Sep 1, 2015

Back to School Blues

School has started once again and I've found myself looking up down left and right trying to find someone to dump my frustrations on.
My kids' teachers? No, I don't want to be branded a whiner this early in the school year. That will come soon enough.
My kids' aids? Same answer as above.
My friends? They're already overloaded with their own back to school angst.
My husband? He wants to solve my problems. And who wants to have solved problems? NOT ME! I just want to wallow in them!! (It's not about the nail Doug.)
Therefore, to whom can I bare my tortured soul?
Only you are left, dear blog!
--Brace yourself--

We have been in school for two weeks and two days now.  Twelve school days total.
Already I'm feeling like I'm falling way, way, waaaaaaaaaaaaay behind.

I get this panicky feeling like I can't do it all and decide the obvious choice is to pull them all out, and start homeschooling them. The first few months we'll focus mainly on sleeping in, but after I let them get dumber for a bit, I'll hook them up with an on-line math teacher, crank some classical music, and call it good. (You might think I'm disparaging home-schoolers right now. I'm not. I'm disparaging me as a home-schooler.)

Last night Gabe brought me a packet of stuff from his teacher. Lots to read and do and sign as well as some completed assignments being returned for my acknowledgment. The assignments came with notes from the teacher.
Gabe is behind in reading.
Behind in writing.
And way, way behind in math facts.

[When Max was in first grade, we drilled him on his math facts every night until he was at the top of his class. For some reason, Gabe is not receiving the same amount of attention! Shocker, eh?]

I was given some forms to fill out too. (This is in addition to the large packet already filled out last week.) The form-to-drive-on-fieldtrips-form requires a copy of my license, a copy of my insurance, a copy of something certifying that I'm a safe driver, and a copy of my most recent full body scan to make sure I don't have a disease that will make me keel over at the wheel. If I don't have time to gather, scan and copy all of those items, what are the odds I'll have time to drive for a field trip?

Next in line were some pink pages from the math teacher. FOUR pink pages. (Plus a signature page) Covered on front and back for a grand total of EIGHT pages of information on what I can expect, what I can donate, what I need to know, how I need to help him, what programs he'll use, and what goes into the bleeping treasure chest.
(Listen, I'm not one to give lectures about the importance of succinctness and brevity in writing--obviously--but reading this blog is OPTIONAL for you. The packet?Not so much for me!)

In addition to the math packet light reading, I had to set up two different log-ins for two different programs. One program will send math progress updates right to my phone!!! (Bleep!)
I was also told they will be using four--FOUR--different math computer programs for homework--in addition to worksheets. (You know what that means, right? FOUR different log-ins, four different passwords, and four different programs to potentially (almost assuredly) malfunction on his school issued i-Pad. (Nothing ever works the way it should on the school issued i-Pad.)

All that for one subject. I couldn't even read the whole dang packet in one night. When I got to yet another page instructing me how to register for yet another program, I ripped the packet into shreds and lit the strips on fire, spitting in the smoldering pile of ashes. (At least in my mind. In reality, I set the dumb thing on my night stand and stared disdainfully at it.)

Today I got it back out again.
I registered on the sights that needed me to register.
Read what needed to be read, and silently swore a few times to make myself feel better.

And then Sam came in and handed me a pink packet.

He has the same math teacher.

Time to homeschool.

Apr 4, 2015

A Few Little/Long-Winded Things

I used to blog a lot, and sometimes I really miss it and really wish I did it more. But Facebook and Instagram are so much quicker and can be done right on my phone, and so it goes...

But once in awhile I miss actually writing and every once in a great while, I make myself write again.
So here, for no reason other than that Doug fell asleep with the remote in his hand, and I can't turn on another show, is a little life update:

On our "new" home:
Since Doug and I have been married, we've lived in three rentals, and three mortgaged homes.
All of those places, I've been able to decorate and make homey-ish. Never super cute or stylish, but I feel like I've always at least had some idea of what I wanted to do, and made some decorating progress, even if I never quite pulled off the final vision. But now here I am, in a home that we "own", with freedom (and even a budget for once!) to do some big-girl decorating, and I'm paralyzed.
I'm stymied.
I'm completely overwhelmed and frustrated and frozen into inaction.
See, this house is it. THE house. There is no timeline on this house. It is not a two-year investment, a three-year military assignment, or a temporary rental-until-we-buy.
We bought.
This is the house.
What I buy, how I decorate...has to last for awhile. A long while.
And I'm at a loss.

