Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Let's Work Our Way Back, K?

I have been writing post for y'all for days and days in my head. Sadly, my direct from brain to blog delivery system is quite lacking which means I have actually written squaduch. So we'll work out way back over the past week-ish....

These end of school days are packed with festivities, more often than not sucking me in and squandering my last few productive days before summer. I am writing now after being excused from the middle school awards ceremony. Initially, Morrigan did request my attendance, but really only so she could leave early. Upon discovering that she would be getting dragged to lunch (yeah Hole In The Wall!) and to her brother's end of year party, she was much less interested in having me there. I did get to visit her school to clear up incorrect charges on her student account, AGAIN. This time I have the number to the office that can just block her number so we don't have to go through this.

So yesterday. Summer weather (finally) has arrived! Morrigan had been pre-approved to skip school as they were going on an all day field trip to Staunton. Her point was that 1) none of her friends were going (which may or may not have been true - I know one stayed home,) 2) They would spend more time travelling than they would at the destination, and 3) she went to this exact same location last year. Eion, hearing she was released, felt it only fair he skip as well. Call me a softie, but I kept him out too on the condition that he would have to attend the Highland Park field day with me.

Field day was great. It was a good, old fashioned tug of war, foot races and kickball kind of day. E happily joined in and we all had a great time.

Eion was willing to tug with all.

She came in third but is was a heat of all boys.

Since both her siblings were out of school, once field day was over, Maggie rightfully felt she should join them. Her teachers were down with it and we went to the pool. We had forgotten that it was the 4th grade North Cross party at the pool but were pleasantly surprised to find Maggie's friend Margaret there in the middle of the day.

Later that afternoon I went upstairs to see if Maggie wanted some dinner only to find her completely sacked at 6:30pm. We did have a long day of goofing off.

Memorial Day was a pool day too. It was sunny and just warm enough to be perfect. The Club did an excellent job of making it a festive party with an inflatable slide, a dj, free Homestead Creamery ice cream and fun extras like boat races.

Scoping out sodas for the all important dive.

Maggie was stoked another friend had joined for the summer.

While the pool was open all weekend, Monday was our first venture out. It just hadn't been warm enough. We did however, make a trip to Festival in the Park. It wasn't on my radar until I heard the music - at my house. I initially thought someone was having a rocking party but came to realize it was the live bands who were several miles away yet quite easy to hear on our deck. It was worse down the mountain where you could hear so well you could sing along. 

My goals were modest. Eion needed to stop playing xbox for a bit and Morrigan needed to leave her bed. These simple goals were met. Granted, it was at the price of being immersed in this:

It is inviting, no?


But you know, the kids thought it was great. Morrigan bought some jewelry. Eion had not one, but two over priced lemonades and dominated the bounce houses, including the one that was clearly marked for 5 and under.

He did not feel that meant him.

Which brings us back to Friday. The many illnesses plaguing my children passed quickly. After yakking at school, E was pretty much 100%. In an unusual move, we put both girls on antibiotics and either because of or in spite of them, they were much improved by the following day. 

We're good now, right? I'll check back in after the 1st grade party. Or more correctly, sometime this evening. I'm pulling all the kids out early to go to the pool again. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

So How's Your Friday?

Friday, in theory:

  • Take E to school. 
  • Drop Maggie and Morrigan off at Highland where M1 would help out and M2 would enjoy. 
  • Quick workout. 
  • Make my way over to Highland to help myself. 
  • Lunch with the Dive Lunch Bunch.
  • Pick up kids.
  • Make the chicken I thawed out the night before.
  • Enjoy picture perfect day!

