Monday, September 30, 2013

Six Parks Down, Only 14 To Go

I am happy to report that ALL expectations were exceeded! Camping was a success. We slept (Ollie even did in his new sleeping bag), the weather was gorgeous (highs in the low-70s, some clouds but no rain), the kids ate food, and even swam (and the camera survived!)...everything went great. Phew.

This time we went to Point Lookout State Park, in southern Maryland where the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay meet. The Bay side was super choppy and windy and rough, but the Potomac side was calm and nice. And during the Civil War, it was used as a prisoner of war camp (hello disease!) We spent time on both sides, I ran, we visited the nature center, walked some piers, enjoyed a nice campfire, toured a reconstructed fort, and the boys even got in the water. I really enjoyed this park, especially on the off-season.

P.S. Can't decide when/where next trip will be. Hmmmm....

P.P.S. Any bets on whether or not the government shuts down tonight? I don't know if I need to wake up at 5:22 a.m. or not.

Friday, September 27, 2013

This is How Low They Can Go

We are going camping today. I am preparing by lowering my expectations, much lower than they've ever been.

1. We will sleep not at all!
2. The kids will whine about all food served!
3. The weather will be horrible and rainy and we'll be stuck inside the tent...which will fall down on us in the middle of the night!
4. Skunks will spray us!
5. We will fall in the water and the camera will be drowned!
6. The campground will lose our reservation and we'll be stuck on the road!
7. The kids will complain on our entire tenth of a mile hike!

I have to be happy when I'm expecting so little, right?

P.S. I first wrote the above without the exclamation points, but then saw that it needed them.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Top 5 Desired Callings

I know you're not supposed to "want" callings. But c'mon. It's not like I want these for prestige or honor. I just think they're (a) easy or (b) fun! Here are what I consider to be a marriage of both:

1. Finance Clerk. Because this is the numbers-heaviest calling outside of Church Statistician, I have to go with it.
2. Ward Clerk. I don't even really know what a ward clerk does exactly, but I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy it. And pretty sure I'd rock it.
3. Sacrament/Relief Society Bulletin Editor. This is my current calling--score! It requires a bit of computer work and a trip to the church every Friday to make the copies. Then I get to leave the programs on the Bishop's desk...right next to the decreasingly-full jar of candy.
4. Librarian. I get out of Sunday School AND I get to organize stuff?! Win win!
5. Relief Society Teacher. What's better than a Sunday-only calling? A once-every-fourth-Sunday-only calling! I'll take it.

Apparently Activity Day Girls is quite desirable, but I know nothing about it. Are there others I'm missing?

P.S. This job is perfect for me, no? So mad I don't live in Oakland.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Le Weekend

Friday: We decided to surprise the kids with an outdoor dinner of hot dogs and s'mores over the fire pit. And then we were even more fun parents by having a movie night. Aren't we awesome? (Don't worry; it doesn't last.)

Saturday: It was our One-on-One day, and I had Rhett. I decided to take him downtown to the National Book Festival. He made his own book, rode in a stagecoach (not sure how this is "book"-themed, but whatever), played PBSKids games, listened to some authors, and even stood in the rain for an hour to get a book signed. We took advantage of being on the mall and stopped in for a bit at the Natural History museum. I loved that jelly. Chuck took Ollie to a Curious George thing and had a dance party. Good times.

Sunday: But come Sunday, everyone is exhausted. We are simply not nice people by this point. It was not a happy day. But like one of my favorite all-time heroines, I can say that, "tomorrow is another day."

Friday, September 20, 2013

Kindergarten Update

Today concludes Rhett's fourth week in kindergarten. I almost feel like he's a different boy! After we got through the rough week that was filled with tantrums, things have much improved. We're all learning that Rhett needs some "chill out" time when he gets home; he needs a snack and then to either sit and listen to audio books, play on the computer, or watch some TV. The tired kid needs a break. Since we've been giving it to him, our tantrum frequency has greatly reduced.

In other changes, he seems bigger somehow. He was running the other day and his body just seemed to move in a more kid-like manner, rather than toddler or weird as it sounds. But he just seemed smoother. We attribute this to recess (his favorite class) and P.E.

Also, his drawing has improved greatly. This is probably due to the fact that he's actually doing it. He never had much interest in drawing or coloring before, but because it's much of what he does in school, it's getting so much better. I mean, not only did he remember arms (a frequent omission previously), but he got the rain boots and legs and umbrella! All on his own. (This was Tuesday night's homework.)

Finally, this boy who can be sometimes difficult at home, but almost always lovely for others, has continued this at school. He tries, and succeeds, at paying attention, listening, and obeying. He struggles with the kids who are disobeying and just Monday he told me about his new friend who is "just like me." This friend listens and stays on task. Let's just hope this ability to choose good friends continues for, oh, the next 13-17 years!

So far, so good kindergarten!

