Monday, September 30, 2013

Worth an overcharged parking fee and a ho hum museum

Brian and I are making more of an effort this year to meet up, especially when it is half way for each of us.  I really want the boys to know what an amazing, generous person he is and for him to serve as a male role model for them.

He is about to leave on vacation with his girlfriend to San Franciso and then will be gone to several weekend-long music festivals.  We opted to meet up yesterday in Charlotte at Discovery Place for the afternoon to visit.

The last time I went to Discovery Place was in 1983 with my 3rd grade girl scout troop.  All I remember was walking through some giant eyeball.  Needless to say the Discovery Place of 2013 is a different place.  Maybe I've gotten spoiled with having Durham Science and Life and Marbles Kids museum so close.  It wasn't that Discovery Place wasn't an engaging museum, but in comparison I expected more for my buck.

Add to it a $16.00 parking garage fee and I felt a little ripped off. But, what was my intended purpose?  To watch a lame film about lions and lay on a bed of nails (of note, I did both.)  Nope, I wanted to hang out with Brian and chat and let the boys have fun. Which they did.

Ben especially loved a chair that levitated using air pressure.  Ian loved beating Ben at a tug of war using a pulley system with Brian's help. We had dinner at Cracker Barrel when my corn muffin lovin' children and my corn muffin' lovin' brother played multiple games of checkers.

Brian and I made plans to make our next visit the NC Zoo as well as check out an Aviation Museum I've just heard about recently.  With Brian's new schedule, he has a bit more flexibility with the upcoming holidays.  We are tinkering with a mountain trip meet up after Christmas with our family and Brian, his girlfriend and her children who are close in age to our kids.

I really love that Brian and I have a different type of relationship than we did just a few years ago.  It make my heart happy to see him in a relationship with someone he cares about deeply.  It makes my heart happy to see him with Ben and Ian and know this side of my brother.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

So I couldn't wait a week

Last week seemed like the week that just would not end.  Somewhere in the middle of the week, I unearthed myself from grading papers to scroll Facebook only to see that a good friend had a heart attack. When I read this online I immediately texted her and got the skinny.  Luckily she is now fine and come Friday, I knew that I wasn't going to wait a week to hug her in person at the next book club meeting in my old neighborhood.

Instead, I made a small floral arrangement and showed up at her door on the way home from work.  We chatted about what had happened that put her in the hospital for 3 days. I told her and her daughter some crazy story about showing up at ultra conservative Bob Jones University to take the ACT in cut off shorts and a tank top and was not let in.  All this after Eileen's daughter told me that she is being allowed to take the SAT at an area high school as a 7th grader and she was really nervous.  I laughed, Eileen and Mary laughed. Thinking about not laughing with Eileen for say the next 30-40 years stopped me cold wondering what IF she hadn't taken her husband's advice and gotten checked out.

So before you ask why I'm hanging out with the 60+ crowd, let me go on the record by saying that Eileen just turned 41 last month.  41 YEARS OLD.  She's asking that friends share what she was feeling before and during so that, like her, you don't think you can blow off just thinking it is anything but a HEART ATTACK.

She can tell her own story in her own words. Be prepared to laugh, as even in the midst of tragedy, she can bring the funny.

So...I Had A Heart Attack (AKA: Someone Gave Me A Vag Shiner)

-Love you Eileen, and yes, it is way, way too soon to be reading "Taco Party" at your eulogy.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Love List- September Edition

I had intended to keep this going as a monthly series, but somewhere it faltered in 2013.  It has been a long, long week. One of the hardest of 2013 from an exhaustion standpoint.  I've worked late almost every night grading, contacting parents, working on follow up documents for observations of my student teacher and the 1st year teacher I'm mentoring.

I've had almost every lunchtime and after school stacked with meetings about more testing, more requirements, more hoops. News today of another teacher is leaving my school effective end of the month for a higher paying job to support his family.  That brings the school-wide total to 32 for 2013.