I have a few major self-diagnosed problems:
1. I have no clear style.
I like East coast architecture
With classical elements.
But sometimes I really like the look of modern elements.
I like 40's-50's graphic design
and vintage travel posters
and bohemian rugs
and eclectic knic-knacks
and colorful, kid friendly stuff.
But also very light walls and furniture with dark floors and classy botanical stuff framed on the walls.
And then again, industrial modern is cool...
And maybe a teeny tiny bit of mid century modern has leached it's way into my consciousness. But enough with the Eames chairs already! They remind me of bus stops and my elementary school!
*sigh* See the problem?
Oh, and the backyard? Well, we have no clue how to actually make it look nice. So for now we're just focusing on making it fun and boy-friendly. Please feel free to stop by any time and try out our new zip-line!

On 13 year old Max:
I'm too hard on Max. I know I'm too hard on Max. I try not to be.
But even as the words are coming out of my mouth and I'm telling myself "you're being too hard on him" I keep right on talking. (And by talking I mean scolding/lecturing/yelling.) And then after I calm down, I have to apologize and tell him all the great things he does and how much I appreciate him. Because he really is a great kid. He'll spring up to help anyone who needs help, often without being asked. His school teachers love him and often use the word "sweet" when talking about him. He's a great babysitter and a hard worker. And at least for now he doesn't totally hate me.

The other day I was joking that he has a cranky mom and he just has to deal with it. He said "You're not cranky!" with genuine surprise. Then, after a short pause..."Just at dinner time but that's understandable because we're so loud and you're hungry!" That gave me a good laugh. And then I told him he's my favorite kid but not to tell the others that because I'd deny it.

On 10 year old Sam:
Does anyone else have two kids so totally different from each other that you wonder how they both came from the same parents?! (Until you remember that one looks and acts very similar to his father and one looks and acts very similar to his mother?)
Sammy is a lot like me! (Lucky kid!) He thinks deeply and worries excessively.
But not always in a bad way. He is very sensitive and thoughtful to others. He wants people to be safe. He always looks out for his little brothers, (especially Linky-Pie and any and all other babies that come into his range of vision.)
He's a great kid.
He and Max both love Legos and both love to read and I love that they share similar hobbies and interests. Sam however, unlike Max, has a flair for the dramatic. He can often be heard speaking in any number of foreign accents, is in his school "Honor Choir", and has signed up to play a guitar song in the school talent show. (An AC/DC song if you must know. No, I don't approve, but his guitar teacher doesn't seem to know any Erasure!!!) He definitely exercises the right side of his brain regularly and I can seem him finding great joy in music, drama, or art in the future.

On 7 year old Gabe:
Gabe is one of the most imaginative kids I know. About once a day I look for Gabe and find him totally engrossed in a make-believe game. Usually involving imaginary weapons, bad guys, and secret agents with ninja skills. But more often than not, he can be found with his brother Gray acting as "Director of Play". They have a great system worked out: Gabe makes up a game, tells Gray how to play it, and then changes the rules as he goes along to make it more fun (for himself). Gray happily plays along and they have a great time together. If BFF David T. can be there, all the better.
Gabe loves his "Sunshine Room" with multi-colored ceiling fan, having me read Harry Potter to him every night (we're on Book 4), loves reading himself, and loves to draw and write in his journal. Gabe is a happy kid and only whines if you ask him to do anything that isn't one of the fun things listed above. Throw some granola bars and fruit in his direction and he'll keep himself entertained the entire day. (Unless it's one of  his "bottomless pit" days when he wants your undivided attention for 6 straight hours.)

