Friday, January 31, 2014

Wrap it Up- January 2014

For the first 31 days of 2014 much has been done including lots of days off from work.  We are on day four from being out of school after around 3 inches of snow in the Raleigh area.  No worries that I've had a four day vacation.  As I have to pay back the days, I've been at work with kids in tow anytime the building has been open. Luckily my daycare has been open for some of the time as well and my principal has been flexible about allowing us to come in later than our normal start time given child care.

As we now are eating into our Spring Break and I have to have written permission from my principal to take my own personal days, including a monetary deduction for the sub, I am ready to be back at school.  It is not like the College Board is going to let me have an extra week to cover the material I have to cram in before the AP exam in early May.

Enough bellyaching, at least I didn't spend the night in my car on some road, even worse if my kids had been stuck with me or all night at their school. My mother in law in Birmingham spent the night in her office as she couldn't get home.  Been there, done that in January, 2005 on my 30th birthday no less, when the school didn't call an early dismissal resulting in a 7 hour gridlock drive home.  It was awesome, NOT.

So what have I been up to this month.

-Celebrated the last year of my thirties with a Mexican fiesta complete a Mo' Money pinata, hats and moustaches, brunch with biscuits, and a trip to our favorite local park
-About to finish my 4th book of the month.  Oh yeah, didn't I have some plan to update GoodReads more?
- Met up with Uncle Brian at the NC Zoo with the boys
- Dinners out including Ethiopian and Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen to celebrate other friend's January birthday
- Got back in the saddle with exercise.  This week alone I've done a weightlifting class, kickboxing class, ran the track with Ben two days while showing him how to use the rowing machine and TRX system.  I'll take his, "mom, you are so cool to know how to do special push ups" as a compliment.
- Saw THREE, count it THREE movies in a real movie theater in prep for awards season.  I'll add that Amy Adams boobs deserve an award for best use of double stick tape. Wolf of Wall Street is the worst date night movie ever due to the amount of T and A including seeing Jonah Hill's junk. I owe Matthew McConaughey a huge apology for ever thinking he was just a hot bod with an accent as syrupy as sweet tea. Between Dallas Buyers Club and his new show on HBO, goodness gracious that man can act.

What is on board for February?

Meeting up with a high school friend for a mini-girl's spa overnight trip
More books and more HBO binge watching before it is gone
Planned meet up with Uncle Brian to visit the Carolinas Aviation Museum

And yes,
at some point getting back to work involving student attending. classes.

My favorite picture from January, what happens when you tell your kids, "I don't care what type of pinata you pick, I'll love it."  And I so, so, so did!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

We interrupt this normally scheduled week.....

To play in the SNOW!!!!!

After waiting with faces pressed to the windows yesterday after school was called without even a flake on the ground, finally justice around 8 pm.  Light snow fell all night leaving us with around 2-3 inches. Ben and Ian were crushed when at bedtime a little snow was in the air, but none appreciable on the ground.

Can you imagine the decibel level when they realized that not only was school cancelled, but that there was enough to sled for most of the the morning.  Our neighbors, being old school folk from real snow lovin' states built a snow ramp at the end of their driveway leading to many, "no really, let's not make going to the emergency room with a kid with a busted arm" moments.  Luckily we set some ground rules about going down and the boys had a blast.

Later we made snow cream, had a taco bar, and played Cattan Jr.  As school is closed again tomorrow, and cabin fever is starting to set in a bit for mom, we are planning on getting out of the house. Not early though, with a low tonight in the single digits, our warm beds will be enjoyed for longer than usual.

For the record, I am a true Southerner.  I love watching the snow fall, from the inside.  I personally don't love being in the freezing cold trying not to bust my butt but did so for hours on end yesterday to make sure the kids were supervised and enjoyed the rarity of snow.  Of all the pictures we took, this was my favorite, all the V boys (including the biggest one) shoveling the sidewalk and driveway while I sat inside, reading by the fire.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Friday night Bill and I took advantage of one of our favorite places to eat minus kid meals.  They were hosting a special tasting menu that was featured during Triangle Restaurant week.  With two birthdays and Valentine's Day in the first two months of the year, we opted to knock out celebrating all three with one nice meal.   Since we had driven separately, I picked up the kids from the drop off child care and had them bathed and in bed by the time Bill got home.  Most Friday nights I am comatose by 9 pm, asleep on the couch.  This weekend, I stayed up all the way until 9:30 finishing up a book.

