Jimmy and I returned to the rental house today to finish cleaning.
The day, in photos:
Paper towels, after round one of three of cleaning the heretofore never-before-cleaned oven
My red eye, after 3 rounds of oven cleaner fumes
Dirty water, after round one of three of mopping the kitchen floor
The shiny, clean floor
What Jimmy pulled out of the clogged bathroom sink
Slimy gunk at the bottom of the fridge
But one example of the damage done by all the smoking inside the house
The exterior of the house has now been pressure washed, and interior painting will begin on Monday. The handyman starts his list of repairs on Wednesday, and the carpet will be cleaned once all the painting and repairs are done.
And then, the house will once again be ready for rental.
Tonight Jimmy and I attended a party to celebrate the naturalization of a Brazilian friend who's now an American citizen.
A little bellyaching is normal and expected, but it drives me nuts to hear Americans seriously complain about the US, the president, foreign policy, domestic policy, the post office, the DMV, the cost of gas, the nerve of the grocery store to reduce the organic produce section, etc, etc.
Guess what, people? There's a reason 750,000 citizens of other countries fought hard and waited years to become citizens of the US in 2012. Whether they're fleeing war or political unrest, escaping atrocities that we can't even begin to imagine, chasing economic freedom, trying to practice their profession, or following the love of their lives (as our friend did), the US is still the land of hope and opportunity, freedom and liberty.
It was a great celebration tonight for a friend, who, after 20 years with his partner and finally marrying last year in California, was able to realize his dream of becoming an American citizen.
Well, not quite like animals, but I'm sure they must have all been sick a lot.
The evicted tenants have three young children. By young, I mean under 5. Like the youngest was born in January.
The house smells like you're rolling around in an ashtray. Like your head's stuffed in a plastic bag full of cigarette smoke. They must have smoked nonstop all the time. Just puffing black grossness into their babies' lungs. Awesome.
The black tar had to compete with all the dust for lung real estate. Who doesn't at some point dust their ceiling fans (below) or the tops of their window and door frames?!?!?
After I tackled the "easy" dusting, I moved on to the kitchen. The cabinets have never been wiped out, I'm sure. Between loose spaghetti noodles, crushed up crackers and a lot of Toast-Chee peanut cracker bits (below), I could've made myself lunch.
I tried to clean the wall behind the stove, but none of the products I had with me had sufficient grease-busting capacity. I'm buying a new bottle of something before I return on Thursday, so I can get this wall clean:
I finally gave up and came home when I ran out of Windex and my multipurpose cleaner. Thursday's a new day.
In the meantime, I've decided if this is how even a fraction of Americans live and manage to stay relatively healthy, we can start eating on my bathroom floor right by the toilet because I know it's cleaner than what I saw today.
Last night we all went to the fall kickoff of our church's junior youth group, the aptly named Club 6/7 since 6th and 7th graders make up the membership.
I'm not going to lie. None of us really wanted to go. Jimmy was afraid it would interfere with the Carolina football game (it didn't; we were home about 10 minutes after the game started). Mac was afraid he wouldn't have fun (he did; he left us about 3 minutes after we got in the door and we never saw him again until it was time to go). And I felt like it was pulling teeth to get everybody to agree to go so I was just waiting for both of them to be unhappy (which, of course, they weren't).
The group meets a couple Friday evenings a month, and the meetings end with a Nerf war that takes place all over the 3-story church complex.
Today, during the church service, Jimmy caught Mac looking around and scoping out the sanctuary. Totally not paying attention to the preacher. Jimmy correctly guessed that Mac was planning his Nerf war strategy.
Tonight was middle school Back to School Night. Jimmy got home from Panama and we all ate dinner early and quickly. Jimmy took Mac off to football practice, and I went back to school.
I really am trying very hard to back off as a helicopter parent. I know we're at a critical point where Mac has got to be responsible for his work and himself. (Plus I saw that Maria Shriver special on the Today Show this week where those teenagers said that their helicopter parents were an ENORMOUS source of anxiety for them. I do not want Mac to go on national tv in a few years talking about what a stressor I was.) So since school started, I haven't asked a lot of questions. I read and signed all the syllabi (how you ever heard of syllabi in the 6th grade? Did we even get those in high school 25 years ago?) and I know Mac's been doing his homework. He even has decided that he now likes Math. Why in the world would I ask too many questions about school and what he's doing when we're not fighting over Math homework everyday because he now likes it? I'll remind you that I am the Queen of the Path of Least Resistance.
All I can say after Back to School Night is, "Holy Moley."
