Thursday, May 31, 2012


Goes the week quite literally. We had a lovely Memorial Day with all the expected Club fun. It was really, really packed and it was great to catch up with all my summer peeps.

Victory in the soda dive.

We've (largely) wrapped up homeschool for the summer. It's not like they are doing anything at "real" school anyway. When I picked up Mags today, they were watching The Magic School Bus. Quasi-educational? Yes. A reason to slow down a bit at home? Heck yeah. 

Tim, E, and I did go on a field trip to the 5th grade Science Fair. 

Morrigan had been working on her project since before we went to Bald Head. With the exception of helping her print out a few photos, she completed her entry entirely independently. We couldn't have been more proud of her self reliance. It was pretty clear the other kids had worked without adults too. In a world where parents are over-involved in learning experiences, obsessed with the perfection of their kids' work, often at the expense of the kids doing the work, it was really refreshing.

Maggie, who has been squinting at the board for probably too long, got her new glasses.

Never before in the history of myopic children has there been a little girl as excited as Mags for what is essentially is a negative. Seeing is great and all, but as a many year veteran of glasses and contacts, they do totally suck. Not as much as blindness but realistically, they aren't much fun. She was, however, bubbly and excited. Thrilled we were able to get them the same day and eager to show them off. If only I could bottle that child.

And then there is Eion, who declared he would indeed be on swim team. 

That's him in his "tiny suit" on the far right. Looking cold.

Maggie was already on board but seeing as Eion had 1) aged up to 7-8 and was 2) only legal in freestyle, I hadn't pressed the issue with him. He has sworn to me, many times over, that he really wants to do it. Well the eighty chips have been spent on sign up champ, you WILL now swim. Who doesn't love a good minute plus 25 freestyle anyway?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Just When It Couldn't Get Better

We rolled up to the pool Saturday to find a few of these had been installed.

Oh hell to the yeah.

The main shaded area at the pool is close to the baby pool. As a long term resident of that shade, I enjoyed it for many a year. But as the kids got older and moved on to the larger pool, I found the shade less and less hospitable, especially since it increasingly became populated with other small children. And if I had managed to set mine free, I didn't need anyone else's (darling) offspring interrupting my calm.

The deep end of the pool was a fairly sunny place and my blindingly white skin couldn't abide. I had lobbied for new shade erection but had been previously unsuccessful.

But when we walked in and saw these, everything we had hoped for, Eion immediately made a beeline to it and set up shop.

As people arrived, we were greeted with laughter. Apparently during the previous night's cabana construction, (which we missed - tennis called) the consensus was that no one would be more pleased about this addition than Team McK. How right they were. This couldn't have our name on it more unless it literally had our name on it.

It's going to be a great summer.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Really, I Wasn't Being a Bitch on Purpose

And because I know y'all have been waiting with bated breath, I'll now regale you with the outcome of my spring ODTA tennis season.

Last fall we sailed into our last match untouchable. No matter the outcome, we were in first place. This season, notsomuch. Plagued with injury and tragic losses in tie-breaks, we were tied for 3rd with a 6-6 record. Hardly impressive. No matter how we did, there was no way to come in 1st. Pity, as I would have loved a new bag tag. But there were three possible outcomes (not that I thought about it much HA.) 

1) The team in 2nd loses all their matches and we win all ours, moving us to 2nd place. (Best case scenario.)

2) We lose 2 or 3 courts cementing us in 4th. (Worst case scenario.)

3) 2nd place team loses 2 courts and we win 3 putting us in a tie for 2nd place. (Better than option 2.) 

My partner, Mary, and I were on court one. We were off to an outstanding start in the first set - up 4-0. At which point we promptly started tanking, ending up down 5-6, fighting to stay in the set. We made it to tie break and won said tie break, after which we were all exhausted. But we had another set to play. 

We were up, then lost some ground, then rallied to reach a 5-3 lead. This is good. Essentially, they would have to win 4 games in a row to win the set, after which we would have gone to a 10 point tie breaker. The odds were in our favor. 

