Friday, October 12, 2018

Random Current Life Stuff


I cannot hang with these early weekday mornings, and this is coming from someone who had to wake up at or before 6:00 for 30 years.  There have been many mornings after the girls are in school when I've decided to just "rest" for a few minutes and wake up an hour later.



The school year is moving along at a fast pace.  I know everyone hates when people say things like this but I really can't believe we are almost halfway through October.  We've had a lot of rain and/or cloudy days this fall season.  I'm enjoying the scenery for now but absolutely dreading the upcoming cold, especially as I keep reading predictions for a nasty winter.  This, once again, ruins my dream, the dream of all New Englanders. for a school year with no snow days tacked on at the end.


A few weeks ago, Rich's family threw a party to celebrate his mom's 90th birthday.  Sadly, she suffers from dementia so we're not sure how aware she really is.


Allie came up with the idea of performing a special birthday dance for Grandma.  She choreographed it all herself and then taught it to her sisters and their cousin, Paige.  Well, technically, Paige is their cousin's daughter but with a family this big, we don't get technical.  They danced to Happy Birthday by New Kids on the Block because they are my children.  Their performance was a big hit!

So let's talk about Emily's outfit for a minute.


One of the challenges with smaller kids is finding age appropriate clothing in their size.  Obviously, all along, I've avoided clothes that make them look like tiny adults.  We still want to stay away from the too adult inappropriate stuff, but also clothing that's too babyish.  Emily's top and jeans are from Old Navy.  I know a lot of people pooh-pooh Old Navy, calling their clothing wash-and-toss.  We don't wash and toss anything here.  We wash, wear a lot and pass on to cousins.

Her top is size 7/8.  We went up to size 10 in those jeans because they really are skinny.  The boots are from The Children's Place.  We haven't purchased any clothing items from The Children's Place recently due to the meh selection but the boots were good.  Oddly, our Target had hardly any fall shoes for big girls, unlike last year  There were baby/little girls boots, but only two or three for bigger kids.  Kind of a disappointment as that has been our go-to for shoes.

I would (insert one of many) style link for you but I don't participate in those programs so you're on your own, but we have picked up a few cute stylish items from Old Navy for school this fall.  We popped into the outlet store a few weeks ago and found leggings on sale for $4.  Even Target can't beat that price.

Because I drop off and pick up the girls from school, I see a lot of kids.  Sometimes I can't help but pay attention to what they're all wearing, especially the 7th and 8th graders.  Thankfully the kids are only mildly brand focused.  The majority of girls wear black leggings/capris or jeans with tee shirts and hoodies.  Some towns in Massachusetts have girls wearing Burberry in middle school.  Ah, no.


I have been sewing and finally created a separate IG account for this.  It's @sarah_sews_and_sells.  For now, I've been selling on Disney clothing boards.  Or trying to anyway.  It's a tough, over-saturated market out there, just like most everything else.  I don't want to set up a store on etsy due to the fees and other complaints.  Grammy and I are also looking into some craft shows.  I am going to start listing items for sale on the IG account too.





Those all make me wish we had been able to visit Disney closer to Halloween.


So that's all for now.  Happy Friday!


Monday, October 8, 2018

What I read in September

I was able to read four books of a wide variety last month.  There was a thriller, a nonfiction based on sociology, a memoir and a future world fiction novel.  My choice of the month, hands down, goes to The Sound of Gravel, a memoir written by Ruth Wariner.

Have you heard of this one?  The author grew up in a polygamist family on a ranch in rural Mexico.  She was the 39th of her father's children.  There's so much going on in this memoir - poverty, sexual abuse, neglect and violence - but at the end of the day, there's a message of hope and resilience.

This was such an emotional read for me with an absolutely shocking and heartbreaking scene towards the end.  Even if you don't typically read memoirs, I would highly recommend this book.

You know how I love these trendy thrillers.

Grist Mill Road was a page-turner for me.  In 1982, Patrick, Matthew and Hannah are tied together by a crime committed in their Upstate New York childhood town.  Chapters flips back and forth between the early '80s and 26 years later, when the characters meet again in NYC.

I really, really liked how this was written with excellent character development and details.  Unfortunately, everything all fell apart at the end for me.  It was almost as if the author had a really good idea but no way to end it.  After all the build up, I actually exclaimed, "That's it!?"

Here and there, I prefer to read books with a sociology base, which is how I came to read Janesville.

Janesville is a city in Wisconsin that was home to the oldest General Motors operating plant, which was closed in 2008.  This book takes a look at what happened after the plant closure and the efforts that were made to keep the unemployment rate down.

While I learned quite a bit and the author goes into a great amount of detail (personal and otherwise), it does take time to get through this book.   I'd summarize it as an excellent reading of the working class of America.  It'd be the perfect book for a college class - either sociology or business.  Definitely worthy of four stars, but don't expect to fly through it.

And then we have the last book I read for the month . . .

