Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Today was exciting. It started out great and it got better.
First, it was Ben and Milo's birthday. So we started the day with hugs and congratulations. They got to take cupcakes to school to celebrate and I managed to dodge the rain and get on the bus before the downpour.
Then I got the better part of an article about teaching math conceptually read before the first World Languages class. This was the first class since their student-teaching experience ended last Thursday, which meant for Michelle and I, a rediscovery of how much of our own classwork we could get done with all the extra time freed up by *not* typing up observation notes and lesson plan feedback. Still, it was good to see them all this morning. Working with undergrads has some things in common with working with fourth-graders. You get attached in no time.
After class we (Michelle and I) headed back to the office to eat lunch (she brought a yummy soup for us both) and to chat and to try to get more reading done. She headed off to her afternoon class and I fetched my car and went to get my mail, hoping for Max's report card. No luck, but we did get a lovely advent calendar from Grandma Donna and Grandpa Richard and the twins got a stack of birthday cards. I put those all aside for the future, triaged the bills, and headed over to the high school to finance Max and a friend who were carbo-loading (that's a joke. They're 14-yr-old boys. They just food load. Any food.) before theater rehearsal started. From there it was back to campus, having passed the magic hour (4 pm) when I no longer have to park in the next county with my student parking pass--I can park for free in the parking garage right next to the building where my evening class is.
Right before class I got an email from one of my advisors saying that an idea I have for a research project is not half bad and we should get together soon to go over it. I need a 1-credit independent study with this fellow to round out my ESL-certification requirements, so I had come up with an idea this weekend. I thought he might say no, because I have to work on my thesis this spring, too, but no, we'll meet and maybe my next research project will be with elementary ELLs. That would rock :)
We had class, it went well, and then I gave Michelle a ride out to her car (it started to rain buckets) and then I headed over to the church where Chris was waiting in the hallway with his reading material. He is the best ward mission leader ever. We hung out and talked and soaked up the happiness of the church building while the twins did cub scouts and ate birthday cupcakes. Then Chris ran over to the high school and got Max and I took Ben and Milo and friend's daughter home. When Chris and Max got home, Max gave Ben and Milo their birthday cards (+ Wii points) and performed for them an original rap he wrote to commemorate the occasion of their 9th birthday. We will try to record it later this week. Right now he needed to get some homework done and then collapse into bed.
There were lots of messages from loving family on the answering machine for the twins and they loved that. There voice mail on my phone for them and they loved that. And there was a call from California from Grandma Donna and Grandpa Richard and they loved that. Tomorrow night we'll have our "official" family party with Grandma Gaye and the rest of their cards and presents, but tonight was good, too.
Then we all went to bed, but when my head got to thinking instead of sleeping and Chris fell asleep listening to me talk about stuff (he gets up an hour earlier than I do to take Max to seminary every morning-trust me, I didn't take it personally) I got up again to go write some thoughts down. Then, just for the heck of it, I checked the high school's website and after signing it I found Max's report card. And lo and behold--it was all manner of As. Regular As, A-'s, and a genuine A+.
Any sleepy feelings I might have had went skidding out the window and I texted Grandpa and Grandma in California (because it was still a decent hour there) to tell them the good news. I'm so proud of all the hard work Max has put into this quarter. He really has made a tremendous effort to do his best, to improve his writing and his homework consistency, and I am ever so proud of him. We don't pay for As or use other "rewards" because we think those suck the intrinsic motivation out of school. We want him to set high standards because he knows he can meet them and it feels good to succeed, not because he'll get a wad of cash for it (and anyway, I can't afford those grades. He's got 8 periods of classes--no lunch. For that I could buy him a new cell phone and have change. I'm not doing that either.)
But we might take him out to lunch. A bottomless pit of french fries and a bacon burger and unlimited peanuts at Five Guys and an embarrassing stream of "We love you"s and "We're so proud of you"s. That's a good lunch, I think.
And now I should really attempt to go to sleep. Probably if I stop playing on the computer (and stop trying to cram for the graduate-school version of a vocabulary quiz) I'll blink and wake up at 7am to the alarm :)
Tomorrow is Wednesday and Wednesdays are my qual methods class, getting ready for the twins' birthday party, an hour of speech therapy for them, dinner, cake, and presents :) Another good day, don't you think?
Only two more days till curtain goes up. They do a school preview of The Winter's Tale at 10 am and then the actual performances Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday matinee. Grandma Gaye and Grandma Judy will each go this weekend with their respective offspring. Then it's full speed ahead into Thanksgiving break. This year we're going to Philly to be with family there :) We're getting a hotel room Wednesday night at some variation of the hotel Marriot chain, and coming back Thursday evening. By this time two weeks from now, we'll have a Christmas tree in the corner. Good times :)
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
So we homeschooled, and while there was much that was wonderful about it--it was truly the most satisfying teaching I have ever done, and he learned a lot--our family is not ideally designed for homeschooling. There came a time when I felt that the damage had been undone, that Max was ready to give school another shot, and so we tried the Charter school. Since then, each year has been a little better than the one that came before it. And each parent-teacher conference season got a little easier than the one that came before it. At some point he stopped being the gifted chatty kid who couldn't stay in his seat and he started being the gifted outgoing leader who teachers missed when his seat was empty. (Ben and Milo are more like those wolf cubs on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Even when they're biting the teacher wolf's tail, she's still kind of bemused by them. I've never had a rough p/t conference for them. If you don't know the show I'm talking about, you're too young to be reading this blog anyway.)
Tonight was a choir concert at the high school. I've been to a lot of school choir concerts. I sang in them when I was in high school (in Mass, not in CA), and Max has been in choir in school since 5th grade. None of them prepared me for what I saw tonight. The choir director at State High is unbelievably professional. He is warm, he is brilliant, and he evokes from ordinary kids extraordinary sounds. Only 7 weeks into the school year, I heard the best choir concert of my life tonight. And my kid, my tall, funny, smart guy with the fabulous hair, was there loving it all.
I am so--words are inadequate to express the depth of my gratitude that Max HAS this. He wakes up and goes to morning seminary and rushes to school because when you are a bright kid and someone truly challenges you to learn more, do more, think in new ways, solve a problem worth solving, it's like the best cold spring water on a hot day down a parched throat. It's exciting.
I feel silly gushing like this. Adolescence has proved to me that it's a wild ride with big ups and big downs and there have been periods when I have thought maybe I'm not cut out for it (but, Chris is pretty good at the big-kid part, and he wouldn't let me give notice), and so I get that we've got a long way yet to go with this whole project.
But when you're building something as important as the mind, body, and soul of a young man, it's an incredible advantage to have good tools to do it with. I'm so grateful that he's at a place where when he chooses to stretch, to learn, to grow, that he has so many good options. Great options. I am so grateful.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
We're having a good fall here in the Hults household. Max has taken to State High like Emily takes to a bucket of brand new tennis balls, and State High seems to like him back. After emphasizing to all the freshpeople that they SHOULD try out for the fall play, but they would NOT get cast--they ended up casting three freshpeople--including Max, who got a great part. Although morning seminary at church starts at still dark o'clock, he (and his trusted driver, Chris) haven't missed a morning yet. They have a dedicated teacher who is far more chipper at that hour than I am. (I get to drive if Chris is out of town on business.) He's doing well in his classes, especially Geometry, and we are just so proud of him we can hardly stand it.
School for me is crazy busy. There's a lot to do as both a Graduate Assistant and for my classes. I honestly don't know how I'd do my research for the Master's Thesis I need to write if I weren't also taking the Qualitative Methods course this fall. Everything I'm learning in there I have to immediately turn around and apply to my research project.
Ben and Milo are rolling along in third grade. They're still doing speech with Penn State, and that's been the hardest part to fit in the schedule. I can get them to their therapy appointments, but I keep forgetting to have them do homework for it when we are doing the rest of their homework.
Emily hates being alone during the day while we're all gone. I totally get that. I hate that she can't come with me to school, too.
Chris has two trips coming up and I'm so grateful to have Gaye's help while he is gone. I did one week when both Chris and Gaye were out of town and it was really all just too much--and that was before Max's play rehearsals started.