The atmosphere at school this week has been heavy with the loss of Michelle M..  Just yesterday a group of my current students asked if I could tell them when and where the funeral was going to be held.  I sat down with them and wrote out the address and then asked if they had been to a funeral before.  Odd question, but you would be surprised at how many have not. When none of them had I told them what to expect, an idea of what would be appropriate to wear, and that I thought it would mean the world to Mrs. Morrell's family that students came to say good bye.

I was thinking on the way home about things that have kept me going this week, honestly in the last weeks of being back into routines, long days, and extreme time management.

Here's what I am loving in September 2013

1. More help from Bill with the kids.  He's been home earlier, thus able to help me divide and conquer the nighttime routine so I can start on school work earlier than the usual 9/9:30. We are splitting the weekend up into chunks of swap time.

2. Figuring a way to get exercise back into the week.  Ok, this week has been a bust. Since first of August I've made it 2-3 times a week plus have been doing kickboxing on Saturday mornings. Instant.Stress.Reduction

3. Doing better with planned dinners, healthier lunches, going to bed earlier, leaving on time or even early.  All are little battles that if I win on a day to day basis, setbacks don't feel so crushing.

4. Good teachers.  Ben has a wonderful 2nd grade teacher.  She's a veteran without being moldy, knows how to reach out in a positive and encouraging way, and has honed process and procedures along with her content.  My student teacher as well as the 1st year teacher that I'm working with are good teachers at heart. They are new, with much to learn, but they both have already demonstrated they are the real deal.  I take it very seriously that my job is to help them learn all the ins and outs of this profession that will help keep good teachers where they belong, in front of my kids.  Better yet, all kids.

5. Flowers. Yep, flowers.  I've been allowing myself $15 each week for whatever I want to arrange.  It makes my heart happy to see flowers at home or on my desk that I arranged.  Later today I'm dropping a stealth arrangement to surprise a friend who had a medical emergency during the week.  Last night I talked the floral clerk into giving me a discount on an extra vase and some ribbon to save me a trip to the craft store. Next month I redeeming a Groupon for a flower arranging class in hopes I can learn some real techniques, instead of the self taught ones I currently use.

Happy weekend.  We'll be pumpkin patchin' it on teacher appreciation weekend at a local pumpkin farm. Bill has already deemed that our Halloween decorations will be up as soon as we have pumpkins on display. We are about to be THAT house for your enjoyment.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Appetite for Destruction

First up, I talked to the afterschool director about if food could be donated to either our local Food Bank or if the school participated in the Backpack Buddies program.  Yes, to both but that some food still cannot be donated due to parishability.  She also mentioned the lack of manpower in getting the food to the programs consistently.  She indicated that they had at one point participated in BackPack buddies, but believed they stopped.

I suggested if the school PTA would be willing to take on the legwork for getting the leftovers to the right places. I mentioned it would be good PR for the school as well as way to model community to the kids. The afterschool director mentioned she would look into both possibility.

Thanks folks for the suggestions.

I'm currently re-reading Your Three Year Old- Friend or Enemy as well as Your Seven Year Old- Life in a Minor Key.  Both are a great (and quick) read with lots of practical advice. Both confirm that both boys are the epitome of normal to their respective ages. Ben is having a good start to the school year. We've fallen into a routine at home as well as the morning that is proving he is taking more responsibility for himself. Ben continues to fight with Ian to epic lengths, but he also had a sweetness for encouraging Ian to make better choices, offers to help him, and is showing him real tenderness. This is a much celebrated and encouraged side in Ben as well as Ian to accept help instead of fight everything because he is three.

When I leave in the morning or put both boys in bed in night we have a competition to blow the biggest kiss.  It is silly and I ham it up sometimes acting like I am going to fall down the stairs on on the floor their love is so un-containable. Secretly this is one of the best parts of the day. I know in the future this will be the most uncool thing ever and no one will play along.

