Monday, March 31, 2014

Wrap It Up- March 2014

Bill and the boys will be home soon after their long weekend trip to Atlanta.  I didn't want to post I was home alone all weekend, but was it super awesome to be in a quiet house with no one to take care of for 72 hours.  I contribute my days of child-free livin' for serious productivity.

What went down in March?

-More snow days bringing the total to 9 for this academic year.  If we have snow in April, plan on Armageddon
- Weekend trip to Boone, NC to hang out with Brian, Sarah + kidos, go snow tubing, and be a family
- Began soccer for both boys
- Finished two books and started a third
- Started Summer Camp/Camp Mommy master spreadsheet. Secured several sell-out options for Ben early
- Finished 2nd round of summer teacher institute applications.  I won't need to meet April deadlines as I have been accepted into TWO, yes TWO! national programs!!  I'm hoping to do both and not have to choose. ahem... Bill.
- managed to meet fitness goals getting to the gym a couple of times each week and weekend kickboxing
- Road Atlanta road trip for the boys to see Grandmommy Pam, Aunt Kate and Uncle James
- Massive toy clean out of the playroom, Ben's closet, and the downstairs toy box
- Finally binge watched my way to finishing Breaking Bad.  I managed to abstain from all spoilers since it aired in the fall and it was worth every, final crazy scene.  It *might* tie Six Feet Under for best series finale ever.

Ready for sunny days, warmer temperatures, flowers blooming, and bidding goodbye to Winter.

Favorite picture of the month, what else than a bear hug from the Universe.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Plans, no plans, it's all good

While I didn't run out of the building aka George Costanza during a fire, I will say I looked at my student teacher and said if you even think about doing work until Monday then I'm calling the cops on that "brights and tights party" you are planning for the weekend.  Don't ask what a "brights and tights" party contains.
All I can say is it is not for the over 30 crowd.

I have a little over 120 essays to grade and 33 multi-part projects before grades have to be posted on the Monday we return, but I have a FULL week to get it done.  So what's going down at Casa Vinson during this much sought to hang on to Spring Break week.

- Exercise- Spring clothes are tight.. hello running and TRX last night, kickboxing today, and basic training class tomorrow.  The boys may be loving the Y child care next week while I attempt to get in some much needed exercise

- Massive toy purge.  "make sure you show me what you decide to toss/pass" said Bill.
Bahahahahahah! No. 

- Trip to Atlanta for the boys and Bill and an overnight beach trip for the boys and me.  Dividing and conquering the kids is a beautiful thing, people.

- Categorize freezer ahead stash and try to get at least 10 meals cooked and frozen to get me to end of the school year.

- Finish the TWO, yes only two, books I've been working on all March

- Buy tickets for Full Frame Documentary Festival.  SO many choices, so little time.

- Finalize Ian's 4th party prep.  Score that the train is reopening at Durham Science and Life and now has a private train option for parties.

- Meeting friends for meals and conversation

- Get caught up on Good Wife after trying all week NOT to hear the bombshell of a plot twist dropped last Sunday. When NPR dedicates a story to a TV show I expect to be crying in a fetal position knowing my man is at the center.

Happy weekend all. I'll see you on the other side of toy armageddon.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

3 Year Old Mantra

Is it really and truly almost Friday?!  Did I not wake up each morning thinking "it's Friday!" only to realize it was Tuesday.  One of the hardest years of the academic years is typically midterm week/end of the quarter week.  I've been a grading machine at night trying to cut down on what will be relegated to being graded over the break.

Bill also has been driving my car to work and the kids to school for the last two days as he's been on a last minute decision to do a bunch of work to his car pre taking the boys to Atlanta.  I've been graciously riding with a coworker, kind enough to stop and pick me up mega early.  She likes to be at her desk working by 6:30am to get in a bit of time before the buses arrive.  Needless to say, I VERY glad tomorrow is finally Friday and by end of school day, the start to a hard fought spring break begins.

I digress, to tell you that I should have know this week was going to be nuts when on Sunday we checked out the new Target near our house.  I've never, ever been in a Target where there are employees standing around the entrance whose sole purpose was to give our stickers to the kids.  Granted I'm sure it beats mixing the Slush Puppy dispenser or once again cleaning out a dressing room of some tween girl and 900 swimsuits discarded.  One very lucky new Target employee got the extra special effort award for helping out the Vinson clan.

