pieces of me...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Really, Ben can't be old enough to be using a daily agenda, tabs, and keeping a notebook.
Yay to more responsibility.
Boo to kids getting older!

1st Day of School

Checking in after what has been a busy few final weeks of the summer.  Both boys are now back in full time school and daycare and I am back to the grind of new students and a new school year.  At some point I hope to recap summer.  If is had a theme, it would be "oh, the places you will go."  Of the 8 weeks between end of school on the 14th and return on August 15th we (or I) was gone 4 weeks of the summer.

A good summer, wait a GREAT summer given for the first time ever I didn't teach online or write test items on contract.  Frankly, I don't see how I would have had time!

Monday night after a long 15 hour day with 11 hours at school and the other 4 existing on multiple cups of coffee we finished dinner and opted for 1st day photos. Ben and Ian had of course been watching American Ninja Warrior, and were recreating the "devil steps" which they insisted they had to do shirtless.

Hence, this is our official back to school picture for 2014.

As well as this action shot of them jumping off the porch.  This is how I remember summer 2014, as a series of stunts and one-upping each other in dares.

I convinced them to put on a shirt to take one picture with mom (who I barely recognize due to the bags under my eyes and the 10 years older I look than any picture taken during the summer.)

They told me we should pose shirtless, myself included.  Nope.

I will settle for a sandwich kiss.

Friday, August 15, 2014

2014 Florida Roadtrip Recap

Back from our annual Florida roadtrip, this time with some new places to visit.

We left last Thursday after Ben finished up his last session at BMX camp, getting to Uncle Brian's after dinner.  We were all tired, but we couldn't hit up bed without Brian read his favorite children's book to the boys.  My mom gave Ben a huge collection of Little Golden Books for his first birthday with inscriptions in each. Brian always loved Grover, so naturally she included, "The Monster at the End of the Book."

Thursday our plans to hit up the Greenville Zoo and Cleveland Park, but due to the rain we went to the children's museum and to Mellow Mushroom for lunch.  That evening, after all the rain had passed, we took a long walk through my old neighborhood and stopped by 202 Camille Street, where my grandparents lived for nearly twenty-five years.  While it has changed drastically inside, I can picture every room the way it was in the 1980s and 90s.

My high school friend Mark and his sweet family now live in the house.  I mentioned to him that my grandparents, Mary-Hall and Ben Jobe, would be pleased to know that love lives on in their home.   Thanks Massey family for letting us stop by on a Friday night and crash the party.

Saturday we made the long day drive of about ten hours with as few stops as possible. We did stop in Atlanta where my sorority sister Amy K. and her husband now live.  Due to her husband's career in the US Air Force, this is the first time since we graduated from college that she has lived on the East coast. Naturally, we had to catch up over lunch while our four boys played nearby.

Saturday night through Wednesday we spent in Destin, Florida at Bill's uncle's beach condo. We normally stay with Bill's aunt Mary, but as she had a stroke in March (and is now recovering), we opted not to stay with her.  I don't know who wouldn't want a four and eight year old jumping repeatedly in the pool screaming all day in their house.  We several relaxing sun drenched days spent on the beach having brother vs brother float battles in the surf.

We also spent too many hours lounging around watching movies, playing games, building Legos inside.

Ben and Ian loved spending time with their Grandmommy Pam, Uncle Jamie and Aunt Katie.  We spent our final night at Baytown Wharf playing games, eating ice cream and being a family.

While we were there we had a torrential late afternoon storm.  We were having dinner with Bill's aunt Mary and Uncle Don at bay side restaurant on the water.  We watched the storm come over the horizon and then after, we saw an amazing rainbow once it passed  The boys and I walked down to the water to take a closer look. I snapped a few pictures before the rainbow dissipated.

It was not without mentioning that the third anniversary of my mom's death found us while visiting Brian. While we were out walking I couldn't help but feel she was with us on the night of August 8th

When Ben asked why the rainbow disappeared I briefly thought about giving him the scientific rationale. Instead since he had been asking lots of questions about God and death lately, I said that Mema must of reached down and taken the rainbow back to Heaven with her and that she would return it after another rainy storm to let us know she was ok and still with us. A child's answer was all I could give.

It was a good, much needed trip to get away for us all before our school year begins next week.

