Mar 27, 2016: Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, everyone! Except it’s not quite Easter as I’m writing this. But we’re going to be at Grandma Kathy and Papa’s house much of the day tomorrow, so I figured I’d get the blog posted today, even though it means you’ll have to wait until next week to see any pictures from Easter!

So far today, we’ve spent the day doing a bunch of yard work. Our yard was overrun with weeds, thanks in part to all the rain we’ve had, so we spent a few hours outside mowing the lawn; pulling weeds, weeds, and more weeds; and then getting the weed whacker after still more weeds. I even ventured past our iron fence onto the golf-course property and whacked weeds there. We learned last year that the golf course does nothing with the giant weedy patch between the green (or whatever you call the golf course itself) and our property line. So we (and all of our neighbors) end up with this huge expanse of tall weeds that is rather annoying. First of all, this is rattlesnake territory, and those thigh-high weedy hills are prime territory for snakes to hang out, so I’d rather not having them running right up to our yard. Second, we spent a couple thousand dollars last year replacing the rotted-out iron fence, and the damp weeds growing right up next to it have been rusting it. We don’t really want to have to pay to have it fixed again, so…weed whacking. I whacked down a nice two-foot-wide swath right next to our fence. It still leaves a ton of weeds for the golf course if for some reason they actually like those weeds, but at least I could now easily see a snake sunning itself right on the other side of our fence, if one were to stray up there.

I’d really love to whack down the waist-high dead weeds slightly further from our fence that block our view a bit, but they’re on a steep slope, and I’m not sure I’m coordinated enough to do it! Grace and coordination aren’t typically my strong points.

We did go out for a nice pizza lunch today, so it wasn’t all yard work. We won a gift card to a local pizzeria a few months ago, so we used that today. Pizza is one of the few foods Sam will actually eat, and the rest of us love it too, so it was a tasty treat.

Yesterday was a fun day: I chaperoned Theo’s class field trip to the Black Diamond Mines. We’ve gone out there once before and hiked up to the old cemetery, but that day there were no docents on duty, so it was just a little self-guided adventure. Being with Theo’s class, I got to hear the docents teaching the kids all about the geology of the area, as well as the wildlife. I knew the Black Diamond Mines were coal mines, but I didn’t realize they were also sandstone mines! We got to go a short distance into a sandstone mine for a presentation, which was plenty far for me—I don’t like underground spaces, particularly in earthquake country, but the area in the mine where they do the school presentations is actually quite large and airy, so I didn’t feel too panicky. (For older kids, they go further into the mine. But for safety reasons, kids at Theo’s age are only allowed in a few parts of the mine.)

Theo said his favorite part of the day was going in the sandstone mine. My favorite part was the hike up to the cemetery and the scavenger hunt there. The kids had to try to find the oldest gravestone, the grave of the wealthiest person, the grave of the youngest person, etc. The hike up is pretty steep, but once you get there the view is spectacular. And the weather was gorgeous and relatively breezy, so it really was a nice day to be out there. Right now, with the rains we’ve had this winter, everything is lush and green, whereas often it is dry and yellow. It was a treat to get to hike up there at such a beautiful time.

Theo also got his report card yesterday. Honestly, I only pay a minimal amount of attention to them. Theo is so bright, but he’s kind of a classic underachiever in school—he just does what he needs to in order to get by. And he struggles with some concepts and skills, so I know the “scores” on those report cards really aren’t that indicative of his knowledge or ability. So I do look at them, but as long as he’s making progress, that’s really all I care about. But I am always interested in the written comments from the teacher, and the ones this time were really nice—she said Theo is well-liked with lots of friends, and that he has an excellent sense of humor. And on the field trip, she assigned on particular student to Theo’s group because, she said, “Sometimes she has problems with the other kids, but Theo is very good with her.” That made my heart so full—it’s the second time she’s mentioned to me that Theo is “very good” with another child who is struggling. I am so glad she sees his big heart! Because he can be such a bullheaded little poop sometimes, but underneath it, he has such a huge heart.

