The Blur That Was Birmingham

I meant to do this soon after the trip happened, but time got away from me. If the trip hadn’t been so fast, I would have enjoyed it more, but the time with people, though short, was good.

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I haven’t spent good face-to-face time with Andi Ashworth since she and Charlie came to Colorado to do a conference Craig planned for Glen Eyrie which we both attended. That conference was small and I was privileged to spend good time with her then, back in 2004. Since then, we’ve communicated by email, with one quick visit when she was on campus last year. It was great to catch up in person with both of them, and the girls made themselves at home in their house immediately. It was a much needed respite after a goofy start to the trip.

Me and the Classical Kristen

From there we traveled to Kristen’s lovely home where meeting a blogging buddy turned out to be just as I expected it to be.

The girls also made themselves at home here and enjoyed playing with Kristen’s two cuties as well.

The Girls

From there we went to the wedding (I have a bad habit of not taking pictures at weddings – partly it’s because I forget and partly it’s because they usually don’t turn out so well). The girls took over camera duties during the reception and we got one of Craig taking a break from groomsman duties and Millie chowing on a marshmallow from one of the two chocolate fountains (note to self: small children in pink dresses with free access to two chocolate fountains is a recipe for sure disaster…).

Dapper Dad

Then Chloe took this picture which Millie jumped in on at the last minute (her aversion to group photos only applies to group photos with other children, apparently):

3/6 of Us

After that we had a great time with the Zellners where I also failed to take one single photo (What can I say? It was late when we got there and they were getting ready for church the next morning while we were getting ready to leave…). I really enjoyed the late-night chat with Susan after everyone else went to bed and so wish I’d done more of that with her when she lived two floors above me on campus.

So that was just about it – left at 9am Friday, returned around 6pm Sunday. Lots of miles, lots of people. It was a blur, but it was a nice one.

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Carnivores

Made this week for the freezer (boy is that one hungry freezer):

6 Batches of Baked Ziti/Penne/Whatever random small pasta noodles I had leftover
3 Meat Loaves
1 Meal of Salisbury Steak
2 Batches of Meatballs
4 Spaghetti Pies
2 Lasagnas
8 Shaped Hamburger Patties
16 Pigs in Blankets (wrapped with whole wheat dough)

I’m ready to work with chicken for a little while I think. I’m trying my hand at whole wheat English muffins tonight, but seeing as how I forgot all about the dough I had rising and what was supposed to be a one-hour rise turned into a four-hour rise, well, I’m not too hopeful right now.

Adjustments

First Day

I spontaneously wanted to do something meaningful for the girls this morning as they finished breakfast and before we loaded up in the van to head to their first day of school-away-from-home. Michael Card’s Barocha came to mind, so I began singing it to the girls as a sort of blessing on their time away from home. There was just one problem with that plan: I’ve had a bit of a weather-change cold for the past few days, so my voice first thing in the morning wasn’t exactly cooperating. After doing my best This is Spinal Tap version of Michael’s beautiful song, I gave up and plugged in the iPod.

The day proceeded mostly as planned, closely supervised by my Thursday boss:

My Thurday Boss

Actually, the day with her was just about perfect. I let her watch a movie when we got home, and then we had a much-anticipated (by Millie) picnic on the floor of the living room with her lunch in a lunchbox. I actually even read Curious George to her after that, and she took a nap on the floor for the rest of the time. I spent the entire movie time and nap time working on my new project, so that was all good.

Then things began to unravel somewhat: on our way to pick the girls up, we were on a highway where a major traffic accident had just occurred, so we were stuck for 20 minutes until I wormed my way three lanes over to the nearest exit (which wasn’t the one I needed to get off on) amid much honking by other frustrated drivers (and, I’m sure, plenty of special hand waves aimed in my direction). I didn’t care – I was going to be late picking my kids up on their first day of school ever, and I just didn’t want that to happen. As it was, I was still 10 minutes late, but not the only parent to get stuck in the accident.

But things continued to spiral down a bit. Maddie, who according to a tale of two witnesses (that of Chloe and the teacher) really enjoyed the day and did well, was grumpy with the rest of us the entire way home. Katie decided she should be grumpy with all of us also, so we had a really pleasant car ride back (during which we avoided all highways courtesy of the traffic accident).