The rockin' lives of the middle aged.

 Saturday I carved out time to head to kickboxing.  I am proud that for all but one Saturday in January, my butt had been kickin' it old school for for new year's resolution time.  I took the boys to See Spot Read at our local library after lunch.  The Wake Country library has a rotation of therapy dogs that visit branches for children to practice reading.  As we were picking up our weekly books, Ben had books on the usual topics: WWII, Dolphins and Whales, Racing.  He picked a most fascinating (not really) book on the Pentagon.  Ian laid nearby narrating a book on hippos to me.  He is at a stage of wanting to read by retelling me what happens and pointing out letters and numbers that he recognizes.

The Town of Cary rescheduled their Winter Wonderland weekend due to the crazy warm temperatures a few weekends ago.  I had reserved an afternoon time for the boys to have an hour of sledding.  At first Ian was upset when his first trip down he was covered in mud and grass.  Ben was unbelievably helpful making sure Ian could make it to the top of the hill and that he was fully on his sled before taking off.  The boys convinced me to go down at some point. Sadly while there is no photos or video I can tell you I wiped out, loosing my shoes on the way down.

Later that night I met up with a friend to see the Wolf of Wall Street.  Holly Molly! While a good and very typical Martin Scorsese film, it was crazy intense from the opening credits of a full three hour film. Somewhere I read that if you took out all the F bombs it would have been nominated for live action short film instead of best picture of the year.  I can say that Leo is a long, long way from that big ass boat.

Sunday I took the boys to Marbles intending to only spend a couple of hours.  We got there when they opened hoping to beat the crowds. We wound up staying for 4 1/2 hours and hit every part of the museum. Add a couple of chocolate iced Krispy Kremes and the boys were tuckered out by the time we got home. Ben and Bill went to their monthly Y Guide meeting and Ian and I walked the dog, hit the grocery, and finished up some housework before calling it a weekend.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Love List- January

Last year I started my own monthly Friday series for things that are bringing me joy.  Here we go with the first installment of 2014.

Item 1- A kick ass toilet seat.  You heard me, a toilet seat like no other.  No matter how much I clean the kid's bathroom it still resembles a Greyhound bus station 95% of the time.  Bill found a new toilet seat that can easily and quickly be removed and submerged in a bucket of cleaning solution.  Bad aim, meet your match.

 Item 2- New items tried at Trader Joes

I am currently in love with their roasted veggie pizza (NO CHEESE!!!).  New favorites also include the sweet potato gnocchi and the Herb popcorn.  I took Ben with me the other day to buy healthy items for his lunch box.  Lo' and behold that he picked out new fruits and one veggie to try and actually like most.  

Item 3- My amazing student teacher.  believe it or not, I have never had a student teacher.  I've been asked multiple times but always declined believing that it was just more work.  With my National Boards up for renewal and also trying to add marketable skills for my teaching resume I said yes this year.

She is mature, uber organized, has great presence with the students, takes charge, and sees the student teaching experience as a semester long job interview.  We have developed a great working relationship and while she is only teaching one of my classes due to my AP spring load,  I could not have been more lucky to have been matched with her.  One her first (real) day of handling classes alone, I left her a note, school supplies that she was planning on buying, and her drink of choice that she can legally have at school.

Item 4- The return of the weekly flower budget.

This was what 10 bucks bought to brighten up my desk at work.  I'm thinking about asking the owner of a local floral shop that I know if she would consider taking me on as an apprentice during the busy prom and summer wedding season.  Sound crazy or a tiny baby step towards a dream?