I'll try to post more soon. It's late and time to try again to go to sleep :)
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
If you haven't seen the back-to-school pictures Chris took this year, log onto facebook and go look in his photos. Charming. We'll order prints of those and skip the school pictures (well, the kids will still go dressed to look good so they show up nice in the yearbook or whatever, but that's it. They just cost too much to put up with the poor results. Ben and Milo are at that age where sitting in front of a backdrop cloth makes them bare their teeth like preteen wolves and Max is at that age where he knows Chris just takes a better picture.)
Oh my heck. I see that smile and it's all I can do not to just pull down the moon for that boy.
What was I talking about? Oh, yeah. Here's the shot of the shawl as artfully displayed by the fair staff. (Okay, yeah, that's a wire hanger, but I think it's a BLUE wire hanger. So there's that.)
At least the color is more true.
So I'm midway through the second week of the semester and I realize it could all go to heck, but sometimes good things happen to decent people, and so I am just going to go ahead and say it: this may be the best semester ever.
I have this silly little course I have to take as part of a graduation requirement. It only meets two Monday evenings a month, and instead of being just a check off box, I have learned something new and quite useful in the two classes I've attended so far. It's just a one-credit course, so there's next-to-nothing in the way of homework and yet--it's taught by a truly talented instructor. I know, right?
Tuesday evenings is my Vygotsky in Education class. Taught by a professor really incredibly adept at guiding discussion, it's a great group. LOTS of class participation. In it's sister course last fall I found a truly compelling theory through which to explore more ideas in education and I'm looking forward to that kind of growth again. It's a ton of reading, but it's so worth it.
Wednesday mid-day is a Qualitative Methods course that the professor tried to get me to drop because it's not supposed to be for Master's students. It's for second year doctoral students. I resisted and she let me stay. I'm so glad! I wanted it for guiding me in how to do the research I want to do for my master's thesis and that seems to be exactly what I'm going to learn to do. Plus out of thirty of us (HUGE class for this level. We'll break out into two groups for 2 out of 3 hours of the class.) there are two other Masters students.
The students I'll be observing this semester are a smart and talented bunch. They're young, but most aspiring teachers are. I'm really enjoying observing their classes.
When I came back to my knitting this summer, I rediscovered all the projects I'd abandoned and the general feeling I have about them is "Wow, THIS is great yarn! And what a great pattern!" It's very satisfying to finish unfinished business. Here are fingerless mittens for me:
Am I not blessed beyond all that I deserve? I am.
Friday, August 27, 2010
and told me the shawl has a first place AND Best of Show ribbon (for the Needlecraft sections). Judging was this morning. I didn't even know there was a Best of Show ribbon. I admit to kind of hoping for the Best Hand Knitted, which carries with it a $10 gift certificate to Knitters Underground, but Best in Show seems a little over the top for someone who couldn't even figure out the right entrance to the fair on Thursday (I did a lot of walking. Let's leave it at that.) I admit to a certain amount of disbelief, which might be a first for me. Emily is no stranger to a fair and I don't think she would have mixed up the ribbons, but I admit to a feeling like, "Now I gotta get over to the fair and see it for myself." I'm not going till Monday though.
So my purpose in entering the shawl in the fair was this--it's pretty. Everywhere I went knitting on this thing this summer, people would come up and want to talk about the shawl. What are you doing? Is that knitting? How are you putting the beads on it? Prettttyyyyy . . . .
And I started to want a souvenier of the shawl. I took some pictures, of course.
But they don't really represent the shawl. You can't see that the shawl is soft, even with the beads in it. You can't see that it is has a sheen to it. And the color--the color is completely wrong. It's a deep juniper green--like pine needles, really. Not nearly-teal blue.
So I thought, well, I'll enter it in the fair, and maybe I'll get a ribbon. And I'll have the ribbon and Grandma will get the shawl (because it was always supposed to be for her, and because, I already have a feathery-soft silk/wool blend shawl with tiny beads, and because I don't usually win anything beyond "most improved" and I thought that maybe this time I might).
It's only $1 to enter an exhibit in the Grange Fair. That sounds like a deal. First prize wins $4, so you make a $3 profit--only I didn't realize that they charge you full entrance fee and parking fee the day you go turn in the entry, and again when you go pick it up. Add in the day Gaye and I actually take the kids to the fair, and it's soon $27 just for ME and the car. The ladies at the exhibit explained to me my options and I went back and got the weekly pass, saving me $2. So now my total output to enter the shawl is $26.
If Emily is right (and again, she is likely to be, I just have this disbelief thing going on), then I get two ribbons and $4 for first class and $20 for Best in Show. How cool is that? Charlotte says I should donate the $4 back to the fair, but she didn't say anything about the Best in Show. If I won that, then I am keeping it to cover a fraction of what I will probably spend on funnel cakes and lemonade.
But you know what? If I really did get a First Place and a Best in Show ribbon? I'm going to totally smile for the rest of the day. I will walk the two miles back to the Handicapped Parking spots with Grandma Gaye ('cause, you know, why put the HP near the food and exhibits? At least the scooter rental is right there next to the HP.) and I will smile.
And I would be totally hooked. It would be September 2 and I would already be planning what to knit for next year's fair.
Friday, August 13, 2010
The only blessing was that they gave me credit for trying and rescheduled the twins without additional cost. (And at the other end, they refunded Mom and Dad their money for an expensive tour in Sacramento that they would now miss.) Okay, okay, there was one other blessing--Emily's dogsitter was wonderful and cheerfully charged me more than State College's GNP to keep her another day. (Her prices were totally reasonable for Baltimore. They're just way out of my budget and triple what I pay for dogsitting in State College.) Again, I whine about the cost, but she was magnificent and I did get to have Emily with me for the rest of the week.
Everything else about it sucked. I felt like poo on the bottom of a debutante's shoe, that's how low I felt. The kids needed a nonstop or a "direct" (direct means you can stop 200 times if you want as long as the kids don't get off the plane). Direct sucks, but direct is really all you can get on Southwest, and even then--only once a day from Baltimore to Oakland. So that meant another day and night in a town I really can't afford. Suckville. I took a page from my step-mom's playbook and bought bread and peanutbutter at Target. With the money I saved on breakfast and lunch, I felt I could splurge and take the twins to Five Guys for dinner. (I was wrong, even with me only ordering a little baconburger--no fries, etc., it was still too much, but I didn't figure that out till the order was in, so I just took it in the wallet and we did it anyway.)
I discovered my cell phone charger was at home and all the calls had drained the battery down to zero. My cell phone is Verizon-made and since I'm already in the upgrade-eligible zone, you can guess that they don't even make it anymore. So the Verizon store near the airport had one charger left. In spite of the fact that the saleswoman was standing in front of me holding the charger, us literally three feet apart, she said she couldn't sell it to me because it wasn't in their inventory. And no, she couldn't put it in inventory, only Big Daddy Verizon could do that, and that happens like once a month or something. Whatever. I went to two other stores, they didn't have one, I drove back to the store and started talking in tongues to the store manager (something I don't ordinarily do, but this was soooooo not an ordinary day). He wouldn't take cash for it, but offered to charge the stupid phone for me in the store.
So the twins and I hung out for 20 minutes to get the phone charged. Now, technically, the battery read full when 20 minutes was up, but either I made so many telephone calls when it was charged again that I drained it in a matter of hours, or it wasn't fully charged, so that also factored into going to Five Guys. It was two doors down from the Verizon store. I gave them the phone to charge again while we went to eat. This time the charge lasted 24 hours. My phone battery is usually better than that, so maybe it's good they didn't sell it to me. Maybe it was a sucky charger. Makes sense. Don't buy a charger when you're spending the day in Suckville, where-ever that may be.
Anyway, like any sensible woman, at this point I called my mother. I was scheduled to see her the following night in Columbus. I turned the charger problem over to her. I knew she'd drive to West Virginia to get it if she had to. Indeed, she had one by noon the next day. It was a car charger, not a wall charger, but it also has a USB port in the bulky thing that sticks in the car charging port. So you can charge your ipod while you charge your phone. It worked really well. Taking only slightly longer than the original charger (which was still at home this whole time), it charged my phone fully enough to last the next three days without recharging. The phone was dead by Thursday, but I was back on the road today, anyway, so only one day was lost.
