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.


The Family Meeting

Without a big trip to occupy us this summer, I knew there would be a lot of down time.  We are all screen addicts of one kind or another, so I decided to hold a family meeting to talk about what that would look like.

So now I will experience screen time while I blog about restricting screen time.  Drowning in hypocrisy.

I was googling ideas for summer TV rules and came across this excellent blogpost about summer screen time rules that starts off like this:

"The shift to summer always requires a family meeting. Dave and I talked, wrote a list, and called it. Why? Basically, we want to reduce (or eliminate) nagging. Dave and I don't want to nag the kids, and we don't want the kids nagging us. We want self-starters consumed by big projects for long stretches of time.

We don't want to waste the summer to gaming and TV and screens.
We want our kids to take off on some BIG bad-ass projects.
We want them to work.
We want them to take responsibility for stuff.
We want them to have goals for themselves.
We want them to read, exercise, eat right...
We need help cooking and cleaning and tending ..."

I could have written this myself, but I didn't.....but it describes my thoughts exactly.  We (I won't lie, I made most of the list myself with some input from Luis and very little from the kids) made a list of topics to talk about at our family meeting which would be help while we were  captive audience in the car on the way home from New York.

From our list we (mostly me and Luis) came up with these family guidelines:

Summer 2013

Screen Time:  No screens until 3:30.  Ipods turned in at night.
Bed Time:  3 nights a week, in by 9:00.  Other nights in by 10:00.  Sleepovers till 12:00.  May read in bed.
Dinner dishes:  Kids do it together 3 x week
Reading goal:  3 novels and 1 family book study
Math goal: Skill sharpener due Fridays
Meal panning:  Everyone takes a week.  Budget, plan, and help parent prepare.

©       If you use the last of the OJ take out a new one.
©       One cup rule.  Just one.
©       Hands off the AC.  Stand in front of a fan if you are hot. Kids charged $6 if they touch the AC.
©       Participate in family activities.
©       Be kind.

ü  Make something
ü  Clean something
ü  Build something
ü  Ride something with wheels
ü  Do yoga
ü  Go to the beach
ü  4th Friday gallery nights
ü  Badminton
ü  Board games
ü  Movie night
ü  Play in the woods
ü  Arboretum
ü  Call a friend

The list was written over Father's day weekend, I started this post July 5. It's now July 15 and I am finally posting, but hey, I don't get a lot of screen time these days because yes, the rules apply to everyone and it's hard to get computer time with only one in the house when its being taken over every night by Minecraft addicts.   How's it going so far?  Well, 2 weeks ago I had at least one begging every hour, and another trying to sneak around under bed covers with an ipod.  The only way I could break the screen habit was to hide the remotes, HDMI cord, modum cord,and ipods.   It's like breaking a habit.  We all turn to a screen when we can't think of something immediately satisfying to do.  Like the author of that blog "We want the kids to wake up and feel the stretch of the day before them, and their imaginations have to fill it."

Since it has been a month I have to say the begging is getting less and I got smart and just pull the modum cord every morning.  My son proudly announced he was finishing his third book of his summer and we actually went to the library so my daughter could get a second Hunger Games book.

Each kid has successfully taken a week of dinner planning.  Maya planned a week of all the old standbys I normally cook.  Jack decided on meals inspired by TV shows.  The only one I had to edit was the goose he wanted to cook in honor of Arrested Development.  We decided on a rotisserie chicken instead.

A month into it, the math goal has progressed from all out crying to mild complaints about how no one else's parents make them do math in the summer.  And the bed times, lets just say we are working on that one.  After all, there's a lot of screen time to make up for.

Stay tuned for posts about planned summer projects:  The Family Book Study, or How to Make Your Kids Hate You and Building a Cornhole Set, or How to Achieve the Greatest Number of Arguments  in 3 Easy Steps.  See you there!


Best Friends and Great Food in NYC

While there isn't a blow out international trip this summer, we did manage an excursion to NYC.  Luis and Jack dropped Maya and I off at the Amtrak station in Philly.  They spent the afternoon in Philly eating cheese steak and visiting museums before going to Monmouth, NJ to participate in a reenactment..
 They hauled a cannon over the hills and through the woods....

 Jack is now considered a musician in the North Carolina 6th, thanks to excellent training by his middle school band teacher!
 Luis is the company commander and this is his rag tag crew, fighting the British.
So while they slept under a tarp and ate corn cakes off of a shovel, Maya and I spent a fabulous weekend in NYC visiting a very dear friend of mine that I have known since high school.  Anytime I can ride a train or a subway I feel happy.

 First night's dinner was at Momofuku where the specialty is a bun.  Like a Japanese taco I suppose.

 First thing in the morning we got on the F train to take in the view from the top of 30 Rockefeller Center   was amazing and so worth the money!  The subway has a stop right under the building so its very easy to find.  Its better than the Empire State Building because you can SEE the Empire State Building.  There it is in the background.


 Since the Lego store is right there we couldn't resist going in.

 Prince Street Pizza was recommended by my friend, and it was indeed the best square we ever had. 

 Walking around Chinatown looked and smelled like I was walking in any country in Asia. 

We ate Vietnamese pho soup, which was super good.

We played in Union Square Park, which,  like everywhere we went in the city, was absolutely packed with people. 
 We took a little quiet reading break in the bookstore.
 The Chelsea Market  was all hip and trendy like a magazine.  It did look like a nice gourmet and pricy place to get your picnic snacks for a walk on the Highline.

We spent a lovely afternoon walking on The Highline  with our friends.  An old elevated train track converted into a beautiful public space.

Because she loves to read, we took a reading break.

Dinner at  The Park was just perfect, with this artisan cheese board as an appetizer.

 Another ambitious walk, this time over the Brooklyn Bridge to the DUMBO  area. 

 A ride on Jane's Carousel was just $2.  That's pretty incredible for New York.

Dinner at Tacombi was quite good.  There's an old VW bus taco truck in the middle of the dining room that whips up the tacos.

 A highlight was a trip to the Big Gay Ice Creap Shop where the best thing on the menu is called a salty pimp.  Its fun to order a dessert called a salty pimp.  There's a unicorn mural painted on the wall that has been bedazzled with rhinestones.

It was so yummy we went there twice!

So when the boys arrived we stayed another day and brought them to 30 Rockefeller Center and Prince Street Pizza.

Really the best part was catching up with my old friend and getting to know his wife and son better.  They were generous to put us up for the weekend and show us around to all these cool places.  We are hoping to show them some southern hospitality in the near future!