Friday, June 29, 2012

Ben's 6th Birthday Party

Ben's birthday fell on a Saturday this year.  When asked what type of party he wanted he immediately said, "giant waterslide party with waterguns."  Think he may have been thinking about this for a while?

When I found out that my school graduation would fall on the same day we decided to forge ahead and plan what would likely be an insane day.

And it was.  We allowed Ben to invite his kindergarten class + 5 additional outside school friends.  Add in our neighbors and we had close to 35 invited kids.  Yes, I am crazy but when you are this age, birthdays are EVERYTHING.  Final kid count was 24 including almost every boy in his class.

I asked my friend Eileen of Sugar Mama Cakes to create an Angry Birds themed cake.  When she dropped off the cake Friday night, Ben immediately asked if we could start the party immediately.  Add in 70+ grilled hot dogs, a giant watermelon and blueberry salad, and a tub of bags of Sunchips and we were ready to party.

We had hosted a waterslide birthday party before.  Remember this photo of a 3 year old Ben?

The party was crazy fun.  I would say Ben had a good time.

As well as my fearless 2 year old Ian.

Say did mom go down?

Even Mom and Dad got a little crazy (with the frosting)

Later that day I looked down at my feet at graduation to see mud still on my toes and laughed out loud at what was a tiring but awesome way to celebrate Ben's birthday.

I haven't even been brave enough to ask what he's thinking for his 7th birthday, which I'm sure he's already planning.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

End of kindergarten

The end of the month is almost here and I realized I never posted two major June events, end of kindergarten and Ben's 6th birthday.

All of the kindergarten classes participated in the annual letter parade.  Ben was appropriately assigned V so out came the iron on transfers of V words including the Scooby Doo mystery machine van.  After the parade the room moms had prepared a 20 minute slide show in which Ben was running full speed in at least  3 pictures.  Go figure.

Teachers hosted breakfast and a gallery of students' best work. Yes it was a dog and pony show, but I appreciated the gesture.  I've written several times this year about how much we appreciated the teachers help and support.  At kindergarten trial day back in August I slipped two cards into Ben's backpack, each with a Bojangles gift card and a note that said, "please buy breakfast on me, thanks in advance for being Ben's first public school teacher."

Maybe I was subliminally prepping them for Ben as one of their more difficult students, maybe as a classroom teacher myself I just wanted to thank them for the time and effort they would put into my child.  Ben spent more awake hours in their presence than ours and I valued their judgement and help as we moved through the many difficulties and successes.

By the end of year I feel like we journeyed a million miles.  While we are very much on a continued quest for the right medication and behavior plan, I have his teachers to thank for helping us throughout the year identify specific problems.

Needless to say I was a hot mess watching Ben celebrate the end of year and saying goodbye to his teachers.  I was sobbing to the point I had to walk out and instead of thanking each teacher in person I resorted to the fine art of the thank you note.

Before the end of the year we asked for a 1st grade placement, help with a summer tutor, and suggestions on how to make the most academically over the summer.  His teacher offered to meet me on one of the workdays after the school year was over.  She asked Mrs. D, our tutor, to also come to help ease Ben's transition to a new teacher.  Maybe I should have brought each a giant Bonjangles sweet tea?

Instead I hugged his teacher and thanked her.  Most likely in a 12 year span of public school teachers Ben will not mesh with some of the teachers who will teach him.  I'm sure with a diagnosis attached to his file I'm going to have to fight harder against misconception.  I'm the first to tell you that burn out is pervasive in this career, even at good schools with a solid administration. Even really great teachers have off years. Being on the inside of this districts helps, but it also colors how I see my role as a parent.  Better advocacy for my own kid as well as those I teach has been a positive out of the difficulty of this year.

We were very lucky this year not to be written off as a problem kid with overbearing parents.  Starting school within days of my mom's death, followed by a return to full time work, as well as two major surgeries, you can say I needed someone on our side.

Thank you Mrs. S and Mrs. R.  I hope you know how much we appreciate you.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Feelin' the need to bump Ghostbusters from our next 80s movie date night.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Florida road trip recap by the numbers

Before I left someone asked me if I was either suicidal or just crazy for driving alone to Florida with the V-boys. Neither. Rather why break a 6 year record for Florida summer roadtrips to see Bill's family?