By 11:30 I was back at the hotel. Chris was handling the issue of how to pay for the extra night at the hotel. They wouldn't comp us the night's stay, but they did cover the cost of all the phone calls I had to make at $1,000/min while the phone was dead after I missed the flight. Ben and Milo, turning water into wine, jumped into their swim trunks, found cute little Estonian girls at the swimming pool and cannon balled their way into the life guard's heart (yeah, totally, in Maryland every pool must have a lifeguard).
That night we all went to bed early. I asked for a wake-up call again and set three different additional alarms. So of course, I woke up 15 minutes before the first one went off. I cancelled three and let the fourth go off just for the principle of the thing. We got to the airport two and a half hours early--it was Sunday morning, so it was only us and everyone else who really HAD to fly. We got through security in 5 minutes. Everyone was polite and on time. Ben and Milo had the crew AND the pilots eating out of their hands before they even walked down the ramp towards the plane (the crew and pilots were boarding at the same time as the three unaccompanied minors. The third kid was a year or two older than Ben and Milo, but their new best friend by the time he got off in Los Angeles.)
After I watched the plane take off, I ran to the car, raced to the dog sitters, and drove at my usual leisurely pace (I don't know why I always beat the Google map estimate by at least an hour. Then again, I don't know why everyone else on the road is driving so slowly.) to Columbus, Ohio.
After I got us all unpacked, Judy (mother), Bill (her tenant), and I went to hear the OSU alumni band, which, at the risk of offending all my fellow Penn Staters, was wonderful. They were funny and talented and had alumni baton twirlers (male and female) as well as band alumni going back 60+ years. One of their pieces is a medley that goes through 11 out of 12 of the "Big Ten" fight songs. Helpfully, two members of the band hold up signs to tell us which school's song they're playing at that time. Alumni from that school stand up at that point and everyone applauds for them. Of course I stood up for Penn State. I was the only one, but I still got the applause. (There were other schools for which only one current or former student was present, too, so I didn't feel badly in the least.) Anyway, I expected to be bored by the concert after all the drama of the past few days, but in part due to the relief of having heard that the boys had landed safely in Oakland, and in part due to the unmistakable zeal and talent of the band, I had a great time.
We went home, Bill cooked steaks, Judy made carrot-slaw (I don't know, but it wasn't bad at all)
and then Emily and I crashed.
The next morning my stomach was bothering me, so after visiting a little longer with Judy, I headed off to Indiana to meet up with Charlotte and Granny. I got there around 1:00 pm, made a simple lunch, and then passed out on the couch to nap some more. Charlotte and Granny arrived around 4pm, and the rest of the week is a happy, happy blur of knitting, visiting, canning, napping, and if the phone's battery gradually died over the course of the week, mine was being fully recharged.
As much as Saturday sucked? (And it did.) That's how awesome the rest of my off-the-grid week was. I never thought to take photos of my awesome Aunt Charlotte and Gracious Grandmother Helen while I was there. In fact, the only photo I took all week was off a bird-shaped tomato, but I finished the Gothic Leaf Shawl (which I will block, enter at the county fair, and then ship back to Grandma after the fair is over), and Charlotte and I canned a bushel and a half of tomatoes into delicious salsa and tomato soup. Whoo-hoo!
The drive home was long today. I left around 8:30 am and got home around 6:15 pm, which means that even though I hit construction in two places and had to crawl along, I still beat the Google time by an hour. Go, me.
And now, it is time for me to go do what I came home to do--pick up my son from Shakespeare rehearsal. Tomorrow evening Chris will bring the twins home, happy and joyous from a week with their grandparents. We will all five be back home, safe and sound. Life is grand.
Friday, August 06, 2010
I've been around and I've seen some things
People moving faster than the speed of sound
Faster than the speeding bullet
People living like Superman
All day and all night
And I won't say if it's wrong or if it's right
I'm pretty fast myself
But I do have some advice to pass along
Along in the chorus of this song
Better not look down, if you want to keep on flying
Put the hammer down, keep it full speed ahead
Better not look back, or you might just wind up crying
You can keep it moving, if you don't look down
Today we all kept it moving. With the electricity going off last night at around 1:30 am, I was concerned that maybe noone else had noticed yet, so I called Allegheny Power, and while they DID know about the power outage (turns out it was fairly widespread), I learned that they have this service where you can get a wake up call if you electricity goes out in the middle of the night. How cool is that? So I woke up at 7:00 am to my Cell phone singing to me about something. Chris took Emily to the groomer and I ran to Wegman's for cards for Rich and Julie, since this was my last day of regular employment with the Law Office.
I was most of the way there when Max called to let me know the power was back, so that was good.
I got to the law office a few minutes early, so I put stamps on my bills, left money for the stamp fund on Julie's desk, and then wrote cards to Julie and Rich. For me, it's been a great job. You never saw such flexible hours and I rarely had to work with anyone too stressed out. I got the sweet elderly couple who wants to make sure their grandchildren are provided for. It's Julie who had to deal with Wells Fargo's mortgage people.
The day went quickly. Julie had brought in yummy brownies and even though I did have some actual work to do, most of it was done about 90 minutes before I really had to leave. I did a bank run and then the three of us just talked about what I was going to do next and what we'd done together. It was fun. Then it was time to go and we all said, "See you next week!" because in two weeks a group of us are going out to lunch.
After I left though, I started worrying about the second half of the day--getting the kids to Baltimore. And I started thinking about all the driving I need to do over the next few days. And suddenly I wanted Emily to go with me. I was talking to Chris at the time, and when he didn't throw up any immediate resistence, I decided to call Charlotte. She and Granny were okay with me bringing Emily--the farm needs a mouser. So I walked through the week mentally in my mind and immediately saw the biggest problem--1) we hadn't made reservations for the dog at the hotel. This could likely be fixed. 2) The dog couldn't come in the airport. This likely couldn't.
So I called my brother, who lives fairly close to the airport, to see if he could take Emily for the night. No, he's on his way out of town (and later, other more important things came up), but I could call his cat-sitter. So I did. And she was exceptionally helpful. 30 minutes after I started asking questions about Emily, all the problems were solved (I knew Judy wouldn't mind if her grandpoodle came along).
So we finished packing. I don't have an exceptional array of clothing myself. There wasn't much room left in the suitcase after I packed all my knitting, is the thing, and a girl must have priorities. I have enough underwear and yarn and the farm has a washing machine. What can go wrong?
I packed a bag for Emily. Luckily she's up to date on all her shots, even kennel cough, so that was easy enough. Max was a total sweetheart and cleaned out my trunk for me. BLESS THAT BOY. I printed out directions from each leg of the journey to the next. I grabbed two boxes of quart jars, a bag of rings (we'll be canning). Put in the suitcases, the dog's bag, and my bookbag (which passes for a purse). We were ready to go.
We stopped at Gaye's to get goodbye hugs and then the gas station to fill the tank. And then I pointed the car at 322 East and we were on our way.
Three hours later we were threading in and out of traffic in Baltimore until we finally found the dog sitters. They were great. Emily passed her sociability test and got to stay (phew! Not that I had any doubts that she would). We agreed on a pick up time and then Ben and Milo and I flipped to the next page of directions and went in search of the airport hotel. There are some rough spots in Baltimore, and we drove through a few of them, but all was well. Ben and Milo were waving to Baltimore's police force. I told them to put on their seatbelts for crying out loud.
The hotel is really quite nice. We arrived too late to really explore the place, but are enjoying the comfy beds. We have a 4:40 am wakeup call, so I really should try to get some sleep. It was a big day with another big day to follow. Stay tuned.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
After dinner Chris ran Coco back to his home (he'd been over having a playdate with Emily all day) and Gaye and I got to talking about all the stuff coming up in August and next thing you know, I'd printed out two copies of the month of August and we were sketching out when she'd babysit, when Max would babysit, and exactly what Max's Shakespeare rehearsals and performances look like. (Did I mention that we got the most wonderful thank-you note from one of the summer drama academy organizers? It praised Max as a wonderful young man, and I just can't get enough of that kind of thing.) By the time Chris got back, we'd figured out the first week and the last full week of August.
