Thursday, March 5, 2015

Snow Daze

We've had a lot of snow/ice/cold days this winter, just like last year. Here it is, March 5th, and it's another snow day. I think I can speak for everyone in the Northern Virginia/ DC area when I say we are over the snow and ready for spring. I'm sick of dressing up the boys to go out into the snow and cleaning up all their saturated snow clothes, so today I brought snow in to them. We made a snow scene and volcanoes in a plastic bin in the living room. There were shrieks of laughter as the boys delighted in the utter destruction of their dinosaurs and other little toys...which kind of bothers me, but I think it's a boy thing. Here are pictures.


Clark puts baking soda in cups and bottles.

Burying the cups in the snow

Setting the scene with dinosaurs, astronauts, Spiderman, tropical fish, etc.

The scene-setting lasted for around 45 minutes as there were
numerous attacks, avalanches, fights...

astronauts snowboarding down mountains...

Mountain reconstruction

A dinosaur sneaking up on a snowboarding astronaut

Explorers too near the mouth of the volcano

Fish in a pond
As vinegar is poured into the food coloring and baking soda,
explorers are overcome by bubbling lava!

Destruction is everywhere!

No one can escape.

Some are completely buried alive.

Subsequent eruptions abounded.

Tragedy was widespread.

Explosions caused avalanches that resulted in more casualties.
As the dust settled...

More eruptions began!

After cleaning up the pieces they mixed the colors in the snow.

And T-bird helped clean up the little toys in a bucket of fresh snow.

Friday, January 23, 2015

On Second Thought...

Brian and I have plans for the future. There's a good chance that all won't go quite as planned, but one of our plans is that I will return to teaching when Teddy goes to school in a few years. I'd like to say our future plans also include things like early retirement in a downtown luxury loft with season tickets to the Nats and lots of exotically-named margaritas on white sand by a glassy-green ocean, but who's to say.

I have four and a half years of experience teaching English in middle and high schools, but not a master's degree. A few months ago I researched a graduate program at the closest university in something that I have recently become interested in learning more about-- reading and literacy. I loved teaching the boys to read over the past few years, even though I didn't really know what I was doing. It was challenging and super rewarding and big to see the wheels turn and everything click into place as they slowly read their first word and then first sentence and then first book. All of the sudden they were finishing their summer reading programs at the library and becoming some of the best readers in their kindergarten class.

I don't know much about teaching reading, (Though this is the book I used and highly recommend.) and am curious to know more and to help other little kids learn to read. I also know that I'll get paid more if I have my master's when I go back to teaching. Starting the program seemed like the right thing to do for my family-- like the responsible thing to do. Make more money. To help a little more in finally being able to buy a bigger place to live without giving up all our conveniences that are so important to our lifestyle.

So I applied. I got accepted. I enrolled in my first class. I activated my student accounts. And then I went to orientation.

The program is more credits than I realized. It lasts longer than I realized. It includes five education classes. FIVE. All the literacy classes sound super interesting and challenging and fun but reading the descriptions of the education classes made me cringe. That's when I remembered: I HATE EDUCATION CLASSES. I mean, for the most part.

We found out anecdotally things I should have researched before applying to the program-- things like what a reading specialist's job is actually like (more paperwork, less time with kids, we were told) and the pay scale they are on in our county (same as teachers). We added up the credits and costs and the inevitable stress that I would have which would not only make me more prone to seizures, but most likely make me less of an involved mom, and more of a bitchy, stressy, yelling mom. It would also prevent me from working on the writing project that I've been working on and caressing and yelling at and crying about for nearly five years.

I want to write a book. I've always wanted to. And I'm at least halfway there. One problem is that I haven't integrated time for writing into my daily schedule over the past few years. Another problem is that I think what I have might be total crap. But I still want to finish it, minimize the crap, and make it something I'm proud of and see what editors and publishers think of it. I'm thankful for a husband who is so supportive and encouraging of my writing endeavors, but specifically this one.

I had been excited about the literacy program. I'd been excited about going to school again for something that interested me. But after I finally made the decision to withdraw, I felt an immense peace. It is peace I didn't expect I would feel and one that has been pushing me to write and write and write on my book lately. I even made a big map of my story on the wall of our bedroom-- chapter by chapter. This matters to me and makes me so much more happy than being elbows-deep in education classes and spending more time away from my boys and husband. So, on second thought, I'm out.

Maybe in a few years it will be time for me to go back to school for a master's. Or maybe never. But now it is time to finish the project I started five years ago.

Just for fun, here is a lovely read for any aspiring writers to give to their parents.

And here is a bonus Teddy picture from yesterday.



Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Just Today-- A Gift

This blog is a gift.

It is a gift to family and friends who like to stay caught up on what the boys are doing and saying. It is a gift to random readers who want to know how to make the most of their small spaces or how to make a paper mache astronaut helmet or which DC places to visit or what it's like to have seizures with kids. But honestly, it is mostly a gift to myself.

Every once-in-awhile I will get on here and end up reading an entry I hadn't read for years. Often it is about something I probably would have forgotten about if I hadn't written it down. And that makes me happy.

