Monday, May 30, 2011

No More Pencils, No More Books...

So the kids are out of school for the summer. Friday was their last day. How did that happen?! It seems like yesterday we were signing them up for school here. I can't believe it's summer again already and we've been a family for a whole year. I wish the kids would stop growing up so quickly, I can see such a difference from when I met them!

I'm glad they're growing up but I missed so much of their littleness that it makes me sad to think about them being teenagers and hating their dad & I. I do try to be mentally prepared for regular old angsty teenagerism PLUS blended family issues, so when I get to play the wicked stepmother- "I don't have to listen to you, YOU'RE not my MOTHER!"- it will be less of a shock. But Oh, how I wish I could rewind their lives and hold them as babies and chase after them as chubby toddlers just for a little while before they get taller than me. :)

Todd and I worried about the local elementary school's low ratings when we first moved here. The CA system requires them to really push in parents' faces the fact that the school performed poorly the year before (as if most parents have a choice anyway... I can see the point of being open about it, but it seems a bit counter-productive), and though the kids have an easy time with academics, and Todd spends lots of time teaching them at home, we really want them to enjoy school. I hated school all the way through and it made my life miserable and kinda prejudiced me against conventional education.

Our fears were groundless. I think both kids had the best school year ever. This is the first year these former Army brats have been able to complete an entire school year in the same state, let alone the same school! And we all love, love, LOVE their school. The principal was on a mission to turn the school around this year, after she replaced a principal who made some poor decisions in the last few. She definitely succeeded. I spent some time volunteering there in the second half of the year and I found everyone who works there to be amazing. In spite of the fact that the parent volunteer ratio is really small at this school, the teachers, and parents who are able to help out, are enthusiastic and determined to make the school the best one they can for the kids.

So ends our first year in Modesto. I wonder what this year will bring?


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy Tuesday After The World Didn't End!!

Things have been... interesting around here. In a way that I can't really talk about. Just trust me when I say that it's been a fairly stressful few weeks. However, right now we are not thinking about the bad things (we are not!! we are not!!) and as a result we had a lovely, relaxing weekend.

Our resident duck is still sitting on her second nest of eggs. We don't have much hope for these ones. We took the first batch to the Wildlife Center nearby and, well... I suspect euthanasia. I can't really blame them for not incubating eggs that they'd then have to care for as ducklings and release to the wild with no duck mama. I'm sure they're overwhelmed and strapped for cash as it is and they have hordes of baby animals being brought in this time of year. However, I am slightly bitter about the fact that they didn't just tell me up front that they wouldn't incubate the eggs. Thankfully the kids have forgotten about them by now. We had tadpoles briefly but they met a similar fate. Todd says I had them in too small a container, but they looked so pretty in there! I still spot the Cooper's Hawk from time to time, but now that the trees have leafed out we can't really observe the nest. I've lost count of how many toads the kids have rescued from the pool filter.

As spring draws toward summer the school year is winding down. The kids have one last week of school and then they're out for the summer. I can't believe we've been here for almost a year. I thought we'd be in this town, this school district, this apartment, for a few months at most. I'm always trying to put God's plans on fast-forward and I imagine He's always fondly rolling his eyes and saying, "Relax. I've got it under control." I find it hard not to feel the need to make things happen and take care of people. When you grow up being defined as "the oldest of all those kids," it's hard to leave the perceived responsibility behind.

I'm so glad we chose Modesto though. We've been exceptionally happy here as we learned how to be a family. It was a struggle at times, no surprise under the circumstances. I definitely wouldn't recommend starting a relationship the way Todd and I did to most people, but I won't ever regret the decisions I made. It's been a year of exceptional growth, for all of us, perhaps, but definitely for me. Which is not to say that more isn't needed. ;)

Tomorrow is the first grade play, Goin' Buggy, which Stone has excitedly been counting down the days to. Excited is an understatement. He practically vibrates when he wakes up each morning and realizes that he is One. Day. Closer. To. THE PLAY!!!!!!!!!!!! I helped out with the set design (sounds so fancy! Reality: I made some paper flowers) so I'm excited too. Hopefully the paper flowers will not wilt.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Reposted from 1998. You're welcome.

