Thursday, June 30, 2011

Staying Not-Bored

It's nearing the end of week 2 of summer break. One more week at home with the kids and me before we start our full-time summer activities. A road trip to Chicago (the fam). Band camp (K). Musical Theater apprenticeship (R). Football (N). Virginia Beach (the fam).

Tuesday I took the kids to Skate-n-Fun Zone in Manassas, the nearest roller rink that in fact does host flat rink roller derbies. Weird. We did a few hours of rinking with a greasy pizza lunch before Rebecca had her guitar lesson.

06/28/2011: Skate'n'Fun Zone, Manassas

Becca is really enjoying guitar (after 2 whole lessons), but it didn't take long for her to admit that it's a lot harder to actually learn guitar than it is to say she wanted to learn guitar. She's being good about practicing though. Not every day (*tsk tsk*) but she's putting in the time.

06/30/2011: Rebecca practices on Ian's Cebu guitar.

The guitar is the hand-crafted one Ian bought in Cebu, Philippines and lovingly carried back to Manila. He so wanted to get a blue guitar and I scoffed and he bent and now I really wish I'd have been a little more adventurous even in minor things like the color of a guitar. A blue guitar would rock, literally. And Becca loves the story behind the instrument and all the imperfections that make it unique.

Today was another busy day aside from guitar practice. Becca was up early, before me she was out with the mower beating her sister to the punch and the payoff. I pay $20 for the whole lawn and with today the 30th of June all the kids got their regular allowance too (a dollar per year each month). I've been told I'm a cheapskate. Am I a cheapskate? The girls complain and moan because every time they turn around there's another gift day... birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, etc. and they don't have enough cash to spend on themselves. The boys.... have plenty of money both saved and for spending. I wonder what the difference could be?

Anyhow.

This morning Becca and I went to the DMV for a Virginia ID card, picked up sports physical forms from Kaiser, swung by the bank before picking up the rest of the kids to go out for a bit. Katherine got a manicure and her nails painted neon green. Becca went in for a French manicure but after one afternoon in the pool regrets the chips and flakes. She won't be doing that again until after the swim season ends. While Katherine hung about with her friends, the boys, Becca and I had a delicious lunch at Panera. With my customer card my Asiago Roast Beef sandwich was free. Awesome. I think Panera, even with its chain storeness, is one of my favorite places to eat. We sat outside under an umbrella with sunshine and a cool breeze blowing and chatted about everything and nothing at all. I do so enjoy my kids. The older they get the more wonderful they are, even if they do still crawl into bed with a nightmare (*ahem* Jonathon). Nicholas was asking yesterday if I thought he would be a difficult teen. I just had to smile because we've already done difficult teen and my younger three are far too aware to go down that road. They will have their trials, those days that are more challenging than they expect, but difficult teens? No, I don't think so, not what I consider difficult. I will say this though, since the middle of May, Katherine is... well, she's different. Her therapist is truly a Godsend and Katherine respects her and with that has come welcome possibilities. Let's leave it at that for now. There's a long summer ahead and another school year to go, a busy year with her ER volunteer work, Youth Orchestra, marching band, and if I can get her to see the pros of it, Gar-Field swim team. I'll take each day at a time and enjoy the kids as they are. Right. Now.

06/30/2011: Summer playtime at the Community Pool.

That's them with a friend who happened to be at the community pool. He went on the Teen Retreat at church with Katherine earlier this year. He and his friend were interesting characters as this boy was in a wheelchair and his friend had a prosthetic leg. Even better, when challenged to a race, the one-legged boy beat the pants off Becca. Heh.

But you know what I love about that photo? The joy on Katherine's face.

