Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Baby Turns Seven


But you won't hear me say it seems like yesterday! Therein were a few grueling years. But hey, we made it out the other side and yesterday, Eion turned seven. Tim was working on the big day, so we had a party at a local inflatables place Thursday. 

The reviews, they are mixed. We had a few breakdowns during the party and there were a few complaints about my anti-goody bags stance, mind you not by the parents, but overall, the kids had fun. Most of my pictures ended up blurry since the kids never stopped moving.




Yesterday, we set him loose at Target with his birthday money. He wandered the lego aisle, wide eyed, the world his oyster. He settled on the police station, so precious it had an extra security device on it. The realization that he had enough left over to look at video games too was VERY exciting. But he bought a Wii controller instead so he and his sisters could all play Mario Kart at the same time.

Eion - thrilled to death. Me? Well, I got to play Mario Kart, which seems not to be my strong suit. I was informed I would go much faster if I stopped running into everything. And a large, many piece lego has taken up residence on my dining room table, mere weeks after we finally banished the Diagon Alley lego. Oh well.

That night we watched Eion's choice of movie, Return of the Jedi, and had a big bowl of popcorn. He curled up on my lap and told me it was the best birthday ever. I told him now he could stop getting older. He said that no matter how old he got, he wanted to stay with me forever.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Maggie: The Star Student




Maggie's class has a "star student" each week. The selected child get to bring in pictures, their favorite items and books and generally be fawned over for the week. Maggie has been early anticipating this moment all year. This week, she is The One.

In addition to what the kids bring in themselves, Thursday, parents are supposed to send in a video and/or letter. Here goes mine...

Maggie, we know y'all call her Margaret but she will always be Maggie to us, was born in September 2003. She was, quite possibly, the sweetest baby ever. Not that we found out for a few months - she slept, slept, and slept. She napped through parties, car rides and family pictures. We thought she might never wake up!

When she did wake up, she smiled all the time and was an exceptionally happy baby. She was also LOUD! All those pictures with her mouth open? She was yelling at full tilt.

Mags went about everything with a positive attitude. As she grew older, the family adopted a saying. When someone was really happy, they were "Maggie happy."

She has always been incredibly self reliant and grown up. It might be because her little brother, Eion, you know him as that guy always tagging along with me at your school parties, was born when she was only 16 months old. She had to be a big sister early. Either that or she was just trying to keep up with her sister Morrigan. Even though Morrigan was two years older, Maggie seemed to think that since they were about the same height, she should be able to do everything her sister did. 

Whatever the cause, Maggie was always mature girl. She went to sleep away camp for a week when she was only six. we were worried but she was fearless. And opted to go back the following Summer too. 

Maggie lives with joy. Whether she is swimming, doing Tae Kwon Do, playing piano or running to the other room, she has a joie de vivre that is unmatched. She is truly the sunshine in our lives. We are lucky to have her and we love her very much! 

Love, Mom & Dad

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gear and Packages

So I have to think you know just what kind of day it will be when you come home from tennis to find your son, doing a math sheet, dressed like this:


Yes, the much anticipated and wallet emptying sparring gear has arrived. Lucky us, E seems set  on getting his money's worth out of it by wearing it all day. All day with the protective cup on the outside.


I stressed to him that this is something to be worn UNDER his clothes. No, he told me, the "wiener protector" was just fine on the outside. I insisted that it had to be under and he began to weep. "No! I don't want to have to take my clothes off in the middle of class!" Once we explained that he could put the cup on at home and would not have to undress at TKD he was relieved. But not relieved enough to take the cup off today.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Yawn


While very very fun, let me tell you about how staying out until past 1am at Ann & Hans' did not make me an especially productive member of society today. What I did do, while cleaning and folding laundry (and OK occasionally laying on the sofa,) was listen to a huge chunk of the Steve Jobs biography. Tim subscribed to an Audible account and while I am still partial to reading myself, once the audio books are purchased and available, it seems silly not to take advantage of them.

Before we go into my pseudo book review, a few notices and disclaimers:

1) I am a complete Apple fanboy. I'm typing this post on an iMac. We have a macbook, iPad, two iPhones and a half dozen iPods.

