Friday, July 3, 2015

Chuck's Job

I'm going to attempt to describe what Chuck's new job is. I'm sure he'll correct as necessary. When students in our school system are out for health reasons for four or more weeks, they are entitled to receive instructional services from professional staff (rather than the family being strictly responsible for missed work). There are about 300 of these staff, who are temporary and part-time (maybe recent grads hoping for an in to the school system or retired teachers). This is how Chuck fits in:

1) He will have a case load of about 30 students, and he coordinates their education while they're homebound. He communicates with the parents, instructors, teachers, and/or school counselors to make sure the kids aren't missing anything.

2) He will train the temporary, part-time instructors on math curriculum.

3) He will create online courses for algebra and/or geometry. Whether these courses will be delivered via Skype, YouTube, or something else is TBD.

That's it. I think. How did I do Chuck?

He's excited about it. I'm excited that he's still in an office where I can communicate with him easily (it can be hard to get a hold of a teacher for non-emergencies). I'm really excited that he still has the flexibility of an "office" job. I'm really really excited that he's off this summer and all school holidays! It's a (mostly) good life.

P.S. Know what I want Chuck to do in all of his "free" time this summer as the stay-at-home dad? Create a honey-do list app. I can add things to his and then he can cross them off. It'll make us a million dollars, or maybe just six. We'll see.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wacky Wednesday

Did you like the "Wacky Wednesday" book as a child? I did. Do you now dislike the "Wacky Wednesday" book because reading it to your kids takes FOREVER? I do. Either way, it isn't part of our home library (which means I've never seen it at our local thrift store) so I checked it out recently for "Mom and Ollie" preschool's W day. How was I to know that not just a couple of weeks later, I would have my own truly Wacky Wednesday?!

Can you find four things wrong in this picture? Click to enlarge. (Of course I didn't see these things all in my family room exactly, but the fact that I saw them at all was pretty WACKY!)

1. Vegetables! Ones that I might actually eat! There is an amazing grocery store that is sadly too far north for regular grocery shopping. But for grocery shopping while the kids are at already-too-far-north vacation Bible school, it's perfect! And their produce is incredible.

2. Three helicopters! I even saw them cross over me three or four times while out and about. I guess they were doing some training exercise. And no, they weren't the ones my dad flew, but of course I had to use his in the image.

3. The SWAT team! Again, thankfully not in my family room, but I saw police and an FBI SWAT team approach a house (and bang on its door!) while I was running that morning. Despite multiple google searches, I still have no idea what they were doing.

4. Star Crunch! These snacks are the northern white rhinos of the Little Debbie world: super rare. But my genius husband found out that they are for sale at a grocery store at which we never shop. Until now.

P.S. My missionary parents started another mission blog from exotic Frankfurt, Germany. Check it out here. Go parents!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Our Summer Plans

Last year at this time I was already weeks into my summer plans. This year? Nope. No summer plans. Part of that was the pool. The pool is my summer plan. The other part is that Chuck was looking for a new job, and that search was taking much longer than anticipated. Because I didn't know if I would be working full-time or part, I couldn't plan! And yes, in normal circumstances, that would have driven me crazy. But with everything going on, I just didn't care.

BUT now we know! Chuck got a job! Here's the deal: I never quite explain it right, and I always get the roly-eyes because of it. So. I'll tell you the part that I care about, and if you want a real job description, just ask him. Right now, he's a full-time, school system employee. He works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks per year. He doesn't get spring break off (unless he requests it), he doesn't get Election Day off, he doesn't get Jewish holidays off, he doesn't get snow days off, he doesn't get summer off (which all teachers here do). BUT once he starts his new job, he will get all those lovely things! Why is this incredible? Because we have children in school and I work part-time. Schedule changes (especially snow days) can be extremely stressful as we shuffle to find child care. Not any longer. It's wonderful. Plus, he'll be around all Christmas and Spring Breaks.

Of course the only downside is that I'll have to work full-time during the summer. Which is sad because I'm really loving that pool. Especially on hottest day of the year when your air conditioner goes out.