Just like when we had a misunderstanding about getting her nails done. Her temper flared but I managed to keep mine in check and within a couple minutes she calmed down, wefigured out what she was really upset about (she'd made plans she hadn't told us about) and all was well. Like when she was pulled from helping the little kids at swim practice because her coach wants her doing training instead for that hour and rather than sulking and moping she decided to take it out on her coach by being cheeky. Cheeky I can handle, especially if she's doing her swimming at the same time. Afterwards I reminded her how important it was to respect her coach and she called him a big meanie but said it without anger. This week she has gotten up each day before noon... a 15yo on summer break, remember... and been tolerant of her brothers and helpful when asked and participatory in general.

I know there are difficult days ahead. She's still a teenager after all. They all will have their days of unpleasantness. But I think we might be coming to a crossroads. Pray that we are, OK?

So Jonathon spent quiet time while Rebecca was playing guitar and I prepped dinner for the pool:

06/30/2011: Jonathon paints his seal.

We've been doing well with the TV off the past few days. Usually when we walk in the door someone plops onto the couch and turns on the tube and it drives me a little bonkers. The past few days that hasn't been the case. There has been some early morning TV (before I get up) some xBox and laptop (Wizard 101, fun for the whole family... I'm Elizabeth SeaBreeze with my dragon, Mocha. I kinda wish I was kidding.), but today Jonathon did his painting, Nicholas donned his football gear and did some sprint work outside with Becca timing him, garden work and cooking and other activities have taken our time when we chill-out at home.

Quiet is addictive.

06/29/2011: The cat is either sunning or needs ironing.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Being Productive. It happens so rarely it deserves a post.

I had several things on my To Do list today. First and foremost was iron. Ian was down to one white shirt, which he only wears with suits, so I had to remedy the situation. The boys are serving Mass on Saturday so I did their shirts too. That was at 8 a.m.

Since then, the boys and I cleaned up the living room and the second little living room and the front entry. To be honest, the second room isn't really clean, but we did clear our the little bookcase and the boys moved it to their room, while Jonathon cleared a shelf on the big bookcase for the school stuff for next year (you know, dictionaries, tape, stapler, lined paper, etc.). I did some laundry. I cleaned up the gerbil mess. He is worse than the cats with his wanton bedding flinging.

Meanwhile, I also had Jonathon make Banana Bread Muffins:

6/29/11: Baking Day : Banana Bread Muffins

They turned out perfect, we were quite pleased.

Nicholas and I stopped by the store for some ingredients while meat was draining and drying back home.

For tomorrow's dinner we have Pineapple Honey Glazed chicken marinating:

6/29/11: Baking Day : Pineapple Honey Chicken marinating

And for Friday's dinner we have Asian Pork Roast in the crockpot marinating:

6/29/11: Baking Day : Asian Pork Loin, marinating

Once those were done I pulled out the strawberries that were on the verge of ick and decided eating them straight would not work, so into the casserole dish along with some overripe plums and some leftover crushed pineapple for a crisp:

6/29/11: Baking Day : Strawberry/Plum/Pineapple Crisp

Crap photo, but at least the lens wasn't fogged up like my first attempt. It's really runny, but I figure it'll do wonderfully with some ice cream.

And dinner for tonight at the pool? The always delicious Mac&Cheese&Tuna:

6/29/11: Baking Day : Dinner for the pool: Mac&Cheese&Tuna

I'm starving.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Solstice

We've passed the longest day of the year and the first day of the summer season. I *heart* summer, even though I could have done without much of this past week. And most of last Sunday too. Oh, and last Saturday.

See, last Saturday was the first swim meet of the season. I forgot to put sunscreen on the kids. Two came home with pretty lousy burns on their shoulders and faces. Overseas it's not an issue where we've lived, sunscreen goes on just about every single day unless there's a monsoon outside. That's just how it is. But here, changing seasons and all, that's it... I'll blame seasons. And change. I don't deal well with change. It's a wonder I survive at all.

