Thursday, August 30, 2012

One time, we found a park...

... and on a lark, we went to the park.

As we pulled in we saw a sign that said "stop and pay at gate," 
but there was no one there to pay (we thought just because it was late).

And we had the kids, and it was a beautiful day,
So we pulled to the side and thought we'd stay.

I took CAM out and walked down to the sand,
Cell phone camera ready in hand.

As Mick and W followed behind,
A lady came out and was not very kind.

"It would be nice to ask," she said, awfully sour.
She was sarcastic and mean and a wee bit dour.

Mick said there was no one to ask (it was true),
but she was relentless, so what could we do?

He dished it right back, that old Yankee "mean,"
but she quickly gave in and could see what we'd seen.

"You saw the sign, right?" she said with a snark.
But Mick said, "look lady, we're not even parked!"

The sign said to pay, but there'd been no one around.  
Not a car, or a worker, or a sign or a sound!

She let Mick have it, which he stood there and took,
he listened and then just said, please, lady, look:

"It's the first day of school, our daughter's just five,
after school we just thought we would go for a ride.
We're just taking pictures, we're not even dressed
for swimming or playing or even to rest!"

Well, it turns out the park's private, and soon to be closed.
It's Fall now you know, so nobody goes.

It sure was gorgeous, right here in our town.
But now we know:  don't drive in if no one's around!
 




This gorgeous photo is especially funny because Mick's actually getting chastised.  But can you imagine living here?  Fantastic.  The lady and her husband have owned their private park/beach since 1961. 




My Helpers

I forgot to tell you!  Monday and Tuesday were school-wide pre-planning days. You know, the "teacher work days" before the school year starts that are supposed to be for teacher work but end up being filled with meetings.   (Well, in Georgia back in the day, we had an entire week of pre-planning, so the meetings were spread out.  In both Alabama and Maine, the pre-planning is condensed, so the meetings fill the bulk of the days.  To tell you the truth, I don't know which is worse!)

Since my new school is so close to our new home, and since I was so far behind the 8-ball as far as getting ready for the school year, on both days Mick came up to the school with the kids at lunchtime.  While Mick and I worked on the computer or the desks or hanging stuff or cleaning stuff, the kids helped, too.

They opened all the packs of pencil-top erasers and made me a "sideways tower."


--Jen

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Days Four and Five ...



Day 4 was filled to the brim with meetings, most of which were helpful.  Mick's cousin Travis came in (he works at the same school as an ed tech.  As best as I can tell, ed techs are similar to what we called parapros in the South, but I don't know if that's entirely accurate) and Mick and the kids came in again at lunchtime.  The last meeting of the day was long and in a room that was sweltering and without air flow, but most of the rest of the day was pretty productive.  My room is not done by my standards, but as much as I can do 'til we get our stuff from Georgia, is mostly done.  It works.

I was also impressed, yet again, with just how high morale is at the school.  One of our meetings started out with a fifteen-minute slide show set to music of photos of everyone from all summer... new babies and grandbabies, kids growing older, vacation pics, hilarious captions ... and the faculty laughed and cried right along and really enjoyed it.  I've never been at a school like that, ever.  Originally the agenda for the day called for lunch on our own, but the principal ended up bringing in lunch because, as he put it, "it's money well spent for faculty and staff to get to sit and eat and be social and relax."  What?!  I seriously think I somehow crossed into the Twilight Zone.  This can't be a public school.  

Well, I say that but the kids haven't arrived yet.  Give me a week and let's see if it's still such a happy place!  hahah!  In all seriousness, they are clearly doing something right.  It's the first school I've been at in a while where people seem happy to be there.  Maybe I'm just talking to the right people, but it's refreshing.  (Which is itself a sad statement on schools everywhere else I've worked, but that's another story!)

After the last meeting of the day I worked in my room a little longer and then dashed home.  Mick and the kids and I took a ride out to Freeport (I love how close we are to Freeport!) to get CAM a replacement backpack.

Boy oh boy did we luck out.  Not only did we find one in the outlet, and not only was it a big kids' backpack, and not only was it an ADDITIONAL 30% off, but ... drum roll ... it had CAM's exact and correct monogram!  AMAZING!



Seriously, there was an angel on our shoulders.  I had been so upset about not having her backpack with us, and we not only got her one, but it was as if someone made it for us and left it there for us to find!

Oh, and Day 5?  Well, that was today, and I took the day off for CAM's first day of Kindergarten!

--Jen


My Parents Came to Visit

They arrived Thursday.  (I was too busy taking out mailboxes with my car to arrive home before they did.)

They left Monday morning.

We managed to remember to take a family picture around 8:30 Sunday night.

Thank goodness it's a keeper!


--Jen

First Day of Kindergarten!

Well, it sure was early ... but we did it!  I don't know if I shared with you how I found out that CAM's school offers both early-care and after-care, but her school is literally on my way to work (I have to drive by it to get to work -- and then go down a few blocks and around the corner -- seriously, I'm no more than 5 minutes away), and because of the early-care offering, I get to take CAM to school every morning!

I am beside myself with how thrilled I am about this turn of events.  A week ago, I was sick to my stomach over not being a part of her day, and now we get to have this time together every morning.  And while I don't like mornings, I do like time with my sweet girl.  I'm thinking we may have some early-morning Dunkin' runs once in a while, too.  You know, because we only pass three on our way ... but we'll worry about that next week.

Let's get back to today.  TODAY, my friends, was the very first day of KINDERGARTEN!  I took the day off* and we all took CAM to school as a family.**

It was early, and still not quite super bright out, but here are our photos.

Enjoy!

We took a bunch of these, but this one was my favorite.  A little Photoshop should fix these colors right up! 


The redheads all walked to the school while Mick parked the car, so this is when Mick walked up to where all the families were waiting.  CAM ran right to him and they walked to the school building together.  It was so sweet.
 The way it worked this morning -- I imagine it will be somewhat different when it's winter next week (and I say that because it was 56 degrees this morning.  In August.)  -- was that the families all gathered in the parking lot around the school doors, and when the 7:30 bell rang, we all walked our children to their classes.  The younger kids get walked to the classrooms; the older kids (grades 3 and up) are allowed to walk themselves to class.

Contemplating all the other families waiting for the bell.

Happy to be a kindergartener!
 We have a few photos from after school, too, but I didn't bring the real camera for those, so I first have to grab them from my cell phone.  The afternoon process was the reverse of the morning in the sense that the teachers walked the students down to the parking lot and the parents found their kids, but it was a little overwhelming for CAM and I was more focused on finding her and having her find me, than on photos.

--Jen

* point of fact:  I made it clear in my job interview 10 days ago that this day was not really negotiable.  Fortunately, my new principal feels exactly the same way and before I even had to say those words, he agreed with me and told me it was 100% a personal day.  He's been pretty awesome so far, I have to say.  

** point of fact #2:  I don't like surprises, so we took time this morning to learn the traffic, the parking situation, the general routine, and we even visited with the early-care teacher.  From tomorrow forward, things should not feel daunting.  Can I get an "amen?!"

Monday, August 27, 2012

Updates (in a hurry)

I promise that this will NOT be my MO from now on, but it's been a busy few days here and I am trying to catch up on more things than I can even remember.  In the interest of keeping it all straight in my head while that's even remotely possible (and not keeping you wondering where I am), I thought I'd do a quick update.

