The Homeschool Convention, or as I like to call it, Summer Camp for Weary Moms

I find myself right smack dab in the early part of summer.  And I have a span of time wherein I do not have to cart children off to whatever respective camp.  Hence, I have WORDS and time to WRITE THEM.

We ended our school year in May, and I made the annual pilgrimage to the Florida Homeschool Convention with my two cohorts in crime (sisters-in-law Trish and Cathy).  I’ve made this trip every year since Emme turned 4 and Fiddledaddy desired for her to be homeschooled.

I desired for her to be shipped off to boarding school.  In an uncomfortable climate.  But that could have been sleep deprivation talking.

When a homeschooling girlfriend mentioned the annual homeschool convention way back then (before Kindergarten), all I heard was VACATION.  Fiddledaddy was onboard because he knew the the mother of his children was not homeschool mother material.   He hoped the convention would aid me with tools I might need to, you know, teach.  It did.  I’ve only missed the convention one year and that was because I had given birth to the SURPRISE boy child in 2005.  So we’re talking 11 years of convention attending.

Not only have I amassed much learning, I also have a respectable collection of hoopty ploopty hotel lotion samples, as we stay at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando.

A few years ago, we began opting for the atrium room view.  I prefer to take in the view from the safety of the interior of the room, but I do enjoy the sights and sounds which waft through the doors.

This was our view on this particular visit.  Spectacular.

Fiddledaddy happily holds down the fort at home while I attend, so I can take full advantage of all that the homeschool convention has to offer.  I may or may not have sprung for a pedicure.

I have a good deal of dear homeschooling friends who attend with their entire families in tow.  I would like to tell you that I feel guilty leaving my husband and children at home.  But that would be a lie.  As I left, my children mumbled for me to say HI to ALL THEIR FRIENDS that would be there.  I was all OKAY, AND MAYBE I’LL SNAP A PICTURE OF THEM TO SEND YOU!  Bitter, party of 3.

At one point, my friend Michelle texted me, “I’m at the pool, what are you doing?”  (You know, in between lectures.)  I sent her a picture.


This was prior to the alleged pedicure.

I went down to the pool to join her, but she texted me as I arrived that she had to leave to take over CHILDCARE RESPONSIBILITIES in her hotel room.  So I sent her another picture.

Convention2She posted the following to social media along with the picture I sent her:

This is my friend, DeeDee, at the home school convention.
DeeDee didn’t bring her children.
DeeDee is smart.
Be like DeeDee.

Although, when it came time to party with the moms (who had their husbands on child-care duties), I had to reply to that text with, “I know it’s only 9:00, but I’m in my pajamas.  In bed.”

Because secretly I’m 92.

Part of the joy of attending the homeschool convention with the sisters is that we’re almost always in bed by 9.  Heavenly.

On our last evening, my SIL, Cathy, was joyfully expressing how stress-free this convention felt as opposed to past conventions.  I added THAT’S BECAUSE YOU ARE NO LONGER HOMESCHOOLING.  “Oh,” she mused with a snort.  “That’s right.”

Indeed, she graduated her last child this year.  Yet still chooses to attend with us.  The love of learning continues I suppose.  Or the love of atrium views, time away, an exhibit hall which contains all manner of fun, and more laughter than 3 grown women ought to ever experience over a long weekend.

It is therapeutic.  And what keeps us pressing on.  If the other sister or I ever start researching local schools, we remind each other, “But, remember, the convention.”  The light at the end of the long homeschooling tunnel.


Starting off the New Year on the Wrong Foot

Over the weekend, I was afforded the rare opportunity to slip out of the house and do something on my own.  I chose to visit our local Goodwill.  (Keep the bar low.)  Without the minions.  Who, by the way, have not discovered the joy of the hunt for uncovered treasures, that await most every visit to Goodwill.

To bad for them.  And not having anyone trail me with the repetitive “ARE YOU DONE YET MOM?” was icing on my cake.  My mother and grandmother introduced me to thrift stores, garage sales, dumpster diving, and auctions before I ever cut my first tooth.  And I was hooked.

The Goodwill was unusually crowded late in the afternoon.  I had to abandon my cart midway through the store.  Generally I have a few things on my wish list when I enter the store.  On Saturday that list included, but was not limited to, calf high black boots, and some cute tops to wear over stretchypants.

Immediately I headed back to the shoe rack.  And there they were.  Or rather, it was.  On the top shelf sat the perfect black boot.  Brand: Candies (can never go wrong there), rubber sole in perfect shape.  Quickly I checked the size.  EUREKA!  WHAT LUCK.  IT WAS MY POST-CHILDREN size of 8.  I was a 7.  Until 3 pregnancies.  I’ve heard it’s an old wives tale that your feet spread during pregnancy.  I’m here to dispel that idea.  They not only swell, but permanently change zip codes.