As our opponents prepared to serve, Eion came out of the tennis shop, generally disrupting play. Feeling we were near the end, I told him, "E, go back inside, we only have one game left." And then promptly realized that what I said in essence was, "We're about to finish these punks off. It won't be long before we crush them." So I (weakly) added, "Or we might lose and have to go to a super tie break." 

I felt like such an asshole.

True to my not-so-polite prediction, we did win after that game (yippie!) and the other two courts won as well, garnering us a second place (tie) finish. 

That will conclude the tennis drama until fall when, sporting new uniforms, Team RCC flight 4 will fight to regain the glory of seasons past and attain the much ballyhooed bag tag.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Helicopter Parenting

The other day I was killing some time before we got our day started and found a "most viewed" article on Google entitled "Are you a helicopter parent? Take our quiz." Now, we all know that I am not a helicopter parent, right? But just for fun, I took it anyway. Mostly just to see what kind of questions they asked. Some of my answers included:

It is 50 degrees out. What is your child wearing? I have no idea.

When your preschooler goes to an Easter egg hunt you: Talk with the other parents and never notice if the kids have collected eggs or not. [Truthfully, I would have been taking pictures but I do leave the kids to gather on their own.]

But you get the idea. I gave all the responses you'd expect from me. And the verdict?

Helicopter parent.

Beg pardon? Moi?

I was, understandably, quite bent about this. One of my goals in parenting is, and always has been, to be the polar opposite of this style. Later in the day, I was ranting about said quiz to Amy and Fiona, who smartly concurred that yes, that quiz must be fatally flawed. (They saw they deranged look in my eyes. They were unlikely to disagree even if they thought I was wrong.) At which point Kate, overhearing the exchange, chimed in, while laughing heartily, "You're a helicopter parent? What do they want people to do? Have their children raised by wolves?"

And all of a sudden, I felt so much better.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


"Mom, can we go shopping and get a dress for 5th grade graduation?"

Now, before we even get to shopping, I am sure y'all can guess how I feel about 5th grade graduation. The reward for completing the 5th grade is (or should be) going on to the 6th grade. I fought vehemently to tone down this particular celebration, specifically opposing the medals each child was slated to receive. Landfill fodder I tell you. Maybe, having gone to Catholic school where it was K-8 at one school and then on to high school, I just don't understand the importance of transitioning to middle school.

But as my elementary school music teacher, Mrs. McKenna, told us as she encouraged us to take our 8th grade graduation seriously, "For some of you, this may be the last graduation you ever have." While we'll hope this isn't true for my children specifically, I'll try to keep my mocking of the solemnity of the occasion to a minimum.

Anyway, Morrigan requested a new dress. As I am a sucker for my girls in dresses, she got no argument from me, even keeping in mind the odyssey that was shopping for Easter dresses. Our progress went surprisingly well. I managed to deflect most of the flashier choices stating they were a bit much for daytime. While I may have softened on many things, I remain steadfastly opposed to my daughter looking like a trollop. Countering the protests that one dress made her "look fat" was unexpected but I handled the situation deftly with the retort that one must first BE fat in order to look fat.

In the end, we had it narrowed down to two choices, both of which were fine by me. Choice A:

And choice B:

Morrigan, unable to make the final decision, asked:

Mom, which dress do you like better, A or B?
Me: I like B better.
Morrigan: Well that settles it! I'll get A. Thanks for your help Mom.

Anytime sweetie, anytime.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Love Letter to SoRo

Yesterday, I had the kind of day South Roanoke would want to put in a commercial to attract people to our fair city. Couldn't have been much better.

In an effort to de-fluff, I decided a walk was in order before the day really got going. Asked the kids if they wanted to go, expecting them to decline, but Maggie said she wanted to join me. As we walked our three miles round trip, we ran into Mags' piano teacher, my tennis partner, Kirsten and met a new neighbor who moved in a few months back. We couldn't go more than a few minutes without finding a friendly face. It just made me smile.

We had a full day planned. First stop, the Taubman Museum of Art where there is a temporary exhibit of Faberge pieces. The lack of eggs, which is what one immediately thinks of when Faberge is mentioned, was a disappointment, but the items they had were beautiful and worth the visit.

