish on Friday is level 1...giving up Facebook is level 327. 

In all of my obsession with cognitive science lately though, Leithart hit a nerve when he said "Lent is the season of blood and guts and flesh. It is the supremely anti -Gnostic season." I think we have to remember that we're not just rational souls with this complex ability to reason on an abstract level (which some of us do more poorly than others). We're also physiological beings with bones and muscles and a chest that goes in and out as we suck in oxygen.  Giving up something for Lent (or conversely starting something for Lent) forces your actual body to grapple with life, the gospel and sin. The key is figuring out the balance... not making either the tangible or conceptual into an idol.  I appreciate the paper being bent back one way, while recognizing that it can probably safely course correct in the center a bit?  Like I said... still wrestling.  

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