Sunday, July 20, 2014

28 hours of solitude!

I am in my last 4 hours without my family, and I admit I have loved every minute of this weekend.  Rob took Sophie to a recruiting lacrosse tournament in Richmond.  I didn't want to make the drive since I had been in Richmond a few days ago for a doctor appointment.  Plus I figure there will be many more since she is only 14. 

Sooo, I begged off and stayed home with Percy.  My Saturday was about cycle class, manicure, a hair appointment, TJ Maxx, watching 5 episodes of Girls and going to our cocktail club party. 

This morning I woke up and ran the dog, went to Lowe's to buy a new showerhead, installed said showerhead, did laundry and am now reading my new issue of Garden and Gun.  We are going to a friend's house for dinner tonight, so I am making a blueberry cobbler with some berries we picked last week in Blacksburg.  Someone at the party last night was talking about how the farm uses pesticides and they would NEVER pick there, but I was all like, get over yourself and wash the berries.  Whatever.  Don't need the judgment.

I have been reading up a storm--finished 4 books during our trip to Texas.  Will report on that tomorrow.  Back to quiet before the zoo returns.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


I think I have discovered a potential new job market:  ambush haircuts.  My son and many of his friends are sporting long hair (or "flow" as the lax bros call it), but the mamas aren't wild about it. 

For the third time in a row I have lured Jack downtown for pizza or an ice cream only to stop by the barber on the way.  Last time he was on to me, so today I brought in my reinforcements:  his father.  I had to slow to a stop at the barber, forcibly drag him out of the car and then send in Rob to be a "presence" so he didn't make a break for it like he did the first time my girlfriend and I took the boys "out for frozen yogurt".  Luckily the gal who cuts his hair is very cute and knows how to flatter 10 year old boys.  We topped off the ambush with pizza today at a place that serves ridiculously giant slices.  Everyone was happy.

all's well that ends well

Monday, June 30, 2014

off the grid!

Today's agenda includes cleaning up the dog who has had diarrhea for a few days (gross!!), mountains of laundry, picking up the house a house and a swim meet.  So not the perfect summer day in any regard, but the light at the end of the tunnel is near.  We are flying out super early Wednesday am for West Texas and the 06 Ranch.

Packing won't be too hard--Sophie and I have cowboy boots and she has a real cowboy hat from our last trip.  There is a pool there and if we aren't going on an excursion, we tend to stay in our pj's a lot.
I think we are planning to do Carlsbad Caverns as our big event and the Ft. Davis 5K/10K.  When we were there 4 years ago I ended up winning the whole 5K for women (had to go head to toe with a 12 year old), and was eligible to ride on a float in the 4th of July parade.  I can't remember why we didn't do this, but if by some chance one of us wins the race, we will be all over that.

I am going to leave all electronics behind--and have been weaning myself off of them this week.  It will be a very welcome change!  Bringing lots of books.  I reluctantly started our book club pick for August and don't hate it, which I thought I would.  Who wants to read about Nazis in the summer?
In The Garden of Beasts, Seattle writer Erik Larson has written from the perspective of Americans living in Berlin, and it is through this lens that the reader learns about the rise of Hitler's Germany.

We learn how things unfolded in Berlin from the unique perspective of William Dodd, the down to earth, somewhat unsophisticated newly appointed Ambassador sent to the post that no one wanted.  He brought along his family, and their initially na├»ve responses to their new city and the growing powers of Hitler's regime from his wife and two adult children are most interesting.  I am only 100 pages into this long book, so I can not say how they will change as Hitler takes control.

I am also packing up something on a lighter note, The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman, a book given to me by a friend months ago.  It's set in Australia and tells the tale of a lighthouse keeper and his wife, who discover a shipwrecked boat with a dead man and a living baby.  The wife, who has suffered two miscarriages and one stillbirth, insists that they keep the baby and not report the accident. 

 Jack finished Johnny Tremain so I have to rustle up something for him to bring.  Sophie is reading An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.  She is going to have a serious hard time going cold turkey without wifi. 

Wishing you a happy 4th of July!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Necessity, part 2

When I hit publish on my last post, I knew there was more to the story than meets the eye, but I didn't elaborate.  But after reading Suburban Matron's post yesterday, I can't get the thoughts out of my head, so here you go. 

When you go through cancer, or any other scary major life event, you can't but help to emerge a different person.  I am a girl with a scar on her neck who will take a pill every day for the rest of her life.  I often think I got off easy.  But I do find myself seeing life through a slightly different lens.  It's as if my eye prescription changed, not too drastically, but just enough to require a new pair of glasses. 

I think differently about how I spend my time these days.  What's worth doing and why?  How can I do something meaningful with my time and how can I not squander it?  