Friday, in practice:

  • Wake up Maggie. Discover she sounds like a 90 year old smoker and looks like shit to boot. She's staying home.
  • Wake up Eion. 
  • Wake up Morrigan. While in tears, she also hacks up up a lung. Two kids down.
  • Discover chicken was left on the counter overnight and is room temperature.
  • Bail on the people at Highland for Fun Day.
  • Tell Eion that he is lying about his stomach hurting because he wants to stay home with his sisters.
  • Drop off E.
  • Have quick workout interrupted by call from school - Eion has vomited all over the classroom.
  • Pick up Eion who, while reeking of puke, seems to be in fine spirits and requests we listen to Shoot to Thrill in the car.
  • Car is completely dead.
  • Restrain self from swearing.
  • Call Jerry for a jump. Luckily, he immediately identified the problem (loose battery terminals) and got me on my way.
  • Drop E at home.
  • Run to the store to get some sprite for the sickos.
  • Return to find Maggie dressed and ready to go to school. Force self evaluation in which she, sobbing, admits she doesn't feel any better but really is sad about missing Fun Day.
  • Have the preceding episode soundtracked by Eion singing Shoot to Thrill at the top of his lungs. 
  • Realize with great sadness that cocktails are wholly inappropriate at 10:30am.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Time Flies....

One upon a time, we went to Vegas with three other couples to celebrate our friend Joe's birthday.

Seems like yesterday, but five years have gone by! Joe's wife, Ann, wanted us to have a reunion trip for his 45th. Vegas was more than we could arrange, sadly, but the Greenbriar resort in White Sulfer Springs was not.

Only six of us could make it, but made the most of it! Steak dinner, gambling, just a wee bit too much bourbon and staying out much too late equaled one great time. Any details beyond that, well I just couldn't say.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Eion's 1st Grade Year

Sometime in the last week, the 1st graders filled out sheets entitled "Check Me Out" and "My School Year Memories." As ever, these uncensored moments when the kids say what they really feel are some of my very favorites.

Some were predictable and sweet. His favorite teacher? Ms. Witten, his 1st grade teacher. (Who is the bomb incidentally.) His best friend? Who else could it be besides Cooper. Favorite food? Ice cream and meat (though spelled meet) which makes his indication that spelling was one of his favorite parts of school entirely suspect.

Then there were the funny and surprising answers. In the category of The Best Book I Read and Some of My Favorite Books, the response both times was simply the terse, "no book." Not even entertaining that one with a full sentence. Shocking to me was that twice Math was listed as both a favorite subject and a favorite part of school. I really never cared for Math. As if we needed more proof he is wired differently than me.

But what I'm struggling with the most are two other answers. I'm Most Proud Of had the response of 100%/A+. Write about what made this school year special for you had the reply of "grades and testing."

Huh. Those seemed so robotic, sterilized, and lacking in joy that it made my heart hurt. That was all school was - scores and tests. Checking a box. Meeting the defined numerical goal. Tim thinks I took it too hard, that this was more an expression of how he was proud to have done well, that he had proven himself a smart kid. Maybe we'll go with that. After all, the picture he drew representing himself at school did have a big smile.

To Tell You the Truth

I haven't really felt much like writing these days. Maybe it is the cold rainy weather. Or it could be that so many topics these days feel like re-treads. Like say, STRANGER DANGER!!!!!

Amy was telling me about some cute thing that came home from 1st grade about all their favorite parts of the year. Having not yet seen it, I went digging in E's backpack. I found said item, we'll get back to it, but also found some bullshit safety worksheet they completed. So it became re-programming Sunday!

Some were easy. On the "make sure to wear your elbow and knee pads on a bike," I just let him know that for some average street riding, those items were more likely to get his ass kicked for looking like a robo-dork than do any worthwhile protecting. For the "always wear sunscreen," we talked about whether or not a little vitamin D was ok compared to spending your entire life slathered in chemicals.

But then of course, we got to the complete insanity. "If a 'don't know' talks to you, run and tell a trusted adult" and "Never talk to a 'don't know.'" I am an ever-loving broken record on this point, but I do not want my children living in a State of Fear, terrified that each and every person they have not met formally and for whom they have not received letters of recommendation is some sort of violent killer. Yes we talk about how you shouldn't go waltzing off into a van for grilled cheese sandwiches with someone you haven't met, but if an unknown says hi, you can just say hi back rather than flee as if Satan himself had shown up on the playground. Sheesh.

