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Back in the day, I never got a paper done without pulling an all-nighter.  I wanted better for my children.  So we did their science fair projects this morning before school.  TWO science fair projects, from start to display board, in 90 min.  I am HARDCORE, people.

I tell the press that I’m all about the Montessori philosophy of child-led learning, but in reality, the stupid projects do not cross my mind unless I see other kids carrying the boards into the school.  Yesterday, I nudged Ben and said, “Hey, what do you suppose those are?”

“Um…science fair projects?”

“Ya think?  Were you planning on ever doing one?” (they’ve known about these for at least a month)

“Well, I would, but you’re always too bus…” I cut him off

“Oh, do not even TRY that, pal.  We just finished a long weekend and you did not mention it even once.  This is not MY problem.”

So last night, at 9:15, he suggested we do the project. I told him I’d wake him up this morning.

And since, for whatever idiot reason, the Kindergarten is supposed to do one too, I had to come up with something for Lily.  So at 7 am, Ben was adding salt to a cup of water to see how much it took to make an egg float (10 tsp.  Now you know), and at 7:30, Lily was dropping water onto a black marker circle she made on a coffee filter to see what colors leak out.  Utterly pointless, both of them.

Attention schools: You have our children for  6 hours a day.  Get it done then.  We don’t get home until after 4.  Bed time is at 8:30. Dinner takes up some of that.  The rest if for the kids.  Get off my back.  Or next year’s science fair project will be done in the van on the way to school.


Feeling the call of our coal miner heritages, Bev and I loaded the kids into her van and headed for Amelia, Virginia and the Morefield Mine. Six kids, two adults, one van. Memorial Day weekend traffic, headed in the same direction as everyone going to Virginia Beach. Oh yes. Sometimes, it seems, we just don’t think things through. In our defense, the mine is closing after next weekend and we’d been wanting to go since we just missed it closing for the season last fall. Now the owners have sold the mine and it will shut down at least until fall. So it was now or (possibly) never. We thought at first that it would be fun to camp Friday night and go to the mine Saturday morning. That was just that not-thinking thing again, though. Bev had a moment of clarity and pointed out that we’d had two solid weeks of rain and cold and maybe we didn’t want to try to set up camp in the dark, cold, and rain to just get up and break camp the next morning. She had a point. I looked around Amelia and came up with an Econo Lodge motel and something called Buddy’s Restaurant and Inn (and you KNOW that if I didn’t have someone else’s kids along that’s what I’d go with. Maybe it even had metal motel chairs outside! ). Steve travels a lot and so knows how to do things and told us to try Priceline. I chose 2 1/2 stars, Richmond, and said I’d pay 50 bucks a night. Never dreamed it would go through. That was just my opening bid. But it did! And we got two rooms at the Hyatt Place Innsbrook. We called to see if they had a pool and they did not have an indoor pool. I feared, at first, that it would be kind of run down and we’d get a smoking room. But no! It was a really, really nice place. In fact, we were kind of sad we didn’t get more use out of it. So hooray for Priceline and hooray for Hyatt Place!

It was especially lovely that it was a nice place b/c our trip down was a bit grueling. Once we realized we were headed toward beaches at 5:30 on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend (I mean really. What were we THINKING?), we decided to take the back roads. It couldn’t be that much longer, could it? Yes. The answer is yes, it can. The drive to Culpepper was nice, light traffic, pretty surroundings, but it was 7:30 when we stopped for dinner. The kids were half starved and our waiter was…probably a very nice boy, but perhaps better suited to something back-of-house. It was really odd to be in a restaurant with a smoking section. We’re spoiled here in Maryland. Yay us, boo Virginia. While we were waiting on the food, we played “What’s Missing?” in which one person hides something from the table while all the other players close their eyes. After about three rounds, I turned to Bev and said, “Wow, we must look really devout.” Next time I opened my eyes I gave it the “Great, and the food STILL isn’t here.

God wasn’t all that amused by me because as we left, what had been a vaguely upset stomach progressed to seriously painful gas. We popped over to a RiteAid so that I could get some Gas-X (oh yes, you needed to know every detail) and I asked the clerks within how best one might get to Richmond from there. They told us to go get on 95, which would surely be cleared by now (nearly 9 o’clock) and besides, the road we were on was “dark and windy and all full a deer this time a year.” So another 90 minutes of me gently moaning and Bev coughing herself into stomach muscle pain and Lily sobbing “I want a comfortable bed!” and the other kids saying “Are we almost there?” (having learned that “are we there yet?” gets a “yeah, get out.”), and we found it. Oh, and in case you’ve never ridden with either of us, Bev and I have the worst sense of direction. Getting out of our own town involved turning around twice. So be assured that we passed the hotel up before we found it. Even with an address.

