Summer Week 9

Day 59 New/Old Job

This picture is not from today.  It’s from the first week of school six years ago.  I’m excited to share that I’ll be returning to this classroom next week after two years as our school’s STREAM Lab teacher.  My year of math specialist courses has left me wishing in a big way that I was teaching math again.  So when this position unexpectedly came open the week before, I asked if I could make the move.  I have learned so many new things in my VCU classes that I need to try out before I try to coach someone else to do them.  I’m going to miss working with students and teachers all over the building, but I’m looking forward to building deep relationships with the 50ish kids that I will teach.

Day 60 Melt Down

I finished my morning run today by reflecting to Ruth about my kids’ recent growth.  I told her about them playing outside the day before.  Twice Bubba came in upset.  He flopped down on the sofa and announced some injustice inflicted on him by his sister or neighbor friend.  But this day was slightly different than the days and weeks before.  First, he hadn’t said the words I have been trying to erase from his vocabulary:  I’m going to tell.  Jay and I have been preaching to him that those words never result in anything good.  Finally it appeared that this message go through to him, and he just came inside when he needed help instead of extending the problem with those four fighting words.  This day was also different because he accepted help.  He calmed down quickly, and we rehearsed how he would communicate what he needed to Chica and his friend.  He went back outside quickly, said his piece, and kept on playing.  This is progress, people.

Well, nothing like an hour-long meltdown the following day to keep you humble in your parenting skills.  We got through it, but it wasn’t pretty.  Here’s a screenshot of a text conversation I had with Ruth in the middle of that mess.  Every mom needs a friend who is a few years ahead on the journey to remind her that she will one day see the other side of the hard parts.




Day 61 Sewing Class





Rachel invited Chica to join her daughter for a sewing class at Sew Simple.  They had a fabulous time and each sewed a tiny cover for a pouch of tissues.  She came home anxious to try something else, so I talked her into working on a stuffed animal pattern I gave her probably two years ago.  She didn’t at all follow the directions, but her finished product is super cute nonetheless.





Day 62 Birthday




My birthday started off great with math nerd gifts from my family.  There was no avoiding homework on my birthday, but friends and a cake pop at the Y made it better.

I spent my birthday evening here with 25 of my closest online grad school friends.  At one point I messaged them something like, “Yikes.  Bad storm here.  My ceiling is leaking.  BRB.”  I rounded up a bunch of trashcans (after calling our custodian in a slight panic….I overreacted) and carried on with class.  Little did I know at that point, however, that there was major flooding happening all over our city.  I had to go the long, long way home because of blocked roads, but I realize that inconvenience is nothing compared to what many people faced.

Day 63 Game Night

It took me over two years to follow my friend’s advice, but I finally made an appointment for a real haircut at a real salon.  I took this super awkward picture on my way home.  Isn’t that what you do when you get a good haircut!?!

What I really wish I had a picture of was game night with our sweet friends from church.  We parent leveled up that night.  Chica entertained their youngest, pretending that she was the babysitter.  The four boys got along beautifully in the basement doing who knows what, and we enjoyed playing games with almost no kid refereeing.  It was glorious.

Day 64 Fun Day

I started the day with 11 soggy, sweaty miles with Ruth.  I promise we weren’t twinning on purpose.  This just seems to be everyone’s favorite tank these days.



Earlier in the week I made a deal with my kids that I was sure they weren’t going to keep.  Except they did, so I had to follow through and take them to FunQuest.  Misery loves company, so I was thankful that Alicia was willing to bring her kids to tag along.  Guess what….it wasn’t all that bad.  Chica actually thanked me without prompting on the way out the door.  Bubba often gets angry when we have to leave something fun and complains with his “worst-day-ever-I-didn’t-have-any-fun” refrain.  This time, instead, he walked out holding my hand, telling me how much fun he had.  My mom heart was happy.

Things I Think I Know at 32

1. More-is-better does not apply to the number of people in a hammock.

2. Humans of New York is one of the most fascinating and beautiful things the Internets have to offer these days.

3. When hosing crap off of a trampoline, there is no good place to stand. Anywhere you stand, it’s coming right back atcha. Gravity fail.

4. Tomatoes are better in the summer.

5. The best way to grow killer pumpkins involves 2 easy steps. First, kick last year’s pumpkin up under the porch. Second, just wait.