This just in! When I came home from work on Thursday, I was greeted by an award-winning kindergartner! Rhett was the only one in his class to get an award for "Great job being a leader when working with others." How soon is too soon to start bragging? Oops. Too late.

Before we regret it, I'm already planning our next camping trip: October 18-19. Anyone have that Friday night free and want to join us? We're thinking Tuckahoe this time. And remember, Friday the kids don't have school so you can cross the Bay Bridge during the day with (hopefully) little traffic.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Almost like Childbirth

Remember the last time we went camping? It was a bit hard. But apparently I've forgotten all the associative pain because we're doing it again! Rhett is being released early next Friday so we are taking advantage of that. Start praying for us now because we know I'll need it. Let me know if you want to come and I'll get you the details.

P.S. Totally unrelated: We had a school meeting last night discussing the future of our building. Apparently we're to get a brand new building in time for the 2016-2017 school year. Crazy! Ollie will start kindergarten in the new building. So awesome.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Derek and Renee's Alaskan Wedding

Frequently Asked Questions about my trip:

1. You have a brother?! Yes, I have a brother. He is six years older than I and has lived in Alaska for more than 15 years (currently Valdez). He's a confirmed mountain man who splits his time between skiing (90%) and building log homes (10%). He's only had electricity for a couple of years, but is still without running water. Here's a picture of my sister, my brother, and me. And then a picture of some wood furniture my brother made for a local lodge. Then a picture taken on a walk from my brother's house. This scene is about 1/10th of a mile from his house. Who can claim such beautiful surroundings?!

2. What kind of woman would marry a man like that?! A very cool one. I just met Renee for the first time on this trip, but she's perfect for Derek. We are so happy to have her in our family. Although she has a "luxury home" (you know, one with running water, electricity, and wifi) in town, she's very comfortable at Derek's and plans to spend as much time up there as possible. She's a kind, fun, free-style woman who will be a great partner to my brother.

3. Did you see any bears? Yes! We were lucky to be pointed in the direction of a mama bear and her four cubs. We saw three or four of them over two trips. At one point, we were watching them from the road's edge that dropped down to the creek. I joked that there was probably a bear right there and we had no idea! How wise I was. How completely freaked out I was when that bear appeared.

4. Do people live in igloos? Uh, no. Most have regular houses; my brother is working on his cabin. But there is lots of ice. Although our first couple of days were rainy and we couldn't see anything because of the fog and clouds, when we finally did see them--WOWEE! So many glaciers. Glaciers we couldn't even see (except on maps) were at the tops of all the mountains. It was incredible.

5. What was the wedding like? Picture a granola/hippie wedding in the wilds of Alaska. That's it. It was outside on Derek's property, and all the guests were under tents (thanks rain) or next to the fire pit as the temperature didn't vary much from 50 degrees the entire time. Friends of the happy couple brought yummy food (even pesto with homegrown basil and homemade goat cheese from home-raised goats). Another friend performed the simple, but beautiful, ceremony. Dogs ran amok throughout the whole thing. It was very loose and easy and relaxed. Exactly what their wedding should be.

6. What did you get to see while there? Unfortunately not much. Of course the rain made sight-seeing impossible (unless you want to sightsee clouds) for the first couple of days. We did get to drive through Keystone Canyon multiple times, a canyon famed for ice climbing in the winter and for its many, many waterfalls during the summer. We stopped at Valdez Glacier and saw the water where my new nephew ice skated. I want to go back and kayak there. We saw lots of salmon and a cool little waterfall; Emily and I ran here one morning and then brought the kids back later. We also saw the Wrangell Mountains (from the car) and the Mat-su Valley during its early fall. Unbelievable.

7. How did the littles do? So very well. My Ollie and his little cousin (Lucy) were such great travelers. For the most part, they slept on planes and in the cars when we needed them to. They put up with incredibly long drives after incredibly long flights (probably better than I did). They adjusted to the time (a four-hour difference for my Ollie!) so well; my earliest morning was 6:30 Alaska time--a miracle if you know my boys. They started to fight only at the end, "No Lucy look out Ollie's window." But wow, they were great. Ollie even put up with near-constant licking from Billy.

8. What did Chuck and Rhett do? Chuck worked; Rhett schooled. When we found out the date of the wedding, we thought Chuck was going to be teaching at a brand new school. A teacher can't take off work the second week of school, especially a new teacher at new school. And Rhett had just started kindergarten. So they stayed here. They ate lots of pizza, celebrated Chuck's birthday, saw a magician, played, and played some more. Of course they were bummed to not come, but we still feel it was the right decision. I'd love to go back to Alaska and take the whole family, but I think that it should wait until the kids are old enough and strong enough to enjoy all the outdoor things Alaska has to offer. There's just so much driving up there that I don't think it's right for us now. But when we do go, I think we're going to rent an RV because that would just be awesome.

