Wednesday, May 25, 2016

ABC's of May

A is for Asian Festival

Two Saturdays ago I browsed the list of weekend events on Charlotte Parents. Without reading all the details, I suggested we all go to the Asian Festival at Lake Norman. It was a beautiful day and Jesse and I both appreciate other cultures and festivals. We had a birthday party to attend that afternoon, so we left early enough that we would be able to spend two hours at the festival. As we navigated to the address listed on the website, I realized it was to a parking lot. We had to take a shuttle to the actual event. The extra wait and drive time meant we had very little time to spend at the actual festival, but we made the most of it. The kids were especially excited about their very first bus ride.

There were plenty of booths from countries all over Asia. Each booth had items such as traditional dress, religious elements, rice hats, dishes, jade jewelry, etc. A variety of Asian food was also available for purchase, though we didn't buy any.

After walking around the different booths, we watched some traditional dances.

The event was held at the lake because the main event was the dragon boat races. We didn't get to see the races, but we did check out the roped off swimming area that will open Memorial Day weekend. I am excited to return this summer to go swimming. It is a beautiful park.

B is for Birthday

That same day we rushed to celebrate my niece's 9th birthday. As always, the cousins raced around, giggled, and found quiet corners to play. They all came out of the woodwork when it was time for cake.

C is for Comedy Bang Bang

Jesse is a devoted listener to the podcast, Comedy Bang Bang. I find zero humor in it, but he's a huge fan of their quirky personalities. As soon as he found out they were taping a live recording, he purchased a ticket, even though it was two hours away. He took the following day off work since he came home so late. I don't share the obsession, but I was happy to receive several gleeful texts from him while he was away.

D is for Discovery Place (Kids)

We take full advantage of our family membership by going to the museums multiple times a month. I've written dozens of Discovery Place posts over the years, so there's not much new to add. Still, it's a favorite place for the kids to play.

One entertaining addition to the museum was a parachute. You know you have a big family when your whole family can play with a parachute. We bounced Clifford and hid underneath the parachute. As we were leaving the area, other museum visitors tried to play with it but there weren't enough people to lift it. Big family for thewin!

E is for Eighth Grade SS/ELA

Jesse taught high school social studies his first five years, then switched to 8th grade ELA the past two years. Since he's dual certified and his principal likes to change things up, he will be teaching both subjects next school year. This means he won't be on the same four-person team and he'll have double the prep work and PLCs.

F is Financial Stress

We had an unexpected expense that caused temporary, but significant stress. After weeks of no air conditioning in the van, we had it replaced for nearly $1,000.

G is for Graduation

Jackson and his classmates had a processional down the aisle to Pomp and Circumstance, wearing red caps and gowns. It was an adorable ceremony and Jackson was beaming with pride! Our first born has officially graduated preschool.

H is for Hospice

It's one thing to find out your friend and former co-worker is diagnosed with stage IV cancer; it's quite another thing to find out she's stopped treatment and begun hospice care. My friend, Karen, has had a hell of a month, but continues to inspire everyone she encounters with her perseverance, compassion, writing, and art. She's also quite the talented photographer and artist. You can browse her work here. If you want to read more about Karen's journey or make a donation to offset the high medical costs, you can do so here.

I is for Ikea

The trio and I spent the morning at Ikea the other week, getting ideas for new bedrooms. Jesse and I plan to do a complete overhaul upstairs in a few weeks. The current plan is for the boys to share a room with bunk beds. We'll move the girls to the office and make the trio's current room a playroom/office. This will require every closet and room be completely cleaned out.

Amelia and Maddie tried out various beds at Ikea. Then we all split hot dogs and frozen yogurt downstairs.

J is for Job Search

As of right now I have applied to multiple jobs and interviewed at six schools. When a job is listed, more often than not it is for a K-6 position. It would be ideal if it specified grade or range, because then I wouldn't bother applying to a K-2 position.

As part of the interviews I've had to return to two different schools to teach a lesson and analyze mock assessment data at another school. I haven't been offered a job at every school, though I've turned down the jobs I have been offered. It's been a frustrating experience thus far. I know I'm being too picky, but I also know I would like to potentially work at the next school for seven years and send all four kids there.

This past Saturday I attended a job fair along with 1000 other people. It was a waste of time. I waited in line for a half hour just to get inside, then waited in lines to talk to various principals. Half of the schools had a sign that simply said, "collecting resumes only".  I could have accomplished more by emailing principals a cover letter and resume. That would have saved me a lot of time, anxiety, and uncomfortable shoes.

K is for Kittens

The kittens are five weeks old today! They walk around  a lot now and are just beginning to interact with us.

They are starting to explore upstairs, making it so far as the stairs.

Unfortunately, Amelia treats the kittens like dolls. She snatches them up, two at a time. She's tucked them in her crib with a blanket, tried to put a diaper on them, and rocked them. While it sounds adorable, she mostly does this while holding them by their necks.

