Thursday, September 29, 2016


I am enjoying a quiet afternoon with Joey down for a nap and the kids at school, and still trying to caffeinate my perpetually tired brain .. so I thought now might be a good time for a 'this and that' kind of post.

Every year that I live in the south, which is six years and counting -- plenty long enough to get used to it -- I get to September and wonder why fall won't come. I bemoan the bugs still biting and the humidity still going strong. Living up north you look outside your window and go yay, fall is here! Here, Labor Day passes and the same way birds know when to migrate, we know it's time to pull out fall (and it's a little bit jumping the gun). Wreathes, lanterns, assorted goards from Pier 1, things to remind us of chilly nights and falling leaves. Front steps are sporting potted mums and pumpkins that will be rotten long before Halloween. I've heard of people going to extremes like turning their a/c down really low, getting out sweaters and burning pumpkin spice candles. I don't go that far, and I don't like pumpkin spice much anyway; but I do have my big bin of fall and do have a few ways of enjoying that beautiful season that we don't actually get. One of them is this maroon cardigan that I'm wearing now. This is one of the things I got from Stitch Fix before things went south between us, that I still use and enjoy. It drapes so nicely and is super lightweight since actual sweaters are out of the question. I throw it on over a tank top and push the sleeves back, and I am good to go.
I've also been using my Crockpot more because that makes it feel a little more like fall too. I found a new recipe for slow cooker Indian food and it actually turned out really good! I didn't have the cilantro or jalapeno on hand this time, but I can imagine how much that will add to the flavor. Joey and I enjoyed the leftovers for the next couple days for lunch. Nothing better than yummy dinner leftovers for lunch; and my family appreciates that I don't just serve up the same dinner two days in a row, although what's wrong with that?
It does seem silly the way we fake fall. Does everyone in the south do this or just those who grew up in the north and have fond memories of jumping in piles of leaves? (Piles of leaves, if they exist here, are NOT for jumping in; they're for harboring snakes.)  Why can't we just accept that that's not the climate we live in and that we're going to be really grateful for that come January? Why do I feel compelled to give Tim such a hard time when he complains about traveling to New England for work, because it might get a little cold at night and he has to pack more? I was like, "Don't act like you're not happy about going to where it's fall!"
Has anyone been watching Stranger Things? Tim and I devoured the whole season on Netflix in less than two weeks. It's really creepy and suspenseful, and a real treat for an '80s kid like me. There's the music, Trapper Keeper, scenes reminiscent of movies past (The Goonies, E.T., and Poultergeist, for example), kids riding their bikes after dark, the cold war, and much more. Tim thinks he had the same bike as one of the characters and even remembered the specific TV remote from one of the episodes. I was like, weren't you fancy with a remote? I'm pretty sure that back in 1983 I was the remote in our house! All the '80s nostalgia aside, it is a really good show and I'm looking forward to season 2. Also, in what might be more than a coincidence, Eggo waffles are now a freezer staple in our household.

We watch one show a night in that ever-shrinking space of kid-free time that we have from the time Delaney finally settles down to bed (and stops coming out of her room to ask us questions) to when we're ready to crash ourselves. So really that means between 9 and 10. As soon as we finished up Stranger Things, Season 6 of The Walking Dead became available on Netflix and that's what we've been watching together since. I love that show, but I hate it too. I say at least once every episode, "I can't handle watching this show anymore!" But I can't stop. I have to see what happens next. I never would have thought I'd get hooked on a show that is so scary and stressful to watch, almost without reprieve. The moments of triumph for the good guys are very fleeting, but the characters are what I love about the show and what keep me watching. (Sometimes I'm watching through the cracks between my fingers and saying, "It's just a show. It's just a show," and Tim's ridiculing me.)

I heard lots of good things about This is Us from people who loved Parenthood, and I just watched the pilot. It was cute, but a bit of a letdown as it didn't suck me in the way Parenthood did. It had some '80s history in it too, but leave it to me to get hung up on details that don't matter. For example, one of the main characters who are all celebrating their 36th birthday talked about how he was in second grade when the Challenger exploded, and thinks that's where it "all went wrong" for him. I was like nope, you were in kindergarten.