6. Bubba won’t be 14 and wearing diapers.

7. I shall never again have a flat(ter) stomach without working at it.

8. Showers at the YMCA are so much easier than baths in our own tub.

9. TV is ok.

10. So is not going into school until your contract says you have to be there.

11. Sometimes the need to go to the bathroom every 5 minutes leads to great things. Like running into a dear old friend who Jesus put there to encourage you.

12. Not every stay at home mom loves her job. (That same dear old friend told me that.)

13. Jay is way better at grocery shopping than me.

14. Uranus is halfway between the sun and Pluto. Just like your anus is halfway between your head and your feet. You’re welcome.

15. The maximum life expectancy of a plant in my house is 1 year.

16. Facebook makes birthdays better.

17. Reindeers are better than people. (Eh…never mind. I’ve never met one, so I’m not actually sure.)

18. Graham crackers make booboos feel better. Bubba just told me that. Chica bought it.

19. If Sallie Mae asks you for a date in mm/dd/yyyy format, she actually means it.

20. Chica will do nearly anything for an icee pop.

21. Moths have fuzzy antennae. Butterflies don’t.

22. More stuff does not equal more happiness. It just means more mess to clean up. Or more to sell at a yard sale later.

23. If you don’t want mosquitoes to bite you, you can just stop breathing because they are attracted to hot air. Chica told me that.

24. Steve Urkel is still funny.

25. It’s ok to wipe eye burgers on your shirt. Bubba told me that.

26. Not every kid likes toothpaste. (As always, Chica didn’t prepare me well for kid #2.)

27. When one is woken up in the middle of the night by a roundhouse kick to the head, the foot of the bed seems like a good place to (temporarily) hide from your pint-sized attacker. But don’t worry, he’ll find you there too.

28. No one needs to buy prom pictures. Especially multiple sheets of them. (What in the world were we thinking??)

29. I’m not any cooler than the mom whose kid poops in the pool. Just luckier.  Or maybe faster.

30. When your kids look at your baby pictures, the toys in the pictures are way more interesting than…well…you.

31. Coming home from a trip with a suitcase full of clean and folded clothes is one of life’s great gifts.

32. There are still a few cool people in this world that do not have a smart phone, including both myself and my delightful lunch date today.

Whadaya know friends?

Life Is Like a Bowl of Cherries (Or Why My Five Year Old is Still Up at 9:17 PM)

This has been one of those weekends. The kind where I spend more time being a mom and less time being a flustered teacher. The kind of weekend that reminds me that my life does in fact boil down to more than grading papers, answering e-mails, and dreaming up some hands-on way to teach about warm fronts and cold fronts. The kind of weekend where there is real joy.

(Chica just said, “I can’t believe I’m up this late.” Me neither, girl. More on this later.)

I learned two years ago that birthday parties are not my forte. I don’t think my family will ever let me live down the fact that I chose not to reserve a picnic shelter for the first warm Saturday in weeks or forgot to put sunscreen on my new baby, even though I sent my mom on a special trip to get it. I also spent waaaaay more money than I had counted on when planning my “simple” party in the park. Sheesh.

Since then my approach to birthdays has been that less is more. So when I asked Chica two weeks ago at the dinner table what she wanted to do for her birthday, I was also gearing up for how to explain my minimalist theory to my almost six-year old. Much to my surprise, her perfectly planned out party was music to my ears:

“Let’s play at the park with our family. And each Papa John’s. And do a scavenger hunt. And maybe you could get four white t-shirts so we could tie-dye.”

Done. Minus in the playing in the park, which would have been no fun in the cold rain, we did just that.

IMG_2415First, while Bubba napped, the girls tie-dyed.  After a few YouTube tutorials, Chica chose her four designs:  a heart, spiral, an X, and sunbursts.  With the help of an early afternoon glass of wine or two, Nana and I suspended our need to make everything just-so, and let Chica (mostly) be in charge of the creative process.  Nana had also bought shirts for the big girls, so we managed to dye three more before we had to stop to entertain Bubba.


The results were great, and Chica wore her favorite one to church this morning.

Next Chica and her one party guest hung out downstairs while Daddy prepared the scavenger hunt and wrapped presents.  We snapped pictures, batted around plastic glove balloons, and played with Christmas presents they had forgotten.