The other day she decided to hide all of the kittens. After much searching, I had to rescue them under Jackson's bed. She stuffed them behind the drawers! These kittens will either be incredibly social or terrified of humans.

L is for Library Story Time

We frequent story time at least once a week. Maddie is consistently the most active participant, though James and Amelia enjoy the songs and movement. Some story times are better than others, especially in regards to space and mobility. Last week James pushed Maddie to the ground and ran away, so we had to leave story time. Thankfully that didn't happen again this week.

M is for Mother's Day

This was the first Mother's Day where Jackson took initiative in celebrating me as his mother. He ran into our bedroom every 15 minutes on Mother's Day, beginning at 6:30 a.m. Apparently he was eager to give me my special breakfast, pictured below.

The sheet he filled out in preschool was surprisingly accurate this year. He also made me cards and drew me pictures. 

Jesse surprised me with this wall art. (Confession: I can't tell you how many pictures I've taken of it. I couldn't get a good picture because of the glare from the glass.)

We had Jesse's family over for Mother's Day lunch. It was a relaxed afternoon honoring some of my favorite moms.

N is for NASCAR

A friend had two free tickets for the Sprint All Star race. We only live ten minutes from the Charlotte Motor Speedway, so we can hear the races from our house. Jesse is a Nascar fan and he was more than willing to accept the free tickets. He took Jackson, even though the qualifying race didn't begin until 7 pm. The qualifying ended up being cancelled because of rain. In fact, Jesse texted to say they had to evacuate the grandstands because of thunderstorms. Still, the boys had a great time with bounce houses, talented balloon artists, special snacks, fireworks, and the plane flyover.

O is for Outdoor Play

If it's not raining, we've spent most of our time outside. The temperatures have been in the 70's and 80's, begging us to play outside. We've spent our fair share in the front or back yard.

Of course, we also visit multiple parks and trails each week. James has recently started collecting sticks and rocks while walking on trails. He is very serious in his stick selection. Before we get in the van, he puts down his pile of sticks and says, "Bye. Love you. See you next time."

The girls befriended another pair of sisters at the park last week. They all held hands and played together for an hour. The younger girl literally didn't let go of Amelia's hand the entire time.

P is for Planes

In addition to the aviation museum, we also visited the Airport Overlook Park. The girls stayed in the van because it was too loud, while James and I stood directly outside the van. We had plans to go on a tour of the regional airport, but it was rescheduled due to rain.

Q is for Quiet Time

Nap time is a bit of a misnomer. Amelia often naps since she naturally wakes up so early. If she's the only one sleeping, James and Maddie throw all of their blankets and sheets in her crib.

Sometimes James or Maddie nap. It is extremely rare that all three toddlers nap, and sometimes no one naps. If that's the case, I at least try to give them quiet time, aka popcorn and a movie.

R is for Rainy Days

It rained for four consecutive days. We all get grumpy if we have to stay inside for too long, so I made sure the kids could burn off energy with indoor play areas. I suggested we use Jackson's $20 from his birthday to go to Monkey's Joes and get a Little Ceasar's pizza. Jackson thought this was a great idea. Jackson, James, and Amelia zoomed up and over every inflatable obstacle. Maddie was happier bouncing and running.

We spent another afternoon at the rec center.

The museum and library always provide indoor entertainment that are perfect for rainy days.

Last Friday I took the trio to the playground warehouse for free open play. Amelia surprised me by her rock climbing abilities. Maddie wanted to swing or jump the whole time. James went down all the slides. The warehouse is a bit of a drive for us, but well worth it for the change of scenery.

S is for Sand Toys

While at Ikea, I picked up these sand toys for $10. They are a very thick, durable plastic, unlike the cheap Dollar Store sand toys I buy every year. I bought a bakery set that includes a doughnut, bundt cake, and pie pan.

I tossed them in a reusable grocery bag to keep in the back of the van. They've provided so much entertainment that I'm considering buying a different set. It always amazes me how much time the kids can spend playing in the sand.

For once, I'm the mom who is prepared and has sand toys. The kids are so good about sharing with strangers and they call everyone their friends. I just dump the bag of toys out and everyone plays happily.

T is for Teacher Appreciation

I jokingly told my mom friend that Teacher Appreciation Week is created to weed out the hot mess moms from the Pinterest moms. Teacher Appreciation totally stressed me out this year. Jackson's school assigns something each day (i.e. flowers on Monday, candy on Tuesday, etc). I signed up to bring salad one day but forgot about it. I immediately realized it once I dropped Jackson off. I ran into Aldi (with three toddlers in the rain), and assembled a salad in the van, then turned around and dropped it off at school. This was not the only day I messed up either!