P.S. Because I'm me, I created this time series graph of the temperature in our house once the air conditioner was fixed. Just trust me that 89° is way too hot for the inside of a house.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Last Day of School

Last Monday (two Mondays ago) was Rhett's last day of first grade. (Yes, you read that right: the last day of school was a half day on a Monday halfway through June. This brought to us by snow days.) I don't think Rhett's quite old enough to get really excited for the last day of school, but he's getting closer. I wanted to do something fun, but something that I could keep up year after year. You know, let's not set the standards too high, mmmkay?

We started the morning with pancakes. Pancake tacos to be precise. Because you know, pancakes for breakfast are a rarity in our house (pancakes for dinner, on the other hand...). After school both boys were greeted with a finish line and a candy gram (to copy my wise sister). Perfect. (And not just because I got to go to Five Below and get candy for me. Nope). Just that morning Ollie and I finished his "Mom and Ollie" preschool, so he legitimately earned his rewards. And after school let out, I let the boys watch a movie. It was a good day.

I must have caught the exact moment Rhett wasn't smiling. He really enjoyed Ms. Collier (student teacher) and Mrs. Cecil--I promise.

In order to get good smiles, I had to threaten them with: "I will keep you here until you give me good smiles. And if it takes hours, your popsicles will melt!" Sigh. I'm such a good mom.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Least Favorite Toy

I honestly believe it's the privilege of grandparents to give their grandchildren gifts that parents would NEVER give them. And I'm happy to say that my boys' grandparents are no different. However, I think this is the worst one yet. And by worst, I mean my worst. And by worst, I mean Ollie's favorite. Watch the video; it'll be obvious why.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Pool Mom

Tutorial on Maryland's Pools
First, there are local pools everywhere. Seriously. Every little neighborhood has one. Our local pool is a mere 1.4 miles by car, 1.1 miles by bike. This will be important when all four of us can bike there easily (c'mon Ollie!). Our closest county pool, on the other hand, doesn't even have an outdoor pool, so um, no thanks. Plus, it's not an easy bike ride away.

Second, you have to join the pools. This is an issue because you can't just go without a member family taking you. We couldn't be just drop-in, unattended guests on those extra hot, extra muggy days (like pretty much every day in June so far). So we had to join.

Third, they are ridiculously expensive to join. In order to pay the fees, we had to save all year. I exaggerate a little; it's not that much, but to pay it all at once is something I'd rather avoid.

Fourth, usually swim team and swim lessons are included with your membership. If Rhett could actually swim, he'd be on their pre-team this summer. Ollie is still too little for swim team. However, they're both signed up for (and started earlier this week!) the free group swim lessons.

Fifth, there's a big social component to them. There are BBQs, movie nights, men's swim nights, women's swim nights, and that doesn't even cover all the swim team events. I have a feeling this will be a much bigger deal once both boys are on swim team.

Sixth, they will Change. Your. Life for the summer. For reals people. Remember how much I HATE Maryland summers? I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it before. But since the pool opened Memorial Day weekend, we've been there probably a dozen times. Even if just for an hour, we'll go. Why is it such a life-changer? Because it makes the heat and the humidity and the bugs bearable. To be wearing only a swimsuit, hanging out poolside or in the pool, life is good.

What I don't know about this pool-centered life.
First, do I have to wash my hair every time I get it wet in the pool? Because if so, UGH.

Second, do I have to wash our swimsuits and towels every time we swim? Because if so, UGH. But if just drying them in the dryer or on the shower rack works, YESSSS. (Remember, this is not Utah. Things do NOT dry outside in our water-laden air.)

Third, do I have to wear make up this summer? Because if I have to re-apply it every day after it gets washed away in the pool, UGH.

Fourth, how do I break into the pool's social scene? Our pool has tons of families, many of whom we see every day. But I'm shy in these situations (and I was super shy when wearing a soft, ugly, white neck collar), so I am just struggling. Do I even want to bother? Can I just be nice and smile? Or do I have to actually try to talk to them and learn their names and their kids' names?