The other thing I forgot is that after a swim meet we're done. Cooked, done, bring on naptime. Meets take anywhere from 6-7 hours, the kids swim their few minutes here and there, Ian and I are typically timers, snacks are bought, goggles are misplaced, towels are sodden, sometimes we even get to enjoy the whole thing in pouring rain. But afterwards, no matter what, we're done for the day. No one wants to move so we don't plan anything. OK, sometimes we do go out to a late lunch. So what did we do this past Saturday? We came home and changed. We went to lunch with my mom (who had come to the meet). Then we went to church, the boys were altar servers. And then the kids saw Movie on the Beach @ Dolphin Beach while Ian, Katherine and I went to Target and Starbucks.

Can I just say that I've learned my lesson? Saturday involves #1 Sunscreen, #2 No plans for after.

Father's Day and you'd think that after wearing out Saturday we'd do nothing on Sunday. It started off well enough, but I'd made plans with old friends who were with us in Togo, to meet up at Great Falls (hey, it's a good mid-spot for VA and MD folks) for a picnic lunch.

6/19/2011: Great Falls Park, Father's Day

We caught up and it was great to meet their kids. When we were in Togo only the oldest was around, now they have three and all cute as buttons. They are big gamers, as in board games, so here's hoping we can get together for a Settlers of Catan afternoon.

We stopped by Tysons Corner to catch a movie and found it sold out. Not sure what we were thinking there. We drowned our sorrows in Coldstone and went home. Happy Father's Day, Ian.

So we've completed Week One of summer vacation. I like having my kids home. In theory it means we get to do loads of cool stuff that you can't fit around school hours. In reality it means our days are built around pool practice hours instead. I miss my quiet though and get zero of that during summer. I'm thinking I may have to do something on my own sometimes because I'm looking at 2 1/2 months of 24/7 mom duties. I did that for 8 years and I'm pretty well done with it, I really just need to plan some time away each week just for me until the end of August. The best thing would be if Ian took all the kids out of the house for a few hours. Hey, I could get in a nap, right? A nap without kids knocking on the door? *hint* *hint* *hint hint hint*

Monday, two kids had physicals in the morning, followed by a trip to Costco, then swim practice in the evening. Tuesday, one kid had her scoliosis checked and came back with No Change, which is awesome, follow-up in a year. On the way to the appointment we saw a beaver try to cross I95 and, well, didn't make it. Could it have been a deaf and blind beaver? Otherwise how do you account for it heading into 5 lanes of 70mph traffic? No beavers were hurt on the way home that I saw. Not that I saw anyway. Another kid had her first guitar lesson in the afternoon. Then swim practice in the evening, but it was stormed out 1/2 way through so the boys practiced and the girls didn't. Wednesday, Ian worked from home and we had no plans other than swim practice in the evening so that was nice. Thursday, one kid had a dental appointment in the morning. We went to Home Depot to get some MoleMax for the mole/vole/gopher that has moved into/under our front lawn and is digging tunnels all over. Seriously, first someone in the neighborhood decides our lawn needs decorating with bags of dog poop and now we have a mole/vole/gopher in the yard? What gives? One kid mowed the lawn while I edged and raked and attempted to kill weeds. Last week I found pumpkin plants growing in our lawn. I'm assuming they are from the pumpkins we had hanging from our tree for Halloween last year and not another attack by yard evil-doers. Flute lesson was canceled in the afternoon so some kids went to the beach for a bit (one got a massive splinter in her foot), and then while 3 kids had swimming the other had her first day as a volunteer in the hospital ER. While the kids were swimming I shopped at Costco for fruit toppings for Friday morning's pancakes-by-the-pool breakfast. I made an appointment for the splinter-foot-kid to see the doc Friday morning if the splinter couldn't be pulled out. She got it out with tweezers after much pain and anguish and hobbling about.

Friday morning was difficult though. One of those mornings where you look in the mirror and ask yourself if you were really cut out to parent. Yeah, one of those mornings. I didn't cry, so that was a Win in my book. Thankfully, a kid had a timely doctor appointment in the afternoon. I think we're done with doctors until next Friday. Please, tell me we're done. Though doc visits do provide structure to the days it's not my preferred way of spending summer.

