Ways to lose weight….or die trying….

As some of you may or may not know, Todd and I are currently involved in a friendly family competition with his Dad, Mom, sisters, and their husbands. We’re doing our own version of The Biggest Loser: Couples Edition in an attempt to prepare for our upcoming May family-wide vacation. (Vacation may be a word some would not choose to use to describe this trip with a group of 8 adults and 11 children ages 13 down to 3. We choose to use positive, uplifting words and know that any amount of time near a beautiful body of water and away from the everyday routine is indeed a blessed and welcome event.) Regardless of the name, each couple is a team and the winning team will be decided based on percentage of body fat lost. Of course it’s an honor systerm–while the men have no trouble throwing around their “numbers,” this girl would rather cut off a finger than share the dreaded number with anyone…. Not sure how the rest of the girls in the competition feel, but that’s OK. There are no set diet rules, and each couple or even individual will decide how they will go about losing their desired weight: low cal, low carb, low salt, high complaining, lots of exercising, whatever. We began the competition in earnest on March 1 and will end it sometime before traveling to North Carolina in early May. Honestly, can you think of any better way to spend a couple months while encouraging family bonding and closeness? If there is one, I certainly can’t think of it.

To that end, I am divulging some of my weight loss strategies, even though I am fully aware that my competition may be reading this post.

Step One: Start off strong, limiting the foods that have been your downfall in the past. Realize that most weight loss results that stay past the “dieting” phase havegot to come from lifestyle change and not temporary quick fixes. Resent the children who will be able to eat the rest of the Girl Scout cookies taunting you in the fridge.

Step Two: Host a dinner with friends. Serve foods that definitely aren’t on your diet, but also invite your competition. Have things like refried beans, tortillas, mounds of cheese, and cake and ice cream for dessert. Tempt them with the Pretzel M&Ms the competition brought over as a “housewarming gift.” (What a grrreat idea, by the way, O competitors!! :D) Really regret falling into your own pitfalls the next week after concluding that tacos are not good weight loss foods.

Step Three: After cleaning all day Saturday to prepare for said get-together, notice the next day that your back is acting strangely. Try to ignore the ache you feel, blowing it off as a simple case of “you overdid it” and conclude that a bit of rest (i.e., not cleaning the kitchen floor again till one of the kids is stuck to it) would be just what the doctor would order if you were to pay money to go see her.

Step Four: When 3 days go by and the only change in said sore back is that now it hurts to move, twist, stand up, and sneeze (Oh my word, what you wouldn’t give to be able to have a good sneeze!), call trusty chiropractor for adjustment that will certainly get everything back in line and get you back into the game. Those arms aren’t going to tone themselves, you know! See chiropractor on Thursday; expect miracle.

Step Five: Over the weekend (when nothing is open except the ER), plummet into near desperation when experiencing pain like you’ve never felt before. As long as you sit or stay in one place, it doesn’t hurt too much, but any kind of adjustment results in outbursts of interjections kept clean and G-rated almost entirely only because there are six kids watching and listening at any given time (and also because of the usual no expletive rule around here). Try a recommended-by-the-midwife dose of motrin which doesn’t even seem to touch the pain. Watching the NCAA tournament games for hours straight seems to be the only aid that keeps you from spiralling into despair.

Step Six: After a week with no relief, consider looking into other options. Somehow make it through teaching a class of 8 boys who love to sit right next to you and hug, fall into, and push each other around you, mostly thanks to the help of other moms in the classroom who have taken pity on me. Beg doctor to give me the last appointment on Wednesday, even though she’s totally full. Continue totally useless regimen of motrin, which only causes you to worry that such high doses can’t be good for those internal organs. See chiropractor again, but warn him that if he does anything to cause pain that he will be shoved Matrix style into the freshly painted walls of his office and then have to push the table off him (as if you could have done that, especially since the simple act of bending over to brush your teeth now causes extreme pain. Still, you threaten and put it out there.)

Step Seven: After going to doc visit on Wednesday, realize that you chose the wrong provider to go for this particular problem. Kiss your co-pay goodbye and go home with no help for the ever-increasing back pain. Recognize that since this began well over a week ago, that your weight loss attempts have taken a back seat and exercise has been impossible. Even the benefit–however small–of doing laundry has been lost since your kids have been taking care of it for you.