For starters, my car almost got towed. I parked in the wrong across-the-street church parking lot. Even though I got there early enough to get a great spot on the street or even in the right church parking lot, I screwed up. Middle school rookie mistake. So when they announced over the loudspeaker that the church was getting ready to start towing cars from the wrong parking lot, I, along with a parking lot full of other parents, took off running to move my car.
There was nary a tow truck in sight. (The church may have been bluffing. Why did they need that small parking lot empty at 7:30 on a Thursday night?)
So instead of having a primo parking spot, I ended up having to park in the next county, run back (uphill) to school, and show up late to a presentation-in-progress. It's so awesome to be that mom when you're first meeting your child's teacher.
Secondly, everything is electronic, and we know how great I am electronically. Homework assignments are on the internet. Grades are on the internet. Missing assignments are on the internet. The textbooks, for crying out loud, are on the internet. Within the next month or so, all sixth graders in the county will receive iPads for use this year. The students will do their work on an iPad. I can't even hardly type on my iPad but Mac's going to write papers on it. And then there's a function by which he and the teacher can access the documents at the same time so they can real-time edit together. What? There are passwords for Blackboard and ParentVue and Apple ID and Google Docs. And the teachers all have Twitter accounts that we're meant to follow. I don't tweet, but I guess I'll be a follower. Do these teachers know how much all this internet-accessing and Twittering are going to impact my Facebook-checking time??
Thirdly, even though I attended all the presentations last night (well except for the few minutes I missed to avoid towing) and am better informed, I am overwhelmed by 6th grade and what they're doing. For instance, I found out I can ask for Max's Lexile Measure. Don't know what that is? I'd never heard of it until last night. I still don't really know what it is except that it can help us help him choose the right books, which I'm pretty sure aren't the ones he likes to read. And this Lexile Measure will come in handy since they're doing the 40-Book Challenge this year. Yes, each child is supposed to read 40 - FORTY, as in 10x4 - books this school year. That's about one book a week. This would be great and doable if he could read the James Patterson books for kids every week. But they require them to cover all genres, so I foresee a lot of struggles coming. Oh yes, there's going to be a lot of literary stress in my future and the Lexile Measure won't help one bit with that. Another example: Social Studies is no longer just plain old Social Studies. This year, they've added Civics and Economics to it. That's all well and good because they really are intertwined. The only issue I have is that there's no SOL test for 6th Social Studies. Instead, they're going to be tested on it at the end of 7th grade. So they are making an Archives Binder throughout the year, which they'll take with them to 7th grade. At some point they'll study it again (at school? on their own at home? I have no idea?) to be tested late next school year. And since Arlington County is SOL-obsessed, I hate to think what happens if you bomb the 6th grade Social Studies SOL test because you took it a year late.
I loved school. I loved studying and doing homework and making good grades. I'm not sure I'd be nearly as successful if I were a middle school student now. PE and Art, my least favorite classes when I was actually in middle school, might just be my most favorite now simply because they'd represent an escape from all this high-tech, advanced learning that's required in every other class.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to read the booklet handed out by the 6th grade counselor titled "H.E.L.P.: How to Enjoy Living with a Preadolescent".
My incredibly smart sister, a very dedicated medical doctor, is attending a sickle cell conference at the NIH in Bethesda. She took advantage of a break in the schedule to come to Arlington to hang out with Mac and me. We took a nice walk around the neighborhood, caught up on life and had dinner together.
She also got the chance to love on Leo. Doesn't she look cute?
It is now 1:30, and I'm ready for this day to end already.
Last week we had to evict the tenants at our rental house near Fredericksburg for failure to pay. I drove down this morning to meet with our new property manager and to meet a painter for a quote.
When I was about 5 minutes away from the house (the one-way trip is 1.5 hours), Leo threw up several times in the car. Thankfully I had a sheet under him which caught most of the vomit.
As soon as I pulled up at the house, I hopped out and rounded the back end of the car, only to be met by a very large dog. I tried to shoo him away and he started coming towards me, so I jumped back into the car. I called the former tenant who said it wasn't their dog.
I pulled the car up as close to the house as I could and made a dash to unlock the door, only to find the keys the tenant returned to us didn't work.
I ran back to the car and called the tenants back. They found other keys and promised to bring them.
While I was waiting for the right keys to show up, the people showed up to bush-hog the 5-acre property, so the dog started hanging out with them.
The keys were delivered,the painting contractor came and left, the property manager came and left, and Leo and I packed up and left.
