Quick Takes

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fall semester is now officially over, and it went by blindingly fast. Which makes me a little sad because Fall semester is my favorite. Except for Spring semester, which is also my favorite. But still.

It was a really good semester, all told. The seventh and eight graders read Surviving the Applewhites and Where the Red Fern Grows (because we go through this four year cycle, so they have to read different books than the rest of the upper school or else they would repeat a year of the cycle their senior year. Which, actually, could be amazing, and I could write a whole long thing about why I love revisiting books, but this way I get to introduce them to MORE wonderful books. So I like it.) and we even had juuuuuust enough time to watch the movie of Red Fern and stuff our faces with popcorn on Wednesday. I love it when a book ends right at the end of the semester! Symmetry!

My other classes have finished Rilla of Ingleside and are a quarter of the way into To Kill a Mockingbird. They have taken every opportunity to point out to me that THEY haven't watched any movies or enjoyed any book feasts yet. (It's completely true. I've never found a movie of Rilla and I'm just too lazy to look up World War I Canadian ration recipes.) Will we AT LEAST get to watch a movie of To Kill a Mockingbird??
Oh yes, yes we will. I've introduced Atticus to them as one of the top ten Dreamy Book Crushes/Fictional Men to Imitate, and nothing is going to keep us from seeing him represented by Gregory Peck. Nothing.

We also got a LOT of new students enrolling all through this semester, which is a little unusual. Ordinarily we would get a few transfers right at the beginning of the school year, and a few during Christmas break. This year it's been more like a steady trickle of new people who encourage their friends who bring along their cousins. It's wonderful! A bit of culture shock for them those first few days, but wonderful. This is the biggest the upper school has been...ever, I think. The maximum class size at Flint is 12 students, but we usually spread it out so there are even less. I have two completely full classes now and I had to laugh when the kids were disoriented by that. "All your desks are full, Mrs. H., there's so many people in here! I don't know...this is weird!"

Weren't you at public school last year, honey, with like forty people in each class? Weird might be relative.

Yesterday we took the entire upper school and a good portion of the grammar school classes to see A Christmas Carol at the Dallas Theater Center. They were all beautifully behaved and the production was INSANELY GOOD. Caps lock totally required there, I'm not exaggerating. It. Was. Awesome. Go see it!
The youngest grades didn't go, because it's a little intense and recommended for eight and ups, but rebel that I am, I hauled Avalon and Lainey along. They know the story too well to be frightened of the ghosts. Lainey, who is the more timid of my darlings, turned to me when Marley burst through the set, and said calmly, "That is just a man dressed up like a ghosts."

At the very end the cast was all dancing around the stage playing instruments and singing, and since we were sitting in the front row, the actor playing Scrooge noticed Avalon as he came towards her. He grinned and said, "Hi there!" and just about made her head explode. He'll never know how close he came to having an awe-struck five year old jump up and follow him around the stage.

After the play we had our Christmas party for the upper school, which always includes a gift exchange game. We realized that next year we'll need to split into two groups for this, because that was a LOT of people playing! But so much fun! The parties for the kids are totally worth the very literal headaches.

And that was it, our last day of normalcy for a long while, I think. As I was getting dressed yesterday morning (in a terrible hurry because some workers were coming to install a shower door in our bathroom that the buyers requested we install) I kept thinking, this is the last time we'll go to school from this house. And I love my little house. If it wasn't too small to fit all these people, I don't know if I'd ever want to move. It had me all,


Christmas Books

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Christmas present books are all ready to go, all 45 of them! 

(except that one book, for that one kid, because it just doesn't feel quite right and I think I need to switch it for something else but I'm not quite sure what...)

They don't look any kind of pretty or Pinterest-y this year, because TIME and WRAPPING PAPER IS PACKED ALREADY, etc. but I kept the tradition intact and that's what really counts right now, I'm hoping. I had my traditional afternoon digging through the clearance section of Half Price Books over Thanksgiving Break, and then last weekend my traditional Book Sorting Mania. There is some kind of alchemy to getting just the right book for just the right kid, and it's a scary thought that I could give someone the completely wrong book and they would feel upset and you thought I would love THIS book? You don't know me at all! That would be bad. And we just had a new student transfer on Monday and I really DON'T know him at all. Each book has to be the right level of difficulty, while also considering appeal and interest and appropriateness...and some other factor that I don't have a word for. It's kind of like match-making.