Then Chris sat down with HIS computer and we brought HIM up to speed. Somewhere in there I got out my computer and looked up the Nittany Valley Shakespeare Festival in order to check on the locations of the performances--they're all over the place, depending on the day--and in the process discovered an additional performance and some variations in the times from the schedule I originally was given. So that was all good. We wrote down the new information and discovered, for example, that Chris was already going to be in Baltimore the day that the twins come home from California, so I'll drive from Indiana to State College the previous day and let him pick up the twins from the airport. This is good news for me, even if it means I have to wait an additional 3 to 4 hours to see them that day.
In the end, we spent about an hour coordinating child care and child activities and who is driving where and when (e.g., Grandma will probably end up picking up the twins at the end of their school days on the first few days of school, since Extended Day doesn't usually start until the second week of school. But I'm getting ahead of myself. That's September for us.) and I felt MUCH better about the whole month by the time we were done, because now we're all on the same page, and it's all down on paper and the kids will get to their activities and have another full and wonderful month of summer.
I'm trying to lose weight by eating less and tracking what I eat so that the calories fall within the guidelines that helped me lose so much weight over the course of two years before. I regained it when taking a medicine that isn't supposed to cause weight-gain, but totally did with me. I had kept the weight off for a little over a year prior to that. About 15 months. After I hit my previous (non pregnancy) high weight, I went off the med, and have hovered around that number ever since. It was hard to find myself back at that weight and therefore hard to find the determination to lose it. I concentrated on school instead.
But I've been nudging myself back in that direction and I think my head is in the right place to make some progress. I'll lose the weight again, all of it, just the same way I did before. It will probably take me about the same amount of time as it did before, although I might be able to shave off 6 to 9 months because I don't intend to move across the country in the middle of it this time.
And now I am off to knit, knit like the wind, for it's only one month till the Grange fair, and I have many repeats of lace left to go.
(But omigosh, what a summer it has been for the garden. This is the first summer, ever, that I can remember the hot peppers being ripe in July. Usually the first jalapenos come in around mid-August, and everything else in late August. It's not unusual for me to have to buy hot peppers for the first batch of salsa, because not enough of the rest are ripe.
But this summer I already have two different kinds of peppers starting to produce huge, ripe hot peppers. The sweet peppers are turning orange. They'll be ready to be picked before I go to Indiana. The three pickling cucumber plants are producing 8 to 12 ripe cucumbers a week right now. I was planning one more batch of relish--a dill relish--after that I'm not sure what to do. I haven't tried the Ball Canning Dill pickle recipe and I'm not sure what kind of pickles they produce. Are they any good? I don't know, so I was only going to can a few batches on a trial basis this summer--but I can see that the vines will keep producing for a few more weeks and I have to do something with all those cucumbers.
The tomatoes are starting to ripen. I can't really remember when my tomatoes usually come in. I usually have more plants and then I have a variety of middle and late season tomatoes. This spring I didn't grow plants from seeds, I just grabbed a few pots from Lowe's. So I haven't even checked when they're supposed to come in. But the cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes have produced two lunches worth of ripe tomatoes and the first Big Boy is turning red. Neither of the beefsteak tomato varieties are producing a lot of fruit. They're more lush and green and healthy, than some previous year, but not especially abundant. I hear that can happen when the plant isn't at all stressed--plenty of good soil and rain? The plant isn't so worried about producing seeds to replicate itself.
And now I really am off to knit a few rows before turning in.)
Sunday, July 25, 2010
In addition to unfinished knitting projects, I have a master's thesis to finish. I've begun in the sense that I'm reading background knowledge books, but I've a long way to go on it.
Chris and I have launched a project to bring our family's eating habits more in line with what we think is healthy. We went out to dinner tonight for our anniversary dinner on grandma Judy's dime, and talked about the kinds of changes we want to make. We're going to start by getting rid of "seconds" but set fruit out at every dinner and allow unlimited servings of that. So we might still have chicken noodle casserole, but only one serving of it, and then any kid still hungry can fill up on grapes or apples or what have you. The second thing we're doing is identifying the three "worst offenders" on our regular rotation (they tend to be convenience foods I buy for the nights I'm not home to cook) and we'll replace them with healthier fare that Chris and the boys feel confident they can cook. We're not saying we'll never have hot dogs again, but we'll take them out of "Tuesday nights when Mom's in class," so the frequency with which we eat them is more in alignment with their nutritional contribution (e.g., not very often). We will not limit how much the boys can eat--I just think that sets the kids up for sneaking food and having weird issues with food--we'll just encourage healthier snacking. I don't think anyone ever ate themselves into a 35 bmi on grapes.
Finally, I'm, reluctantly, reading up on dairy allergies. Ben has had tummy troubles since birth and he often goes to bed with a bloated tummy you could flip coins on. He gets gas during the day and created a scene more than once in second grade. When Ben was entering kindergarten, I had the twins tested for allergies since their Dad and brother both have plenty (Chris way more than Max, though). On a hunch, I mentioned the milk allergy to the allergist then and he added that as a skin test.
I've never heard of testing milk issues with a skin test, but hey, it's his specialty. So the boys didn't react to ANYTHING . . . except Ben got an inconclusive with the dairy. His skin got red in that area, but there wasn't a full-on welt. The allergist said, well, they were still young. They should be retested at age 8 or so--and definitely to keep an eye on Ben and see what happens with the dairy.
Well, I'm not good at that stuff. I can only stay focused on so much at a time, so I basically shelved it. But with school only a month away, I'm hearing from Ben that he'd like to give dairy elimination a try. In part this is because he is seduced by lactaide commercials, but also because I think he is old enough to not want to be laughed at in class. So that's going on the list of things to do in September. We'll try eliminating dairy for Ben and see . . . if there's anything different or better about that. If there is, we'll trot back to the allergist and see what we can learn about that. Dairy allergies are pretty rare. Lactose intollerance is really very common, and it usually is something that develops in preteens and teens or young adults. It's less common in anglo saxons, but I'm convinced there's some Latino or Native American in Chris's genetic makeup anyway, and there's plenty of dairy intolerance in those blood lines.
Other projects we'll pursue include Ben and Milo's speech therapy. They're going to the same clinic at Penn State that Max went to when he was stuttering. He doesn't stutter/stammer any more at all, so we're very hopeful that this will bring success to the twins, too.
I'd better be off to bed now. It's been a great day, but I guess I've stretched it out long enough. Tomorrow is Scout Camp for Max and swim practice for the twins and work for Chris and me. Another good day, I'll bet.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
When we got back home, Chris was the first to the door, and he was greeted by an overzealous paper wasp, who won the battle (Chris's middle finger swelling to three times its natural size), but lost the war (Chris googled how to get rid of wasps and took out the fledging nest a little after dark). I started on my various cooking and canning projects, while Chris went out to get Max from practice and whatever that huge spray bottle was that he used on the nests. Around 4pm he passed out on the couch (a combination of the benedryl I'd given him and a very long week behind him) and I started to focus more seriously on dinner.
By 6pm, the missionaries had arrived, and with the help of the boys, we were ready. The quiche was perfect, the potatoes perfect, the corn was boiling, the table set. We prayed, we ate, we had a great time. Then Chris and the missionaries met (he's ward missionary leader right now) and I made us all blueberry cobbler. It turned out great, but not before dropping big globs on the floor of the oven. I'd like to use the self-cleaning feature of the oven, but really--can I stand a 500 degree oven for a few hours in this heat? I don't honestly know if I can.
When the cobbler was done, I did the fastest batch of blueberry jam ever--mostly because I did all the prep before I'd started on dinner. Then we played a quick game of Apples-to-Apples, calling it Family Home Evening. At this point we said goodnight to the Missionaries.