Final Thoughts
Remember how last summer I had these enormous plans because I didn't know what to do with the boys all day? Yeah, no need this year. Here's what our schedule looks like this summer:
6:30 a.m.: Boys wake up, eat breakfast, do chores
9:00 a.m.: Do something like library visit, playground visit, hike
12:00 p.m.: Lunch
12:08 p.m.: Go to the pool
5:30 p.m.: Dinner

So easy, right? Something small in the morning and then during the hot, gross, despicably muggy afternoons, we're at the pool. The boys are happy, the adults are happy, the living is good. I think I'm gonna like it there.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

High School Reunion

In case you didn't already know how old I am, you're about to be able to do some math and figure it out. Last Saturday was my 20-year high school reunion. I wasn't able to make it (ahem, surgery, kid still in school, all extra monies going to the know, your usual excuses), but I got to see some pictures on Facebook of the event.

But, um, 20 years? Really? I've really been out of high school for twenty years? How is that possible as I'm only 27? (I think this is the age I'll feel like forever.) Getting older is weird.

And yes, I am currently sporting the exact same hair and the exact same earrings, thankyouverymuch.

Monday, June 15, 2015


Having surgery is funny. Not really, of course, but funny in that strange way. People have very strong feelings about it, and so it's not something I like to just tell people about. (But I guess I'm okay with them reading about it? Dumb, I know.) It's not like I'm embarrassed. I'm 99% sure I made the right decision for me. But still.

Anyway, the surgery was two Thursdays ago. It was quick (only about 1.5 hours) and Chuck and I were home before Rhett was even done with school. I was able to get up and walk around the next day and have felt pretty fortunate with the outcome. Immediately upon waking, I could feel the arm pain no longer. Gone. Wahoo! But obviously I had pain from the incision sight (which is right on the front of my neck--sweet). And I've been forced to wear a soft neck collar since. I see the doctor tomorrow and hopefully he'll tell me I can be done with it. I HATE it. I think I must have a short neck because my entire upper body is sore from me constantly trying to elongate the neck over the collar. Blah.

I'm hopeful that come tomorrow I'll feel much closer to the old me. The one that can sleep comfortably (and not like some corpse). The one who can run and not just power walk (which, by the way, I'm totally out of shape for. Who knew?). The one who can be nice to her kids, well, maybe nicer.

P.S. Because it hurt too much, I didn't wear a bra for more than one month. Ha. It was weird putting one back on.

P.P.S. I don't like talking about this. So I'm done. I
do, however, want to talk about how to be a pool mom and our new camper.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Other Things I Should Document #4-7

4. Because we think we'll be in our house for a long time, and because we're mostly over the deathly fear of our kids drowning, this year we became members of our neighborhood pool. The pool opened Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, which was too chilly for swimming. But Monday we were there. And we'll be there as much as possible through Labor Day. The boys will do swim lessons and so hopefully next year Rhett can do swim team. I'm excited!

5. Chuck and I were trying to take a picture of just us for a book my sister was working on. Ollie did not seem to want to make it easy. He kept photobombing and we kept laughing so he kept photobombing! Oh that kid. (See below.)

6. Um, so, yeah, we bought a trailer. I blame my mom, but sadly she won't take financial responsibility. We have to go pick it up over 4th of July weekend, so I can post pictures then. But yeah, we're a bit excited.

7. My parents are going on another mission! This time it's to Frankfurt, Germany. They'll be public affairs missionaries for 18 months. And yes, YES, we will go visit them next summer. We'd go now but thought we'd give them some time to get settled. We're nice like that.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Other Things I Should Document #3

For the past couple of years, I've been lucky to be part of a group of friends who semi-regularly get together for dinner parties. These aren't just normal dinner parties nor were they regular pot luck dinners. No. They took a nod to the Iron Chef of tv fame and were competition dinners. Each hosting couple chose an ingredient (e.g., nutmeg or pistachio) or a method of cooking (e.g., BBQ) and then each attending couple was assigned a course. Everyone then had to make their course to include the special ingredient. At the end of dinner (if we remembered), we voted. Best Use of Ingredient. Best Tasting. Most Visually Appealing. Can you tell that everyone was a winner of something? But of course we were all winners because we all got to hang out with each other and eat good food.

