Already, school year?

September 2, 2015

It’s because I jinxed myself. I wrote yesterday about Bee’s enthusiasm for the school year and how much she was enjoying math. The castle of cards hasn’t exactly crashed to the table, yet, but it sure is wobbling.

It started out as such a good night. It was September 1st, and to celebrate kids everywhere (in our minds) returning to Hogwarts, we popped on one of the Harry Potter movies and snuggled in our pajamas and at pizza on the couch. Then I sent the girlies off to shower afterwards and I started cleaning up a bit and that’s when I made the mistake of taking out Bee’s planner to sign.

I looked over her spelling homework. There wasn’t any name written on it (one of Bee’s repeated offenses – you’d think after so many points being deducted last year, she’d have been cured of that particular habit). And the handwriting was ridiculous: I couldn’t even read half of the sentences. The ones I could read didn’t always make sense. And so I called to my Bee-baby and began the heart-crushing dance of trying to impress upon her how important it is that people in general – and teachers, in particular – be able to read her writing. That she needs to slow down. And that, oh, by the way, she’s really bright and don’t start crying or losing faith, but the sentences aren’t so much sentences.

I hate the school year.

I did my best to help my Bee-girl come up with better sentences without doing the work for her. I tried to keep her spirits up. I cleaned the kitchen and checked the weather and did little chores so I could check on each little bit and generally stay there with her. And then I found the other piece of homework sitting in Bee’s planner and got a “Oh, yeah. I forgot about that one.” from Bee when I asked her about it, and I tried very hard not to lose my cool.

I love my spacey, free-spirited goofy girl so much. I do. I just really, really, really hate the school-year carousel it seems we get stuck on every year.

Quote of the day.

September 1, 2015

The scene: Jeff, Bee and I were sitting at the kitchen table, talking about her day, and somehow everything kept coming back to math. (Perhaps having our family friend and all around favorite person as her math teacher has something to do with that, no?) Bee started talking about jobs and designing airplanes.

Jeff: Maybe you should become a design engineer, Bee.
Bee: Yeah, I want to design airplanes and make them bigger and cooler. I have lots of ideas. Using my math.
<Bee gets this wild, wonderful, evil look in her eye.>
But the boys won’t like it!
Me: Do it anyway, baby girl!

I thought “Construction” was a season only in New England?

August 31, 2015

You’re killing me, Smalls. You and all your construction zones. It is seriously, most seriously, becoming ridiculous.

I have four major construction zones on the way to work. It started with the elevation of the roadway (and tiny bridge over a creek) near the helicopter plant. The area always floods and so finally city management was willing to loosen the purse strings and let DPW do something about it. Unfortunately, halfway through, the bridge they were building failed. I mean, it flippin’ collapsed. Not so much faith in the project now, right? So the crew started over, the project got pushed back for months upon months, and the construction project that will never, ever end looks like it might finally open sometime in the near future. Mind you, this has been going on for over a year. I cannot wait until I not only have two lanes and no more death-merge – even a full-sized lane that doesn’t make me hold my breath that I won’t be hit by on-coming traffic will be nice. We won’t even contemplate whether DFW plans on closing the “old” side of the road to also elevate it once the new side opens. Because nope.

So that’s the first challenge. Then, one day this past spring, I found that after I had run the gauntlet of One-Lane-Death-Bridge, there was a new sign on the side of the road that read “Two right lanes closed ahead.” Which, wth?! There are only two lanes! Turns out, DPW was also widening the podunk little street that runs in front of the fire station at the major intersection. Which – great! Except…more construction. And that more construction spilled onto my road and mean that my two lanes were closed and westbound traffic was forced into one of the eastbound lanes. So: sucky traffic congestion for everyone! I cannot even tell you how many times I nearly lost my life and my vehicle because people don’t want to wait in line and try to zip up the shoulder. A few brave souls position our cars as far over as we can – and some idiots still try to drive through the woods to get around us. It’s insane, you guys.

Then there’s the bridge that washed out during the Floods of May. It was not my favorite bridge to begin with – a fantastically old, crumbling concrete bridge that just happens to be on the intersecting road as Life-Threatening-Lane-Closure project. They had that entire part of the intersection closed for months – you couldn’t even drive northbound through that intersection, but now it’s open despite the construction on the bridge, which is kind of sad because the traffic light cycle has gone back to deathly slow, per usual.

So when the giant backhoe showed up on the hill going to work, you could say I was less than excited. Another lane closure, although there is (for now) very minimal impact to my commute.

I get it, you guys. You have to maintain the infrastructure somehow. Fixing roads and bridges is necessary. But all of them all at once for all of the days and weeks and months ever? GOOD GRIEF!!

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, sheĀ 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>


“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?”
“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?”
“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.”
“Then make your choice.”
I will, and I choose – What in the world can that be?”

“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…



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.


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?”
“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.


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