So, in outline form with details in more posts later:

1.  My birthday was good.  I made it through the day with only minimal tears, only one neighbor's mailbox knocked down and only one side-view mirror mangled.  Yes, that happened.  But in the end, it was a good day that ended with a red velvet cupcake.

2.  My parents were in town as of Thursday, and my in-laws were in town as of Saturday.  It was a busy weekend!  I did absolutely nothing related to school/my new job, but it was delightful to just decompress.  And we ate well.  :)

We took my parents to L.L. Bean's flagship store in Freeport Friday evening.  Here are Mick and my dad trying their hand at knots.  In the kids' section. 

3.  I have the best friends in the world.  I already knew that, but I can't say enough thank-you's to everyone who privately sought me out to tell me, "it will be okay," or, "you are awesome," or a combination of the both.  I can't tell you how many messages made me cry.  I don't deserve you guys, I really don't!

4.  I made it through CAM's orientation tonight AND my own Day 3.  Many thanks go to Mick, who helped me to organize and moderately decorate my room, which -- although it's not nearly the way I would like it -- has made all the difference in the world to me today. 

5.  At CAM's orientation I was able to score a "sale" jumper and two clearanced shirts!  Who knew?!  I've been buying up uniform pieces here and there for a few months now, but the specific jumper outfit and the pieces with the school crest were all still on my list.  Not only did we buy her the uniform jumper and shirts, but we also got her gym uniform and saved a gazillion dollars in the process.  Whoo hoo! 


6.  Everyone at my new school continues to amaze me with how nice they are and, surprisingly compared to places I have taught in the past, how genuinely happy they are with where they are.  Dare I say morale is high at my new school?  It's refreshing and I find myself happier just because everyone else is!   I have even made some friends that I genuinely consider friends.  Who knew this was even possible?!  Whoo hoo again!

7.  I still have two recipes to cook by the end of the month -- which happens to also be the end of the week.  YIKES!!!  Bananas Foster and Mint Chocolate Brownies are on the agenda.  Prepare yourselves.

8.  We expected to get back to Georgia by now, but for various reasons it proved impossible/impractical to make the trip in the past few weeks.  Now we are in the no-man's land where going down will be considerably more difficult and since I have a new job, there are things we/I need that we didn't anticipate wanting or needing (or at least, not yet).  The fact that I have a job is good, but it has exacerbated the pain of the missing items.  Worse:  among those still-in-Georgia things, we realized CAM's backpack is still down there.  We had no expectation that we wouldn't have been back to get it by now and neither Mick nor I realized we didn't have it with us to begin with (I mean, we have the kids' lunchboxes, for goodness' sake!) ... so, tomorrow after work we are heading back over to Freeport to buy a new LLBean backpack for CAM. If there's anything I hate, it's buying something twice... so I am not happy about this.  I'm thinking we'll get her the next bigger size up, so that it's not a total duplication of efforts.  But still.  If you know me in real life, you know that I am not happy with this situation, trivial as it may be. 

Well, that's about it!  I refuse to be grumpy!  I am gradually accepting my new reality and things are going okay.  I won't complain ... or at least, not tonight.  Happy Monday, everyone!

--Jen

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thank You. Yes, You.

Facebook is amazing about birthdays.  If you don't have a Facebook account and don't know what I mean, (I'm talking to you, Dad), when you log in to your account Facebook gives you a reminder of all of your friends* who happen to have birthdays that day.  That means that when it's your birthday, you get tons and tons of birthday wishes.  It's amazing. I said that already, I know, but I don't know how else to describe it. 

Anyway.  That's not the point of this post.

Because I couldn't get to Facebook from my orientation today, I came home to a gazillion birthday wishes on my Facebook page and was I overwhelmed by just how wonderful and caring my friends are.

I updated my status on Facebook to let all the well-wishers know that I had been at orientation for my new job today and wasn't able to check Facebook all day, but thank you to everyone for the good wishes.  A few people asked me about the job, and since I was on the verge of tears anyway (and didn't want to be too detailed, but likewise didn't want to be too vague, and certainly didn't want to be uber-negative on my birthday posts) I just pointed everyone to my previous blog post about it.

And let me tell you -- you, my friends, are unbelievable.  I am so humbled to have you, and when I was feeling so down and so terrible, you refused to let me stay there.

I'm still not thrilled about where life's taken me this week, but I know that it's temporary and a step in the right direction for my family.  I know my kids will be okay. I know that my paycheck doesn't define me.  I know that one day, I will actually get to use my law degree.  I sometimes have hard time seeing that stuff, and you wouldn't let me NOT see it. 

Thank you.  Thank you to each and every one of you who took the time to call me, text me, email me, send me a message through Facebook, comment here on my blog ... THANK YOU for not letting me give up on myself.  Not a single message you sent didn't make me cry -- but cry in a good way.

Thank you.

I love you guys!  (or, for my sister who was confused about proper usage of the phrase, "I love all y'all!")

--Jen

* all of your friends who told Facebook that it would be okay to share this information.

New Job: Day 1

Well, let's start out by saying that I survived. 

Despite being pretty confident that the sky was falling, I managed to keep the clouds out of my head and my head out of the clouds, and I made it through the day.  It was not without bumps (I had to text Mick to please bring me socks and sneakers because I was so insanely cold the only way I was going to warm up was with my feet covered and a blanket -- but don't worry, for professionalism's sake I skipped the blanket; we took a bus tour of the city than ran an hour late and the bus was probably 100 degrees), but I made it.  Just like the people who reached out to me via Facebook, in person  everyone was wonderfully nice.  Best of all, I came home and my parents were here from NY, Mick had made me a cake, and we all went out to a birthday dinner.  I started out the day crying almost all the way to work, but I made it.  I did it.  And I can do it again tomorrow.

As you can probably imagine, I have a LOT to tell you about. 

But, it's my birthday.  So I'm going to go back to my glass of wine -- oh, wait!  I need to pour a glass of wine! -- put my feet back up on the coffee table, and watch Suits. 

I am quite positive I will have plenty of fodder for blogging for at least a month already, and it's only been Day 1!

(Note to bloggers everywhere:  if you want blog topics, get a job in a school.  Before the end of your first month, you'll have enough fodder -- both good and bad -- for an entire year's worth of posts.) 

Happy Birthday to me!

--Jen

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Drive: Day Three (Or: Why I despise the American Girl Cafe)

I know, I know, I'm a wee bit late on this!  But I can't leave anything incomplete (even if I am perfectly okay with letting it languish that way for a while!) so I had to get this going.  Better late than never, right?!

Let's recap a little.  The drive on Day 2 just seemed to go on forever, and although there were no major catastrophes, a minor traffic snarl here, a longish lunch there, and we were staring down arriving in Maine at close to midnight.  Mick's mom had suggested meeting for dinner on our way North (my in-laws live outside Boston), and that morphed into our staying at a hotel and spending the night.

So, we arrived, we all went to a late dinner with Gram and Grampa, and we slept in the next morning.

We called Mick's mom when we were finally moving and up, and she came and met us for a late breakfast/early lunch. Trouble was because we were at that awkward hour, we had a hard time thinking of what would work.  Since our hotel was about, oh, five seconds from a major and fabulous mall, we decided to just go to the mall and see our options.