[Note: OK - this next part might not make it into the commercial.]

For years, and years, and years, the children have begged and pleaded to go to the annual cheesy carnival held in the Civic Center parking lot each May. Until this week, I held firm that we were not going, no way in hell. But weakness, stupidity and a desire to make the kids happy overtook me and I said, yes, we would brave it. Not surprisingly, I couldn't convince anyone to join us. In fact, the suggestion was greeted with more than one response of open laughter.

But a promise is a promise.

I wanted to hide my face too E

We arrived and as I surveyed the scene, it was worse than I thought. It made the Salem Fair look like Disney. It was crazy expensive ($18 all you can ride or $4 per ride) so I suggested we walk around and decide which rides they wanted, after which we could purchase the appropriate number of tickets. Passing one hungover carnie after another, Morrigan commented that the rides seemed unsafe. By the time we made a full loop, Maggie told me, "You know, this kind of sucks. We should go to the pool." [It was opening day.]

Victory in our time.

Not needing any further encouragement, we high-tailed it out of there and went directly to the Club.

Which was delightful. There were tons of people there. The pool heater was on so the kids played happily in the water. I think the first hour might have been a continual loop between the slides and the diving boards. The feeling that summer was here and we were all in our happy place was in the air. Beers were being cracked by lunchtime. 

Honestly, I didn't think we would be there all that long but the kids didn't want to leave, which might explain why 5 1/2 hours later when I dragged them out I had failed for yet another year to make it through opening day sunburn free. All three kids, in spite of multiple reapplications, had pink shoulders. Maybe next year.

About the time we left, things were clearing out as everyone was moving on to Phase II: cocktail parties. While I have zero children playing lacrosse, I was invited to an end of season celebration, mostly (read: entirely) because it was Amy's birthday. We enjoyed some yummy bourbon slushes then about the time dinner was served, I skedaddled with Ann and Hans, ever tolerant of my permanent third wheel status when Tim is working. Our Cocktail Club was a few blocks away and we arrived to a party in full swing. 

The balance of the evening was spent catching up with friends and thinking what a truly wonderful neighborhood we have, full of community. I commiserated with Jessica about little boys not ready for 1st grade. Tyler and I talked politics and made our predictions about November (swear to god it was his idea - I totally didn't bring it up.) And David and I mapped out a potential election-based joint column for the SoRo Circle. I love knowing so many of my neighbors and having them as friends. 

An exciting day? Not by anyone's standards really. But just about perfect anyway.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Why It Behooves Me To Spend Time At The Kids' School

I had one heck of a rockin Friday night. Tim is working overnights all weekend and I had no other plans sooo I had no good excuse to get out of Movie Night at the girls' school. That and I was the bearer of the popcorn machine and the ring pops. Clearly, the event would have fatally stalled without moi.

Not content to just have my own brood, I picked up Kira, who really is like minus one child on the overall count since she is so very sweet and well behaved, and Rosie, a friend of Maggie's that we somehow didn't realize until this week has lived her entire life within walking distance of our house. [But that is a post for another day.]

Good look E, thanks for ruining the pic. I should crop you out.

The kids ran loose as I commenced to popping corn. Now, at our house, we shun the microwave popcorn and make it from scratch, with coconut oil and butter and kosher salt. It is as close to the Divine as you can get. Tonight, I employed this:

Don't ya dig my 1970's Tupperware measuring cup?

Didn't even look at the ingredient list. I couldn't.

Anyhoo, Gnomeo and Juliet, a movie whose attraction I don't get, rolled on and I found myself chatting with the principal. We discussed the "Blast from the Past" day of the prior week, Spirit Week, designed to get them fired up for the SOLs (don't get me started.) The kids dressed in retro gear from the decade of their choice. Before I went to Bald Head, I helped the girls assemble these fine outfits, from the 70's and 80's respectively.

Maggie had told the entire staff how her outfit came right out of her Mom's closet. You know, I don't think that pic does the boots justice, here's another view.

