Monday, April 30, 2012

Girls Night (Sort Of)

With renovations in the fall and the Great Homeschooling Experiment, I've had to leave my normal level of organization behind and find myself settling for just-in-time parenting. Looking out over weeks of upcoming assignments and deadlines was, in a very first world way, becoming overwhelming. Instead, I transitioned to JIT where I worry about what was coming my way for a week, at most.

This change has allowed me to survive, but thrive, not as much. Case in point, it was just this Thursday when I realized Tim and Eion would be gone all day Saturday and overnight for a campout, a situation crying out for something special to be done with the girls. When made aware of our situation, the girls cried out in unison, "Girls' Night!" To which I immediately had to throw cold water on their enthusiasm and let them know it was going to have to be "girls' day" since I had a not-to-be-missed cocktail party that night.

We were off to a banner start.

We lit off for downtown. We were going to go to lunch in the recently re-opened Market Building and then shop in the outdoor market. In theory. In reality, the heavens opened up and rained down on us. Coupled with a distinct lack of parking and umbrellas, we opted to course correct.

Next stop, the mall. Uggg.

As with any mall, it is surrounded by chain restaurants of every variety. None of which, it seemed, were right for girls' day. Nope, my girls' choice was Chik-fil-A. So fried food it was. After finishing our fries and nuggets (really, what says special day with Mom like fried food?) they chose the next stop, Bath and Body Works.

OMG Kill me now.

There are few stores I hate more. The smell induces an immediate headache and I find everything contained therein to be firmly in the category of Things I Will Never Need. Alternately, my daughters love it. So I popped some preemptive motrin and followed them in.

After we were there for what felt like hours, a savior came in the form of Ann. We had toyed with the idea of seeing Titanic for girls' day but Tim, smartly, pointed out, "Didn't you give that movie as a gift to Ann? Wouldn't it be cheaper to watch that at home?"Ann was now returning my call with an invitation to watch it at her house. Hallelujah! The girls were on board and I was free of the mall and all its trappings.

When we arrived, she found the dvd, still in its shrink wrap after five years, and we saddled up for the epic tale. I was the only one there who had seen it before. And I have to tell you, I LOVE that movie. It is about as out of character as it gets but I do. Maybe it is that it came out when I was just two years married and was vulnerable to that romantic I'd-rather-die-than-be-without-you. Can't say for sure but I do still, fifteen years later, cry every time I see it. Embarrassing, but true.

The reactions were varied - Ann was underwhelmed, he boys bailed about halfway through and my girls liked it. But more entertaining to me was the interaction of the kids and their reaction to the movie. Maggie and Luke were next to each other on the sofa and insisted on maintaining a good six inches between them. Our assertions that they were essentially siblings seemed to matter naught.

Titanic is a PG-13 movie and I had readied the crew for the fact that we would be viewing...a boob. The appearance of said boob elicited groans and "eww yucks" from boys and girls alike. The girls, upon being told, "You know you're going to have those soon enough" simply replied they were never going to look in the mirror.

After the movie was over, we had to hightail it to a birthday party Mags was attending, in effect ending girls' day. Maybe it wasn't exactly what we envisioned, but it turned out to be a pretty good day. And we have new, smelly hand sanitizer to boot.

Friday, April 27, 2012


I fell down this week. Not literally, though my near collision with my tennis partner came close, but as a parent. Eion has/continues to be/is challenging. We've had some recurring problems that seem never closer to any sort of resolution and which are infinitely frustrating. This week had An Incident and I was pissed. Very pissed.

Eion was shipped up to his room to get ready for bed, an hour early, but only after cleaning his room while receiving a lecture about his unacceptable behavior. Lemme tell ya, I was rolling.

After he was dispositioned, I was seething and trying not to cry with frustration when the girls came in to ask, for the third time that night, for help with the tv. Now I should wear it as some sort of badge of honor that my children, in this day and age, are incapable of operating a television but I had fully derailed by this point and was Not In The Mood.

I fixed the tv but with a heavy dose of sternness [read: yelling] about how I was completely done fixing the tv and any further trips to see me would result in little girls being shipped off to bed right that very minute.

