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Archive for October, 2011

Oct 26 2011

Here, There, and Back Again

Posted by Mugs @ 12:20 pm in Family,school,Sightseeing Print This Post Print This Post

The entire first quarter of this school year, I have been attempting to be in two places at once. Often, I lose track of my children’s daily activities and where I’m supposed to be when or when I’m supposed to be where. Field Hockey games, Cross Country meets, music lessons, worship practice, church events, birthday parties, friend get-togethers, and class activities are all lost in a blur of driving here, there, and back again.

My inherent laziness (I’d rather be reading a book or watching a Bears game) fights against adding anything to all this busyness. Zeke bears the brunt of “No. Not one more thing.”

Zeke: “Can I play soccer?”

Me: “No.”

Zeke: “Can I play baseball?”

Me: “No.”

Zeke: “All my friends play soccer and baseball.”

Me: “All your friends are first children. First children play soccer and baseball on a team. Fourth children play soccer and baseball on the Wii.”

Zeke: “When can I join a team?”

Me: “When your brother and sister go away to college. You’re the fourth child. I don’t have anymore brain power left to keep track of you.”

The other mothers of Zeke’s classmates feel sorry for him, and they offer to take him to soccer or baseball practice with them if I would just drop him off at their house. I have not given in, but Zeke is unrelenting like the kid on Uncle Buck who asks 38 questions in a row and finishes with the great quote “I’m a kid – that’s my job.”

A few weeks back, Abby was inducted into the National Honor Society (Yeah Abby!). Unfortunately, the lovely ceremony was scheduled for 6:30pm on the same night as Abby’s 4:30pm Field Hockey game across town.The level of organizational planning I needed on that day far exceeded my ability. (I know there are mothers who do this and do this well – I’m related to several of them – but I am not one of them). My first error was in thinking that if I started to get organized at 1pm, I would be ready in time.

First I searched for and ironed Zeke and Gabe’s blue pants, white shirts, and ties. I packed their black shoes and socks. (I was feeling good, thinking I would be done in plenty of time.) Unfortunately for me, a desperate text from Josiah arrived, “Call the school and tell Mrs. Clay I can’t play piano for the ceremony tonight. She says I have to play.”

Josiah was inducted into the National Honor Society last year (Yeah Josiah!), but he and I thought he was not required to attend this years induction because he had a Cross Country meet starting at 4pm nearly two hours away from the school. Immediately,  my “Seriously son, why must you always do this to me?” agitation spiked and I thought, “Three places at once?” I called the school and discovered that yes, he had to play the piano, but they had helpfully arranged that another parent would whisk his son (who was being inducted) and Josiah off the race finish line and drive them quickly back to the school.

Now, I was scrambling. I had planned time to pack my dress/shoes/jewelry, the snacks/water bottles/lawn chairs/cowbells/balls for the Field Hockey game, but had not expected to search for and prepare Josiah’s pants/shirt/tie/jacket/socks/shoes and most importantly piano music. The two things that saved me from failure were my organized daughter who already had her bag of toiletries with dress and shoes in the car and my husband who would be coming straight from work already wearing a suit.

I picked up Gabe and Zeke from school at 3:15pm, watched the Field Hockey game at 4:30pm, drove to the high school for us all to get changed and meet Dale, watched Abby’s induction starting at 6:30pm, observed Josiah’s arrival (after he showered off the mud) at 7pm, ate out for a family celebratory dinner at 8pm… Zeke was put to bed at 11pm that evening.

Dale informed us all that he was inducted into the National Honor Society covered in mud and smelling like dead fish having arrived straight from an Orienteering meet that took place on the same day. Thankfully, Abby and Josiah showered and let go of the Manry tradition of being covered in mud and smelling like dead fish during the NHS induction ceremony.

I had been pushing my luck for weeks and amidst all the scrambling from here to there and back again, I knew brain exhaustion would inevitably set in and something would be forgotten.