I still have my teacher ID and can take advantage of Teacher Appreciation freebies. The kids and I split this for lunch, and Chipotle for dinner.

U is for Uptown Date Night

Jesse won free tickets through a radio station to see the symphony. His parents watched the kids so we could enjoy a night out. We have a stock pile of gift cards from various holidays and teacher gifts. We selected an Outback gift card and enjoyed our dinner. (Random note, when you order a side of broccoli at Outback, they bring you an enormous stalk of steamed broccoli that is 75% stem.)

We are not symphony goers, but it was a surprisingly enjoyable performance. The show was Carmina Burana, which was a pleasant combination of symphony, choir, and soloists. The lyrics were in Latin, but the English translation revealed overtly sexual messages. Our seats were in the very center mezzanine, which provided a great view but made me feel very anxious and claustrophobic. (I prefer to be closer to exits.)

After dinner and the symphony, we walked around uptown, imagining life in a condo once we're retired and the kids are grown. (This is more my fantasy than Jesse's, but he played along.)

Our date nights are far and few between, and they have never required us to dress up. It was a fun excuse to get out and be a young couple rather than parents.

V is for Visiting Valerie

My friend and former colleague just completed graduate school and had an upcoming birthday. I surprised her at work with random tasty treats and a visit.

She has always adored the kids so she was most excited to see them. James was either too shy or too curious. He spent his time exploring the perimeter of the cafeteria and scooting on his back under tables (gross, I know). Amelia and Maddie held Valerie's hand and helped line up students. They were such little helpers.

W is for Worrisome Behavior

I hope and pray that we're moving beyond this phase, but Amelia has surely been possessed by demons lately. Her tantrums have been so violent and hurtful that they nearly bring me to tears. Buckling her in her car seat has been a wrestling match that leaves me exhausted and sweating. I've had to pull over numerous times because she keeps unbuckling her carseat. This past weekend we had to pull over and make her and Jackson switch seats because Amelia kept pulling James' clothes, hitting him, and even biting his finger. I felt so helpless and bad for James. He wasn't doing anything at all; she was just upset.

While most of the challenges arise while in the van, they aren't limited to that. When Amelia is upset she is inconsolable. I can't pick her up and try to soothe her because she thrashes her body about or hits me. She is testing every boundary possible and is increasingly upset when she doesn't get her way.

As strange as it may sound, the biggest indicator of what kind of day Amelia is having is if her hair is up. Pigtails indicate a fantastic, patient mood. Hair pulled out of her face means she was at least mildly cooperative. If her hair is down, I've already lost my first battle of the day and it's only going downhill from there.

X is for X-Men

Earlier in the month was Free Comic Book Day. A local comic book store hosted an event last year that was pretty fun, so we expected it to be even better this year. It was most definitely not! Jesse and Jackson waited in line for almost two hours, only to be handed five random free comic books. The trio and I wandered around nearby stores, pointing to favorite birthday cakes in the bakery of a grocery store, smelling flowers outside a shop, picking berries off of trees, etc. There was no reason for us to be there but we didn't realize how long it was going to take.

The only entertaining aspect of Free Comic Book Day was the inflatable bounce house, though James and Maddie couldn't go through it on their own.

All six of us were pretty irritable when all was said and done. We were very close to Mountain Island Lake, so we stopped for a picnic at the dam. The sharp cliffs weren't especially toddler friendly, but it was a welcome change of scenery from the strip mall.

Y is for Youth Group

Whatever energy isn't spent on the job search has been spent working on youth group activities. We had our 30 Hour Famine last weekend and are currently planning Youth Sunday and the Senior Luncheon in two weeks.

During our 30 Hour Famine we distributed snack bags with cards to homeless individuals around uptown. I have volunteered for pretty much every kind of nonprofit possible, but I have never interacted directly with the homeless without an agency. It was far outside all of our comfort zones. There is strength in numbers and I was not concerned for our safety.

We walked through torrential rain at times and had some interesting conversations. Some of the people we encountered embraced the company and would not stop talking. Others gobbled the food in front of us and asked for more. Others kept to themselves and simply nodded and smiled. One aggressive man refused and yelled when we wouldn't give him money. I was proud of the teens for stepping outside their comfort zone and sharing God's love in a variety of ways.

After June 5, I am stepping down as youth director. I informed Session that I am not willing to make the time commitment once I return to work. I've enjoyed the interactions with youth group over the past two years, but it is an awful lot of time to volunteer.

Z is for Zumbathon

I had the privilege of attending a Master Class with an international instructor earlier in the month. I never quite fit in with the Zumba crowds. They wear clothes with cut out backs or catchy phrases in neon. They hug, shake, and hang all over one another. They take more selfies in a night than I've ever taken in my life. Yet, I feel so alive during Zumba. Even when I'm literally dripping in sweat and my feet are fumbling, I feel sexy, confident, and strong.