Monday, August 4, 2014


We have had another rainy, cool summer minus a few hot summer days.  I sure hope this does not mean we are going to have another winter of snow and ice!  This past weekend we had a normal weekend, relaxed getting back to normal after my travel and before we leave Thursday for a week in Florida.

Friday we joined up with some friends for an afternoon out of the rain and into the rainforest at a special exhibit at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences.  This was a special exhibit that included a maze with T/F questions each leading to info about the life in a rainforest.  Along the way was a giant spider net and zipline for kids.  We then went over to the State Farmers Market Restaurant for biscuits and hushpuppies and veggies plates (me) and pancakes for the boys.  If local and you have not checked out, it's a must along with a trip down the hill to the farmer stalls for some take home goodness.

Saturday since it was still raining we spent most of the day at home, watching movies, playing games, and I managed to get a haul of freeze ahead cooking finished up.  Yum that I now have squash and sweet onion and green beans cooked with country ham to go with my growing fall freezer haul.

Saturday, Ben spent the night with a friend Saturday night while Ian and I watched the Lego movie for the 100th time.  Bill and I also started working on cleaning out and prepping to see nursery furniture as well as some other items the boys have outgrown.

Sunday was another lazy rainy day until mid afternoon when the sun finally camp out.  We joined up with our newly back from vacation neighbors to walk dogs and hit up the playground while Bill put together some of Ian's new furniture.  By the time we return from Florida, his new big boy bedroom will be up.

This week is a return to BMX camp for Ben and VBS with a friend in the morning for Ian.  Mom will be blitzing through her to do list as as soon as we return from Florida it is time for school.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wrap it up- July 2014

What a month, with only a few weeks left of summer vacation I'm feeling a little "gotta get it done" before school starts back on the 25th (teacher workdays begin the week before.)  Today have second meeting at school about the AP Capstone program.  I am serving as AP Dept chair starting this fall in addition to my regular teaching load.  A large part of the downtime I had on both trips were spent creating spreadsheets comparing the 18 tested areas between 2013 to 2014 scores, by student subgroups as well as other indicators.  This was a familiar site as I got caught up on This American Life summer episodes at night while at Cal Lutheran last week.

July was spent on the road for me with two trips to the west coast within a 3 week period.  I am forever grateful that of the applicants I landed a spot in both the National Endowment for the Humanities, "Atomic West, Atomic World" and Gilder Lehrman American History Summer Institutes in "Age of Reagan."  Both conferences were worth the time away from my family and the extra costs outside of the stipends provided for travel.

What else happened in July-

-I finished 3 books, and skimmed read another 3 (1 for Age of Reagan and 2 for Atomic West)
-Camp Mommy field trips continued with trips to Hob-e Max, Durham Life and Science, The Scrap Exchange, Locopops (twice), and 3 Bears Acres
-Bill had his own version of Camp Daddy with trips to Durham Bulls game with our neighbors + kids, Hurricane Hockey Fan Appreciation Day, neighborhood block party at the pool while mom was gone
-The boys continued to enjoy camps a plenty including Art Deconstructed (artwork above), Bond Park Camp, YMCA Kindercamp
- Ben and Mom worked on learning multiplication tables or as Ben calls them "the times"
- We made weekly trips to the library for books and mom managed to get in multiple workouts the weeks she was home
- We ate ice cream almost everyday for dessert and took Vegas on many walks on the unseasonably cooler July days
-Ben had a friend spend the night and went to a 5 boy sleep over at a friend's home (not MY home)
-We spent many afternoons at the neighborhood pool and the Y spray park

As we head into our final three weeks of the summer we still have our annual Florida road trip ahead, a girl's weekend at the beach, BMX camp again, and Vacation Bible School

It has been a relaxing and fun filled summer all in one.  Favorite pics from July

*custom water board built by Bill for the boys and enjoyed for many an afternoon

Mom in her finest hours of July-

At the B reactor in Hanford Nuclear Reservation, Richland WA

In the Oval Office at Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation, Simi Vally, CA

In general, the theme of the summer

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What The....? Wednesday- Kick off

I love the Scrap Exchange on so many levels:

-where else can you buy body bags in bulk and then have the chance to use one before leaving in a make it- take it craft gone really wrong? Seriously, I let my kids pee in the parking lot as I'm fairly sure a murder took place in the bathroom back in the 70s. Something tells me this find below might be a reason-

 * note below the girl's collar that this record includes a "chat with Aunt Bertha"

- where else can you find barrel after barrel of total crap that most (sane) people would toss that beckons for some child to make a masterpiece

 -and then there is the laugh factor, because why would anyone consciously throw away a gems like these?