Ian too is a sweet boy and is doing well in his new class at school.  The assistant director mentioned to me that "I must have really worked with him all summer, as he seems more receptive and ready to listen than in May."  While I did spend an enormous amount of time this summer with him, I don't know that it is really any one thing.  I tried really hard to be consistent with discipline, provide daily outlets for energy, and give him little jobs to do that only "big boys" were allowed to do.  Despite the TWO naps total he took all summer, he also has come into his own with interests and with (a little more) maturity.

But, Ian is destructive in ways Ben never imaged.  I cite living with an older brother who is influential as well as a need to overcome 2nd child syndrome with forced parental attention, even negative attention.  I give you the following examples:

A "boat" made out of his laundry basket

What happens when you try and enforce quiet time in a new place (my brother's house)

Regardless, the little bits of time I see them after work, while hurried and usually frantic with the nighttime schedule, is the best of the day.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Like mother, like son.

Ben is in the afterschool program at his school. It runs until 6 pm daily and includes homework session, outside play, media center and computer lab time, and organized games.  I would love to say I'm not in the last wave of parents squealing into the parking lot each day at pick up, but I am.  With traffic and picking up Ian at daycare first I normally get Ben around 5:30 each day.

Part of the monthly fee includes a afterschool snack.  The other day Ben opened up his backpack to reveal 11 bags of animal crackers that he took. Ben told me he was getting them for him and Ian for the ride home. I have found that these days my car is a rolling grocery in the amount of food I have to keep for two hungry boys. After months of being worried about his weight it is almost funny that eating too much is even an issue. I asked Ben if he had asked if he asked one of the teachers in charge  if he could take all the bags.  Yes, he had.

When I picked him up the next day he had 6 bags of goldfish and was in the process of handing out extras to the other straggler children waiting to go home.  I asked the director if it was ok that Ben had taken all the animal crackers and pointed to his armful of goldfish bags.

She also said yes and mentioned that each day due to some crazy bureaucratic county rule that they have to toss any opened food, even if it is still in sealed bags and containers at the end of the school day.

The next day the kids had yogurt, the same exact brand we eat at home by the cartload. Take a wild guess who at 5 mins until 6 on a super late pick up day took home 23 cups?


Monday, September 16, 2013

An $11.50 Double Date and a Request

Yesterday I took the boys to the Hurricanes hockey fan appreciation day.  We went last year and had a blast on jumpy things of all configurations, food trucks, bands, and give aways. *Note to Ben who insisted we wait in a long line for 20 minutes so he could spin a wheel to get some realtor-marketed crap. You are your father's son and a marketer's wet dream.

This year it seemed even more popular/crowded and included a hockey game with the players teamed against each other.  For $11.50 the boys ate 5 dollar hotdogs and split a large ice cream as well as dined on their 2 bags of free popcorn.  Did I mention that they ate me out of all money I had with me?

We actually stayed through the entire game even with a squirmy Ian Vinson who wanted to be up in your business.  He is in this stage of wanting  to pull down your pants or lift up your skirt to be funny.

In public it not funny. Not funny at all. We did have a good time screaming for the team and being silly on a gorgeous fall day.

The rest of the weekend was filled with laundry, errands, grading and planning for another week. Friday night we did date night that involved us splitting up and dividing up our tasks.  It was much needed productive, not romantic date. But it allowed us to kick back on Saturday night and not work.

Last night I had just gotten the kids to bed and my phone was going off.  I ignored it with the plans that I was trying to wrap up some grading and then head to bed.  It was notice of a 6:50 am  faculty meeting about the passing of one of our teachers.

Knowing that Michelle M. celebrated her 35th birthday on Friday, but passed peacefully in her sleep after a year-long battle with breast cancer yesterday seems all kind of cruel.  It has never been my news to share, as she was more of a friend of a friend. In these last weeks knowing she was likely at the end, I stopped by mutual friends in her department at school to ask how she was and how they were doing as well. I offered to cover their classes when the time came, so that the department could go together to her funeral.  Michelle was a great mom and spouse. She was loved by her family, friends, and her students whom she treated as extended family.