2) This post may contain spoilers, kind of, but not really.

Alright, with that out of the way...the book is a great read. And in many ways, quite brutal. The author seems dedicated to getting as close to the truth as possible, even when that truth is unflattering to Jobs. Not to mention, it is kind of tough to realize that many of the electronics you love so much were created by someone who seems to have been, sorry to say, a dick most of the time. As I was listening, I kept thinking, well now he is going to start being better. Now that he's reconnected with his daughter/found his birth mother/been fired/gone back to Apple/had cancer he will be a more sympathetic character. But no, he remains prickly until the end. That being said, excellent read and highly recommended.

Seeing as Tim is largely in control of the Audible account, next on the docket is the biography of Keith Richards. Yippee!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Absence Make the Heart Grow Fonder

Or perhaps not. I have been informed in two separate conversations this week (by my BFF and MIL) that my radio silence was wholly unacceptable. They were sick of checking in and finding nothing so if I was going to be so infrequent a poster, could I just let them know when I do post so they don't have to waste their time checking in at my much neglected blog. And they wanted to make sure I was doing ok too.

Fine we are. Boring, but fine. One of the things I love about writing in this medium is that I can blather on endlessly when the mood suits me and can, similarly, say nothing when I feel there is nothing to say.  While it may not seem so, I had your best interests at heart. The highlight of the week was the installation of our water softener. House of excitement, we are not these days.

It's been a bit of a grind since the new year too. Intellectually, I know homeschooling is 100% the right decision for Eion. He is happy, learning more, gaining confidence, and meeting with success. He proudly tells everyone that he is home schooled. Emotionally, it can be a lonely, draining process. There are no days off. And everything takes a back burner to Eion. Lunch dates, tennis, walks with Tim, seeing friends - everything.

A week ago, I had just about had it. I was ready to pony up for private school - something had to give. Then, as if by devine providence, at Eion's soccer game, I started talking to Dustin. We had met before but I hadn't realized she was homeschooling her 1st grade daughter. As a veteran homeschooler, she was setting up a Meet In group to help homeschool families connect and plan activities together.

It was just the right amount of light at the end of the tunnel to make me think I could keep going.

Eion and I went to our first event on Friday, the Geography Club, where the location of the month was Iceland.


There were presentations by both kids and parents. Seeing as volcanoes figure prominently in Icelandic life, there were several volcanic demonstrations as well. They were real crowd pleasers.


The whole thing was topped off with a potluck lunch of Icelandic cuisine which was, um, interesting. Fish and cabbage delights aside, it was an unmitigated success. Eion thought it was all great fun and was excited about all his new friends. I had some very sympathetic ears who, to one degree or another, had all been through exactly what I was experiencing. While the backgrounds of the participants was far more varied than my normal neighborhood (read: bubble) encounters, they seem a group with which I can hang. When Russia was chosen as next month's country, the Moms immediately commented that no good Russian potluck was complete without vodka (for the adults only, of course.) 

Upcoming outings include a field trip to Dixie Caverns and an owl pellet dissection that has Eion REALLY excited, much more than I am.

I'm working on making sure there is enough balance in my life so I don't lose it in the meantime. And enjoying my very exciting water softener.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saturday Soccer Adventures


A few months back, school sent home a sign up form from Parks and Rec for indoor soccer. When I asked the kids if they wanted to play, both girls immediately answered with conviction, "NO!" Eion, however, was an enthusiastic yes. As much as I want to get him out there and involved with kids his age, I didn't trust him.

I asked again a few days later. "Yes!" was the answer. I asked again a week later. "Yes!" was the answer. I told him this week that the first game was today and the answer was a flood of tears and a refusal to play.

Super.

My irritation level at an all time high, I let him know that he had a choice. Soccer sign up was $50. E could either a) pay for the registration himself with his Christmas money or b) suck it up and play for 8 weeks. The monetary incentive was enough to get him to honor his original response but definitely without the initial enthusiasm.

Today was the first game. This is a fairly loose league with no practices, just weekly games. As we drove to the decidedly ghetto location, Tim was doubting the whole endeavor and Eion was excitedly asking if this was where the soccer court was. Really, what could go wrong.