This morning's meet was a home meet, and Ian and I didn't do any volunteer work. My mom came to cheer the kids on with us, and I took videos of some of their races. Nicholas's 11-12 boys freestyle relay won and we brought home several heat winner ribbons. A couple relays were DQed, usually due to the butterfly leg, Katherine pulled ahead every relay only to have the next person fall 1/2 pool behind. Nicholas was DQed from backstroke because he messed up his turn and touched the bottom. Time was cut in several races though the kids think they swim better at other pools. All in all, a great morning.

Becca:

Katherine:

Nicholas (sorry it's sideways)

Jonathon (it straightens, promise)

Other video is on flickr.

We picked up McDonald's on the way home and guess what... I got my nap squeezed in between finishing book 3 from the Game of Thrones series and church. Naps rock.

And tomorrow, Sunday, will truly be a day of rest.

Friday, June 17, 2011

First day of school / Last day of school for 2010-2011

9/7/10: 6:30 a.m. Katherine's first day of HS 6/12/11: New haircut.  Much shorter.

9/7/10: 7:45 a.m. Rebecca's first day of 7th grade 6/12/11: New haircut.  Shorter.

9/7/10: 8:45 a.m. Boys first day of 4th and 5th grade 6/17/11: Last day of school, with cupcakes.

End of year awards

Tuesday I attended the Saunders 7th grade awards ceremony. Of the 300+ kids in the class there were 25 or so there. Three awards were given out. One for "No Zeroes" which meant no missed assignments all year. Another for "$100 all year." This school has a system where all kids start with an imaginary $100. For misbehaviour, not being prepared, etc., they can have dollars "lost" on their record sheet each quarter but start each quarter with a new $100 sheet. There are quarterly awards for those with $75 or higher. The third award was a plaque for straight As all year.

Rebecca earned all three and dressed up for the day, except she went to Art class instead of to the ceremony so I received her first two awards before she made it to the hall. Awesome. She didn't let me keep the movie or McDs gift cards though. Hmph.

6/14/11: On awards day

Aren't her shoes fabulous?

The day after, Becca heard she's accepted into the Signet program (our "G/T" program... ugh, I really don't like that term) for next year, and has been taken on as a musical theater apprentice for a 2-week class this summer. It's definitely taken the sting out of being shunned from NJHS!

Now all 4 kids are in the Signet program, Katherine by virtue of the IB program at Gar-Field and the rest by nominations from their teachers and testing. Anything to break up the doldrums of regular school work here.

On Thursday night, Nicholas had his 5th grade promotion. This is the first time we've had something like this, all the other schools the kids have attended were K-12, so "graduating" 5th grade wasn't really a big deal as the kids would just move over a few classrooms or a hallway to start Middle School. Here, it's a Big Deal. And as a surprise to us all, he earned the President's Academic Excellence award for his marks in 4th and 5th grade.

6/16/11: 5th grade promotion

Doesn't he look awesome? The boy rocks a suit.

6/16/11: 5th grade promotion

We were really far back and the lightning is horrible in the cafetorium, but he's in with the group of Academic Excellence recipients on the right, covering his face with the paper.

WARNING: Please only listen to the following clip if you don't mind your ears bleeding or if your ears are already bleeding due to your own elementary strings player.


No matter what, we're proud of our kids, but this week has truly been exceptional.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Poetry and Nicholas

Apparently 5th grade is big on poetry. (Not so much on spelling)

BIRDS
They make so much noise
Flying all around chirping
Making nests in trees

TREES
You poor little trees
Siting there miserabley
Felling all alone

CAPS
There once was a hockey team called the caps
They really hated to take naps.
Winning all the playoff games.
They keep on forgetting players names
For practice they skate laps.