Step Eight: See chiropractor one more time because you already set an early morning appointment and couldn’t cancel. Hear chiropractor say that although there were some places that finally released this time, there is still a lot left to fix. Leave feeling discouraged, but mostly because at your age, simply getting into and stepping out of the front seat of a car should not make you cringe and cry out in agony. Come home to teach school, prepare for childbirth class, and beg children to help out as much as they possibly can. Rejoice when they agree without even asking for payment. Well before noon, find yourself using all the techniques you teach in class for back labor, including but not limited to facing the couch on your hands and knees and leaning over the cushions while wailing, “This is worse than childbirth! I need someone to help me! I can’t do it anymore!!” Conclude that you have most likely scarred at least one of your children, namely the one who has been asking about the mechanics and details of childbirth within the past month. Make mental note to come back to that later and work on damage control. (As an aside, this back pain has been easily leaps and bounds beyond the ‘pain’ of childbirth, and after having 6.5 kids without medication, I feel I can say that with confidence. For one thing, labor contractions come and go, and in between there is little or no discomfort. Also, I don’t care how long or hard your labor was, it didn’t last for ten days. Even with all the babies I’ve birthed, I’ve not even been in labor for ten days TOTAL. So this easily trumps labor and birth. End of public service announcement.) Break down and call for an appointment with second doctor. Amazingly, she has a 2:30 appointment later that day. Jump on chance to see what’s going on. Instantly regret the very thought that you could ‘jump’ at all and cringe once again.

Step Nine: See doctor and have her diagnose you with Acute Severe Back Spasms. Listen as she says there’s no need for an x-ray or other tests right now, as long as you respond to the first wave of treatment. She tells you that it has only gotten more intense as the muscles have gone into deeper spasms and are now greatly inflamed. Realize that this is code word for her telling you that you need to relax. Don’t even fight her when she tells you that she is writing three prescriptions to alleviate the problem. Recoil a tiny bit (until you start to feel that agonizing pain in your back) when she advises to come back if it’s not better by MOTHER’S DAY. Sweet mother of pearl, certainly you won’t be dealing with this till the middle of MAY!?! Still, one step at a time. Thank her profusely, hobble off the exam table, and shuffle out the door with your extremely supportive husband who took time out of his busy day to come talk to the doc with you.

Step Ten: Fill prescriptions for steroids to help reduce the acute inflammation, muscle relaxants to…well, obviously get the spasming muscles to chill out, and pain medication to allow for relief. Read in horror (you want to be informed and have full disclosure of course, so you read all the info that came with the drugs) that the steroid’s main side effect is water retention, increased appetite, and weight gain. Awesome above all awesomeness. For the next ten to fifteen days, you will willingly ingest medication that will actively try to sabotage your best-laid weight loss plans. Cry a little inside before slapping yourself (also on the inside, of course) back to the reality that in many circumstances, the benefits outweigh the risks and in this case, relief is the biggest and most necessary benefit. No need to further injure yourself by NOT treating the obvious problem. You have to take the meds and get back into life. Deal with the potential side effects when and if they come. Wipe your tears and gingerly put on your big girl panties (being careful not to cause your back to cry out in the process), realizing that moving without wanting to wail with every step is way better than any temporary backsliding problems.

Step Eleven: Take first dose of steroid and muscle relaxers (which are supposed to have a sedating effect, but not peak in said effect until 5-6 hours after taking them) right before class. Warn students that anything you say during class may or may not be true, including the story about the epidural kits from eBay and how your husband left during one of your labors during transition. Laugh a lot during class because your students are so stinking funny. Take last pill–the pain med oxycodone–shortly after everyone leaves for the night. Slowly start to feel as if your body is not your own, starting in your face, and moving down to your ever-increasingly heavy arms and legs. Begin entertaining husband, who is just getting a big ole kick out of how you look and everything you say. Finally give up, even though that means missing the end of the Duke/Arizona trouncing (OH YEAH!!!!!), and collapse into bed. Prepare to repeat early the next evening and pray you can stay up till the end of the UK/Ohio State game. Also pray the only trouncing in that game is from the Wildcats. Pray some more.

Step Twelve: Keep your chin up, knowing that so many people have suffered so much worse than you have, and you still have so much to be thankful for. Most likely, this too shall pass.