Ian is the typical 2nd child in that he wears almost exclusively hand me downs (many that were also hand me downs.)  He doesn't care, as coming home with bark in his hair is some type of "good day" badge of honor.  BUT, he has been asking, ok begging for a pair of light up shoes.  His normal shoes are so worn out that he kicked the soccer ball at practice and the shoelace broke and the shoe hit the back wall.  I told the boys on Sunday that after church that we would hit up the new Target for C9 athletic shorts (also on sale) plus some shoes (on a BOGO sale)  We are leisurely looking through the shoes when Ian starts picking up every pair of light up shoes, bringing them to me and telling me that he didn't want his old shoes, he wanted lights.

As he has no concept of a shoe size or that there is a difference between adult and children's he began opening every box telling me that these were good shoes, and these were bad. When I finally corral him to try on shoes we settle on a pair that fit and shoe last into summer.  Thinking we were about to leave I go to gather the boys up only to find that Ian has wandered to the next aisle over and is running away into main thoroughfare of the store.  Ben and I go after him, and bring him back explaining that he cannot take off.  As we leave the department I realize he is in his socks.  When I ask him where his shoes are, he points to the aisle of boxes, all closed and beckoning me to come look through them in search of his shoes.

Honestly, for a few seconds I thought just how bad would it be to leave the old shoes behind.  I mean they were just old, not covered in mud or dog poop.  But, I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of a box filled with some kid's old shoes so we kept looking.  The Target Extra Effort Award goes to the very nice older Target employee who helped us finally after about 20 minutes of looking through every box before finding them.

My guess is that Ian thought he was going to wear the new shoes out of the store as he pitched a fit when I made him put on his old shoes on to leave.  And leave, we did.

On the way home Ian told me that he, "was going to be a little bit good today, and a little bit bad today."

My answer, "well, you've had your chance to be bad, so you are all out of time to be bad, only time to be good!"

Monday, March 24, 2014


It was almost like by Friday afternoon, the Universe smiled and said, "here, enjoy a beautiful spring day, you've earned it."

After a whirlwind of pick ups, drops offs, soccer practice, Friday night collapsed into an easy dinner, bedtime for the boys and House of Card for the adults.  Most of Saturday I shuffled from another soccer practice, soccer game, getting a mani/pedi, grading papers and prepping the final week of school before spring break.

Sunday was much the same with only heading to church for an ongoing amazing Lent series that I haven't wanted to miss.  How is it this church continues to reinvent itself in it's approach to what you think you know?

I ran into a fellow colleague going in who has since left my school but is still in the teaching profession.  We both were laughing at how much of each other's stuff we keep borrowing and how much easier it was to share best practices when we were across the hall. Is that is the beauty of the Internet? You continue to know someone you no longer really physically see.

The major highlight of the weekend was Laura's 40th birthday party on Saturday night.  I had a great time celebrating a good friend.  It was amazingly themed and planned to the hilt with details a plenty.  It was especially great getting to be around so many amazing women, all with some relationship to the lady of the hour.  Add seven dozen cupcakes, SO much food and drink, and great gift giveaway of other's favorite things.  I think many of at the party would say, our lives are better because happenstance let our paths cross.

I'm heading into the last week before Spring break.  With Bill taking the boys solo to Atlanta for the weekend to meet up with him mom, brother, and sister in law this week is is on tap for wrap up, move forward, clean out, and sit back.

Friday, March 21, 2014

March Love List

This Friday post brought to you a beautiful spring day on tap for the weekend.  After a *snow* day this week it is CRAZY that this weekend is expected to be beautiful and warm!

March, while I'm not much of a bracket kinda girl I will say I love you for other reasons:

1. Spring flowers!  I could not resist creating a couple of new arrangements for the front porch.  I'll take that "that's a nice arrangement" from an employee at my favorite garden shop compliment.

2.  Good Wife- Season 5!  Oh brother has this season been SOOOOO good. Desk-clearing rage of betrayal good.  Me love you Will Gardner/Knox Overstreet, such a long, long time.

3. Daylight Savings Time- So I'm back to getting up, driving to work and teaching the first part of the day in the dark, but YES to getting home with time to play outside.

4. My amazingly awesome student teacher.  I have hope and faith in the next generation of teachers. Every Friday I've left her a "you got through another week note/little gift."  After a particularly rough week with students and discipline I am leaving her this to find later today.