Completing the task, I returned upstairs to discuss E-action plans to fix the problem, which were largely weak and in which I have little hope. Since I was pretty yelly, I thought I would let Mags stay up a bit late . When I went, at 9, to send her on her way, Morrigan told me she had vacated the premises quite some time ago and put herself to bed, crying.

I hadn't even noticed.

In her room, I found her asleep, thumb in her mouth, looking so small and young and fragile. And I felt like a complete failure.

She didn't look quite that small but damn close.

Morrigan (who generally cares less about what we think) was downstairs and I questioned her about Mags. She told me, "Well, she was really upset about all the, you know, yelling." 

Just when I thought I could not feel worse.

I hugged her and told Morrigan how very sorry I was, how I took my Eion-fueled frustrations out on them, and how wrong I was to do so. The next morning I did the same with Maggie. She was quick to forgive and return to being the sunniest child ever which somehow made it even worse as though I maybe should have been punished for my transgressions. 

And neither girl seems to be the grudge holding type, something that is really fortunate for their imperfect Mom.

The Week In Review Part One

I'm not even going to apologize for my dearth of posts. Sometimes I think I should just announce that posts will only be specific days to save people the trouble of stopping by - but that's what following is for eh? Anyhoo, we'll try to catch up in what will be, theoretically, a series of posts but will likely be this one and then I'll get distracted for a week or so.

The kids tested last week for their senior green belts, which, I learned, means we get to pay a testing fee and they get a green belt - with a black stripe through it - and they continue with the same form. Some kind of scam they are running here I tell you. We were a bit concerned that Eion was not going to make it through this time. Maggie's group presented their form once and were excused, which is a good sign. Eion's group, wellll, they were asked to do their form three times (not a good sign) and E seemed out of phase the entire time. I was concerned as I have a vested interest in keeping them at the same level so they can attend the same classes. Not to mention the instructor said there were three students who "no changed."

But fortunately for our schedule, and unfortunately for Maggie who aspired to be ahead of her brother and thus earn the title of sensei, we are the proud parents of two senior green belts. Further on the good news/bad news front, we found out that the TKD tournament in Richmond this summer is a weekend we can go and we found out in time to request the time off for Tim. It will be our first time at such an event. You'll all be debriefed accordingly when the time comes.

In other sporting news, my physical therapy is going swimmingly. While I am not 100%, we're on the right track here and feeling better every day. I've played tennis the past two weeks and after yesterday, really didn't hurt at all. My partner and I won our matches the past two weeks as well. She had to carry me a bit last week on court three but this week, I was back in full chase-every-ball-down form and we won court one. I almost took Mary out running after a ball that she assumed hurt me couldn't get. We lost the point but she quipped, "Hey! Your back must be better if you thought you could get that!"

I continue to be humbled by my injury experience. Only in recovery is it apparent how much pain and immobility impacted my mood, outlook and interaction with the world, and none in a positive way. I cannot tell you all how grateful I am to be back in the land of the living. My family is pretty happy to have me back too. They didn't say it, but they didn't much care for the other me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

You Know

I really wasn't in any sort of political mood today. My thoughts were largely consumed with plowing through the latest Guillermo del Toro novel which nicely combines vampires and a post apocalyptic setting. Shoot, if he had thrown in some zombies and time travel, it would have all my favorite subjects. But I felt the need to check in with Facebook Nation and see what my peeps near and far had to say. There, I found this:

Seven hells, where to start with this. We'll just go in order:

Lawrence O'Donnell Jr. assertion #1"Liberals got women the right to vote." 
Facts: The 19th amendment to the constitution was introduced by James R. Mann (R) IL. It was passed by a House that was controlled by the Republican Party (302 Republican members, 131 Democrat.) Further, in the Senate the Republican votes were 36 yea, 8 nay (81% in favor) and the Democrat votes were 20 yea and 17 nay (54% in favor.) 

But surely his other comments are correct, right?

Lawrence O'Donnell Jr. assertion #2 "Liberals got African Americans the right to vote." 
Facts: The 40th Congress, which was controlled by Republicans, passed the 15th amendment. Nearly all the Democrats voted against it.

