School, Illness, and Other Fairly Ridiculous Tales

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Three days into the school year. Parker was very nervous again this morning. He couldn’t figure out why. I know he will be fine. He just needs to trust himself. I got to watch Gavin walk to the bus stop this morning. He needs to leave before us on late start Wednesdays. He was so cute! He saw the bus coming so he started to run for the stop. The bus still needed to turn around in the circle so he had plenty of time.

He doesn’t seem to mind taking the bus. Two days in a row he was the only person on the bus going to school. There are a few kids that take it after school. He seems to have adjusted well to this way of getting to and from school. I was nervous yesterday since he had to get himself off to school and I had no way of knowing how that went. All three of us rushed to the door to greet him when we got home. Parker and Gwen were just excited to see him and I was relieved knowing for sure he had survived on his own. I assumed he was fine when the school never called wondering where he was. But seeing him, and seeing him happy, made me feel better.

Gwen is loving first grade. She has PE on Tuesdays and Wednesdays which means no dresses or skirts. If she wears shorts underneath (which I insist on anyway) and she wears sturdy sneakers then it’s not a big deal. She couldn’t find her shorts on Monday. I could have helped her but she was already dressed in a cute new outfit so we didn’t bother with the dress. Then two more days in a row with no dress. It’s agony for her! My girly girl.

We’re starting to get used to our old morning routines. It takes a minute to get back into the swing of things. The homework routine in the afternoon has been a work in progress for years. The hardest part for me so far this year is giving each child the attention they need and deserve. There are three of them and only one of me! I want them each to have my undivided attention. It’s early yet and we’ll settle into a routine. Gavin’s homework will soon become actual homework rather than signing that I saw the teacher’s expectations. Oh and writing checks for each teacher!

I can’t beat myself up for not starting to read the Book of Mormon with Gwen yet. We’ll get there. I am proud of myself for having the house ready for them to come home and being ready to just listen. That’s the most important thing right now. The rest will fit in eventually. I have decided that my family is much more important than school. I am in charge. Not the school. Homework is important but not to the detriment of my family and our relationships.

Heath and I went to Back to School Night last night. We are very impressed with both elementary school teachers. They have kids close in age to our kids so they get that life doesn’t revolve around school. Parker’s teacher is not the former principal. She seems like a really fun teacher. She has innovative ways of teaching that I was impressed with. Gwen’s teacher is still awesome as ever. I’m so excited to repeat some of these first grade traditions.

I’m also very excited for the Common Core standards. *gasp* I know. Don’t hate me! There is so much controversy swirling around right now about the Common Core. What I like about it is knowing that California has to scale back on their expectations of students. The California standards have been pushing kids way too hard for far too long. I feel like the Common Core is bringing those expectations back to an age appropriate area. I also like how it’s writing based. The students have to show how they know something rather than memorizing facts to pass a test. So far I like it. Sue me! Although I will say that the middle school teachers have given plenty of evidence that they are still teaching to a test. *eye roll* Whatever happened to the joy of learning?

It was interesting to hear Parker’s teacher talk about the math though. Everyone is freaking out about the math! She said at first she didn’t like how it was teaching multiple ways to solve a problem but she’s warming up to it now. I just wanted to scream. My kids have been taught math this way all along. How is this any different? I hated it then and I hate it now. My problem with teaching multiple ways to solve a problem is that so far my kids have been expected to master every single technique. When they get stuck I tell them that it’s just another way to do what they already know how to do another way. But they’re still tested on it! It’s ridiculous.

In other fairly ridiculous news … Gavin brought home a list of school supplies on the first day of school. We quickly had dinner and ran off to do our shopping. Office Staples Depot Max looked like a toy store on Christmas Eve. The parking lot was completely full. There were a lot of people inside milling around. The checkout line stretched from the front of the store where the registers were, to the copy center in the very back. I just wondered why that supply list couldn’t be passed out at Walk Thru Registration.

I will say the office supply store handled it well. Even the customers were polite and made for a nice experience. The line went much faster than I expected. I have stood in shorter lines at the craft store that have taken twice as long to get through. I couldn’t really complain about our first day of school at the office supply store evening. It could have been worse. It’s just funny that nobody could avoid that shopping experience since the schools waited till the first day to tell anyone what they needed to have.

Before school started we went to get the school supply items that we were aware of. We bought Gavin a scientific calculator. The cashier offered us a warranty on the calculator for $5. Heath just laughed at the guy. He said, “The calculator costs $10! I normally don’t buy warranties unless it will hurt to replace the item. I’m not paying a $5 warranty on a $10 calculator!” That was a funny day.

I’m not laughing that I have had to alert Primary parents about two extremely contagious illnesses. On Sunday the mom called me saying that she couldn’t get in touch with any other Presidency member. But she just found that her child has lice. Could I let the parents know without mentioning names? That was an awkward email. Two of the three parents who were quite concerned had children in that class.

Then this morning as I was standing in line with Gwen I decided to check my email. The Primary President asked me to inform the parents and teachers in Gwen’s Primary class about a child in there who was diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease on Monday. Holy cow! Both kids are in Gwen’s class. I wasn’t worried about the lice thing and haven’t noticed anything suspicious anyway. But she is really good friends with this little boy who is quarantined with his family after being diagnosed on Monday.

We are now into the throes of school and all the communicable illnesses that entails. All I can do is take things one day at a time. Where is the Diet Coke?

Still Trending

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Heath: Why did you wake up this morning?
Me: Because my blood sugar was low.
Heath: Did you feel the earthquake at 3:20 this morning?
Me: No. I didn’t wake up until 5:48. I was low so I got up.
Heath: Well there was a 6.0 earthquake in Napa that caused significant damage.

We listened to the news the rest of the morning as we got ready for church. It was so sad to see how devastating the earthquake was. Practically every news anchor was reporting details of the story from various places. There were weekend reporters, evening reporters, weekday morning reporters, and two weather reporters on hand. It was a big story.