So many times I am too busy to blog. And sometimes I don't know what to blog about. So right now I will blog about today. Just today.

We woke up to snow! The county made a big blunder and didn't cancel school. There were accidents and kids and parents and teachers in danger all over the roads. A few hours into the school day the county sent an apology email to parents. Oops!

Needless to say, since we live three blocks from the school and walk every day, our trip to school was A HUGE, SNOWY ADVENTURE!!! As we were walking in the falling snow to school, Cal boisterously declared today to be, "the best day of all my whole 5 year-old life!" He and Clark dashed around touching, throwing, and tasting the snow. They tackled and dove and slid and twirled and fell. They shrieked about what things like electrical boxes looked like under the snow, and how smooth and white it all was. They loved the snow in their eyes and on their hoods and how it stung their wrists in between their gloves and coats. They stomped their feet along the big mats laid inside the school doors and headed to class with a bunch of other excited kids covered in puffy coats and hats.

BEST DAY OF THEIR LIVES!!

When I got home from dropping the boys off I hung out with Teddy. We read books, he dragged the pantry snacks all over the house while grunting at me, we vacuumed-- me with the vacuum and he pushing a red mini hockey stick like a vacuum--, he tried to eat the toy excavator, we danced to "Dancing Queen" on Pandora, I did some laundry and dishes, he put my shoes on. Once I went to my bedroom for something and came out to find this on the table:



I had absentmindedly not pushed my chair in and he had immediately and deftly climbed up to the Cheerios.

In the afternoon we walked to get the boys, who were just as jubilant about the snow as they had been in the morning. It took us a long while to get home.

After-school snow football

And Cal says...still the best day ever!!
When we got home I gave Teddy a fast snack and the boys put on all their snow gear. Brian got home and we all five headed out to try their new snow tubes on a hill in our neighborhood.

That black line in the distance...a creek at the bottom of the hill!

Cal is off!

Teddy supervising
Faces covered in snow every time-- they loved it
Yep. Still Cal's best day.
We came back home, where we dumped a ton of wet clothes on the entryway floor. For a minute I thought I'd allowed Teddy's tiny toes to get frostbitten, but it was (mostly) my imagination.

I finished dinner and Brian made a fire in the fireplace. The boys were still coming down off their snow high while they (tried to) practice piano. And of course one of them needed to check the fire every few minutes in case Dad needed any help. Then we had dinner. Guess what we had?







Yes, meatballs with marinara.

After dinner, I bathed a messy Teddy, Brian helped Clark on the piano, and Calvin started writing a story. He really wants to use our stapler so he's writing a book with a bunch of pages so he can use it. I found page  one on the table after he went to bed:


Translation: "Once upon a time there was a dinosaur named Emalyn."

I love my little authors and illustrators. I don't think an English teacher mom could ask for better, more exuberant writers. I look forward to reading about the adventures of the dinosaur named Emalyn.

And, what better way to end the day than by sharing a sleeping bag by the fire?



I love boys and I love childhood, where everything is exciting. I love my little life where today is just a day, but never just another day.

They don't seem like much now, but years from now when I read this entry, these little things we did today and funny things these wonderful boys said will seem like little miracles-- like little gifts.

10th Annual Gingerbread Party!

This Christmas we had our biggest ever gingerbread party. It's the 10th year that we've put it on, and it's always a HUGE amount of work, but worth it in the end to see so many friends who are able to make it a part of their family Christmas traditions. We ended up with 74 guests-- nearly maxing out the capacity of our condo clubhouse. I believe it is 75.

I have to admit that this year during preparation there were grumbles and rumbles between Brian and me of it being the last year. Maybe we should go out with a bang-- ten years of this is an accomplishment! But as always, when it is over and we sit in our house with dried icing and crumbs of gingerbread on our clothes and many of our possessions, we throw back leftover egg nog and talk about how awesome our friends are and that we're happy to be able to do this for them.

This year we had the most help with preparations and clean-up that we've ever had. Brian was able to help some with the baking this year and his mom did almost all the icing, which was amazing. Nearly everyone contributed lunch food, and-- as always-- the candy. This was all super helpful and took away a lot of stress from me.

But as usual it took me the entire weekend before to bake all the gingerbread. The boys are old enough now to want to help, but not old enough to actually be helpful. It makes for a long weekend for us: baking for me, and a ton of shopping and hauling for Brian. The boys run around being nearly neglected the weekend of baking and during the party.

All things considered, though, I think it's safe to say the party will probably happen again next year.

Without further ado, here are some pictures from the preparation and from the party: (If you scroll down to the bottom there are links to all past years.)


Paper towel Santa beard
This is Christmas spirit, folks.
The boys take a break from being neglected/ interrupt me
 Aaaaand, the party:



































And then, a few weeks later I custom-made some gingerbread creations for my nephews who were visiting from Atlanta: the White House, a regular house, and a race car.






I even spent some time to make one myself and to help Cal and Clark make one: 



And made gingerbread people for the boys' teachers' cookie bar at school:


In case you haven't had enough gingerbread pictures here are links to past parties:






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