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The Redhead takes matters into her own hands…

At the beginning of the year, WordPress put out an article regarding how to be a better blogger in 2011. One of their ideas was to have a goal of blogging every day. While I thought that sounded great, I have failed miserably at it. Perhaps it’s because life is rather busy around here without taking time out every day to write about our adventures, but perhaps even more, I think it’s because I feel like I have to wait until I have something “blog-worthy” to write about. If I can move away from waiting and just capture the everyday experiences, I bet the end result will not only be more posts, but a more accurate description of what life was really like at any given time in our family.

To that end–and even though I didn’t take any pictures of the event–earlier this week, Chloe had the inevitable rite of passage that it seems most little girls go through at least once: she cut her own hair. Like her sister before her, and apparently like so many others, she thought it would be a good idea to trim those pesky little flyaways that kept getting in her line of sight. Or something like that.

I still remember when Hannah tried it out for herself. In fact, I know exactly when it was. The year was 2002 and it was precisely a week before we traveled to Michigan for my cousin’s wedding. I remember flipping out when I discovered what she had done because I knew that my entire family was going to be at the wedding and I didn’t want my daughter to have whacked out hair. (Now I realize that I had gone just a tad overboard, but hey….at the time…devastation!) We lived in a duplex at the time, and Hannah took her naps in our guest room upstairs where she had a quiet room to herself. Though she was halfway to five years old, there were some days when she didn’t take her afternoon nap. That Saturday was one of those days. I don’t remember how she smuggled the scissors into the room with her, but it was her habit to take a few stuffed animals to naps, so that day she had her large Clifford dog, a Barbie doll or two, and probably a few other smaller stuffed animals. When I went into the bedroom, I quickly saw that it had been “hair cutting day” in the room. Clifford’s yarn hair was everywhere, as were the dolls and other animals. Then I saw Hannah’s hair: she had cut a huge chunk from the side of her head. Flipping out doesn’t even approach my reaction if I’m being honest, but she never attempted to cut her hair again. Amazingly, the wedding trip went off without her chunk of hair and most likely no one even noticed that she had any hair missing at all. The ony thing that was missing was my perspective on the entire event. Ahhh, the advantage of experience….Or so one would think…

Chloe's time saving idea: Cut bangs really short to save on the number of times they have to be cut.

Fast forward to this past week. I took Hannah over to Stephanie’s for a quick bang trim, and at the last minute, Chloe tagged along with us. It was a quick trip and I honestly thought Chloe was paying more attention to the fish tank in Stephanie’s room than anything else happening. That may not have been the case, however. I had sent Chloe and Andrew to their rooms to get ready for a bath, when a few minutes later, Patrick came out to announce that Andrew had cut her hair. You would think that I would have learned my lesson several years ago with Hannah, but history has a tendency to repeat itself and I went off the deep end again. This is when it gets funny-ish, though. When I interrogated Andrew about what had happened, he vehemently denied having cut her hair, which only served to irritate me more. As I really tried to keep my anger in check, I questioned him again. Finally, in a very small voice, he confessed, but not how I was expecting: “Ummm….I tried to cut it, Mom…. But the scissors wouldn’t go through her hair. I couldn’t get the scissors to work!!” (insert blank look first here, followed quickly by amused realization) When I asked Chloe, her response (like a good three-year-old-deflection should go) was, “It was Andrew’s idea!!!” She most likely got frustrated that he couldn’t make the cut, so to speak, and took matters into her own hands, chopping at least an inch off the very center of her bangs. I think she was moving to cut the longer part of her hair when Patrick found them, and I’m thankful that she didn’t get any further! We had a good, long talk about how it’s never a good idea to cut your own hair (after I’d had a similar conversation with Drewbie about how children don’t cut other children’s hair–a variation on a theme, if you will), and then I tried to fix it. I’m a miserable failure at bang-trimming, too, so I ended up calling Stephanie to come to the rescue once more. Chloe got one more important lecture from Stephanie about how we never cut our bangs (“I had to go to school for a very long time to learn how to cut hair!” she warned while rasing one eyebrow at me–the perpetual “I’ll-just-take-a-little-bit-off-these-until-my-next-cut-and-she’ll-never-know” trimmer), and Steph did the best she could with what she had to work with. Only time will tell, of course, but I do believe Chloe will not be playing barber shop for a while.