The game went...well, it went. Eion was on defense and there wasn't much action there. He would stay back as long as he could stand it before darting off to the action at the other end of the field, only to be called back into position by the coach. Ten thirst enduring minutes into the game, Eion was begging for water which I, naturally, didn't think to bring. The lack of fluids made him despondent and made the majority of his moves be a thumbs down sign in our direction.

He finally wore down the coach, who moved the mats that were blocking the water fountain. E managed to survive the remaining 15 minutes with a mere 6 water breaks.

But as we left, he told me what a great time he had and how he can't wait to go back next week. Looks like we are going to have a banner season!

Friday, January 6, 2012

From The Bookshelf


Morrigan is a voracious reader. She devours books and reads far above her age level. While this is wonderful, it can also be problematic as keeping her supplied with kids books edges us towards bankruptcy and adult books are often thematically inappropriate for her. We've struggled a bit.

So two days ago, she was regaling us with all of her knowledge of ancient Egypt and telling us how very much she liked history. And I thought, she always wants to read adult books, I have one for her to try.

Me: I think Morrigan is ready to read Mayflower
Tim: Hmmm, [faining doubt] I don't know. It might be too hard for her.
Morrigan: I know I can read it. I can read anything!
Me: Let's let her try.
Morrigan: Yes, yes! 
Tim: Hmmm.
Morrigan: I'll bet you a donut I can read it.

And then it was on. With her father, tongue in cheek, betting that she could not read it, Morrigan embarked on this journey:


Tim and I both read this a few years back. And while factually fascinating, it is also densely written and (sorry Mr. Philbrick, who I met and is a really nice guy) a bit of a slog. We had no doubts that Morrigan had the ability to read it, but thought that the dry historical nature might cause her to derail.

Never doubt the power of the donut.

She killed it in 24 hours. And seemed to genuinely like it too. Looks like, after we visit Uptown Joe's for a donut tomorrow, I need to find some more non fiction for the gal.

Displaced, Yet Strangely Lucky

You know, this week kind of sucked. It was back to school, which, after a few weeks off, meant back to homeschool, and the transition was less than smooth. I came back to the learning table ready to go, with high expectations. Eion came back ready to be defiant at every turn and generally make me pull my hair out. His sassy behavior continued after school was done, culminating yesterday with him making his sister cry by ripping up the picture she gave him for Christmas.

And then the boy and I had some words. We won't go into them all here but a few had four letters.

Needless to say, I was not in a stellar mood this week. So much so that Tim called me after he arrived at work to timidly wish me a better day today.

I felt bad that I was, while completely justified, grumpy. So tonight I thought I would make a special dinner. I had shrimp and scallops thawed out for seafood pasta in cream sauce. The cast iron skillet had reserved sausage fat saved especially for the frying. The pasta water was of oceanic salinity. The onions and garlic were minced fine.

Then Tim walked through the door. "Let me sear those scallops for you." he started. And then it was all over. He was cooking dinner.

Me: I was going to cook tonight. I know how to cook!
Tim: Oh of course you do. But cooking relaxes me.
Me: I can finish that.
Tim: No, no! This is just what I want to do.

Now, in the world of wives as a whole, I am a pretty good cook. Dinner never comes from a package in the freezer. But sadly, I pale in comparison to my better half in the kitchen. Tonight, I was displaced. Yet I guess, in spite of my wounded pride, that makes me pretty darn lucky.

Post Script: Morrigan just came up to me and asked, "What are you blogging about?" I explained that I was writing about Daddy hijacking dinner preparations, to which she patted me on the head, much as one would a small child, and told me, "It's ok, maybe you can cook tomorrow when he is at work." Second class all round.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Entitled....

You know, as I was trying to compose this post in my head, I kicked around a couple of titles. In the end, it was clear that I am going to be so all over the place that a singular heading would be misleading. On with the sub heads.

Under Pressure


After himming and hawing for possibly forever, Tim finally went out and bought himself one of these:


What in the hell is it other than a way to shell out $400? It is a sous vide cooker also known as, but not quite as fancy sounding, a water oven. Admittedly, I was less than impressed. We had an oven, for one, and I am not not a big gadget in the kitchen person. 

