Friday, March 27, 2009

Crazy, Tragic, Almost Magic...

I love this crazy loco life. Where do I begin?

Hmmm... we ALMOST traded in our car this week. For those of you not in the know, we're all kinds of crazy upside down on our car. We bought it new. Then, my kids jumped full force into thrashing it with all their might. There's a scratch that circles the entire car right at the same height of my son's handle bars on his bike. It's been puked in, peed in, I've lost track of the amount of spills... (WHY do teachers always send home these adorable little seedlings in yogurt containers full of wet potting soil?) I was detailing it in preparation for the trade in and I thought, "If my car knew that it was going to a better family it would probably clean itself."

So, we should have known better when a dealer in Seattle told us he could swing us an AMAZING deal that sounded too good to be true. Take the trade in? Sure, no problem! You don't want to put a down payment? None needed! Oh yeah, we have several vehicles that match what you're looking for and cheap too! We faxed him all of our paperwork and he said we were pre-approved & the monthly payments would be less than our current car payment. We made the hour and a half drive to the "big city" as soon as we loaded the kids on to the school bus on Tuesday.

We were excited to hurry out and see the vehicles in person when we got there, but he whisked us into his office promising we could check the inventory out later. He set a sizable pile of paperwork in front of us. We didn't quite understand why he wanted us to fill out the same papers twice if we were already preapproved but whatever... Then he asked how much we wanted to put down. We reminded him that he had said zero down. He alternated between making no eye contact and long, blinkless, creepy amounts of eye contact. He explained that he couldn't take the car as a trade in unless we put a big down payment AND tacked the difference on to the next loan resulting in gigantic monthly payments.

"Okay, no thanks then." we said and prepared to go home.

Then, he changed his story. All of the sudden, he COULD give us the original deal he had promised. He finally agreed to let us see some vehicles. Now, on the Internet they had a whole other inventory than the one we were now seeing. We were supposed to believe that all of the mini-vans that we had seen online had magically been sold the night before. (In this economy? ALL of them just like that? Yeah, right.) We test drove a few (although the salesman preferred to just circle the block. Good sign there...) He was desperately trying to talk us into an Excursion and while I totally dug the fact that it had NINE seats, that whole 8 miles per gallon thing wasn't cutting it. Not to mention, it was a diesel and diesel currently costs more than gas, so... no deal! Then, we test drove my dream car. It was a GORGEOUS, fully loaded Yukon with 8 seats, flip down DVD player, Bose stereo system... I could go on. I wanted it. BAD. Suddenly, I didn't care about gas mileage anymore. I was chanting, "I don't drive much anyway." in my head. I'm a stay at home mom. No need to commute = no need for commuter car, right?

So, it was a very sad day when the dealer said that the only way that we could finance the Yukon was if we keep the car. I sat there crunching numbers in my head, trying to justify having both vehicle payments. Sure, one of them would just be sitting there unused most of the time, but... what's paying a few hundred dollars a month for a vehicle you don't even drive, right? I'd put a for sale sign on the car, but once again... Same reason we can't trade it in: no one's gonna be willing to pay enough to balance out what we owe on it.

That dealer though... Man, was he persistent. He had a whole bunch of ideas up his sleeve for how we could "make it work". One of them included a series of bounced checks. No kidding. Now, ordinarily, there's a certain amount of people skills required to work with the public. Alienating your customers is typically frowned upon. I think this guy considered that part of Sales 101 though. He basically called us stupid right to our faces for not agreeing that his plans were genius. The hubby and I went over our budget and discussed in depth what we could cut and what we couldn't. The dealer (a divorced bachelor) insisted that we didn't need to spend so much on groceries and household items. Apparently, he didn't realize that there is in fact a different dollar amount for a family of six than for a family of one. He actually said, "You couldn't possibly spend that much on laundry soap and toilet paper each month. Just buy one ply." I have 4 kids. One ply or not, Costco sized cases of TP are a big expense around here.

In the end, the reality was that we really need to be putting money in savings and stocking up on food storage, etc. Slapping a few thousand down for a down payment and dishing out an extra car payment each month felt a little like standing in the middle of a windstorm with a pile of cash in the palm of my open hand. Hours into our negotiations the hubby and I looked at each other and said, "Let's go." and stood up and walked toward our car. Our burden. Our learning experience. Our dependable, fuel efficient little car full of scars to remember by. The dealer followed us, screaming like an angry toddler that didn't get his way, "I thought you wanted a bigger vehicle! Good luck cramming your family into that thing! Thanks for wasting my time!" I expected to be disappointed on that car ride home, but it was the opposite. I was proud that we had made the right choice. We laughed like crazy at the lunacy of that car dealer that was most likely a coke head from the look of things. And we were content in the knowledge that we actually already had what we needed and that life isn't about getting what you want but appreciating that you have what you need.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Goodnight Sweetheart...