And the best up-side to the whole thing? We won’t have to trim her bangs any time soon!

A face that gives away a bit of her mischievous side...maybe just a little...

Filling up the mental warehouse (or adding brain folds the old fashioned way…by earning them)

So my last post chronicled our homeschooling journey, but that wasn’t my original intention. I am so bad at staying on track when I write and go off on all sorts of tangents, whether they be interesting or not. The result is that I end up writing twice (or more) as much as I started out to do.

What I really wanted to share was what we’ve been doing for the past several months as a matter of course and for the past two months in earnest: preparing Patrick for something called Memory Master, and it has been no small feat. What is Memory Master, you ask? It has been more work than I expected (and definitely more than Patrick expected, I think, too!) but way more amazing as well.

First of all, I’ve talked before about CC and a bit about how it works. We are learning the trivium and have become a classical education homeschool, though we still have a lot to learn about both the method and the practicalities therein. For an extremely thorough description of what Classical education is, please go here. Susan Wise Bauer says it so much more eloquently and effectively than I could, so why reinvent the wheel? Finally, finally I feel like we’ve found the best resource and direction for our education. It has filled in the holes from my own education as well as the ones that I felt were lacking from me (and I constantly struggle with the thoughts that there are a lot of them!), and we’ve all made close friends within the group. It’s a lot of work, to be sure, but the payoff has been worth it. I whole-heartedly agree with the trivium–fill up their brains with facts and key ingredients when they are ready and able to absorb tons of information. One of the best things I’ve learned in CC is that you can learn just about anything if you put it to music! While the youngest three boys are still firmly in the Grammatical stage of filling their warehouses, Patrick is starting to transition to the next stage and Hannah is moving towards it at breakneck speed. They are both starting to ask “Why?” and digging deeper into the facts that they’ve already stored away. It’s fascinating to see their progression.

One of the aspects and challenges set before the students of CC in the grammar stage of learning (Patrick’s age down) is something called Memory Master. To become a Memory Master, the student has to memorize all the memory work from that cycle in one year. It is an impressive undertaking. The memory work includes 160 timeline cards from Creation through Modern America, 24 history sentences (this year from Charlemagne through the free elections in South Africa), 24 science sentences (which include ecology,astronomy, and physics), 6 Latin conjugations, multiplication facts from 1-15 plus the squares up to 15 and the cubes up to 10, conversions and math laws, Geography and map skills that require locating and/or naming over 120 countries, bodies of water, continents, capitals, or features, 24 English grammar definitions and lists, and naming all 44 US Presidents. Clearly the child cannot complete something of this magnitude unless it is by their own motivation. Last year (our first year in the program), we half-heartedly attempted it with Hannah, but it quickly became clear that without determination and time, it was not attainable. This year, however, after gaining the confidence of the previous year and the maturity that comes with age, Patrick announced that he would like to pursue the Memory Master goal. At first, he too was rather half-hearted about it, and didn’t really put his full faculties into mastering the material. I think in large part he thought it would be easier than it was to master everything…and then he began to see just how difficult a task it is. After both our encouragement (and promise of a coveted prize)–combined with his realization that he could in fact do it, he set his mind to the hard work required to become a MM.

For the past two months, we have been working on the facts and lists, and it has become a family affair. The middle boys have listened to him recite the timeline and at random times throughout the day we’ll go over his history sentences or English grammar definitions. As a parent, I can’t express how proud I am of our child who has set this goal before him and now stands poised to achieve it.

Starting next week, he will begin the four-step proofing process. The first step is the parent proofing stage. At the end of the week, I will ask him every single piece of information that he has been asked to learn at one sitting (or in his case, possibly pacing around), and he should make no more than three mistakes per subject. If he passes this stage and makes three mistakes or less per subject area, he will move on the next week to a second round of proofing with another mom of a MM candidate. She will ask him to recite or name every piece of information as well, but in this round, he should make no more than one error per subject.