I will admit that hauling a sleeping 6 week old Ben was easier than a 6 year old in the throws of massive meltdown in the middle of traffic. Like all trips not everything went as planned, but for the most part it was a good trip. In fact I would chalk it up to one of our best.

Our trip by the numbers:

Number of miles mommy driven- Just over 1,400
Average number of hours in car on travel days- 11
Hours in car before the DVD player broke- 2
Days on the road-9
Hours spent front-seat disciplining including the phrase: "Stop licking your brother"- 3
Sand removed from car- 3 1/3 cups
Packed car ratio: 10% necessities to 90% toys
Bottle of sunscreen used- almost 2
Number of sunburned Vinson folk- None!
Legos fallen into the abyss between seats- at least a full set
1st Trips to a water park- 1 (Ben who fearlessly road everything in his height range)
Conversations about Dinosaurs vs Superheroes- Most of the drive through Atlanta
Books read by Heather- 3, make that almost 4 including the 30 hour 11-22-63
Naps in pool by Heather- 1, naps in general 3
Days with unwashed hair- 3
Meltdowns- 2 major by Ben, 1 by mom, daily by a toddler Ian
Super cool beach cartwheel and handstand contest- (Ben vs Mom)- 1
Father's Day cookout family count- 13 Evans/Vinsons
Child-free afternoons- 2
lbs of boiled shrimp eaten seaside- 1 1/2
Days gloriously unplugged- 9

Florida 2012 Road Trip Mantra- Not for the weak and most definitely survival of the fittest Vinson. At times an ultimate test of patience, but worth every single minute for this piece of awesome.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Camp Mommy!

Camp mommy is officially up and running as of this morning with coordinated carpool drop offs.  I gave myself a budget and worked it like a boss to maximize area 1/2 day camps paired with free or low cost summer fun for the next 2 months. I hope to get in pool time each day with one or both kids in addition to try to get some of the items marked off my summer chore to do list.

I created a giant spreadsheet to track where the kids and I will be each week of the summer.  Of course the teacher in me just HAD to laminate it on some cute paper before posting on the fridge.

This week Ben is music and movement class and Ian is in Wee Camp at the Y.  I promised the boys we would take several summer field trips to which Ben asked if we could make t-shirts similar to what his class wore throughout the school year.

Alas what became when the boys picked iron-on transfers (Ben-Dino and Ian-Robots), mom added fabric markers and created "V-Boys Summer 2012 World Tour" t-shirt backs to detail our top 10 from the big summer fun list.

Number of total stranger comments the day we worn them in Florida?  3

We had an amazing trip to Florida.  In a last minute change of plans I left a couple of days early to take advantage of extra time with my brother.  I stayed completely unplugged minus a few pictures posted during the week.  When is the last time I traded 4 books and a jewelry project to finish over taking a laptop on vacation for work?

All hopes to write a longer recap post but I'll leave you with this sign I found (and couldn't resist buying.)


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stand and Deliver or Summer School?

Hello end of another school year.  2011-12 was good year, despite circumstances that had a high suck potential including: losing my classroom to traveling on a cart, inheriting my maternity leave’s sub schedule of all freshmen, two surgeries,  and being back full time after a year away working from home. When I wrote back in August that I was going back full time I had moments thinking the suck potential was high. Guess what, in the end it didn’t.

Surprisingly it was one of the best years of my 12 years to date.  Thinking I have 18 more until full retirement is a little depressing.  But how amazing is it that since student teaching 2, 500 students have passed through my classes.   Most likely I was yet another teacher for yet another required class to graduate.   Maybe the day I taught the circular flow model of economics using a diaper stuck to the board that some student will remember.  Or that I bribed students with food if they stayed for review.

I mentioned to my assistant principal this morning when he thanked me for coming back that I wanted to thank him for helping support teachers in the classroom.  School-wide policies that have been tinkered with each and every year finally felt like they are working.  When you help start something from the ground up you become accustomed to continual change.  It feels amazingly cathartic to see something you have poured much energy into finally working.
This year I focused more than I ever have on my students repeating as I had a glut of 2 and 3rd time re –peters among the classes.  Believe me I wrote up discipline referrals for more ridiculous stuff than ever before.  Some days it felt like a crazy train from the 15 and under crew from 7-4pm and then more crazy from my own under 6 crew from 5-8pm. I have an unbelievable threshold for noise as well as crazy.
Result all but 4 of my nearly 200 students passed.  I say this not for a pat on the back but because in this profession the only real satisfaction is seeing someone who really struggled finally make it.   
Teachers have the power to push you to places you didn’t think you could go, but also have the power to tear you down, making you feel small and stupid.  Every student is someone’s kid with a vested interest in seeing them graduate.