Often my brain tries to give me hints that I am forgetting something, but I am too tired to think it through. At the end of the women’s retreat, I could not think straight. As I was packing the van, I looked at the side box and thought “I packed something in there that I didn’t want to break when I drove down.” Unfortunately, the thought went no further. After returning from the retreat, dropping everyone off at their homes, and stopping to pick up dinner, I unloaded the van. When the van was empty, Zeke ran upstairs from the basement and said, “Mom, you forgot the Wii.”

I had brought the Wii to the retreat and had slid it inside the t.v. cabinet at the cottage to protect it and left it there. It was now 6pm Sunday evening. The retreat location was 1 1/2 hours away outside of Williamsburg. I texted Robyn, “I forgot the Wii.” She texted back, “WHAT???!!!” Not wanting to go back the next morning after I dropped the kids at school, I knew I had to go immediately back and try to find someone to let us in. I called and left messages at the place. Robyn call stalked the place, making 100 calls to them in 30 minutes. I prayed they would eventually answer the phone and I started driving. I picked up Robyn (who was concerned that maybe it wasn’t a good idea for me to be on the road) on the way. Thankfully, the place called back and the woman committed to meet us when we arrived.

We met up with the woman from the retreat center and she explained that the phones weren’t working properly. Robyn apologized for her call stalking, and we put the Wii in the car. By this time, I was completely wiped out and Robyn offered to drive home. We both swear we took the entrance ramp for I64 west, but 40 minutes later Robyn said “this doesn’t look right.” I awoke from my stupor to realize we were in Hampton on the outskirts of Norfolk. There are a few plausible explanations for this situation: God blinded our eyes from going the correct way for reasons known only to Him, our subconscious minds took over in an act of rebellion because we really wanted to go to the beach for the retreat, or we were both completely exhausted.

I called Dale and let him know that we needed to stop for gas and we both thought Hampton would be the best place to stop.

After nearly 3 hours of driving a distance that should have taken 1 1/2 hours, I dropped Robyn at her place and thought “just 30 more minutes and I’ll be home.” Ten minutes later, I got stuck on I95 in construction traffic. It took me 30 minutes to drive 3 miles. I arrived home at 11pm, having spent 7 1/2 hours in my car going here, there, and back again, and collapsed on my bed in exhaustion.

Only one thought gave me peace: “Zeke has the Wii back just in time for baseball practice.”


Oct 25 2011

Hottie U

Posted by Mugs @ 10:12 am in Sightseeing Print This Post Print This Post

Two weekends ago, my fellow laborers and I helped our fearless leader run a women’s retreat for our church. I am now mostly recovered. The retreat consisted of good teaching, encouraging prayer, fun fellowship, and a lot of laughs. Many of the laughs were provided by my fellow laborer, the Robyn. (My own life experience has convinced me that all Robins/Robyns were created to make people laugh.)

The Robyn has the uncanny ability to accidentally text or speak something incorrectly which results in a hilarious misspeak. As we were preparing to drive to the retreat, I texted Robyn to ask who was driving down with her. She texted back, “my sisters and the pastors wide.” I then threatened her that I was going to tell the pastor’s wife that Robyn had called her the pastor’s wide. This mistext may prove invaluable for multiple situations as Josiah pointed out to me that it could further be read as an insult to the pastor.

The Robyn’s next most hilarious misspeak happened while she was driving down to the retreat with her sister’s and the pastor’s wife. I blame some of what happened on the bizarre snacks their father had bought for them to eat on the way down (chocolate peanut butter bugles, beef jerky, fruit by the foot, banana chips) Robyn was attempting to say that we would be staying at the Holly Cottage for the retreat, but instead said “We’re staying at the Hottie College.”

Our retreat location was instantly renamed.


Oct 11 2011

Two Types of College Search

Posted by Mugs @ 12:50 pm in Family,school Print This Post Print This Post

Josiah is now in the first semester of his Junior year in high school and the days of college admission applications are fast approaching. Narrowing all the college choices down to a manageable amount to consider is a source of fret and worry for his mother and yet another thing to procrastinate on for him. His college search so far has consisted of attending the college fair at school last year and visiting a college campus last summer.

