Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Feature: Caroline's artwork

I'm not the only one in the house who's interested in the weather. Caroline recently completed a block of instruction in school about clouds, so I thought given my post earlier this week, this was a great way to end this last week of school with a Friday Feature on clouds:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It's like Christmas in May - except outdoors, with lots of games, and no presents

FIELD DAY!!! Are there are any other two words in the English language that create more glee and giddiness in the hearts of elementary school kids everywhere? I'm careening toward 40, and to this day, I long for just one more opportunity to play tug o' war, earthball, and round-the-base races with my classmates. Coach Waskowitz, thank you for creating the spectacular funday at the end of the school year for all of us Theiss Tigers!!!

It thrills me no end that three decades later and one state over, field day is alive and well. And - cue the trumpets - today is THE DAY. Caroline and John have been anticipating the fun for months, counting down the days until the outdoor extravaganza. Ready to go to school, 20 minutes early this morning:

Now, as you would expect, things have changed. Somehow, field day is no longer a competition, replete with blue, red and white ribbons for the winners. There is no crowning of the class champion, and you can wear shorts any day of the year, not just that one awesome day in the Houston heat. Word on the street (if the street is our dinner table, that is) indicates there will be cotton candy and face painting, along with the games and races. I was relieved to hear there would be tug o' war - and hold out hope that it isn't some softened, watered down version where everybody wins.

There's a theme for the whole school:

And each class had to choose a tribe name, mascot, and create a flag. John's class name was one of the more creative, and apparently the art teacher did the graphic design work because nothing says kindergarten field day like the Night Zombies mascot with a black flag including a terrifying cartoon zombie:

Caroline's class was a little more sedate, though surprisingly non-politically correct with the whole cowboys and indians thing going on:

Apparently these cowboys and indians are going through a woman's midlife crisis, or are potentially from the 80s, based on the zebra print background.

Ultimately, though, field day is about FUN - it doesn't really matter if the activities at Holcomb are totally different than the activities at Theiss were. They are different than the everyday, classroom routine, and as much as anything else it is a harbinger of the summer fun just over the precipice of the last day of school.

Let the wild rumpus START!!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My rainbow - and thunderstorm, heat wave, passing showers, and partly cloudy - connection

I admit it - I'm obsessed with the weather. I watch the Weather Channel almost as much as I watch ESPN. I always say that I should have been a weatherman, but there was too much chemistry involved.

It hit me as I listened to Maria LaRosa talk about severe storms in Iowa and Dr. Forbes talk about the chance of severe storms in Texas and Oklahoma today that I don't just have a practical interest in the weather so that I can figure out what to wear to work, and it isn't just a scientific interest in how weather works. 

I realized: the weather keeps me connected to my friends and family all over the United States. It helps me remember all of the great places I've lived and the fun places I've visited. 

The West Point experience is not just about tactics and strategy, weapons systems and uniforms, or beating Navy and Air Force. It is very much about the men and women you spend four years with, forging bonds through the unique education the Academy affords. We came from all over the U.S., and all of these years later, we have scattered back to all regions of this nation, serving in and out of uniform. 

When I saw a snowstorm on the map near Denver, I would wonder how Keith was, or if he was even at Ft. Carson at the moment. Torrential rain in NYC summoned images of Jason on his way to his job on Wall Street, dealing with hailing a cab in a downpour. A heat wave in Kansas invokes feelings of empathy for those stationed at Ft. Leavenworth walking to and from class, and for Anne on her long training rides in the Kansas summer. 

I equate summer temperatures soaring into triple digits in Las Vegas with the extraordinary life Leslie lives - though whether she's home or jet setting for work, I never am quite sure. An approaching hurricane in the Gulf prompts phone calls home to see if my parents or sister are worried, and winter storm warnings in New England tell me that my father in law will likely have the snow thrower ready to go. 