At church some people talked about feeling the earthquake. One lady I talked to said she woke up to shaking but decided she was too tired to care. She rolled over and went back to sleep. We live in California. Earthquakes come with the territory. Heath talked to a group of guys. One said that he didn’t feel a thing. He claimed it was a result of sleeping on a Tempur-Pedic bed! That’s what Heath and I sleep on and we had no idea anything had happened. Maybe there’s something there.

The two weather reporters kept showing maps. The earthquake was most intense in a small circle around Napa and nearby cities. The rest of the map looked light blue indicating the shaking was much less noticeable. Even though we were not too many miles away we didn’t feel a thing. A lady at church said she felt like she was missing out on something because she didn’t feel it either. That’s a good way to describe it. The largest earthquake in 25 years, we were right here and didn’t feel a thing. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake was a 6.9 and this one was a 6.0. I do feel like I missed out on something.

A couple days later and the news is still full of stories and updates of this event. News anchors say the story is still trending on social media. My heart goes out to those people affected by the earthquake.

On Sunday a hospital spokesperson said a baby was born about five minutes before the quake. The joke among the staff is that Mom pushed too hard! I have seen stories of skateboarders who are using the cracks and upheaval in the roads in front of their houses as a skate park. A couple guys did their own take on the popular ice bucket challenge. They dumped damaged bottles of wine on themselves.

I think a sense of humor and looking on the bright side is the best way to get through a difficult situation. I’m praying for the people affected by this life changing event.

Time Marches On

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Yesterday felt like Christmas Eve. It was long and the kids were bouncing off the walls. At every opportunity Gwen was telling people that her dad was going to give her a blessing and that the Backpack Fairy was going to visit. The kids were so excited to start school.

We took Gavin on a little drive to show him where to pick up the bus and how it would take him to school. We showed him where he would get dropped off at school and where to catch the bus home. We drove home on the same route the bus would take. There is only so much we could prepare him for with taking the bus. I wanted him to understand as much as he could before we put him on that bus in the morning and left it all up to him.

I took Gwen and Parker to school this morning while Heath walked Gavin to the bus stop. Heath has been going on all day about how he felt putting Gavin on that bus. Gavin was the only person on the bus. The bus stop by our house is in the middle of the route. We don’t know if there will be more kids later, as if the parents drive their kids the first day or what.

Every time I have mentioned to friends that Gavin was going to take the bus, they gasped as if it was only a matter of time before I was hauled off to jail for neglect and child endangerment. I’m not kidding. The bus is not a popular choice for getting kids to school apparently. Which makes me even more adamant that Gavin have this experience. There are no school buses, as I have mentioned many times before. The city buses have school routes though. So it will cost us $60 a month for a bus pass but I think the education is worth it. The first few weeks of school are free.

I guess people are opposed to buses because they think the scum of the earth ride the bus. It’s a school route so it’s only other students! I don’t know what the problem is really. I just think that Gavin is so much better off learning a bit of independence. He won’t be like the other middle schoolers who rely on Mommy and Daddy to get them to and from school. Heaven forbid anyone walk around here! I would make my kids walk to school if we lived closer. Gavin laughs every time I talk about his peers relying on Mommy and Daddy. It is funny. At some point parents need to cut the apron strings already. I am raising adults and not children.

Reality has set in for Heath that Gavin is in middle school. Nobody could help him navigate this day. He is on his own. It doesn’t bother me as much because when I said goodbye to Gavin this morning I knew his dad was there to make sure he made it to the bus stop on time. Tomorrow will be another story. I will leave him home alone to lock the door and get himself off to the bus on his own. But I know he can do it. I told him last night that I was a latchkey kid. I was probably Parker’s age, or younger, when my mom hung a key around my neck and expected me to get myself home. By the time I was in high school I was taking the city bus to school since I had special permission to attend a school I was not in the boundaries for. I survived. Gavin will too.

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What bothers me about Gavin growing up is that next year he will be 12, receive the priesthood and be ordained to the office of deacon. That is not okay with me! What happened to my little boy? I love how he looks like he’s leaning in these pictures. It doesn’t help that his backpack is really heavy. First day of school and already he’s hefting around a lot of weight! He has lunch, a binder, and his laptop. It all adds up. We told him to be nice to the bus driver because when you’re nice to people they are nice back. It is entirely possible that the bus driver will start dropping him off at our house if he/she/it gets to know him.

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It’s Parker that I’m not okay with growing up. He is in the fourth grade now. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

I taught fourth grade. Parker is not allowed to be a fourth grader! Honestly, my biggest problem with the fourth grade is that was the year I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I struggled with that when Gavin was in fourth grade and now it’s here in my face again. Parker is the one kid I worry about the most developing Type 1 diabetes. He has already scared me a couple times into thinking something was going on. His blood sugar has been fine but what if he follows in my footsteps? I will freely admit I am superstitious. This is hard on me.

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It also doesn’t seem right that Parker, my baby boy, is now in upper elementary. He is one of the big kids at school now. No more staggered reading schedule for him since he’s all grown up now … at the tender age of 9. I see his baby face smiling back at me. I miss my babies!

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Then there’s Gwen. My first grader! It doesn’t bother me that she’s in first grade. I’m happy for her to be at this stage of life. I just don’t think I want her to get any older. She cannot go to second grade!

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Watching these two go up the path together was hard. I could vividly remember pushing Gwen in a stroller up that path to drop off and pick up Gavin when he was in first grade. This part of the morning was hard on me the same way it was hard on Heath to put Gavin on that bus.

It is nice to have Heath home today but he’s had so many phone meetings that I still feel lost. I have had a kid home with me for the last 11 years. What am I supposed to do with all this time to myself? It’s going to be a very wet week. At least on my cheeks.