It got me thinking.. I know I watched the Challenger explosion live, and like the character on This is Us, I remember Christa McAuliffe in particular. The first teacher to go to space, that was a big deal. But I only have a vague memory of the whole thing, and I definitely don't look back on it as one of those events that shaped me into the person I am today. So yesterday I went to YouTube and watched CNN's live coverage of it, curious to see if anything would come back to me. My thoughts: watching the countdown and liftoff, knowing what was about to happen, was awful. My heart was beating in my throat and I actually felt a little queasy. Then I kept waiting for it, and it felt like at least five minutes went by even though it was actually far less. A lot of silence, a droning voice updating the progress of the shuttle, more silence, then the explosion.. then more silence and a voice continuing to update the progress. Did you not just see that? There was no reaction from the newspeople for the longest time as the camera followed trails of smoke going in different directions, and then finally the man commented on what appeared to be "a major malfunction." A major malfunction? You think? A little later something like 'There's a contingency plan in place.' A contingency plan -- did you not see the whole thing blow into smithereens? I couldn't help but think had this event happened now, it would have been reported a whole lot differently. I guess broadcasters back then were much more disciplined, and it was more important to stay calm and verify what was happening before alarming people. I never heard a change of tone in any of the voices of the people reporting, but they were probably freaking out on the inside and trying to be professional. Still, very weird to watch all these years later. It might also explain why it didn't have an emotional impact on me as a six-year-old.
My daughter is probably the only one following this far. My number one reader. Hi, Delaney!

What else can I ramble about?

The kids have been in school about eight weeks now, and they are all doing great. Timmy was the one I had reservations about because full day kindergarten seemed like a big leap for a boy who was having occasional tantrums when it came time to get on the bus for pre-k, and coming home exhausted and moody three hours later. Also, we were (and still are) having trouble getting him to sit still at the dinner table, so I wondered how on earth he was going to handle sitting at his desk or the lunch table, or anywhere for a full day of school? And since he was a younger five-year-old with a July 25 birthday, Tim and I talked about holding him back, maybe making him go to pre-k another year. We sat down with his pre-k teacher to get her input. She seemed positive he was ready, and warned us that he would be very bored if he had to repeat pre-k. Seeing everything that she'd been doing to prepare them for kindergarten, and knowing all the progress he'd made, made us realize that if we did decide to redshirt him, another year of pre-k would not be an option. She reminded us that he could repeat kindergarten if need be, and as a two-time kindergarten veteran myself, I was reassured by that. Even better, I knew if he did need that second year of kindergarten, it would be at a new duty station at a new school. A fresh start. I also happened upon this article, and as I can so easily be swayed by one person's opinion, this made a lot of sense to me.
As it turns out, he's doing even better than I'd hoped. He is so excited about learning to read, and he's already ahead in math, probably because of trying to catch up with his sisters. He loves numbers. He has a really hard time getting up in the morning, but so far has not thrown any tantrums when it comes time to get on the bus. For some reason I think that not being the youngest kid at the bus stop makes a difference. He feels like one of the big kids now, and acts more like it. I think he conks out regularly on the ride home, but when he gets here he sits right down and does his little bit of homework and tells me a little about what he's learned. He wants to write too, and enlists my help with writing little notes to girls in his class. ("What do you want to say?" "Uh.. 'Hi?'.. 'I love you?') The idea of him spending another year in pre-k seems ludicrous now. Looking back, I think Delaney was kind of an immature four-year-old as well, who ended up having an awesome kindergarten year. In fact, I remember when I'd take Annie to preschool, I'd see Delaney's pre-k teacher in the hallway and she'd say, "How's she doing?" She had not been too convincing when she'd recommended Delaney go to kindergarten, even though the school offered a separate class for the five-year-olds who needed another year. Strangely, we never considered holding her back. But anyway, I am amazed at how he's been doing. I just came back from seeing him and Annie at lunch, and he looked so happy. He's even behaving better here at home, even though he still has trouble keeping his butt in the seat at the dinner table. He really must need the structure that school provides.

That's it for me today after a few wordy, disjointed paragraphs. I hardly ever post anymore because I feel like I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head and no way of organizing them. I'm always in awe of the ability of others to express themselves in words, and also to share really deep insights, teach lessons, and wrap it all up neatly in the end. But I should probably stop comparing myself to them because that's never going to be me. I do this for me and for the few of you who care, and I do it badly but that's good enough.

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