When Tim brought it home, I told him this made the possibility of buying a shotgun more remote. Which, in an odd way, made him happy. At least I wasn't shotgun-buying mad at him for gadgetry purchases.

After three nights of sous vide meals, I have to say I am sold. Basically, you put food into vacuum sealed pouches and place them in the water. Then you pick the temperature you want the food (think 125 for rare meat) and then you leave it. Once it is up to temp, you can leave it there for hours and it won't over cook. Beef needs a nice sear when it comes out but otherwise, you can have dinner ready hours in advance. 

My bad baby, seems like this wasn't a crazy purchase.

Geaux Blue!


Having attended the University of Michigan but self transplanted to the south, college football is rarely relevant to my life here. UofM doesn't play teams in this conference and isn't oft televised. While I wish no ill for the local Virginia teams, they are all pretty much the same to me. I bear no allegiance.

Then came the Sugar Bowl 2012 - UofM vs. Virginia Tech. The first time these football teams have ever played each other.

Being 45 minutes from Blacksburg and in a Tech heavy town, we have tons of friends who do care a great deal about college football, VATech in particular! My Facebook feed was equally divided between the Wolverines, from all my college and Northern friends,  and the Hokies, from all my Tech and Southern friends.

And predictably, the aftermath was equally divided with celebration from the North and cries of bad call from the South. 

Despite not watching the game, even if we had cable, I wouldn't have stayed up until midnight, it was kind of fun to be part of a rivalry again, if only for a few days.

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

One of Eion's very favorite Christmas gifts is his Stormtrooper alarm clock.


And since some genius taught him to tell time, he set it to wake up nice and early. One of the nicest things about homeschooling him was that he generally slept through the girls eating breakfast and getting ready for school. Love him, but the morning was smoother without him. No more! He excitedly hits his trooper on the head to turn off the alarm and is the first child at breakfast. 

Game On!


A few weeks ago, Amy suggested I call into some NPR show I had never heard of, sorry, on at the same time as Rush, as their topic of the day was where were the Herman Cain supporters going after he  dropped out of the race. At that time I told her, sadly, how I felt that, AGAIN, the Republicans would foist some squishy moderate on us (see John McCain, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich) and I would have to hold my nose to vote. All the people I liked were toiling away in the single digits. 

But look at Iowa. One of those guys I have liked all along, who never seemed to have a chance, just pulled off a huge upset. Rick Santorum may not have won, but coming from sub 10% to within 0.1% of the front runner is something! 

Can he go the distance? He is way behind in fundraising and is a social conservative, making him hated by the Republican Establishment, but if he makes it onto the Virginia ballot, he's got my vote.




Monday, January 2, 2012

Everything That is Wrong With America in Two Articles

I read a couple of articles online this weekend that, for me, summed up most/all of what is wrong with America today. And as my children did nothing print-worthy this past weekend, I'll write about the offending reads instead....

Article 1: Fans Angry That Cee Lo Changed 'Imagine' Lyrics

The jist of this story is that entertainer Cee Lo Green sang the John Lennon song Imagine on New Year's Eve and changed the line "Nothing to kill or die for and no religion too." to "Nothing to kill or die for and all religion's true." This was, in the eyes of the average American Twitterer, just too much. He was described as "blasphemous" and people chaffed at Mr. Green singing "no possessions too" in a fur coat. At the bottom of the page, there is a link to Facebook where you're invited to discuss your feelings about his lyric alteration. While he has some defenders, most comments are harsh and angry.

So why does this represent all that is wrong with America? Here we have a group of people who want to protect the idea of "no religion too" but what have they done? Turned John Lennon into a sort of god, so much so that changing his lyrics is "blasphemy." For those folks, the Merriam-Webster definition is:

blas-phe-my: 1a. the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God. 1b. the act of claiming the attributes of a deity. 2. irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable.

By this, we can assume Cee Lo either insulted these people's god or altered something so sacred that it should not be touched. In addition to putting the bar pretty low, if I'm finding a new god, I'm going to aim higher than John Lennon, they are taking a song that is pretty much about Communism and saying it can never be touched. Saying that it is ok for Lennon to insult the billions of people in the world who believe in one god or another and say we should aspire to do away with all that, but it is not ok to say religion is true.