If he makes it through those two rounds, the next step is called Tutor Proofing. His CC tutor will meet with him and she will ask him once again to recite every single piece of memory work from the year’s body of work. Zero mistakes allowed. At this stage, however, there must be 100% recall of all pieces. Since the goal of MM is to encourage excellence, at this stage the student should be able to recall each piece of information rather effortlessly. This means that with no help and no prompting, for example, the candidate will have to recite the 160 timeline cards in order, and so on with each subject area. He has done a truly amazing job of getting to this point. I’m astounded that he can somehow keep Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Pakistan all straight in his mind as he points to them on the map. He can tell you about the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and what a gerund is without blinking an eye.

Once that stage has been tackled, the last phase is the Director Proofing. During this 20 minute session, the Director should be able to ask the candidate bits and pieces of the information and recall should be quick, and it is more of an affirmation of true ownership and mastery of the material. After that, we celebrate.

Whenever you think of Patrick, or specifically on Friday, March 11; Wednesday, March 16; Tuesday, March 22; and Monday, April 4, please pray for him as well as the other students who are working towards this honor. Although he hasn’t reported nerves being too much of an issue, I’m sure there are some there. He has truly taken ownership of this process and of course, as his parents we are both quite proud of him regardless of the outcome. I would ask that you pray for his quick recall, a sharp mind, a peace about the process, and an underlying realization of why he has done all of this. It’s not “because Mom said I need to” at this point anymore. For him, it is now “because I want to, Mom.”

Here are some of the timeline cards we've been memorizing. In order to help with the day in, day out kind of learning required to memorize so much information, I posted them on the wall so we would have them always before us.

Patrick’s latest short film

Patrick’s at it again. He was asked to play a part in an Asbury student’s latest video and this time he plays a homeless kid (and one with the cleanest hair I think I’ve seen in a long time. Perhaps he is rather new to the homeless world). Whatever the case may be, however, it’s fun to share in his latest hobby. The short film has been entered in Regent University’s ReelDreams Film Festival, a competiton which awards a partial or full scholarship to winning entries.

Thoughts about homeschooling

While we have always tried to make our home a place for learning, it officially become a “home school” in 2001 when Hannah began preschool, and we’ve been working away at it ever since. It definitely has its ups and downs, challenges and joys, but one of the most profound benefits I have found is the freedom it brings. It’s true that in some senses, it may not be freeing at all (as in the my-kids-are-all-in-school-all-day-and-I-have-several-hours-a-day-to-work-outside-the-home-or-take-a-10am-Zumba-class, but schooling-wise it is there. For instance, we have had the freedom to choose what curriculum to use with our children. We also have the freedom to change it as either their needs or our goals for education change. When I began teaching Hannah in preschool, we used a curriculum called Five in a Row. To read more about it, go here. It was a great way to start with her and, in addition to phonics and writing, suited us nicely. In fact, I still use quite a few of the books from the reading list for our younger children.

As Hannah moved on to kindergarten, we made the decision to change to a different program, and moved to the Noah Plan, or The Principle Approach, a curriculum that, among other things, focuses on mastery. For information about it, click here. Todd had had past experience with this program and even attended their college for a year before moving to Hillsdale, and we both agreed it seemed to be the best fit for us. Thankfully we had the freedom to do so. Although I loved the program and the education that came along with it, with four children ages five and under, and especially once Patrick started school, we started struggling. It was almost impossible for me to keep up with the enormous amount of prep work I was personally responsible for with this curriculum on top of actual teaching and school time. Sad though I was, we needed to find a different fit for our family.

I must say we’ve never only used one curriculum exclusively in all of our years schooling, but instead have used a patchwork sort of approach. Phonics came from A Beka, math was from Saxon at first, and was added to the main program. Thankfully, I’ve had the freedom to try something and truly see if it works for my students and our homeschool. It has come in handy, especially when it became clear that my students weren’t thriving in their math lessons with Saxon. Many people swear by it, but for my youngest students, they were not doing well. A friend recommended Singapore math, and I took the dive and switched. It was ‘just the ticket’ for us and has been what we’ve used since Patrick was in 2nd grade. (Hannah only recently moved back to Saxon with her Challenge program, but I’ll get to that.) Check out Singapore math here.