Item 5- Thunder from Down Under

After talking to Bill about the timing and the affordability of a trip in light of a saving year, I am planning on flying to Vegas to meet up with my sorority sisters during the summer.  Last year I had to miss our annual summer meet up and missed the debate on where to go for the following year.  It appears that they went big for 2014.  We've been working out the details for hotel, spa, and show suggestions in our private FB group. Why not a stretch of the imagination, we have voted that we all need some thunder from down under.  There are only a handful of people that I would want to hoot and holler at a total campy performance, but my sorority ladies are on the short list.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A note from the Principal

Sunday as part of my birthday celebration I took the boys to the State Farmer's Market Restaurant for brunch with time at Pullen Park afterward.  As I was watching the boys a man came up to me totally in weekend clothes but wearing a hat embroidered with Ben's elementary school.  At first I didn't recognize him, but when he called me, "Mrs. Vinson" I knew it was the principal of Ben's school. Ben came over to say hello as well and the principal called Ben by name as well.  

We chatted for a short bit and I of course had to open mouth insert leg and commented on his "grandchildren" which were in fact his "children"  playing nearby. I figured I needed to own my mistake and apologized making a joke about how you never ask a women if she is pregnant.  I wanted in all sincerity to thank him.  I commented that as a parent and also a school district employee I respected the leadership of his school, the quality of the teaching, and the involvement of the faculty to reach out to the parents on a regular basis.  I noted that it was evident that with the very low turnover at the school that the continuity of teachers reflected great school leadership.  Many of the teachers are the same that helped open the school in the mid 1990s.  

I told him that I loved Ben's teacher this year and gave him an example of her lesson when to use formal vs informal speech using Mr. Mack as an example.  Ben's teacher remarked that you would not address the Principal as "hey dude, what are you doing after school." He laughed, I laughed and he thanked me for our family support and followed his kids to another part of the playground.

The reality is that the school is well run. It is reflected in every way that I have interacted with the school over the last three years.  The teachers have been quick and thoughtful with communication, they are clear about assignments and expectations. The after school program which at times I have disagreed at times remains a well run and organized.   Simply put, this is a school that is "working."  My hope is with all the upheaval in NC public schools with almost daily new mandates of new laws and more testing of our kids that schools like Ben's continue to be run like a well oiled machine.  While I'm sure there are problems beyond what is visible the average parent, it appears that they have a formula for making education work.

Yesterday as Ben was unpacking his backpack to complete homework, he told me he had gotten a GOOD note from his Principal.  Boy did he ever.

Thank you Mr. Mack for your leadership and the time you take to know our family by name.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Ben likes to lay out his school clothes down to the underwear as a person next to his bed each night.  I told him since it was going to be cold, to make sure he picked layers.  This ensamble plus a hoodie and coat, and he is all good for the minimual amout of time they likely will do after school on the playground later today.

Hello 2nd semester a startin' today with a two hour delay for a minimal amount of snow.

I could get used to this schedule!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A 39th birthday that was all about the Benjamins

Last week Ben convinced me that we needed a pinata for my birthday party.  I assured him that we had a cake and a special day planned already, but he insisted.  This is the mind of the seven year old, one planning his next birthday just as soon as the last guest leaves from his current party.

On Saturday I took the boys most of the day to run some errands, promising them that good behavior would result in a pinata purchase.  *Note to self, do not tell Ben and Ian that you don't care what pinata they pick out.  You will go home with the best of the Party City $Mo Money$ collection.

We stayed in the store trying on crazy hats and laughing our butts off.  Ben was particularly interested in the 80's party gear.  He asked me if he could buy a Micheal Jackson sequined glove with his tooth fairy money. Sure, but you are not taking it to school.

In addition to the pinata, they also talked me into buying hats and moustaches for the party.

I had a great birthday.  We went to church, to the State Farmers Market Restaurant for hush puppies and pancakes for the boys and a veggie plate of collard greens, pintos with chow chow, and grits with country ham gravy. Serious comfort food yum.  Afterwards we hit up one of our favorite area parks.  We stayed at Pullen Park for almost two hours playing on a warmish, sunny winter day.

Once home, we had birthday cake, (my favorite Orange Cremsicle from Sugar Mama's) and pulled out the pinata.  The boys could have cared less that we filled it with existing leftover Halloween and Christmas candy. They karate chopped, kicked, and hit every last bit of candy out of it.  The entire downstairs was covered in green streamers and the last vestiges of poor Benjamin Franklin.

I had plans to meet up for a late dinner with a friend that has a birthday tomorrow.  We had a chance to catch up and enjoy a little adult conversation and I wrapped up the night watching the new HBO series True Detective.