On 4 year old Gray-Gray:
Gray will be five in two days tomorrow (I fell asleep last night before I finished this post) and I've told him that five-year-olds have to say their own bed-time prayers. (He flat-out refuses to say prayers without help, although we all know he's perfectly capable.)
Gray is at a very adorable age right now. And his speech mis-articulations just make him that much cuter. The other night he asked me "Dat him house dat we went to dat udder time Mama?" And "Him put dat in him mouf Mama?" His pronouns are all over the place and it's adorable. Considering our speech history around these parts, I should probably correct him every once in awhile but it's just too darn cute.
Gray's default life mood setting is "Slightly Sad". He'll come bounding out of preschool, laughing and waving good-bye to his friends, leap happily into the car, and when I ask him if he had a fun day, he'll sigh piteously and say "The girls don't play wif me!" (They do.) Or, "No, I'm sooo sick! (*insert exaggerated fake cough*) (He's not)
It seems he feels the need to project sadness to be taken seriously. So I take him very seriously and keep my laughter on the inside. Sometimes he'll crawl into my lap or Doug's and sadly say "I just love you so so so much!" And only to me "I just want to mehwee you when I gwow up and be doggies." Because obviously he wants to marry me, but only if we can both be doggies. Or puppies. Ponies would probably also make the cut. Whatever. I tell him I'll absolutely marry him. We'll sort that out with Freud later.

On 18-month Linky-Pie/Linky-Monster:
My friend Lisa likes to comment that Lincoln is taking years off my life. And she's exactly right. He is. He absolutely is. Lincoln is what you would call "a handful." But only if you wanted to really under-state the situation. From the second he wakes up in the morning, Linky is all over the place. He doesn't want to cuddle, he doesn't want to eat breakfast, he just wants to GO. One of the spots he likes to go, is the middle of the kitchen table. And just recently he learned to climb the tall kitchen barstools so I'm sure soon he'll add "middle of island" to his list of favorite places. He also likes "top of the stairs". Basically, any place he can be in physical danger, while also able to throw things with maximum chance of hearing them shatter. Luckily for him he's got this super awesome blond hair with these little loose curls that are usually a big tangled mess on the back of his head, but sometimes form into perfect ringlets...and so we let him live. All the while, acquiring more wrinkles and gray hairs. *sigh* That LinkyMonster.

That's it for tonight.
See you again in six months.

Or the next time Doug falls asleep holding the remote.

Nov 14, 2014

The New House

It's around midnight.
Doug is snoring next to me, and as usual, I'm still awake.
Outside, the cacophony of a pack of coyotes possibly murdering a neighbor dog somewhere in my cul-de-sac, makes me realize I need to write some stuff down about my new home.

My new home is very different from my old home.

Although our new home is only a 7 minute drive away and a 2.8 mile walk away from our last home, (I just google-mapped it.) it feels like a whole different world. For starters, we are in a different city now. And within that city, we are living in an area with a veeeeery different feel and esthetic. There are no sidewalks in my new neighborhood, only horse trails.

There are horses in my new neighborhood.

There are low-density housing laws so we're not living blocks away from apartments any more. (And our friends in those apartments.) There are lots of big yards with neighbors who don't need to hang out at the community pool for recreation. (95% of our neighbors have backyard pools.)

In my particular little subdivision, most of the homes were built in the late 80's. (Ours in 88.) Some of our neighbors are original owners and many are empty-nesters and grandparents. That means this neighborhood, coyotes not withstanding, is veeeeeeery quiet. Eerily so.  Once my kids are asleep, there is no more noise on this block. (There are some teenagers, but evidently they don't hang with boys driving cars with super loud mufflers like I did in High School.)

For the longest time, pulling into the neighborhood, and then into our driveway, just felt weird. We are three houses down from my sister Laura. It always felt normal like we were going to her house. Until we had to make the mental adjustment to it being our house. Not normal. Weird. We kept having to remind ourselves: "Hey, we're home. This is OUR home. We're not going home from here!"

