Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Today we drove from our airport hotel to Palo Alto to show the boys Stanford. Jimmy has been pushing Stanford as a university option on Mac almost as long as Mac has been alive. Seeing the campus, which is extraordinary, worked magic on Mac in a way that a father's opinion has not.  Now we just need to research scholarships...

After Stanford, we went to In-N-Out Burger for lunch.  This was Mac's and my first visit to this yummy iconic chain. 

After lunch, we drove to the town of Three Rivers, CA where we found our campground for the next 3 nights. We set up the tent, the boys went swimming in the river and we enjoyed pizza from the town's pizza place. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014


This morning we drove from Roanoke to Charlotte, stopping along the way for a quick visit with our dear childhood friend Heidi and her family. 
(Mac (in his first-ever tiara) and Erin)

We flew from Charlotte to Minneapolis where we picked up John, Mac's good buddy from Bogota. This vacation is a great experiment in taking along a friend, and we're all really happy John could come along. 
(Crazy faces)

We are currently in the Minneapolis airport, where all the boys are using the free iPads!  This airport is pretty phenomenal. 

Next stop:  San Francisco!

6-20-14 last day of school

Today was the last day of school for Mac and it didn't come a moment too soon. 

We're all tired and ready for summer vacation, which starts today!  We're driving as far as Roanoke, VA tonight. Posts will be short and sweet for the next couple weeks as we head to California. 


I have a new favorite app that I'm loving right now.  I am the queen of ripping out magazine pages with recommendations for books I want to read, restaurants I want to try, websites I want to remember, etc. The pages stack up until I decide to do something with the pages, which generally means I send myself an email detailing the books, restaurants, websites, etc. 

But I've discovered the ThingList app and it's revolutionized my life. Now when someone tells me the title of a book that I must read, I just open the app and add it to the book list. Or the other day when I read about 2 restaurants in San Francisco that I thought we might try on vacation, I just opened the app and typed them in. 

I always have my iPhone with me and now I've got my lists with me too. Simple and efficient. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

6-18-14 5th Grade Promotion

Today was Mac's promotion ceremony from 5th grade. He's going to middle school in September. 

Wasn't he just graduating from kindergarten in São Paulo?

Sniff, sniff.

The ceremony was very nice and included the processional; presentation of colors; music by orchestra, band and chorus; student reflections; a few awards; and the presentation of promotion certificates.  They served cake and punch afterwards.  

Mac's reflection on his best memory from ASFS was one of four chosen by the principal to be read during the ceremony.  The video of him reading it is too long to attach here but it was thoughtful, funny and very well-written. After all the fussing and carrying on for each essay he had to write at home, it turns out that he really can write without my assistance. Who knew?  AND his elocution and delivery were perfect to boot!

And if that wasn't special enough, Mac was one of four students (one from each home room) chosen to receive the inaugural Lightning Bolt Award!  I  wish I'd videotaped the school counselor when she was explaining the award but I didn't because I assumed they'd give it to someone who'd been at the school for years. My parental cup runneth over. 

(Mac and the principal upon presentation of his promotion certificate.)

After the ceremony, the three of us went for lunch at Mac's choice, Bonchon, for some Korean fried chicken.  Tonight we'll return to school for the promotion party.  

It's a good day to be Mac's parents. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Today I would like to discuss with you the beauty that is the shipping department of Zappo's.  If you're not familiar with Zappo's but you're comfortable ordering shoes (and other stuff) online, you should stop, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.  You should simply order from them.

Shipping to you and back to them if the shoes don't work out is FREE.




How can you go wrong with that?

And if you have a child who hates, detests, despises, loathes shoe shopping, this is the only way to go.

I ordered a size 10 Keen's for Mac.  I know, I know.  That was too big.  But with the way his feet are growing and the cost of these adult shoes, I thought we could stuff socks in the toes.  But it was not to be.

I ordered those shoes on Sunday (a weekend day when nothing much usually happens in warehouses).  It's like Zappo's said, "we want that boy to get those shoes so fast, we're going to hire a plane just to drop them off in Arlington" because the shoes were here yesterday.  A day later, people.