BootNotice a problem?  There was only one boot.  ONE BOOT.  I searched the black shoe/boot aisle high and how.  Not an easy feat since there were two women who took up residence in that tiny space trying on EVERY black stiletto they could find.  And then discussing them at length. I went to the other shoe aisle just so that I could reach through to the black shoe aisle, searching for the boot.  I got down on my hands and knees and looked underneath all the racks.  Nothing.

I tried perusing the reading nook, where the only chairs are located, in case someone tried the boot’s mate on.  Nothing.

I looked in the golf bags, located next to the shoe aisle.  (At this point I was getting desperate.)  I then reclaimed my cart and decided to go in search of the cute tops to wear over stretchypants.  Still, I kept the lone boot with me in case I were to discover the other in another part of the store.  At one point I stopped an employee and asked her if a boot was missing, where I should look for the other.  She shrugged, “It could be anywhere.”  WHERE WOMAN?  IN THE STORE?  IN THE CITY?

A good hour and a half went by.  Still no boot.  At last it was time to try on the 3 lonely shirts that I found.  Which, btw, would have looked FANTASTIC with the boot.  Nothing can ever prepare me for what I look like under the fluorescent lighting in a Goodwill store.  No shirt, no matter how cute, or what size, will EVER look decent on me in that lighting, in front of that fun-house mirror.

Depressed, I left that room of horrors.  And reluctantly, I took the lonely boot back to the top rack of the black shoe aisle.

I left the store, only purchasing a package of neon #2 pencils.  The clerk gave me the senior discount.


I think crawling around on the floor of Goodwill for an hour plus change can render one rather haggard looking.

When I got to my car I discovered that Fiddledaddy had been trying to reach me.  I may have been hyper-focused in my search, and didn’t hear the 3 phone calls.  Or the 4 texts.  Evidently the children were in a state of panic, thinking their mother was dead on the side of the road leading to Goodwill.

However, this is what Fiddledaddy posted on his Facebook page.  With the caption, “She’s gone shopping and left me with all three children. No really, I’m fine.”

Tom_selfieTo appease the offspring, he called Goodwill and asked to have me paged.  The clerk answering the phone asked him, “Sir, is this an emergency?”  He looked at the starving/worried faces of his 3 children.  The answer of course was YES, but he replied, “Never mind.”  Then he called me once more, and this time I was in the parking lot, forehead on my steering wheel, wherein I answered the phone.

I like to think of myself as the anti-Cinderella.  My Prince was back at the castle minding the children, but my glass slipper eluded me.



New Years Eve Fondue

We have a family New Years Eve tradition that began before we had children.  My brother-in-law and his sweet wife invited us over on a New Years Eve, long long ago, right after we first moved to Florida.

They had established a family Fondue Night tradition on New Years Eve.  This was my first foray into tempura and fried vegetables and meat.  I knew nothing of the chain restaurant The Melting Pot.  Needless to say, because of my abiding love of All Things Fried, I was hooked.

By the next New Years Eve, I had a newborn Emme.  And the chances of us staying up to watch fireworks, much less cook our own food over a vat of hot oil were nil.

And the children, they kept coming.  Our dusty fondue pot sat unused for many years.  I had to say nay to hot oil and extension cords in the dining room.

Last year, we thought it might finally be safe to reinstate the New Years Eve Family Fondue/Movie Night tradition.  The teenagers of course scoffed, and the boy wasn’t all that happy at the sight of all the vegetables on the table.  However, the evening was a success, and everyone enjoyed the fondue.  And the chance to stay up extra late.

Despite a back spasm that took me down for the better part of a day and a half, I rallied in time to pull everything together and we enjoyed an evening of Fondue.  The movies will be shown once the kitchen is cleaned.  (I sit at the keyboard with a heating pad while a teenager has cleaning duty.  #Winning #minions.)  In the spirit of full disclosure, and because Fiddledaddy threatened to rat me out, the cause of the spasm was my overly enthusiastic battle of cleaning the garden sized bathtub in our masterbath.  Which I now am unable to enjoy. 

Fondue_NightTwo of my kids are gluten-free, so I have a GF recipe that I can share:

GF Tempura Batter

  • 3/4 Cup white or brown rice flour (I make my own with my Vita-Mix grain attachment)
  • 1/2 Cup Corn Starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 Cup Sparkling water

It helps the consistency if all the ingredients are chilled first.  Simply mix well.  I doubled the recipe for my family of 5.