If ever there is a profession where you need to check your own issues at the door it is teaching.  Bring a bad morning with you to school, guaranteed students will pick up your mood and eat you alive.  I live by the mantra to try to be somewhere between hard-ass and soft place to fall.

I think I need to start the It Gets Better High School campaign.  For so many of us high school had points or even years that we would rather forget. Even through the clothes have gotten skimpier and kids more daring to do stuff at an earlier age, the belief that your entire life is wrapped up in who you know, who doesn’t like you, how you look is still very much a daily reality.

Most days I like what I do for 1/3 of the day, but I won’t lie, having 8 whole weeks of time off is sweet.  I’m happy to shed the 5:15 am wake up call for day camp drop off, t-ball practices, fetching overconfident toddlers out of the pool.  I’m ready for my only students to be Ben and Ian.

School’s out for summer.  School’s out forever (or just August 17th).

Saturday, June 9, 2012


My beautiful blue-eyed boy, today you are six.   Today you move another year away from the dependency of infanthood, the obstinance of toddlerhood, the independence of a preschooler.   I look at your freckled face and see more of the man you are becoming with each passing day.
In this last year around the sun you grew in so many ways.  Physically you are strong and lean. You are happy to go shirtless for any and all reasons.  You have a giving spirit and are protective of your little brother. 

Watching the relationship between you and Ian grow is sweet goodness. Finally at age two he is willing to try anything if you do first.  Our house is loud, chaotic, and filled with the sounds of playing and fighting.  Love grows at our home, just at an ear-deafening decibel.

You often ask about what is a good friend?  Among the many conversations we’ve had in our 10 minutes alone before daycare pickup we’ve talked about how being kind, doing for others, listening more than we talk.  I hope that these many car conversations are times you will recall later that were while average everyday afternoons, that I treasured the time between us.
During this past year you became fearless in the water, loving the giant waterslides at the pool.  You played t-ball, took swim lessons, tried martial arts, started going to church on a regular basis.  We’ve talked about God, about faith, about dying this past year.  For the first time ever I’ve felt a maturity to your questions, your thinking, and your desire to want to know more.

Talking to you about your Mema’s death taught me that you will process everything in your own way.  It saddens me when you talk about missing her knowing all the special events in your life she will never know.  My hope as your mom that I will live a long life and love the future children you will father. 

This year you started kindergarten at a new school with new friends.  So many days you met me with open arms and a hugged-filled, chattering play by play of your day.  Watching you make friends, laugh and joke makes me smile that socially you are maturing.
The tears I had for you at your end of year celebration were in part happiness to see your bright smile in so many pictures of your year.  But they were also because of how hard this year has been for your father and I as we made decisions that will impact the rest of your life.

You are our son, not a label or a diagnosis. I can’t ask you to understand the depth of our love or the extent to which we will go to give you every chance at a successful and healthy life until you make these decisions for your own children. 

My beautiful boy may the sun always shine on your face as you travel another year around the sun.  So much goodness lies ahead for you.  If all I ever do in my life is to be called mom then I have lived a good life. 

Happy 6th Birthday my sweet Ben! Love,  Mom and Dad

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Come on over and sit a spell

This little blog that could is about to celebrate a five birthday this summer.  What started as a massive to-do list during the summer of 2007 with a then one year old Ben.

Flash forward to today as that one year old finishes kindergarten.  At end of the year letter parade and kindergarten celebration there was not a dry eye in the crowd, especially from this mom.
I cannot tell you how much I am excited I am for this summer.  Maybe it’s the not working thing, or the big family fun list, or that the summer ends with this amazing opportunity to serve the community of Michura, Kenya. 

Whatever it is 2012 is going down as best year ever.