Now it was 9:00 pm and I had to decide if I could really do a batch of relish before bedtime. I decided I could if I used the food processesor. When you do sweet pickle relish, you basically dice onions, pickling cucumbers, and sweet peppers. Then you toss them in a big bowl, sprinkle with salt, and cover in cold water. Then you let it sit for two hours. So here I am at 11:30, watching the minutes tick off the clock. Everyone else fell asleep awhile ago (well, except Milo who had trouble sleeping till I sat by him and gently rubbed his back for a couple of minutes). Actually, I'm not really watching the minutes tick off the clock. I'm feeling pretty good about getting 11 jars of 12-oz blueberry jam done and being about an hour away from having a double batch of sweet pickle relish processing. The jars are simmering on the stove. I just need the relish to finish doing whatever it is doing in the brine.
I'm hoping tomorrow evening to get a batch of dill pickles done in quart jars. I haven't ever done dill pickles before, and I'm not sure how many I'll do in the end, but I think it'll be a few more weeks before the cucumber vines stop producing, so I'll give it a shot. I think I picked about three or four quarts worth today, and I've got plenty of vinegar, so why not?
Saturday, July 10, 2010
- all went swimming at Park Forest pool. It was soooooooo hot that even I, at my heaviest weight ever, put on my best bathing suit and got in the water. The water was wonderful and I felt instantly reengergized. Grandma Donna and I played with the kids and then we went off the board together. It was a blast and made gettting through the rest of the hot, humid day easier.
- visited the Palmer Museum of Art, which turned out to be a smallish, but very nice museum, worth going back to.
- had lunch at the Creamery. We ate lunch and then ice cream. They got to see the education building from the outside.
- played Apples to Apples, with much laughter.
- attempted gluten-free chinese dumplings, with some success, and spam musabi, with much more success.
- picked up 190 lbs of blueberries from the Kiwanis club and got it all delivered to everyone who placed an order by noon the next day.
- took Ben's mild earache complaints seriously because we knew we were going camping and wouldn't have easy access to a health clinic in the next state, only to find that he had a raging ear infection going on--we left with ear drops, lessons in managing swimmer's ear, and amoxicicillin.
Then Mom and Dad had to go back to California. We all said goodbye, and then realized we had some serious packing to do. I squeezed in two 5-hr days of work before we left, and a lot of packing, and then suddenly it was Thursday at 3:02 pm, and we were rolling out of the driveway.
It has been a wild and wonderful camping experience. First, it's hardly Muir on an iceburg. It's a KOA camp ground, and I paid the extra few bucks for one of the tent sites with water and electricity (unfortunately, what this really means is that I have a good-sized RV site, on which to pitch the tent). It had wifi, as long as the weather is good anyway, hot water showers, clean toilet stalls, a chlorinated pool, and dozens of other activities we could do if I would spend the money.
Second, the weather has been every manner of extreme except exceedingly cold. We arrived on day five of a major heatwave, all of soaked to the skin with sweat after 20 minutes of unpacking--and since our tent (Taj Mahal model. Sleeps 8--or 5 if you're sleeping on two queen size and one twin-size air mattresses) takes a bit of unpacking, we were at it for longer than that. Still, I got dinner cooked before the sun set and we all collapsed happy, if incredibly hot, sometime around 11pm, when we simply couldn't take the mosquitos for one moment longer.
Since there was electricity to the site, not only could we use a regular mattress inflator (instead of the weak battery powered things that sometimes come with them) but frankly--we'd brought a 100 foot extension chord and a large air mover fan. I pointed it at the ceiling, for which the other four were mostly resentful--but it was the best way to circulate the most amount of air in the tent so everyone got at least some small amount of breeze.
On Friday we had breakfast, prepared the tent for the thunderstorm that was supposed to arrive at 7pm and then clear up in time for the 9:15 pm pageant, and then left for LDS tourist places as soon as possible. It was already unbearably hot and it wasn't even 10 am yet. We hit the Visitor's center at the Hill Comorough first. They were predicting 9,000 in attendance on the first night of the pageant (which was that night). Then we visited the Sacred Grove. It was as beautiful as you might expect (and shady enough to not be miserably hot). I think that was my favorite spot of the day.
By now it was after noon, so we decided to get out of the heat for a bit--we went to see a matinee of Desipicable Me. The kids and I loved it, although Ben and Milo are not eager movie goers (well, neither am I frankly--we all find the movies just plain TOO LOUD). But we thought there was definitely something for everyone in the movie, and use of the 3D was magnificent--definitely a movie intended for 3D, not tacked on as a gimic.
When we got out, the skies were gray, there was a wind, and there were drops falling from the sky. The big, heavy ones that seem to come ahead of the real storm. We hurried to the car and went to the grocery store to get food for dinner. The twins need to each plan, prepare, and cook and outdoor meal under adult guidance, and so this camping trip seemed like a good way to get that done.
Ben decided to go first. He chose hamburgers. We got goodies for smores, too. Then we ran home, still expecting the storm to come in quick after dinner and leave again--the first storm had already come and gone while we were in Wegman's. But when we got back to the campgrounds, instead of getting lighter and clearing up, it got darker and darker again. The tent had leaked a little, so we used the Shamwow we got for Christmas to dry out the wet spots and we made a few adjustments to the fit of the rain fly, and one wall of the tent. I started preparing things for a run into the tent. About 20 minutes after we got back, a little before 4 pm, it started raining again. We all piled into the tent and listened to the deluge. And listened, and listened, and listened. We played electronic games. Chris fretted over every drip into the tent. I tried to keep everyone calm. And on and on it poured and poured. I couldn't stay connected to the internet long enough to get a forecast. I just saw the flood warning that wasn't there the day before and the mention of 2-4 inches of rain over a matter of hours--before we were going to get less than an inch over the course of half a day. So it had all changed, and we couldn't seem to get the specifics.
At 6:20 pm, all of the boys were getting fussy and desperate, so I moved us to the nearest covered picnic table, and supervised Ben's preparation for dinner. We were mostly done when Bishop called--his whole family is in the pageant this year--to see if we were still coming. We were surprised, but when he reassured us that the show would go on (the website DOES say it's never been called on account of rain. It just doesn't say that it hasn't ever rained--they're supposed to cancel in the event of LIGHTNING--and sure enough though it certainly rained last night, there was no thunder or lightning during the show.
So we bought ponchos, and cleaned up dinner, threw ourselves back in the car, and drove over to the pageant. One plus with the rain--the anti-Mormons were thin in number. The rain was heavy and then light and then heavy again. We were happy to see friends there and it was a welcome distraction from the tent leaks. The show was well done and we all enjoyed it. Then it was a hike in flip flops (no one wanted to ruin their sneakers) back through the mud and back out to the road. Miraculously, no one seemed to get stuck in the mud.
Back in the tents we again mopped up, put down fresh bedding, and fell into an exhausted slumber. I woke briefly when the rain started up again, but this time it wasn't heavy enough to leak into the tent.
In the morning the air was cool and breezy. The kids played (KOA campgrounds lend themselves to young pups like ours banding together into wandering groups. Since so many people are here for the pageant, they're largely Mormon puppies, and we ran into a few of them during our daytime travels :) and I made more pancakes and bacon. We pulled everything wet out of the tent and ran into town. Chris and Max did a load of laundry and two loads of drying. Ben and Milo and I went back to the grocery store for more groceries. Today it's Milo's turn to plan, prepare, and cook--so he's doing pork chops and pot stickers.
Back at the campsite, we had sandwiches for lunch, and then we all went swimming at the pool. Sooooo much fun. Chris and the boys laughed their heads off. Wonderful.
We squandered a couple of hours doing nothing (waiting for the sun to set a bit) and now it is just shy of 7 pm, and the boys are all back looking hopeful, so Milo and I will get to work making dinner.
Tomorrow we'll strike camp, pack up the car, and head off. I will head back home with the kids and Chris will go to Canada on business. It's a full week of graduate assistantship training for me, with a little bit of work here or there. Theatre for Max. Swimming and time with grandma Gaye for the twins. Canadians for Chris.
But right now it's an evening of good food, a fire, s'mores, and potentially the best night yet in the tent. It's really been a magnificent week. Magnificent. Many thanks to all who made it possible.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
It would have been late August in Grandview, Ohio. I was a sophomore at Ohio Wesleyan, and I think it must have been ’87, because I have a memory of being glad to be back at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I might have some of the details wrong. This memory might be more of a compilation of memories from various visits, but the memory of the incoming storm is clear tonight. I’m sure of that much.