5.  Party People in the HOUSE!!!  Tomorrow night I'm going to a 40th birthday bash for my dear friend Laura C.  Back when she originally told us about the theme, "Favorite Things," I almost immediate thought of one of my favorite places with favorite things, Chapel Hill's A Southern Season.   I put together gift bags from my favorite BLUE Q with some NC specialties including:  Moravian sugar cookies, rosemary almonds, cheese straws, and the amazing coffee they serve at their restaurant, the Weathervane.

I love Southern Season and wanted to share a little NC goodness if any out of townees get my gift.

Happy (beautiful, spring) weekend!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Going on 8 or 18?

My 7 soon to be 8 year old is secretly a teenager in disguise.  No, I'm not talking about the vast amounts of food that I am secretly happy that he consumes, of the fact that his feet smell to the point that his shoes stay outside, or even his penchant for potty humor (I share it.)

Nope.  He is as lazy as any of my current 2nd semester seniors who believes that "good enough" is just fine. I am totally ok that if he puts for effort and thought into his work and the end result is messy handwriting, cramped lettering, and shorter than an average 2nd grader sentences.  But, Ben will outright say, "that's all I'm going to do," or play the "the teacher said it was extra work we didn't have to do it" time after time.

I told him a couple of nights ago,  I bet she wrote out two pages of math problems just for kicks and then said do them if you want." While overall he has had a good year with some yellow days with a single number of red days, but I also know he has to be reprimanded daily for listening instead of talking.  Man, he is just like his mother!

I've always been a B/C student who worked my butt off to overcompensate to make good grades and stay with my friends in honors classes.  I do admit I have done my time in detention, but usually for being late or being a sidekick in laughing and joking in class.  When it came to work I would have never told my parents, "that's all I'm going to do."  Frankly I would have not said about 90% of what students say today to me or tell their parents as evidence of the emails I get and thought my parents would have been ok with it!

Ben only earns screen time if all work is complete and I have signed off after reviewing with him.  Around Christmas he began to bring home work not finished in his Friday folder and I asked his teacher if I could have him redo the work over the weekend before he did basically anything else he wanted to on the weekends.  Since grading is different on the elementary level, I asked that if there as a late penalty that she please assess it, but if the only punishment is missing out on fun, then that was punishment enough.

I wanted Ben to learn the lesson that if you misuse your time, there is a consequence.  The weekends Ben has "forgotten" the Friday folder at school, he got zero tv or DS all weekend as punishment.  I make Ben write a note to his teacher with a list of the work he is turning in with the line, "thank you for letting me turn in my work a second time" I appreciate the time I know she does not have to take any work a 2nd time to be returned graded.  We've talked about what a "2nd chance is" and how there are times we get a 2nd chance, but many times we only get one chance to get it right.

I also had him retype an assignment as his written version was so unreadable that another attempt would likely have just lead to more frustration for all parties.  He loves to type on the computer so had him use word processing and showed him how to use some of the formatting tools and spell check.  Man, did I ever tell him that spellcheck is the best.thing.ever.

I'm all for him being an average student if that is the best he can do, but I am not ok in any way for him thinking that "good enough" is the answer when it comes to school work. This is more than a "I can't focus" issue for him, as his teacher and I agree he can do the work especially when we break larger tasks down with a list to prioritize.

Instead of getting mad at him we go over when we are going to finish up work and I let him know that I will sit with him for as long as he is willing to work.  Normally, I'm grading papers of my own so it is a good mirror that I have to finish my own work before I do anything "fun."  Can you say that cleaning up the kitchen and making lunches is "fun?"

Ben told me after I wrote another whole page of new problems to complete after he missed all but one problem, "I bet you are the meanest teacher ever and your students hate you." My answer, "yep, I bet some of them do, but many of my students want to go to college and have a good job so they have to make a choice to do the work or have a consequence."

As Ben told me recently that biggest reason that he wants to go to college is that you don't live with your parents, I told him that if he did his work, he would get his dream.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Do you see what I see in the recycling bin yesterday?

Did you guess a little potty?

Winner, winner chicken dinner!

This very excited installment of Tales from the Little Potty, Volume 2nd Child  brought to you by one very relieved mom to be putting a milestone of potty training behind her.

I'll take cleaning the toilets between the cleaners every three weeks to ensure "bus station bathroom" is not the first thought while crossing my threshold.

I'll take a daily reminder to raise the lid, clean up after yourself, aim is a good thing to never clean out another little potty.