Instead of making some ridiculously crazy to-do I’m going to pair it down to 8 things for the essentially 8 weeks I have off.  Remember the 2012 theme was about shooting for perfection but being content with any measurable and attained progress?
Summer 2012 goals: 
  1.  Rid the house of all things baby.  Donate, sell, and pass on whatever, but it all    needs to go.
  2.  Strip and repaint the front porch swings and rocking chairs
  3.  Work with Ben on a daily basis in conjunction with his weekly tutor
  4.  Organize boys artwork folders
  5.  Bind this blog by year
  6.  Final purge of all too big/ill fitting clothes to charity
  7.  Move all freeze ahead recipes in rotation into electronic form My Recipe Box
  8.  Make exercise a part of each day. Consider the NC Zoo 5k run Sept as a goal
And one technically not a to do, just a want to do.  From Joy’s Hope the idea to host a Pioneer Woman Pot Luck.  I’m thinking maybe a different spin and calling it a “slap yo mamma southern food fest.”

I’m throwing in making buttermilk fried chicken, mac and cheese, stewed squash and onions, string beans simmered with country ham, fried green tomatoes, chocolate chess pie, crusty cream cheese pound cake.

Cocktails must be these amazing sweet tea cocktails I made for Bunco from the June Southern Living issue. Will be posting the recipe this summer.  STOP ME NOW.  I’d even get out my great grandmother’s silver and the bazillion gallery trays I got at my Sip and See bridal shower to serve you. 

Want come to pick your porch and celebrate Summer 2012 at Casa Vinson?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Bill took Ben camping over the weekend under some of the most amazing NC weather ever.  Serious porch-sitting weather has ensued on a nightly basis around our house.  . 
We are slowly trying to build up decent camping equipment as with two active kids, camping is a no brainer on the family activity list. 
So far Bill has checked out three different local camping areas since last fall and we have plans to camp with family friends later in the summer. 
This will be my first time sleeping in a tent since I was in Girl Scouts about a bazillion years ago and on some quest for badges. 
In addition to camping, they also went finishing since their campsite backed up to a part of the lake.  One of the things we have started doing is fishing at the pond in our neighborhood weekends.  It never fails that it is quiet and peaceful and a chance for Bill to have alone with Ben. 
Quiet and peaceful activities will be repeated. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer 2012- Big Family Fun List!

Like in past years I’m rolling out our BIG SUMMER FUN LIST.  As Ian is year older more options have opened up for both boys.  With mom not working and 8 weeks ahead, Camp Mommy is taking applications.
***pictures from our kick off to summer weekend***
This summer the V-Boys hope to:
1.    Make a t-shirt for “field trip days”
2.    Create a new car playlist of silly songs
3.    Mystery trip/scavenger hunt trip
4.    Take the train to the Greensboro children’s museum
5.    Go camping
6.    See a Durham Bulls baseball game
7.    Catch a fish
8.    Attend day camp/Wee Camp
9.    Road trip to see Granmommy
10.  See an outside movie
11.  Make a 2012 stepping stone
12.  Take swim lessons
13.  Ride go-karts
14.  Participate in a bike parade
15.  Visit the NC Museum of Art Puppet Show
16.  Go to the zoo
17.  Get together with friends
18.  Family Vacation
19.  Take a weekly trip to the library for new books
20.  Catch lighting bugs
21.  Play T-ball
22.  Start a family cooking night
23.  Make homemade ice cream
24.  Visit Durham Science and Life Museum
25.  Ride on the New Hill train
26.  See a car race
27.  Wash the dog outside weekly
28.  Go to the farmers market
29.  Make an art project at the scrap exchange
30.  Go on a nature walk at Hemlock Bluffs
31.  Family puzzle or game night
32.  Have a picnic, ride the train and carousel at Pullen Park
33.  Stay in a lake house and ride in a boat
34.  Go to an outside music concert
35.  Volunteer at the animal shelter, NC Food Bank, and collect school supplies for Backpack Buddies
36. Lake Johnson spray park
What’s on your Summer Fun List?
*Superhero cape-wearing optional

Friday, June 1, 2012

Field Day!

Field Day!!!

Under a sunny and hot NC sky you could say Ben had a blast at his first school Field Day.
I told him that Brian and I used to play “field day” growing up, making obstacle courses in our backyard with the dining room chairs.  Take a wild guess what he wanted to do once home last night.
A huge thanks to master and commander (of the giant cage ball event) Bill Vinson.

Bill and I both were able to volunteer and catch all the unbridled joy of children days from summer break.

Happy June 1st.  Happy start to Summer 2012.