Yes, gold lame platform boots.

What she did not bother to add is that they were from a costume party I attended. I think the principal was actually in tears as she described Mags telling the teachers how both the shoes and shirt were mine. And you know she spent days practicing in those darn things so she could wear them all day long, no doubt telling anyone who hadn't already heard how her Mom, she of the practical shoes and sundresses, was also owner of flashy platform boots. 

My understanding is I have not heard the last of this.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

And on the Homeschooling Front

Not a whole heck of a lot of homeschooling got done today. Seeing as my tennis team had a bye week, this Thursday was meant to be productive. But I received a call from a Flight 3 team (read: better than me) from another club and they were going to have to forfeit unless they found a sub. I knew the gal who would be my partner for the day (don't worry Mary, I'm not leaving you) and how could I say no?

E and I arrived and I found out I not only knew my partner but both players on the opposing team. I fully expected to lose. But a funny thing happened. We won! [6-4, 5-7, 10-8]

Clearly, we had to fight to get that W but we pulled it out. My partner, Shelley, was great to play with. Maybe it was that I had no stake in the game at all: we were the underdogs, it wasn't my team and we weren't playing my Club, but I was feeling it. Probably feeling it a bit much as I tagged the opposing team a few times with overheads. Good news was the match was long enough they could see that my aim, in general, sucks, so hitting someone on purpose is really outside my skill set.

It was fun and felt pretty darn good to win when playing above my station.

About the only homeschooling that happened was "Art Class," used in the loosest sense of the word. I had a bottle of liquor that I needed to drop off as a gift. Finding myself lacking in gift bags, Eion generously offered to decorate the paper bag.


In E's words: "They like beer right? I'll draw lots of beer with fireworks to show how excited they are about it." Nothing but class people.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

You Don't Know It

But you are witnessing a minor miracle here. A day, ten-ish years in the making - all three kids riding bikes. We aim high here at LUTBT. 

As you know, Doug and Nancy made this possible. But once we had three kids able to ride, but only two bikes, all they wanted to do was ride. Naturally, all at the same time. These children, the ones terminally afraid of the not-indoors, were practically clawing each other's eyes out for a turn o the bike. Having tired of mediating yet another cycle related incident, I decided it was high time to get Morrigan a bike of her own, an action sure to bring all bike riding to a screeching halt. 

We decided to play hooky from tae kwon do and seek out a bike. But first, Maggie was in desperate need of a new swim suit and goggles now that swim team is ramping up. The other two had some goggles with age so we went crazy and got everyone a new pair. $150 later, we were off to Wal-Mart for a bike.

[Biker friends: Don't Want To Hear It. We are in the market for a low end, flat land cruiser. No, stop it. I don't want to hear it.]

Sam Walton seemed to be providing us with any number of completely suitable bikes. Personally, I liked the old lady looking ones with the big seats that were a basket away from being in the Wizard of Oz. But do remember, we were shopping for Morrigan, who declared all the bikes unsuitable in short order. 

That bike? I don't like purple. (Or black or green or blue or red.)

This bike? Those handle bars look like bull horns.

And so on. We left empty handed. I was on the verge of giving up but the kids insisted Toy R Us, everyone's favorite store, had bikes. What the hell - we'll make one more stop. 

Indeed, they had bikes and, shockingly, had one Morrigan immediately declared The One. Knowing nothing about bikes, I believe my last one was purchased circa 1985, I called an authority to back up my purchase, Hans.

Me: Hey Hans, I need your advice. Is $140 about right for a kids bike?
Hans: Yeah, sounds about right.
Me: Do you know how to put bikes together?
Hans: Welll, brakes are a bitch and it is kind of a pain in the ass. How much does assembly cost?
Me: $10.
Hans: Oh it will cost you way more in beer than that if I am doing this. Does it have gears?
Me: Yes.
Hans: You should pay that $10. I'd like us to remain friends.

With that, we were off to the checkout, new pink bike and helmet in hand. I even managed to snake the assembled one so I didn't have to come back. 

What followed at home was (relative) biking bliss.