But they were too big, so yesterday at 4:29pm, I ordered a smaller size of the same shoes.  The confirmation said they'd be delivered by tomorrow (Wednesday).  I just got an email from the building a few minutes ago and went down and picked up the new shoes.


A mere 18 hours after ordering, the shoes have been picked out of the warehouse, driven or flown across states, sorted by the nice UPS people, and delivered to my front door.  It's like having a personal shopper.

The other shoes are already being sent back to wherever they go (maybe Kentucky?) and I never had to leave home.

It's a good thing I'm not a shoe person.  The nearly instant gratification could be very dangerous.

Monday, June 16, 2014


If you're a regular reader, you may remember that during the early winter snowstorms, Mac was wearing his hiking boots outside to play. Then I realized they had a hole in them. I quickly learned that wrapping his foot in Saran Wrap before sliding it in the boot was not really sufficient protection against the elements and so he got an expensive pair of Bogs boots. I bought them big - men's size 9-  with the intention that he'd wear them again next winter. 

Now as we prepare to go on our summer vacation, I realized Mac needed new hiking shoes to replace the pair with holes. We headed off to REI, where he was measured by the sales guy at a 9.5.
(Packing the suitcase - Mac's hiking shoes are on the bottom of mine)

I then realized that we should check the status of his Keen shoes that he wears for hiking and water activities. Well, they're a size 6. Had he been familiar with Cinderella, I would've asked him to try, like the stepsisters, to squeeze, squish, curl his feet into the glass slipper. But alas, there was no room in the inn. So now we've purchased a pair of enormous Keens.  And another pair of church shoes. Tennis shoes will wait until after summer vacation, unless his toes burst through before. And of course, we'll need new snow boots in the winter. 
(My feet vs. Mac's feet)

I know we will get to a stage when Mac eats us out of house and home. I hope that stage happens at a different time than the next foot growth spurt as I'm not sure we can afford extra food and new shoes all at the same time!

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Happy Father's Day!

We celebrated Jimmy today by going to church (it was our beloved minister's last Sunday before he retires and the service was amazing), followed by a trip to the batting cage and putt-putt course, followed by a visit to the pool in our building, followed by Jimmy's trip to the gym, followed by dinner from PF Chang's (which Mac pitched in his $20 All Stars gift card for!). 

I count my blessings everyday that this man is the father of my child.  

To all you dads and dad figures out there who nurture children, teach them, love them, and shower them with patience and understanding, I salute you!


Today was the All Stars game and boy, what a game it was!

Mac was representing the Red Sox with his buddy Drew on the East team.
(The roster from the website)

Before the game started, they announced each player, gave them an All Stars cap and played the national anthem.  We played at one of the nice fields with a working scoreboard and a game announcer.  So much fun!

Mac played first base, shortstop and third base during the game.  He had some great plays and made Jimmy and me so proud.

At the beginning, it looked like the East was going to crush the West, but that was not the case.  The West came back and required that the East dig deep and put some runs on the board.  In the end, the East won, 11-10.

Mac's classmate from the Orioles made the game-ending out with a great catch at first base.  The boys were so excited and spontaneously ran into a team huddle to celebrate.  It was so much fun to watch these great players play a really well-played and close game.

Mac and his winning teammates each received a little gift bag from PF Chang's.  Each gift bag contained a fortune cookie AND a $20 gift card.  This seems so extravagant to Jimmy and me but we chalked it up to "only in Arlington."  

We're proud of our All Star and are already signed up for Fall baseball!

Friday, June 13, 2014


Today was my last elementary school field day ever.  Sigh...

I started out helping another mom at the popcorn machine, making and bagging popcorn for what seemed like 6000 people.  I have newfound respect and appreciation for the popcorn makers at the movie theater.  

After about an hour and a half, one of the main volunteer parents came over to ask if one of us would work at the parachute station.  The other lady was pretty vocal about not doing it, so I went over. Holy smokes, it was a lot of work.  Thankfully I only had 3 more groups - all second graders - to wrangle and control for 10 minutes apiece before field day was over. The field was muddy, the parachute was muddy (and therefore heavier than normal), and it felt like it was about 100 degrees with 90% humidity. I'm pretty sure I sweated out at least 4 pounds and toned my arms at the same time. 