I buy pre-cooked packages of fajita steak and chicken, so no one has to visit the ER on New Years Eve.  I’m guessing that would be gruesome.  And besides, we’ve had two ER visits in the last week, so I’m over that.  (Another story for another day.)   I add raw zucchini, okra, sliced onions, mushrooms , and cheese cubes for dipping into the tempura and frying (all done at the table by each family member).  I have color-coded fondue forks.

I’m happy to report and no was set ablaze, scalded, or stabbed.

If I’m feeling particularly spry, I add melted cheese and melted chocolate for dipping as well.  Tonight, everyone will be making their own popcorn in a bag.

On this New Years Eve I’m grateful for my family, my precious friends, many many blessings, Extra-strength Tylenol, and stretchy-pants.

Happy New Years my friends!!!!


The Christmas Picture

When the kids were very small, we made it a Christmas tradition to take our Christmas photo ourselves.  In other words, a “selfie”,  before the term was coined.  Most of the time we would simply set the timer on the camera and go with whatever showed up on the screen.

Here is perhaps one of my all time favorite Hillmann Christmas photos.


This one was a close second.

Christmas_photoAfter Jensen entered the fray, all bets were off and pretty much all Christmas photo (selfie or otherwise) ideas were out the window.  We’ll just call it survival mode.  We were happy to get a tree up.

This year, Fiddledaddy decided that we needed to reinstate the sometime annual selfie Christmas photo.  To be taken on Christmas day.

Florida has chosen not to celebrate December with, you know, cold.  Instead, our temperatures Christmas week hovered in the mid-80’s.  I’m not complaining, I know many many of you are suffering through ice and snow.  Okay.  I am complaining.  I  spent many growing up years in Cincinnati, and COLD is synonymous with Christmas.  Of course, as my dad loves to remind me, I never had to shovel or drive in the snow.  Whatever.  White Christmases are magical.

To celebrate my love of a white Christmas, we headed to the beach, about 10 minutes away.  If it weren’t for the sand (which is really not all that white), the beach would be fantastic.  (Sarcasm alert)

Okay.  I’m not a fan of the beach.  Fiddledaddy wonders how this never came up in pre-marital counseling.  Along with the fact that I never saw any of the first 3 Star Wars movies.  But that’s another story.

Using a brand new selfie stick, here’s what we came up with:

Christmas_2015For fun, Fiddledaddy had us walking for an action shot.  This meant that I had to walk, in the sand, without looking down, while smiling into the camera, which I really couldn’t see because of the GLARE OF ALL THE SAND.  This is secretly my favorite picture.

Christmas_beachI just wish I had thought to set my favorite inconspicuous black 35 cent Goodwill purse down before we trotted out onto the sand.  I look so happy and well adjusted.  A Christmas miracle since I’d had not a drop of laced Egg Nog yet.

Other beach going families had the same idea.  I saw one intrepid family in their speedos, bikinis, and santa hats at the waters edge taking their Christmas picture.  (I’m pretty sure Egg Nog was involved.)

We’re totally doing that next year.

Merry Belated Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Should you be prone to Squeemish, you might want to skip this one. You know how I live for a good vomit story. Consider yourself warned.  The following is a post from December, 2009.  In an interesting twist of irony, we’re heading for the cabins again, just prior to Christmas.  Let’s hope that history does not repeat.


Since we all spent Thanksgiving quarantined because of the plague, we thought we’d continue the tradition and contract a stomach flu the week of Christmas.

Which is awesome timing, really.

The trouble began last Friday, when we were to depart from Fort Wilderness at WDW.  Jensen woke up puking at about 4:30 am.  And it continued while we packed up and for the entire 75 minute ride home.

We had taken the middle seats out of the van to house ALL THE CRAP that one needs for camping for 5 people for 5 days.

And by camping I mean that we stayed in a cabin that had running water, AC and heating, cable, a dishwasher, microwave, full fridge, stove, and most importantly a coffee maker.

Oh.  And internet connection.

Anyhoo.  Jensen had to endure the ride home in the back seat sandwiched between two sisters.  Who are not fond of vomit.  And the two sisters had to administer aid to a little brother by holding the throw up bucket (a rubber maid container that could be sealed for freshness), and handing out wet wipes to clean a small boy’s mouth when finished.

He threw up the entire way home.

The girls rose to the challenge, and other than turning green, they did a fabulous job.

A Christmas miracle.

We thought he had contracted food poisoning. Until I threw up that night.  But I seemed to be okay on Saturday, and chalked it up to a sympathy vomit.

But by Saturday night, I hit the floor.