Not to mention, they're getting up in arms about what Mr. Green wore while he sang Imagine but utterly failing to take into consideration how Mr. Lennon lived when he wrote it. He might have imagined no possessions but last time I checked, he was chilling in a pretty posh Manhattan apartment at the time of his death. Let's face it, it is as hypocritical as those Bono ads where he is rolling into Africa with his Louis Vuitton luggage.

Americans lack the power of critical thinking. They can't see the irony of casting off religion only to replace it new, better dressed, pop gods or that their new gods sing to them of simplicity while leaving behind estates with apartments with tens of millions of dollars.

But my disagreements with pop culture as a philosophical foundation pale in comparison to the rest of what is wrong with America, as highlighted in

Article 2: Across California, Parents Face Collective Wail of 'Big Kids'

California passed a new law that requires children, regardless of size, to be in booster or car seats up to and including age eight. Previously, kids were free of the onerous things at age six, meaning there are kids who last sat in a car seat at five who will get to enjoy them again until their ninth birthday. The article details how this is not being well received by the children.

So first, let's talk about an intrusive nanny state. The new California law keeps kids in car seats until nine. I know a half dozen kids who were taller than me by age nine. Shoot, Mags is eight and she is as tall as one of my more diminutive friends (and might weigh as much too.) These kinds of laws are arbitrary and undercut (once again) critical thinking and common sense. Sorry legislators, not all kids, cars and kid-car combinations are the same. My kids, in seat belt alone, in a gigantic Suburban, are safer than booster seat-restrained kids in a Festiva or Aspire. Not to mention, newer cars of all sizes tend to have better safety features than some older models.

And that nanny state is also a bully. After setting rules that can't be proven to increase positive outcome, the laws are accompanied with unbelievable fines and punishment - $475 fine and a point on your license! Are they really keeping people and kids safe or just executing control, seeking money and/or bowing to lobbyists from the car seat manufacturers, insurance companies or some toxic combination of all of the above? Classic over-reaching government.

But it gets worse. There was the parents' reaction.

The children were understandably unhappy. They have to revert from the relative freedom of a seat belt to boosters that, at worst, resemble four point restraints and are at best, not as comfy as the seat of a car. I feel their pain. I would be unhappy too - either as the kid in the seat or the parent that has to fool with the darned things again. But let me tell you how it would go down in our house:

(For argument's sake, let's go with the unlikely scenario that I would follow the law. My car seat record is spotty at best.) 

Me: Kids, you have to use booster seats again.
Kids: Noooooo! We don't waaant to!
Me: Too damn bad. Get in them before I really give you something to complain about.

That's about it. Maybe we could have a nice discussion about how we hate The Man telling us what to do, the evils of bureaucracy, and the over-reach of government but in the end, I would be issuing an order, not a request. The parents of California, at least based on this article, instead went with step by step plans to get them back into their car seats and luring them with rewards. One 44 year old mother came up with the "strategy" of letting her 7 year old practice riding in the booster over the holidays because "it makes Mom feel better."One kid got a trip to Disneyland.

Parents of California - you suck. Really. I hate to be so blunt but stop being such a bunch of pantywaists and remember that you are the parent and, theoretically, in charge.

But therein lies the real problem nationwide. We have a whole generation of parents who have decided that kids know what is best for themselves and, as their friends, we parents need to listen. That we need to reward them for doing that which is freaking required by (albeit a very stupid) law. Not to mention how hard these weak parents make it for those of us who actually want to raise well behaved kids when our kids look at us and ask, "Why don't I get a pony for having brushed my teeth?"

How do we fix what is wrong? A good start would be some serious training in critical thinking. The Cee Lo detractors might realize how silly their objections are. The legislators of California might realize how oppressive their regulations are and that they don't really make anyone safer (providing that was their actual goal. Sorry, ever the cynic.) And the parents of California, and the rest of the nation, might realize they are in charge at home. And that their efforts might be better used in fighting a state (or national) government, which is funded by them and responsible to them, that feels it is their duty and right to so impose on the governed.

A girl can dream. And teach critical thinking at home.

[Wow, I am feeling rant-o-rific today! If you haven't ejected by now, thanks for coming along.]