As I start the last year of my 30s, I think about what I want for this year.  I realized that 19 days into 2014 that I never really posted goals or resolutions.  They are much the same of most years: work to be on time, cognizant of my choices about health, eating, exercise, and sleep.  I want to make the time I have with Ben and Ian count.  I want to continue choosing reading over mindless tv watching with a goal of 50 books by year end.  Thinking before I speak in anger continues into the new year, again.  My weekly floral budget continues with plans for a pickup tomorrow and stealth bouquet for someone at work. Other goals are amorphous and need to be reflected on and considered  in my own head.  I want to make the last year of my 30s count as a set up for a positive next decade.

The numbers 41 and 43 weigh heavily on my mind as they are the ages at which my parents were diagnosed with diabetes.  While I know I am much healthier, it still seems like the deck is stacked against me.  I see this year as one to reflect on what types of decisions I want to make about work, marriage, kids, and doing whatever I can to stave off illness into what I hope will be a long, long way in my future.  I realize that I can live in fear, or I can take this year and any subsequent years and live for myself and my boys.  I also realize that I can stand still this year, hoping and wishing for things to change, all the time knowing that I am the one who can start decisions for change now.  I am reminded that small steps can drastically turn into large, life changing plans in a more positive direction.

May my 39th trip around the sun be filled with days filled with goodness and light.  May I live the life of the one in my dreams or at least one that leaves me knowing that the next decade starts in the best possible place.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Frozen on Fridays #1

I know it is now SATURDAY, but yesterday came and went and oh well, I meant to start this at the start of the month....

Carrie over at Curly Crafty Mom is posting a monthly installment of freezer cooking.  I mentioned that I would like to play along and join in how other readers of her blog make the six o'clock dinner rush easier.

Last fall my good friend Katie put together a cookbook of favorite recipes from our former teaching colleague and friend, Michelle Morrell, that passed away from breast cancer in the fall of 2013.  The sale of the cookbook was a fundraiser for her young daughters.  Most of the recipes were Michelle's, ones she used in teaching Foods I at our high school school, but Katie asked friends to also contribute.  She asked me in particular to submit one called "Old Settlers Baked Beans."

Before you say, of all your freezer cooking why did you submitted beans?  I did for several reasons:

1.  It goes from freezer to crockpot and can be parceled out as a side or as a main dish. It is perfect with a pan of cornbread and a green salad.
2.  It is a go-to dish for picnics, tailgating, covered dish events, and can be made customized vegetarian. It a four season dish in our house.
3.  My friend Carolyn used to make this dish for her annual kid-friendly Halloween party.  She once told me a particular touching story about the timing of the party and a particular cancer-related anniversary in her life. Each time I make this dish I think of her and am thankful for her remission.

Old Settler's Baked Beans (original source:  Taste of Home)

1/2 lb ground beef or turkey (can be omitted)
1/2 lb cooked and roughly diced bacon (can be omitted)
1 medium chopped onion
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 16 oz can pork and beans (drained, not rinsed)
1 16 oz can kidney beans (light or dark) (drained and rinsed)
1 16 oz can Great Northern Beans (drained and rinsed)

Cooking directions-

In a large skillet cook beef and bacon, drain off fat and return to pan.  Add onion and cook until tender. Combine all other ingredients except beans.  Stir well and transfer to crock pot.  Stir in beans and cook on low heat until ready to serve, minimum of 1 hour if using the crock pot, 30 minutes if using the stove top.

Yield:  8-10 servings 

** add one can beef broth and one can tomato sauce to thin and make a chili


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Bookin' It- The 2013 Wrap up

Yes I know that it is the 14th of January, but I have spent most of the last week in a fending off a cold and in a grading quagmire of reading research papers.  Over the weekend I finished the first of my plan for 50 books in 2014.  I wanted to start the year off with a book that reminds me how much I love reading as part of my daily life.

I fully give Wonder *****.  If I could give it six, I would.  I hope to share this book with each of my boys as a story of "when choosing to be right or be kind, choose kind".  I took a chance and picked it for my old neighborhood book club for my month to host. I hope they will actually read it as I have the reputation for the "worst book of the year" award.