"Split the _____ apart, and break the frozen heart."  Chica found another clue in the freezer.  Bubba found an opportunity to snatch a popsicle.

“Split the _____ apart, and break the frozen heart.” Chica found another clue in the freezer. Bubba just found an opportunity to snatch a popsicle.

Once again the internets came to the rescue of this warn out mom.  Not only did it deliver Kristoff and Anna dolls to my house in less than a week (there were NONE to be had in Lynchburg last weekend!), but it also served up a ready-made scavenger hunt perfect for Chica.  A quick Pinterest search for “Frozen Scavenger Hunt” led me to the site of two not-so-warn-out moms who were kind enough to share.  One of my favorite memories of the weekend has to be Jay singing lines from the movie to help her figure out the clues he had carefully hidden.  I love that guy.

The hunt led her to her pile of gifts on the sofa which she miraculously missed as she was darting back and forth between rooms trying to find each clue.  Her expression when she found it was fantastic. Something tells me six won’t be quite as easy to fool or surprise as five has been.  As you can see, Bubba enjoyed every minute of the present unwrapping.

IMG_2434  IMG_2438

In addition to the dolls she asked for, she also received puzzles, a sign from her Daddy about Hump Day, a sewing kit, fabric and craft supplies from her Mema, clothes from Grandma, and a bow and arrow from Nana and Papa.  I guess we didn’t subscribe completely to the less is more strategy.

IMG_2454While we waited for dinner to arrive, Chica and I hid from little brother in the back bedroom and tried out her sewing kit.  (I think she got the idea to ask for this gift from Beezus and Ramona because Aunt Beatrice gave Beezus her very own sewing kit for her birthday.  Beezus was enamored with it, and after she figured out what it was, Chica was too.)  A few months ago, our friend Miss Peggy from CrossRoads had shown Chica how to make yo-yos with a special yo-yo maker.  Chica picked up right where Peggy’s lesson left off, and she had one made in no time.  Nana and I both tried to help her as she got a little frustrated with sewing it closed at the end, but she insisted on doing it herself.  No surprise there, right?

Dinner was, well, perfect because both children ate willingly.  We all washed pizza down with ice cream and Nana’s yummy and beautiful (thanks Papa!) cake.  Over dinner Chica sincerely reported that this was the, “Best birthday ever!”


After dinner our required 6-8 hours to let the dye set got cut short, as even 3.5 hours seems like an eternity to a five-almost-six year old (and her mama).  So we opened up our banded t-shirts, rinsed them out, admired our handiwork, and put them in the wash.  About that time Bubba had had enough festivities, and it was time to head home, complete with our traditional bribe of gummies to get everyone (again…including Mommy) in the car.

This evening I was still riding the birthday high as I alternated between grading papers and playing with the kiddos.  There were lots of, “Man…this has been such a great weekend!” and, “How did we get such funny kids?” exchanged by Jay and me over dinner.  So while Bubba watched his 34,524,987th episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates, I convinced Chica to join me in sewing lesson #3.

And that is why Chica was up well past 9:30.  Because she was finding so much joy in sewing her straight little stitches on what we decided would be a money bag.  And I was finding so much joy in her joy.  She even exclaimed her most favorite idiom at one point, “Life is a bowl of cherries!”  (No kidding.  The kid has a bizarre fascination with idioms.  I checked a book out from the library about them once, and for some reason, this one really stuck.  No one in our house even likes cherries.  Go figure.)

Yes, she is wearing her Little House on the Prairie dress.  She usually takes after Laura, but today she was Mary, I guess.

Yes, she is wearing her Little House on the Prairie dress. She usually takes after Laura, but today she was Mary, I guess.

So while sometimes life feels like a bag of ungraded papers or unwashed dishes or lesson plans waiting to be written, some days it’s not like that at all.  On those days, I say you ought to stay up late and eek out a few more reasons to be joyful.  Stitch another stitch, read another bedtime story, and write another blog post.  Enjoy those days where life really is a bowl of cherries…

…or better yet, when it’s a bowl of Nana’s strawberry cake.


P.S.  Many thanks to my friend, Lan, whose e-mail this week included just the encouragement I needed to post again when she wrote, “Not to be a total pain in your butt, but I strongly feel it’s time your next post was due.”  She was totally right.  It’s been way too long.