Mistake #1.

Because you know, anything you do at a mall will take longer than necessary, and my mother-in-law needed to get to work!   We probably should have found a sandwich shop or something.

Anyway, when we got there, Mick checked out the mall directory and saw that they had an American Girl Cafe.  Now back in February, CAM and I went to the AGCafe in Atlanta, and I have told Mick ever since how impressed I was -- how the food was very good, reasonably priced, and just how much food we got.  I remember that CAM and I ate for less than $30 including tip, which was in my mind not unreasonable, and we'd had plenty of food to spare and the kids adored it.  Maybe it was just that it was Atlanta, or maybe it was that we were with the group of Kindermusik girls that all loved each other so much, or maybe -- well, who knows.  But in February the servers were wonderful, and they really made it a memorable experience for the girls and I have been so complimentary of the whole experience for a while now.  So it made sense that Mick saw the AGCafe on the directory and suggested we eat there.  It would be a treat and a fun, spontaneous extra-special way to start our new lives in New England.

Mistake #2.  If all the good stuff I had to say wasn't foreshadowing enough impending irony, just wait.

You see, we didn't have reservations and they weren't quite open yet (we had about ten minutes 'til they were open).  And we were about to find out that the menu had changed and the prices were significantly different from our little experience in February.

So, we waited.  And waited.  And -- in case you missed it -- we didn't. have. reservations.  So we waited some more.  (Not because they were full, but because apparently they were saving their 50 empty tables for some groups that were surely going to arrive just as our food was set at our table.  Right?)

All around us, people were buying dolls and accessories and spending -- I kid you not -- probably well close to $1000 on these dolls.  You know, just because.  On a random Monday.  What a goldmine the American Girl creators created.  What a stinking goldmine!  We had time to kill, so we wandered the store and Mick was just amazed.  (What amazes me is that they have dolls and accessories for every possible permutation, including a girl going through chemo who's lost her hair, but they don't have a redhead.  Truly.  They have what they call a redhead, but her hair is brown.  So, even if I wanted to get CAM a doll, the whole "dress alike" thing that they promote and run their whole marketing plan on?  Out the door.  I do plan to get CAM an AG-like doll. It's called MyTwinn, and it's at the same outrageous price point, but we can really make it look like her.  CAM doesn't care about the American Girl stuff, but she does care about the dressing the same thing, and we can only achieve that with the MyTwinn dolls.) 

Anyway, finally it's our turn.

We are seated and check out the menus.  Oh, brother.  At this point, we should have walked out.  Because it was $15 per person, and $7.50 for WHM, and oh, yes:  my daughter who eats NOTHING?  She's five now.  Clearly, she must be forced to order from the adult menu, where she gets an appetizer, a full meal, and -- oh, right -- no dessert.  Desserts are extra, unless you're still a kid.  So not only do we have to pay an outrageous amount of money for food we'll end up leaving, but on top of that, her little brother will get a dessert and she won't.  Brilliant.  At this point I'm thinking of Jen who blogs at People I Want to Punch in the Throat, thinking, American Girl Cafe needs a punch in the throat, and pronto. 

Oh, and drinks?  Extra.  Mick was beside himself.  We were staring down a $100 lunch and he was already peeved about the wait, but we were locked in.  You can't sit at a table at the AG Cafe with your five-year-old daughter and then say, "Whoops!  I'm over this place!  Gotta go, honey!"

So, we stayed.  Mick stewed.  And it proceeded to get worse at every turn.  Their servers clearly work on commission because our server only tried to sell us their "celebration" package about 99 times.  Upsell, upsell, upsell.  Sorry, lady, do you see that we are even using the store's loaner American Girl doll?  We do not want to upgrade to the celebration package for an extra $12.  Thank you.  Now please. Mick ordered his Diet Coke without ice and you have so far refilled it with ice three times.  Do you see how miserable he is?  He's making us allllll miserable.  Fix it.  Now.  Thank you.

CAM and Gram.  No one was happy.
 Anyway, $100 later (thanks, Gram -- I'm pretty sure you intended to make the AG Cafe a fun memory and look what we got instead, sorry!), we were done, we were all grumpy, and we were on our way -- Meredith to work, Mick and the kids and I to Maine.

Since it had been such a charming brunch and we were all so happy about it, and I was so sick over the move to begin with, I think I cried all the way to Maine.  (Okay, maybe not really.  But there was definitely some crying.  In between belting out "5-1-5-0 somebody call the Po-Po" with the kids.  Who sing it with the most awesome twangs ever, by the way.)  Welcome to reality, chickadee, welcome to reality.

I have no idea how Mick got so far ahead of me.
 It wasn't long before we were out of Massachusetts, on the tiny stretch of 95 that is in NH, and we were heading straight to Maine ...


And honestly, my crazy emotions aside, the drive was great.  The weather was perfect and the drive, since we were leaving right around lunchtime, was easy-peasy.  It took us right around 2 1/2 hours, and we arrived at the house in Maine.  Perfectly smack in the afternoon without anything to rush us and make the day terrible.  We went in, unwound, and unpacked only as much as we felt like doing.  The kids got to run around in the yard and play and really, it was a perfectly pleasant afternoon. 

When you travel 95 North through NH into Maine, you cross the Piscataqua River at the border.  Halfway over the bridge you change from NH to Maine.  I love this picture.  I think I've taken this same picture a dozen times on our various trips.
And here we are.  I don't think we'll be heading back to the American Girl Cafe pretty much, well, ever, but we're settling in nicely, I've got a job, and the kids are adjusting -- now, if only we could get their rooms unpacked!  Sigh.  The never-ending project.

But now you know!

--Jen


Monday, August 20, 2012

So.

So, I'm starting a new job this week.  Thursday, to be precise:  my birthday.  Oh, the irony.

I'm not particularly happy about this, for a lot of reasons I am sure that I will share with you over a few more posts, but I feel guilty about it because the people I've already met (or who've reached out to me via Facebook) are -- to a person -- nothing but fantastic.  It's not their fault I'm not happy about this turn of events.  But I'm trying -- oh, sooo hard trying -- to find the positive.

I'm going back to teaching.  (Not happy.)

All of my teaching things are in a box in Georgia, because I had no intentions of EVER teaching again, and most especially did not expect to apply for, and get, a teaching job before we ever made it back down to Georgia to pick up the rest of our stuff.  So, I'm kind-of screwed, because we can't (and I won't) re-buy all that stuff.  And to be clear -- I purged 99% of my teaching stuff (or donated it to Tuscaloosa City Schools after the tornado), so what I still have is stuff that is stuff I really valued for that abysmal "what if" ... that happened to come true. (In other words, if I were EVER to teach again, these are the bare minimum things I would HAVE to have.  And I don't have 'em.)

Here's how it unfolded.  After much harassment by nearly everyone I know in the universe, I applied for a posted teaching job.

I had to jump through all sorts of impossible hoops, some of which I vented about on Facebook because I was so frustrated by the whole process, and in the end, I just ended up submitting a grossly incomplete application.

I think I submitted the last doc on Wednesday, and it pretty much said, "I can't get this, I don't have it with me, I have no idea when or how I will be able to get it.  So sorry, but too bad."

I got a phone call for an interview Thursday afternoon.

I interviewed Friday morning, and before I got home from the interview, my phone rang and I had the job.