When we added Andrew to our family, I felt totally overwhelmed with the prospect of homeschooling with three in school, a toddler, and a newborn, and I moved to A Beka almost exclusively. I needed a workbook year or so to get back to normal, and had used A Beka books to teach all our kids to read. We did well with their reading, science, and language programs and stayed with Singapore for math and filled in the blanks with other things. One year turned into several, one toddler turned into a preschooler, the newborn became the toddler, and we welcomed Chloe into our family. Homeschooling continued on the same path, until we found a group new to us and a method almost entirely foreign to our homeschool: Classical Conversations. For a recap on how we got to be a part of this amazing group, read this.

So now we’re four weeks away from completing our second year in CC, and it has been worth every dollar and every hour of work and stretching. It’s been a tough year for Hannah in the Challenge program, but she has risen to the “challenge” and excelled in every subject area. What a blessing to see her move into more independent work and taking ownership of her education! She’s learning Latin from books like this and studying one of her favorite subjects in human biology. With her class and at home, she is working through learning how to draw every continent, every country and its capital, and many of the land features found throughout the world. Patrick and I learned a massive (one of his vocab words) amount in his language and writing class and enjoyed editing papers together and parsing sentences (well….ok, maybe that last one was more me than him, but he’s really good at it, even if he doesn’t like to do it). The younger guys have learned many things, including facts about history from Charlemagne to WWII and beyond, Newton’s Laws of Motion, what the heck the study of thermodynamics is, and many more things. Since the four boys had to prepare presentations every week for their classes, we’ve gotten to memorize a poem by Robert Frost and a silly poem by Roald Dahl–a humorous spin on an old classic, seen here. Last week may have been one of my favorites, though, when Andrew told his class about the destruction of Pompeii in 79AD when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. This is what he said (more or less a quote. Remember he still has ‘twouble’ with some of his r sounds.): “Rich Romans vacationed in Pompeii near the ocean in the summer. One morning, after bweakfast, Mt. Vesuvius ewupted and more than 2,000 people got dead.” There was more, of course, but it was cute.

It’s been a noteworthy year for sure, but it’s not over yet……

What it’s really like to be a once-a-year copyeditor…

It was a huge blessing to find a job as soon as I graduated from college many moons ago, and it was an added bonus that it was close to where I lived, and exactly related to what I’d hoped to do professionally. Just before finding the tiny ad in the newspaper that my mom dutifully cut out and sent to me each week, however, I was feeling hopeless and maybe even a bit desperate. Our graduation date was quickly approaching, and it seemed that I had no prospects for employment other than something minimum wage at the drug store or department store where I had previously worked. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for all the work that had gone into my college degree in American Studies. In any case, when I thought I’d pored over every paper and every entry, a small ad caught my eye. Although I can’t remember the exact words, it seemed to be the perfect fit for me: an editing job about 15 miles from my parents’ house. It was just two weeks after graduation that I walked into Gale for my first interview, and within another week, I got word that they hired me for a temp position. It was (and still is) amazing how swiftly my situation had gone from seemingly despairing to right on track. (What a lesson in waiting on God and His plan…)

Not only did I love my job at Gale Research (it has changed names a few times since then), I met some people there who are still integral parts of my life. Within a few weeks of starting, the empty desk next to me was filled by a fellow temp worker named Amy Barrett. It would have been enough to say that we had a fun summer and got along well enough, but she is one of those kindred spirits kind of people and we hit it off almost immediately. I am almost certain that Gale would have been just OK had it not been for Amy Barrett. As we worked on a book named Brands and Their Companies (I mean, really; doesn’t the title alone seem riveting?! Let me assure you, it wasn’t. Gale Research produces mainly reference materials for libraries, schools, and businesses. It was more about the process of publishing that was fabulous and less about cataloguing brands such as “Cricket Licket.”) and other similar crazy-interesting book titles, we became close friends. Amy and I spent countless lunch hours together and went over every detail of the previous evening’s Must See TV on Friday mornings; it was a super summer.

Even though the subject matter was a bit different than I expected, it was a fine learning experience in all things publishing and I became well-versed in typesetter talk and publishing speak. The only rub was that I technically only had a summer job and was set to be let go in August. The first editor that I worked for, however, shared that if there were openings within the company, temps were sometimes the first ones considered for the jobs, so I was hopeful that there would be a timely opening for me to move into. Thankfully, that was in fact the case and I left my temp job on a Friday (very sad; Amy, who was also a temp, left for something else) and moved to the permanent position the next Monday.