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Gwen was very apprehensive this morning. She is so excited to be in the first grade and she is thrilled to have the same teacher her boys had in first grade. But she was nervous. We didn’t really recognize any friends in line until just before the bell rang. Maddie is in Gwen’s class. She is Dylan’s little sister. The two girls were toddlers when they first met when Dylan and Parker were in the same kindergarten class. They didn’t get along at all when they were 2 and 3 years old. Maddie seemed to have changed quite a bit last year when we saw her occasionally after kindergarten. Maybe they can be friends now. Two little Mormon girls in the same class.

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Mrs. M was on yard duty this morning. She told Gwen that she wrote Gwenyth in two places – her name tag and her backpack hook. She said that it’s important that Gwen learn how to write her full name for legal reasons but she can go by any name she wants! It made me feel good to see Gwenyth spelled correctly! The kids signed their name on the board and found their desks.

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I blew her a kiss and walked away. Mrs. M felt like the room was too crowded with all the parents standing around in there! That made the kids laugh and it was easier for them to say goodbye to their parents. I get to pick up Gwen in about half an hour. I can’t wait to hear about everyone’s first day.

The Backpack Fairy brought books for the kids. Gavin got The Book Thief. Parker got A Wrinkle in Time. And Gwen got two Junie B. Jones books. They were excited. Gwen said she wants to read The Book of Mormon before she turns 8. She feels like she is already running out of time because she will be 7 for her next birthday! I think after homework we will read a chapter or two together until we finish the book. I’m very excited about that since Gwen and I have not had our Book of Mormon bonding time yet.

The President is in every channel!

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This is how it felt when I realized I completely forgot to shave my legs this morning before stepping out of the shower! Scan the faces for the range of emotions I felt. Apparently thinking in the shower doesn’t always pay off! Neither the dentist nor his hygienist knew my hairy little secret. Nobody had any cavities either but I don’t think I will use a skipped shave as my good luck charm in the future.

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This is my other favorite family portrait. I’m ready to print this one for framing. Family portraits never capture reality. This is what we really look like with color coordinated outfits and combed hair. Without Heath the whole family falls apart.

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Gavin said he would smile if Uncle Charlie took the picture. Both Chris and Charlie had a camera going. This was as good as it got. At least on our camera.

Let’s finish up the last of the stories and pictures from our Northwest Trip.

After the Duck Tour we said goodbye to Aunt Chris and Uncle Charlie. Then we said goodbye to them two more times because we kept running into them on the street! It was a good thing because we bought some souvenir coins in the Space Needle gift shop while the kids were getting their caricatures drawn with Charlie. The kids chose a coin to give to their great aunt and uncle as a thank you memento. If we didn’t run into them again on the street we would’ve still had their coin!

Our Duck Tour guide mentioned several fun things to do in the city. One thing he talked about was going on a Ballard Locks Cruise. Oh how I wanted to do that! The first time Heath took me to Seattle he took me to the Locks. I fell in love and we have been back on almost every visit since then. To actually be on a boat going through the Locks would be awesome. But we decided not to do it this time. It’s a two hour tour. Dinner is included in the price but I didn’t think our kids were up for that kind of a time commitment.

I’m kind of glad that the Tillicum Village thing didn’t work out. I don’t think any of us were up for a late night knowing we still had to drive and check into a hotel. We decided to go with our original plan of visiting the Science Center and then heading out.

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Here are some pictures from the Spy Exhibit. The part we saw was really creepy. I wish we could have stuck around to enjoy the rest of it because when we had to leave for the bathrooms there were more and more interactive displays and less shocking plaques to read. Oh well.

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We moved on to the rest of the science center to play as much as we could before they closed.

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If you look above Parker’s head to the left you will see a big blue steel contraption. People can ride a bike around the top circle. It’s a cool balancing science lesson. Parker wanted to go on it so badly. As we walked toward the elevator to let him do it we saw the signs. They have weight requirements and Parker was too light. Probably too short too. It was meant for teens and adults. Parker was so bummed out. I felt bad for him. His frustration probably helped him aim for the targets to hit with the water though!

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Of course we had to hit the butterfly house. Gwen was disappointed that nobody looked like a flower. She remembered how the butterflies loved Grandma’s shirt the last time we were there.

We bought t-shirts for the kids at various gift shops and decided we just wanted dinner before hitting the road. We were tired and ready to just start heading home.

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So we went to a cheap classic burger place. You can see the famous sign in the top left of the above photo. Heath has always had a desire to eat at the Seattle McDonald’s across the street from the Space Needle. Somehow McDonald’s sounded really good so we went for it. It was like eating at the San Francisco In & Out Burgers. Not nearly as special as you would think for eating in the city! The prices seemed reasonable all things considered. San Francisco’s In & Out is a good $3-$4 more just because it’s in the middle of San Francisco.

I will say the food hit the spot. It was enough food without being heavy. The kids were happy. Gwen got the cutest little mini Beanie Babies turtle. She named him Philip. We stopped off at another McDonald’s in California a few hours from home. It was convenient. She got an owl there that she named Elsa. They are really cute toys. McDonald’s is comfortably predictable and every once in a while that’s just what we need on a road trip. They sure do have the best toys out of all the chain burger joints.

Finally it was time to say goodbye to Seattle. We were sad but definitely ready to start moving south toward home. For some reason the freeway entrances were blocked. There were no signs at the first one we tried. It was scary watching cars almost wreck as they maneuvered into a very wild right turn back onto a surface street. My fingers were dug pretty deep into the door handle and my legs were tensed for my imaginary break.

I just wanted to go home! But traffic was so crazy and we could not get on the freeway. Then we remembered. President Obama had visited Seattle and was leaving at the same time we wanted to leave. Traffic stopped for a few minutes on one road but we were able to creep far enough forward that we weren’t stopped on the overpass. Too bad. We could have seen his motorcade that had cleared the entire freeway between a couple exits just so he could pass peacefully. He was heading to Boeing Field to catch his plane to San Francisco. We actually saw his plane take off.

