3...2...1...Cornhole and Other Final Thoughts

Final preparations being made for completing the cornhole set...

Two coats of polyurethane for the top.

 Luis was a patient and skilled teacher, even when his students were a bit less than willing.  He does have 12 years of teaching middle school so I shouldn't compare myself.  Finally it was my turn to have the kids in "my" work space, the sewing studio. We lasted 10 minutes on making the bean bags before I got irritated with the kids and they stormed out.  We tried again a few days later with an assembly line, and that worked out pretty good.

Maya did all the sewing, Jack did the filling.  We used unpopped popcorn.

And finally after weeks of on and off work, counting to 10, taking deep breaths, we finished our big project.

Finishing it was very satisfying, it was the "big bad ass project" I dreamed up at the beginning of the summer.  As for the rest of the 'summer rules'....they worked when they were enforced which was A LOT OF WORK for me and Luis.  I  really thought eventually, maybe after a week or so,  the kids would naturally take ownership of the rules and do them on their own.  This absolutely never happened.  They begged me to watch TV several times a day, and sometimes even sneaked behind my back to watch it.  That's when I unplugged the modem.  It wasn't until they had a consequence of screens being taken away completely for 24 hours that they stopped sneaking screen time before 3:30.  Then promptly at 3:30, some days they even counted down the seconds literally, the screens would go on and stay on till bed time.  That would be like 6 hours of constant TV.  I wanted to teach them self control but ended up teaching them self deprivation.  At 3:30 they were like thirsty travelers in the dessert, they absolutely could not get enough.  Again, I was deluded into thinking that they would have cheerfully realize how much there is to do in life besides watch TV, and that the spell would have been broken.  Maybe they would just watch a show or two and turn it off, join the living, get back into the stream of life.  Not so much.  I completely failed at teaching them any lessons whatsoever about TV.  In fact, they grew to love their life sucking screen habit even more.

We resigned ourselves to policing the 'legal' screen hours as well, letting the idiot box be on for an hour or two and then telling them to turn it off.  Surprisingly they complied without too much complaint, and I had a glimmer of hope that maybe the screen monster had been tamed just ever so slightly and that they did enjoy screen free moments now and then.

The bed time idea wasn't realistic, and the end in bed times turned to 9:30 or 10:30.  Not what I wanted, but it was a compromise.  The academics?  We were militant about it for three weeks in July.   Then I just kind of forgot about it as the days blurred into a lot of time at the beach, running errands, and cooking.   No, the kids didn't remind me about it.  I am sure they were more than thrilled that I put it to the side.  They did read through.  Jack read 7 books and Maya worked her way slowly but diligently through the Hunger Games series.  There was no family book study this year.  We intended to read The Giver because I thought they would like the dystopian theme.  We started it and a chapter into the book they were very bored....so yes, I gave up on that one too.

Being educators, we spend a ton of time as a family over the summer.  Sometimes its too much, and we really get on each other's nerves.  Ask me if I'd rather be working and away from them all summer and the answer is a resounding no.  On one hand you have to dig deep for meaningful consequences, nag till your voice is gone, and hide modems.  On the other hand, I got to read on the back porch with my son on raining evenings, bake with my daughter, go to lunch with my husband, and sit on the beach day after day.

We are already thinking about what we will do next summer, and we all have our own ideas.  Jack wants to make to Brazil to see a world cup game.  Depending on the airfare prices, which I expect will triple, that would be an excellent trip.  Especially since the world cup 2018 will be in Russia and 2022 will be in Qatar, two places we are very unlikely to travel to.  Luis dreams of a USA cross country trip to Sequoia National Park if the Brazil thing doesn't work out.  I would love a trip to rural  Romania and have been following this blog about doing a homestay .  It's a big dream of mine to make this trip, but would be very happy with Ecuador or finding a road less traveled in Belize or the southern Yucatan.   The last four summers in Latin America made me crave more time in this fascinating part of the world. We won't start serious planning till December, and will purchase tickets in early February.  We'll see.