We got back home 1.5 hours later sans vomiting and settled in to eat lunch when the phone rang. It was Mac calling from the nurse's office. They were playing some game in PE when a kid tripped and knocked Mac over so his head hit the gym floor.
I spoke to the nurse and she said he's got a knot on his head, but he doesn't seem fuzzy-headed or confused. She said I didn't need to come get him but that I should watch him tonight.
(I'm so glad I refused to let him play tackle football for fear of concussion. Now he can just get concussed in PE. Awesome.)
For the first month of Leo's life with us, he slept in a crate in our bedroom. Well he started in a crate on the bathroom floor for one night followed by a night in a crate on the kitchen floor, but there are only so many nights a woman over 40 can sleep on the hard floor next to the crate before she caves in.
On his third night, we moved Leo to a crate on top of a bench right next to my head at the top of our bed. That way when he woke up, I could put my hand on the crate door, he'd calm down and we'd all go back to sleep. As long as I was laying so I faced him. After two weeks of that, we moved him to the floor in our room. We edged him closer and closer to the door over the next couple weeks.
Finally last Friday, we moved him to Mac's bedroom. Mac has a loft bed so we put the mattress on the floor for the time being and put Leo's crate on the floor next to it. Mac dealt with a few night-time barks but the move was pretty seamless.
After a week of the crate in Mac's room, we made the decision to leave Leo out of the crate last night. We had no idea what he would do, but he seemed content to curl up on the end of Mac's bed. Mac thought he'd died and gone to heaven because all he ever wanted in having a pet dog was for it to sleep on the bed with him.
Leo woke Mac up around 6, our normal weekday wake-up time, but Mac just rolled over and went back to sleep. So guess what Leo did about 6:30? You got it. He peed on the floor because he'd held it as long as he could. We learned that lesson and will make sure he's taken out on time so Mac can continue to enjoy this great puppy love curled up on the bed.
(After Leo's walk, he went back into Mac's room to get in his doggy bed. Awhile later I peeked in and got this photo of Mac in his bed petting Leo in his bed.).
Today I used a free pass for doggy day camp for Leo.
I cannot tell you how hard it was to drop him off and leave him. He looked so sad. I fed him a calming treat before we left home, but I should've fed myself one.
Before I left him, the desk lady told me I could call to check in on him. I made myself wait two hours before I called. The guy who answered said Leo was having a great time. But I know how daycare people treat neurotic mothers. They treat us like we're neurotic and they tell us what we want to hear. How did I know Leo really was having fun??
I talked a big game for a week and said I was going to maximize my "free time" with Leo in camp. I made sure Mac had his key so he could let himself in when the bus dropped him off. I was going to a movie (or two!), having a nice lunch somewhere, running all sorts of errands, etc.
But who was I I kidding? I left Leo for a grand total of 5 hours and then I just couldn't stand it anymore.
When I picked him up, I stood outside the glass wall and watched him play with this one other dog. It seemed very rough to me but the attendant in the room didn't seem concerned. I wanted to see if Leo would recognize me once he stopped playing. Finally he stopped and eventually looked out the window. He cocked his head to the side, saw that it really was me and ran right to the window. It did this mama's heart good that he still wanted to come to me after I deserted him off for the day.
Leo scored well on his Pawgress Report Card and was totally and completely exhausted after all that nonstop play.
I attended an activities fair at Mac's school this afternoon to get a handle on what after-school activities are available.
I had to swim upstream in the hallway to get to the gym where the fair was being held. About a thousand students were heading out of the school as a handful of us parents were trying to get into the school. Here are several observations from my 15 minutes there:
1. I saw a person who looked like a student and was definitely not a parent who had a 5 o'clock shadow.
2. A similar trip down a packed elementary hallway results in a lot of apologies from students who accidentally jostle an adult. Middle schoolers will flat-out run you over and never look back. No apologies. You enter at your own risk. Middle schoolers are not afraid of adults.
3. A middle school hallway at the end of a very hot day smells like a locker room full of used sweaty socks that have been stuffed under adolescent boy armpits in a sauna. I have a very sensitive nose and have now ruled out working at a middle school as a future potential career.
4. I was shorter than about 65% of the students who passed me in the hallway. These children are going to be abnormally tall after all their growth spurts.
5. Backpacks are too big and stuffed and heavy now. I know this because I got whacked by a couple of them as students turned around too close to me, forgetting they had something sticking an extra foot off their backs.