Gifts #38-69

Thirty-one gifts to celebrate my thirty-first birthday:

38. Cucumbers, prickly off the vine.
39. A little boy that is learning to help. Today Bubba helped me sort clothes into a box and a giveaway pile as I pulled them out of the drawer.
40. Skype & FaceTime. I had visited with both my mom and mother-in-law by the end of breakfast today.
41. Birthday wishes from Facebook friends. Just wow.
42. A husband that tells me he still has the hots for me.
43. Birthday cards in the mail. Even one from Jay…that takes some pre-planning. Impressed!
44. Bubba’s, “Hi Mommy,” that skips up a note (or three) at the end.
45. Nights and mornings with just one kid. Thanks Nana!
46. Wal-mart trips that don’t end in tears or great embarrassment.
47. Unexpected mid-morning naps followed by the usual afternoon nap.
48. Catching up with a dear friend after what must have been a year.
49. A happy birthday text from a friend that doesn’t have Facebook.
50. Bubba’s new way with words. Tonight on the way home he said, “Mommy, make it sing,” and pointed to the front of the car. After a few wrong guesses, we realized he meant the radio. Smart kid.
51. Hand-me-down clothes from sweet friends.
52. Summer tomatoes. The only kind worth eating, really.
53. Time and peace to read. I actually sat down and read a bit of a book today. Granted, it was followed very shortly by a few minutes of snoozing, but I did read, nonetheless.
54. Witnessing a friend using her gifts in a big way. Read her post. You’ll be blessed.
55. Chica’s delight as we picked out school supplies. “Is this for me? My OWN glue?!”
56. Leftovers for lunch. I almost took a picture it was so good.
57. The neighbor friend who can always pull Chica away from the TV.
58. Good hair days. Yeah…that was vain. 31 gifts is just a little harder than I thought.
59. God’s timing. He has worked so many things out recently, better than I could have orchestrated myself. I’m trusting that he will do the same for our move at the end of this month.
60. Deer in the front yard.
61. Spying a hummingbird perched on a branch.
62. Neighbors who offer up the leftovers from their thornless blackberry bush.
63. The first twenty minutes after Jay gets home from work. I love those moments of reviewing our day for each other.
64. Bow ties. And one particular man who wears them well. Mmmmm.
65. A weekend full of FUN plans followed by yet another week of no school.
66. Bubba’s talent for lip-syncing. Today it was to some Christmas Barbie toy of Chica’s.
67. The Wal-mart lady who willingly packed my school supplies separately from my groceries.
68. The feeling of peace as I made lunch today. Two months ago I would have used any word other than peace to describe this part of the day.
69: Time to write and be thankful.

Thirty Moments

In celebration of my thirtieth birthday today, I decided to try to collect thirty funny moments from my little family to share with you.  It turns out that Chica is really the only funny one in the family, so all of the following quotes are from her. My commentary has been added in italics below when necessary so you can enjoy the full hilarity of a day in our house.

1.  “I have a lot of snot.  I’m squeezing my nose so I can get it all out.”

2.  “Trucks don’t have ankle bones.”

3.  To me, “Do you know he has one top tooth?”  To Bubba, “You’re really special, Bubba.”

4.  “Can you turn the light off so it can be a movie feeter?”

5.  “My left foot is doing something, and my right foot is doing the same thing.  My left foot doesn’t want my right foot to do the same thing.  What should they do?”  (This is starting to sound like some kind of parable…??)

6.  I suggested her right foot should play Barbies.  She replied, “My right foot doesn’t like to play Barbies.  It’s a boy.”  Next I suggested it should go outside, to which she offered, “It doesn’t like to play outside. It’s gonna get too lazy.”  (I can’t win.)

7.  While snuggling her brother she commented, “He’s so squeezy!”

8.  “Everything is art.”  (Deep, Chica, deep.)

9.  While admiring the patrons in the bank she said, “Most people have great heads.”

10.  “Wouldn’t it be fun if we made a big….giant… humongous…. (I never know quite what to expect after a build up like this)………ice cube??  We could get colored water and put it in a seashell and put it in the freezer.”

11.  “I just like to wiggle a lot.”  (Really?  I never would have guessed!)
12.  “Teasin’ you funny, Mom.”  (This is her attempt to save herself after she’s said something that was a little over the line.  Usually it works.)
13.  After Jay beat a level on his iPad game, she said, “Good job, Dad!  I like that of you.”
Yeah…so….thirty is a whole bunch.  She said plenty more funny things, but I couldn’t write them all down because my hands were full holding a certain someone.  I was going to save my list and add on to it tomorrow, but she gave me such great material during bedtime that I had to use it.  This last one is worth way more than just one entry.