Aaron teases me every year about the whole process, but he always sits near me while I'm sorting and makes suggestions. The new students are usually a bit let-down. "A book? thanks..." And I always laugh and say, "I'm your English teacher, what else did you expect? A video game? Cash?" But the students who have been around for a Christmas or two are almost always excited to see what I've picked out for them. A few books will get left forlorn in the lunchroom after the Christmas party, and quite more than a few (I am sure) go home to collect dust, unopened for all of eternity or at least until the electricity goes out in a storm one day and boredom levels become desperate. 
But some of the kids have been wanting to read this author for months now, or this is their favorite movie, is the book better? Or (after the break) that was the BEST BOOK EVER, do you know of any more like it?

(Oh yes I do, step right this way, darling)

Some of them touch hearts and inspire new dreams and open up new pathways, because books are magic like that. And those unread books send messages, too. They sit on the shelf and whisper you are thought-of...you are believed in...you are unlimited. I'll take any opportunity to send that message, which is why this is our tradition even though it's silly and too much work and, you know, just books.

Weekend Wrap-Up

Monday, December 8, 2014

This weekend was full of things to do...packing (because if all goes to plan it is ONE WEEK AND COUNTING until the move, people!) and also Christmas-type things for school because this is the last week before break, so Thursday is School Christmas.
Luckily I had some fairly delightful helpers.

Friday was beautiful and warm, so they played outside a lot, and then helped me bake a cake and we visited the Christkindle Market in the evening. Where Avalon suddenly realized that it is the deepest desire of her heart to own a Marionette. We're reading Pinnochio as our bedtime chapter book right now, which ought to be enough to prevent anyone from EVER wanting one, but the Marionette longhorn at the market was pretty enchanting. AND MAMA, THEY HAVE A UNICORN ONE! She was quite angsty that she hadn't known to put this in her letter to Santa, and didn't enjoy the market as much after that.
(commence Operation Find a Marionette But-Not-a-Peron-Marionette-Because-CREEPY)

On Saturday the girls all went to stay with GiGi for most of the day so Aaron and I could get Serious Work accomplished. Our master bedroom and bathroom and closet were the last remnants of Unpacked Territory, and it was hostile terrain. We found ourselves buried in an avalanche of clothes from high school and college, held onto for reasons unknown. That kind of thing. But it's done! It's over! It's SIX enormous trash bags overflowing out of one of those Salvation Army parking lot donation thingies! Ack.

Sunday was more of the same, except with the girls underfoot and a few breaks for some Christmas projects for school. Avalon and Lainey made sugar scrub as gifts for their various teachers. Considering that I rarely bake with sugar anymore, there were a lot of random half-full bags of it in my cabinets, so win! We decided on three different "flavors" based on what else was lurking in the cabinet...peppermint mocha, vanilla brown sugar, and lemongrass rosemary. If I had had an extra jar handy, I totally would have made an extra batch of the lemongrass rosemary for myself, because YUM.

Later Aaron took Lainey and Phoebe to the grocery store (brave, brave man that he is) and Avalon chose to stay home and help me. I am so unused to having a child who is old enough to actually be helpful, but I think I could get used to it! She wants to help out all the time and is DELIGHTED whenever I have a job or a project for her. She wrapped all of their breakable play dishes up in dress-up clothes and packed them away in the dress-up trunk, all ready to go to the storage unit and one less thing for me to do, hurrah! Then she helped me wrap all my presents for the upper school students while we watched White Christmas.

She LOVED White Christmas, especially the dancing and the Sisters song. I didn't anticipate having to explain the whole entire concept of war to my five year old because of a Christmas movie, but that happened. We had a good talk, and then I let her sample one of the blue candy canes because hey! Let's not delve too deeply into this yet! Look at this thing over here!

This whole post is kind of turning out to be Spotlight on Avalon, I know, but I have to state for the record that she really liked the blue candy cane and yet VOLUNTARILY saved half of it for Lainey to try when she got back from grocery shopping. AND when I couldn't remember whose turn it was to pick the bedtime song last night (usually a highly regulated and hotly disputed subject) she promptly offered the choice to Lainey. She's just...really hitting her stride lately, I think. I love, love, love who she is!