And for quite awhile I just had this overwhelming sense of sadness. I feel like it's not super normal to mourn when moving out of a rental. But maybe I should have had a good cry and gotten it over with. Because for the longest time, I had (and still occasionally have) these pangs of sadness over what we left behind. (Which, now that I think of it, has been the case after each and every move.)

We really, really miss our old neighbors. There were a lot of kids in the old 'hood. And lots of great families. We were able to make great friends just by hanging out at the community pool. Of course, we're still friends with those friends, and they're only 7 minutes away. But I won't see them nearly as much. Now meetings will have to be scheduled and planned for and driven to. And they'll be fewer and farther between.

Now don't get me wrong, we'll be just fine. There are a million positives to this move, obviously. I just wanted our first impressions recorded somewhere. And I want to always remember that the last three years in "Ann's House" were good years. That we loved our home and loved our neighbors and that they will be sorely missed.

And now it is 1 a.m.  The coyotes have moved on, and I need to go to sleep.


Nov 12, 2014

Our House, In the Middle of Our Street

(Published out of order--this was the first "new house" post I wrote but never finished and published.)

We're officially homeowners! (For the third time...hopefully the last).

We moved out of our three year rental against our will and into another rental for four weeks. Just after signing the lease on the second rental (hereafter known as "Half-way House") we discovered our dream home had fallen out of escrow.  We didn't think we could afford it, but the mortgage lady worked some dark magic and we somehow got it.  Now, when I say it is my dream house, I'm being disengenuous. It is not even remotely my dream home in and of itself, except for one key element: it has a big yard.

As Doug and I have looked and looked and looked at homes over the last three years, almost all of them have come up short in one area--the size of the backyard. Our first rental had a tiny yard.  Literally, just a back patio. Barely big enough for the tiny 6 foot trampoline we found at and a patio table.

So for years I've been day-dreaming.
Wishing for a yard with enough room for a BIG trampoline.
Longing for a yard deep enough to set up a volleyball net, throw a baseball or kick a soccer ball...

But as we looked we discovered that even if the property info listed a larger sized yard, it was taken up with a huge slope, a ginormous pool, a long drive-way, or some other unusable space.

Newer homes being built around here seem to be getting larger, while the lot they sit on gets smaller.
Sure, 4,500 square feet and five bedrooms would be fabulous, but NOT 5.5 baths with 5.5 toilets to clean. And not sitting on a lot barely big enough to hold the house!

My sister and brother-in-law kept telling us to look for the yard, not the house.  They pointed out that in their neighborhood, all the homes sit on .5 acre(ish) lots. We pointed out we couldn't afford their neighborhood.

But then the home three doors down and across the cul-de-sac fell out of escrow.
A home built in 1988 sitting on a half an acre flat lot.

It also has some other huge bonuses: A downstairs office that we've converted into to a guest room and a downstairs full bath.  This is perfect for visitors and especially perfect for my Mother-in-law who has bad knees. This was #2 on our wish list: Downstairs guest room and full bath!

Upstairs there are four bedrooms. We decided to keep Max and Sam together in one, Gabe and Gray together in another, and use the third for a play/bonus room. Linc will stay in our walk-in closet a little longer and then we'll figure out where to stick him when he moves to a toddler bed.

#3 on my wish list: Place to corral every single toy and game we own. Check!

Since moving in, we've deep cleaned, (previous owners had several pets and we have several pet allergies between all of us.) painted, done a lot of work on the backyard including removing three very large dead trees, and started remodeling the downstairs bathroom and upstairs boys bathroom due too leaky grout and mold issues.

My current project is acquiring rugs to cover some of the hard floors to dampen the noise produced by five boys in a big echo chamber. Sometime down the road we'll work on living room furniture and stuff for the walls.