I had prayed so hard they'd go with someone else and I wouldn't have to make the decision about what to do.  Because ... 

1.  The pay is only slightly more than 50% of what I was making in Alabama.  Yes, you read that right. 
2.  I could make that much tutoring, and have in the past.  (But tutoring didn't come with health insurance.)
3.  I haven't made this little since -- oh wait, never.  I have never had a professional job and made this little.  It is a huge step in the wrong direction, and now when I say "most recent salary" on job applications, it's awful.  I have lost my negotiation rights for "being worth" at least $x, because clearly -- I am not.
4.  I am taking this as a personal failure.  I am not even worth what I was worth at a chump entry-level job sixteen years ago.
5.  I don't get to stay home with WHM and that makes me sick to my stomach.
6.  I found out that my summer was being cut short with all of a week's notice to get my shit together.
7.  I don't get to take CAM to school or pick her up, and our school calendars match to the day, so while this makes things easier in some sense, I feel like I am essentially missing her kindergarten experience.  I don't get to see her face that moment she leaves her room and all the excitement, or sadness, or anything in-between.  EVERYTHING I hear about her day will be told for at least the second time that day.  I get the old news.  I don't get the spontaneous joy.  I don't get to drop her off or pick her up or meet the other moms or anything.  I am sick over this and crying even as I type this.  I am distraught.  DISTRAUGHT.  I have worked so hard in my life and at the one time that I desperately want to stay home, I don't get to.  I hate that passionately and I am angry with the universe for putting us in this situation.  Plain. Old. Angry.
8.  I don't get to go back to Georgia. I have no idea how or when Mick will get down there, or how on earth he will possibly be able to pack the rest of the house by himself.  This has woken me up in the middle of the night twice already and Saturday night kept me up all night, sick to my stomach.
9.  Now, I don't get to shop for a job that (a) pays the bills or (b) uses my law degree, until June.  I am locked in, another year closer to retiring as a teacher ... and for this, despite how much I love teaching kids one-on-one, I feel like an epic failure.  I went to law school and it will now be at least FOUR years before I get to practice.  No one will hire me.  Let's be real.  "Submit a recent writing sample" -- um, does an email to a parent count?  Memo?  How do you spell that?  I won't say I wasted my time in Tuscaloosa, but I'm kinda feeling like it ... at least in the whole "going to law school" sense.
10.  My room has chalkboards.  CHALKboards!  (Not to worry. Mick is already finagling how to get me white boards, pronto.)

Now, let's talk about all that is good with this. Because there is an awful lot of good, and I am not just saying that. 

1.  It is a job, which means health benefits.  That is huge.
2.  The schedule is pretty cush.  Three Geometry classes and one honors Algebra 2, and two study halls.  Seriously, that's a nice schedule.
3.  I get my own room, and it's not at all awful.  (It does need a carpet, though.  Craigslist area rugs, here I come!)
4.  The school is small enough to be nice; not as small as my school in Tuscaloosa, but I think a very nice size for a high school.
5.  The principal is super cool.
6.  (Business) casual dress.  (I interviewed in capris and sandals because that's all I could find -- don't worry, I told them I was in that situation before-hand -- and when I apologized again for my attire, they said I was dressed just fine for a school day!)
7.  No duties for teachers.  The principal thinks we should be teaching.  How awesome is that?!
8.  Did I mention how nice the people have all been to me?  I think about how upset I have been over this situation, and I think to myself how I don't deserve these amazing people.  They are, every last one of them, welcoming and nice and friendly and helpful, and refreshingly genuine, and I think they don't know the half about how sick I am over this.
9.  I have a wall of windows!
10.  I don't have to turn in lesson plans or any of the other paperwork-for-the-sake-of-paperwork nonsense I had to do in Alabama.
11.  I don't have to supply my own copy paper and there are no limits on how many copies I can make.  Heck, I don't even need to enter a code.  I just use the machine.
12.  Most of my classes are 14-15 kids, with one class (the honors class) at 25.  I mean, if I have to teach and all, that's awesome.  In fact, that's about half as many kids per class, give or take, as I had at every other school where I've taught.
13. Mick's cousin is a parapro there, so I have a built-in super-cool support, friend, and ally.
14.  The school is in the next town over, with an easy commute.
15.  Two words:  snow days.  
16.  They pay for grad school!  So, all those jobs I couldn't get because they required a stupid inane leadership degree?  I can get one.  And you can bet your tuckus I will ... 

I really do, in my heart, love teaching.  It's just that didn't think I would still be teaching at this point in my life, and last week at this point I had no idea I'd be going back to teaching within the week.  I am so unprepared for the major life change that this is.  Moving cross-country, giving up my home, giving up my tutoring, and now giving up my stay-at-home-mom status is an emotionally overwhelming thing.  There hasn't been a day I've not sobbed at one point.

So.  I am trying my hardest to focus on all that is good (and what is good is really good, I do know that, and look, I had all those pluses and only 10 negatives... ) about the particular situation I am in.  And seriously, if I wanted to teach and the salary was taken out, this seems like it would be close to perfect.  I've just really struggled with those two false "if"s.

In any event, I start Thursday, and I am sure that I will have lots of fodder to bounce around here.  (And I am sure some of that will be downright hilarious, because, let's face it -- teaching has plenty of hilarious stuff on an almost-daily basis.)  

Can I ask a favor?  Can y'all check in with me periodically and make sure I keep finding the positive?  Because as you know by now, sometimes I need a nudge to the happy side.

Thanks!

--Jen




Funny Calendar Wisdom

Because the other day I had something a little heavy, I laughed out loud when I saw today's quote and I just knew I had to share it, and quick.

"The big print giveth and the fine print taketh away."

--Monsignor John Fulton Sheen

Hah!  How right he is!

--Jen

Sunday, August 19, 2012

WHM's Turn

WHM:  Mommy, all the popcorn is gone.  I want more popcorn.
Me:  I'm sorry?
WHM:  I want more popcorn.
Me:  I want a beach house on the water in Savannah or Mobile.  What are you gonna do about that?
WHM:  Well, I want popcorn in Maine

(pause, pause, pause.....)

WHM:  Please?


--Jen

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Trick Negotiations

It's past 11. Besides the fact that she is still awake (wiiiide awake), CAM just asked for something to eat.  I asked her what she wanted, and she got up from the couch where we'd so far snuggled for 1.2 milliseconds, and walked down the hallway.

She came back from the pantry with Nutella and a tub of cookies, and here's our conversation:

"Can I have toast with this stuff, and some cookies?" 
"You can have toast with the Nutella, but no cookies.  Go put the cookies away and I will make you some toast." 

She walked back to the pantry and then came back to me again: 

"Mommy?  Can I have toast-with-Nutella on its side?" 
"Toast on its side?" 
"Yes, like at a restaurant?  Like the Border or 99?"
"I don't know what you mean." 
"Yes, you do, Mommy.  Like I get mac and cheese and oranges or french fries or something on its side?  I want toast ON A SIDE!" 
"Oh!  You mean WITH a side!  Hmm.  What would you like for a side?" 
"Maybe cookies?"

She's a smaht one, that kid.  I think she should be the lawyer in the family!

--Jen

Calendar Quote

Lots of upheaval and disappointment in my life right now. I won't bore you with the details, and we've got our family and our health, so I suppose in the scope of things we are okay.  If I keep saying that, I might end up believing it, right?