When I was a kid we didn’t have cable TV. There were only five channels to choose from and we had to manually change the channels. I also walked to school which was miles and miles uphill in the snow. No, my point is I remember the nights the President gave his special addresses. We had to find other things to do those nights. He was on every channel!

Trying to get onto the freeway reminded me of my childhood. The President was not interfering with my TV. He was literally in every channel of the freeway, halting life for the good people of Seattle. The pedestrians didn’t care. They were lined up with cameras on every overpass hoping to catch a glimpse of the President.

By the time we got on the freeway and saw Air Force One take off from Boeing Field, I just wanted to be on that plane with him. Heath said his limos drive right on to another plane that flies with him. I’m sure there was room for Velma. He was flying to San Francisco! If we could have hitched a ride we could have been home a whole day early. Instead we had to endure the mistiest rain on the freeways of Oregon with next to nothing visibility.

Eventually we made it home safe and sound. Duck quacking was the perfect way to pull into the driveway.

Ride the Ducks

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For our last day in Washington we decided to do the tourist thing.

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Thank heavens our day was nothing like these fine tourists’ day! It’s a shame that a day in the city looks like this for anybody. Put the phone down and smell the rain people!

We spent the first half of the day with Aunt Chris and Uncle Charlie. Gavin could not have been more thrilled to spend more time with his best buddy.

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Charlie saw a caricature stand and invited Gavin to have his picture drawn. In hindsight I feel bad that Heath and I had him take Parker and Gwen too. Keeping things even between my kids is always my first response to anything. The kids loved getting their own caricatures. They like to look at the caricature Heath and I had done in 2001.

Uncle Kirk played Dungeons and Dragons with Gavin, Breena, and Gwen one night. Gavin is obsessed now and has even played online with Kirk. Gavin’s caricature is his D&D character. Parker wanted to be a superhero so he’s Batman. You have to say Batman in a deep, throaty whisper. Gwen is of course a princess in front of her castle. The pictures are great. I just need Heath to help me scan and stitch the images so we can send them to Chris and Charlie. For now photos of the drawings work.

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Chris arranged for us all to go on a Duck Tour. When we lived in San Francisco I would see the Duck trucks all the time. I was so excited to be able to go on one of those tours.

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I love this picture! Who knew Gavin was so tall he covers half my face! He just went to the doctor for a checkup and he is 4’11 and a quarter inches. He’s only a few inches shorter than me! Parker went to the doctor yesterday and is 4’7. I feel short.

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The best part was getting duck kazoos with our tickets. The kids had a blast quacking throughout the tour. They were good and never quacked on the drive home. We told them as soon as they saw our house they could quack like crazy. It was a fun way to welcome ourselves home.

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The tours take place on these amphibious vehicles. They go on both land and water.

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Gwen was thrilled when we drove into Lake Union and started floating around.

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There are no windows so cruising around on the Seattle freeways was a blast. Literally a blast of air in the face. It was a little chilly but so fun.

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Our captain was John Zawacko. He was wacky!

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He had eyes in the back of his head! Actually he changed his hat or pulled out a different prop every couple minutes. There was a mom and daughter sitting in the front row that got pictures of every single hat. After the first several shots he started posing for them in his crazy hats.

He played music loudly to enhance the tour. Usually the songs were just short snippets but when we were on the freeway he played a full song. One song to the Puget Sound and Love Shack by the B-52’s on the way back. I was singing at the top of my lungs, much to my children’s dismay! We were tourists on a big boat/truck! If you can’t have fun being a tourist what can you do?

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Gavin was the only one who could get away with pretending not to know us since he sat with Charlie. Chris had to sit on her own on the other side so it was really easy for her to pretend she didn’t know the crazy lady singing all the words to Love Shack across the aisle.

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It was fun learning the history of Seattle. I especially liked going past the piers. I had to let out a romantic sigh when we saw the Victoria Clipper pier. Ah, memories! One day Heath and I will go back to Victoria. One day …

It’s amazing that the whole city of Seattle was basically raised above the water. It makes me really want to go on the Seattle Underground Tour.

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Seattle is kind of a weird place. If there weren’t stories about sex there was really weird art to look at all over the city. Not just murals or picture type art. We’re talking art larger than buildings.

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Or a building on its own. We lovingly refer to the EMP as the Big Booger. Seattle is very artistic and strange. Then again, have you ever people watched in San Francisco? Weird.

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I used to think it would be awesome to live in a house boat in Seattle. Then I went on this tour and learned that kayakers will row up close to the houses and look into the underwater master bedroom windows to see people … you know. Someone bought the Sleepless in Seattle house not knowing it was a famous house. They were “having fun” in their front room (that had no window treatments) and looked up to see a bunch of tourists snapping pictures! Now you can’t get close enough to the house to see inside. Of course if I could afford to live in a house on the water I would spring for some drapes!

But I watched a House Hunters once where the guy wanted a house boat in Seattle. Typically there is no laundry in the houses. You have to have your laundry sent out to a service. What’s worse? Having some creepy kayaker see me walk around in my underwear or having some laundry service wash and fold my underwear? I’m thinking I’ll stick to the houses on land. I could live in some house in the Northwest surrounded by trees where someone would have to come into my yard to see my exhibitionism. But again, I would have drapes so it wouldn’t be much of a show! There were an alarming number of sex stories on this little tour. It was pretty crazy. I understand the Underground Tour details the history of more than just the sewers.

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It was a magical day. I loved riding the ducks.

Electrical Storm

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It was a cold, gray morning. The trees rustled in the breeze. Highs are only expected to reach 79 today. You would never know it’s the last week of summer vacation. If history is any indication, next week will be sweltering hot with highs around 100. The first few weeks of school are always miserably hot.

I have not been in our pool at all in two weeks. Maybe just once. The kids have only played in the pool a couple more times than me. It hasn’t been warm enough or I haven’t wanted to be out there. The first time I announced they could play even though I wasn’t going in the pool, they were bummed. I was surprised. It’s not like I play with them. I just float around, usually in their way! But they claimed it’s no fun without me.