I let them watch a DVD when we got back to decompress after the day, but we had to turn right back around 45 minutes later to do the choir drop-off shuffle (they are in different sections this year, meeting on opposite sides of a very busy street). On the way to choir, Maddie realized that she would not get to see Craig today and that the rest of us would be eating dinner without her. Her choir section is 90 minutes long, while Chloe’s is 45 minutes long, so Craig picked up Chloe and then brought her to the seminary where Katie, Millie, and I were waiting with dinner to eat with him before he left for class.

This is the only window of time on Thursdays in which *most* of the girls can get 45 minutes with him, but it just happens that Maddie isn’t in that *most*, and after a long day full of brand new experiences and being very tired, realizing that not only would she not see Craig, but that she would have to eat dinner alone later unraveled her completely as I escorted her into choir with tears in her eyes.

Adjustments. I have learned not to sing to the girls first thing in the morning on weeks I have a cold. Now we’ve learned that we need to figure out a plan for Maddie to see her Daddy for even a little bit on Thursday afternoons. We will tweak the system and try again, but in the meantime, it’s wearying and we might cry a bit. Thank God tomorrow is a home day. I think sleeping in and doing school in our pajamas has just been A-listed for Friday…

The Stuff of Life

I suppose having a lot of stuff you *could* write about on a blog also contributes to being too tired to put forth the effort to do so. We’ve been plugging along, beginning our fall schedule, having school time, and waiting for fall to show itself.

Tomorrow marks the first official day of school for Maddie, Chloe, and Katie. They have each had a small stint with preschool in some form or fashion, but nothing outside the home formally since then. I thought I would be fretting about this, but I actually haven’t thought about it a whole lot. The fretting came before we made THE DECISION; now it seems I’m at peace with it, which is as it should be. I spent the evening getting their backpacks in order and school boxes filled up. The next trick will be making sure Maddie and Chloe are up and going before 8:30, since that is when we need to leave.

We spent our Labor Day working, of course. We rearranged the girls’ rooms again: one is now a dormitory-style bedroom with two sets of bunks, two bookcases, and a reading chair; the other is a pretty nice playroom. They have been using the playroom a lot this week, and we’re hoping the novelty doesn’t wear off anytime soon.

In my spare time, I’ve begun (albeit slowly) my contracted-for-the-fall job for God’s World Publications. I haven’t said much on this yet as I’ve not yet carefully framed exactly what I’m doing. That might come tomorrow (Thursdays will be “work” days for me, along with Mondays, while the girls are in school). I will be working from home (mostly), supervised by the tyrannical Millie (she’s not really that tough of a boss – she just wants to watch Mickey Mouse all the time and lets you know it).

In addition to that, the remainder of my time has gone towards preparing some bulk meals for the new-to-us deep freeze Craig brought home on Saturday, as well as learning to play scrabble on Facebook (yes, I’m 33 and have never played Scrabble as an adult before this week). I got stomped on by Kristen, but our mistakes are just opportunities to learn, right? (Tell me this is right because that’s the line I’ve been feeding Maddiefor ten days now.)

That’s been the stuff of my life lately. Now I need to go to bed.

Math Done Right

Okay, so I’ve said over and over and over that this is the year Maddie conquers the math mountain. The school she will be attending two days per week is going to help in that it’s not just going to be me telling her that math is indeed important. They gave us a couple of math assessments for the girls to fill out to help place them in the appropriate level of math, which is a relief because she’s not ready for 3rd grade math. In addition to this new program, I’m going to be continuing what we’ve been doing at home to try to help in the mastery department.

So yesterday was the day. Craig had the three younger girls at a Cardinals game, and I took Maddie to Starbucks where we spent an hour drinking our beverages of choice and doing the math sheets. It was wonderful. I think I’ve hit on what it is for her – she needed a change of scenery, some non-threatening one/one time, and an Odwalla orange juice smoothie. She needed a mom who was chilling out to some soft music and a cafe mocha with nothing driving her to complete it as fast as possible in order to move on to the next thing. We were relaxed, we had no schedule, and the math was completed with no problems. This doesn’t mean that she understood it all, but she didn’t freak out over what she didn’t understand either, perhaps because she knew I wasn’t going to freak out as well.

I don’t think we can go to Starbucks every day to do math together, but I have some better ideas of how to motivate her in this department now. Suddenly math isn’t looking nearly as terrifying as it once did. I think we can do this.