I didn’t understand yet just exactly how sick Grandpa was. I didn’t understand yet that this would go fast, and by the week of finals, in late December, I would lose Grandpa John Black. On this late summer afternoon, I just knew he was sick with cancer, very sick, but I think I still thought then that he would get well.
It wasn’t yet evening, I don’t think. Maybe 4:00 pm, and I was laying in the guest room with the large bed. I loved that room and I loved the bed, with it’s clean, crisp white sheets, and the white bed cover, and the many small windows that swept around the room. The windows were all open and there was a fan in one, held in place by the weight of the heavy glass window. I lay on top of the covers, not even trying to nap, just trying not to move, letting the air from the fan lift the sweat off my neck.
I always felt so welcome, so special at Grandma Helen’s and Grandpa John’s house. Grandma would have me go around with her once each weekend and help her change the sheets on any beds that had been slept in. I liked this. I liked how smooth she got the sheets, and I found her system of moving top sheets to the bottom, and then putting a fresh top sheet on the bed charmingly economical. I never adopted the system. My own children twist and turn in bed like little blind tornados, and I have to use special elastic hooks just to keep the fitted sheets on. I can’t imagine top sheets lasting two hours under the boys, but it worked at Helen’s house.
When she knew I was coming Helen would buy orange soda and French vanilla ice cream, because once she had had those items on hand and I made an orange soda and loved it so much—after that she made sure we had those ingredients for every visit. Back then I swam on OWU’s swim team, and I could that without any harm. We ate whatever I wanted for dinner, so long as Grandpa would eat it, too. We talked about my classes, and John Black would read over my papers after the professor returned them graded. He would add two more grades to the paper—what he thought I deserved and what he thought the professor deserved for his or her job in grading the paper and giving me feedback. I always fared better than the professor. Grandpa told me I’d get Phi Beta Kappa and I said I’d never had a 4.0 semester, and he said I would soon. So I did. I did that for him the last semester he was alive, although he would die the day before my last finals. But having done it once, I knew I could do it again, and so in the end the Phi Beta Kappa was mine. Ours, really. I had needed someone to say I could do it. Someone who believed it.
All of this, their way of treating me like a special guest, like they had been waiting for me, thinking I would be visiting soon, making the trip to the grocery store and thinking, “Oh, Heather will be visiting soon, I’d better get some more orange soda,” the huge bed that made me feel like a princess, that’s all wrapped up in the memory of laying on the bed in front of the fan on that hot August afternoon.
And then there was thunder in the distance, faint at first, hard to hear over the box fan in the window, and then louder so you knew it was definitely thunder, followed soon after by the first gusts of cool air blowing in ahead of the storm, and I shivered in happy anticipation of the coming cold front and the potential drama of an afternoon thunderstorm in central Ohio. Only moments after the first cool air blew in, the rain began to fall, fat, slow drops that splattered on the roof and on the driveway outside the windows. The smell of the hot asphalt was the next sensation, and then suddenly the air was full of fat, pelting rain drops. I heard windows slamming shut down stairs and the quiet time on the bed was over. I ran around the house with Grandma closing the windows, leaving a few open a crack at the bottom to let in the cool air, but not the rain.
I was wide awake now. Grandma was making drinks for herself and Grandpa. I made an orange soda. The news came on and I abandoned the guest room to watch the news with them. The storm was soon over and we walked around again, opening the windows wide to let in the cool air. I put the box fan back in the window. Later that night I would stay up too late, reading a good book, stretching out the visit by putting off sleep. Later I would realize that this worried Grandma, my not sleeping, but at the time I took her comments about my late bedtimes in stride. It didn’t sound like worry or complaining, so I didn’t think to reassure her that I ordinarily kept fairly normal hours. I wasn’t one of those college students who never slept.
I knew how lucky I was, to be at college at a distance far enough from my parents that I felt all grown up, but close enough to my grandparents that I could call them on a Thursday and they would come get me on a Friday, always returning me to school feeling well rested, well loved, well fed, cherished, and with $20 in my pocket. I knew how lucky I was to have such a clever and charming Grandmother in Helen Harrington Black now Humbarger. I knew how lucky I was to have a Grandfather who saw in me potential I couldn’t yet see in myself.
I don’t mind the heat tonight. I can’t sleep, but it’s alright. The memories are like having them visit again for a short while. I walk around the house in Grandview in my mind, revisiting the details I remember from each room. The old bathtub. The laundry chute. The shower in the basement. Grandpa's books in the shelves on the stairs that led up to the attic. The big red chairs. The old tv. The breakfast nook. The cupboard where Grandma kept at least a decade of grooming products. The drawer with the twist ties from bread bags and the knob that dripped with rubber bands. Going further back in time, chasing fire flies with my cousins on the front lawn. Collecting them all in glass jars with nail holes in the metal tops. Somewhere around this memory I finally doze off. The heat has let up some and if I were the sort to dream, I think I would have gone on remembering. I know how lucky I was.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
So, yeah, that's Park Forest Pool as the sun is setting, and now you, too, will want to move to State College.
To complete my wiredness, I have iPod earphones in my ears and at this very moment I am listening to Boomshackalak. It's on some kind of shuffle setting. Just a moment ago I was listening to Handels Messiah: A Soulful Celebration, and the song before that was a Bassoon piece from Vivaldi called Bassoon Concerto in A Mino, R. 498: III Allegro--and now it's the Mighty Fine Blues by Eel, whoever they are. The refrain is "Feelin' mighty fine, feelin' mighty fine at this time," and I am. Wait. :::counts her children::: All accounted for. Yes. Feeling mighty fine. Even if my arms are sticking to the picnic table as I write. Hee Hee :)
So Max had a good day. He auditioned in the morning and by the time they left for the day, he already knew his roles. He scored two top male roles and the director has offered him a small adult role (for all we know, it's non-speaking) in Much Ado About Nothing, which she is working on for some other performance. This is all Max could tell me. Using the magic of google I found the performance. It's the Nittany Valley Shakespeare Festival and the good news is that there are like six performances. The bad news is that they start right after I was going to take Max to Indiana for a week to see my grandmother and Aunt. I'm guessing he couldn't miss rehearsals that week. hrm. Chris will go speak to the director tomorrow.
Wow. There are a lot of kids here for evening swim practice tonight. Way more than on Monday. There are a bunch of high school kids and Ben and Milo are a little freaked. I don't blame them. The man-cubs look like they could eat Ben and Milo for lunch. Milo is practicing his starts. This looks like him leaping off the blocks with wild abandon--no actual diving involved, LOL. It's good to be 8. Ben is getting coached on his freestyle. Max is checking to make sure we rolled up the windows to the car since it's starting to rain. "A Lovely Day" comes on my iPod and I smile again :) It's not raining here under the pavillion, and I go on typing . . . skyping now with Chris at home.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
So we just had Father's day. It was low key in this house. It's always low key. Gaye took us all out to a great dinner at Applebee's, and we all gave Chris cards. Gaye bought Chris a little helicopter. I gave him free kisses. It was good.
Tonight is an ordinary Tuesday and Chris is coaching Max through his monologue for tomorrow's summer theatre audition. Max is already in the program, and they have already offered him a full scholarship, but the performance has not been cast yet, so tomorrow are auditions for that. I am sitting in another room listening to Max and Chris talk, their voices rising and falling. Max has a deeper voice now. Sometimes this year if I was working at my desk and he came down the basement stairs and make a noise it would startle me. He would make "strange man" noises. The noises of a man I didn't know. It would about put me out of my skin, honestly. Gradually, I got used to his man-noises. I recognize them now as him. But I . . . it saddens me that I can't remember his boy voice anymore. I don't have that kind of memory. I recall the gist of things, the big picture, the message--I'm not good at word-for-word, or what color it was, or exactly how it sounded. So I keep listening to my man-cub talking, hearing that it is still a little strange to me (for one, I think it keeps changing little by little as he keeps stretching for his father's height, little by little), but unable to put my finger on exactly how it is different.