If ever there is a reason to remember what is really, really worth it at the end of the day or for what days we have, this is it.

Good thoughts and prayers for Morrell family in the time ahead.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Day Trippin' - Paperhand Puppet Intervention Group

I've heard about the Paperhand Puppet Intervention Group for the last couple of years but kept missing the chance to take the boys.  They routinely play the Festival at the Eno in Durham as well as the NC Museum of Art. Alas, I saw they were playing in Chapel Hill yesterday and opted to take the V-boys.

We couldn't have asked for a nicer day, weekend, really.  It was warm without being hot with little humidity. We got there early, yes I know I was equally surprised, and enjoyed some NC bluegrass pre-show.  The performance started around 3 and for the next hour, this beautiful natural stone theater was transformed into a puppet paradise.

Ok.  Stop me now.  Maybe you remember when Ben and I came upon the "Million Puppet March" when we were in DC last fall and I believe it was ME that laughed tirelessly about the lameness of puppets.  I put them in the same class a mimes and clowns.  The world would be a better place without them.

I was wrong.  About the puppets. The mimes and clowns can still suck it.  Both creep me out. Granted during the pre-show I could smell that someone had lit up a big fat one and yes the smell of unwashed hippie surrounded me, but the show itself was uber cool.

The premise of the show was the story of evolution as told through a giant puppet headed Charles Darwin. It started with creation and ended to a theme of environmentalism and global responsibility.

Ok.  Stop me now and ask, was this on a child level, YES! Ben just about blew me away that he knew the word "hominid." Granted, at one point he looked at me and said, "we need to quit driving our car, it is killing our Earth".  Yes, son, and the bike trip over here to hear this important message would have started last week."  Ian loved all the movement, action from cast moving throughout the audience, and in general making piles of stones at his feet.  But, Ben was truly into the whole show.  He asked me to take pictures of every single set.

I settled on this shot at the end which was really cool since they passed the giant human head and parts of a human man through the crowd and Ben was able to touch it himself.  So, am I going to abandon my day job and take on one of the cast descriptions as a "wildwoman, healer, gardener, and trickester?"

No, but what I will tell you is that I have no regrets in taking my kids to places that are out of the ordinary from their daily life.  I explained to Ben that the man in the Balinese batik skirt in front of us was cool like him, and that he was wearing something boys wear in another culture. Exposure to that which is different is another step to fostering his understanding and appreciation of his world.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Week of Sept 1st-7th By the Numbers

Actual workdays- 4, 3 if you count today's teacher workday without students.  What up school district to put a workday 8 days after we started the school year.  Are you trying to tick off working parents?

Number of Jr Jazzercise classes taken- 1 + a 8 week punch pass purchased.  Ben was beside himself and damn if he isn't more coordinated than me.

Number of mea cupla emails sent to Ben's teacher for loosing his homework-1.  In my defense it got mixed into a stack I was grading.  I noticed later I had misspelled a word in my email to her.  opps...

Speaking of grading- Current in-basket for work to be graded on my desk.  Hello weekend.  That doesn't include planning for a 2 week unit on the political process for AP Gov or the Era of Good Feelings for US kids. I would like to spank whoever named the period of history, "the era of good feelings." Really, do we care about John Quincy Adams.  I think not.

Speaking of kids, while I have a gazillion of them, so far even the repeating ones are working, coming to class, and giving it their best shot.  It probably doesn't hurt I have instituted "Cookie Friday" if we can get through a whole week of productivity. It may cost me a small fortune, but the in the long run it will be a double win situtation.

