Monday, July 29, 2013

It's Always Sunny in

 Philadelphia wait.... make that Florida!

After a crazy, long traffic-filled first leg to Uncle Brian's, and a crazy, shortest-ever 2nd leg we are in Florida!

This was an awesome sight come late Friday when we rolled into Easley, SC.  Brian has remodeled much of my mom's house using his own sweat and oodles of friend labor.  I especially like that he took out the wall separating the kitchen from the living room, where she used to teach piano.  It doesn't look like the same space, and while it remains hard not see her in every room, I'm glad that he is making the house his own.

So Where are we?  Bill's aunt Mary and uncle Don's home outside Destin, Florida.  They actually live on one of the beaches off of 30-A where you will find Seaside, Watercolor, and Rosemary Beaches.  We are within a 20 minute drive to civilization in Destin.

Who else is here?  Bill's mom Pam, his brother Jamie and fiance Kate. Later today Bill's other uncle, RG and his wife Lynn to grill out tonight.  This year their adult children and families are not driving down from Atlanta due to the start of school.

What are we doing?  Being lazy, reading books, riding scooters, playing on the nearby playground with a super-cool giant hill to roll from top to bottom, seeing the new kid's movie Turbo, one day heading to a water park, trips to the beach, and lots and lots of this

And some of this

And most definitely this

Back next week with tales of lazy relaxation as we wrap up the final weeks of summer vacation.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bookin' It

Last year I finished 25 books.  It was the most I have ever read outside of college/graduate school required reading in my adult life. I decided to challenge myself to finish 30 books by year end.

I've read some really wonderful books in the 29 books listed below. I would go as far to say that some of my favorite books of the last 5 years have been read recently.

5 Stars- OMG so, so good

The Age of Miracles
Where'd You Go Bernadette
We Live in Water
Nobodies Album
The Dovekeepers
Mary Coin
Tiny Beautiful Things 

4 Stars- Solid, wonderful reads

Behind the Beautiful Forevers
And When She Was Good
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls
The Power of Habit
Beautiful Ruins
The Financial Lives of Poets
Lean In
Supreme Conflict
29 Gifts
The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing

3 and Under Stars- Finished it, but wouldn't recommend it

Full Body Burden
The Samurai's Garden
You're Not Doing It Right
Looking for Alaska
After Visiting Friends
Deconstructing Amelia
The Silver Star
A Land More Kind Than Home

As we head to Florida today I have packed 3 old school books and 4 audiobooks for the drive.  By these stats I've read a book a week in 2013.   As someone who typically is not a fast reader, I attribute being further along this year for several reasons:

1.  Weekly trips to the library on Friday afternoons with the boys.  It is a perfect time for pick up and returns of my own books in time for the weekend.
2.  Increased use of the eBooks at my local library for audio and Kindle books.  Often the wait is shorter. 
3.  Keeping the Kindle in my mom bag with at least a couple eBooks for waiting.
4.  Allowing myself to read and not grade when waiting at weekly appointments for Ben
5.  Frequent use of Goodreads for friend recommendations and updates of new books by authors I've read 
5.  Choosing to curl up with a book most nights after getting the kids to bed and finishing up schoolwork.  Most of the time I rarely reach for the remote or my laptop as a way to wind down at the end the day. 

Of the lists above my favorite books of the year so far

Where'd You Go Bernadette
The Dovekeepers
Tiny Beautiful Things

Nod for We Live in Water for short story aficionados.  Quite possibly my favorite collection by my new favorite author, Jess Walters.  I'm changing my goal on Goodreads to 50 books by year end.  It is a lofty goal, especially when the new school year starts, but one to shoot for given 2013 progress.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Groundhog Day

I'm back from as of last night and am preparing to head back out of town tomorrow with the boys to Destin. It is starting to feel like a little like the movie Groundhog Day with duel trips to DC and FL this summer.  I've spent the last three days at the National Archives and the Smithsonian American Art Museum working on lesson plans integrating photography as primary sources as part of the Archives new online for teachers called DocsTeach.

I'm currently working on an idea to turn the back wall of my classroom into a manipulative gallery of historic images as we move through the course. I was able to draw on many resources presented at the workshop as I start to design and work on this idea.