One of the huge bonuses of this house lives three doors down the street: My SISTER and her family. We love hanging out with Laura and Jeff and especially love late night snack time after the kids are in bed and spontaneous hot tub parties at their house.  Laura has four daughters whom we love a LOT! Their oldest daughter Ashlin has been our #1 babysitter since we moved here. Since she is now out of state for college, the job falls to Makaila. Even Dania, who is Max's age, loves to help with Linky and takes him on walks. Their youngest, Kirra, is Sam's age and she loves to come over to play. It's been a lot of fun having them so close and seeing the cousins hanging out together.

I want to post some house before and after pictures, but there are no good "afters" yet.
Those will be forthcoming...

For now, I think I'll send the boys into the backyard and go take a nap!

Aug 18, 2014

First Week of School for 2 and 3

Gabe and Sam started school last week at yet another new school.

For Sam, this is yet another major life change. Let's quickly review:
Preschool - Miss Judean
K and 1st grade - Sollars Elementary in Japan
2nd grade - ME
3rd grade - Charter School
4th grade - ME
5th grade - OE

Evidently, his teacher is one of the best so we're hopeful he'll have a good year and make some good friends. One plus is that he'll be at the same school as his cousin.
(Did I ever mention one reason we left the military is because one of our children doesn't handle change well?  To protect this child's identity I'll call him S. Dub.  No, no---Sam W.
Hopefully, this will be the last big change in a long time.)

Gabey is starting 2nd. He's also been through a lot of change going to preschool in Japan, Charter for Kinder, ME for first, and now OE.
Last year he was Mr. Popular and had a million friends.  This year he's a little more uncertain about his place. I'm hoping things go well for him. I wouldn't mind if he had fewer friends, and did more work at school, but we'll see.
(Funny Gabe story: Every day when I pick the boys up I ask what they did for snack/lunch/recess and who they played with.  On Friday Gabe said "Well, at snack I played "Nut Cracker" with some boys in my class." There was a long pause while everyone pondered how to respond to this little nugget. Gabe said "You have to slide down this thing with bumps on it and it really hurts!" Ahh--so it IS what it sounds like.  I see. We all burst out laughing. I said "Maybe you should tell the boys you'd rather play tag next time.")

Two boys down, two to go!

Jun 12, 2014

European Vacation Day 3 - Ste-Mère-Église, Normandy Beaches, and The American Cemetery

The next morning, Wes asked the lovely proprietor of our BandB if we could eat breakfast at 7:30am instead of 8:30 so we could get an early start.  She graciously agreed and than proceeded to serve breakfast promptly at 8:30.  Which worked out great since Doug and I were a bit jet-lagged and it's just possible we weren't exactly ready to go right exactly at 7:30a.m.

The breakfast, however, was worth waiting for and included a delicious croissant, crusty bread, a selection of different cheeses, yogurt, granola, various yummy jams, and heated milk with SCHOvit (similar to Nesquick)

 And then we were off to our first destination: Ste-Mère-Église.
{The town's main claim to fame is that it played a significant part in the World War II Normandy landings because this village stood right in the middle of route N13, which the Germans would have most likely used on any significant counterattack on the troops landing on Utah and Omaha Beaches. In the early morning of 6 June 1944 mixed units of the U.S. 82nd Airborne and U.S. 101st Airborne Divisions occupied the town in Operation Boston, giving it the claim to be one of the first towns liberated in the invasion.}

This is where paratrooper John Steele got caught on the church steeple on the morning of June 6th, 1944. Ste-Mère-Église was the first French town liberated on D-day.  There is a model of John Steele on the roof, and the stained glass in the church (blown out in the war and replaced) depicts the heroic actions of that day. (We had just watched "The Longest Day" before coming so it was neat to see this place in person!)

Wes and Doug
See the white thing hanging off the roof? That's a model of John!

Stained glass with paratroopers
After walking through the church, we went into the Airborne museum across the street.  They had some pretty cool stuff in there.

(I love this lettering!)