My friends at work laugh about how I can recite the forecast on most days, and I admit my keen interest in the local weather mostly comes from needing to know whether I can run outside the next morning, or what days I can ride my bike to work that week. But we all talk about the weather, I think, essentially for the same reason. Weather connects us, whether we're down the street or across the nation. Warm or cold, windy or calm, at the end of the day, we are all connected by it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Prelude to summer: our Memorial Day weekend

As veterans, Justin and I are both keenly aware that Memorial Day weekend is more than just another weekend to grill out and have a day off from work. We think of all of our friends and classmates who have served, especially the six we have lost in Iraq and Afghanistan since we graduated sixteen years ago. But we also recognize that the blessings we have as Americans - not the least of which is having young men and women voluntarily wearing their country's uniform - include allowing Memorial Day weekend to be that gateway to days of sunshine and relaxation; vacation and play.

This weekend started out on the wrong foot for me, quite literally - I sprained my ankle when a vicious rock jumped out in the middle of the road, directly under my foot. So much for my anticipated 14 mile run to kick off the weekend right. With my mobility significantly limited, our plans changed a bit - no hike in the park, no riding bikes. But we managed to find fun, anyway. 

Saturday morning, breakfast with Jim Gaffigan:

My kids can recite various Hot Pockets and McDonald's routines. Hilarious.

Unbelievable sunny weather for most of the weekend. We took advantage by spending as much of it outdoors as we could, whether it was at our house or at the park, playing or working:

All that playing can wear a kid out:

I think he's dreaming of all of the summer fun that's just ahead.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Feature: John's artwork

The end of the school year has brought several field trips, including one for John to a farm day. I think this puppet art must have been inspired by that trip. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Who needs a doctor?

In the spirit of capturing the crazy things my kids say... Sunday afternoon car conversation with John:

Mommy: I just can't seem to shake this head cold; I keep blowing my nose and it won't go away!
John: I know how to get rid of it, Mommy.
M: You do? How?
J: Give it to someone you don't like. That's how you get rid of it.

Hmmmmmm... just give it away to someone you don't like. He could be on to something.

Monday, May 20, 2013

To be a Winnah you gotta be a Playah

Generally speaking, I think the lottery is pretty much a tax on fools and hopeless optimists. Sure, it's fun, but I could take that dollar or two and buy a snow cone, and that's fun, too. The lottery has fewer calories, so there's that.

Of course, there are times when we all succumb (admit it, you at least think about it) to the lure of easy money. With the $190 Mega Millions drawing set for last Friday night, and the record setting $600+ million Powerball last Saturday, the office pool here in Fayetteville was hopping. Given that I sit RIGHT NEXT to the person who runs the office pool, it was kind of hard not to get caught up in the hoopla and excitement. So, against my better judgement, I put $1 in for a ticket for Mega Millions, and $2 in for a ticket for Powerball, and chalked it up to "well, it would suck if they actually did win and I was the only one left in the office."

Fast forward to this morning - I walk in the office, and it's business as usual. Everyone is at their desks, typical Monday morning talking about fun stuff they did all weekend; how much fun they had at this; how exhausting it was to go to that. The cubes next to me were all occupied, so I smugly figured, no winner here, and so much for my $3.

My Monday schedule was same old, same old - several meetings, a little bit of time for work, and getting my head on straight for the week ahead. I got a meeting invite from the Lottery Pool Guru, but seeing as how she's also the administrator for my entire business, I didn't think much about it. So off I head for the 11AM, and walk into a conference room to find this on the screen:

Um, wait a minute... somehow I don't think this has anything to do with Charmin or Bounty or Puffs...

Turns out this was our lucky day - everyone who played the Mega Millions pool might be a fool, but for this moment, we were all the KING OF FOOLS!!!! That's us, the first line on the screen!!

Somehow, the computer spit out a big, fat winning ticket:

Now, granted, after taxes and splitting it 70 - that's right, I said seventy - ways, it comes out like this:

You know what, though? That's almost a new pair of running shoes. And for a $1 investment, I'll take it any day.

I kind of wish she had stopped her congratulatory explanation right there, but she shared one more little tidbit. You can see that our  numbers were 12, 15, 35, 43, 49, and the Powerball was 41. The only non-winning number was 12. 

The only number we didn't get?

One digit off. ONE DIGIT. One digit away from $190 million. Which even with the other two winning tickets, taxes, and split 70 ways, would be roughly $450,000 per person.