Mac is taking Home Ec this semester. For those of you who don't know this, my mom was a Home Ec teacher, and I love, love, love that Mac's school still offers this always-useful and always-relevant class to teach life skills. They've been doing a segment on family life and will soon be doing French toast before moving on to cake-in-a-mug and sewing. I'm hopeful that by week after next, I will be served French toast in bed every single weekend until Mac moves away to college.
Because the idea of baking in a mug was foreign to me before last week when I read Mac's syllabus, I was fascinated to see a recipe today on Facebook for a chocolate chip cookie in a mug. I tried that recipe and wouldn't make it again, but I googled and found the recipe below on thecomfortofcooking.com site.
It is delicious. I would use the low end of the chocolate chips measurement, and I think a scoop of vanilla or coffee ice cream would put it off the charts.
Try it: it's quick, requires few utensils, kids can make it, and clean-up is fast!
Mac is playing flag football and baseball this fall.
He really wanted to play tackle football but who wants to deal with head injuries and concessions? Not me. So against his wishes, he's playing flag which has become more acceptable to him now that he sees his old and new friends doing the same.
Today was his first baseball practice. He moved up from AAA to the Majors this season, and because fall ball is not as heavily played as spring ball, we weren't sure if he'd know anybody on his team.
Turns out one of his favorite teammates from the spring and one of his good 5th grade friends (who goes to another middle school) are both on the team.
And then we found out that one of the boys on the team is the son of a guy Jimmy started in the Foreign Service with 16.5 years ago, long before any of us were having babies.
I LOVE how the Venn diagram of Arlington life works. We're all moving in different work, school, church and neighborhood circles, but we keep overlapping with some great people. That makes me happy.
1. I finally got the "summer haircut" I've wanted for about 6 months. The hairdresser I've been using here for the last year just did not want to cut my hair short and when I saw my beloved Luanne this summer in South Carolina, I wasn't terribly interested in cutting it even though she is super talented with short hair.
I went to a new salon today. Nothing flashy, nothing fancy, but I got a great cut. And guess how much I paid for it?
Yes, you read that right.
$25 for a great, thorough cut that was pretty much exactly what I asked for. Hurray!
2. We picked up pizzas tonight from an amazing pizza joint that's been voted best Neapolitan pizza in DC. It's called Pupatella and is just a few minutes from our apartment. I am kicking myself that we only just tried it. We are such losers. We have a lot of lost time to make up for!
When we adopted Leo, they told us his estimated age was 11 months. I felt like that gave us a little liberty in establishing his birthdate, so I decided we would make it 9-4-13.
Surely I can remember an important, albeit made-up, day when it's a mathematical equation, right?
So today we celebrated Leo's fake birthday. We started the morning with a trip to the local dog park where Leo played with an adorable - and very patient- German shepherd.
I then took Leo to Happy Grooming for a real bath (and whatever it was that Mac and I attempted a couple weeks ago). In addition to the bath, Leo got his nails clipped and his ears cleaned. It was a real spa day.
Before Happy Grooming
After Happy Grooming
Later in the day, Leo enjoyed his homemade doggy birthday cake, which featured his all-time favorite peanut butter and carrots. He devoured his large cupcake, which Jimmy said was equivalent to Jimmy eating a 20-pound cupcake. Whatever. You only turn one once.
For his birthday, Leo received his first rawhide bone, which he is now loving.
We ended the night at Mac's flag football practice. While Mac practiced, Leo played with his new dog friend, Harper.
Last night we took Leo to our building's dog swim, which officially closed the swimming pool for the season. Leo got on the top step but that was the extent of his swimming. The dogs and their owners all had a great time.
Today was Mac's first day of 6th grade, which means it was the first day of middle school.
(Pause in your reading while I wipe the tears away.)
(After-school photo since I forgot to take one before)
Mac also rode the big yellow school bus to and from school for the first time in his life. Thankfully there's another boy in our building who rides the bus, so even though we barely know this other (new) boy (and he's an 8th grader and may not socialize at school with Mac), at least they had each other for the bus trip.
(At the bus stop.)
(Boarding the bus)
The deal was that Mac and his new friend could walk home from the bus stop in the afternoon by themselves (about 3 blocks). This was a great plan until about 5 minutes before the bus was due at the stop and I panicked. What if they didn't get off at the right stop? What if they didn't know where to get off? All these buildings look the same. I thought about running to the stop but I knew Mac would be so disappointed in me.
So I sat in the front window and waited. I was never so happy as when I saw this:
I think Mac saw me in the window, but he refused to acknowledge me. I can live with that.
Here's hoping to a great, safe, painless, fun school year!