Number of students that I currently have- over 100.  I would give you an actual count, but it changes daily, and the numbers only continue to go up as more students enroll in the first 10 days and classes are filled to capacity.  Actually the phrase, "filled to capacity" no longer fits, maybe I should practice stuffing dead bodies in the extra space in my house.  This seems like a good and useful skill about now.

Needless to say I'm short on books, desks, chairs, in general room for it not to be wall to wall teenagers hosed down in AXE bodyspray.  I have built up a tolerance to the universal skanky teen boy smell that usually is complemented by Dominos Pizza and Mountain Dew on any given Friday night in America.

Moving on.

Number of hours of exercise- One workout with the trainer and heading to the gym today before pick up. If I can pull off kickboxing tomorrow, then I kinda met my goal.

Number of Pumpkin Spiced Lattes from Starbucks purchased- 2 and likely going to be 3 today.  My daily on the way home coffee pick up has the potential for addiction status.

Books finished this week- 2-In all due respect, it has taken over a month to listen to Half the Sky on audio while walking the dog.  The second, a bookclub book called Lost and Found, sparked a discussion of what game show or reality show would you like to be a contestant.  According to the discussion last night: Nays to Rock of Love, Flavor of Love, basically anything when hooking up in a skanky hot tub with some has-been is a major plotline.

My friend mentioned Supermarket Sweep. Remember this gem circa 1992?  I SO watched this every afternoon, dreaming on a day I could wear a nasty baby poop yellow collared contestant sweatshirt and fill my grocery cart with 17 lb hams.

Happy weekend-

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Day Trippin'- NC Transportation Museum and Dan Nichols Park

One of the things on our big summer to-do list was to visit the NC Transportation Museum in Spencer, NC. Spencer is just under an hour outside the north side of Charlotte.  The museum is housed in a working railroad site that dates to 1896.  Almost all the buildings are original and includes one of the few intact roundhouses in the US.  A local mom blog, Mom in Chapel Hill, visited this summer and since reading her write up, I knew my boys would love to go. This past Saturday we slapped on our matching Camp Mommy shirts and headed out for one final road trip of the summer.

The cost of the museum included all the buildings, each of which included actual train cars or restored vehicles. Some were set up to be toured included a WWII medical train car and a US Post Office mail car. The main area to tour is a working roundhouse that would put Thomas to shame.  Speaking of everyone's favorite English train series, sure to bore every parent in the US, the museum offers Day Out with Thomas several times a year, the next one in late September.  If you kid loves Thomas, by all means this is a closer drive than Tweetsie Railroad in the mountains.  But, if like my boys, and just like things that move, then just go whenever and save your money.

Ben and Ian were equally wowed by the other displays of antique cars, planes, and machines they could manipulate.  In the roundhouse, a train was being refurbished and spectators were allowed to watch. Ben was especially enamored that a collection of toilets had been removed from some of the trains.

You can opt to take a 25 minute train ride around the property, including many of the non-tourable original buildings on a refurbished train. I would recommend the extra cost for the train, as it was a nice way to catch a breeze on a hot day.  The exhibits are split between a handful of air conditioned buildings, but mainly in warehouse like conditions.  All of us were filthy dirty by end of day. The hallmark, I believe, of a good road trip.

 *Note- the boys could not believe these old style computes ever existed.

If you go, pack a lunch and several snacks.  There is a outside, covered picnic area as well as indoor area with vending machines, but no restaurant on property.  The gift shop does sell ice cream as well as the most Thomas train sets I've ever seen.  

We spent around 4 hours at the museum including the train ride.  My neighbor had told me about the nearby Dan Nichols park that contained a super playground, putt-putt, paddleboats,carousel, splash pad, and gem mining.  I had only thought the museum would hold the boys' interest a couple of hours so we cut down our list to visiting the playground and gem mining.  We stayed another two hours before heading home.  I might consider a day trip just to this park to take advantage of all the nearly free items it included.

If you are within a 3 hour driving radius this is a day trip not to be missed for kids of all ages.