Quick Takes

Friday, December 5, 2014

Aaron and the boys had a VERY FAR AWAY game (pretty much in Houston) yesterday and didn't get home until after two in the morning. But that didn't stop the boys from rolling right back out of bed at eight-thirty to go to their (completely optional) volunteer service day. I'm awfully proud of them!

I keep thinking, this past week, how lucky I am to have Phoebe at school with the rest of us. Usually I have this undercurrent of angst that I'm not staying at home with my baby (more accurately that I can't) but lately I've been feeling a lot more gratitude. Since staying at home never is an option, this is pretty ideal. It really doesn't get much better than having GiGi's nursery on-campus! We're all in the same building all day, and Kim lets her walk down the hallways to visit my classroom at least once a morning. And a school is such an interesting place for a toddler to explore!

At least, our school is. I guess you might not run the risk of encountering a giant tortoise roaming the halls at just any school.

She was less than pleased, however, when the fire alarm interrupted her nap this week. I think we all had this expression.

Yesterday Avalon and Lainey's class went caroling through the upper school, knocking on each door to ask if there was room in the inn, and we had to turn them away. Which was of course Biblically accurate and wonderfully educational, but...they were all so adorable, singing so sweetly and softly, it was VERY hard to tell them to go away!

(OF COURSE there is room in my inn! For all of you cuties!)

I have a delightful basket of books to go through this weekend, books to give as Christmas presents to the upper school students. We do this every year, so I know perfectly well how long it's going to take me to get just the right book lined up with just the right kid, and I ought to have used my peaceful evening while all the guys were gone last night to work on it. Or work on designing the photo calendar I make every year. Or doing some online shopping. Or figured out how to take a family picture for this year's Christmas card when all of the Christmas decorations are packed away. Something productive. Instead I ate popcorn and multi-tasked re-reading The Help for the tenth time and watching incredibly cheesy Christmas movies on Netflix. I think I had temporarily lost the will to even!

And now to get my sleepyhead girls up so we can bake a cake, an activity I promised they could help with if they went to sleep without chattering and squabbling for all of eternity last night. Of all the incentives I can think of, helping bake a cake is by far the most effective. Maybe we'll even finish up the laundry and the other chores in time to work on the teacher gifts they're going to make. Which I am determined will not occur to me at ten o'clock the night before break starts this year!

More Quick Takes here!

Weekend Wrap-Up

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving break threw me off a little this year because it felt like one long weekend. I was putting away the girls' laundry yesterday, thinking didn't I do this already this weekend?? But no, that was last weekend. I tried really hard to make it be like an ordinary weekend, because we still have two weeks of school before Christmas break and my chickies are all starting to show the strain of Not Normal. We're going to do our best to keep from acting like wild hellions at school the next two weeks, all of us.

Wild hellions, I assure you!

My goal for the break was to Pack Lots and Lots of Things, but to make it not SEEM like I had packed lots and lots of things. Which was accomplished by dint of lots of sweeping and dusting and trips to the storage unit between projects. I was guardedly hopeful that I had done a lot of the work of packing over the summer, when I was getting the house ready to show, and that miraculously turned out to be actually true. Things were already sorted through and pared down and organized, so really I didn't have much to do but stick them in boxes. All of the upstairs is now packed, and most of the downstairs. And the boys' room is converted back into a garage, which made us all a little sad and nostalgic.

It was Thanksgiving break four years ago that we started building in the garage because we had kids staying with us and I desperately implored Aaron to make some sort of nursery room for me because I needed sweet little baby Lainey to have her own space.

So he did, and we put Love right into the walls, and that room has gone through a lot of different incarnations since then, but the love has stayed there all this time.

It's gone from nursery to playroom to boy's room to EXTRA boy's room to office-for-show, and then this:


Now it's back to being just an ordinary old garage, and it's a little bittersweet. But a good, moving-forward kind of bittersweet, I think. There's been a crazy amount of progress on the New House and every time we visit it I feel the most excited over the lovely new never-was-a-garage room for the boys. It's going to be so much nicer!