Guess you can't win 'em all!!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Signs of summer

We decided to go out for dinner tonight, and using a universally accepted practice known as "bribing your children," we told the kids that if they behaved at the restaurant, we would walk next door afterward and get frozen yogurt. The kids were reasonably well behaved, so once the bill was paid, we headed out the door toward Too Cool Frozen Yogurt.

It didn't take me and Justin three steps before we began having promiser's remorse (a first cousin to buyer's remorse). We had at least five different frozen treats in the freezer at home, and it suddenly seemed ridiculous to spend ten more dollars eating dessert out. Every once in a while, I think we must be doing something right as parents, because when we told them we would just go home and they could pick something from what we had, they didn't even argue. Much. 

Lucky for Caroline and John, we love ice cream at our house. I didn't realize the full extent to which we have already prepped for summer treats, but between the inside and outside freezers, our inventory includes:


And since it isn't truly summer yet, with oppressive heat and humidity, tonight is one of those evenings where you can't help but want to be outside. Nothing like swinging with your best friend, eating ice cream, as summer approaches. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday Feature: Mother's Day Card

What mom doesn't love handmade gifts from her kids? The Mothers Day card I got from Caroline, though, is just about the most perfect of all handmade cards of all time, forever and ever, amen.

She gets me, doesn't she?!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It's a brave new world

Conventional wisdom has long held that a generation is thirty years, give or take. I respectfully submit that thanks to the astonishing technological leaps of the last thirty years, a generation now is about five years, or however big the gap is between you and your knowledge of the latest cool gadgetry or available technology.

And just by saying those words, I am clearly not with it. Not hip.

I just spent 45 minutes on a Google Hangout with some West Point classmates, starting our planning for our 20 year reunion. My mind is totally blown. I can remember as a kid thinking, video phone calls, how cool would that be! Well, Larry Page has officially outdone Steve Jobs, if you ask me. 

I wonder what the equivalent of asking my kids to set the time because the clock on the VCR is flashing will be?

Monday, May 13, 2013

You Live Where?: Ride Your Bike to Work Week, Fayetteville Style

Picture me. On a bike. Commuting to work.

Yep, pretty sweet. I can ride my bike to the office in about 30 minutes, almost the entire way on the excellent Fayetteville Trail System.

I've heard of Ride Your Bike to Work Week for several years, but when your commute via car is 50+ minutes, with the vast majority of the miles being Interstate miles, it's a bit of an occupational hazard to try it. Here, of course, it wouldn't take me 50 minutes to drive to work if I detoured along every single side street in town. So this was it - this was my year to finally jump on the bandwagon, reduce my carbon footprint, and burn enough calories to feel absolutely zero guilt when I eat a cupcake for dessert after my Reuben sandwich dinner. Winning.

I already did a couple of practice runs the last two weeks, but the weather has been so crazy - back and forth, warm and cold - I haven't been able to sustain the effort. Those test runs, though, taught me something very valuable - a backpack is not quite big enough for:

  • my iPad
  • my lunch sack
  • my work clothes
  • my shoes (this would be the most difficult puzzle piece to fit - 3" heels don't stack well in a backpack)
  • my straightening iron
  • my hair stuff to fix the helmet head after the ride
So as part of what was an awesome Mother's Day, Justin took a couple of outfits in to the office for me and hung them in the locker room in anticipation of my Monday and Tuesday commute plan. I'm a lucky girl, huh?

So this morning, tomorrow morning, and hopefully again on Friday morning, I plan to walk out the door looking a little bit like this (why yes, that is a Minnie Mouse Thermos for my coffee):

As opposed to my typical, a little bit like this:

Off I go!!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday Feature: Caroline's Artwork

A couple of weeks late, but still a great piece of individual art. Without any prompting from us, Caroline created this for Earth Day. Maybe they talked about it at school, or maybe she heard it on TV. Either way, I thought it was pretty darn creative.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Twelve more years... And counting

I'm worried. Less than one year into his thirteen year public education journey, John began stating on an almost-daily basis that he didn't like school. Not good, buddy. You've got twelve years of this in front of you. 