Chris on the other hand, Chris sounds as he has sounded for over 20 years. We're a couple weeks away from our fifteenth anniversary and I am grateful to him for all the ways he has changed and most of the ways he has not. I am grateful for his metamorphosis into a complete hands-on Dad. I am grateful for his willingness to first, follow me on a journey of Faith, and then to take the lead. I am grateful that everyday he goes to a job that, as the Dirty Jobs guy says, he is not passionate about, but to which he brings his passion for life, anyway. It makes him good at what he does, and with that I can pay the mortgage, which is way more important than I thought it was 20 years ago.
Right now he is making Gorilla noises. It's part of the monologue. I smile. He made me laugh out loud when I was 15. He is still making me laugh 27 years later. I am grateful for that, too.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
It was a busy week. Max finished up 8th grade on Tuesday. The twins had finished school the previous Wednesday. Wednesday morning swim team started for Ben and Milo and Max slept in. It may be the only day all summer he really has to do that. After swim team we ran home for Ben and Milo to quick change into real clothes and then it was over to Penn State for a new speech therapy evaluation. Max was about this age when he worked with them on ending his stammering, and it worked. So we're back in the hopes that Ben and Milo can learn and apply those tricks, too. The graduate students there are always a little nervous and eager when meeting new students, but in this case, the supervisors were convincingly enthusiastic. Ben and Milo went to the speech preschool they have there as part of the graduate student training, and here they were, a few years later, parading around their generous vocabulary and their love of interacting with other humans. They've grown an awful lot in the four years that have passed since they were there, and it was exciting for the supervisors to see them. At any rate, we spent two hours there and the time flew by--felt like maybe 40 minutes. I go back next Wednesday to get the results, and hopefully, to sketch out a plan for helping them.
From there we ran home, grabbed a bite to eat, grabbed Max, who had been doing laundry and packing for his upcoming camping trip, and dropped Max off at a friends house, dropped the twins off with Grandma Gaye, and I ran to work for three hours. Then everyone went home, we had a nice dinner, Dad went out to do some stuff for his church calling, and the rest of us played games on the computer or Wii.
Thursday Chris ran a bunch of the boys out to Zion's camp (church camp) and left him there for three days. He worked from home while Ben and Milo and I filled the rest of the week with more swimming, working, and spending time with Grandma. I had my first-ever mammogram. The technician was really quick--I'll give her that.
Today Ben and Milo's swim team had a mock meet. This sets initial times for all the kids, teaches them the flow of a meet (and a race), and lets the coaches see what individual kids will do in an actual race. Ben and Milo, who have done an awful lot of clinging to the lane lines so far this summer, both did great--in particular, they improved a LOT between their first 25 free race and when they swam it again an hour later for the relay. Ben displayed some natural competitiveness in his final race--where his new understanding of how races work and his observations of the older kids gelled together--and for the first time ever, he stopped "stopping" to breathe and started breathing on alternating sides, every third stroke. I was floored and mighty proud.
I was a timer during the practice meet, so I was pretty hot and tired by the time it was all over. In the last few races, someone else took over timing my lane, so I bought Ben and Milo and I some breakfast from the "snack" booth. We left there and headed home for an hour, and then it was over to the YMCA for their last swim lesson. After that we went to Grandma Gaye's. Ben and Milo changed out of swim trunks for the first time since 7:00 am and then we all went shopping. Grandma Gaye bought Ben and Milo summer swim passes at the pool (thanks so much, Grandma!) and then we found a game she was looking for at Target. From there it was on to Wegman's where we not only found all the groceries we were looking for, but also the UltraSwim shampoo I desperately need to turn Ben and Milo's straw hair back into something you can run a comb through.
And then Max was back home and we were all a family again. A hot, tired, happy family. The End (of today. More tomorrow :)
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Anyway, he got an A on his final, which means he can officially go on to Geometry as a freshman in the fall. I'm very proud of him :)
Saturday, June 05, 2010
3. every fan in the house plugged in and running
My other brother, Jake, and his lovely wife, Karen, and their adorable children, my niece and nephew. She is one this week. He is four next week.
Seriously, I'm related to that handsome guy and that angel baby.
This is Alex's lovely wife. She is exceptionally good a posing for photos because my brother takes a million photos everywhere he goes, so she thinks she's being silly in this picture, but I think it captures her innate humor and beauty:
In honor of Max's 14th birthday, Jake let Max take his scooter for a spin (he did not go on the street--stayed in the alley), and so nephew O and Ben and Milo needed to take O's battery car for a spin, too. Here is a picture he captured that makes me smile. That's Milo at the wheel. (If you haven't seen Max in a photo recently--yes, he's grown. I'm not sure. 5' 9"? 10"?)
This week I think I finally stopped gritting my teeth to get through all of each day. My reward was a heavenly visit from my baby brother and sister-in-law. They were only here two days, but we got long car rides on either side of those two days to talk. We all, including the kids, really enjoyed their gracious visit. It was a long way to come--they just got back to the states after 10.5 months traveling various exotic locations of the world--and we're so glad they took the time and spent the money (that they really didn't have) to do so.
Alex and the boys playing with swords made by Max. They entertained themselves while I made Jess stay in the hot kitchen with me.
Tuesday Max had to go to school (big kids can't miss school before the Algebra final is over) and Chris had to go to work (family providers can't take vacation days when the Japanese clients are in town), but Ben and Milo are days from the end of their school year so they played hookey. We walked around Penn State--there are more photos of this, but I don't think I have those. I picked up a book I'd requested at the library and then we went to the creamery for ice cream. Emily came with us and enjoyed the attention.
We ran home and made pizza because it was our turn to feed the Sister Missionaries and Chris had invited one of the Japanese gentleman to our home for dinner. It was a total team effort with Ben and Milo helping with toppings, Jess rolled out the dough and watched over Ben and Milo's efforts. I ran around and put things where the cooks could reach them. Alex shredded the mozzarella. Oh--before this, Alex and Jess led a big cleaning effort, and so the place looked great. My brother MOPPED MY KITCHEN FLOOR. Seriously, I almost cried.
But I didn't have time, so I ran out the door to go get the Sister Missionaries and arrived moments after the pizza was pulled out of the oven and Chris and the kids got the extra table set up.
We had a blast.
Then after dinner I ran the twins over to cub scouts, Max worked on his Duty to God requirements so he could be done before turning 14 . . .
and then it was Thursday and Alex and Jess were safely in Arizona, Max was 14 and it was time for more cake.
And then it was today, the kind of Saturday you think every Summer Saturday will be--beautiful, but not overly hot, a little rain early in the morning for the tomatoes--Ben and Milo had their first summer swim team practice--and that went great. Then we ran to Target for new flip flops. The twins showed me how negligent a mother I am by moving up two shoes sizes. Jeez. I got summer flip flops, too. Yay, me! Then it was home for a quick stop and off to the YMCA for swim lessons.
I've spent all afternoon working on a baby sweater that is turning out lovely and listening to my iPod.
My. heart. is. so. full.
I know not every week can be so wonderful, but a wonderful week like this every so often really goes far to strengthen your heart. Tomorrow is fast and testimony Sunday and I think I'll use the opportunity tonight, after I start my fast, to plan Monday's FHE lesson instead of waiting until 20 minutes before like I usually do :) Now that Max is 14, I'm thinking it could be fun to do a lesson on Patriarchal Blessings.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
So today I worked a couple of hours at the law office and then headed over to campus to chase down beurocratic rabbit trails in search of a form I'm not entirely sure exists. (It wouldn't be the last time today.) Then I went to a planning meeting for the fall's Assistantship.
I'm so excited about this project, actually. I think the professor in charge of it is terrific--organized and reasonable. I really admire those qualities in anyone, and in academia, especially. I think the other graduate student I'm working with is terrific. She's smart and experienced with this project, and, thank heavens, taking the lead in teaching the class. I'll be doing more of the supervising. I'm very excited about that.
After we had penciled in many of the logistical details about all of that, I talked with the professor about my Master's Thesis project, because he's my advisor for that. We talked some more about what it would and would not be and came away with a clearer picture--and I was able to cut down my list of summer reading considerably. I still have a bunch to read, but it's not so all over the map as before. This is good.
I also got to drop two of the five classes I'd signed up for (over scheduling to avoid being shut out of something I wanted later).
