Five for Friday: The School Edition.

August 28, 2015

Hello, goodbye first week of school. Which: ugh. So many conflicting emotions. Most parents are jumping-up-and-down excited to get their kids out of the house! And while I am rather looking forward to getting back on a schedule after the free-for-all of summer, there are also a lot of changes and minor catastrophes going on with school that is making this week not my favorite. All of these could be posts on their own, but to recap our school adventures, here are the biggies:

1. The girls are in different schools for the first time since Bee started kindergarten and I am not a fan. I like the idea of Bee and Gracie looking out for each other if something were to happen. I like the singular drop-off and pick-up. I like being reasonably sure that between the two backpacks and different sets of teachers, I’ll get all the necessary notices for events, fundraisers, and all manner of things. But now we have kids in two different districts and the space between them is not only physical, it means different schedules, different days off, different dress codes, even. Chaos. Mass chaos.

2. Managing drop-off and pick-up is a nightmare! Bee’s school opens early at 7:20 a.m. Gracie’s school doesn’t open until 7:45 a.m. Bee needed to be picked up this week at 3 p.m., since After Care doesn’t start until next week. Gracie gets picked up across the city at 3:20 p.m. We’re trying all kinds of different maneuvers, but it’s taking all four parentals to make these crazy schedules work! Thank god our family is all willing to pitch in and go the extra mile for these kiddos.

3. And speaking of After Care, which we desperately need so Stepmom is only picking up one kid during her lunch hour, that godsend almost came crashing down around our ears yesterday. We kept checking Bee’s folders for the notice about orientation; it’s mandatory and space for the program is first-come, first-served. Oh, and last year, the school didn’t tell anyone when it was happening. We were tipped off by a teacher friend and spread the word the day of orientation. So yesterday, when I asked Bee if she had heard anything, she was all, “Oh. Yeah. Apparently, the orientation was last night. So we missed it.” After panicking and checking with the Ex to make sure he hadn’t forgotten to check her folder on Wednesday, I made a few calls and determined Bee’s teacher had never handed out the notices. Thankfully, crisis was averted when my teacher friend offered to work some favors and get Bee a spot if I emailed her the application. Basically, I owe her unicorns and free drinks and, quite possibly, Bee-girl herself.

4. Not to be undone on the drama front, Gracie-girl came to me Tuesday night and begged me not to make her transfer and start over again if her School of Choice application came through. I understood: she had started a new school and made a few friends right away and became buddies with the librarian and liked her teachers and had a crush on someone already. What 11-year-old girl wouldn’t want to stay put? Of course then Gracie got into the school that her dad really wanted, and Gracie relented, and so it came to be that Gracie started a second brand new school in five days. I’m glad there wasn’t a showdown because I wouldn’t have forced Gracie to transfer if she didn’t want to – why raise her to be independent and mature if we’re not going to honor her choices? – but I think it’s completely unrealistic of the schools to ask families to make a decision by the end of the school day. Uncool.

5. Finally, there’s the Great School Lunch Mess. Both girls, to their delight, have been taking their lunches from home this week. They begged and begged last year to be allowed, but supervising the packing of the lunches on top of homework, reading out loud, showers, dinner, and all manner of things was one thing to much for this mama. Buying hot lunches from school was an easy fix to scratch one item from the list, and so it was decreed. But because Gracie didn’t know the logistics of how to buy lunch (don’t you think that info should have been provided?!), she’s been brown-bagging it. I let Bee do the same in order to subvert any notions of a coup. When Gracie came home in raptures over the real! food! they offered in the cafeteria, I quickly set up her account with the money management Web site her school district uses. Thankfully, it’s the same system at her new school. She can go back to hot lunches next week. Bee, on the other hand. Good lord. So our school has used a certain money management Web site the entire time we’ve been there. It works great. But apparently over the summer, they switched vendors. When I tried to log-in to see how much money was left over in Bee’s account, and investigate whether I could get them to roll Gracie’s balance into Bee’s or refund it, my log-in didn’t work. Even though it was supposed to. I sent the log-in reset request like I was supposed to – nothing happened. The instructions mentioned that if no email was received in 30 minutes, to try again, I did that. Still nothing. So then I emailed customer support, as instructed. 48 hours later, still nothing. I get that there are probably system-wide log-in failures going on, but way to fail, you guys. And nothing has been communicated about the transition or expectations. So. There’s that to untangle, too.