In reprogramming success number one, I now have E trained to tell whoever is spoon feeding him this garbage to let them know that his Mom is a-ok with talking to strangers, pardon me, "don't knows." Take that Guidance.

And after scaring the bejesus out of them, school sets in to stress them out entirely about standardized tests, in Virginia, the dreaded SOLs. We had some standardized tests back in the day - the SAT for example. But no one I knew was that wound up about it. Yeah, maybe if you didn't get a great score you couldn't go to Harvard, but unless you completely tanked, you were getting in somewhere.

Now, these tests for 3rd grade and on are billed as THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER!!!! YOUR FAILURE WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE!!!!!! Think that might be a bit much for a 9 year old? So all these kids are coming home in tears, having trouble sleeping because they have been told that if they don't pass THE TEST, they will not get to take electives in Middle School and will be cast down into remediation. They are told tales of watching their friends skip off to choir while they will be locked in a room with all the other morons.

Our reprogramming efforts have been going on in this arena for years. Ever since Morrigan came home in 3rd grade all wound up, we decided that we don't give a good poo about these tests. I told the kids they have to pass, because they are simply too smart to fail, but they can get the absolute minimum passing grade and I will not care.

This is a tougher stance to stick with than you think. There are pictures put up at school and much lauding of the kids with all 600s (perfect scores.) My kids are not listed in the school newsletter with the shining stars. As an aside, do you know how the school system rewards the kids who get all 600s? They get to meet the school board. What kind of self aggrandizing crap is that? When I was a kid, if you got in trouble, they sent you to the principal. Now your reward is to go to that person's boss. A true incentive should be we won't make you go to a school board meeting.

But my kids, not so stressed. The past few years they came home with perfectly acceptable, if unremarkable, scores. But we may have some outliers this year. I told them I would pay cash money if they got all 600s, went to the school board meeting, and as they shook the Superintendent's hand said to her, "Wow, I've always wanted to meet a real live bureaucrat."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Remains of the Weekend

And you thought that Fun Day was all we had going on! Saturday afternoon, our friends Molly & Webb had their annual Derby party. I was very much tired of my hats from years past and purchased a new one on ebay.

It was a bit of a juggling act this year to get there. Tim was working so I was solo. Morrigan was babysitting for another family and I needed to drop her off there at 3:45. Maggie had her piano recital practice at 4. So no problem there, crop off one on the way to the other's destination. Maggie's piano teacher, who lives within walking distance, had already offered to drive her home. 

Oh but Eion.

Hmmm. Does it make me a bad Mom to leave E playing xbox for a few hours in the afternoon alone? Before you answer, don't bother because I decided it did not! As I was only 5 minutes away, I concluded this would all work to plan.

The party was lovely as always. I was a bit worried that Maggie never called to announce her return home, but it turned out she had just forgotten. Free range parenting forever!

Sunday was Maggie's piano recital. The girls had their tennis lesson before so we were all set to go to the Club, have the lesson, get ready there and go directly to the recital. We headed out to the Suburban, turned the key and click. The engine was completely dead. The good news: we have three cars. The bad news: the Jeep had the top off and it was a pretty chilly day. 

Seeing no other alternative, we got in the Jeep, prayed the rain would hold off, and covered ourselves in blankets, olden days style! We were a little cold and windblown, but it all worked out.

Maggie played beautifully, really better than anytime I heard her practicing at home. She looked lovely and proud of herself. And the rain waited until we were home. A pretty good weekend all in all.

[The video for all those who need to see it!]