I'm thankful to be home now in the AC, showered and wearing clean clothes!

Mac's group is in the parking lot, in the yellow shirts.  Instead of throwing water balloons at field day like they did a long time ago, now they throw those pool balls that absorb water.  The children were drenched but they had such a great time.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Spirit Week, Day 4 - Career Dress-Up Day. Mac wore his Red Sox jersey. From his lips to God's ears. 

For an after-school treat today, Mac and I patronized a new ice cream shop that opened down the street.  It's called Nicecream Factory and makes your personal ice cream scoops on the spot, using liquid nitrogen to instantly freeze it. It was SUPER cool, figuratively and literally.  

They offer four flavors a day so they can utilize fresh, local fruit as well as offer fan favorites.  Today's flavors were vanilla with chocolate chips, Nutella, blueberry, and graham cracker.  
(The liquid nitrogen is hard at work.)

Mac chose vanilla with chocolate chip and I chose blueberry.

The ice cream was very dense and rich and yummy. I don't know if it's my favorite ice cream in the world but the novelty of it all will keep us coming back.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Spirit Week, day 3 - Twin Day.  Mac went as a triplet with two friends.  They wore black basketball shorts and blue sports jerseys.  There's the spirit.

Today I went out with a younger friend for a driving lesson in her husband's manual transmission car which was bought pre-marriage and is their only car.  She learned how to drive stick shift in a pickup truck, but their family car is a sleek, fairly NEW, non-clunky car that terrified her.  This fear has prohibited her from driving in VA since she moved here last fall.

I felt like my "coaching" her (which was really just offering encouragement because she knew what she was doing and just needed a calm presence next to her) was bringing around full-circle the same kindness shown to me by an older woman in Mozambique some 12 years ago.

When we moved there, Jimmy wanted a safari-worthy vehicle, so we bought a used Land Rover, who we named Roxie.  Roxie was perfect in every way, except that she was manual transmission and after having tried to drive stick shift once in a college, I had declared myself an automatic girl only.  Before we made our final decision in the car lot in South Africa, I told Jimmy he would have to drive for two years straight if we got Roxie.

He agreed and he drove exclusively for the first 5 months.

Until he broke his foot and couldn't drive a manual.

He gave me a driving lesson in our neighborhood in Maputo.  There are probably still Mozambicans who laugh over the story of the lady who stayed in first gear because she ground the gears every time she tried to change to second.  At least I hope they're laughing and aren't traumatized by the honking to get out of my way because I didn't know how to stop.

Jimmy realized he'd be forced to drive, even with the broken foot.

Except that his father died very unexpectedly and he left the country within hours to return home for a couple weeks for the funeral and medical appointments for his foot.

We had to grocery shop in a whole different country at that time, so I was stuck.  I either would starve or I had to drive Roxie to South Africa.

I asked around and the office management specialist for the front office said she'd go with me to South Africa, despite my proclamation that I would probably stall out multiple times, I would definitely cry multiple times, and she would probably have to take over the driving.  She assured me that she'd taught all of her kids how to drive and that we would be fine.

And we were!  Yes, I stalled out, and I'm sure I cried, but she didn't have to take over at all. AND I didn't wreck the car.

I loved paying her kindness forward today.


Today was day two of Spirit Week, which was "classroom theme."  Mac's class chose "stuffed animal and book" so he took in a stuffed animal and book but I'm not sure what they did with them.

In more interesting news, at least to grandmothers, the 5th grade had their music concert last night for the band, orchestra and general music students.  In case you're wondering, Mac is a general music student which means he sings, albeit reluctantly. (Remember, we've tried piano and violin without great results and they don't offer Stomp at the current school, so he's a singer now.)

I videotaped a lot of the performance so Jimmy can watch it when he returns from Mexico (there are no free passes on things like music concerts or dance recitals if it's your own child performing).

I leave you with one snippet of the last song sung, "There's a Song in Me". 

Monday, June 9, 2014


Day One of Spirit Week:  Crazy Sock Day


Mac, his friend and I dropped off Jimmy at the airport for his flight to Mexico, and then Mac and I dropped off his friend at his house before the two of us went to run an errand.