No. I feel the MOST excited over the big pantry. And all of the bathrooms. But the boy's room is right up there with them.

And it's projected to be ready in just two more weeeeeeeks!

San Antonio Trip

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The San Antonio tournament was last weekend and it has taken me nearly this entire school week to get somewhat caught up. Extra emphasis on the somewhat. And just in time to spend Thanksgiving break plunging into untold levels of complete and utter chaos! Our closing date is less than a month away, so it's time to pack and all of that. The real challenge is that we have to convert the garage back into a garage ASAP (because of...reasons? The buyer's appraiser needs to see it re-garage-ified for their loan? Something like that.) which means that I have to figure out where to put the boys and all their stuff until we move. This whole process makes my brain hurt. Which translates into stress nightmares and/or lying awake in the middle of the night worrying terribly over nearly every student in the upper school. I'm not exactly what you would call "good" with "problems".

BUT the San Antonio tournament was pretty fantastic! And I refuse to be thwarted in blogging about it just because I didn't bother to get around to it in a timely manner and I can't stop composing admittedly obsessive checklists!

Aaron had the brilliant idea of renting a vacation house in San Antonio instead of a bunch of motel rooms. It cost the same (maybe even a little less) but was much nicer, and we didn't have to worry about room checks or shenanigans. Everyone was together all weekend ("This is SO GOOD for building team chemistry!" quoth the Coach) and they didn't have to spend as much money on fast food because I was able to cook a lot of the meals at the house. It was genius, all around.

(I'm not sure what it says about my life that cooking, picking up after, and washing jerseys for a dozen boys was the most restful, relaxing weekend I've had in a very long time, but it was.)

Aaron likes to put us in lots of tournaments early on because it helps him fine tune the team and see what issues need to be addressed before the district games start. We had our ups and our downs, but placed fourth in the tournament, with one of my babies getting First Team All-Tournament!

So we figured out some things to work on, got to see lots of progress from last year, and created lots and lots of camaraderie. The boys also: visited the Alamo and learned some stuff (haha! Surprise educational experience!), had a lot of  impromptu rap battles in public places, ate a lot, stayed up too late playing video games, learned how to play Apples to Apples, kicked some serious butt on the court, and explored ways to handle adversity. I was awfully proud of them!

Weekend Wrap-Up

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween weekend wrap-up and photo dump!

Friday was all about the pumpkins...the girls told Aaron what they wanted their pumpkins to look like, and he carved them to order before they decorated them. Considering how much he doesn't like to carve pumpkins, carving three is pretty much a small act of heroism!

Their masterpieces and their costumes:

Because OF COURSE we did Frozen for actual Halloween night. It was an inevitability, and I didn't see any point in fighting it. So I just went with it!

(I did make the Olaf costume for Phoebe, because I can't help myself and I didn't like any of the mass-produced ones I found. It's just a party dress, a hoodie, some brown sleeves off another shirt, felt and buttons. The hoodie part held up so well in the wash that I have a feeling we'll be wearing it a lot in coming months!)

We had our usual little pre-trick-or-treat party of glorious chaos...

And our equally glorious post-trick-or-treat candy fest...

After which we watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets until we crashed. Avalon has been eagerly waiting a WHOLE year to see the next Harry Potter movie, and she fell asleep right before the end.

The next day kind of followed in that vein...we were all worn out and had to take it easy for a day. The children may possibly have slept in their costumes, and they MAYBE didn't change out of them until it was time to go to Grammy's birthday party that afternoon. We just needed a day like that!

After church on Sunday the girls went to play at my mom's house and Aaron and I went to see the Stolen Shakespeare Guild's production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, thanks to our awesome friends and co-workers. One of whom was in the show, and kindly advised us of the best place to sit. Which coincidentally was the exact place where one of the actors repeatedly showers the audience with fake snow...

I couldn't get a picture that really showed the scope of how COVERED IN FAKE SNOW we were. I'm still finding it in my hair!

After that there was really only enough time in the day to make a quick batch of chili and give the girls baths. We were all worn out before eight, and it was really dark, so clearly the only thing to do was show the boys how to make s'mores over the fire pit before calling it a night.

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