First week of school, I am very, very glad you are about to come to an end.

One small step for Mom and Dad; one giant leap for Gracie.

August 27, 2015

“There’s no way she needs a phone before junior high.” Famous last words at Casa de Katie. Gracie struck out for 6th grade (which, in some parts around here is when junior high starts) this week, though, and suddenly the rule was being revisited.

A lot of things weren’t changing: Gracie was going to be in an elementary school setting; she wasn’t walking home; she was in a generally safe and familiar area close(ish) to where her dad and I and Stepmom all work. But some things had changed: she was going to be dropped off in the mornings close to school, but not at the school’s doors. Yes, it was without spitting distance, and yes, there were a lot of kids she was walking with, and yes there is a crossing guard, and yes we could watch her until she walked into the building. She was also going to be a car rider, waiting around outside (with kids and teachers and stuff) until she was collected. No one would leave her unattended, but…still. She’s on her own at a new school. And while Gracie isn’t shy about asking for help, she¬†is rather confident in her ability to hang in the deep end without needing help.

So her dad thought it would be a good idea if he gave Gracie his old phone when he upgraded. And I didn’t disagree if the cost wasn’t unmanageable. Twenty bucks a month (each) meant we could have greater peace of mind. If Gracie wants to join school clubs or orchestra or go to a friend’s house, she has ways to get in touch with us when she’s ready for a ride home or her plans change. You don’t realize how often you rely on your Honors kid wheedling phone time out of the office staff who have been her friends since she was five-years-old until it’s suddenly gone!

There are rules, of course. Especially given the “my child will never…” feelings that were going on just a few weeks ago. Having her own cell phone is a great way for Gracie to learn about responsibility and how to be a person connected to the world in so many potentially dangerous ways. For instance, the cell phone’s purpose is to keep her connected to her parentals for emergency communication, not for chatting with friends. She’s allowed to call us. Except for emergencies, she’s allowed to text only us. And, as we quickly corrected, it’s fine to chat with us after school or once in awhile to check in (let’s promote the bonding while she still wants to, after all), but texting me from her bedroom when I’m ten feet away in the kitchen is maybe taking it a bit far. We reminded her that we can see every text and every web site she opens. And while she’ll eventually learn ways around that, I’m sure, for now the belief that Parents Are Watching is enough. We hope.

It’s a tiny step forward for my baby girl. It’s an opportunity for her to learn how to grown-up…and for us, too. Don’t think we aren’t mindful of the fact that Bee and the Xman are following right behind her; we plan to shake out all the kinks with Gracie-girl, then reapply as necessary. There will be mistakes. We’ll learn to stop caring about all the selfies. She’ll learn a few things the hard way, I’m sure. The contract we made her sign about acceptable behavior will be trotted out as a reminder from time to time. As a whole, though, I feel okay. I like knowing she’s reachable, even if it’s an illusion. I like knowing she has a safety net.

But mostly I’m sitting here going – great googly moogly, I’m the mama to a person old enough to have her own cell phone. How in the world did that happen?

Princess Bride Legos: The Battle of Wits Has Begun.

August 26, 2015

Because all of us might be feeling a little bit of ohmygoshisthefirstweekofschoolevergoingtoend already, I bring you: another installment of Princess Bride Legos! Courtesy of the Mad Madam Mim Kim, of course.

Today, we join The Man in Black in his Battle of Wits with Vizzini. Does he dare match wits with the mad Sicilian when death is on the line? Inconceivable!

PB13<Cue jaunty theme music>

PB14

“So – it is down to you, and it is down to me.”

PB12If you wish her dead, by all means – keep moving forward.”
“Let me explain.”
“There’s nothing to explain. You are trying to kidnap what I have rightfully stolen.”

PB15Perhaps an arrangement can be reached?”
“There will be no arrangement…and you’re killing her.”