Last night I started on A Constellation of Vital Phenomena as part of the six books I picked up over the weekend at the library.  While I doubt I will get through all six before they are due, I thoroughly enjoyed browsing the New York Times Top 100 books of 2013 for ideas for what to add to my Goodreads account.  I have a 2014 goal of trying to update my account more frequently as frankly it becomes a once a month recount of books read. I also have have a goal of finishing the dense 928 page The Bully Pulpit by year end.  As I own my copy, complete with a personal inscription from Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, I can read at my leisure.

I wrote back in July of my mid year progress. I ended the year with 49 books, surpassing my original Goodreads challenge of 30 books by August.

My top 10 books of the year (all 5 star books)

And the Mountains Echoed
Where'd You Go Bernadette
We Live in Water
The Nobodies Album
The Dovekeepers
Tiny Beautiful Things
Beautiful Ruins
Five Days at Memorial- Non fiction
Half the Sky- Non fiction

Honorable Mentions for notable 4 star books

Lean In- Non fiction
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
The Financial Lives of Poets
Mary Coin

I ended the year with at least 70% of my 2013 reads at 3 stars and above.  I would like to note that I would like my time back for reading Reconstructing Amelia, Serena, Looking for Alaska, A Land More Kind Than Home and After Visiting Friends. If they are on your to read list, reconsider.

Happy reading in 2014.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

With Cold (and a little wet) bodies, but warm hearts

Sunday we met up with Brian at the NC Zoo.  One of our mutual 2014 goals is to try and meet up every 2-3 months on a Sunday 1/2 way between us.  This is a little more driving for Brian, but well worth the trip. Granted it wasn't the greatest day for a zoo trip and we practically had the place to ourselves due to the overcast, cold January weather, but the boys got out some much needed energy and Brian and I got to catch up.  Plans for a summer joint mountain vacation and the very sketchy idea of us sharing a time share as an investment came up.  Likely pie in the sky due to the money, but any amount of time spent with him is always good for my heart. I put together a quick puzzle to guess where we were going. Ben opened 7 envelopes and the boys put them in order.

I have never seen the zoo so empty.  The boys ran out all their energy on the trails.  Minus a little rain, we were all layered up and stayed warm.  Brian taught the boys how to give weggies and then Ian in all his 3.75 glory attempted to give my over 6 ft brother one.  Both boys loved not having to share the rescue helicopter with anyone else.

Since Brian and I were not together over Christmas we exchanged gifts courtesy of the US postal service. For him, a box of Trader Joes goodness, and for me a book and an extra special gift, one with over 45 years of experience.  From 1969-1970 my dad was in Vietnam, stationed at a military base seven miles from the Mekong River.  He rarely talked about his days as a mechanic in the Air Force, other than to say that a tradition that started the year his sister sent a box of my dad's favorite chocolate covered cherries as part of a larger gift box.  The cherries were destroyed once they arrived almost a month after she had originally sent the package.

Every Christmas from that year forward they exchanged a box of cherries with the one ground rule that the box had to be inedible.  He mircowaved, burned, even hammered out her gift every year with such happiness.  Brian has kept the tradition alive with a not box of cherries to be enjoyed, but rather a bunch of nasty including something that fell off his truck. I dearly wanted to be with him on Christmas, I laughed out loud at his thoughtfulness to carry on a tradition in our dad's honor.

Everyone should be so lucky to have a Brian in their life.

Monday, January 6, 2014


At some point I need to post some 2014 goals. Heck, I need to finish up some 2013 posts like favorite books given I picked up SIX new books over the weekend to start in the new year.  If 2013 had a theme, it was, "I had good intentions to post, then life happened."

This weekend was a nice split of time with the kids and away from from 3.75 year old incessant ugliness that is Ian Vinson. Bill and I traded off time much needed time minus kids.

Friday afternoon, Ben got in the car and told me he had a big surprise.  His hanging on by a thread front tooth had finally come out at lunch. Ben was concerned that the tooth fairy would not be able to see in his mouth so he left her a note that said,

"Dear Tooth Fery (his spelling), 

I have lost a tooth.  In case you cannot find my tooth, it is on my desk  Look for the word, "tooth".