Yesterday, my friend Eileen and I met up with our kids at the Scrap Exchange for a morning of well... buying total crap for make it-take it art projects.  In the past she has found some real finds including a pink Christmas tree and fur pants.  Yes, her son tried them on in the store and walked out with them.  All I could think, and yes I shared with her, was David Sedaris famed story about the ills of wearing used pants.

Collective ugh, gross... if you know the story.

Back to our story because there was a mission for our trip.  Back in the Spring, Eileen posted this picture on Facebook with the following caption.


And thus became a summer plan to make a pilgrimage to the Scrap Exchange for what I hope will be a weekly Facebook series among the mundane posts of people's pictures of turkey sandwiches.  For a dollar you can get a pound of pictures, all discarded and donated along with the other total crap you can buy. We've agreed to turn one picture each week into a series called, "WHAT THE......?" Wednesday.
You can fill in the rest and include as many four letter words as you want. Our goal is to try to outdo each other in funny captions and then get the most likes/comments for our picture each week.

Here is my first week entry

While not a TBT, we are inviting anyone else to play along with random pictures that can (or better don't have a personal connection.)

Come on, you know you want to play along with us!

Monday, July 28, 2014

(Pre) LA Story

Before I got to LA last week I had a 72 hour jaunt in Vegas.  It wasn't in the cards originally for me to meet up with sorority sisters in our 4th summer meet up, but then the LA trip coincided the following week and well....

It was fun but the overwhelming thought that ran through my head all weekend was, "I'm too old for this #$%*" This is not to say I didn't love hanging out with my ladies, but I just felt old seeing tons of 20 year olds livin' it up like it was their last night on Earth.

My flight out to Vegas was delayed so I was the last to arrive late on Thursday.  I was really tired, but decided to head out before calling it a night, after all this is Vegas.  We stayed at the same hotel where Lady Gaga was performing the same weekend. Hello, primo people watching and gasping at the creativity in outfits.

Friday our group rented a cabana and this single handed was the best call of the trip.  For a $700 (in food and drink purchases) the cabana was ours all day.  We had a personal waiter and by 2 pm we were already over the $700 mark.  By 5 pm when we had to vacate, we were over a $1000.00.

I will tell you that as much as I loved having a cabana and people watching, since coming to Vegas 5 years ago one of the latest trends is the ultra pool/lounge/nightclub.  Our cabana was near the entrance to Wet Republic, the MGM version.  The home of beautiful people, aka I'm already drunk and loosing the partial amount of clothing I'm wearing and it's only 3 pm.  One of the best memories was poolside people watching with Meredith (who went to high school with Bill, I'll add.)  The number of times she stated, "oh the humanity," should have been a drinking game.

We saw one of the Cirque shows later and Friday night a smaller group of us stayed out until around 4 am as we found our niche, a club mixing 80s music with a much less imposing group of patrons.  Saturday we spent at the spa and then went to Mon Ami Gabi for a dinner out.  If there is such a thing as food porn, it's here with a cheese plate to top all others.  And there there's the view, strip side facing the fountains at Bellagio.

Speaking of porn, the ladies opted to hit up Thunder From Down Under afterwards.  Amid the throngs of batchelorettes was our group, sitting right up front.  It was everything you would expect, campy and over the top.  Wouldn't you know that of our group, I was the one singled out.  Seriously, I was the most tame one of the group, and had even opted not to drink. Despite me really trying not to be pulled out of my seat and push it off on someone else in my party dying to get on stage, I was the sitting duck.

Afterwards we hit up the newest hotel, The Cosmopolitan for nightcaps at which point I was done and went back to our hotel to crash.  I really loved this hotel and if ever (doubtful) back in Vegas there is where I would want to stay.

*Prerequisite bathroom photo about to head out for the night.  Actually I was convinced the light was meant to flatter even the most heinous of Vegas visitors (not us.)