I love this particular teacher, by the way. Last week she mentioned to me that she was moving Theo to a desk at the back of the room because he likes to stand to do his work instead of sitting. She said, “I’m totally fine with that—I’ve had other students who learn better standing up, too; I just need to put him in a place where he’s not in the way of other kids seeing the front of the room.” How great is that?? Instead of forcing him to sit at a desk, which I know darn well is hard for him (sitting down for a full meal is nearly impossible most days!), she makes a simple change in the classroom so that he can learn in a way that works for him but that also doesn’t cause any issue for the rest of the kids. Not every teacher would be so flexible, and I really appreciate that about her! I know as an older child and an adult Theo will need to be able to sit when he has to sit, but I so appreciate that she recognizes that a seven-year-old child may still be a very wiggly child who can’t learn as effectively if he’s spending all his time focusing on trying to keep himself sitting down. He’ll learn to sit for longer periods of time eventually, but for now he does the best he can, and she recognizes that sometimes it’s just going to go better if he can stand up. I will be sorry when it’s time to move on to another teacher next year. Hopefully we’ll get another good one—so far, I have loved almost every teacher he has had, for different reasons. There has only been one (one particular preschool teacher) who I didn’t care for. So odds are good that we’ll get another good one, but you never know….

In other news, Operation Kitchen Cabinets is in full swing! I decided to try gel-staining the cabinets first, because it’s much easier than painting and is much more forgiving if you make mistakes. But I tested it out on one pantry, and it looked terrible. I don’t know why—the gel stain worked like a charm and looks great on the fireplace trim and the banister, but it looked dreadful on the cabinet! I’m wondering if the kitchen cabinets are somehow treated differently and thus the gel didn’t soak into the wood as well or something. But whatever the reason, it looked awful. So, back to square one. I ended up choosing an ivory chalk paint, and I started on the same pantry that I did the awful gel-stain job on. Wow, what a difference! And I’m not even close to done with it yet—I ran out of the sample of chalk paint before I was finished with the pantry, and I have to wait a few days for a new shipment to arrive. I primed the pantry and then applied a coat of chalk paint. Wow, it went on like a dream! It definitely needs a second coat, so I started on that, and on the part that’s done, it looks terrific! But that’s when I ran out of chalk paint, so I still have to apply the second coat to the backs of the doors and to the pantry “box.” And then I need to lightly sand the paint and apply a coat of polycrylic to bring some shine to it and to protect it from chips and dings. So hopefully by next week’s blog, I’ll be able to post a finished picture of the pantry. And then that will be four doors down, twenty-eight doors and ten drawers to go. Yes, we have a lot of cabinets. Yikes. But honestly, I think this is going to be such a huge improvement! And when I’m finally finished with the long project, we’re treating ourselves to a solid-surface countertop and some recessed lighting. And I might try to install a backsplash, too. It’ll be like a whole new kitchen—but at a fraction of the cost!

In case you’re wondering how I can justify the cost of a new countertop, the answer is that I took on another book project that should pay for it. 🙂 I’m going to be writing a biography of Barbara McClintock. To be honest, I had never heard of her, but apparently she won a Nobel Prize in 1983 for her work as a cytogeneticist. Cytogenetics focuses on the study of cells, and particularly chromosomes, so you can see how I figured this book was sort of meant to be—our little family is full of weird chromosome issues, so how could I not do a project on a cytogeneticist?! And hey, it’ll pay for a countertop, too. Can’t beat that. Soon, there will be no more grout-scrubbing for me!

Before I go, I must share the name of a book I cannot put down this week: What Was Mine. It’s generally about a kidnapping, but I’m finding it particularly compelling. I don’t know if it’s the writing style or what—it’s not particularly poetic prose or anything like that, but there’s something about it that I just can’t put down. Maybe it’s the short chapters and the shifting narrator, but I’m just finding it to be a particularly good page-turner.

Also, I wrote a blog earlier in the week. If you missed it, click here to read it. It’s about a video (or two!) released for World Down Syndrome Day. If nothing else, the video certainly got people talking, which is never a bad thing!

Happy rest of your weekend, all!

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