I LOVED school. I cannot grasp the concept of not waking up every morning ready to sit in class and learn everything I could. I'm pretty sure that on the last day of second grade, I cried because I had to wait three whole months to go back. John? Notsomuch. 

I encourage him every day to tell me what the best part of his day was, to talk about the most fun thing he did at school that day. Inevitably, the answer is recess, or PE, or on a really tough day, lunch. Lunch. Seriously??

So this morning while I was getting ready, and I got my regular visit from John to say good morning, I asked him what would make today a fun day at school. He couldn't think of anything, so I prompted him with, how about math? You're really good at it, and you like it. He shook his head, and said no - it's not that fun, because it's too easy. He said his favorite days were when he got to play on the iPad during centers, or the computer during library. 

I persisted, of course. I am only half joking when I say my kids can be anything they want to be, as long as it's a scientist or an engineer. So I started back with the math. Math is really important, I said. In fact, I use math every single day, almost all day long. 

John was dumbfounded. What kind of math, Mommy?

I launch into my typical too-much-for-a-six-year-old explanation about retail prices, how much things cost, how my customer makes money, how I have to figure out dollars and percents. John looked serious, and said, do you have to use a calculator, Mommy? Because money is usually big numbers, and you need a calculator for that.

As a matter of fact I do, buddy. 

Seeing a slight glimmer of interest, I went on, explaining that I also get to use the computer to do math, and that's when it hit me - John is into computers. John is into video games. Programming is math, and science, and logic. So with the (lack of) wealth of knowledge I have about programming, I tell John, did you know there are people whose whole job is to create video games? They use math, and numbers, and have to solve problems to make the games that you play on the computer!

Bingo. Eyes wide as dinner plates. 

I felt the tiny little triumph of figuring out a small way to motivate my son. I'm not sure he'll ever know anything about writing software or creating programs, but if it stimulates at least a little bit of interest in school, than I'll leverage that for everything it's worth. 

Who knows - someday, Angry Birds John John could be the Next Big Thing. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The best part of my day

I admit it - many days I think that my workout is the best part of my day. Really really, though, I just can't beat the moment on the days when I pull into the driveway and my kids are outside playing. Maybe it's nostalgia, maybe it's jealousy, maybe it's just the mom-satisfaction of seeing your kids playing together, but there's no doubt that I love seeing them out in the sun, having a great time. 

It struck me today when I saw what they were doing that the essence of play is timeless. My brother, sister and I spent hours playing Hot Wheels outside, making cities in the flower beds; imagining danger and intrigue; providing thrills and excitement for the objects of our play. 

Caroline and John added the element of sidewalk chalk to take it up a notch. The robot spider is clearly a villain to be reckoned with. 


I may be missing my chance to develop the next Major League ace or diva for the Metropolitan Opera, but that's okay. I think my kids are having a good time, anyway. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Celebrate - it's John's birthday!!

Coming home - 2007
Bathtub baby - 2007
Yesterday was John's birthday. I blinked, and all of a sudden my baby - no wait, toddler - no wait, my little boy - was six. He promises me that no matter what, he'll always be my baby, and I am sure I'll embarrass him with that on multiple occasions in the future.

1st birthday - 2008
John is my super-affectionate kid. All of the pictures he draws of us together, we're always holding hands. Lately, when I sing him his bedtime song, he snakes his little hand out from under the covers and intertwines his fingers with mine. He's always the one that will sit in my lap and just let me love on him. I dread the day he's too big for that; for now, though, he still holds my hand in public; gives me hugs just because; and lets me give him a million billion kisses without complaining.
Silly John - December 2008

Hard to believe that six years has already gone by. I love that little boy, just like I loved the infant and the toddler, and just like I know I will love the teenager, the young man, and the adult he will become.

2nd birthday - 2009
meeting Cookie Monster - July 2009
Crazy about Thomas - 3rd birthday - 2010
Halloween 2010
4th birthday - 2011
Christmas 2011

5th birthday - 2012

First day of Kindergarten - 2012
6th birthday!!
Someday he'll be all grown up. For now, though, here's to the year ahead, and the joy of being six years old!!