It should make me feel good to know my kids love me so much. It does. I love being around my kids. I love summer because I get them all to myself. Secretly I need a break from them. Normally I don’t start locking myself in rooms or hiding from my kids at the end of summer. We all sense the need for a change and eagerly anticipate a new school year. But I don’t normally dread going to bed knowing it means I have to wake up early again in the morning to push through another long scheduled day.

The closer we get to the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year, the more my kids are driving me crazy! I half expected thunderstorms this morning. It wasn’t a humid morning with sullen clouds looking like they may spit out a few sprinkles. It was just an unseasonably cool morning with clouds that didn’t burn off most of the morning. But there is electricity in the air. Trust me. The anticipation is palpable around my house.

All three kids are finally registered for school. It was a long and tedious process for Gavin. After an hour and a half, a good twenty minutes of which were spent circling the parking lot praying for a spot to open up, we were finally done. It took me 45 minutes from the time I left my house till the time I walked back inside to complete registration for Gwen and Parker. I was impressed. We even walked around a little afterwards to look for classrooms and where to line up.

Walk Thru Registration feels like a rat maze. The cheese at the end is the coveted class schedule. The school controls parents because there is no other way to get that schedule. I even had to purchase Gavin’s PE clothes, sight unseen, before getting his schedule. Another mom talked me into getting the sweats. She said if he has first period gym he will want the sweats because it’s cold in the mornings around here. I hadn’t thought of that. Luckily Gavin has first period gym!

I bought Gavin a school t-shirt so it seemed like he had school spirit. He walked next to me like he was numb. This morning he had his 6th grade orientation so I think he feels much more confident about things. He has found friends, or at least people he knows, at every school event in the last week. He knows he has a class with one friend. He will be fine. I’m thrilled for him to move on to middle school.

The boys stayed home to play video games while I took Gwen to Walk Thru Registration yesterday. I bought her a school t-shirt because they have a really cute girl design. When I got home I asked Parker if he told me not to get him a t-shirt because he had one. He said, “No, I said I didn’t have a school t-shirt!” Oh. Oops. Gwen has four or five now it feels like. Between hand me downs and the one we bought last year for her and her Fun Run shirt she has a lot. Parker has one. The one we bought when he was in kindergarten. We bought it big so he could grow into it. It still fits. The shirt I bought for Gavin last year only fits Gwen. Awesome.

Gwen has our favorite first grade teacher! We’re so excited. Parker has a teacher whose name I don’t recognize. Gavin’s fourth grade teacher retired in the spring so I know she needs to be replaced. We saw her at Walk Thru Registration. She was one of the volunteers. She remembered Gavin and was asking about him and said how she loves the way his mind works. I thought that was cool. My guess is Parker’s teacher is the new replacement.

This morning a mom was speculating that the teacher may be a former principal. That principal moved back east for “family reasons.” I vaguely remember an email saying she was coming back as a teacher. My friend said that the name I don’t recognize may be her new name. She apparently has a baby now too. “Family reasons” probably meant she moved back east to get married and have a baby before returning to the education system here as a teacher. I liked her as a principal so it will be interesting to see if she’s really Parker’s teacher and how I like her in that role.

We are slowly gathering the things we need for school to start. As we do, the kids are slowly starting to lose their minds. Heath keeps reminding me they are nervous and excited. Definitely. Gwen had a complete meltdown this morning. We picked up Gavin from his orientation thing and went straight to a friend’s house for visiting teaching. Only she wasn’t there. If Gwen could have stopped acting her own age for a second I could have come up with a better plan of action. Instead I gathered my melted puddle of a daughter who had been anticipating a playdate all morning, and my confused sons and we drove home. After a few minutes I cooled down enough to call my friend to see if she was home. She was so the boys opted to stay home while I took Gwen back.

Yesterday I kept the kids busy with various activities for much of the day. They scampered off to play and I was left to hear the voices in my head again. After about five minutes I heard the weeping and wailing of cranky kids fighting. My go to activity when I get stressed out is to clean. So I cleaned Gwen’s room. She helped. She picked up a few toys here and there. I didn’t even care. Her room was so irritatingly messy I had to do it my way.

She was so excited about her clean room she was inspired to play in it. The boys were still occupied in their own room. I went downstairs to stuff my face since my blood sugar had dropped low cleaning. As soon as I turned on the TV to waste the last bit of afternoon before Heath came home, there were the kids. Slowly, one by one, they came down and silently sat down to watch with me!

Oh how I love my babies, but they are wound so tight right now! How many more days till school starts? By next week I will be sad. I will be officially obsolete and I will miss my kids. Especially Gwen. She has been my lunch date for years and my favorite shopping partner. Right now I need a break from her. There is only enough room for one high strung emotional mess in this house!

Knock, knock, who’s there?

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Big huge box!

Ok, so that’s not very funny but when I saw the gigantic box standing upright at my door I secretly wondered if the box knocked on the door. Maybe that’s why I didn’t hear the knock on the door. Heath came home from work and said, “So are you just going to leave that box out there all night?”

I had no idea it had even arrived. I don’t know how that happened since I had quarantined myself in the house all day. As soon as Heath saw that the box was estimated to weigh 120 lbs. I wanted to be sure to answer the door as soon as it arrived. Maybe ask the delivery guy to put it just inside the door for me. That way I could open the box and take the pieces upstairs one at a time. But somehow I missed the delivery. It’s possible the guy never knocked because we were yelling! Cleaning time tends to be noisy time around here.

box

As Heath came in through the garage I went to the front door where I was greeted by a box big enough to hold a small adult. It was a little surprising. I tipped the box onto its side and slid it over the threshold. I got Gavin registered for school today. That’s all his stuff sitting on top of the box. Another story for another time.

There was a pleasant subtle perfumy kind of smell to the packing peanuts. Once I unearthed a piece of the furniture and took it upstairs I knew why. My dad. It’s amazing how his scent has permeated so deeply into his things. I picked up a couple books from his house and started to read one. As I turned the pages I could very faintly smell him. That spicy cinnamon smell unique to him.