ALEX OVECHKIN
Caps king
Hears the crowd shout
Watching all the happy fans
Tasting all the blood from scratches
Ove

MOM
My mom
Puts up with me
She's so imbarising
Gives me many rules to follow
Michele

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

7th grade field trip

Last Friday, when the first group of 7th graders went to Leesylvania State Park, the temps were scorching. Yesterday was glorious.

Aside from the typical stuff you learn on a nature hike field trip, like this is poison ivy:

13 June 2011: 7th grade Leesylvania field trip

And tiny fish are cute:

13 June 2011: 7th grade Leesylvania field trip

I also ate lunch with these 7th grade kids and realized that my boys will most likely remain just as they are for years to come... only in a larger size. They make no sense, find humor in the strangest things, talk math, tell pointless and endless stories, and have imaginary snap fights (don't ask). They're good kids from what I can tell, at least the ones at my table, some of the others I wasn't so sure about, but man, they are just 9yo at heart.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I know there's a week left of school, but seems summer has started.

Thursday night Rebecca had her choral concert. It's the only concert they had all year due to a teacher change in December and that both teachers this year were strings teachers, not choral teachers, though they are assigned both classes. Becca wasn't pleased with the performance but it's done and now she can move on to 8th grade chorus. We missed swim practice and completely forgot Katherine's flute lesson. Friday, Katherine was gone from 6:45 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. due to school and then graduation while we spent the time at practice. Katherine didn't graduate but the band played all the way at the Patriot Center and, then was late getting back.

Today we were up at 6:45 a.m. to get to the pool for Time Trials. These are the baseline times used to arrange the heats in each stroke at meets. You don't want a kid that can barely finish to swim against someone with an A or B time, so the kids are grouped within their Time Trial times, unless they have a faster time from the same stroke last year. Ian and I are timers which is usually done in shifts at regular meets but with today just being our team and a very short "meet" at that (no relays, no IMs) it was scheduled to start at 8 and finish by 11 a.m.

Katherine's recital for her flute teacher (who also teaches piano) along with a couple other teachers was scheduled at the Border's to begin at 11. Quandary. I'd informed the meet organizers that we'd be leaving at 10:30 but at 10 a.m. the heavens opened and the rain poured down. No thunder or lightning, that would have shut the whole operation down immediately, but heavy enough that the lifeguards couldn't see the bottom of the pool for all the ripples. The meet was delayed, we handed off our stopwatches as the kids changed and packed up the swim supplies, and we left the pool. The swimming continued once the rain passed 15 minutes later but we had other places to be.

I don't feel too bad, the trials were running late. Very late. By the time we left at 10:30 we'd finished 2 of the four strokes, Freestyle and Backstroke, and the Frogs only had the pool until 11 a.m. It opens for public use at noon and needs to be cleared of lane lines, flags, and equipment before then. They might have gotten through Breaststroke, but I don't know. All I know is my kids were bummed... Katherine is a Breaststroker, Rebecca does Butterfly. I guess they'll have to wait until next Saturday's meet to see what their new times are.

Some of the kids on the team do year-round swimming with the Amberjax or QDD or one of the other year-round clubs. Some do swimming with their high schools. My kids haven't been in the pool since last July so they are due some major catching up. Rebecca was nearly an A time in Freestyle, now she's not only added 3 seconds but by moving up an age category the A time is even further away.

There's work to be done.

We scurried, sodden, to the recital held at the Border's Seattle's Best cafe' which had a very poet's corner vibe to it.


Isn't she gorgeous? So grown up. The teachers provided coffee and cookies and brownies and other treats so lunch was put off. We picked up Nicholas's fall football gear then the three girls dropped the three boys off at home before heading back out to get hair cuts.

Then next door to Target, one of our very favorite stores. Rebecca splurged on some summer dresses and Katherine agreed to a pair of khakis for her volunteer job at the hospital. Target's shoes options are pretty sad so we made our way to Kohls and got a pair of Doc Marten's to replace her falling apart shoes and a pair of white tennis shoes, also for her volunteer position.