I spent the next many months working in the Education and Research development and found that I actually missed the beloved Brands and Their Companies (and its sister publication, Companies and Their Brands) line, but I missed working with Amy more. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found out she too had landed a permanent position back at Gale a few months later! We didn’t work together anymore, but we still had lunch. (And we were both planning our respective weddings in the spring and summer, so we had plenty of things to talk about.)

When Todd and I made plans to get our TESL certificate and go overseas to teach in Korea, it was an almost entirely happy time, with the exception of leaving my family and leaving Amy and Gale. Regardless, I left in June of that year and moved on with the rest of my life.

I’m happy to say that since 1999, Gale has been an annual part of my life. The editor I worked for in Detroit recommended me to another editor and I was contacted out of the blue that year about doing some independent contractor work. I was pregnant with Patrick at the time and only had one child. (I honestly don’t know what I complained about in those days when I lamented to Todd that I couldn’t seem to get everything done…..) In any case, I was hired as an IC to work on copyediting for the book Encyclopedia of World Biography, which has proved by far to be the most interesting book I’ve worked on. With the exception of a few years where I wasn’t contacted for work, every January, February, and sometimes parts of March have consisted of essays about intriguing people throughout history scattered all over the house and multiple lists in varying degrees of checked-off-edness. It’s been a huge blessing to both our household (in terms of extra income) and me personally (in terms of doing something that I love to do and getting paid to do so).

Every year, it seems, I get behind the eight ball in terms of getting the work completed, letting it pile up when it first arrives. It’s almost like I have to look at it and walk past it for a while to get in the mood of doing the work. Inevitably, I end up cramming at the end to get the entries completed before the deadline. This year, however, was the worst in recent memory.

First of all, after agreeing to the deadline, I got an email from the editor that his typesetter deadline had been moved up, so he had to move up my deadline by a week. Not the greatest news, but it seemed attainable. 87 essays, 1,800-2,000 words long, copyedited not only for content, but also coding, source citing rules, and other requirements. It wasn’t the largest amount of entries I’d ever had, but it was close (the year after Chloe was born, I had an even 100 to complete. That was a rough winter). Everything seemed to be going well, and I had my schedule laid out, and then the waves of sickness started to hit our family. Since it didn’t leave me out of the attack, I lost many days to either taking care of kids or taking care of myself. I’d planned to work most afternoons during the kids’ quiet time (2-4pm), but grocery shopping, laundry, prepping for my classes, and just plain old fashioned procrastination seemed to take over and keep me from making that slow, steady progress I had mapped out in my mind. Add to that an impromptu house decluttering (which was very necessary, but poorly timed on our part) and the days slipped by and the entries sat, virtually untouched. And add to that the fact that I received the last 16 of the entries on February 23, which was probably the latest date I’ve ever received entries with such a quick expected turn around.

Fast forward to last Thursday, February 24, when I received an email from my editor checking in on me. I knew it was coming, but still dreaded getting it nonetheless. “What is the latest possible date you’d like to have these back?” I emailed him. “I’m hoping to get them all back by the end of the month,” he responded, and with that simple sentence, I went into all-out panic mode. As I surveyed my completed work and to do work, things looked worse than grim. By Thursday morning–and I’m so embarrassed to say so–I had copyedited a total of 43 essays, but only on the paper hard copies. I hadn’t made any of the electronic changes to the files and had virtually nothing to send my editor. That also meant that I had not even touched 44 of the essays my editor hoped to have back by the following Monday. Never before had I been so far behind my deadline. Enter the total freakout mode Deb, stage left.

I spent as much of Thursday as I could making changes to a few entries so I would have something to send him, despite having a class that evening. The kids really helped with the house cleaning and other class prep, so that allowed me to complete 13 essays and send off. 13 down, 74 to go. Yikes does not even touch what I was feeling. Thankfully, I had a great class Thursday night and was able to walk away from the responsibility for a couple hours. But the work waited for me. While I worked, I came up with the best plan I could, but looking honestly at the number of hours between then and Monday–and thinking about all the other responsibilities I couldn’t put off–it didn’t look good. I tried not to let fear creep in, but I also wasn’t ready to cry uncle and ask for an extension. I knew the editor was up against his own deadline anyway, so I didn’t think asking would go very far.