And last, but not least.  Here's the boy with his new haircut and hardware!

We start school in a few days, Luis beginning year 13 and probably one of his last years at his school as he continues work on year 2 of 3 in his admin graduate program.  I loop back down to 6th grade and will guide, to the best of my ability, 300 vulnerable souls through 3 of the most important and difficult of their (and their parent's) lives.  As 5th and 8th graders, the kids will be flying high on their last year of their current school ever mindful of the transition to come.

If you've been reading the blog this summer, I do thank you.

Summer Days on the Coast

It was sweltering when we went to Airlie Gardens to take advantage of the first Sunday of the month free admission. Somehow I got them to pose with the frog sculptures. 

 It's not the biggest butterfly house, but there were specimens to study all the same.

Another trip to Masonboro with good friends. I love these guys.

Running on the beach with Buddy.
Getting better at skim boarding.

Jack with be in Luis' science class this year.  I know what you're thinking, that this could not possibly work out, but the way the school is structured, its unavoidable.    Luis determined to make it work, we'll have to make the best of it.  And its only for a year.  We can survive anything for a year, right?


Prolific Pluffy and Other Fun Stuff

My friend brought her 7 year old to our house last week.  When she called to make the arrangement, she  shared a funny story about how her son describes his ideal summer camp.

He wants to be able to just go in the woods, make forts, explore, and whack stuff down with machetes.  He wants to make something out of wood and learn how to use woodworking tools.  Sounds like a day in the life at our house.  Of course the grass is always greener.  My kids complain a lot about how bored they are.

They definatley made time for tromping in the woods, but it was the Pluffy that was the big hit.

Even the older guys weren't too cool for Pluffy.

 Things begin to take shape.

Enjoy the Pluffy Gallery:

The day was capped off with birdhouse painting...

And the 8th grade wack a doodle boys did a puppet show for the younger kids.


Corn Hole Part 2

The set is really taking shape!  All in all the project has gotten a lot better, as long as we work in 20 minutes segments, which is about how long their attention spans are.  Unlike when we first started, now they request to work on it.  What a nice surprise!

Some work on the chop saw.

Sanding the top smooth.

Finally getting to the painting stage!

 Drawing the design on the top.

 After working on the project a while they take a break with some soccer.....


Corn Hell Part 1

Hop in the car kids we're gonna go get the stuff to build a cornhole set!

13 year old:  "This is stupid and I hate it."

Well, this is getting off to a nice start. 

Me: "We're doing this project, a family project together.  Get in the car we're going to Lowes.  Do you have the supply list?"

13 year old:  "I'm not going.  Its dumb.  You guys go and I will stay home and play Minecraft and build something that I want to build.  Why can't we just buy a cornhole set?  I don't want to go out in public with you guys because you act like such weirdos"

Me: "Get in the car.  Let's go.  We're leaving."

13 year old:  "No!  I don't care about this stupid family project!"

Luis: "Get in the bleeping car or your not going to Lacrosse tonight."

He got in the car.

And the good times continued at Lowes.  We divided up the supply list.  Luis and Maya gathered the plywood and 2x4's.  Jack and I were assigned to get the hardware.  This is where we were supposed to teach our kids how to navigate hardware store, how to find the right materials for the job.  I am certain Luis had a joyful time explaining to a politely listening daughter about the variations and thicknesses of plywood while I tried to figure out where the 3/8 by 4 1/2 galvanized bolts were among the hundreds of little drawers.  I got the hard part.  And the hard kid.  He grumbled and pouted and in the end Luis had to get the hardware himself because we couldn't figure out a lag bolt from a carriage bolt and what does galvanized mean anyway?