I just love the phenomenon that is bedtime. No other time of day (although trying to get out the door to school is a close second) can get me so riled up. Okay, homework time gets under my skin too. (Wow, what's happening to me? I used to be so CALM...) Well, anyway... You know, it's not the going to bed part that's so upsetting. That part is glorious. It's the fact that my kids know just how to pull my strings and I fall for it every time. I mean, seriously, all 4 kids just HAVE to get out of bed to have a BM as soon as I've tucked them in every night? Then there are the drinks... and somebody always cries that they're starving... and don't forget the monsters. Brooke won't rest until I've checked out every shadow, nook, and cranny in her bed room & said double prayers to make sure those evil monsters and bad guys won't get her. I put them to bed at eight and here it is quarter after nine and guess what? I don't hear snoring. None. I would really be berating myself about this if it weren't for the fact that this is so classic. I know we're not the only home in America with kids who try to push the bedtime limits. I sure tried it with my mom. But still... Can't a mom get some peace?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

To Thine Own Self Be True

So, the truth is that I have always secretly cringed a little bit when someone makes a comment about "finding themselves". It's not that I have any problem with the concept of knowing yourself, on the contrary... I've never "got" why people didn't know themselves to begin with. For instance... treking around Europe. Sounds like a fun-filled adventure, but WHY call it "finding yourself", you know? Did you really not have any clue of who you were in America? You're with yourself 24/7, all up in your own head and it takes some sort of catalyst to help you discover the person that's been there the whole time? That said, I'm actually starting to "get" it a little. Even though I've always had a strong sense of self and have never had the urge to go searching for Natalie, I've gotta say that this year I've sort of begun to come into my own more than ever.

A while ago, I blogged about this underlying sense that something was off / wrong / going to happen. Let's just say that A LOT has happened, most of which I unfortunately can't blog about because of other people's privacy, etc. HATE that! It's funny how when you frame your life in a different light things start to look a little different. If I had gone on forever without anything rocking the boat, I may never have realized certain things. For starters, what I will & won't settle for. Sure, I've always known my likes / dislikes. It's just that when you're stuck in a rut, you don't always notice what is dispensable & what you are willing to fight to the end for. It's all just sort of THERE. Like white noise.

While I certainly haven't had an epiphany of near death magnitude or anything, I can definitely say that I know now that I have neglected a lot of things over the years. One of the safer subjects to use as an example is my health. I didn't set off in to my twenties thinking, "I want to put on some weight!" I just let it happen. A night of sitting on my butt watching movies and eating Ben & Jerry's here, a day of taking the kids to the park and sitting on a bench reading while they played instead of running around myself and then stopping for an ice cream cone on the way home there... 5 or 10 lbs. a year sneaks up you like a thief in the night. And even though my actions (like bringing the fork to the mouth) were big contributors, my biggest problem was my INACTION. You see, I am nothing if not complacent. I am practically a professional at compromising, making excuses, and letting things roll off my back.

One of the first steps to success is a word director's say all the time: Action!
I've decided that my 30th birthday present to myself is going to be becoming more pro-active. I feel like, "Heck, I'm turning 30. I'm mature. There's no reason to allow negativity in my life when I'm capable of doing something about it." So, I'm going to speak up when things don't sit right with me. I'm going to take care of my self mentally, spiritually, and physically. Life's too short to not be true to yourself.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Wee Irish Lass

I LOVE interesting questions. For instance, someone asked me why I updated my blog in celebration of St. Patrick's day after writing an anti-Valentine's post (as if I am anti- all non major Holidays.) Interesting observation. You see, I LIKE St. Patrick's Day. In all honesty, I really like all things Irish, but that's neither here nor there. Growing up with red hair, I always loved throwing on some green for St. Patrick's Day and feeling sorta leprechaunish (except for that one year when I decided to skip the green since I thought getting pinched sounded fun. Hindsight is 20/20.) My love grew a few years ago when I was homeschooling Lane.