[Because I can't talk publicly about what's really been going on in my life lately.]

Hi Chris,

Smokey (Smoky?) is doing well and seems to be enjoying
the attention he's getting (don't believe anything he
tells you otherwise). Here are some pics i took on
Friday.

Jess




Deer Krees.

Pleez halp. Thes grl you hiard to feed me is- how yu say?- makeng me to loose the marblz. She put toys on mah hed like a beray and tak picturs, comprmizing mah manli catliness and makng me too speek in zis stupeed French acent. Also she nevr fede me and I am wastng awa. Plz com hom as sun as posibl and breng tuna.

Smokey,

p.s. Dont bothr to com withot teh tuna





Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Housekeeping



When we went to the bay area for Zach and Christy's wedding we stayed, along with the rest of my family, in a hotel with suites and, um, a higher standard of service than the hotels we usually stay in (i.e. on the Great Cheap Road Trip of '10). The kids were amazed that not only did we have two rooms!!! but that every day when we came back the rooms had been restored to their original splendor of cleanliness by magical house elves. We explained about housekeeping and all agreed that it was very nice of those people to come in and clean our rooms and make the beds for us.

When we left, the kids wanted to leave notes thanking the housekeeping staff and I thought that was a nice idea. I wasn't paying attention when Daphne asked me for our address and phone number but apparently she wanted to make sure the housekeeping staff of the Embassy Suites could get in touch with us later, if need be. It's a good thing she doesn't know what a social security number is because I'm pretty sure she would have insisted on including that too. I took a picture of the notes because they were so dang cute. 



I'm still not sure what it is we're "hopeful" about, but I'm assuming it's that magical house elves would show up at our apartment the next time we're out and clean up our mess. So far, no such luck.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Very Engaging Beach Vacation

The kids are away for spring break with their mom. We miss them. We're little sad without them, especially since it's Stone's birthday this week. We decided to go somewhere fun. Todd's family loves this beach on the central coast. There are pretty stones on the beach and it's a family tradition to collect them. I'd never been there.

On Monday we thought about leaving. Instead we spent the day being unbelievably stressed out by unfortunate circumstances. It was Stone's birthday. His mother was having a hard time adjusting to sharing the kids with a new person. There were hours of arguments before we got to talk to Stone. She demanded that I not accompany Todd and the children to the handoffs anymore. Seeing me hug the children in front of her makes her angry. We decided to go Tuesday.

Morning came. I felt like crap. I wanted to curl up and go to sleep. Todd packed the van and did the grocery run. I took a nap on the couch. I whined. He threatened. I agreed to go. We spent the morning driving through an incredibly gorgeous landscape. Over green hills and through valleys. Past countless picturesque weathered barns and windmills. We stumbled across a national monument and took a detour to eat ice cream and hike through a cave. Back on the road the scenery just got better. As the ocean came into view from the top of the hills, thick fog rolled in. It was breathtaking.


We arrived in the seaside town of Cambia at dinnertime. Pizza at a tourist spot tasted heavenly after hours of traveling. We slept snuggled up in the van, cozy as a tent and less work to set up.



The next morning Todd wanted to explore the beach in spite of the ominous skies. As we walked along watching the waves foam over jagged rocks it started to rain. The beach is covered in driftwood and random forts and lean-to's built out of it do the landscape. Todd pulled me into the biggest one to hide from the rain. As we watched, the sun came out and shone on the hillside opposite, making everything glow. He said, "It's so beautiful." I agreed. He said, "It makes me want to ask you to marry me." I looked at him, he was holding a ring.

I laughed and might have squeaked. I hugged him. He was still holding the ring. We kissed and hugged some more. I held out my hand. He put the ring on. I told him he was mine-all-mine now and there was no escaping. He seemed okay with that. Or maybe he's just a really good actor.

We spent the next few days being blissfully happy beach bums. We plan to spend the rest of our lives driving each other crazy and being in love. Since we got engaged I've only had to make angry eyebrows at him once for squirting me with a water gun when I was in a bad mood. It's hard to stick with a bad mood when someone is laughing at your angry eyebrows and squirting you with a water gun and then giving you food because you forgot to eat lunch and that's why you're in a bad mood. I think things are going pretty well. 


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