I was sick all night.

And because misery loves company, Cailey came into our room at 4 am announcing that she threw up in her bed.

She lives on the top bunk.

She was covered from the top of her strawberry blonde head to the tips of her fairy pajamas. This was a two parent job, so I rose to the occasion and got Cailey into the bath, while Fiddledaddy took care of the top bunk.

I didn’t even want to know what THAT was like.  I do know that Fiddledaddy got acquainted with Mr. Washing Machine in a hurry.

Since Cailey has a twin sized sleep number bed, and it is light, Fiddledaddy set it up in the family room for her.  It is much easier to vomit over the side if you are closer to the ground.  And you don’t have to worry about hitting an older sister who sleeps below you.  Just sayin’.

She then threw up all the next day.  Sunday was a bad bad day in the House of Fiddle.  Fiddledaddy was our primary care giver, and when he started to feel ill, drastic measures were called for.

He loaded us all into the van and we headed for the Urgent Care facility.  They know us my name.  My sweet SIL met us there, and kept Jensen and Emme in their van to watch a movie.  Emme kept everyone entertained with vomit stories until Jensen announced that he wasn’t feeling good, so the vomit stories had to come to an abrupt end.

We were diagnosed with a stomach virus, and had to ride it out.  Shoot me.  Literally.  When the doctor offered me a shot of something that would bring about a merciful end to the nausea, I leaped up and dropped my drawers.

This is important because I am not a fan of The Needle.  My father loves to tell the story of how it once took one doctor, three nurses, and two exasperated parents to hold me down for a shot.

Cailey wanted nothing to do with the shot.  And she’s even more strong willed than I EVER was, so the parents didn’t have the strength to restrain her.

WE’LL TAKE THE SUPPOSITORY FOR THAT CHILD. (Sometimes revenge is sweet.)

By nightfall, Fiddledaddy was in full STOMACH FLU mode, and I was loopy from the shot.  It’s a wonder we made it through the night.  Oh, and Jensen threw up once more for good measure.  I suspect he was reliving Emme’s vomit stories from earlier in the day.

I haven’t even seen Fiddledaddy yet this morning.  He hasn’t emerged from the infirmary our room yet.  Not a good sign.

I’m actually able to lift my arms to the keyboard, so I think I’ve turned a corner.

And the children are bickering and threatening to vomit on one another as a new fun means of torture, so I think they’re on the mend.

On the bright side, Christmas is a time for celebrating the birth of Christ.  And family togetherness.  And this family is all about TOGETHERNESS this week.

The Stomach Flu, it is the gift that keeps on giving.


A Christmas Poem

As Cailey was penning her poem last week, she asked if I had ever written a poem.  “Why yes, yes I have!”  This was a little something that I wrote way back around Christmas of ’07.  I find it comforting to realize that some things really never change…I’m going to be taking the week to celebrate the end of our first semester and Fiddledaddy’s birthday.  So I may be pulling a couple more Christmas- past posts out of the mothballs.

Twas two days before Christmas when all through the house, the Rum Balls were made, the mommy was soused.

The stockings were flung to the floor with no care,
in hopes that a maid, soon would be there.

I felt not like cooking, see my sad bunioned feet,
So to Sonic we flew, so we could all eat.

A foot long chili dog, some onion rings to boot
I knew then and there, they’d give me the scoots.

Dash away home, Fiddledaddy, fly like the wind,
Cut off all those cars, an apology I’ll send.

At last we are home, Pepto Bismol in hand,
I tuck in the children, before the floor will I land.

The begged and they pleaded, just a few minutes more,
“No way,” did I mutter, as I fast close the door.

I settle in my room, my computer I hold,
I’m exhausted, and spent, I type in all bold.

When out in the kitchen, there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my hotpad, to see what was the matter.

Rum Balls were scattered, my gasp made him jump,
Fiddledaddy looked guilty, I helped him clean up.

The house is now quiet, the parents are pooped,
We set up the clocks, the children were duped.

We look at each other, it all seems just right, I sigh as I say,

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.”


Words that Rhyme

We will have mercifully reached the end of our 1st semester on Friday.  My students have had a bit of catching up to do.  Well.  The two younger students, who have an aversion to writing WORDS, have had to put in a bit of overtime to make sure their writing assignments are turned into their Co-op Lit/English tutor this week.

Jensen had to write a Thanksgiving essay.  I gave him a little free reign on the subject matter, so that he would stop spontaneously falling from his chair whenever I asked him to pick up a pencil.