I'll take waking up at 4 am to the hallway and hall bathroom lights a blazing, only to turn over and go back to sleep.

While Ian is still in a pull up at night, many nights he is dry and takes care or taking himself to the bathroom WITHOUT ASSISTANCE for most of the time.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Wait for it, wait for it, yep... closed again

If someone had told me that in the 3rd quarter we would be out a record 9 days (traditional schools, year round lost 2 additional Saturday make ups) I would have slapped yo' face and told you to go home.
Guess what?

I'm at home again for another snow day.

Overnight the hovering right at 32 degree rain froze over and what was a 3 hour delay became a full on you are closed.  I'm all for safety, especially since people in the South cannot drive in winter weather, but this is just  Yet me yell that, CRAZY.TOWN.

Last night when all surrounding schools called for a 3 hour delay around 9 pm it was like a bad Oprah episode of, "and YOU get a delay, and YOU get a delay, and YOU get a delay!" Sadly, most of us knew that there would be no 3 hour delay and school would eventually be cancelled.

At my school we were to be giving the ACT today.  This is was a make up from the last attempt when guess what, we had a snow day!  At this point the only released make up day is over spring break on get this, April Fools Day!  As the ACT is required by State law to be taken by all high school Juniors, as it it counts towards school composite scores and teacher evaluations, I really don't know what will happen.

So are there some silver linings in yet another day at Camp Mommy- the extended home edition?

1.  Ian's daycare has remained open for at least of most of the nine days.  Yes there have been early closings, delayed openings, and a couple of days outright closed, BUT the director decided to stay open for President's Day giving back one of the closed days.  Thank you Ms. Pam and Ms. Amy, no really THANK YOU for being a voice of reason for working parents.  And yes, I AM one of those parents who takes their kids to day care when it is open, even if I am at home.  I love my kids, but I also love getting something done in a semi-quiet house.

2. My Principal decided to allow us for the first time ever to use time we worked at Spring open house, the rising freshman curriculum night, and AP Night.  Originally he like in years past said that these required hours that normally run 5-8 during third quarter are just part of our daily job, but given that we have 72, yes 72 hours to make up of missed instructional time he allowed it.  A major misconception is that snow days are free days for teachers, nope.

If you can come in and your Principal opens your school you can trade off time towards time being missed. Every hour of lost instructional time has to be accounted for for payroll purposes.  Luckily, he opened school most days for at least part of the day so we've packed snacks, video games, ipads, and trucked it in.  He's also opened the school on Saturdays to also allow teachers to make up time and not have to take unpaid time.  Sadly no time working outside school grounds can be counted so no working in pjs!

3. Ben is easier to have at school than Ian.  Hands down.  He loves talking to the retired military guy that I share my classroom with this year.  A real, live solider who has shot a gun.  Ben was all-in.

4.  I have an amazing student teacher who is flexible, has seen all her planning to be dumped for more planning only for yet another day at home.  She gave up drinking for lent and I just laughed.  My attempt to give up cursing lasted I think a couple of days.

5.  The kids who are taking the AP Exam on May 13th for the most part will commit to making up work on their own if I give them a modified plan for review.  While I didn't have the numbers taking the test I wanted, the ones that are are motivated.

6.   This school year is almost 75% finished.  If you have any knowledge of what has transpired this year in NC public education I see the light at the end of the tunnel and I am running full steam to finish up this year.

Here's to a school like no other.  

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Friday night was the start of spring soccer season.  I've asked Ben for the last couple year if he was interested in playing, but he said no that he only liked playing at school in the after school program. I think his lack of skills finally came full circle, as this fall he asked if he play for the next season.  I checked around with several of the area programs and settled on one that plays all games and hold practices within a 5 min drive of our house.  It helps that our neighbors have played for the same league the past year and reported that the coaches were great and tried to do as much one on one with the kids.  
SCORE for this very busy, working mom. 

We lucked out with a weekly Friday late afternoon practice day as it is typically the only day I leave school before 5.  Being on Friday it allows us to get home, do dinner, and not have to rush to do any homework when we get home around 6:45.  Our game schedule includes a mix of games with most in the 11am/noon time frame.

This schedule also works well as Bill and I can split up the kids with one of us doing the game, and the other taking Ian to Little Kickers soccer practice. 