The scent was so intense I could smell him on the furniture before I even ripped open the plastic that each piece was wrapped in. While the smell is not offensive it is strong. I have already thoroughly sprayed the furniture three times with Febreze and I can still smell him. Not from a distance anymore. Just when I lean in close to the fabric and inhale. With the first dose of Febreze I said, “I love you Dad but this smell is too strong.” As long as the smell stays subtle I don’t mind. It would be too much if I could smell it as soon as I walked into my bedroom.

sofa

This is it! A gorgeous piece of furniture I fell in love with the first time I walked through my dad’s house.

This is how I know things happen for a reason. I loved this bench, sofa, fainting couch, whatever this thing is! Even though we drove there was no way we would have the space for this in our van for the drive home. As it was I had to buckle up a table I chose from his house in the only spare seat we had in the van! Tyson knew I wanted it so he took it to his house before inviting our aunts and uncles over to take their memories from the house.

When I went to visit the second time I was expecting to see it in my dad’s house and would decide then if I really even wanted it. I couldn’t remember exactly what it looked like and I was afraid it may not be quite my style. So much of my dad’s stuff was beautiful but not quite me. In that case it made more sense to buy my own where I live and not worry about the shipping costs. Who knew how much it would cost to ship anyway? Clearly it wasn’t coming home with me on the plane!

As it was I didn’t get a chance to see it. I could have asked to see it but when I learned how my brother had so lovingly saved it out for me I made the decision to keep it at any cost. We didn’t have the time to check on shipping costs while I was there so Deanna said she would look into it for me. I figured anything less than $300 would be worth it. It cost $250 to have it shipped. And I am in love! Buying my own would cost at least $500 and I didn’t even know where to start looking for something like that. So for $250 I have the perfect piece of furniture to sit at the end of my bed.

I am so glad that I wasn’t able to see it when I last visited. I know I would have talked myself out of it. It felt like such a hassle to get it out to me that if I would have seen it I know I would have backed out altogether.

stuff

Here is the stack of things I crammed into my luggage to get home. By the time I got home I didn’t even want to see any of it anymore. You have to understand that in his house I did want these things for various reasons (mostly for my kids). By the time I left I had buyers remorse big time. I had to force myself, with much encouragement from Heath, to bring it all home. I knew eventually I would be grateful I did.

The CD’s are wonderful and I have been enjoying them. The clocks are gorgeous and I love them. Parker loved the blanket and the fact that it has his name on it. I love that I named my son Parker, completely forgetting that my dad ever worked for a company by the same name!

shoeschess-set

The shoes are perfect for Gavin. They’re actually a little big so he has time to grow into them. The chess set is really nice even though it comes in a cheap aluminum box. The plan is to have the chess set displayed somewhere in my bedroom.

tabletop

The kids loved the stuff I brought home and since most of it was gathered with them in mind that’s a good thing. I’m thawing towards the stuff. This table and the sofa bench that just arrived are my favorite items from my dad. Hands down. The first picture of the table is really fuzzy. But I love that table. It’s turned into a bit of a shrine with all the fairies, wizards and dragons displayed around it!

peanuts

Now the question is what do I do with all these packing peanuts? You can see the boys helped me fill two garbage bags full of peanuts. This was necessary since I couldn’t find the bag of screws needed to put the sofa back together. My arm already went swimming in the box swishing around peanuts trying to feel for a baggie of screws. The boys helped me and after filling two bags we hadn’t made a visible dent in the volume of peanuts. Our garbage can was going to be full of peanut bags and we just had garbage day! This was not a viable solution. We made enough headway that when I dove back into the box I found the baggie. The sofa was put together and now I’m happy.

sofa

Except for the fact that we need a new bedspread. The silver doesn’t match at all.

Prolonged Pain vs. Acute Pain

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Bandages and children go together like cookies and milk. Actually children tend to be a good excuse for cookies and milk. Sounds yummy … hmm …

Anyway, my point is that kids are frequently getting banged up as they bump around the world testing their limits. Blood is not required for a kid to think they need a band-aid either. The problem with band-aids on kids is the kids regard bandages as they would a tattoo – a permanent decoration on their body. Those band-aids can get pretty ratty after a while and then comes the classic debate.

Do you rip it off quickly or slowly? Which way is better?

We all know that it makes more sense to rip that thing off as fast as possible. Get the worst of it over with already. Kids don’t see things that way. In some ways I don’t blame them. I’ve tried to remove bandages from my hairy arms. It hurts. That sounds like I have monkey arms or something! No, I’ve just had enough blood drawn in my life and my fair share of cotton balls taped to my arms. The tape is sticky and sits on top of my delicate arm hair. Fast or slow it hurts.

Bandage removal can be compared to the prep work involved in getting kids to school. It seems like more of my time is required every year. This week has been taken up with school meetings and other responsibilities. Next week is no different. School doesn’t start until the week after that! Good heavens, can we just rip the band-aid off already!

I don’t remember my parents having to go through nearly this many hoops just to put me in a hot and stuffy building for seven hours a day nine months out of the year. Granted I was a kid so my perception was different. What I do know is that I was given my next year’s class assignment, including teacher name and room number, on the last day of school with my report card. And by the time we made it to junior high and high school my dad complained about “some free education” every year when he had to write a check to the school. He was also irritated whenever we had a day off from school.

I have become my father. Public schools extort money on a regular basis. It’s a little disgusting actually. Not only that but school kids get an extraordinary amount of days off for holidays and teacher work days. There are several months where my kids only attend one full week of school. The rest of the weeks are missing one or more days for something random. Now my school district wants to decrease summer significantly. As a result the students get full weeks off at other times in the year. How about if we keep summer vacation together and keep the kids in school?