We got to our rooms and collapsed into bed. Julianna was snoring before the other two kids had even reclined fully. Every hour, Ben’s watch went beep! , followed one minute later by Julianna’s watch. Lily woke every few hours, throwing a fit because her arm was asleep. Lucky arm. Molly came to wake us at 8, which had seemed totally reasonable the night before but seemed downright cruel after that night of “sleep.” We went down to the hotel breakfast. I tried to clear away our dishes as the place was packed and we couldn’t tell if there was bus service. I carried the stack and one of the employees said “over there,” gesturing to a doorway. There I found the manager, scraping and stacking into a bus pan. I joined in and he slapped my hand. “Give me that! I can tell you’re a mother.” “These aren’t even from my table,” I told him, “I just needed to tidy.” He laughed, but he didn’t even know how funny that really was.

After investigating what looked like a carnival in a nearby parking lot (it was the end of some kind of Run for Autism [which, really, should be a run from ], I’d place a bet that it was church-related b/c who else would be all festive at 9 am?), we headed for the mine. We passed it, of course, and circled back. I swear it was like we were trying to shake a tail with all the doubling back and sudden veers into driveways. We arrived to find that it was the busiest day in the current owners’ history. And they’d had it since ’97, I think. Waiting in line to pay, we found that the people behind us were from Maryland, also. “Did you camp?” she asked. We told her that we’d been about to, but got a room in Richmond instead. “Ugh,” she said, it’s a terrible campsite. It’s meant for RVs and we have a tent. It’s so rocky you have to wear shoes even in the tent. We arrived late and had to set up in the dark…” We made cooing sounds of sympathy, but what we were thinking was “WOO-HAH! We rule!” It was totally worth the wait in line for that dose of smug. We were so pleased we didn’t even have to tell her that our room was only 20 dollars more than her rocky campsite. She tried to get further sympathy by telling us she and her friend had 5 kids between them, but we were unbowed. Even given that one of theirs was a toddler. They had neither Molly nor Ben, so we were not impressed.

The long line gave us plenty of time to take in all the 700 club stickers and “pray for Jerusalem” posters and wonder just what that notebook we signed in on was going to get us. Finally we got to go hit the dirt. You don’t actually go into a mine, of course, so twice a day a big truck dumps a load of dirt from the mine. There’s quite a large area for digging and cool rocks are all over, so even though there were a LOT of people there, it didn’t feel crowded. The first thing we noticed was that there were huge flakes of mica everywhere and little bits were just part of the dirt, so the very ground was as sparkly as a fairy pony’s paddock. This shot doesn’t fully capture it, but it was just insanely glittery:

glittery dirt

We found a shady spot and had a seat. At first we were selectively digging down and pulling out rocks, but realized we’d never know if we were passing up small nice stones, so just scooped great piles of rocky dirt into our buckets. Lily, hard at work:

I know there's a pony in here somewhere

Each kid had a Home Depot apron and big orange bucket:

Julianna can dig it, y'all

Once it was almost too full to carry, we’d stagger over to the sluice. Because it was so crowded, we had to wait for a screen, but the atmosphere was cheery and it was fun to see what others had found. Once we scored some screens, we sat down to wash off our finds and select the nice stuff.

Sluice newton

Primarily, what we pulled out was amazonite, a really pretty blue-green stone.

my amazonite, at home

There was also a lot of quartz, and amethyst was often embedded in that. I got a pretty nice chunk of amethyst, it’s to the right of the other quartz:

smokey quartz and amethyst

I found a crystal spike, which was cool, but my favorite finds were the garnets. They aren’t big, but if you sit on “Garnet Hill”–which, rather than high-end linens and Eileen Fisher, has actual garnets–you can just pluck them off the surface of the dirt. It really felt like a treasure hunt. I have no idea what I’ll do with these little guys, but I like them:

wee garnets

After we washed that first bucketfull, we noticed that everyone was being herded out of a section of the dig. They were about to dump a new load. Having almost everyone in one area made it clear just how crowded it was. When that load fell, the crowd rushed it like it was the wedding dress sale at Filene’s. Needless to say, we wanted no part of this:

Wait!  I dropped a contact lens!

Seemed like a good time for lunch.

roadside picnics rock

That’s Blair, Julianna, Lily, Brooke, Bev, Molly, and Ben. I do love a roadside picnic. They take me back. Sandwiches warmed by the heat of the car, the faint taste of the WetOnes used to wash your hands…ahh.

Next to our table, we had this thing:

I'll hold it down, you get the net!

It appears to be a furnace powered…

the furnace

traffic light?

turn green already

I mean, I’m no Al Gore, but that seems like a really inefficient use of power.