At the game, when Ben played goalie for part of the game the other team scored. He was very upset with himself and his pre-game conceited "we're the best" quickly disappeared.  I appreciated a very nice email from his coach thanking Ben for trying his best and that everyone has a first game.  A couple of the other kids go to school with Ben and one of the parents is the school speech pathologist and recognized Ben.  She commented that the coach is a great with kids and while the games are competitive, the focus is on skill building and working as a team.  

Later Saturday we love, loved, loved being outside on a perfect spring day.  We headed to our neighborhood playground and tennis courts after some serious bike riding. After such a cold, rainy and snowy winter it was welcomed to spend the day with the windows open and most of the light hours outside. 

*Dirt on the face and flower on the head, thanks to your brother were optional*  

Friday, March 14, 2014

Frozen on Friday #3

For my March Freeze Ahead recipe I'm posting one of my staples, a semi-homemade marinara.  What I love best is the versatility of this sauce.  It works with basic spaghetti, ziti, stuffed shells,lasagna, or just an all purpose red meat sauce. The ricotta gives it a bit of richer texture but can be omitted.

12 hour Crock Pot Marinara

1 package of Italian sausage
3 jars of your choice pasta sauce
2 cloves of garlic
1 chopped onion (chop according to how much you want in a single bight)
4 tablespoons Italian seasoning
dash of salt and pepper
1 large container of skim ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Brown Italian sausage, remove casing and chop finely.  I usually run through a food processor to give it the consistency of ground beef.  In a large crockpot, empty all three jars of the sauce, add the meat, onion (can brown along with the meat), garlic, Italian seasonings, salt and pepper.  Set on low and cook overnight.

In the morning, allow the sauce to cool for at least 30 minutes and stir in the ricotta and Parmesan cheese.

Makes 10 cups of sauce.  I normally bag 2-3 cups in a large freezer bag and freeze flat to stack.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Thank you Universe!

Friday I drove the boys over to Boone, NC where we had a planned meet up with Uncle Brian and his significant other of the last 18 months, Sarah.  This was the first time I have met Sarah and all I can say is that is made my heart sing with joy to see Brian so, so happy.

I wish I had a picture of them in matching green hospital scrub pants, dancing in the kitchen to Brian's mix of R&B classics while making breakfast early Saturday morning.  Instead I was drinking coffee overlooking this amazing view and thanking the universe for his happiness.

We left Friday in some crazy rainy/icy to the west weather with a car piled high with snow gear, pool gear, coolers, and bags a plenty.

Sarah's kids, Lilly, age 12 and John, age 6, also joined us for the weekend. Ben led the boys in some all-boy craziness, first up in the indoor pool.  And later in a pillowfight/pretend snowboarding off the bed.

Yes, there were some quiet moments like playing chess and with the Lego train set we brought mainly for Ian, but all the boys seemed to love.

I got to hang out with Lilly and help her with a school project on WWII she had to finish.  It was fun being around an almost teenage girl, especially one that I didn't teach.  What strange territory as we talked about New Direction and I pretended that I might know something about teenagers. I commend Brian for how he was around a 7th grade girl, so relaxed and natural.

Saturday we headed to Hawksnest Ski Tubing for the afternoon.  I stayed close to Ian "no fear" Vinson who did well until the end when he was exhausted.  Ben and John raced, and Brian led us in several trains of tubes going down.  I didn't take my bigger camera and appreciate that Sarah forwarded some quick iPhone photos she took.

Saturday night we grilled out as it was sunny and much warmer.  We had a big family meal and got the kids to bed before hanging out by the fireplace chatting.  Almost a perfect picture from the day, minus some kids not looking at the camera.

I love this guy, so so much.  I could not be happier for him after meeting Sarah and her kids this weekend.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Weekend in pics

Really, really overdue car maintenance.  Collective GROSS!!!!

 Kid Jam Friday night at church with Science is Fun for Everyone.  How cool was the chalkboard wall  outside the main gathering space filled with equations.

Lego Kid Jam with Dad while mom was at kickboxing, girly girl shopping alone, and working on round two of summer teacher seminar deadlines in a quiet house

I think Bill took pics, but I forgot to ask him to send me the best of the lot.  Bill's comment was that it was bigger and busier than when he took Ben solo in 2011.  Score to a free adult ticket to LegoLand.  With no Disney this summer we might do a long weekend this fall in place of a larger family vacation.  

Brunch outside and shopping Southern Season with an old friend

Another Beautiful Weekend Day 2 brought to you by happiness rolling down hills

Followed by epic car racing in the playground sand

*Note no pictures of grading that never left my car