Homeschooling was a big adventure. I wasn't sure if I was capable, but even his teacher suggested I try it since conventional schooling wasn't working for him whatsoever. Going into it, I knew that if I depended on workbooks and pencil and paper learning it was going to be a wash. I had to make it more interesting for him. So, I got really into themes & tried to make learning a big game. Towards the end of February, we began our unit on Ireland. For a month, I printed out what worksheets we did use on green paper. I sent away for posters and maps from Ireland's tourism industry. We researched how kids in Ireland did school and we pretended like we were a schoolhouse in Ireland when we were doing our work. Required reading was any book that took place in Ireland (you can ALWAYS count on Magic Treehouse to have something geared towards the elementary school set that fits in with your theme thank goodness!) All of our story problems were about Irish things like: If the O'Malley's have 4 lbs. of potatoes and...

The Grand Summit of our theme was when we made a traditional St. Patrick's day dinner & invited his grandparents over for it. All week leading up to the dinner, we worked on our menu. Math was doing cost comparisons to see which grocery store was the best place to get our supplies and then figuring out how much we needed to buy & how much it was all going to cost to make an Irish dinner for 8 people (answer: super cheap!) Then, we mixed & measured & poured. We had fun sampling a variety of cheeses and herb butters that are traditional in Ireland with our corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes (and green kool-aid, of course, however nontraditional that may be.) Then, Lane presented his report on the history and geography of Ireland. It was a lot of fun.

We're not homeschooling anymore and I have to say, when something like St. Patty's day rolls around and reminds me of how much fun we had I sort of miss it. I guess I could try to incorporate more of those semi-educational experiences in our day to day life, but public school already takes up so much time & energy. There really is something magical about homeschooling.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tween Transitions

Have I told you lately that I feel old? Really, REALLY old? Yeah, that's what happens when you have children entering adolescence. Welcome to puberty, Hensley family! It's that time in life when kids sprout up, fill out, and maybe even mouth off. Yay! The crazy thing is that we expected it to be hitting with Lane since he's only 8 months away from being a full fledged teen. His greasy hair and squeaky voice didn't surprise us at all. Tatton did though. He's exactly two years younger than Lane and sure enough, he's got the same symptoms. Plus, he's moodier, utterly angst filled. Thankfully, the kid totally digs science, so I was able to explain it all to him very technically and every time he starts to drive me crazy I can say (feel free to tune out on this part):

"Your hypothalmus is releasing gnRH which travels to the pituitary gland releasing two more hormones (LH & FSH.) Your gray matter is growing rapidly especially in the frontal lobe which is the control center for "executive functions" like planning, impulse control, and reasoning. So, of course, sometimes things seem a little off balance. As complex as technology has become no man made machine or system can quite match the complexity of the human brain."

I usually ramble on like that until I see his eyes get good and glazed over. Sometimes it takes longer than others. I like when it takes hardly any time at all. Easier that way. I'm really not prepared for this though! There are two kinds of moms: the ones who relish the baby stage and gleefully read Dr. Seuss books and sing along to The Wiggles and the kind that I'm not. I admire those moms... the ladies who don't mind playing taxi for sports and orthodontist appointments and all of the other stuff that is too much for any calendar to hold. The people who don't think it's disturbing to buy their kid's razors and shaving cream. When I was driving my 10 year old son to a sleepover birthday party, it occured to me that even though we had talked about drugs and alcohol several times over the years, he may not know about huffing and so I had to talk to him about that. I can't believe my baby's old enough that I have to give him lectures on the dangers of huffing before I drop him off at a friend's house! (Or that he is old enough to roll his eyes and say, "Duh, Mom! I'm way smarter than to damage my brain like that. Why would I breathe in toxic fumes on purpose? DUH!") Notice that his statement began AND ended with a DUH? This is scary territory.

So, I'm controlling what I CAN control. I'm making sure that my boys get the extra nutrition that they need right now. You can tell a mom who's grasping for control when you see the lady reading labels on every box in the grocery store & cramming omega-3 fatty acid capsules down her kids' throats. I'm reading books that remind me to be firm yet fair and I'm trying to show them that I believe they're responsible by setting realistically high expectations and holding them accountable. I'm scheduling constructive family time, especially activities that work all of their newfound tension & aggression out by using their large muscle groups (I decided that it's worth it to sign up for that YMCA membership now.) And most of all, more than anything, I'm saying my prayers and thanking Heavenly Father that I have a few more years until my daughter goes through puberty and that I don't have to deal with bra shopping or menstrual cycles YET. This parenting, it's heavy stuff.

I need ten thousand angels.