One of the coolest things I saw was the real instillation of one of my favorite exhibits in the Smithsonian.  I have the poster in my room and award candy to the student who figures out first the message.

Can you?

I also picked up more kitsch for my bookshelf and yes that IS a Harry Truman doll, some Presidential Mad Libs for first day back to school fun, and tattoos.  OMG, they actually make Constitution tattoos!  I am SO tempted to wear one on the first day of school and play it off that I am just that dedicated.

Sadly I left the John Brown one on the shelf.  What kid wants a John Brown, famed abolitionist of Harpers Ferry fame?  Speaking of, who wants a Harry Truman doll other than me?

One more thought on education.

Yesterday our state legislature passed a budget that eliminated just over 9,000 teaching jobs, ended tenure for teachers in place of merit pay for the top 25% of teachers, will no longer pay a percentage salary bump for masters or doctoral degrees, and has adopted a grading system for schools with 80% weighed on standardized test scores.  The new budget does include a provision to fund $50 million in tuition vouchers.

All indications are the bill will be signed by our governor based on other contentious legislation also recently passed.  As much as I have strong feelings about those bills as well, this hits my livelihood directly.  I never left my job in baking in 1999 thinking that changing careers would allow me to live in the lap of luxury.  My own spouse continually questions why I ever wanted to do and now continue this profession.

As I head into my 14th year into a job that has not had any type of raise or cost of living adjustment in the past 7 years, I have obvious feelings about these decisions. Given I am a public employee, this public space is not the forum nor is any other type of social media to play out my feelings as we move forward.  While I also have no intention of belaboring the situation or what may come of these decisions with friends or family, please know that this weighs heavy on my heart.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom....

Not quite that crazy as end of the world, but close. Friday was Dog Watch, Day 2 with another day spent at the Vet for IV fluids and observation. The good news is that one more test and she will be cleared with no lingering illness.

Ian coming off 6 straight days of no nap and waking at 6:15ish had a colossal meltdown, as in the clerk commented, "Maybe you could come back when he is feeling better." I am sure in his infinite 17 year old wisdom thought he was being helpful.  I politely replied, aka glared at him and said, "I'm close to being done, I guess we all are in for some afternoon delight."

Friday night my friend came over once Ian was in bed and Bill had taken Ben to an outdoor movie.  We drank margaritas and watched a subtitled documentary. I was spent or maybe just tipsy by 9:30 and couldn't tell you one important thing about the movie.    

Saturday included a blitz of 8:30 t ball, birthday party where again, Ian had a nasty meltdown blocking the door rolling around sobbing about leaving, also keeping everyone else from leaving. The party was cool to the point that we might consider for a birthday party or for a camp in the future. 

Like a fool on a suicide mission pushed on for library returns/pick ups, hair cuts, grocery run for the 5 things I had forgotten plus prescriptions not ready the day before (or more likely I just forgotten), and returns to Old Navy. Somewhere in there we ate lunch and I had the boys Facetime with their grandmother to say happy birthday.
Somewhere also during the day I realized I was only wearing only one earring.  In a panic I retraced all the places we had been only to realize once home, that I never put the 2nd one in when rushing to get out the door earlier.  

I did escape child-free to buy some replacement school old lady shoes. Each passing year I wonder where the downward spiral, the curmudgeonly shoe edition, I will land? Saturday night I did laundry and packed, all while drinking the rest of the margaritas while Bill went to see a movie.  

Around 11 pm my sorority sisters prank called me or as I would rather think of it, spent 5 minutes of a final night celebration trying to include me not being with them.  As sad as I was as they posted pictures and inside jokes all weekend, it would be been crazy to have tried to go and make the drive to DC last night after a drive home from Charleston.

Sunday I took the boys to early church then on to our local children's museum before returning with Krispy Kreme's in hand for what I hope was today's breakfast.  I finally made it DC last night where I will be until Wednesday at the National Archives.   I'm hoping for National Treasure kind of excitement.  Chances are it will be more like dorky teacher kind of excitement.  Regardless, I'm here and excited.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Project Runway- An Occasional Friday Series "Have dress, need venue"

Where had I planned to be on July 19th and then August 2nd?