In any case, I've been behind on my calendar because of our move. Just now, I finally realized how far behind I was, and I turned to today's page.  As I went through the three or four days I'd not yet torn off the pad, I saw yesterday's quote.  It was pretty much on target. 

"Once the 'what' is decided, the 'how' always follows.  We must not make the 'how' an excuse for not facing and accepting the 'what.'"

Pearl S. Buck

--Jen

Friday, August 17, 2012

Grampa Bob's Birthday!

We have a lot of August birthdays in our family.  "Grampa Bob"'s birthday was this past Monday, but we celebrated as a family on Saturday.

I made a cake ...


(Yes, I totally stole this design from Pinterest.  I'm still perfecting my fondant skills, which is why I had to pipe the seams.  And the piping was melting! But the cake?  Chocolate cake from scratch, with homemade buttercream frosting between the layers.  It was a new recipe and we were all very pleased with it!)

Ugh.  When I look at this, all I see are imperfections.  I'm choosing to focus on how good it tasted!


... Grampa opened his presents with the kids ...



... and then we sang Happy Birthday and dug into the cake! 


Happy Birthday, Grampa Bob!  Thanks for letting us share it with you!

--Jen

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pioneer Woman: Steakhouse Pizza

By now you all know that I tend to be a pizza traditionalist.  Yes, I will have a white pizza or Hawaiian in my rotation, but when I think pizza, I tend to think of a delicious cheese pie.  Plain and simple. 

Which means that, as strange as this sounds, I was glad to have this recipe among our picks this month, because it was unlikely I'd ever try it otherwise.  And that's not because I'm not adventurous, but because I kind-of think of gourmet pizzas like I do fish on a restaurant menu:  I like them just fine, but there's almost always something else on that menu that I'd rather have.

This recipe didn't let us down, and with just a few tweaks we'll make it again -- and again!

PW: Steakhouse Pizza



Verdict:  YUM!  Makes a lot more than you think, too.
Cook it again: Heck to the yes!  For company, too.
Cost Factor:  Hmm.  Tricky, because of the steak.  $10 per pie, maybe?

Here are the ingredients.  I've complained a lot about things being different in Maine and missing Publix, but one of the great things about going back to the Northeast is the amazing selection of Italian food supplies.  I had my pick of two aisles of stuff, and I am not exaggerating.  Of course, I was reduced to tears in trying to find those aisles, but once I got there, I rejoiced.  More than just two brands of stuff, and to boot it was the real stuff from Italy!  Wahoo!

The wine is in there to remind you that you should be drinking wine while you cook pizza, and while you eat pizza.  Okay?

I haven't made pizza dough in a long time, because somewhere buried in my brain was the notion that it was a huge, time-consuming, pain in the neck.

Wrong!

It was about as easy as anything ever could be.  In fact, although you make this in a stand mixer, you don't even use a dough hook!  So come on, this was easy-peasy.  (And if we were still in Georgia, I'd be forced to say, "buh-bye, Publix pizza dough!"  But since that's been taken care of already, I just won't be saying "hello, Shaw's pizza dough" anytime soon.)

Anyway, some flour, some yeast that's been resting in warm water for ten minutes, some salt, and you let it rest for an hour.  (Careful, you don't use a full envelope of yeast.  If you have it in pourable form instead of the envelopes, that's the way to go.)  I took a "before" picture but forgot to take the "after" picture.  No worries.  It grew nicely, probably just shy of doubling.


While that's happening, you grill up some skirt steak or flank steak.  Now maybe I am crazy, but this confused me.  In Georgia, those cuts of meat are usually very inexpensive.  In Maine, I not only had to ask the butcher to find them for me at all, but I was shocked that they were $10/lb!  TEN DOLLARS A POUND!  Um, no thank you.  (Am I crazy?  We were using this to make a pizza, not a steak dinner.)  So I found sandwich steaks that were super thin, priced way more reasonably, and I went with those instead.  I threw them in a grill pan with a little salt and pepper and was very pleased.  In fact, so pleased that I may have eaten more than I should have as chef's snacks.  Just sayin'.

Note:  cook the steaks to the done-ness you want, because they won't cook any additional time later in the recipe.
 When the steaks are done, you remove them from the heat and start working on the red onion.  It's simply red onions with balsamic vinegar tossed until the onions are soft.  They sweetened very well, of course, so at this point I could have taken my cooked steaks, tossed them in the pan with the onions, and grabbed a fork.  I didn't do that too much though, because I had the dough rising and a family to feed.  Sheesh.


Now, onto the sauce.  The recipe calls for a simple, store-bought, good marinara sauce of your choice.  I bought a simple basic pizza sauce and used it instead for no reason other than the fact that I wanted to try it.  (You can see in the photo the two cans.  I only needed less than one can, so we've now got one on reserve.)  It was delicious.  In my opinion, the sauce shouldn't be what you remember from a pizza unless it is meant to be the point of the pizza, and this was the case - just right in terms of flavor, but not overpowering or overly seasoned.  In any event, the recipe says to just mix in some balsamic vinegar with the sauce and spread it on your dough. I didn't take any pics of the sauce.

Oh.  The dough.  You're supposed to roll it out into a giant oval and put it on a giant baking sheet.  We had two problems, if you will.  First, we're still working out our move and our counter-space issue, so I couldn't roll it as thin as it wanted to go because I just plain ran out of room!  That was fine, really:  it just meant I was able to tuck a crust (as opposed to just not putting sauce to the edges and having a flat crust, that is). 

Second, when the pizza was done the dough wasn't as crispy as we prefer.  In the future, instead of doing a baking sheet I'll use a pizza mesh.  I will be able to get the dough thinner that way, too.

In any event, you roll your dough and put it on your baking sheet, spread the sauce, and then add the onions and then the mozzarella.

Bake it 'til it's golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.

Tell me that doesn't look amazing!

Take it out of the oven, slide (and it slid so easily!) onto a cutting board, and layer with the sliced steak, freshly-grated parmesan, and sprinkle with steak sauce.  (We used A1 because it was all we had.)

Not my best photo ever. I was playing with aperature. 

Holy cow, was this delicious.  The various layers of flavors all stand alone (I could have eaten this as a red-onion pizza!) but together they are amazing.  We had way more steak than we needed, and in the future I'll scale back on that, but it's not as if it hurt the pizza.  We just picked some off and ate the extra steak and the pizza separately.

I am so glad we tried this.  It's wonderful.  Because it's got so much going on, it serves more than it looks like it should.  Two pies like this would easily feed our family and another with a few bites leftover.  And I definitely plan to cook this for friends one night-- it's easy to prep in advance,  inexpensive and simple enough to do for a group, but so tasty that everyone will be impressed!

--Jen





Pioneer Woman: Spinach and Mushroom Quesadillas

This is a recipe from the Pioneer Woman blog.  I've been bad about posting links to her blog recipes, but I'm trying to get better.  You can find this recipe here

PW: Spinach and Mushroom Quesadillas

Verdict: Very yummy!  A little salty, but that was my fault.  I may have spilled more than I meant to.
Cook it again: Definitely!
Cost Factor:  Fontina, Goat Cheese, Mushrooms, and a bag of baby spinach were the things we had to shop for.  Not particularly expensive -- maybe $12-$15?