Same thing with relationships.  I will never forget the people who helped me get through life last year.  I tried to keep things under wraps for the most part, so not a lot of people knew about my thyroid cancer, but my good friends knew what was going on and they were there taking me to appointments, bringing me meals, sending little gifts, checking in.  My husband who held down the fort.  My sister and sister in law who sent me care packages.  My kids who saw me cry and stayed strong.  They are forever in my heart.  And then there are the family members (on my husband's side, not mine) who didn't bother to communicate at all.  Not even a "hey!  glad you are cancer free!" kind of toss away greeting. Nada.  In the words of mob boss mother Liv Soprano, they are dead to me. 

So 2014 has been a year to live life fully, try new things, make new friends, quit jobs, let go of things that just weren't working for me.  And I thank cancer for that.  Suburban Matron asked, "why me and not her?"  Why do some people get struck down and others survive?  I think about this more than I care to. And I think it's a good thing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Necessity is the mother of invention, or so my husband reminds me of this proverb, which I do believe is true.  I left my position in the school system because I was feeling extremely frustrated.  I am convinced that when curriculum is driven by state testing, the result is mediocrity.  I left a post on a friend's blog about this which I am sure was misinterpreted, but honestly, when teachers are teaching to a test, they are stifled.

I was working with small groups doing reading remediation, and while ALL of my students made progress in their reading, they did not pass their SOL's or regularly administered online tests.  There was a pervasive feel of anxiety in the classrooms, and I left the year feeling like all my work was for nothing.  And this doesn't leave me feeling fulfilled.  I love my students, but I do not love the system.

So what to do next?  I have been kicking around the idea of writing a children's book for a number of years.  I might just start on that!  I am involved with a Board of Directors to put books in the hands of mothers in the hospital in order for them to read from day 1.  We may write me into the grant in some capacity.  I have some other writing ideas up my sleeve.  But for now I am happily unemployed.  It's a lovely feeling. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

summer reading lists

I was having a long discussion with 2 friends about what their boys were reading this summer.  My friend's son goes to a private school which has a published required reading list that is quite excellent and thoughtfully prepared.   She recommended Johnny Tremain for Jack, and we found it at the library on Monday.  He is enjoying a lot.  I vaguely reminder reading it in junior high school, but the details are fuzzy.  I do remember the accident where his hands are burned though.
It won a Newberry Medal in 1944, but this historical fiction novel is a true classic and still engaging for students who are interested in the Revolutionary War and an exciting coming of age novel.

I have never seen a required reading list for our city schools, Roanoke City Public Schools, but maybe I am missing something.  I like to peruse what various private schools are reading.  Here are some links if you need ideas.  Of course there's nothing wrong with just heading to the library and letting your child pick whatever suits his or her fancy.  Sometimes this is the best approach!  Whatever works for you is the way to go.

Friends School of Baltimore


St. Anne's Belfield School

The Brearly School

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Father's Day Books

Rob and I both sent our fathers the same book for Father's Day this year.  The 40s: The Story of a Decade is a massive collection of pieces from The New Yorker during the 1940s.  He read a review of it in The Economist and thought it sounded like an impressive anthology.

All the pieces are taken from the New Yorker during this decade and organized thematically into seven sections:  The War, American Scenes, Postwar, Character Studies, The Critics, Poetry and Fiction.  I figure that between articles, short stories and poetry, my Dad will be able to find something that engages him.  He's a tricky guy for whom to purchase books.  He and his buddies pass around best sellers, thrillers, etc., so I can't buy him these kinds of books.  He doesn't like anything too "out there" or "weird", so I figure an anthology rooted in history is a good bet. 

Rob, on the other hand, is a little more open to reading outside of his preferred non-fiction genre, so I got him an anthology by David Sedaris, Children Playing Before A Statue of Hercules.  It's a collection of short stories--some class, some cutting edge, selected and introduced by the editor himself.  The profits from the sales support his nonprofit tutoring center in Brooklyn.

The other book I ordered for him has yet to appear, but I chose one on the subject of Texas since we are traveling to our friend's family ranch in West Texas in July.

It's historical fiction which centers around the siege and capture of this famous fort in 1836.  It's peopled with fictional and historical figures, and I think it's a book we can pass around between us.

I am currently skimming through a book waaayyyy out of my comfort zone, Outlander by Daiana Gabaldon.  It's not easily classified, but it has elements of fantasy, romance (if you can call it that--I'd call it rape), and history. 

It's being made into a tv series set to debut on August 9.  I wish it were already out because I'd watch it instead of reading the book.
I'm in a pinch here with this 600 page book because when I was supposed to be reading it of the second season Orange Is The New Black was released.  I am thinking it's my all time favorite tv series ever.  I truly tried to exercise restraint, but when I got to episode 9 I completely lost it and finished the series in 24 hours.
my favorite character--Crazy Eyes