At the check out Jack went into begging mode for a Gatorade.  He asked 10 times and I said no 10 times.  Then he said some magical words, "If you get me a Gatorade I promise to work hard and have a good attitude when we work on the corn hole set!".  I admit I had been worn down, weakened by his grumpiness.  He had found a break in my perimeter.  'Really?  You will?"  I realized then that I had been an emotional hostage to his attitude.  He was successfully convincing me that the key to escape was as easy as buying a Gatorade.  Plus my mom recently stated, after offering Jack a dollar to get out of the car so we could all go into Belk without incessant complaints,  that she wonders why she didn't resort to bribery when we were kids.  She made it sound lke she should have done that all along.  Hey, why not learn from my mother's mistakes?  Heck yeah, get that kid a Gatorade becasue he promisies to be nice if I do.

 Seriously.  I really did that.

I did buy that drink, but when we got back to the house I had to remind him of his promise to be nice every 10 minutes.  It was a lot of work.  But that's a middle schooler for you.  I work with a brilliant administrator who likens this age group to the T-rex's in Jurassic Park.  Their mission is to find breaks in the perimeter and when they sense a weakness they make run for it! I'm good at building the fences, but have trouble maintaining the weak spots.

And speaking of work, we did get some done that first day.  In fact, we very well would have finished them in record time if I hadn't gotten mad about everyone's pissy attitude.  You see, for whatever reason everyone but me thought we had to barrel through and complete the set by the end of the day.  That's a pretty tall order, even for a skilled wood worker with nothing but time.  So to my kids it was seen as a day of indentured servitude.  To my husband it was a day of dealing with kids who were uncooperative and bratty.

So I was like, whoa, what's going on here?  I explained to my family that I really wanted to do an activity that we work on bit by bit over the rest of the summer and have a nice accomplished project to show for it.  An activity we can putter with on rainy afternoons in the shed, a cool game we can bring to parties, a tangible object that represents something we did together over the summer.  When I made my vision more clear it changed everything.

 Using some of the geometry from 7th grade.  Just hands here because he absolutely refused to let me photograph his face.

Once she got over her initial fear she was pretty adept at using this chop saw, under Dad's close supervision of course.

He can drill a straight hole, which is more than I can say for myself.

By the time we are finished we're going to have a nice set!


Some of the little things we have done...

I've had more time this year than ever before to pay attention to the garden, and if you saw it in person you'd see I am enthralled with hydrangeas.

We've been lucky enough to get a handful of meals featuring fresh green beans.  Usually the lack of watering and a bug infestation kills them by now.
Of course there's the beach, the reason we moved to this area in the first place!  That super moon back in June was magical.  The moon rise was like a light bulb turning on.

With friends is the best way to spend the day.

Maya got a summer science/math/ELA packet from her school packed with activities.  One was making a bubble solution with glycerine, joy, and water.  Everyone really got into it. Even Jack.

 No one accomplished making a big bubble, but it was something fun to try.

 The annual summer get together with friends we have had since we moved here is truly a highlight that I count as one of my many blessings on this earth.  These families have been in our circle since our oldest kids were nurslings.  We were La Leche League leaders and members together for many years, and I have had the privilege of attending the births of two babies in this group.
 One 'nice' and one 'crazy' picture.  Note that the youngest is 'crazy' in both.  :)
We don't have a boat, but a bunch of our friends do.  Last week our friends generously offered us the use of their boat for the afternoon.

He is happiest when he's at the helm.
 They only caught a couple of pin fish but were thrilled all the same.

 I love where I live!

 Are we happy that we are home this summer?  It's nice to have a break from planning and recovering from an intense international trip.   I like being able to hang around with days and days of nothing to do, even though it makes me anxious to have a lot of unstructured free time.  I have to make myself surrender to the unproductive nature of a summer free from commitments.  Most people would wish for this, and indeed I yearned for it all year long. 

I have a terrible, awful time just being in the here and now without worrying about one thing or another.  Looking over the photos of this post its obvious that I am offered many opportunities to feel joy, beauty, and that all is truly well.

We have started the family fun (!?!?) construction project of making a corn hole set.  I'll go into details with pictures on the next post.  Our experience with teaching the kids how to use enormous limb mangling power tools and having fun with surly 13 year old boys are sure to delight and scare you.