Wearing this maxi dress purchased at White House Black Market for double summer reunions

I should be wearing it with my sorority sisters sitting on a rooftop bar overlooking historic Charleston tonight.

But I'm not :(

Actually the idea of driving 5 hours yesterday after being awoken to a dog that had vomited blood and pooped herself to near exhaustion wouldn't have happened even if I hadn't already not planned to go.  The dog ingested two, yes only two, raisins which can cause internal organ failure in dogs.  She spent all day on IV fluids and under observation yesterday, is back today for more fluids and back again Saturday for a repeat organ failure test.

The good news (yes, there is good news) is that we caught it very early and we were not gone on vacation when it happened.  The Vet feels that she will make a full recovery.  My wallet though, will need the return of my paycheck to make a full recovery!

While on the topic of reunions I'm not going to, I'm also not going to my 20th high school reunion as planned on the way home from the upcoming Florida trip with the boys.  I had planned to take the boys to the family bbq portion the night before the actual reunion at a swanky downtown Greenville, SC hotel.  But when the BBQ was canceled I feel a little funny about showing up stag to a couple-filled event.

Really, the people I want to see most I keep up with on Facebook or already saw at the start of the summer when my high school girlfriends got together.

Still though, I love this dress and need somewhere to wear it before summer end.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Happy 500th!

This past week my beloved This American Life celebrated 500 episodes.  I finally got to hear the milestone episode earlier this week while what else, working on some freeze ahead meals for back to school. I'm currently working my way back through all the archives.  I'm currently in Year 2000 from archives dating to 1995.

After some thought and some re-listening here is my favorites.  If you haven't listened, pick any linked below or just head to the general site.  This week their main page has links to ALL 500 directly on the front page!

Thank you Ira for being a part of my week.  Thank you for the many afternoons while wrapping up the school day I've been working my way back through all the old episodes. Thank you for bringing important, newsworthy stories as well as just those of human interest.  If I were to ever get a tattoo, I'm fairly sure it would say, "IRA 4EVA."

My gotta listen list in no particular order of favorites:

Why TAL will make you laugh until you wet with tears or urine or maybe never eat calamari again- From Fear of Sleep-Act 1 Stranger in the Night, Doppelgangers

When listening will require you to pull over to the side of the road with the ugly cry in full force- Act 3 from Scene of the Crime- Our Man of Perpetual Sorrow How to Rest in Peace,  The Greatest Thing I Ever Saw on Stage

Dammit Mrs. Vinson, my parents already make me listen to NPR in the car, now in class too!

This is Not My Beautiful House
Giant Pool of Money
Trends with Benefits

Because Ira Glass has ball of steel to revisit each part of the Foxxconn expose that landed TAL in some rare negative press with a Retraction.  Seeing him live the VERY week the story hit nationally in Durham cemented that Glass is a man of character, and yes very huge balls for not passing the buck.

The Psychopath Test- The book was good, but the final act guessing WHO would score the highest, priceless.

When TAL goes to the mat and can make a difference in someone's life Very Tough Love, 81 Words

Jenny McCarthy, you are an idiot of epic proportions.  From Ruining It for the Rest of Us Act 1- Shots in the Dark

One for teachers. One for anyone who every wonders why you just can't walk away from the hardest job you will ever love.  Two Steps Back

The one show I have re-listened to more than any other.  Yes... it is about high school, BUT the two part Harper High School Episodes (Part 1, Part 2 ) moved me to my core.  No other episodes have given a more intimate look in to the daily lives of average Americans, true stories of loss, hope, courage, and just why TAL is just that good.

Happy 500th TAL.  I already want 500 more stories.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

And how do you know you are home from vacation?

You are greeted with a tree that fell and hit your house during yet another day of rain.  Bill and I cut up the tree last night, leaving only the stump.  We were very fortunate that the tree hit the side of the screened in porch without causing any damage.We also lucked out with our vacation weather.  Was it hot and humid, this is central Florida people, but almost no rain for 9 days.

On day 3 of our trip we were notified by our water utility that we had a high, sudden use of water at our house. YAY that we are 3 states away and our dog is at home. Imagining massive water damage to our downstairs hardwoods and a freaked out dog, we contacted our neighbor who was pet sitting.  She reported that it appeared that the leaky toilet was the culprit and shut off water supply.  Luckily we had no water damage outside of a $117.00 plumbing bill for less than 20 minutes of work.