After lunch, we dug a bit more, but really the fight was out of us at that point. A couple of hours and we were ready to call it quits. A few pictures on the petrified wood in front of the gift shop:

me and the gang

the squids

And back on the road. We were filthy, of course, so we stopped at a truck stop to change. Steve and I have had a long-running joke/observation that, in a Chinese restaurant, the nastier the bathroom the better the food. One or the other of us would come out of the loo and proclaim “This food is gonna be great!” or “I’m not sure we should eat here.” Let me tell you, one look at the bathroom at the truck stop and I was ready to demand the clerk cook me some kung pao. Because it was going to be world class. It was missing only blood spatters to suggest that the cops should be called. We’d have known where to find them–as we were leaving the mine, a police car drove in, calling over the loud speaker “LISA ELIZABETH MILLER! YOU HAVE PARKED ON THE STATE ROAD AND YOU MUST MOVE YOUR CAR. OR I WILL MOVE IT FOR YOU! LISA ELIZABETH MILLER!” Seriously, how horrible must it be to have the State Cops show up, calling you on the loudspeaker, using your bad girl name? Yowsa.

The trip home was a full hour shorter, not even counting the food stop. We went straight up 95 (with only one wrong turn!), stopping outside Fredericksburg to eat at a Pizza Hut. This time we played “I’m going on a picnic” and incurred no wrath. I always forget how greasy and nasty that pizza is. gah. Given that they were packed together for two days, the kids did very well. Bev only had to threaten Molly once and I only had to snarl at Ben once, so whee! It was a lot of schlepping, but it was fun. I’d do it again, but I’d take that one more night in the nice hotel. And I might even drive over to the campground to mock.

If you want to know more about this sort of adventure, check out this article.

I built a third square foot garden on Saturday.  This one is a 3×3 and is for tomatoes and peppers.  I got some plants at the farmer’s market Saturday morning (along with 10 quarts of strawberries that I froze) and spent the rest of the day building and filling the box.  I’m going to put sunflowers in those two empty squares:

3x3 square foot garden

I have a bunch of pots that I filled with growing mix and into which I’ll put herbs.  I also re-seeded my second bed, which really didn’t do all that well.  Just a few carrots and basil poked up.  The tat soi did well and the two strawberry plants produce the occasional berry:

But my first box is doing really well:

That broccoli in the front is hiding all the greens from you, but I’m regularly getting my salad from there.  Delish.  And look at the tiny baby broccoli!  Awwww:

Once I remember to ask dad how to plant potatoes, I’ll put those in the second box.  I still hope to build some long boxes–4×12–to plant corn in the “old” garden.

Why is is SO hard to go back to posting when you haven’t in a while? I’ve been hiding from all of you, hoping the blog fairies would just come post witty things and pretty pictures. But no. Stupid fairies.

Speaking of which: the Fairie Festival! As always, we went the Friday closest to Mayday to dance with our Fairie Friends. Kubiando! Every year, I wish I’d planned ahead to spend more time there. Sigh. It’s magical, it really is. Anyway, I know you. You want pictures, so here they are. As usual, they’re utter crap. The magic of the fairies saps my photographic skills. Every year, I swear I’ll take better photos. And then I go have fun instead. Stupid stupid stupid.

Here are am with the girls. I have no idea why they both look so surly. Julianna was annoyed that her wings did not perform well in actual festival conditions, but Lily was perfectly fine.

Fairy Mom and fairilets

I was a Fairy of the Sea (Steve: You’re in the Navy?) with a crown of shells, an octopus and a shell around my neck, and starfish hanging on my earrings:

Sea Fairy

Julianna was the Mallow Fairy. She decided to try gauzy wings hanging from a wire frame, but they kept swinging around together and in general behaving in a most un-wing-like fashion, so she tossed them in a bin not long after we got in. They looked great in the house, though.

mallow fairy

Lily was the Forget-me-Not Fairy. What I hope to not forget is that I always have to carry wings and crown within moments of entering the festival grounds. Next year–simple unstructured fabric wings.

forget-me-not fairy

Lily’s first request was to walk the maze in which you find five pots of colored chalk, coloring one of your fingers with each pot. At the end, there is a key by which you can tell your fortune by the colors on your fingers.

chalk pot

“You will have ice cream.” My fortune said “You try to find the good in people.” Given that several of you just choked, I’m thinking that this is not the most accurate system the fairies could have come up with. Maybe a bit more thought next time, okay sprites?

Lily and Brooke were very excited to see Scheherezade again. She does a little show with gypsy music and belly dancing moves and a gypsy band of children. Here’s Lily with her drum and Brooke with her conducting wand:

gypsy band

They totally want to be Scheherezade when they grow up.

scheherezade the gypsy

And really, she seems to be having a blast at it, so why not?

I think we all kind of love the drum circle best. When there is a drumming scheduled, there are lots of drummers and dancers and merriment. And when there isn’t, there are just drums lying around that you can beat on as you see fit.