Saturday, May 4, 2013

May the 4th Be With You

Fun Day Was Approaching Fun

It was Fun Day at Crystal Spring and the minions were pumped! The fact that only Eion goes there mattered not a whit. I further tried to disincentivize them by letting them know any and all activities were to be paid for with their own money. No problem, they said. Maggie was so excited that she opted to leave in time for the Fun Run and walk the mile plus to school. 

Alrighty then. They are stoked.

The 4th grade crew.

By the time the rest of the family arrived, Maggie was in full Fun Day swing. She and her buddies were off and I barely saw them again.

Morrigan I saw more but mostly because she and her friends were regulars at the karaoke booth.

Middle schoolers.

This is really a change of heart for me, but Fun Day was pretty fun. The kids had fun, it cost me nothing, and I had lots of adult time. I really don't even have remarkable stories. They all found each other when they wanted to leave and all three were happy, a feat seldom accomplished.

My favorite stand of the day? Water pong.

Oh it is exactly like what you are thinking.

Yeppers, they were playing beer pong, minus the beer. No one can say those CSE parents don't have a sense of humor. 

So if you'll excuse me, it is the Kentucky Derby today and I hear a large hat, plus a mint julep, calling my name.

Friday, May 3, 2013


A mere one day after calling my gardening shot, I was distracted by another, and significantly less important, area. We have a space a few feet wide between our staircase to the street and the neighbor's property line. This area is difficult to manage, quite steep, and not particularly rewarding. Consequently, it is always a mess and full of weeds. But thinking I shouldn't dig holes for bushes on the peninsula, cleaning it out seemed a fine idea for the morning. [Don't judge these pics too harshly. You wouldn't want to keep this up either.]

The flattest area by the street seemed a great place to start. It was covered by the most despicable of ground cover, monkey grass. You know, I thought, I am ripping that stuff out today. I've hated it for ten years and today, it will be no more.

Behold, the plant of Satan.

Fast forward over four hours of back breaking labor and I had gotten almost no where. I did carry endless buckets of that damnable plant down the stairs to rejoin the earth in the wilder area of our yard.

See that not so big area of mulch? Four hours. I'm not kidding.

You want to know the best part? Those other pictures, they are after pics. All that ivy, the thorny bush and those weeds on that rather nasty incline still await. Not to mention ripping out the ivy that is climbing up and killing the trees. We'll file this idea away under brilliant.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

To the Garden, and Beyond!

We've been in this house for ten years this fall. And those ten years were busy ones - by our second year here, we had three kids under the age of four. Gardening really got as little of my time as I could get away with. As we are on a cul de sac, few people ever saw our yard anyway. Add that to the multitude of indoor projects (two bathrooms, a kitchen, family room, basement and last but not least, laundry room,) that all were more important than our yard, and you can see how it just got over looked.

But having finished with the indoor, I need a project. Seeing as moving, which would have kept me quite busy, doesn't seem like it will work out anytime soon, that leaves the garden. Our yard, while seemingly not very large, is really a strange place to maintain. We have a tiny front yard, a small flat area in the back, then a large not-at-all-flat back area, slopey sides and what we call The Peninsula.

It is a deceptively large strip along the road. When we moved in, it had some trees that were struggling due to a fungus, and a few thorny, fast-growing shrubs. We ripped it all out, added some Japanese dwarf maples and planted daffodils with the anticipation of filling in the blank spots as we went along. Then came Eion and a decade of paralysis by indecision.

But no more! I've set my sights on it and plan to improve it this Spring. Here's some before shots to give you an idea of what we're working with here.

The roof is due to be replaced Tuesday - not a moment too soon.

Wow lady. That's a lot of mulch.

Those "dwarf" trees are only eight years old. 
Maybe we need to start a tree farm of the darn things.

It's no Hell Strip, but the task has been overwhelming until now. (That and I really prefer to spend my summer days at the pool.) After all the years of thought, we're going with a solid plan of "winging it." We're going to start planting and stop when it seems done. How could it go wrong?