We had a good trip and at some point I'm sure I'll post some favorite pictures with a few tips garnered after another trip to Disney.  This year we opted to stay longer and do Legoland and an additional waterpark for the trade off of staying off property and saving money.  We rented a condo that was 5 miles from the entrance of Disney that we hoped would allow us to spread out, ok realistically separate the boys during what seemed an ever present wrestling match or sword fight.

Even at the water park, they were wrestling. Note that of purchases on this trip (by Bill) included 4 swords and 2 pistols. When they use all 6 weapons, it's like reliving a school age version of The Texas Chainsaw massacre, mainly over breakfast. Presently 3 swords and 1 pistol are in time out until Friday.

We did luck out that they gave us a 3rd bedroom that included a trundle bed for the boys.  Just in case you have ever wondered if we can actually tucker them out.  Yes, achieved by 7 hours in a water park.

Was every moment filled with unending Disney magic? Of course not.  Ian tries every bit of patience I have at age three.  He refused to nap almost every day when we returned to the condo. In general he acted like a tool during much of the trip. I reminded Bill daily that three year olds are a-holes, granted cute ones that need lots and lots of redirection and boundaries.  Ben did a really great job overall and was helpful with being an extra set of eyes for Ian.  I think it may have been some of his best behavior this year on this trip and I have praised him continuously for good decisions and thinking before acting.

One of the things we did differently this trip was to give each of us a free day without kids.  While Bill was at Legoland I pool hopped at the premium resorts on the monorail line and hit up World Showcase since the kids could care less about anything related to another culture unless it was the Donald Duck boat ride in Mexico.  I also ate my way through the day with Dole whips, pastries from the French pavilion, and Kona coffee.

All this on top of a Mediterranean feast at the Morocco pavilion.  I also finished my 3rd or 4 total books read on the trip while laying in a hammock at the Polynesian.  I took the boys the following day to a different water park than we had visited earlier in the week.  Bill and I both agreed that an adult day was a sanity saver.

We did have a fantastic final night and surprised the boys with an all you could eat dessert buffet while watching the Electrical parade and then the Wishes fireworks display.  Ian ate 5 bowls of ice cream and Ben, 7 cupcakes and 5 cookies.  Both boys slept in and allowed us to pack the car in peace to get on the road home.  This week I'm at mentor training, luckily at a nearby school.  The boys are in 1/2 day camp and with our favorite babysitter.  I'm punting on driving to Charleston tomorrow to my sorority reunion as I was going to have to leave early anyway to be back in DC on Sunday night for a teacher seminar at the National Archives next week.

It is good to be home, even for a few days to catch our breath, wash clothes, and prepare for a longer Florida roadtip to see Grandmommy later this month.  Note that despite the wrestling and fighting, I hope the kids will remember the trip. If for nothing else the number of desserts eating in one sitting and the number of weapons purchased.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Big Summer Fun List!

It may be July and on day 5 of rain but it is SUMMER!   What does summer mean at Casa Vinson?   A less busy schedule, camps a plenty, lots of obligation-free unstructured time. SCORE.

I have several lists going, including the giant summer to-do list of awe inspiring tasks like a freezer inventory and purging the medicine chest of expired medicines.  Jealous? (likely not)

What is making the most important list? The 2013 list Big Family fun list?

*Items already completed or in progress are checked off!

1. Check out the super cool tree swing Mom discovered on the greenway creek trail
2. Make Camp Mommy t-shirts for field trip days
3. Update our car playlist
4. Visit the Bynum Front Porch music Saturday nights
5. Field Trip on an Amtrak Train to the NC Transportation Museum
6. Visit the Cary Creative Center and replenish our art box
7. Play t-ball
8. Catch a fish
9. Go Canoeing
10. Mystery trip/scavenger hunt adventure
11. Family cooking night
12. Ice cream taste test
13. Go to summer camp
14. Ride go karts
15. Take swim lessons
16. Go to the NC Zoo
17. Stay in a lakehouse and ride in a boat