Why stop now? Let's keep going....

Lawrence O'Donnell Jr. assertion #3 "Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty." 
Facts: While the legislation was passed by a Democrat controlled House and Senate, 81 (of 96 voting) House Republicans and 16 (of 21 voting) Republican Senators voted in favor of the legislation. Generally, this is what one calls bi-partisan support. But even if you don't want to credit the Conservatives with passing the legislation, they clearly didn't block it.

Lawrence O'Donnell Jr. assertion #4 "Liberals ended segregation." 
Facts: Close. Actually, not close at all. The 13th amendment (emancipation for slaves) only received 4 Democrat votes. The 14th amendment (giving newly emancipated blacks civil rights) received ZERO Democrat votes. 

Lawrence O'Donnell Jr. assertion #5 "Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act,"
Facts: While this did receive support from both sides of the aisle, it was in no way passed by one party alone. Without the support it received from the Republicans, it would have failed. In terms of percentages, 61% of House Dems and 69% of Senate Dems voted in favor of the Civil Rights act while 80% of Republican House members and 82% of Republican Senate members voted in favor. 

Lawrence O'Donnell Jr. assertion #6 "[Liberals passed] the Voting Rights Act."
Facts: Seriously, this is like shooting fish in a barrel. In the Senate, 73% of the Democrats voted in favor, 94% of the Republicans voted in favor. In the House, 78% of the Democrats voted in favor, 82% of the Republicans voted in favor. 

Lawrence O'Donnell Jr. assertion #7 "Liberals created Medicare."
Facts: This was driven by Democrats but received the votes of over half the House Republicans and 43% of Senate Republicans. Again, all it takes these days to call something bi-partisan is one person to cross over to the other side. It may not have had all the Conservatives on board, but it certainly was not opposed uniformally by the party. 

Clean air and water were both a series of legislation which, at this point, I am too lazy to research. I'm going to give Mr. O'Donnell a gimme on this one. We'll assume he's right. But just for fun, do you know which President proposed and implemented the Environmental Protection Agency? That would be Richard Nixon.

Lawrence continues with, "What did Conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things, every one."

Except, as we can see from the actual votes, that isn't true at all. So what we have here is one of two things. He is either 1) completely ignorant or 2) willfully misleading the American public, neither of which sits particularly well with me because pssst, hey Lawrence, you're supposed to be a Journalist. One would hope that would mean you are neither ignorant of history nor a liar. 

And your point is Katie? My point is one I am constantly driving home to my kids - no matter what the source, view facts and opinions with a hefty dose of scepticism. Especially if the narrative is heavily one-sided, because almost everything has at least two sides to it. That and when you learn about "yellow journalism" in history class, it is not nearly as past tense as many people would have you believe.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

And We Will Cheer Bravely

Sheesh this week bit. Eion was like a one man wrecking ball. Coming back from spring break was a little rougher than anticipated. I apparently had suppressed memories from the post Christmas break era. But we made it and next week has to be better, right?

Today was the Blue Ridge Marathon, billed as the nation's toughest road race. It involves running up and down a couple of mountains. With my back injury, there was no way I could run it this year but let's all be honest, there's really no way I would ever run it. I keep toying with the idea of doing the half, which is also a fairly brutal course, but I end up doing what I did today instead, cheering for runners.

Our friend, Andrew, was running the full marathon so we invited ourselves over to cheer with his family. The marathon conveniently came right past his house.

Go Andrew!!!

The kids handed out orange slices and we clapped for all the runners as they came past. Their son, Jack, had made an inspirational playlist and we rocked out to Eye of the Tiger, Rocky, and Rock You Like a Hurricane. It was a beautiful, fun morning. While they were impressive all, I can't say I'm signing up next year. But who knows. Maybe once I am fully healed and functional again, I will be so grateful that I will make it a goal. Or I'll just practice clapping and cheering.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fight Like a Girl

You know, I can't seem to get my times right this week. The kids went to extra tae kwon do classes this week to get them ready for testing. Tuesday, I apparently dropped them off early, a fact discovered when upon returning from my Goodwill trolling session to find there was still time left in class. Ooops. But it did give me a chance to see this:

Instructor (to sparring pairs): Who is getting kicked a lot?
Maggie: (Points at her partner.)