He wrote a heart warming 5 paragraph essay about a farmer who came out one cold Thanksgiving morning to pick out his dinner from among his flock of turkeys.  But the turkeys were, sadly, missing.  He searched for clues and found an odd set of footprints around the pen where the turkeys were last seen.  He followed the footprints into his barn.  The hapless farmer heard crunching sounds behind a bale of hay.  Just then a Velociraptor jumped out, and in his jaws was a fresh turkey.  The Velociraptor enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving dinner of turkey and slow moving farmer.

I’ve paraphrased.  And left out the more gory portions of the story.  But there you have it.  Oh.  And he drew an illustration.  I’ve not included that either.  Your welcome.

Then I heard Cailey gnashing her teeth and beating her head against the wall (okay, not really, but all the angst that would have accompanied gnashing and beating was present) over an assignment that included writing a Christmas poem.  Her sister (the writer) was feeling festive and gave her some ideas.  The following is what Cailey will be turning into her tutor:

A Christmas Rhyming Poem

Santa watches you in your sleep
Santa wants to eat your soul
You better not make a peep
Or he will swallow you whole
Make sure you’re on his nice list
So never make him mad
Don’t try to make a fist
Or things will turn out bad

I’m pretty sure I’m going to be getting an email from their tutor.  I’m guessing she will also give me a wide berth while passing in the hall.

We’re not unlike the Addams family.  Therapy is going to be very very expensive.


My State of Being

My girls are taking a Speech/Debate class at our homeschool co-op.  Speech covers the first semester, and Debate will be the second semester.  Our English/Lit/Speech tutor is amazing and is one of the main reasons I signed Emme up for this co-op 3 years ago when it looked like our Classical Conversations class was going to disband.  At the open house for the Co-op, I met this enthusiastic Literature-centric educator, who not only got Emme excited about classes, but had me thinking I should go back to school.

(I didn’t.  But I thought about it.)

Emme is an avid reader/writer who has blossomed under this tutor.  Both girls (and Jensen) are all taking English/Literature classes with her, and we threw in Speech/Debate for high school credit for my Emme (who is now a Sophomore…sob…sob).  Cailey jumped on the speech/debate band wagon for grins and I’m certain this decision will come back to haunt me.  Cailey can argue with a brick wall and win.  Should she ever become an attorney, opposing counsel will be begging to be locked up, just to escape her mad-pit-bull take-no-prisoners attitude.

(I often say that this skill will serve her well in adulthood, but it’s going to kill me in menopause.)  So do I really want her to hone this ability?

So.  Speech class has been a breeze for Emme  who can pull together an essay on anything without breaking a sweat.  For Cailey, it is like you are asking her to pluck out an eye with a spoon should she have to compose something.  How they share DNA, I’ll never know.

Anyhoo.  Recently they had an assignment to write and read aloud an essay about something that is close to their heart.  Over the course of a Wednesday afternoon I saw Emme furiously typing her speech.  She rarely shows them to me, and I only see them after the grading as I’m filing them in her portfolio.

The next day after class, Cailey came home and told me that Emme’s speech made everyone cry.  Even Emme.  A heaving sobbing ugly cry.  I turned to her, “What did you write about?”

She said, “Your battle with Lyme disease.”

Uh-oh.  Knowing her penchant for All The Drama, I asked her, “We’re not going to start getting casseroles are we?”  

She let me read her paper.  I got teary.  I really had forgotten how frightening my illness, diagnosis, and subsequent 18 months of treatment was on my sweet girl.  As well as on my entire family.

I think sometimes, it’s like childbirth.  As time goes by, we do forget the pain.  But I don’t think my husband, or my children, will ever forget what we went through 5 years ago.

I’ve been able to manage my symptoms by keeping my immune system strong.  I’ve had to clean up my diet (so let’s not talk about my trip to Cracker Barrel Friday night), avoid stress (Hello? Have you met my 3 children?  That I HOMESCHOOL?), and maintain a positive attitude (coffee plays a major role in this department, so disregard the whole clean up my diet idea first thing in the morning).  I haven’t been on antibiotics in a few years, and really only take a few supplements.  That beats the heck out of the 60 to 70 pills a day that I had to take during treatment.  It’s something that I’ll have to watch all of my life, but it’s manageable.

I’m pretty spry.  I’m not sure if I can run, because I never run on purpose.  But I bet I can.  If chased.  I still deal with joint inflammation, but am hoping to get control of that as I’m researching what triggers this.

One tremendous positive about my Lyme journey is that because I had been so outspoken (some might call it over-sharing) about what I was going through, others (even people who are near and dear to my heart) were able to get a correct diagnosis and treatment.  And I will never again take my health for granted.

And that’s my state of being.  Grateful.