This morning I dropped Gavin off at school for a laptop program boot camp. I ran into a mom from the elementary school. She was annoyed by all the meetings and extras she had to deal with. Rightly so. Her husband left her when our kids were in kindergarten, for a bodacious brunette, forcing my friend to reenter the workforce. She works 30 some odd minutes away. She’s afraid she may get fired between all the running around she has to do for her middle schooler and high schooler. All waste of time activities just to have permission for them to sit in a classroom.

We live in a district that requires two proofs of residency. As a result there is no way for the registration process to be completely done online or over the phone. To further entice parents to comply, classroom assignments are not given until Walk Thru Registration is complete.

The middle school required parents to pick up their child’s emergency card today. The emergency card needed to have health information and emergency contact information updated. By the way, you can’t take the card off campus. It had to be filled out there.

So my friend had to be late for work to drop off her middle schooler for the laptop boot camp, fill out the emergency card, then turn around and pick her daughter up from boot camp at noon. Tomorrow she gets to go back to the middle school for Walk Thru Registration to show her filled out emergency card and two proofs of residency. Next week she gets to do the same thing for her daughter in high school. Forget about the fact that there are student orientation meetings and so many other things going on before school starts.

I feel her frustration! If I didn’t have to deal with filling out an emergency card on campus, even though the elementary school expects parents to pick those up and return them days later at Walk Thru Registration, if I didn’t have to do that I would have left Parker and Gwen home this morning. But instead I have to drag everyone out of bed, get us all ready and to the school by 9:00 am.

Yesterday I screwed up the partial online registration for two of my three kids. Gavin’s didn’t make sense. I got to the end where it told me to print my receipt. My receipt said I paid nothing. Well I didn’t pay anything because the only forms that wanted my money were for organizations I wasn’t interested in paying for. Where was the PE clothes and student organizer form? I don’t know if I want to pay $65 for a crappy yearbook but I didn’t even have the option! At the bottom of one form it said that Spirit Wear was available at Walk Thru Registration so it’s not like I could have even pre-ordered anything.

I mentioned my concern to the elementary school secretaries. This partial online registration thing is new this year and they didn’t really know how it worked from a parent’s perspective. They let me sit at a computer in the office and show them how it works. Many more forms came up for Gwen but I skipped through them. And now I’m stuck on the print receipt page. I cannot go back. Trust me, I’ve tried. So now I have to go through the money grubber line at Walk Thru Registration to pay for the stuff I didn’t pay for online because I was acting as a guinea pig. I’m not mad at the secretaries or myself. It’s a flawed system.

Registering for school each year takes longer and longer every year. The hoops I have to jump through are so lame. Let’s just rip the band-aid off already and reward ourselves with cookies and milk! School does not have to be so complicated! Actually cookies sound really good. My kids are rockstars and deserve a reward for their patience.

Secrets

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Gwen: I have a secret to tell you. I’m actually excited about the first day of school!

I knew it! That girl is too funny. I know she is apprehensive about going back to school. She’s excited to go back since she loves school but she hates homework. It’s weekly homework in first grade. She’ll be fine.

The other day I got a little nervous thinking that school should be starting soon yet I had received no correspondence from the school. No information from either school my children will be attending. I’ve been a little preoccupied in thought lately so I had to check to be sure I didn’t miss anything. Nope. Nothing until this morning when I finally got an email from the elementary school principal. She said that the information was delayed and will be mailed tomorrow I think.

Last night I went to the school website to check on things. Walk Thru Registration is on Monday and letters were scheduled to be mailed to families in early August. But don’t worry or contact the school until you haven’t received anything by August 15th. Okey dokey. *huge eye roll*

So two of my kids are accounted for. What about the other one? The one who is starting middle school? Why don’t I know anything about that? I checked that school website too. Their letters were also delayed. I should get mine in the mail today but who knows? It’s a good thing I checked the site because there is a ton of stuff starting tomorrow that we need to attend. Thanks for the heads up Famous Person Middle School!

thMy calendar is all filled up again. Just in time for me to decide it’s time to come out of the shadows of anonymity. I haven’t really been anonymous as much as I have been pretending like the rest of the world doesn’t exist. There is life outside my door? With sunshine and everything? Shocking. I took out the trash yesterday. The sun was shining and it was a lovely day. In the few seconds I was out there I decided it was too cool to play in the pool and too hot to do anything else. Movie afternoon anyone?

This is how pathetic I have become. Gavin said something about not being outside in over 24 hours. So I sent him out to the mailbox. Gwen’s hair hasn’t been combed since Sunday. Somehow I just don’t care.

It wasn’t just a Primary Presidency meeting this morning that made me put myself together. Last night I had a new thought. It was time to let go and hand my mangled mess over to the Lord. Don’t get me wrong. I have been praying this whole time. I have been studying the scriptures and living from blessing to blessing. Luckily the blessings have been abundant. But the last time I tried to give my burden to the Lord was weeks ago when I was overcome by guilt.

I don’t know if I really gave up my guilty feelings or what. I went back to Salt Lake and spent time in my dad’s house. The guilty feelings are very much gone. I recognize that I could have and maybe should have reached out to him. But his house made me mad. He had a disgusting amount of stuff. The more we opened window treatments to let the natural light in, the more angry I felt. In the light his things could be seen for what they are – things. Things that looked glittery and gorgeous in subdued light. Under natural light they started to look gaudy and tacky.

The plan was to go through his house, just dig around and discover who he was and how he lived his life. Clearly I didn’t miss much during that period of estrangement. He hadn’t changed from the person I knew him to be. He was still showy and flashy and concerned about appearances. Yet there were secrets tucked away behind every picture in every picture frame and stashed in various other hiding places. It was my childhood all over again. I got tired of knowing the secrets but only showing my public persona.

The problem is I don’t know how to let go. I’ve done it before but seem to forget the combination each time. I was reading Are We There Yet? by Robert L. Millet this morning. I particularly liked the chapter titled From Weakness to Strength. He starts out by saying that he has encountered so many people who struggle with different things. When he suggests they learn to trust more in the Lord they politely reject his counsel. When they say, “It’s okay, I can handle it.” They are essentially saying, “I can get by on my own. I don’t want to trouble you or the Lord. God expects me to give it my best shot. I’m strong. I can deal with my own problems.”