“Let me put it this way: Have you ever heard of Plato? Aristotle? Socrates?”
“Yes.”
“Morons.”
“Really? In that case, I challenge you to a battle of wits.”
“For the Princess?”
The Man in Black nods.
“To the death!?”
The Man in Black nods.
“I accept!”

PB16Good. Then pour the wine.

PB17Inhale this – but do not touch.”
“I smell nothing.”
“What you do not smell is called Iocaine powder.

PB18“All right. Where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right… and who is dead.”
“But it’s so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.”
“You’ve made your decision then?”
“Not remotely. Because iocane comes from Australia, as everyone knows, and Australia is entirely peopled with criminals, and criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.”
“Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.”
“Wait till I get going! Now, where was I?”
“Australia.”
“Yes, Australia. And you must have suspected I would have known the powder’s origin, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.”
“You’re just stalling now.”
“You’d like to think that, wouldn’t you? You’ve beaten my giant, which means you’re exceptionally strong, so you could’ve put the poison in your own goblet, trusting on your strength to save you, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But, you’ve also bested my Spaniard, which means you must have studied, and in studying you must have learned that man is mortal, so you would have put the poison as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.”
“You’re trying to trick me into giving away something. It won’t work.”
“IT HAS WORKED! YOU’VE GIVEN EVERYTHING AWAY! I KNOW WHERE THE POISON IS!”
“Then make your choice.”
I will, and I choose – What in the world can that be?”

PB19
“You guessed wrong.”
“You only think I guessed wrong! That’s what’s so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” – but only slightly less well-known is this: “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line”! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha…
….”

PB20

“….”

PB21And to think, all that time it was your cup that was poisoned.”
“They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.

Annnnnnnd end scene! The Man in Black goes off, not to be trifled with, and Prince Humperdink shows up on the tops of the Cliffs of Insanity where we learn Inigo has survived and run off. And if that little bit of fun doesn’t make you want to cue up the rest of the movie, well then God, Jed, I don’t even want to know you.

Proving really nice frames can make anything look fancy.

August 25, 2015

Last year for my birthday – and I mean last year as in 2014, not 2015 – Kim bought me a bunch of fancypants frames to do a gallery wall in my kitchen. We hemmed and hawed about what kinds of photos to put in them: black and white photos of the girls, the previous year’s Christmas photo shoot, family pics, pictures and knick-knacks that were thematically grouped around the idea of mischief… We plotted and planned so much, in fact, that nothing ever got done. Kim left and the frames were stacked on top of the fridge, where they gathered dust for the next many months.

At Christmas, Kim pulled the frames down and we went through the same dilemma. What to put in the frames? Kim’s frustration grew, but she funneled it into at least making paper tracings of the frames so we could tack those on the wall to see what we liked. And then we got busy with Christmas stuff and other projects, and so when Kim left the frames were stacked back on top of the fridge, where they gathered dust for many more months.

When Kim and I got back home after my trip to Mass. a few weeks ago, we both chorused rather strongly that we were putting up the damn frames. The paper tracings came out, Kim arranged them on the wall, and I approved the layout. And one Saturday afternoon, instead of prepping for the informal party we were throwing, Kim and I sat down and poured through scrapbook paper to use as temporary “photos” until I got off my kiester and ordered some prints. (To be fair, I did have a few photos picked out, but none of them were blown up to the correct size.)

In the end, we liked the paper we picked out so much, we both agreed that it might stay in the frames on purpose. It did look rather awesome and, dare I say it?, grown-up-ish.

GalleryWall GalleryWall2

The Dark Tower-inspired key theme is a plus, and punctuation marks are always welcome, but I can’t help thinking that a little less subtle mischief theme would play so well at Casa de Katie. Maybe one day.

First day flutters.

August 24, 2015

They’re gone.