We typically have tortillas on hand in our house.  We make quesadillas a fair amount -- both for quick lunches for all of us, and for simple dinners with the kids.  And since we're salsa fiends, it's not unusual for us to be hungry but not "hungry enough," so we end up whipping up some quesadillas and eating them with salsa and having a nice, not-too-heavy meal.

Anyway, because we're big fans of quesadillas, this recipe was fun to see on our cooking club list.  We don't typically have goat cheese and fontina in the house (let me rephrase: we have them often enough, but they are almost always dedicated to a particular recipe), and it's hit or miss whether we'll have spinach and mushrooms.  So I did have to shop specifically for this recipe, but it wasn't terribly expensive or inconvenient.

Tortillas are not shown.  Whoops!
 Besides, this recipe is insanely easy.  Watch and learn:

You cook up the mushrooms with salt and pepper and butter,


wilt some spinach,

The recipe says to add salt here, and I did -- but there's enough salt in the cheese that you could skip it here altogether.  That's what I will do next time.
and layer the fontina, mushrooms, spinach and goat cheese.


Then you grill your quesadillas.



In the actual recipe, PW says to use a grill pan.  We have one, but for quesadillas we always use our skillet grill pan.  It's essentially a cast-iron comal, and it's amazing.  We -- and by we, I mean Mick -- use it daily.
This particular recipe is reminiscent of a hearty quesadilla I used to eat a LOT on Fridays in Lent.  We had neighbors who were dear friends, and we'd go to the same Mexican restaurant every Friday night for dinner.  This went on for years, and so during Lent, I had to get somewhat creative with what I ate.  Spinach-mushroom quesadillas were a regular selection.  Now that we've got this handy little recipe, we can make them at home on Fridays, too! 

A delicious success, and very filling!


--Jen

 



Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Oh, Tervis.

I should explain a little for you readers who aren't quite aware of all the little details of my life (I mean, as compelling as it is, and all, I don't understand how that could be, but still...)  that for the short term, we're staying at my in-laws' place here in Maine, 'til jobs settle out and we figure out where, in fact, we want to be (whether in Maine -- which is huge, by the way -- or elsewhere).  My in-laws keep a nice supply of wine in the house (mostly red, but some white).  When we got here, Mick and I were both exhausted and it was hot, and for at least a week all we wanted to drink was a swimming pool full of sweet tea ice water.  Until one night last week when I really, really wanted a glass of wine.

But you see, I wasn't going to call my mother-in-law and ask, "Hey, can I open a bottle of wine?"  Because really.  She would be too nice to say no to me, but what if I opened a supercrazyexpensive bottle?  I couldn't put her on the spot like that.  And I was too cheap lazy confused about how to drive there to go to the grocery store to buy a bottle.  And Mick won't really drink wine with me typically, but especially if it's hot out.

So, I went wine-less.

And then my friend Kristin blogged about this. 
You can buy one!  $8!  Here's the link for your convenience -- or hit your local Bed Bath Beyond and use a coupon.  http://www.tervis.com/designs/Accessories/Shaker-top/62453ae3e6bb5dd1150f70832f89d543
It's a shaker top fora Tervis tumbler!

And the angels sang in heaven.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm not a crazy Tervis addict, but in recent months I have become quite addicted to my Tervis tumblers -- provided that they have a lid on them and a straw.  (The straw must come from McDonald's, Chick-fil-A, or some other place that uses big straws.  Yes, I know you can buy Tervis straws, but I don't like to wash straws, and point of fact: I can't drink from a Tervis tumbler without spilling it all over me unless I have a straw.  New mouth.) 

Anyway, she said it would be life-changing, and she wasn't lying.

I found these boxes from our move stacked in a corner...

I labeled everything for our move, and if it was heavy or fragile, I made that clear.
 ... pulled out some tequila and mixer that were conveniently in the top box,

and made Mick and I each a margarita.

We watched Honey Boo Boo Child* -- I'm not sure if we were able to watch it because we were drinking or if Honey Boo Boo drove us to drink -- but either way, in one short evening we were out of tequila.** 

So we bought more.  And this time we're onto Strawberry Lime mixer.


It's 5:11 and I thought you deserved a photo of the tumblers and shaker top.  The things I do for this blog!

--Jen

*Thanks as well to Kristin for this.  It's a train wreck we can't peel away from no matter how hard we try!
**the bottle came from our liquor cabinet in Georgia and was not full when we got here. OKay?  We are not that bad!

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Collection of Stray Thoughts

I promised you some thoughts on a few topics but because unpacking from our move's been consuming our days, I have not been particularly good about keeping up with that promise.  So, rather than create that mountain where you want to do such a good job of something that you keep pushing it off and pushing it off and the next thing you know, it's not even relevant anymore and/or it's embarrassingly late (or am I the only one who does that?!), I decided I can just bullet-point a few of those topics and keep on truckin'.

Here you go.

1.  Penn State.  I realize this news is about two weeks old now (Penn State being fined $60 million by the NCAA), but it was the hot topic when we drove our 72,425,361 hours, so I had a lot of time to listen to sports talk and regular news, to formulate my own thoughts, and to think about what I wanted to say.  Here's my short version:

a.  There is no way you can accurately ever say any punishment would be severe enough for anyone who has abused children, nevermind one who did it systematically.  That being said, $60 million seems to have satisfied the masses in terms of its severity.  I don't disagree with it in that sense, but I do disagree with it in terms of whom it punishes:  it does not punish the people who perpetrated the wrongs; it punishes the present students.  $60 million taken away from the coffers of a public university -- even a flagship public university -- hurts kids, too.  It can mean professors won't get funded, or who leave because they won't get raises; it can mean that classes are rescheduled -- it can mean, in effect, that students now need 5 years to graduate instead of 4.  It can mean a loss of scholarships for the general student population.  From what I understand, the number came from PSU's estimated earnings from football (or the post-season?) during the time the crimes were being committed.  Trouble is, football profits go into the University's general fund, generally speaking.  Hitching onto that number and using it as punishment is a good idea, but it takes out the punishment on the wrong people.

b.  I understand the idea of punishing the football program (no post-season for x-amount of years, x- number of scholarships taken away), but again:  the players and coaches there today had no share in this.  No matter what you think of Paterno or his staff, the fact is that the people who played a role in the misdeeds are long gone.  This hurts the program (I won't say forever; there are too many other programs who've suffered harsh punishments that eventually came back for me to really think that), which I understand is symbolic; but I think that punishing today's program for yesterday's wrongs -- when none of the wrongdoers are affected because they are gone -- is again, hitting the wrong audience.  ON THE OTHER HAND, I understand the argument that Penn State valued said program more than it should have and in fact arguably it valued football more than those poor kids, so you HAVE to punish the University.  I understand it; I just there were a better way to do it to ensure you were actually punishing the wrongdoers.

c.  I don't understand why the NCAA had any jurisdiction in this at all.  The NCAA exists to ensure parity on the field and, by extension, in recruiting.  I don't think the NCAA should have had a role in punishing Penn State for criminal acts outside the scope of football or athletics.  If their argument is that football was the guise under which the criminal acts were allowed to be perpetuated, they ought to have said that.  Otherwise, it's just more evidence in why I dislike the NCAA, and think it oversteps and claims authority it doesn't have.  (Caveat:  In its charter or whatever, does the NCAA in fact have this authority to act?  If you're more familiar with the NCAA's authority than I am, please comment!)
Anyway.  I know I'm crazy late to the party on this, but I'd love to hear what you guys think about the whole Penn State saga.