I'm feeling more than a little embarrassed until noticing the partner, smiling, raising his hand. I watched the next round more closely and she was right. [Mags is in white.]

It might be ever so wrong, but I love that my little girls loves to kick ass.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Biltmore Estate

The one good part of our largely failed family vacay was the trip to the Biltmore.

It is truly a stunning architectural achievement. The house and grounds are beautiful. Being a sucker for historical tourism, I signed us up for both the Architect's Tour and Butler's Tour. 

For the former, it was just our family and the tour guide. She regaled us with details of the construction and design while taking us to all sorts of places not on the standard tour, including the roof!

For nerds like me, it was fascinating. The girls and Tim liked it too and Eion tolerated the whole thing pretty well, though he told us he was not going to learn anything. Fair enough E, just be quiet about it.

After we finished the Architect's Tour, we went through the remainder of the house and the gardens. 

The tulips had bloomed early because of the warm winter so we missed those, bummer. But it was still impressive. Having loved the first tour, I bribed the children with the promise of ice cream and we went on the Butler's Tour which was all about how the back of the house ran - the boiler room, the servants' quarters, the kitchen, the electrical system. Again, well worth the extra cost and so interesting. Eion was near fully baked at this point but ice cream is a powerful motivator and he disrupted the tour not a whit. 

It was a great day. If you are planning on going and either aren't taking the kids or have kids that will tolerate it, I would recommend the whole package. For $150 (each, additional, I know it is steep) you can do the two tours we did, plus a grounds tour and additional house tour. I would have done more but we had already pressed our luck. 

We went to a new section that has been built in the last 10 years or so. They took what was the dairy and turned it into a winery and a little farm. You should skip this entirely. The "winery tour" was a trip through an underground tunnel which dumps you in a large tasting room connected to a gift shop. And while they will give you grape juice (of the very staining variety) for the kids, they aren't allowed to sit next to you and have to sit on benches behind you. 

The "petting zoo" is pretty much chickens who are not interested at all in being petted. Watching Eion stalk them, unsuccessfully, was entertaining, but not worth the extra hour at the end of our day. Antler Village and Winery would be better entitled, Bilmore, The Quest for More Cash. 

But even with the Antler Village disappointment, the day was a rousing success. 

Drummer Boy

I love the outings our homeschool group puts together - none of which I can take credit for! Last Friday we had a steel drum workshop. Admittedly, I was on the fence. Would it be fun or would we put in our $25 and have Eion bail long before the three hours were up?

Good news! It was the former. We all learned about the history of steel drums and had plenty of time to play as well. Eion (mostly) didn't want to leave and it was WELL worth our time.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter of Mediocrity

I think it was mostly/entirely my fault that Easter seemed to lack the joy of previous Easters. Or maybe we're just outgrowing the egg hunt.

I found myself, two days before the Big Day, lacking any contents for my children's Easter baskets. Which was remedied with a quick trip to Kmart where I bought some Angry Birds themed gummies, chocolate bunnies and either earrings and bracelets or Lego, depending on your gender. I completely forgot any sort of decorative filling. These were indeed the weakest baskets ever assembled. If I didn't already know it, all the Martha Stewart-worthy ones posted for my viewing on the facebook confirmed. Luckily for all of us, my kids either were happy or faked it well. Might just be the effect of chocolate bunnies for breakfast.

We naturally went to the Club's egg hunt and they gathered their requisite one basket of eggs.

Look at Eion's lettuce fly.

The girls and I compromised on these dresses rather 
than the Vegas specials they originally chose.

I love Eion's rig. He looks very Thurston Howell-esque

When we were done, there was a contingent headed for the Fire Station for another hunt but we figured we had checked the hunt box. Besides, they were anxious to get back home and commence the sugar high.

Easter snuck up on me this year and I additionally had very little enthusiasm for it. I didn't even get out my limited decorations. As I am feeling better by the day, I have to lay some of the blame on pain. I really have a newfound sympathy for those in chronic pain - it makes you very unhappy. Hopefully, my half-ass Easter efforts didn't permanent;y scar the wee ones.