Dress made from parachute silk
Next, we drove over to Pointe du Hoc
{Pointe du Hoc is a promontory with a 100 ft (30 m) cliff overlooking the English Channel on the coast of Normandy in northern France. During World War II it was the highest point between Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east. The German army fortified the area with concrete casements and gun pits. On D-Day (6 June 1944) the United States Army Ranger Assault Group assaulted and captured Pointe du Hoc after scaling the cliffs.}

This area is still littered with enormous bomb craters.  It's hard to see how large they are in the pictures, but they were pretty impressive.
Bomb crater

The bombed out concrete bunkers are still there

It's too bad more people don't realize how amazing American history is!

 Lunch was a quick stop for Panini's:

 And then on to Omaha Beach.

 Realizing how far our troops had to run in wet clothes, carrying heavy equipment and under extreme enemy fire, was very sobering. Omaha is a VERY big beach.

We didn't spend a lot of time on Omaha Beach because we had one last thing to see.  The American Cemetery:

Hard to describe so I won't even try. I'll just say that I wish every single American could have the opportunity to visit.

That night we went back Bayeux for dinner. While walking around looking for a restaurant, we stopped at a little art gallery and I bought a small piece of pottery. It's very cute and joins my collection of other small pots, mostly from Japan. Maybe one day when we're rich and famous I'll be able to afford a pot bigger than my hand.  Maybe.

I ordered some sort of puff pastry with chicken and apples and mustard seeds on it and, to get you out of your suspense; yes, it was delicious.

Then back to our cozy lodgings for one more night...

Jun 11, 2014

European Vacation Day 2: Breakfast in Versailles, Dinner in Normandy

Tuesday morning at 6:30 am we arrived (a little early) at Charles de Gaulle airport in France. A few minutes later Wes and Tami arrived to pick us up. They had driven from Germany and stayed the night in Paris.

From the airport we headed straight to see Palace of Versailles.

Since I left a still-nursing baby at home with my sister, I had to take frequent breaks to pump. (and dump.) While Tami and I sat in the car chatting (and one of us pumping), Wes and Doug wandered off to find us some breakfast to eat in line.
Delicious success! Pain au Chocolat
Some yummy meringue thingy
That morning at Versailles, we bought a six day Paris Museum pass.  This was a very good investment and allowed us to skip some long lines later on.

Peaking down a roped-off hall

 The palace was very cool to walk through.  It was also extraordinarily crowded.
Just a few thousand of our closest friends
Marie Antoinette and her two oldest children
I think this may have been the chapel. Pictures are wonky because
they were taken over the heads of the unwashed masses.
One of the ceilings.  The art was incredible.
After touring inside the palace, we left and found some sandwiches and fizzy drinks in the charming town outside the grounds.

Back to Versailles to visit Marie Antoinette's "Hamlet". The Hamlet is a small village built on the grounds where she went to escape the rigors of court life.  But it's not exactly right next door.  

It was a chilly day but we had enough layers to keep us warm.

 We walked down through the courtyard and then rented bikes!


The Hamlet was extremely charming and I'm glad we got to explore and enjoy it.  
Next stop, Normandy!!

After leaving Versailles, we drove straight to our Bed and Breakfast. At least that's what I think we did.  I immediately fell asleep and missed seeing the beautiful French countryside.  
(At least I think it's beautiful.  I was asleep.)

We made a quick stop (at Le Clos des Pommiers in Tracy-sur-Mer) to check-in and change for dinner, and then went out again. 
Beautiful view of the grounds
Our happy and cozy room!
We drove to nearby Bayeux for dinner and wandered around for awhile trying to find a place that could seat us.  It is such an amazingly quaint and beautiful little town--I couldn't stop taking pictures. 
All decked out for the 70th anniversary of D-day

Eventually we settled on a little Creperie and had our first dinner in France.  
And it was amazing!
May I humbly suggest that if you're ever in that neighborhood, go to the same restaurant, and go ahead and get what I got! And may I also suggest that if you ever have the opportunity to have something smothered in creme fraiche, you take it!

This was the first of many times Wes and Tami had to translate menus for us.  They were very good sports about it and gave us some excellent recommendations.
Sweetened coconut on my desert crepe! Why didn't I think of that?!?!

It was a pretty full and magical first day in France. 
If I had had to rush home the very next morning, it would have been worth the trip.