This book takes place in the future and while not apocalyptic, it's pretty bleak.  Traditional stores have been shuttered and electricity no longer works in the city.  Frida and Cal leave a crumbling Los Angeles in order to live alone in the wilderness, but when Frida discovers she's pregnant, they head out to the nearest settlement.  While joining others offers safety, they soon realize that there are dangers they hadn't considered.

I have such mixed feelings after reading this.  I absolutely loved the description of a future world, as grim as it may be, but the plot was flawed and too easy to poke holes into.  I also didn't feel connected to any of the characters.  They all seemed somewhat flat to me.  It's a shame as I really do think the author has the imagination to pull off a great book, but this one didn't quite work.

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Saturday, October 6, 2018

{Disney 2018} Day 3 - Chef Mickey's

Chef Mickey's is a character meal restaurant located in the Contemporary Resort, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet-style.  Despite many negative reviews online, it's an extremely popular restaurant.  Anyone who has tried to make a reservation here can attest to that fact.  Obviously, part of the draw is having the opportunity to meet the Fab Five - Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto - in one setting.

We ate breakfast at Chef Mickey's during our 2016 vacation and had a great meal.  You can read my review of that here.  In my opinion, it's pretty hard to screw up a buffet-style breakfast.  I've heard that dinner, on the other hand, is not the best so I was interested in checking it out for myself.  Whenever I read a review ripping apart Chef Mickey's, I always wonder how bad it could have been.

After getting caught in a torrential downpour, I was glad we had made time to return to our rooms and change clothes prior to heading over the Contemporary.

This is what our downtime looked like . . .


I thought it was so cute how Emily found books about Florida at the library and brought them on our trip as her reading material.  Unfortunately, it didn't take her long to read through all of them.  By the end of our vacation, she wished she had brought more to read, saying she had read every book and brochure in the room.


Get ready for some terrible photos.  The lighting here was awful and I didn't have my flash.  Even if I had brought my flash, it would have been sort of obnoxious to use it where we were sitting.




I found the food and service here to be just about the same as that of 1900 Park Fare.  You do have a waiter/waitress who takes your drink orders and replenishes your drinks.  Just like 1900 Park Fare, they are on top of things, meaning your drink never runs out without another one placed in front of you.  Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of buffet dinners.  As I said in my discussion of 1900 Park Fare, in trying to please everyone with variety, it sometimes feels like there's less rather than more.


We did enjoy our meal here.  I'm always interested in Rich's opinion since he is not a Disney person and will tell it like it is.  He did like his meal, but actually said he preferred the food at 1900 Park Fare over Chef Mickey's.


The real stars of Chef Mickey's were these macarons.


There were many different flavors and I had one of each.  Yup.  And they were all delicious.

Coming up next - Magic Kingdom!

You can find links to all the entries of this trip report and previous trip reports HERE.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Dance (Kids and Adult) + Running Club

After a brief break in August, dance started back up for the new year at the beginning of September.  I did rejoin the adult tap class, which is slightly different this year.  The warm-ups are more intense from an aerobic standpoint and the instructor does add in extra steps for those who have been tapping for longer.  I like that it's more of a workout.  Part of taking that class is for the workout.  If the studio can find enough people interested, they may add a half hour jazz class to the end of the tap class.  I've already told them I'm in.

It should be noted that I'm campaigning for NKOTB's Step by Step for our recital dance.

[Okay, can we talk about selfies and having others take photos of you by yourself in seemingly odd places.  Now that I'm older, I don't like photos of myself, but I'm trying to get over it.  I wanted a picture of myself at tap class for a few different reasons, but I've been too embarrassed to take one.  Allie went into the studio with me before class and took that photo with my phone.  Ha ha.]

The girls are still on the same competition team.  Some of the older kids were moved up and some newer girls, including a few friends, were added to their team.  All three are also taking tap and ballet.  Emily and Allie are in jazz.  It's a pretty full schedule.

I don't think this is the norm but our middle school does not have organized sports teams for the students.  If you want to play a sport, you need to do so through the town and I believe you're limited to soccer, football, cheer, basketball, baseball and softball.  The school does have many, many clubs which meet after school though.

Emily expressed an interest in the girls running club.  Anna then decided she too was interested.  Emily said it was something she kind of wanted to do herself but then shrugged and moved on.  The stars aligned and running club meets after school on a day that doesn't conflict with dance so both Emily and Anna joined.  Emily's BFF also joined with her.

Running club is somewhat flexible in that you don't have to be running the entire time.  They are even okay with the girls just walking.  The point of the club is to keep the kids active but also give them a chance to socialize with others.  I am slightly concerned with Anna overdoing it because she runs as much as she can with walking breaks thrown in there as needed.  She's exhausted at night.  I give the kid credit though for not allowing spina bifida to slow her down.

The girls were unable to participate in the school play last year because of their commitment to dance and it looks like that will continue to be the case going forward.  It stinks, but you can't be in two places at once and it's not fair to your teammates/fellow cast members.  Plus, both dance and drama take the commitment seriously and will not allow you to skip for another activity/sport.