I only have one night course for the fall, and it doesn't go as late as the night classes usually do. It's on scout night, of course, but in a way that's good as it means we'll only need a sitter every other week.
I'll be very busy during the day, but should be able to be home and make dinner four of the week nights and that's a huge improvement over previous semesters.
Also, we think we can combine my supervising with my thesis research and that's a huge, huge, huge time savor. Watch the teachers-in-training, take notes, give feedback, keep notes for my own research. All good.
Only thing is--I think I'm going to start taping my talks with this professor. He says soooo much, quickly, and I can't remember it all later. I take notes, but it doesn't seem to capture everything. Would be good to have the digital recording to listen to again later and make sure I got it all. (I'm totally serious.)
Friday, May 14, 2010
Upon arrival, Max dashed out of the house to inspect the tents while I worried about the silver car, whose windows had been left down. Max reported the soaking of the tents to Chris and Chris had a baby cow in the living room. moo.
Then, he recovered his composure. They finished gathering their things. They headed out to pick up the rest of the troop, hoping they could squeeze all those big kids into that tiny truck and maybe the tents would air out on the way up to the mountain trail. The storm hadn't lasted more than 15 minutes. As long as the wet spots didn't end up being on the bottom of the tents, it was all probably salvageable.
Since then, the sun has come out. I'm thinking good thoughts for Troop 40's campout tonight. May they find plenty of dry wood for the smores and hotdog roasting.
I'm also thinking of my friend whose husband is graduating from college tonight with a degree in chemical engineering that they all, the whole family, earned together (but, you know, kudos to Eric who cracked the books, wrote the papers, studied and passed the tests, and did a million group projects--which can try an older student's patience). Ben and Milo and I will be babysitting their two youngest children while everyone else goes to the ceremonies. It's a good day in Central PA.
Me? My PA teaching credential and my final "child abuse" clearance arrived in the mail today. This has no immediate impact on anything. I'll still be returning to school in the fall to finish my master's. But it means I can sub here or there for a friend, just to get my proverbial feet wet again, and it means if something happens while I'm supervising undergrads (like, all the other adults in the room suddenly have to run to the bathroom or something--it could happen) then I'm legally allowed to supervise the kids left behind. This seems good, too. More good to the day.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
When I first started at the law office, I worked up to 30 hours in a week, but those weeks were fewer than you might think. If I picked up a freelance writing project, then I subtracted the hours from the law office. It wasn't unusual for me to only be gone 15 hours in a week. All three boys were in all-day school now, but at least I was still there. And then Chris's job stuff went south and he was around, too. This pleased Emily, frankly.
Then in June, Chris was gone all day again. And the combination of school and work for me suddenly meant I was pretty much gone all day during the week, too.
And Emily has not been happy about it. I'm embarrassed to admit that it took most of the last 10 months for me to finally ask the vet about Emily's gradually worsening behavior. Turns out she likely has separation anxiety. Right now she's happy because she's sleeping on my feet. She gets my feet and a corner of the warm, wool blanket my aunt knit for Chris and I. It's a good life, but it's not like it was.
I totally get it. Some days I have separation anxiety, too. I know Chris does. If it was up to him, we'd meet every weekday for lunch at one of downtown State College's many fun places to eat and plot and plan and marvel again at how much more mentally challenging it is to parent a teenager than a baby. I mean, assuming you're trying to give the kid every possible shot at good outcomes. I'm not talking about getting the kid into the right extracurriculars so he'll get into a good college. I'm talking about providing input, while he's still talking to us, in the hopes that when he makes decisions without consulting us, they'll be ones that move him in positive directions.
It's an incredibly wet week. I'm kind of grateful for it because I really need to do a LOT of yard work and garden prep, and I also need to get some work done on a project for one of the professors I work with, and the downpour scheduled for tomorrow makes the decision for me. Still, I wish I had already gotten the dirt spread out in the areas sinking in our lawn and put down the new seed. This would have been great for that.
Chris should be home from playing raquetball soon. I'm going to go start dinner and then try to make some progress on a knitted lace shawl. My goal is to either fall asleep (hopefully without dropping stitches) and let Chris put the kids to be while I grab and extra-long night of sleep, or to finish 20 rows. I'd be okay with it going either way.
Monday, May 10, 2010
But I honestly had no CLUE there were responses to the last post, and so now I feel a little badly. I hate being ignored and I certainly had no intention of doing so to anyone else.
So here's a brief recap of the last ten months:
July/August: I spent every waking moment desperately trying to pass my math classes, keep up with the intense schedule of the summer online education classes, work at the law office, and keep an eye on the kids. I didn't do a very good job with the last part, but I didn't actually know that until months later. In the end, it was fixable, and for that, I'm so grateful.
However, when I say I passed my Calculus class, that's all I mean. There's no hyperbole there. I would do fine on homework, althought it took me three times as long to finish as my classmates. I did fine on quizzes, averaging a B or B+. But I would nearly fail every timed exam. I just didn't have enough committed to memory anymore to finish every problem.
There was, the way I recall it, only a week-long break between the end of the summer semester and the start of the fall semester, and it flew by. I started again the last week of August and dropped my Calculus II class in the second week of September. I wasn't going to pass it and I knew it. I am a very hardworking student and a very dedicated one, but I know when the class has moved past me to the point where I won't catch up. Dropping the class then meant I got a tiny amount of my tuition back. In the meantime, I carried on taking three other master's of education courses. After a few weeks of discussion with various advisors, I moved back into Elementary Education, which is what my B.A. was in, where I taught, and for which I spent most of the last ten years writing curriculum. I took adolescent psych (before I switched back to El. Ed.), a class on Lev Vygotsy's theories, and a class on teaching reading and writing to ELLs.
We were, all of us, sick for most of the fall semester. I couldn't keep any of the kids in school more than ten days without someone getting ill--and we never did get H1N1. There were just vicious colds and the occasional stomach flu. It was exhausting and when you combined the illness and working at the law office and taking a full-load of Ma.Ed. classses--I cried a lot. Chris was gone often on business (for which I was grateful--the work, not the being gone), once for three weeks at a time. I didn't blog.
Initially we thought that I'd take Spring semester off but at some point I did the math (ha!) and realized that I'd be done with the degree in Spring of 2011 if I didn't take spring 2010 off. So even though it meant taking out another semester's worth of loans, we soldiered forth.
Christmas break was a nice break, if only because we finally got out from under the thumb of all the illness. My sister visited and Max auditioned for his spring play. School started again and it was different all over again. Two out of three of the classes felt useful and generated fairly interesting dialogue. One was a required course that did not feel useful and which was taught in a style I didn't really appreciate. January and February are always tough for me, and this was no exception. Still, time passes in a predictable manner, and soon it was March. I developed an idea for my Master's Thesis, switched over to the M.S. in Ed. degree, found an advisor for the thesis, and found some comfort in seeing that we (master's students) were all struggling around Spring break. We were tired. Time passed. Term papers were written. Presentations given. Final grades assigned.
Ironically, none of my math grades count. Because they were less than 400 level courses, they don't count as graduate classes and that means they don't count towards my GPA. Since my non-math courses were a better match for my education and background, I've earned fairly decent grades. There were a few close calls, but in general, I've hung in there. I'll apply for the doctoral program next year.
As of today's post, I have a nice long summer stretch ahead of me. I report back to school on August 16th for a week of orientation for my assistantship--I'll be teaching a few classes and/or doing some supervision of undergraduate teacher trainees. In exchange, I get free tuition, health insurance, and a stipend. My last week at the law office will be in early August. I'm not counting the days. I like the law office.
Max is finishing up 8th grade and will be taking a whack of challenging classes next fall in high school. Spanish 2 and Geometry and the like. Ben and Milo had a great 2nd grade year with a terrific teacher. This is a possibility they'll have her again in third grade. Either way, they'll probably stay at the charter school for another year.
Tonight we're sitting down as a family and going over the calendar for the next few months and getting on the same page with that. With all the stuff the kids do, Chris's travels for work, and my just wanting to get the twins through all the Wolf Cub achievements before I go back to school in August, there's a lot to coordinate.
My plan is to blog regularly through the summer. We'll see how that goes :)