Friday, September 13, 2013

It's Official

I have now become my mom. Before I left for Alaska, I bought a couple of things for Chuck's birthday since I was going to miss it. I hid the Mike and Ike's in the waffle iron, where I was sure he wouldn't find them. And he didn't...until I asked him to make waffles for dinner last night. When I came home to find the Mike and Ike's on the counter, I asked, "Where did these come from?" So not only did I hide gifts in some wackadoo place, but then I didn't even remember that I did it. You can call me Dixiesdottir. Not that we're Icelandic or anything, I just like the sound of it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pop Quiz

1. Is my cold due to...
(a) being on four planes for who knows how many hours with who knows how many sickies,
(b) losing lots of sleep due to lots of red-eye flights, or
(c) standing in wet, cold Alaska for three days straight?

(The following are free-response.)
2. Where oh where is my camera charger?!?!

3. Will Ollie sleep until we have to leave for school? Answer: YES! I had to wake him at 8:40. This kid (and his mom) is tired.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Thoughts on Kindergarten

You know how when you have your first kid, everyone tells you that it's hard, but they don't quite tell you why? I think a main reason for that is because it's so different for everyone. I'm going through another transition with Rhett starting kindergarten (although not nearly as life-changing as giving birth) and no one warned me about the difficulties. So many things to think and worry about...things I didn't anticipate.

1. I feel like I'm forgetting things all the time. Did we do homework? Did we read? Did we mark it all on the calendar? Did I get his water bottle in his lunch? Did I look in his folder?
2. Sometimes I'm afraid that I'll forget Rhett too! Just forget to pick him up from school and my poor little buddy will be sitting there wondering where I am.
3. Do I really have to pack a lunch every day? And by every day, I mean four days a week, since he gets to pick one day for hot lunch.
4. Just what does the PTA actually do? Do I have to join?
5. So. Much. Paperwork. And all of it requesting the same information.
6. And finally, when (and how) do you teach your kids about matching clothes? Rhett loves to wear striped polos with plaid shorts. Every day.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Laboring Over Labor Day

The library has been driving me crazy. Every time I walk in there, I develop facial tics. So when we were given a weekend with minimal plans, I knew it had to be tackled. So we cleaned, organized, and moved until we were happy. We moved this little table from the library to the kitchen, and I couldn't be happier. Not only can the kids color and draw on it, but they can eat on it too. I believe their eating on it will save the table, because Ollie was single-handedly destroying it with his dirty hands and inability to remain seated during a meal. (I'm sure my sporadic cleaning added nothing to its dirty condition. Nothing.)

To aid in cleaning, I covered it with some laminated cotton. Love this laminated cotton. It smells like my kindergarten lunchbox. Quite apropos, dontcha think? And no, this is not staged. Rhett loves looking at the weather page over his breakfast repast.

I thought this looked happy.

P.S. Rhett LOVES this dinner. I feel like it's my first real Rhett-food victory.

P.P.S. I'm leaving for Alaska tomorrow to attend my brother's wedding. I don't have anything interesting to write anyway, so this space will be quiet until sometime next week. See you!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Kindergarten (again)

Remember when Rhett started kindergarten and it seemed to be going well? I typed too soon. At school, Rhett is doing great. He's staying on "green" ("red" is a trip to the principal's office!), he's earning tickets (for good behavior, presumably), and bringing home exciting work. He's even tried to stop food fights at the cafeteria. (Seriously, kindergartners?! Food fights the very first week?!) But apparently this is exhausting work for a 5.5-year old. It must be because every day the little man comes home just filled with tantrums. Filled. To the brim. Every day this week we've seen the Wrath of Rhett unleashed. It's not pretty, y'all.

But what to do? I mean, he already has a 7:00 o'clock bedtime. Any earlier and he'd never get dinner. And my boys wake with the sun, no matter what black-out shades we use. I guess I could start petitioning the schools for mandatory nap/rest time for kindergartners. But I'm sure in this liberal state of mine, it would be laughed out. "Kids need math! Kids need writing!" they'd say. And a 4:00 o'clock nap? Uh, no. His bedtime would be the same as mine, and we all know how selfish I am with "my" time (besides, he wouldn't be gaining ground on the hours of sleep, just splitting them up).

Do we just wait it out? Will he adjust? Will Chuck and I be forced to put him time out from the second he gets home until bedtime just because we know how horrible he will be? It's been a hard week. I'm ready for a vacation. (Which is awesome because I'm about to get one...if traveling alone on two long-ish plane flights with a two-year-old can ever be called vacation.)

P.S. Ollie is funny. He's learning that sometimes he needs "breaks." The other day we were walking to get Rhett at school, and Ollie informed me, "I need a break, Mom." He sits down on the grass, pants a little bit, and then says, "Okay. I ready." Love this kid. Love both kids. I just want one day of no tears nor tantrums.

P.P.S. Right. Like I'd be happy with one day. I want a life of no tears nor tantrums.

P.P.P.S. Suh-weet. It's September.