I'm so glad I was able to go and catch up after missing last year's trip.  Plans are already in the works for next year involving most likely Florida.  God, I hope it's not Disney World.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Awesome and amazing CA trip, with the shirt to prove it.

I'm catching a ride to LAX around 4:30 am tomorrow to be home by Saturday afternoon.  I'll be honest, the last month I've been having some serious second thoughts about this conference.  I just came back from the Washington state trip and then headed LA via Vegas within the same week. After nineteen days away in July, I'm ready for some porch sitting with my boys and nothing to do before we head to Florida next month for my final summer trip. I'm a homebody by nature and frankly once I got the agenda, I was a little worried I'd be my own island in a sea of red state voters. The same people who I imagine want to lick this giant portrait of Ronnie in jelly beans.

I'm glad I came.  Not only because I wouldn't have wanted to be blacklisted from any future Gilder Lehrman conferences if I bailed so late, but because it has been an amazing week.  The Reagan Presidential Library is in a spectacular location overlooking Simi Valley. This was the view from our first night welcome reception.

Early in the week my roommates grabbed In and Out at my request.  While I didn't order a double, double animal style, I did laugh when one of my roommates (also from a Non- In and Out state) looked as if I had invited her to watch porn back at the dorm when I announced what else was available on the menu.

Later today I will present my research project on the differences between the draft and final versions of the infamous 1983 "Evil Empire" speech.  To my surprise the final language was never intended to be included and was slipped into a speech on religious freedom and prayer last minute.  The how and why was too good not to spend more time researching given the resources in the library available to our group all week.

*Plus, did I mention they had a bar?  A BAR in a Presidential Library.  I bet Silent Cal Coolidge can't say that (or anything else about HIS Presidential library.)

The museum itself was short of Smithsonian-level packed with nerdy awesomeness with a solo focus (obviously) on Reagan.  Among the coolest things I saw was a full sized Air Force One used during his administration, parts of the Berlin Wall (including a fake East to West Berlin tunnel for children visitors that had simulated barking, for real, this scarred ME), and a mock simulation including oval office, press room, and command central.

I got to play Press Secretary and get my CJ Cregg on during a mock press conference.  I couldn't resist a little liberalism when asked  who my favorite news personality is/was.  All homage to the indomitable Tim Russert who didn't shy away from asking the hard questions equally from Democrats and Republicans.

No worries that I have drank the Kool-aid and am coming home with a "Reagan Country" sign for my classroom.  I am returning with a glass container of jelly beans with the Presidential seal for my display of all things Government-y. Yes, I have met a very few singled minded people this week who seem to think that regardless of the person or topic, there is only one set of talking points to a fault of being in-your-face rude.

More importantly, I've also met some great people who while I don't agree with politically, are fabulous teachers with great ideas to try with my students. Collaboration is and will always be the reason, outside of personal interest, to come to processional development on my own dime.  In the usual talk of who has been to what seminar/institute, I seem to be of legend to be been accepted into two seminars in the same summer PLUS be accepted into the Supreme Court Law Institute last year.  I may have gotten myself talked into applying to be an AP reader for exams next summer.

*When in doubt and you need to use the Red phone to Moscow, down some jelly beans first.

I tell my students prepping for Friday debate, you need to know not only your own position, but that of your opponents even more.  This is the approach I've taken all week as I have politely listened to those I disagree with on topics such as the Common Core, the rise of the Tea Party, midterm and 2016 elections, judicial interpretation of the Supreme Court, and of course, hours upon hours of conversation about the eight years that Ronald Reagan led our country.  I've hoped that I have presented my best argument, supported by facts, and grounded in reason rather than emotion.  Even I get a little lump, when I use the election campaign, "Morning in America" in class.  Never fear, it was on a continuous loop interspersed with "God Bless America" set to soothing heartland images.

Last night our group drove out to Malibu to a beach bar and shrimp shack.  One of the participants had rented a convertible and asked if I wanted to ride with him.  Let me think....I'm in California with the opportunity to ride in a convertible along the Pacific Coast Highway.  Nope, didn't have to think twice.

Thanks California, you have been an awesome and amazing experience.  I even have the shirt to prove it.