The founding member of our D.C. chapter is moving (and not just moving, but moving halfway around the world) next month, and so our most-recent Iron Chef was one for the books. (But not the last! Not the last!) Tears were shed, pictures were taken, good times were had.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Other Things I Should Document #2

Yep, I got my bike fixed. After years of ignoring it, I was finally inspired by all of Rhett's riding. Of course, I can't ride it in my current condition. However, just because I can't ride doesn't mean Rhett can't. And just because I can't ride doesn't mean I can't run. Rhett can ride, and I can run (albeit slower than my normal slow pace). So Saturday and Monday mornings we did both together. It was one of my favorite mom moments to date.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Other Things I Should Document #1

I have had the opportunity three times in the past eleven days to make my new favorite food: Toasted Coconut Lime Rice Krispie Treats. The first time was for a work function, the second was our Iron Chef, and third was for a Memorial Day BBQ with friends. They are amazing.

Don't worry: I get it. Not everyone likes coconut, lime, or rice krispie treats. In fact, three out of four people in my house don't care for these. But if I'm shopping for ingredients, and I'm making them, then I'm going to do what I want. And what I want is to eat these. So good.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

All's Quiet on the Blog

But it's not all quiet at home. To all ten or so readers of this blog, sorry for being absent for over a week. A couple of weeks ago I herniated a cervical disc. I've pretty much been in constant pain. No, I'm not sure how it happened, although while stretching in bed one morning before a run, I did experience a distinct "POP" in my body and haven't been the same since. The first week after it happened, I was pretty much on self-induced bedrest mainly because I couldn't really do anything else. Then I decided I couldn't live like that and forced myself to get up and do things, even if I was in a huge amount of pain (although steroids did help some). Last week I actually did stuff, but not nearly at my usual functional level. Anyway, when I feel up to it (sitting is the WORST), here are some posts about my ordeal I'd like to write:

1. Lessons Learned
2. What's Really Important
3. How Bad Daytime TV Really Is (with the exception of Judge Judy, but she's not on until 4)
4. How Awesome My Friends Really Are
5. Weird Things I Believe
6. A Depressing Post on Missing Out on a Repeat of This Awesome Girls' Running Weekend

Lots of posts because, you know, bedrest just leaves you alone with your thoughts. Until then, sorry. If you want pictures, you'll just have to check Instagram.

Of course there are other things going on that I should document:
1. My new favorite food, if rice krispie treats count as food
2. I Got My Bike Fixed!
3. Iron Chef
4. The Beginning of Swim Season
5. A Photosession Photobombed by Ollie
6. We Might Buy a Camping Trailer After All!!!
7. My Parents' Mission Call!!!

P.S. For the medically curious, it's the disc between the C6 and C7 vertebrae in my neck.

P.P.S. And yes, good memory you! Chuck also had a herniated disc. He recovered quickly and promptly forgot how terrible it was until I decided I couldn't let him be the only one in the house with that issue. Unfortunately I can't share my MRI with you because I have no idea how to manipulate the software on the CD they gave me. Trust me: it's ugly.

Friday, May 8, 2015

I Need a Good Whistle

Do you remember in "The Sound of Music" how Captain Von Trapp used a whistle to summon his children? I kind of want to do the same thing, except instead of names, I just want to save my voice from repeating the SAME SEVEN THINGS ALL THE TIME. Currently, these are at the top of my "why do I have to repeat myself all the time" list:

1. The house is not a playground.
2. It's after 7:15 p.m. I'm off duty.
3. In our house, you'll learn to eat foods you don't like.
4. Only one boy at a time in the bathroom.
5. Stop bothering Bruno.
6. We don't touch other people's food.
7. Get your clothes out of your mouth.