My plan was simple: On Friday, I had to work until I completed all the already-read-already entries, making all the changes to the files and sending them back to the editor. On Saturday, I had to work until I read through the remaining 44 (!!! Remaining!?!? Can you really call it a remainder if it’s more than the first number?!?! AAAUUUGHHH!!!!!) entries. Sunday, my hope was to make corrections to as many of the files as possible and leave only a few to do when we came home from our homeschool co-op on Monday. It didn’t seem possible, but it was all I could do.

I stayed up until midnight on Friday and didn’t do much of anything else besides sit at my computer, but I finished making the changes to 27 entries. Lynsay and Michael took the kids to the dollar movie late that afternoon, which left me with a quiet house and an appreciative heart. (It was Lynsay who said I say I will never get it all done every year, so I tried to remember that when I was close to despair!) I was too anxious to sleep well that night and woke up Saturday, focused to just knock the work out. I was a grubby mess and didn’t even shower or change my clothes, but I just felt that if I did ANYTHING else, I’d miss precious work minutes. I literally spent 14 hours reading essays that day, alternating between editing and praying that somehow, somehow, it would get done. Todd and the kids were so gracious once I explained how much work I still had to complete and helped out in other areas of need wherever they could. Todd cooked, the kids did laundry, and they got their presentations together on their own. By 9pm Saturday night, I was down to having 6 more entries to read. My eyes hurt so badly, but I still kept going. Although many of the entries were fairly clean and didn’t require a lot of extra work, I stumbled upon a gaggle of essays from authors who apparently either hadn’t read the guidelines or had thrown them down and trounced upon them. Sources were overused or not cited, causing me to hunt them down in the source material and re-write parts of the essays. That always irritates the fire out of me. Spelling mistakes and stylistic errors I can live with, but flagrantly ignoring the rules of the assignment is quite another. After 14 hours, I had done all I could for that night. I had to adjust my plan slightly, but I was honestly amazed that I had actually managed to read through 40 2,000 word essays in one day.

This was my nice, neat stack of entries on Saturday night after I'd finished reading them, but before I tore them apart trying to get the changes made to the electronic files.

The next morning we all went to church and I’m so glad I took a couple hours’ break. My eyes were so fatigued that it felt like I had pulled muscles in my face. How weird is that? I already have muscle issues with my eyes, so I’m sure my marathon weekend did not do me any favors with future vision tests, but I felt like it was a price I had to pay to get the work done.
After church I went back to my computer and began making the changes electronically. In between I prepared for my class on Monday morning, but really did not give it my all. (In addition to my constant prayer for help in miraculously getting the work done, I also prayed that my students would not be able to sense my weakness on Monday morning and would instead show me grace and mercy.) By the end of Sunday night–or was it Monday morning?–I had finished 38 entries and had them sent off.

Despite being gone from 7:30-3:30 on Monday (and being totally exhausted when we got home), there were still files to be completed, so before going to bed that night I sent 7 more out. That left the last three entries. One was so bad that I asked the editor to contact the original author to make the changes, so I had to postpone that. The other two were just loose ends that needed to be tied up. By 7:30 this evening, all the entries had been sent to the editor and I was finally, finally able to do the happy dance. The tired happy dance, but happy nonetheless.

In total, it had taken me roughly 38 hours out of 72 to make the deadline. It was absolutely and totally by God’s grace that I made it. The amount of work I was able to complete and the resolve and focus necessary did not come from me; clearly I’ve proven I’m a procrastinator. Reading an estimated 88,000 words in one day boggles the mind (this one, anyway…I’m not used to it!) I cannot express how thankful I was to send that last essay today, be able to make the deadline, and not hold up my editor’s deadline.

It should not come as a surprise that when I got my hair cut today, my beloved stylist Stephanie exclaimed that she found grey hairs on top of my head. (I was surprised; I secretly thought I would escape that bullet, but how I’m not sure. Both my parents have their share of the greys.) After getting over the initial shock, I thought to ask her if she’d seen any before today. She said no–and it had only been five weeks since my last cut. Apparently, at my ever-increasing age, editing=grey hair. Bummer.

Actually, I’m not sure what I’m doing at the computer right now, writing about this whole saga. I really thought I’d want to chuck my laptop out the window when I finished. And yet, here I am, checking my sentence structure and verb tenses. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take a small break. Then again, maybe not.

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