Bee-girl got out of the car first, clutching the bag of school supplies that wouldn’t fit in her backpack in one hand, and her lunch in the other, scurrying across the street to stand with a group of friends while she waited for the school to open its doors for the early crowd. She’s so excited to start school that she’s can’t hardly stand still. She’s excited to see her bestie who travels Far Away for the entire summer, visiting her dad; she’s excited because she has the most wicked awesome set of teachers this year; she’s excited because she wants to learn All The Maths so she can learn computers and build a time travel machine because no one has done that yet, by god.

Gracie-girl climbed out of the car at her dad’s house, nervous and excited to start her new adventure at a new school, in a new district, with an entirely new set of potential friends. She’s nervous, but feeling all grown-up. She’s excited about not having to wear uniforms this year; she’s excited about having a her very own phone for emergencies or for texting her dad or I; she’s excited about having met the librarian on Meet the Teacher night and the possibility of joining the orchestra and that her teacher was wearing a Hogwarts lanyard.

I, honestly, am not quite as excited as the girls. It’s the first year Gracie and Bee are at different schools and I’m feeling the growing pains. It would be so much easier for our schedules if the girls were at the same place, or even had schedules that co-existed a little more happily. All four parental units are contorting our own schedules to make sure the girls get to where they need to be – and even so, it’s taking a bit more trust this year than in years past. I had to ask Bee-girl if she knew any of the students waiting around because I couldn’t sit and wait for the school to open it doors. (I’m sure she was fine and I’m sure the doors opened in just a moment. They were already five minutes late.) Gracie-girl, too, is going to have to be a little more independent, walking the block through congested streets with the rest of the kids who get dropped just short of the School Drop-off Traffic Jam. But that’s why we talk about safety measures and sticking with groups of friends and why Gracie has a phone. We’ve raised the girls to be smart thinkers and excellent grown-ups; now we have to trust them to use the smarts we taught them.

And so here we go! Another school year! We’re going to let all the optimism and promise smother those few squeaky nerves. Fourth grade is going to be amazing, and sixth grade will be an amazing bridge year. We are going to do awesome things! Not the least of which will be making it through this first day.

School

Five (Princess Bride scenes) for Friday.

August 21, 2015

Good morning! Another morning, another crappy night of sleep. But you know what? After 2 1/2 hours, 5 hours of sleep seems so refreshing! Ugh.

In any case, because my sister’s Princess Bride Lego scenes are way too awesome to keep to myself, and because if I keep waiting until I feel awake to put the scenes together we’ll all be waiting forever, and because I may have insider knowledge about more being filmed, I decided to focus today’s Five for Friday on our latest Princess Bride Lego scenes!

Today we bring you: Miracle Max. [This is where I say it’s my favorite part of the movie. You know…like I do at every other part of the movie, too. Meh meh meh.]

PB6“I’ve seen worse.”
“Sir. Sir? We’re in a terrible rush.”
“Don’t rush me, sonny. You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.”

“Where’s that bellows? He probably owes you money.”
“He’s dead. He can’t talk.”
“Wooohoohoo! Look who knows so much!” It just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive; all dead, there’s only one thing you can do.”
“What’s that?”
“Go through his clothes and look for loose change.”

PB10“Hey! Helllloooo in there! Hey what’s so important? What you got here that’s worth living for?
“Truuuuuuue looooooooove.”
“True love! You hear that! There’s no more noble cause than true love!”
“Sonny. True love is the greatest thing in the world. Well, next to MLT – mutton, lettuce, and tomato? But that’s not what he said! Your friend distinctly said ‘Tooooooo blaaaaaaave.'”

PB8“Liar! Liar! Liiiiiiaaaaarrrrrr!”
“Shut up, witch!”
“I’m not your witch, I’m your wife! But after what I heard, I’m not sure I even want to be that any more! True love, Max!”

PB7“What – Humperdink?”
“Aahhhhh!”
“Humperdinnnnk…”
“I’m not listening…”
“Humperdink Humperdink Humperdink!”

PB9“STOP! I make him better, Humperdink suffers?”
“Humiliations galore.”
“Ha ha ha! That is a noble cause. Gimme the 65 – I’m on the job!”

PB5“That’s a chocolate pill?”
“The chocolate coating makes it go down easier. But! You have wait 15 minutes for full potency. And you shouldn’t go in swimming afterwards for what…?”
“An hour.”
“Yeah, an hour.”