And on an uber-positive front, I am doing really, really well. I am a star PT patient, doing all my exercises for the max reps at least once a day, usually twice. My therapist says she's never had such a compliant patient. She clearly never had someone determined not to miss her tennis season. Even better, I am happier by a measure of light years. Which has to make the rest of the household happy too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sometimes You Win

And sometimes you get home from the family vacation and say, shit, that trip was a C- at best. If you hadn't guessed, we just did the latter. I'm not feeling particularly chronological today so we'll backtrack soon and talk about an Easter of the most mediocre type, steel drum shenanigans, and the things that did go right on our Spring Break adventures. But today, we'll go over everything else....

We planned to go to Asheville over break and see the Biltmore. We were holding off on hotel reservations and planning around the weather. Once we saw which days were forecasted to have the best weather, we would find lodging. Sunday through Tuesday were looking great and we set out on the internet to find a hotel. As ever, a family of five gets jammed since you are regularly determined to be too many for one room, forcing us into either a) two rooms or b) a suite, neither of which is cheap.

But there was another option this time. It was a resort at Lake Lure, about 20 miles from Asheville, that had two bedroom little houses, complete with kitchen! It would be a bit of a drive we figured, but our agenda wasn't that full so it would be ok. We'll take two nights, paid in advance.

After our kids ate their Easter chocolate for breakfast, mmmm nutritional, we dove to Asheville. We knew we wanted a full day for the Biltmore so we planned to do another activity on arrival. Chimney Rock state park was close to where we were staying and had great reviews. We pulled into the small town and drove up to the gate, $30 in hand for admission. The Park Ranger took our money and then told us, "Oh, by the way, Chimney Rock and Needle's Eye are closed." While some other trails were open, the actual attraction was unavailable. We got our $30 back and exited the park.

Not surprisingly, if Chimney Rock is closed, there really isn't much to do in the town of Chimney Rock. We made the best of it and played down by the river.

After mucking about there for a while, we decided to go to our hotel, which, theoretically, was not far from Chimney rock. By the time we arrived, however, we realized that the drive from Lake Lure to Asheville was not a 30 minute straight drive but an hour long trek through the mountains with virtually no straightaways but instead switchback after switchback, leaving the entire family with headaches and nausea upon arrival. We had made a fatal error. And better yet, had pre-paid for that fatal error.

Once you arrived at Lake Lure, you sure as hell didn't want to go back out on that road to get anything to eat, not that there was anything approaching close by anyway, so we took the kids to the pool and then got some cafeteria grade food from a restaurant on the resort property. The ambiance of the whole place was perhaps best demonstrated by another patron who, while watching the Masters, commented on Bubba Watson's attire thusly: "He's wearin' pink." Clearly, we were using the term "resort" rather loosely.

The following morning, we drove the brutal drive to the Biltmore. While it was only an hour, it felt like so much more. Here, I am going to fast forward over the day since the visit was actually the highlight of the trip and what I am in the mood to do is expand on irritants. I'll get back to the visit later.

After a full day at the Biltmore, we decided to pick up some food at a Whole Foods and head back to the resort. There was no way we wanted to make that drive in the dark. By the time we got home, we were all feeling queasy, hungry, and tired. And to the complete disappointment of the children, it was too late to swim. 

The next morning, our time at the Rumbling Bald Resort was coming to a merciful end. We planned to take the kids to the North Carolina Arboretum, which had, according to reports, a fantastic collection of bonsai trees. Our plans, they were received with universal disdain. Our dear children really really really wanted to do was play with the giant chess set and swim in the pool. 

We didn't know it at the time, but we were on the verge of another fatal error. 

What the hell. We didn't have much planned, we'll do what the kids want. So we packed up the car and drove to the fitness center. They played with the chess set before declaring it was pool time.

We walked onto the pool deck at 8:55am and were promptly informed by a gaggle of old women that water aerobics started at 9. Well f dash dash dash. They were nice enough to let the kids play (quietly, at one end, no splashing) but you know that wasn't what the kids wanted. And as that kind of swimming really wasn't any fun, they were done 15 minutes later. Which means we threw off our entire morning for 10 minutes with a fricking chess set and 15 minutes in the pool.