What about in your house? What whistle short cuts do you need?

As always, it's a good thing that they're cute...

Monday, May 4, 2015

More From Ollie's Lips

In our prayer right before we left to go camping:
Bless us to have a safe drive. Bless us to have safe camping. Bless me to like salmon soon.

On why he doesn't like the song, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow":

After falling down the stairs:
I just fell into a lot of damage.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Things I Made

I love vests. I love wearing them, and I love them for my kids. Rhett has one he's worn for years, but Ollie has been left out. So I remedied that. And YES he did pick out the fabric. How could you tell? From Dana's Flip Vest pattern. (Yes, the same pattern I used for Claire's vest.)

Rhett's teacher just returned from her three-month maternity leave. I made her new daughter this reversible bonnet (from this tutorial on Sew, Mama, Sew)...

...and Rhett helped make this toy. He sat on my lap and worked the presser foot. Ha. (Tutorial also from Sew, Mama, Sew.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What I Fed My Parents

For me, the biggest stress about having visitors is deciding what to feed them. If I was a normal person, this probably wouldn't be a big deal. I'd just serve the pre-planned dinner that is well-balanced and full of side dishes. But this is me I'm writing about it. It ain't that easy. Thank goodness my parents are easy! Or maybe they're just good fakers. Ha. Anyway, we all (at least, I) ate well. Proof:

Thursday: Baked potato soup. I know it seems simple, but it's so good.

Friday: Tacos with black beans and rice (count them: TWO side dishes). We tried some version of Cafe Rio's cilantro-lime rice, but I know it can be better. Does anyone have a recipe they like?

Saturday: We had lunch at Good Stuff Eatery downtown and were pretty much still full at dinner. We ordered five shakes: roasted marshmallow, strawberry, cookies and cream, cherry, and the salted caramel. Thank goodness for my nine-mile run that morning.

Sunday: Chicken cordon bleu (from the Our Best Bites cookbook) and green beans wrapped in bacon. You know the green beans are good if they get my mom cooking (which she did the Sunday after they got home).

Monday: KFC and Taco Bell. Ha. We were headed to the film festival and needed something quick and easy.

Tuesday: These yummy pretzel hot dogs and this pistachio "salad." (I love calling things like this "salad." Oh, and my mom added cottage cheese. You know, to make it healthy.) Those pretzels are just so fun to eat.

Wednesday: For our last night, my parents graciously treated us to a dinner at Matchbox. I convinced them to try the fruit pizza for dessert. This is not your Relief-Society-function fruit pizza, mind you. It's made on a thin pizza crust and topped with mascarpone and berries. Then it's drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I'm pretty sure any homemade attempt would fail miserably. I'm also pretty sure I could have used another nine-mile run that morning.

Monday, April 27, 2015

My Parents Come to Visit!

Sorry, but it's another post with bullet points and lots of pictures. I just love me some bullet points.

Thursday: Day trip to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

Friday: Get car registered, do my calling, Great Falls

Saturday: Library of Congress (the coolest building downtown), lunch at Good Stuff Eatery (with five different shakes), date night at the movies. And yes, that first picture is sooooo classic Ollie.

Sunday: Church

Monday: Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum, Banff Mountain Film Festival at night

Tuesday: Recover from the day before

Wednesday: Memorials downtown plus a quick trip to Arlington Cemetery

Doesn't it just make you all want to come visit us?! You know, stay in our house for free? Go to all the free museums downtown? Yeah, I thought so.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Beautiful Sunday

As Easter Sunday was conference, we waited until the next Sunday to wear the Easter ties. I bribed the boys for pictures, but feel pretty good about that. After church we went to some local gardens and walked around. It was packed, but we still had a lovely day. So happy spring finally decided to come. Now hurry up fall! Haha. Kidding. Mostly.

I picked out these pants for Ollie but when he put them on, we realized they were about three inches too short. So I cut them into shorts because DUH. Boys in little Easter shorts are adorable, right?! After a big fight, Ollie finally kept them on. Seriously. I only intervene with clothing on Sunday. Just give me this one, kid.