As we left the shopping center (where we never shop and are therefore unfamiliar with anything around there), Mac spotted a miniature golf course and asked if we could play.  It was only 88 degrees and very humid, but sure, why not?

We played two rounds.  Mac won the first one by ten (10!) strokes and I won the second by two strokes.  

So thankful for these spontaneous bursts of fun when Mac still wants to hang out with his mom.  


One of Mac's buddies from Bogota days came over today for a sleepover before we all scatter for the summer.  Mac's friend lives about 30 minutes away so we don't get to see him as often as Mac would like.  These boys had such a great time and were so well behaved.  They played lacrosse in the park, swam in our building's pool and went out to eat wings for dinner with Jimmy.  Jimmy sent this photo from their "wing coma" stage of the night out:

I'm so thankful we're teaching Mac how to maintain friendships that mean something to him.


This afternoon I attended the medieval poetry cafe hosted by the 5th graders at Mac's school.  It was as riveting as it sounds.  Really, I wish you could have all been there to share in this experience with me.

The kids drew positions for their medieval town weeks ago.  Mac got to be a poor peasant.  Some things never change, even in role play.  They've been writing all sorts of different poems - 10 per student - over the last few weeks, and they were to recite some of them at the cafe.

Mac put together his peasant costume for the poetry cafe the night before the event, so obviously a lot of thought went into it.  He wore his gray baseball pants and an oversized white tshirt of Jimmy's that was belted with a camping rope quadruple folded to fit around his small waist without dragging the ground.  It screamed peasant.  Maybe not of the medieval type, but definitely peasant of some sort.

The children read their poems and told jokes and riddles, all the while eating bread, cheese, fruit, chicken and pie with their fingers as they apparently did in medieval times.

A great time was had by all.  Really.


There are two types of people in the world.  Well, at least in the United States.  (1)  Costco shoppers and (2) everybody else.  If you're not in group one, you want to be.  I used to fall into the second group because there's only ever been other other-than-Costco warehouse stores where we've lived.

Until now.

I became a card-carrying member of Costco nearly as soon as we got to Arlington and I have taken full advantage of that $50 membership.  I don't buy the big things of 9000 toilet paper rolls because there is no space in this apartment for that nonsense.  But there are other, great deals to be had.

My regular purchases always include laundry pods, blocks of Manchego cheese and Parmesan cheese and a big tub of pimento cheese from our favorite pimento cheese purveyor in South Carolina.  If I buy this pimento cheese in a small container in the grocery store, it costs $5, but I can buy a huge tub of it at Costco for $6.50.  They're practically giving it away.

Recent summer purchases have a been a boogie board for Mac, exercise tanks for me ($9 a piece.  I robbed them!), a pair of pajamas that feel like silk and a nightshirt.

I never understood when my mother-in-law talked of her frequent trips to Costco - why did she need to go there so often - but now I totally get it.  I am so happy to be a Costco shopper now!

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Big news in the land of Mac and baseball:

Mac was one of two players on his team selected to play in the All Stars game.  We're pretty proud of that boy!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

NYR 6-3-14

Today was an incredibly busy day at Mac's school.  They had an internet safety course, a gardening session (which I volunteered to help with), and the dreaded sex ed class.

They divided the class up into boys and girls.  The boys did internet safety in the morning while the girls did sex ed, we gardened together from 11:35 to 12:20, they ate lunch and then the boys had sex ed while the girls did internet safety. 

I don't think Mac really knew what was coming in the afternoon, although I heard from other parents that the class is the subject of great angst for the entire year so maybe he caught wind of it from his friends.

During the gardening session, one of the mom volunteers overheard a boy say that "this day will go down as the very worst of his entire career at the school: first they were shown disturbing images of all the horrible stuff that's out there on the internet, then they had to pull weeds in the hot sun, and then they had to discuss body parts."

I really didn't expect Mac to discuss the sex ed class with me, but as soon as we met up in the parking lot, he started talking.  They gave every boy a little stick of Old Spice deodorant, which I found hysterical.  It's Fiji-scented, whatever that smells like.  Mac told me the girls got "those pad things" in their class.  He also said that he got a packet of information, but "it would be best if I didn't look at it because it's disgusting."