So that's a quick update.  Lots of physical activity going on here right now.

Monday, October 1, 2018

It starts at home

A couple of years ago, after a big house clean out, my mom brought over my baby book and other childhood memorabilia, like my Strawberry Shortcake toys and frog stuffed animals.  Tucked inside the front cover of my baby book along with random report cards and paperwork was a science quiz from junior high.  A quiz that I almost failed.  I had no recollection as to how that quiz ended up in my baby book.  Who thought to place it in there amongst elementary school photos and growth charts?  And why?

But I guess that's the point.

I'm sure a quiz with a D grade for a student who had never received a D grade caused turmoil and grief at the time, but I really don't remember it.  I can remember the room for that particular class and I can imagine the horror and embarrassment of such a grade, but I cannot recall the events related to that particular quiz in any sort of detail.  It's all fuzzy and, at my age, any memories I think I have of this are most likely reconstructed.

What I do know is that years and years later, that quiz held zero significance in my life.  It didn't impact where I went to college.  There were no implications with respect to my college degree.  That grade had absolutely no relevance to my career.  Maybe that was the point in finding it all those years later.  One bad grade will not change your life, no matter how difficult it is to accept at the time.

I'm at the age where I tell the girls stories from my childhood that start with "when I was your age."  They roll their eyes and tell me everything was old fashioned back then.  Our current school system has made the transition from elementary school to middle school fairly seamless.  It is a big change, but most kids should be able to handle it.  The teachers and administrators have done a lot of hand holding these past few weeks.

I've told the girls many times about my junior high experience, how I attended a small, private Catholic school for 5th and 6th grades before starting junior high in a completely new town, where my father had became part of the school system.  Not only did I not know anyone, but the transition to a stronger school was difficult.  When I think back to St. Mary's, I remember quite a bit - the uniforms (it's actually scary how much detail I can recall of the uniforms), my penny loafers, my friends, Katie and Maleka, recess watching the boys break dance on cardboard they kept hidden in the woods behind the school, attending church.  I don't remember anything at all about actual schoolwork.  I don't remember anything I learned, I don't remember any tests, I don't remember any homework.  Nothing.

Schoolwork is a big memory from junior high.  There was a lot of it.  Homework, quizzes, tests, projects.  I seem to have a part of my brain that holds memories related to clothing because I can certainly bring up all the Benetton, Esprit and Reebok that was being worn by everyone but me it seemed.

In talking to parents of older kids at dance, I've learned that sometimes kids need to learn how to study for tests in middle school.  I can see how that happened to me and I'm watching it with the girls now.  They never really had to study for tests in elementary school.  Either you knew it or you didn't.  Their report cards would reflect whether they met the expectations of the state or how they stood in the learning process.  Now their report cards will have actual grades.

It starts at home.

When school started, I reinstated our rule of no television Monday through Thursday. (Yes, there are exceptions.)  Honestly, there is just no need for them to be zoning out in front of the TV.  Between dance, after school activities and homework, there is enough to do.  They are allowed to use electronics (their kindles or chrome books) but they aren't the type of kids who really do much on those so it's not a concern.  I don't want to say, "Hey, you can watch TV after you finish your homework," because I can guarantee someone will rush through her homework.

The school has a policy of approximately 20 minutes per class of homework each night.  Not every class has homework every night and no one should be spending more than 90 minutes in total on homework.  It seems like math is the most time consuming and their teacher has told us that after 30 minutes, a parent can sign it and she will count it as completed.

Their final grade in each class is based on a variety of items.  Depending on the class, 15-25% of your grade is based on homework, participation, etc.  As far as I can tell, when they refer to participation, it's more a matter of being mentally present in class and working with classmates, not always raising your hand.  The homework thing is a no brainer to me.  Do your homework and you get 100%.  Easy.  Except the girls tell me there are kids who don't do their homework.  Ever.

Communication with the parents has been good thus far.  There's a weekly email outlining upcoming tests and work due back to the school.  All homework is posted online so at any given time, I can go online and see if they have homework to do.  I'm not going to sit here and judge all the parents of the kids who don't complete their homework.  I don't know their situations.  What I'm hear to say is that I fully believe parents need to be involved at this point.

All of the girls' teachers stay after school Monday through Thursday in order to assist kids with their homework.  If you don't need help but you want to stay at school to complete your homework - that's okay too.  The girls can't do this every day because of some early dance classes, but I do encourage it when possible.  They are still in school mode and there's a teacher there to help with any subject if they have questions.  At first Emily said it was for kids who didn't have a parent at home.  Ha ha.  I try my best, but I'm not a teacher.

Not every kid is going to earn 100% on every test.  I expect to see 100% effort though.  I have to catch myself sometimes when I say I'm proud of them.  What am I proud of?  It's the effort, which leads to the high grade or beautiful dancing.  In my mind, you shouldn't be proud of someone simply for being born smart or born with natural talent.  There should always be some sort of effort behind it.  There are plenty of people out there who are smart or hold some sort of talent but without the effort, pfffft, there's nothing.