The rest of the chapter discusses how self reliance is an important virtue however, one of the principles we should learn from challenges in life is how important it is to rely on the Lord. I have learned that I always have a choice. I can either turn my back on the Lord or I can ask Him for help. It’s when I ask for help that miracles occur. It’s when I humbly accept my weakness that I find strength.

I never thought I would react to the mourning process in this way. I never expected to become depressed doing enough chores to maintain some dignity as I sat in front of the TV for hours each day. I never expected to feel such irritated apathy only to realize that the more I said I don’t care, the more I meant I care too much to think about it. It hurts too much.

Peter taught, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7) It’s as if Peter counsels: “Quit worrying. Don’t be so anxious. Let Jesus take the burden while you take the peace.” When I read that I realized how stubborn I have been that I not accept peace. Like I needed to punish myself somehow. But then I had that thought last night that it was time to let go. I consider this book and particularly this chapter a tender mercy from the Lord.

He ends by saying, “Let’s be wise and honest. We cannot handle it. We cannot make it on our own. We cannot pull ourselves up by our own spiritual bootstraps. We are not bright enough or powerful enough to bring to pass the mighty change necessary to see and enter the kingdom of God. We cannot pry our way through the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem any more than we can perform our own eye surgery. We cannot make ourselves happy or bring about our own fulfillment. But we can “seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in us forever” (Ether 12:41). Then all these things will be added unto us (Matthew 6:33). That’s the promise, and I affirm that it’s true.”

All I can do now is put it to the test. The Lord has been speaking to me through different means – other people, books, scriptures, thoughts, etc. If I didn’t know it before, I sure do now. He loves us each individually. He knows exactly what we are going through and He knows how to succor us because He was there! He felt it all through His Atoning sacrifice. There isn’t a single challenge any person has that He has not experienced intimately. It’s not a secret but it’s not universally understood so it feels like a secret.

Handy Dandy Video Freewrite

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A heaviness hangs in the air. It’s a desperate feeling. I still cry every other day trying to work through things in my mind. It gives me a headache and makes me lethargic. The kids feel the impending doom of school being around the corner.

We have a dry erase calendar with six weeks up at a time. Gwen was so upset when she saw that school was on the calendar. She doesn’t want to know about it. Summer is like a comfortable bed. Easy to get into and hard to get out of. It feels like this summer started out so slowly. We did so many things in such a short amount of time I couldn’t believe how much summer was actually left. Now that blasted first day of school keeps creeping up higher and higher on the calendar.

It’s been a boring week. I was nesting on Monday. For some reason this is my new way of coming home from trips. I clean the whole house and put every bit of luggage away. Heath told me that our air conditioning went out last Saturday. The landlord sent someone over Monday morning to fix it. When he left I thought of taking a shower but had gotten into my cleaning. I never got a shower that day because the handyman showed up later to fix our leaky shower. He never calls first. He’s not my favorite person!

Monday and Tuesday the handyman and his friend (who I trust more than the handyman) spent many hours at our house working on repairing damage from the leaky shower. The kids were climbing the walls. I was too. Wednesday we sat around expecting Handyman and Friend to show up. Nada. We wasted our day inside. Gwen and I scrapbooked. Her whole kindergarten year is creatively preserved in her scrapbook.

Who knows if Handyman tried to come over but missed us. I hope he did. Learn to use the phone! I guess it’s hard when he leaves his iPhone at other clients houses and asks to use my internet to track it down! Then takes off for 45 minutes to retrieve it only to realize the clients aren’t home. This actually happened. He also used electrical tape on the pipes under our kitchen sink when they kept separating and flooding our kitchen.

I think Handyman Friend was a blessing. No duct tape was used to reseal the shower drain. We looked. They left a big hole in the ceiling and came back the next day to patch it. I just wonder when they are ever going to come back to finish the job. I don’t even care. We were too busy freezing in our pool yesterday. Temps have been mild this week. And playing at the park today.

Heath worked from home on Tuesday. It was probably a lot of reasons that played into that decision. I like to believe he did it for me. I told him to bring me home greasy hamburgers on Monday because my day was shot, I was stinky, and depressed. He saw the handyman and told me later, “He’s about 15 degrees off … normal.” It’s true. He’s a little weird.

So we’ve had time to do whatever we want but nobody seems happy. It’s like the kids sense their freedom slipping through their fingers but they can’t figure out what they want to do. I’m so glad we don’t have any other trips or anything major planned. That would stress me out to do that just before school started. A friend once said that she tried to cram all the fun stuff into the last weeks of summer because of a picture her son drew. The teacher had the kids draw what they did over the summer. He drew himself sitting in front of the TV! We welcome the boredom but it’s still boredom. The kids walk around the house like zombies. They don’t know how to enjoy their fleeting freedom.

In the meantime I have one more vacation story to tell but I’m not feeling it. I’ve been kind of grouchy lately. I kind of want to yell at everybody. The stress is getting to all of us. Apparently we can’t pay people to take away my dad’s stuff. His taste does not fit the demographics of the neighborhood he lives in so there’s really no way to sell it. It’s frustrating. Tyson suggested we burn it all. Sounds good to me. But Heath is a partypooper and says the fines are too high.

I’m just sick of stuff. This stuff is taking over our lives. Stuff that we didn’t know about or care about is now our problem. We all just want to burn the stuff and sell the house and be done with all of it. Ugh.

Ed found a Weird Al video that reminded him of me. The video makes me laugh and it cracks me up that Gwen knows all the words. While there are some things in the song that are my pet peeves I’m not normally that upset by people’s English mistakes. But the song kind of fits my mood lately. Peppy with a heavy dose of sarcasm and irritation. Enjoy.

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