2.  Holy Bryan Adams, Batman(Wait:  should I say "Robin Hood" instead?)  I don't think I have ever heard "Summer of '69" more times in my life.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I'd let my Sirius subscription lapse so I had a lot of radio-station flipping going on.  I think I heard this at least five times a day (no, I didn't listen to it five times a day!) each day on the various stations.  What's up?  Was it his birthday?  Was he just coronated?  Way too much Bryan Adams, radio stations of the East Coast.  Waaaay too much.

3.  RVs.  I want one.  I want to wake up one morning debt-free, and I want to go buy a dazzlingly awesome, huge, with all the requisite slide-outs, football-game-going, mobile-home-possible, RV.  I want to "home school" the kids for a while, and I want to travel the U.S. -- spending one full month per state.  We'd need a "home base" to collect our mail and other stuff, so I figure this is a five-year project.  48 months of contiguous states, plus another 6 months of checking in at home base and specific holiday trips, and then two months each for Hawaii and Alaska, and two months for whatever else comes up.  I'm serious.  I think it would be awesome.  "Where are you from" would take on a whole new meaning!  I suppose I need a lottery ticket in a hurry.

4.  Speaking of seeing the US, I want to put together my own "101 Places" list.  I know the usual -- The Smithsonian, Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, the Golden Gate ... but what else?  I grew up on LI, so I have been lucky to go to the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building and Broadway shows all my life.  But I've never been to the cornfields in Iowa; I want to see 'em (from something other than the seat of a 737)!  You, my friends, are from all over -- what should we add to this list?   PLEASE HELP ME WRITE IT!

5.  Chick-fil-A.  This was also a raging topic when we left Georgia.  I posted here about it already; I want to add just one thing.  I participated in a few discussions on Facebook and read quite a few more.  Without going into my opinion, I will say that I find it outrageous for people to make an argument that amounts to, "If you were my friend and valued our friendship, you would/would not, go/not go (or believe/not believe) to Chick-fil-A (or insert any other thought/action here)."

Um, hell no.  HELLLLLL NO.  (Say that with your best Texas accent, it's way better.  I promise.)  If we're really friends, you see, you'd never ask that of me and I'd never ask that of you.  Period.  That's no better than the idiots on Facebook who say "if you believe in God/cancer sucks/children are precious/teachers are great/whateverwhatever you'll repost."  Because let's be clear here:  we're not talking about genocide or mass rapes or anything else that is life-or-death.  So please, people. Let's not equate it to that.  If you aren't strong enough in your beliefs to allow me my own, we weren't meant to be friends anyway.  I'm okay with that.  Thank you.

Whew!  That sure was a lot, huh?!  Sorry to end on a bit of a rant there ...

Tomorrow I promise at least two more PW updates, and some fun birthday stuff!  For now, though, I need to go play with my new Tervis shaker top.  (Oh yes. A Tervis shaker top.  I was recently introduced to this life-changing invention by a dear friend who also introduced me to the joys of Honey Boo Boo (hmm.  Perhaps the two are related, now that I think about this), and I would be remiss to not spread the joy that is a Tervis shaker top.  More on that tomorrow, too!)

--Jen


PW: Corn Casserole with Peppers

This is a quick post, because at the time we made these we'd barely unpacked anything.  We needed to eat (after two nights of eating out, we *really* needed to eat in), and I decided that if we were cooking we might as well cook from our cooking club selections -- but the camera wasn't high on my priority list! 

Anyway.  It's a shame -- not because the casserole was particularly beautiful, but because it really was quite good.

I have to say, Pioneer Woman is pretty great at taking something simple -- corn -- and making a few simple additions to change the whole profile.  This recipe is no different.

PW:  Corn Casserole with Peppers

Verdict:  YUM!  Loved it!
Cook it again:  Yes, absolutely.
Cost factor:  the most expensive parts were the heavy cream and the peppers. 

Some of you already know this about me, but not everyone.  So I'll say it here just in case:  I am a corn-on-the-cob fiend.  Up here in New England, corn's in season right now and we are fortunate enough to have our pick of a number of farm stands and let me tell you, when we cook corn we usually cook at least 2 or 3 extra ears for me.  I looooooove corn on the cob!  Can't get enough.

(CAM has inherited this trait.  She and I can sit and eat corn 'til we explode, no butter, no salt, just good old corn.  WHM, on the other hand, likes to butter and salt the corn, lick it all off, and repeat.  He won't eat a single kernel.  And he'll repeat buttering, salting, licking, until we catch him and take away his corn.  It actually makes me a little fearful for his propensity to do tequila shots when he gets older -- I mean, the steps are so similar.  Lime, shoot, salt, repeat ... butter, salt, lick, repeat -- those skills are a little too close, dontchathink?!)

Anyway.  This recipe is brilliantly easy.  Shave the corn (uncooked), and mix with 1 diced red bell pepper and 2 diced jalapenos.  Add a stick of butter, 1 cup of heavy cream, 1/2 cup of milk, salt and pepper, and bake in a casserole for 20-25 minutes.


See?  Simple!  And oh!  It was so delicious!  Not at all too spicy, but just a nice twist on a favorite.

At the time we made this I hadn't yet unpacked my measuring cups, so I poured and counted.  Our casserole was a touch soupy -- which might have been because I accidentally added a cup of milk instead of half a cup.

But I could have eaten this all week.  It was that good, soupy and all.


--Jen

Friday, August 10, 2012

Unacceptable Lyrics

You know, when you drive for three days and you're the only adult in the car, you end up with a lot of time to sing, to think, to listen to various radio stations ...

And while I was flipping through I happened upon a pop station's Top Five at Five (or whatever they called it).  One of their songs was Whistle, by the ever-eloquent Flo-Rida.

Here is an excerpt of the lyrics:

can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
let me know
girl i’m gonna show you how to do it
and we start real slow
you just put your lips together
and you come real close
can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
here we go

Really.  I am not joking.  You can imagine where the song goes from there. 

This is the @$(@#^@#^?!!! kids listen to.  This is why when I taught 8th grade math in rural Alabama to "underprivileged" kids (underprivileged being a word I don't necessarily agree with, but we'll use it for now), more than a few of my 12-year-old students had moms who were 25. Yes, you read that right.  12-year-olds with 25-year-old moms, and some of those 12-year-olds were already planning their own little families.

This is the stuff they listen to --  stuff that has nothing to do with love or morals or values or anything other than, well, stereotype-perpetuating trash.  Now, I am all for a catchy song that you can play in a club and dance to.  I'm old and crotchety, perhaps, but not so old that I don't remember my bar-hopping, club-dancing days.  I like club music.  I like songs that get in your head.  I like hop-hop, really... but this is a little more than I can stand.  And look what it reaps!

This is why my kids listen to CDs in the car.

(On a related note, we happened to be watching a movie on the Disney Channel the other day and at the commercial breaks they do little music videos.  This particular one had two girls lamenting that they had nothing to wear, going through a magical closet, and singing a song about what to wear "up in da club," dressing like Madonna in her Like A Virgin video. That was the last time we will ever watch the Disney Channel, thankyouverymuch.)