PB11“Bye-bye, boys!”
“Have fun storming the castle!”
“Think it’ll work?”
“It’d take a miracle.”

Quote of the Day.

August 20, 2015

I have more Princess Bride Legos, but bless it: I didn’t fall asleep until 3:30 a.m. last night and so I’m finding it hard to focus on saving and captioning them all. Instead, let’s pull out a beauty from this weekend. Otherwise I’ll forget all about it, and it’s cute enough to keep forever.

The scene: The Xman spent the first two hours of the day on Saturday in time-out because he was pitching a fit over getting his nails clipped. He had refused for his mom all week, and wasn’t allowed to watch TV or use the tablet or do anything until he chose to clip his nails. One bad choice led to another, and before you know it: time-out. So there the X-man stood, crying, carrying on, and calling everyone stupid in attempts to get a reaction out of the parents. Who (mostly) weren’t rewarding him with even a glance.

Much, much later in the day, the Xman and I were alone in the living room, conversing over Legos.

Xman: I don’t say bad words.
Me, thinking about that morning, but holding my tongue: Me, either. They can hurt people’s feelings.
Xman: I don’t say “stupid.”
Me: I’m glad you’re not going to say that word anymore. It’s not nice.
Xman: I don’t say “f*ck” either.
Me, eyes REALLY, REALLY wide: That’s a REALLY bad word!!!
Xman, oblivious: Uh huh.
Me, eyes still REALLY, REALLY wide: Even grown-ups don’t say that word.
Xman: I know.

And off he bounced to play, completely – and hopefully permanently unaware – of the ruckus or the hilarity he just caused.

There’s a shortage of perfect Princess Bride Legos in this world…

August 19, 2015

What happens when it’s the last week of summer vacation? Your sister occupies your girls by recreating scenes from The Princess Bride, which we all know is the best movie ever made. First up: Wesley and Buttercup’s reunion.

PB1“There’s a shortage of perfect breasts in this world. It would be a pity to damage yours.”

PB2Ta da! Wesley’s alive! And has come for Buttercup after all. Bee searched through all of the Lego pieces to find the one with the jauntiest smirk and the one with a tiny, tiny pigtail, just like in the movie. I’m such a proud mama.

PB3“Wesley! Oh, Wesley, darling!”

PB4“GENTLY!”

Oh, I was so tickled. I challenge any of you to face even a busted dishwasher, no running water to the kitchen sink, and no earthly idea as to how you’re going to get your daughter home from school and still not be amused by Lego Princess Bride scenes. Inconceivable.

And I can’t even wash my hands of it.

August 18, 2015

Yesterday was not my favorite day.

I decided – rather sillily, as it turns out – to stop procrastinating and look at the girls’ respective schedules for their separate schools to try to figure out how we would manage to get them to and from school. Bee-girl is at the same school and will be fine – once After-Care starts up again, at least. We’ll just put a pin in those two weeks.

Gracie, however, is a whole ‘nother story. Her school doesn’t open until twenty minutes after Bee’s school. And getting them dropped off isn’t even the big issue: that would be how in the world we’re getting Gracie home every afternoon. How ironic that the year she doesn’t strictly need after-care is the first year we can’t get the kid home. The walk home is along a major road through not-the-best neighborhoods, and even if any of the parents were okay with that, there’s the fact that the walk is 1.7 miles long. It’s a new school district, so we don’t know any of the other students or parents, so carpool isn’t an option right now. I work too far away to make it there and back before I would need to leave for the day. We live too close to be eligible for school bussing and the city doesn’t offer city busses. And the after-care program involves bussing kids to way out of our way for pick-up – especially once we remembered we’d have to get her sister, too. So there was the panic over that situation yesterday.

Then I came home to a dishwasher (a brand new dishwasher, mind you) that was refusing to wash dishes. The whore. It’d start just fine, then fill with dirty water and refuse to drain before insisting the dishes were “Clean.” Yeah, no. After much googling, I determined it was either a busted drain pump or a clogged drain hose. I watched a few YouTube videos, fetched some tools (after cursing Jeff for not putting the tools away in their cases), and gouged my knuckles open trying to get the access panel open. Turns out the cork floor gets a bit in the way of things. There’s only just enough clearance. Good luck to the plumber later.