*Added bonus if you create a surprise map for your kids.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Camp Mommy- The Final Weekend of Summer Edition

I'll cut to the chase in the first line, Bill needs to get out of town more frequently.  WHAAT???

While I love that he has never had a job that requires travel, I will say the house worked like a well oiled machine since I saw him last on Thursday morning.  I seriously hoped that he would stay in Atlanta until the last goo pod or inappropriate sci fi costuming parade closed down the annual DragonCon convention he went to with his friend.

You mean to tell me that parenting solo has you singing like a soprano in church choir on Easter Sunday. Yep.   Let me break down the last 5 days Bill-less for you.

Thursday- Dead tired from a long first week back with students, but revived by a picked up dinner using up an about to expire Groupon and the knowledge that Friday was almost in the bag.  Kids bathed, homework done, kids in bed by 8:30. Mom finished up with grading, laundry and in bed by eleven.

Friday am- Stepped out of bed in the 5:20 darkness onto a bug... eek. Nasty and so not the way to start a day.  Nasty 2:  Dog vomit, but come on karma.  Still, I managed to get the kids up, Ben on the bus by 6:40, Ian at daycare when they opened at 7 and managed to walk in 15 minutes into first block.  Kudos to my partner teacher whom I had pre-arranged to cover for me.

Friday pm- Hit the gym and ran almost 2 miles.  I have been re-doing a Couch to 5k for the last couple of months to try to get back in the habit of running as part of an exercise commitment.  Yay me for not tying one on like I wanted to, and instead tying on my running shoes.  Picked up kids, easy dinner, family movie night, bath/books, kids in bed by 9, me just before 10.

Saturday- Got up at 5:30am to work on grading and planning for next week.  Ian ruined any real work by being up at 6. Thanks. Left for a day trip to Spencer, NC around 9 am.  Another post soon on what we did... hint... Thomas the Train can suck it.  We saw a real working roundhouse as well as so much train/transportation stuff even I was feeling like a seven year old boy in the excitement department (as well as the filthy dirty dept) once home. Went gem mining at a super cool nearby park, dinner in the car, home at 7:30. Bath/book, kids in bed by 9.  Mom got her Breaking Bad fix once kids confirmed asleep.

Sunday- Intended to get up at 5:30again but was up multiple times with Ian having growing pains in his feet during the night.  Poor guy, all Vinsons slept until 7. I  punted on church when I realized I would never make it on time, and instead worked on school and house stuff while the kids watched tv until our friends from Wilmington arrived and we headed to 3 Bears Acres.

Damn, that place is awesome.  Even better when you have it almost completely to yourself.  We stayed until just after 5 and managed the mother of all timing missing rain moving into the area. Quick dinner, popcorn and a couple of shows with the kids while I graded papers, bath/book, kids in bed by 9. Another night with my favorite meth cookers.

Monday- Got up at 5:30, worked until kids were up at 7.  Managed to get an entire unit of notes plus "Smokin' it Up for Federalism" assignment written.  What better way to teach boring stuff than to splice it with a debate about medical marijuana in California?

Met up with a friend and kids at the park, picnic, paddle boats.  Home for some kid quiet time and more grading/planning. Made a batch of homemade cookies and ran a thank you batch by our summer swim teacher's house. Weekend errands with kids in a two hour blitz. I got lunches made, daycare bag packed, to do list updated, more grading and read some on a book I'm trying to finish.  Went to bed around 10:30.

Don't get me wrong, I love that Bill is home by 7:30/8 pm most nights to do a bath or help me get kids into bed. The weekend went so much smoothly just being the three of us for a change.  No fighting other than the regular sword battles or tiffs over toys. Note that mom was not screaming at any point of the weekend. I managed to get a lot done without feeling I did nothing but work all weekend. Plus, we managed two all day outings over a holiday weekend..

Yes, I rocked it like a hurricane.