Anyway.  Such are the things you have time to contemplate when you drive across our great country. 

--Jen

 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

101 Things #68

#68:  Cook dinner every night for a week.

I'm happy to report that we finally did this one.  It's not that we don't ever cook; it's that we don't always cook.  So, we forced the issue.  It was actually pretty easy to do -- we just needed to commit to doing it!

Here's our menu:

Thursday, August 2: Cheeseburgers on the grill
Friday, August 3: Marinated grilled chicken breast with PW Corn Casserole
Saturday, August 4: Tacos
Sunday, August 5: Crunchy chicken tenders from a Pinterest recipe
Monday, August 6: leftovers (this counts; we still had to heat them up, and I can't stand to waste food!)
Tuesday, August 7: PW Spinach/Mushroom Quesadillas
Wednesday, August 8: Pork chops with onions and salsa verde

We did it!  I'm glad we did.  It was funny; another goal is to go a week without eating out even once, and we couldn't quite do that -- twice, we've been desperate for lunch and grabbed something quick and easy, even when we knew we were kind-of throwing away our eating-in efforts. 

Oh well -- there's always next week!

--Jen

Calendar Wisdom

It's been a while since I posted one of these, and my little stack of cut-outs from my calendar is in a box somewhere.  But yesterday's quote was too good to pass up.  Thanks to Thomas Edison for this gem:

Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

I've got to admit that sometimes I struggle with knowing when I'm quitting and when I'm cutting my losses.  I think Mick and I both tend to hang on a little too long, waiting for something to break, something to turn, something we missed to be discovered ... this is a nice reminder that we're on the right track when we keep trying!

--Jen


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Move: Drive Day 2

My alarm went off at 6:15.

Mick, who'd been up and watching tv at some point during the night, was sleeping soundly and our conversation went something like this:

Mick:  gl;kfn;boisfh bek jvqeflivhef'qogy mmmmm
Me:  You know, I can turn it off.  Yesterday we had to get up to pack, but today we don't have to pack.  (pause)
Me:  We can set the alarm for 7:30 and still be on the road by 8.
Mick:  YES!!!  dfgjdlfo ihuef ;voifb;obinsv,,,,mmmmmmzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

So, that's what we did.

We got up at 7:30, showered, woke the kids and packed our room and then decided that instead of getting right on the road, we would actually eat a nice breakfast at the hotel.  Instead of wolfing down McAwful McDonald's or something, we'd sit, let the kids eat at a normal table, and go from there.

It was wonderful.

From the hotel we stopped at a gas station, where I bought this little beauty:

*The photos are merely mugshots.  Remember, people are innocent until proven (or pleaded) otherwise. 
Oh, yes.  For $1, I could have a newspaper with mugshots from every arrest that week.  Seriously, who thinks this stuff up? I had to have it.  (Lord, may I never be in one of these.  How awful.  I mean, yes, it was funny that it existed at all and I had to have it -- but some of those people probably had the worst night of their lives and were mortified and embarrassed, and now it's out there for people to laugh at them.  The idea's funny in the abstract -- or even for idiots who deserve it -- but for some folks, I am quite positive it's just awful.  On the other hand, the girl on the bottom left seems okay with it ... )

I also bought (sorry, no photo): the Sunday Washington Post (I needed my coupons!  It was Proctor and Gamble week!), three Nerds ropes, two small bags of Combos, one giant bag of Combos, one pack of giant chewy SweetTarts, two kids' drinks, and a "sweet tea."  I put "sweet tea" in quotes because, c'mon.  It wasn't fresh brewed.  But it would have to do.

Anyway, it was 10:00 before we really got on the road. (And I still didn't see Jill! I found out after the fact that she'd sent a message saying she'd come meet us for breakfast.  Grrrr.)

The drive was once again pretty easy, and the scenery -- as always -- was gorgeous.  We really do live in a beautiful country.



To recap:  On Drive Day 1, we traveled through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Today our goal was to get to Maine, which  meant:

Virginia
West Virginia
Maryland
Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
New York -- no, wait, still Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
New York
and then, depending on how we went, either Massachusetts, or Connecticut and then Massachusetts
New Hampshire
Maine

To quote CAM, "thatsalotta states!"

We stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Scranton, Pennsylvania, for a late lunch.  Another nice, relaxing meal. (Well, minus the potty mouth New Jerseyites who were at a table next to ours and way too close.  I mean, I have a potty mouth, but c'mon lady.  You're in CRACKER BARREL.  Next to a table with two PRESCHOOLERS.  Check your language, please.  On the other hand, she cracked me up because she was about as dumb as a box of rocks, and perhaps even worse than that when it came to being informed about the nation's current events. Hearing her try to discuss news issues with her husband was entertaining.)

The kids and I enjoyed the views and took time to listen to a little "storytime" on cd.


I love Peter and the Wolf, but I really love that you have to LISTEN to the story.  No pictures, no dvds.
Then we got snarled in some traffic coming into New York.  There had been signs warning us of delays at the border, but it turned out that the delay that really got us for a while was an ugly accident.  The construction was easy-peasy.

My view as we sat in almost-in-park on the Interstate.  Aside from the traffic, it sure is pretty!

My other view.  I had a lot of this view on the drive, of course.

We crossed the Hudson ...



And took a break at a rest stop in upstate New York somewhere near Albany.  It was funny to me that the rest stop was actually closer to Montreal than it was to Buffalo.  I know, that's not exactly rocket science, but it still reminded me exactly where we were -- which was to say, NORTH.

Note the flashlight.  He was "helping Daddy."  (Helping him do what, I don't quite know.)

And then, my friends, the fatigue started to set in.  We were hoping to steamroll on through to Maine, but we realized that with our late start, our generous stops, and then the traffic snarls, we'd be getting in pretty late.  We decided that were going to meet Gram and Grampa Bob for dinner when we got near Boston as a last hurrah for our final leg -- and then we got snarled in traffic again.   So, we changed that to meeting for dinner followed by spending the night at their condo.  And then Gram upgraded that to putting us up at a hotel for the night. 


This pic is from the next morning.  You know, since we got there after dark and all!
 That was sooo much better than getting to Maine at midnight.  The next day we'd have a little over two hours' drive, we could sleep in, arrive in daylight, unpack at our leisure, and generally not sweat it.  (Funny, I just typed "swear it," and I corrected that -- but I think it's actually quite fitting!)

So, that's what we did.  We finally got to the hotel around 9, checked in, stretched our legs, and headed for a nice dinner and an adult beverage.  (Thanks, Gram and Grampa Bob, for helping us preserve some semblance of sanity.)

We needed it, and we really enjoyed it!

--Jen

(Oh yeah.  WHM was asleep for the night by the time we got to the hotel.  He slept until we all loaded up to go to dinner, and then slept through dinner after he lost his mind -- lost. his. mind. -- when I'd mistakenly put his sandal on wrong.  I ate and drank one-handed (even had to ask for a soda cup with a straw to drink my margarita!) and had to have Mick cut my food into tiny bites that I could scoop and eat with one motion, because WHM was curled up on me, and every time I tried to set him down, he woke up.  Then we left the restaurant and my sleeping WHM tooted and let out a HUGE belch -- woke himself up -- and was happy as a pig in mud.  And wide awake.  Figures!)