Into the car for another brutal hour drive and we arrived at 11am at the Arboretum. Yes, we should have recognized that we were too close to lunch to start a new activity but by now I think we were in full on self destruct mode and were determined to have some family fun gosh darn it.

The gardens were lovely BUT, you knew there was a but, the bonsai trees were largely not on display. They apparently don't like winter. 

We were able to see them in the greenhouse but the setting lacked beauty. It wasn't so much a bonsai display as a working greenhouse where you scooched in-between rows and shuffled along to see the trees. It would have been nice if they had mentioned that, oh yeah, half the year our bonsai display isn't really open.

Add that the whole family was hungry, the children were fighting over cameras and were were all just about fully baked and it was one of the least zen nature experiences ever. There was no way in hell we were hiking, so we exited stage left and went to find lunch.

[As an aside, if you are in Asheville and plan better than we did, the NC Arboretum was really nice. And if one has a lunch and the time, it has over ten miles of trails. I actually, in spite of our experience, recommend it.] 

We used the Trip Advisor app to find the Sunny Point Cafe, which was a gem and the culinary highlight of our trip. We, when departing Roanoke, had said to ourselves, maybe we'll stay an extra day. 

Not. So. Much.

All in all, our travel time in and around Asheville was over four hours across the 2 1/2 days, which is longer than it took is to get there. It was trip-destroying.

On our way home, I asked Tim's indulgence in an ever so brief side trip. The movie The Hunger Games was recently filmed neat Asheville and the internet told me that we were passing right by where they filmed the District 12 portions. Sure enough, Henry River Road had some very recognizable backdrops:

The best part of that detour? It was a very short drive.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Baby Steps

It is a really excellent thing that I am not a Soviet era author. They thrived on the sad, morose, and depressing. I, on the other hand, am an ok writer when I am happy and excel at writing when I am irritated or pissed off. Sad or depressed, that's another matter. Which brings us to my non-existent posts as of late. Routinely this blog has gaps due to being busy and life just getting in the way. Would that I could use that excuse these days.

I hurt my back about six weeks ago and in spite of attempting to rest, ice, heat etc, it only got worse. My naturally busy and active life has slowly ground to a halt with activities such as a game of Monopoly leaving me in tears and rushing for a heat pad. My children are afraid of how often I'm crying. Tim is more than tired of my complaining. It is looking like I will miss the entire spring tennis season. And I am completely out of sorts. Those kind of days are pretty boring blog fodder. Hence the silence.

I'm now in physical therapy and hoping my sheer force of will can bring me back to the land of the active. Eion and I took a mile walk today and it only hurt, well, it hurt a ton. It makes me feel for those in chronic pain.

The kids and I went to the grand re-opening of Art Venture, the hands-on kids area of the Taubman Museum of Art this past weekend.

It was in high gear with lots of enthusiastic volunteers at the ready to make sure everyone had The Best Time Ever! The kids were happily exploring the exhibits, Maggie in her suit and sparkly shoes, 

while I was off to the side dreaming of prescription pain killers. The sweet director kept talking to me, trying to find out what we all thought of the re-vamp and it was everything I could do to be polite. She was perfectly lovely. I just hurt and felt mean as a snake. I think I was relatively adept at hiding how unhappy I was though I felt so unnatural the entire time. Making conversation, with anyone, is not supposed to be a challenge for me. 

He wore these the entire time.

That was about the last straw and I called Monday to set up physical therapy. My insurance has massive co-pays to see the therapist I wanted to go to so I opted for the in-plan location, which is the gym at which I normally work out. I am now the crippled who emerge from the physical therapy area complete with the bing that lets you know the door opened. Holy dagger to the ego Batman. On the plus side, my PT is someone I have known for years who put me at ease immediately.

My wounded pride and I are working hard with hopes of being mobile enough to play tennis soon, my poor team will have to forfeit a court if I cannot, and trying to stay positive, which is difficult when the children laugh at my PT assigned exercises. Baby steps here, baby steps.