(Needless to say I'm dying to look at the packet, but I'm waiting until he goes to bed before I snoop through his backpack.)

Today, I'm particularly thankful that I'm not a school nurse and don't have to teach these classes.

NYR 6-2-14

Today I chaperoned a 5th grade field trip to the Natural History Museum in DC.  To get to the museum, we had to walk 0.7 mile from the school to the Metro station (that's right above our apartment building), ride the Metro for about 20 minutes, and walk a couple blocks to the museum.

A few points on this outing:

1.  This was Mac's final field trip of elementary school.  Sigh.  Do they take field trips in middle school?

2.  Parents had to show up early for an information session.  The trip was really well-scheduled and very well-planned so you knew exactly where you were supposed to be at any time.  I got a good giggle from the parents whose greatest angst about the trip was how to use the Metro. A lot of these folks obviously are not the public transit-using sort.

3.  Another mother and I were in charge of our "pod" of 5 kids - 2 boys and 3 girls - who were really, really good and well-behaved.  We got lucky. 

4.  Riding the Metro didn't make me nervous.  What made me nervous was my fear that the children were going to have to complete worksheets inside the museum to make sure they were paying attention, but there was nothing to do except enjoy the museum.  This, to me, may be the thing that surprises me most about this uber-intense school: they just let the kids wander the museum without attaching any work to the experience.  Wow!

5. Mac originally told me he hoped he was put in a group that wasn't chaperoned by me - knife to the heart - but all kids were put with their parents.  It appears I didn't do anything to embarrass him and we had a great time together.

6.  It was really cool to see him interact with his classmates over the course of hours.

For this great day with Mac, I am truly thankful.

NYR 6-1-14

This afternoon Jimmy and I attended a potluck barbecue for my Bible study ladies and their families.  (Mac opted to stay home but might have changed his mind had he known ahead of time that there was a trampoline.)  

I'm just going to put it out there that nobody does a potluck better than the Methodists.  In addition to barbecued chicken, there were all sorts of salads and casseroles and somebody made a chocolate cake that Jimmy is still taking about. 

I do love a potluck and am thankful we got to share this yummy food and great fellowship with this group.

NYR 5-31-14

This afternoon was Mac's final regular season baseball game.  His team, the Red Sox, have been coached by a wonderful, patient man and two young assistants who don't have children in the league but who love the game and want to be involved.  

Mac has learned so much about baseball but he's learned even more about life from these three men. 

Gracious winning and gracious losing.  

Letting everybody play even if they're not the best.  

Winning isn't the be-all and end-all as long as you've given it your all.

So thankful for this great team, the wonderful families who were part of the team, and the coaches who led the team. 

NYR 5-30-14

Today a letter came addressed to the Parents of James M. Story.


I opened it and it was Mac's test scores for the writing part of the Virginia Standards of Learning standardized test.  Writing is not Mac's strong suit so I was really nervous. After I figured out how to decipher the paper, it became apparent that he's kind of brilliant in writing.  

Or he tested well that day.  


Here's to hoping he tested well on math, reading and science!

NYR 5-29-14

Jimmy returned tonight after a few days in Honduras, where he got to see our dear, dear friends from Mozambique.  He's now seen them twice in the last 10 months, and I haven't seem them once in 3 years.  I know jealousy is bad, but....

Sometimes I wish I had a job that required travel where I could see old friends in my ports of call.

NYR 5-28-14

Mac has never had perfect attendance at school.  There's always been strep throat or a stomach virus, and absent illness, we haven't bothered ourselves with that quaint notion that he needs to be present every single day if a weekend trip demands an extra day.  

Until this year. 

He's not been sick at all (!) and things feel so serious at his current school that we've not dared let him miss a day for something fun.

Until today.

Over the weekend at the Eastern Shore, his allergies went haywire and by today, he was coughing to the point of gagging.  He said he didn't feel well enough to go to school, even if that meant he couldn't go to his baseball game in the evening.  (House Rule (which causes a lot of ridiculous drama): if you're too sick to attend school, you're too sick to do anything fun during or after school hours on the day of absence).  

So we hunkered down and watched a lot of tv, and it was kind of perfect. 

Even if he doesn't get a Perfect Attendance certificate at the year-end promotion ceremony.