Yes, plumber, because I had a quarter inch clearance and really didn’t feel comfortable with the amount of water coming out of the water line as I was unhooking it, even though I know leftover water is going to leak out a little bit. I had towels ready and everything. And I had turned off both the water under the sink and flipped the breaker to the dishwasher. But whatever. I reconnected everything, turned the water back on, and decided to just do another load of dishes by hand. The second load, because the first load I did by hand thinking the smart dishwasher thought they were already clean because it had gone through a cycle. A very short cycle, but still. Turns out that wasn’t the answer.

It also turned out that I couldn’t wash the dishes by hand. I filled the sink with hot water, washed a handful, rinsed them off and then realized the faucet was operating at only a trickle. What the everloving man?! I turned the on-off valves so many times I had to google which way was “on” again. Then took the washer off the sink. Then gave up.

Meanwhile, Bosch isn’t covering replacement because I don’t have a receipt from purchases; Lowe’s isn’t any help because I didn’t buy the service package; and no one seems to care that the dishwasher is less than a year old. I set the Bosch people up for Thursday because I figured they knew what they were doing. Then the Angie’s List people I’d requested quotes from called back and said they could be there today. Of course, that was before I broke the water, but maybe they can throw that in for free.

I’m really hoping it’s nothing more than a clogged hose. I don’t even care how silly it will be that I couldn’t fix it myself. I tried and decided it was worth paying someone to come mess it up for me. I just want a working faucet so I don’t have to fill the coffee pot from the bathroom again and, if it isn’t too much trouble, a way to do dishes that doesn’t include the hose outside on the patio. Please and thank you.

The brussel sprouts retribution.

August 17, 2015

It’s no secret what a fantastic kid I think Gracie is, and also what a phenomenal grown-up she’s going to be. It’s also no secret that there’s this small flaw Gracie-girl is struggling with on her journey from Preteen Supreme to Badass Woman, one that’s felled thousands of preteens before her: the lying.

Oh, the lying. From whether she’s brushed her teeth to who left the mess in the other room, it doesn’t matter what you’re asking, there are days you can’t get a straight answer out of the girl. I get she’s testing her limits and just being a normal kid. But that doesn’t mean I stand for it, either.

Last night, we were sitting around, trying to make the most out of The Dinner That Wouldn’t Cook Right (we all have ’em, amiright), when Jeff started giving Gracie a hard time. “These are delicious brussel sprouts,” he teased, knowing how picky Gracie is about her veggies. “You should have some.”

“I already had one,” she answered. The grown-ups all caught eyes – or, rather, looked over at me, but I was looking straight at my eleven-year-old. After a full beat, I rather confidently corrected her that no she had not. Then I laid it down: “But since you lied about it, now you’re going to eat one.”

I might have told the girls when they huffed and puffed about chicken and rice for dinner, and then huffed and puffed (and I swear to god, nearly cried) over the fact that they hated their veggie options), that they had to have at least a few string beans. They might not care for string beans, but it’s not on their gag list. They could deal. And maybe when I noticed that neither had any on their plates, I pretended I didn’t notice. I was exhausted, dinner prep had been a disaster, and mostly I just wanted to get through the night and crawl into bed. But lying about eating a brussel sprout? When she had been on the couch all evening until she was literally called to her plate that I prepared? Yeah, no.

The preteen, of course, made a big production of sulking, quietly crying into her hands, and hiding for nearly an hour. When her sister finally finished her mandatory portions of dinner and headed towards the shower, I upped the ante. “If you haven’t eaten that one brussel sprout by the time Bee is done with her shower, you’re going to have to eat three.” And I meant it. I sat and listened to the Xman scream for two hours in time out the morning before; I could do another eight of quietly sitting at the table. But thankfully, The Dramatic One finished just as the bathroom door was popping out again, so no more stare downs.

And hopefully, no more lies for quite awhile.


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