He included a picture showing the location of his lost tooth as well as the other front tooth that is loose and now looks like a fang. I question in what universe does the tooth fairy look inside your mouth to make sure you are legit, and not running some small-time money making operation.  Alas the thinking of your average seven year old.

I love that we are using the same pillow created by my maternal grandmother used by both Brian and myself complete with stains (how?) and her sewing handiwork.

Saturday I met my AP Gov't students for an optional work day at NC State's undergrad library for a morning of how to use a college library as brought to you by me and my student teacher.  I made it worth extra credit points on an upcoming public policy research paper to come and find academic journals.

As my Seniors are about to graduate I feel this is a really important skill I can expose them to as they transition from high school to college.  In the age of Google searches and Wikipedia as the go-to as what "research" constitutes as just being exposed to how to navigate the vast amount of resources available is worth time invested.

I appreciate my students getting up on a Saturday morning as well as my student teacher who organized the session and reserved a conference room for us to use as a homebase.  *Note that as we were making our way through the library we stopped at a card catalog.  At least 1/2 of my 17/18 year old Seniors had never seen one and I stated that before there was an Internet this is how you did research.  They were incredulous at such a method.  I felt about a million years old.

Later in the day I met up with a couple of friends at one of my favorite places, Chapel Hill's foodie heaven A Southern Season, for lunch and some post holiday sale shopping.  When I die, you can leave my body in front of the cheese case or next to a picture of the Cooking School manager, Marilyn Markel, whom I have severe hair envy. Seriously, I have a picture of her hair I stealthily took while at a cooking class a couple of years ago. I was going to post it but given it is of an innocent bystander, I won't.  I did Google her, and her hair looks just as lovely.

Saturday night I did time with the boys and bedtime, and I finished 1/2 of my 1st book of 2014.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Because karma comes with a tail

Just in case you missed it, but I love cheese.  As in I eat some type of cheese at nearly every meal. A cheese stick is my go-to snack, meal in the car, keep the kids quiet food item.  So it would be karma that we rang in the new year by catching a mouse in our kitchen just before midnight.

I gotta admit it was tiny baby mouse of many Christmas book lore.  It was kinda cute, so much that I took this crappy iPhone picture just before it was taken outside and released it into the wild aka...our backyard.

The words "If I were single, I would so keep that mouse as a pet," was uttered by someone in our house. *Hint- it wasn't me as I have already squashed that same person's dreams of building a multi-rabbit hutch in our backyard. Somehow, "multi-rabbit hutch" doesn't garner the same home resale value as "granite counter tops."

The rest of or New Years Eve was crazy (non) eventful. We grilled out and played new board games with the boys.  I love, love, love that Ben loves board games as much as I do.  So much that he and I played our new version of Settlers of Catan for kids again last night.  We melted chocolate and ran our own ghetto Melting Pot before getting the boys to bed a little later than normal.  I watched not Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin Eve but rather a documentary on our illegal HBO before we loose it later this month.  I mean people, I can celebrate. Right?

This would be how I found the boys to ring in the new year:

One that refuses to sleep in a bed-

The other that has so many stuffed animals, books, a barricade against sharks in his bed I almost didn't notice he wore his NYE hat to bed.

As I head back to work, I spent the vacation doing what I really wanted and needed to do. I spent the bulk of the time being a homebody sleeping, reading, exercising at the gym or at least walking the dog an extended time. I watched more TV since Dec 20th since I have in the last 3 months. I saw a movie in a real theater, did some freezer cooking to replenish what has been eaten this fall.  I cleaned out 2 closets, worked on cleaning out our attic, and arranged for 3 different people to pick up loads off of FreeCycle yesterday alone.

I did such exciting things as cleaned the fridge top to bottom and reorganized with shelving for holiday storage. I spent oodles of time with the boys and our whole family is returning to work/school shed of the nasty cold we had most of last two weeks. What I didn't outside of maybe 5 hours max over the last week and a half was work on school related stuff. It was glorious. In the next days there will be resolutions a plenty.  For now, I'm happy that the most drama has involved baiting a mouse with cheese.

Cheese that I can assure you was part of the great variety currently in my now very clean fridge.