Molly, Julianna, and Tori

Lily and Brooke rock the dijeridoo

I love to even look at other people’s photos of the Fairie Festival b/c it’s just such a great place to…look. i saw this and had to get a shot:

Fairy baby!

fairy baby

I think the Daddy Fairy might have permanent wings…

Who the heck invited THIS weirdo?

she's a super freak

The fairies begin to poop out…

Even the Moss Men need a nap by the stream:

moss men

So it’s time to head home, stopping for the Dinner of Fairies, Krispy Kremes:

Next year: good photos and more time!

I got a grill last weekend and I’m a little obsessed.  First night:  Grill everything in the fridge:

Grilled potatoes and onions are among the best things on earth.  I think I grilled and ate 6 whole onions over the course of the last 3 days.  We even grilled dessert that first night:

Second night, broccoli and tofu marinated in Soy Vey Teriyaki and grilled, served over rice.  YUM!

Tonight, pizza!   The kids got the usual tomatoes and cheese and it was fantastic.  But Steve and I had roasted tomatoes and fennel and red onions on ours.   oh….yummy.  It was a Cooks Illustrated recipe.  I’ll link you, but you may need to be a member to see it.  I have an on-line subscription and it’s so worth it.

So, grill mavens–tips?  must-grills?  As you see, we have your standard kettle charcoal grill.  and remember–no critter.

Those in need of non-stop hilarity just skip on down to the next posting. I was just at the fabric store and was in line behind a woman and her little girl, probably about 3 years old. The child was weeping and the mother was berating her “You do not deserve that because what you did was wrong. You are bad.” I’d encountered them earlier and had scurried away b/c the mom was speaking so very viciously to this very small girl. I couldn’t think what to do to help and really, it was making me die a little inside. I know that it can help to smile at the mom and compliment her child, but this woman never stopped her tirade of nastiness. When I saw they were ahead of me in line, I should have just gone to do something else for a bit, but I wanted to get home. So I got to stand there, literally choking back sobs, while this child asked, “Why did you spank me, mama?” and her mother replied “You know why. What you did was wrong.” Now, given that the child could not have been more than 4 at the oldest, she doesn’t have a morality developed enough to do the sort of wrong this woman was insinuating. And if a child does not know why the one person she trusts above all others has caused her physical pain, the least you can do is tell her. Okay, we know I don’t believe in spanking, but lord knows I have had some less-than-proud parenting moments. And really, it isn’t even the spanking that is bothering me. It was the callousness. The little girl’s face was just destroyed. She kept trying to get in good, to make up. “Isn’t this pretty, mama?” the woman wouldn’t give. At least when she said, while rubbing her sore legs, “will you kiss it, mama?” (SOB! from me) the woman said she would.

So. I admit I give advice better than I take it. I admit I have not always been the picture of patience and kindness, particularly when any of my kids was 3 years old (they’re a special kind of deranged at that age), but this is the sort of thing that helps me remember to be better. So I’m passing it to you. If you have a child, please remember: You are his or her world. Especially before they’re out in the world of other kids and adults, parents are the beginning and end of what they know. You get to make them who whey are, how they think of themselves. If you tell them that they are bad and undeserving, they will believe you. You don’t have to be sweetness and light every moment of the day. You can even be grouchy, but please please let them know that you love them, even when they do annoying things. Please don’t belittle them. Even when they’re big and irritating in new ways, don’t make your love conditional. Don’t tell them they are bad. Don’t withhold affection as punishment. And don’t make me cry in the Jo-Anns. Or I will follow you to your car and kick your ass.

Now, back to your usual merriment.

Oh, she’s cute.

That she continues to wear the green and lavender cowboy boots almost everyday brings me joy.  And that I had her hair in dog ears–if only for a few hour and if only to disguise the fact that the leave-in conditioner I’d put in her hair made it look greasy–made me happy.  And that she’s starting to read and write?  Utter delight.

Lily does “journal prompts” every day at school. There’s a sheet with room to draw a picture and then a few words like “At the doctor I” or “When I’m scared I” and then she fills it in. I get a week’s worth at a time and they’re about my favorite thing ever.

Here’s a week:

Dinosaurs r bad.

I love mom (with a drawing of her thinking of me)

When I’m scared my mom cums. (ahem.)

I am happy when my mom cisis me (kisses me. how cute is that)

If I could fly I wood fly to urooba.

Then this week’s:

At the doctor I got bedr (child hasn’t even been in a dr.’s office in years)

A teacher teachis

A firefighter savs pipl

A policeman yts donuts.

Steve said, “You know, police do more than eat donuts.” And she said, “Well sometimes they do, if they want a snack before bedtime.”


May 2008
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