14. through 30.  A few minutes after he put her to bed, Chica got out of bed and tiptoed downstairs to find Jay and says, “I need to talk to you about girls.”


“Why do girls…..well….…boys don’t have….wellllllllll….why do girls have…..”

You can only imagine the question he thought was coming.  He was about to say, “Go ask your mom,” when she finally came out with…

“Why don’t girls always have to wear socks to church?”


Thanks, Chica, for a funny end to an excellent birthday.  I love teasin’ you funny!

© Will Clayton | Flickr Creative Commons
SILVER SLIPPERS © Tobyotter | Flickr Creative Commons

Make You Fall in Love Pasta Salad

Our family is big on food traditions.  Friday nights mean dinner at the Yellow Sub.  Breakfast at Grandma’s house means chocolate covered donuts.  Christmas morning means oyster stew, and any good picnic most definitely needs pasta salad.

Jay’s birthday is next week, and he chose a family trip to Peaks of Otter picnic area tomorrow to celebrate.  Since a picnic means pasta salad, and it just wouldn’t be right for Jay to do all the work for his birthday lunch, I had to make it.  Tonight as I boiled, chopped, and mixed, I couldn’t help but think about how Jay won me over with this pasta salad 9 years ago.

See, I lived a pretty sheltered food life growing up.  When half of your family members refuse to eat all but one fruit or vegetable (and I’m not even exaggerating, folks), there are a pretty limited number of meals that can be served in your house.  I came to college never having tried pretty normal things like pineapple, spinach, mushrooms, Chinese food, and baked beans.

I started dating Jay the summer before my senior year of college.  He had yet to learn that I had some pretty strange and picky eating habits when he planned and prepared a fancy dinner for me one evening.  I’ll never forget his momentary look of disappointment when I told him I wouldn’t be trying his shrimp cocktail that he had slaved over.  (He wants you to know that he double seared the shrimp, and the cocktail sauce was not from a jar.  He was really trying to impress me!)  I say momentary, because then he realized that meant more for him, and he got over it pretty quickly.

Luckily I didn’t hold the shrimp against him, and I gave him another chance to cook for me.  He planned a picnic for us and again prepared everything himself.  He brought us cracked pepper turkey sandwiches and pasta salad.  I can’t say for sure whether or not I had ever had pasta salad before that, but a turkey sandwich was definitely more my speed.  Let’s just say, I think I ate enough pasta salad that day for at least four people.  It was amazing.

There’s that saying about the key to a guy’s heart is through stomach, but I think this has got to be at least partially true for girls too.  He won me over that day in a big way.  The lunch and then a walk down by the train tracks…it was all perfect.  Sure, there are other things he did that summer that made me know he was a keeper like washing my dishes, taking my car to get it fixed, and playing countless hands of cards.  But the memories of that particular picnic are a little less fuzzy than many of the other memories.  That clarity is definitely thanks to the pasta salad.

So, nine years later he still does the dishes, takes care of my car, and makes a mean pasta salad.  I know the bowl I made for tomorrow is nowhere near as good as that first batch, but it has brought up lots of good memories just the same.  Happy Birthday, Jay.

In case there’s somebody that you are trying to get to fall in love with you, here’s the recipe.  Don’t make it unless you are serious about that person because it really works.  It goes best with turkey sandwiches on a paper plate.

Make You Fall in Love Pasta Salad

1 box of mini shell pasta
5 green onions
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 small cucumber
1 bunch of cilantro, stems removed
grape tomatoes
1 Italian dressing seasoning mix pouch
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
apple cider vinegar

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  While it cooks, dice up the onions, peppers, and cucumber.  Chop the cilantro.  Mix the Italian dressing by following the directions on the package with one exception:  use half apple cider vinegar and half balsamic vinegar.  When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and cool it off using cold water and/or ice cubes.  When the pasta is cool, add the chopped vegetables, cilantro, and about ¾ of the Italian dressing.  Mix well.  Add salt to taste.  Refrigerate for a few hours.  Right before serving, cut the tomatoes in half and add them to the pasta.