My plan was to get church done this evening but as we drove home another storm was rolling in and once we did get home Ian was crashed, fast asleep. Guess we're due for an evening of n-o-t-h-i-n-g. About time.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The end of the school year approacheth

I am so ready for the school year to be over. Remember my thing about year round schooling right? We're burnt out. And after SOLs and all the teaching-to-the-SOLs, it seems these last two weeks are pointless.

Besides the fact that my kids have in the past few weeks watched "Finding Nemo," "Wall-E," "Kung Fu Panda," "Coraline," "National Treasure," and others (and these are from the HS as well), let's take a look at the calendar, shall we?

Signet has already finished for the boys. They've each had their parties there.
Tomorrow (Friday) is Field Day for the boys, all morning until lunch time.
Monday has a day long field trip with Rebecca.
Tuesday is the 4th grade end-of-year picnic and 9th grade 1/2 day.
Wednesday is the 5th grade end-of-year picnic and 7th grade end-of-year carnival and 9th grade 1/2 day.
Thursday is 5th grade promotion and 9th grade 1/2 day.
Friday is the last day of school. Katherine gets out at 10, Rebecca at 11:35 and the boys at noonish.

Rebecca still has HW these last few days but the boys have nothing and Katherine has "studying" for finals.

I've sent in a change of course request for Katherine for next year, and am in the process of ordering 5th grade school supplies for Jonathon. Since I'm headed to Costco today anyway I'll check out what's available there as far as supplies.

The end of the school year is nearly here yet I'm already looking at what's needed for next year. Not cool. I need a break from this stuff too.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

So since we're not Raptured, or Left Behind...

There's some catching up to do? Apparently I now have only until October 21st to keep up this blog which is a bummer since we won't make it to Jordan before then. I really wanted to see Jordan.

I haven't mentioned our Anniversary. We went to Last Vegas in April for a little get-away and left the kids with my parents. They are saints. My parents... not the kids. But May 18th was our actual Anniversary and I was sick. I was lay-in-bed-all-day-with-fever-and-chills sick. Ian took the day off but we didn't get to celebrate. I couldn't eat and walking just made the world spin which can be hazardous on stairs. It didn't help that half way through the day Becca came home from school after throwing up in Science class. TMI, I know.

The next day though was better. I wasn't well, but Ian took the day off to keep me company and we managed to get out of the house for a lovely lunch at Potomac Point Vineyard and Winery. About 15 minutes away and down some tiny windy roads, the vineyard cafe courtyard was empty but for us. We lounged over our food and completely forgot to take a photo to put into the frame my folks gave us. I know how lucky I am to have Ian, he is wonderful even when I'm cranky with him.

Here's looking at several more "15 years together" anniversaries.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Henderson 1 mile Fun Run


Yesterday morning bright and early (7:15 a.m.-on-a-Sunday-early) Jonathon and I were out the door walking to his first timed 1 mile run. The walk there was a good warm-up, the walk back was a good cool-down, and he got a participation medal to show for the run in the middle. Each child received a t-shirt, tell me again why each needed a medal too? Over 500 runners participated in the Fun Run and the 5K so there were vendors present. VA Runner had a booth, which reminds me that we'll need to get real running shoes for Rebecca for the Track team next year.

Something is missing from Jonathon's head. He came home from spending a night at grandma's house on Friday night without his hair. He looks just like his cousins with that fuzzy head (they are actually my cousins, but they are his age.)

I also took some video of the beginning and end of the race. Jonathon doesn't exactly have the proper stride for a long distance runner, does he? He's "unique."


video video

Sunday, June 5, 2011

New Blog Design


You like? I like. I think I like the background in green better than brown, but I'm not altogether sold on it yet. That's all right, it's easy to change and mess with.

There's been a lot going on of late, so when I get a change to do a real blog post it should be interesting, at least to my mom. The big news from today was the Chennai get-together at Great Falls (VA side). There were about 30 of us, including kids. More photos can be seen at our flickr page.