Josiah and I went to the college fair last year mostly unprepared. We wandered about talking to people we did not need to talk to and wasting time with colleges that did not meet Josiah’s interests. This summer we visited a college campus on a Sunday when only the security guard was present and most of the buildings were locked. The college was in the middle of nowhere and other than pianos every place we looked (including the Subway restaurant), it felt extremely remote.

My tendency to consider all possibilities out there and then narrow the list down drives Dale crazy. He considers it best to limit a decision to three choices and decide amongst those. Every answer is Yes or No. Maybes are not acceptable. He plots it all out on a spreadsheet and lets the variables and their weights tell him what to do.

Josiah takes neither my nor Dale’s approach. He lives by Dines’ mantra “Procrastinate to the answer.”

Meanwhile Abby is now in the first semester of her Sophomore year in high school. This year’s college fair is next week. I mentioned to her that she might want to research the list of colleges attending and narrow her choices so she would not end up wasting time on colleges ill suited for her.

Yesterday, she asked me for the list of colleges (I have misplaced it). When I was no help, she found last years list and worked off of it, assuming there would be some overlap. She sent an email to the guidance counselor requesting an updated list and then began researching each college. She created a list of Yes/Maybe/No. With yes consisting of her top three picks. (A little of Dad/A little of Mom) She has considered possible majors, music courses, and career opportunities. She is already thinking about scholarship requirements.

And her brother? He was busily writing a paper due today that he had known about for weeks. Why plan ahead when he can continue to live on the pressure edge of his mother’s irritation until he moves out to wherever his sister tells him he should go to school?



Oct 04 2011

Would You Like A Lollipop?

Posted by Mugs @ 12:50 pm in Family,Sightseeing,Work Print This Post Print This Post

Last Saturday was family day at Dales workplace.  As with our foray to see his office in the Pentagon, our opportunities to see where Dale works are few and far between. This day was the big deal. The organization had completed their move into their new building and the director had opened the building up on Saturday for all families to come and see.

Dale works in a large glass building with a central atrium. The majority of walls are glass and most work areas are open to view. Dale says everyone calls the building the ant farm and when you are inside, that is the best description possible.

They had kids activities outside and inside of the building. Outside, Zeke rode a pony and petted a really fat bunny. All the kids climbed in and out of two helicopters and played with the heavy rubber weapons on display by the police. Inside, we ate our $5 lunches, jumped rope and hula hooped in the gym, and dusted a frame for fingerprints.

Throughout the building there were a multitude of funky modern office chairs to sit on. The kids sat in all types of chairs in many areas. Abby liked these bright green chairs with high backs and metal legs that rocked slightly. Gabe liked the chairs in the classroom that had cup holders and swinging t.v. tray desks. He told me we should buy some for the living room to be able to watch t.v. during dinner. (He has Manry blood running through his veins for sure.) When Dale and I were first married, I explained to Dale that we would sit down at a table together for dinner – not sit around the living room in front of the t.v. with plates on our laps. He was a bit taken aback by this new mode of eating, but has been a good sport about it for 21 years.

The majority of people at Dale’s office building work in open cubicles. A few get small offices with sliding track doors. Fewer still have an office with a real door. Dale’s office looked pretty much like all his offices have looked: unoccupied. He has no “I Love Me Wall,” no plants, and no desk paraphernalia except a daily cartoon calendar. Sadly, he does not even have a family photo. He has a giant white board, multiple computers, an old coffee travel mug, and a scratched and faded thick plastic mug from Kraft foods that Dines gave him years ago.

In the atrium, numerous organizations were set up with candy and toys for the kids. One table had a lollipop tree that kids could pick a lollipop from and then the woman behind the table would give the child a globe key chain for a prize. I brought Zeke to the table first and he got his prize. Gabe and Abby went next. Last, I brought Josiah over and told him to pick a lollipop. The lady just stood there.

“Can he have a prize too?” I asked.

The lady looked taken aback, and I thought “I got four kids, lady. Do you know what a pain in the neck it is when all but one gets a prize?”

“Sure,” she said hesitantly. “You can have a prize if you want,” and she handed Josiah his globe key chain.

I then looked over at my 17 year old son with a full beard and it slowly dawned on me that maybe the days of lollipops and prizes had passed him by.