Monday, April 20, 2015

I HATE Nature

Obviously I don't hate nature. But obviously I love the Goonies and think of that quote quite frequently. In fact, I've probably even used this for another blog post title. Anyway, I had a super good nature day recently. I was out for a run along my local creek when I saw a heron that is often found there. So I stopped to watch it for a bit. At some point, it started to crouch down and I thought it was going to take off. BUT NO! Its head darted right into the water and came up with a fish! A six-inch (or so) fish! It killed it (strangulation maybe?) and then swallowed it whole. Awesome, right? But even awesomer was that just right after that, it did it again. I saw it do this twice. It was so very cool.

Then later that day the whole family went to some gardens and saw about a billion frogs. And we heard about a billion frogs. And we got a picture of them making their noise with their thingy all puffed. See how much I know about frogs? TONS.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Hoodie Up

Oh, also, while camping I came up with an idea that I'm sure is going to make me a millionaire. You know how you're all beautiful and stuff, so campfire smoke follows you? You know how that's soooo annoying? You know how you keep wishing for something to put in your face, but sadly the hood on your sweatshirt is behind you? I had this genius idea to wear my sweatshirt backwards. That way, as soon as the smoke remembered how beautiful I was, I was ready! I convinced the boys to do the same. So each time the wind shifted, one of us yelled, "HOODIE UP!" and we were ready. Saved from the smoke! And seeing as though I can't find that anyone else has invented this, I'm sure it will bring me millions of dollars. Because it was awesome.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Maryland State Park #11: Swallow Falls

Friday morning, we woke up at Herrington Manor, hung out for a bit, and then packed up the car. Which, thanks to sleeping in cabins, was pretty easy. Because we were still battling rain and we couldn't yet check into our other cabin, we found a nature center at another park (one we'll have to come back for) and spent the morning there. It was perfect. The boys had a great time and we were all dry. Then we ate lunch in "town" and by then, the skies were starting to clear and we could check in to our other cabin, in state park #11, Swallow Falls. The cabin there was NOT a full-service cabin. It was basically a tent with bunk beds. But it was a dry tent with bunk beds! That afternoon we took one of the coolest hikes we've done in all the state parks and saw four waterfalls. We got back, did a fire, and tried to go to bed. Worst. Night's. Sleep. Ever. Let's just say a certain seven-year-old was afraid of spiders crawling over him while he was sleeping. But in the morning we woke up, packed up camp, and did the hike again. Then we had to head home. Success!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Maryland State Park #10: Herrington Manor

Four years into our project and we made it to the halfway point! Ten parks down, ten to go.

As last week was Rhett's spring break, we planned to go camping for two nights, kind of a luxury for us church-going people. (Well, church-going people with kids. Without kids, we had no problem skipping church for camping. Ha.) But as we watched the weather reports early in the week, we got more and more anxious about staying in a tent in thunderstorms and lots of rain. So in true "us" fashion, we changed our plans last minute. (Did you catch that? Change plans last minute?! That's not us at all!) Not only did we switch from tents to cabins, but we also switched the park. And not only did we switch from one park to another, we switched from one park to two!

So the first night we went to Herrington Manor State Park. This park is about 1.5 miles from West Virginia, so it's about as far west in Maryland that you can go. We stayed in these lovely full-service cabins, so we're talking beds with mattresses, full kitchen, dining table, loft area with the boys' beds, wood stove...the whole deal. It was awesome. We got there Thursday and after the boys drove us sufficiently crazy inside, we headed out. We walked to the lake and watched people fish. We did another hike (helped in part with "hiking power beans" which may or may not have been Nerds jelly beans which may or may not have been delicious) and then ended with time at the playground. Later that afternoon we made a fire and roasted ate plain, unroasted marshmallows. It was a good day. And had I remembered our pillows, it would have been a good night. But judging by the sound of the thunder we heard that night, it was better than the tent alternative.