18. Picnic, Train, Carousel at Pullen Park
19. Volunteer with Food Bank and Animal Shelter
20. Trip to Durham Science and Life
21. Krispy Kreme run after Marbles Children's Museum
22. Finish the playroom "secret room"
23. Visit the library weekly for new books and storytime
24. Family puzzle or game night
25. Make a recycled art project at the Scrap Exchange
26. See a Durham Bulls game
27. Beach weekend with friends
28. Eat Locopops!!!
29. Nature walk at Eno River State park
30. Watch the Paperhand Puppet Intervention at NC Museum of Art
31. Buy fruits, veggies and plants at the Raleigh Farmers Market
32. See a movie outside
33  Road trip to see Grandmommy in Florida
34. Make smores by the new fire pit
35. Visit the spray park and pool as much as possible!

We are heading out later this week for a family vacation to you guessed it, Disney! Bill has once again planned all details down to times and places to visit by day. All I have to do is get us packed and out the door.

This year to save money we are staying off property in a rental condo a few minutes away from the entrance.  We are driving, not flying, and are not doing a Disney dining plan.  Instead we have two special meals planned including an all you can eat dessert buffet watching fireworks over the castle.  We have our divide and conquer plan in place to let me take Ian back earlier to get him to bed and Bill stay on later in the parks with Ben.  This has worked well in the past and keeps the boys to somewhat a normal schedule.

We are also heading to Legoland, a first for our family. I convinced Bill to take the kids alone for the day since he was almost as excited about Legoland as the boys were.  Mom is looking forward to a quiet day, sitting pool side with a book.  That, my friends, is my definition of vacation.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

June Wrap Up

Where did June go?  It seems like it was only yesterday that I was wrapping up the school year and starting summer vacation..  June was busy, but July may be busier with travel in particular with double Florida trips and another DC teacher conference.  

During June 2013 I/We

-Wrapped up year 13 of teaching and for the first time, an exit plan with date on the table
-Finished  a successful 1st grade year and Preschool age 2-3 class
-Celebrated a big 7th birthday with a epic waterslide party
-Uncle Brian visited!!!
-Chance of a lifetime at 2013 Supreme Court Institute
-Finished 6 books (a record in a single month!)
-Went to the first of several summer camps (Ian- Y Kindercamp, Ben- Y Camp Rising Sun and 1/2 day Blazing Trails, and Jr. Jazzercise)
-Attended HeroesCon with Bill in Charlotte (Ben)
-Reunion weekend with high school friends and families on Lake Norman
-Made Camp Mommy t-shirts
-Finished the playroom secret room and V-boys library

Of all the awesomeness of DC and the Supreme Court, I'm voting for my favorite picture from Ben's party as my favorite of June.  The answer to life's problems can be answered with, "more waterslide."

Monday, July 1, 2013

Paddle faster, I hear banjos

We had a fairly uneventful weekend other than dodging lots of rainstorms and cursing my still broken car air conditioning.  As Bill had the boys for several days straight and has a release later this week, he's been catching up on work while I've had the boys for the bulk of the weekend.

The boys and I hit the park, the farmers market, grocery story, Target, breakfast out, movie night at home, library run, lots of playing  outside when not raining.

Of note during the weekend, the boys and I finished recovering an old bookshelf to move into the playroom and turn into a V-boys library.  Right now each boy has a bookshelf that is half used for books and half Lego creations, stuffed animals, randomness that matters only to the under 8 crowd.  I'll post before and after pictures once I reassemble.

My plan is two fold including finally thinning out bedroom bookshelves by purging and passing a sizable chunk of the collection, and then move the bulk of the books into the playroom.  I have method in my madness to try and keep library books separate from our own collection.

The other item of note was Ben and I went to a local park for Paddle the Pond event.  After a year in Y guides as well as a weekend at Camp Seagull with his tribe I thought this would be fun.  It was, minus mom running our boat into a thicket of pond vegetation and had to work a good 20 mins to free us. Luckily no one had to come to our aid, so I'm calling the trip on the side of success.  

Before Bill took Ian home for a hopeful but non-existent nap, he took some pictures.  This was the first time I had been to this park and we will be back for the fall paddle.  While waiting for the weather to cool down,  I promised I would work on my canoeing skills.