Monday, May 14, 2012

I'm Back and I'm Fluffy

So I kinda just flew the coop without warning - sorry 'bout that. Over at fraught, it is a post-a-day-May. Me, I'm just going to try and get in enough that y'all might come back once in a while.

Where were we?

Just over a week ago, having gloriously managed to avoid Fun Day, which is never fun as we well know, through a series of well thought out paths routing around Crystal Spring for many days, Tim and I were off to a Kentucky Derby party the night before we high tailed it to the beach. The party was fabulous, as ever, though I doubt the Mint Juleps helped my packing efficiency.

When one uses the bartender as your photographer, one may end up
with some interesting framing.

In spite of my burning desire for a new dress AND hat, I arrived with neither. I almost bought a new hat but was shamed into frugality by Maggie, who reminded me that I already had two hats and did I really need three? This problem will be rectified next year by shopping alone. You are out Mags!

We couldn't be late-stayers this year as my sweet in-laws had already taken the kids to piano recital practice, which inconveniently conflicted with our party schedule. But it was for the best as we needed to pack and prepare for an early morning departure to Bald Head Island!

We were going with two other couples, Ann & Hans and April & Greg. Seeing as we have a Suburban, we volunteered to drive everyone down. Since the island is bikes and golf carts only, who needed three cars waiting in the lot on the mainland? The trip, about six hours, went quickly. It felt like we were on a road trip from the old days, only with better transportation.

Our week that followed was outstanding. I was concerned that a week at the beach without kids might be boring. HA - couldn't have been more wrong. We had daily morning tennis matches.

Followed by poolside lunch,

walks on the beach, naps, reading....

before re-grouping for cocktail hour and sunset watching. 

We joked all week that it was Country Club Island and, as such, had only Country Club problems.  "Ann, you brought my old tennis racquet!" or the even more daunting "We're running low on gin!"

By the end of the week, we had met Ann's goal of daily tennis, I had finished three books and we were all feeling refreshed and relaxed. And just a wee (read: a lot) fluffy. It was high time to head home and go on a serious austerity program, if I planned to fit in my clothes for much longer. It is a hazard of traveling with good cooks.

When we arrived back home, Doug and Nancy had arranged for a shocking surprise, they taught both Morrigan and Eion to ride their bikes without training wheels, a milestone long overdue.

Not to mention, they painted both girls' rooms (with permission, naturally,) the house was clean, the laundry done and dinner ready. You hate to have to come back to reality, but they made it about the best home coming for which I could have hoped. [Much to my friends' dismay, they aren't for hire.]

With SOLs in full swing, more dental appointments than you can shake a stick at, and all the other end of school year fun, it looks like the next few weeks will be a whirlwind. Glad I can tackle it at full charge.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Well That Didn't Go AT ALL as Planned

Today's post was to be a celebration of what I was sure was going to be a great tennis morning.


We had beat this team in the past. We had practiced especially for their slices. We had a strong line-up. We were ready. Or so I thought.

Mary and I lost, in quite an embarrassing fashion, to two ladies we beat not once, but twice (!) last season. I won't even tell you the score. It sucked, for us anyway. Both the other courts lost in tie breaks. With the losses today, we are pretty much assured we won't win out flight. Bummer.

Not to mention, it is all together possible that Eion is now dying of lung cancer.

We were playing at some public outdoor courts. I knew there was a little shelter, complete with bathrooms, that would provide Eion with shade in which to play his ds while I had my arse handed to me. What was unanticipated, however, besides my loss, (can you tell I am bitter?) was that said shelter is also a very popular hangout with smokers of all varieties. The courts are right near the hospital, so you got an occasional Hospital Cop. That was as good as it got. The remainder of the people, well, I don't really know why they came there to smoke. They seemed generally unkempt, but not homeless, and seemed in no hurry to be moving on to any sort of gainful employment. Not that most legitimate jobs encourage their employees to wear Slipknot t-shirts anyway. 

Better yet, when I came up after the match, Eion told me how he had befriended them all and they had shown him lizards AND hornets! Homeschool indeed.