A Weekend Near Water

I am finally emerging from the depths of my first preschool-related sickness. Now that the little guy is in school five days a week we’re at the mercy of four- and five-year-olds. Good times. On a somewhat unrelated note, Christopher Columbus (or Cristoforo Colombo if we’re being exact) by all accounts was not a great man, or at least not the noble explorer we were taught in elementary school. Despite “committing atrocities against native peoples and decimating their populations”, he is honored every year with an October holiday. And because of this federal holiday, Clay had a four-day weekend. We originally planned to take the kids on a mini-vacation but the water heater in our Oklahoma house went kaput and then our Volvo needed major work so before we knew it, our Columbus Day Weekend vacation fund was resembling our national economy. No bail-out for our family.

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Not that we slummed it over the weekend. I’ll admit that we’re incredibly lucky – my parents live on a lake and Clay’s parents live near the beach so we have ample opportunity for almost-free getaways, as along as we’re willing to stay with our parents and make the drive. Thankfully, both sets are pretty cool so we don’t mind ;).

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We left early Friday morning and arrived at Clay’s parents by early afternoon. The weather was absolutely gorgeous (a far cry from the storms northern Virginia was experiencing at the time) so we took the kids to the beach – late afternoon/early evening might just be the best time at the beach (especially if you’re a shark!).

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After dinner with Clay’s parents, we put the kids down to bed and headed into Wilmington for drinks and Gone Girl (highly recommend – NPH is perfect in his role). The next morning we went back to the beach and soaked up as much sun as we could before the cooler temperatures take over.

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Saturday evening is when the plague overtook Weston. We nursed the little guy and by Sunday afternoon he was feeling well enough to stay with Grandma and Grandpa for Clay and I to sneak out for a couple of hours to head to the riverfront in downtown Wilmington.

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We met a college friend for flights of beer and then strolled along the river walk before sharing a french-pressed coffee at a local coffee shop. We then made our way to Wrightsville Beach (our favorite) and walked up and down in the light rain – it felt like we were in a romantic comedy spearheaded by Nora Ephron or Nancy Meyers.

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Our weekend away just solidified what we already knew – we are happiest near water.

If only Clay had joined the Navy instead of the Army…

All The Fall Things!

Do you know that it’s fall? Perhaps you’ve noticed an increased presence of North Face fleeces, despite the still-warm temperatures. Same with UGG boots. Or maybe you’ve overheard, “Oh my gosh – pumpkin spice lattes are, like, my favorite thing ever” too many times to count. Is your Facebook feed overloaded with pumpkin patch pictures? Guess what? It’s FALL!!!!

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 {Sigh.}

Look – I love fall just as much as the next person.  In fact, I enjoy many of the activities featured on Buzzfeed’s 17 Fall Activities All Basic Girls Love. Fall is awesome. We’ve enjoyed our fair share of fall lately, like our jaunt to West Virginia and celebrating Oktoberfest this past weekend.

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Despite the fact that both Clay and I are of strong German heritage, we have yet to visit the homeland. Clay spent the night in Germany once on the way back to Afghanistan but that has been the extent of our time in Deutschland. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to travel there within the next few years but until then, we have to make due with neighborhood Oktoberfest celebrations stateside.

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 We’re lucky that we have neighbors who brew their own beer!

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Since no fall-related blog post would be complete without a Starbucks cup selfie, I’ll throw my recycled sleeve into the ring. Forget pumpkin spice lattes – nonfat chai latte’s are made from the nectar of gods. I’ve been working my way through our loose chai tea mix from Teavana that I {accidentally} bought for $70 (!!!) last year. And I can’t wait to try this Epicurious recipe once the weather gets a little cooler.

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I discovered a delightfully crunchy fall-esque treat that is nothing short of miraculous – Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Brittle. If you are even remotely close to a Trader Joe’s {I will mourn the day we’re more than 5 minutes away from Trader Joe’s}, pick some up immediately.

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Confession time – I have yet to find a pumpkin beer that I like. I think a couple of the neighborhood girls may shun me now. I like pumpkin. I like beer. And I think I don’t like pumpkin beer. Clay and I have been really getting into Dunkelweizen beers lately, which isn’t all that surprising because we rarely meet a wheat beer we don’t like. Dunkelweizens are essentially wheat beers that are brewed darker – a perfect fall beer in our book. Trader Joe’s (of course) version is a decent and inexpensive option.

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 So while it may not look like fall yet in northern Virginia, it at least tastes like fall, right?

Let’s Talk About School, Baby.

The list of places the Army could send us next has been narrowed down to 5-6 possibilities. We should know (tentatively) our next location after the holidays. This will be the first move in which we need to take schools into account when finding a place to live. Since we’re not guaranteed on-post housing (is anyone ever?), I’ve been casually looking online at our options for the list of possibilities. Because why not?

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Moving around a lot is a reality in the military. Homesteading (military term for staying in one place for a significant amount of time) is not an option in Clay’s career field, which we’re totally okay with – I’ve discussed quite a bit my appreciation for moving to new places. But like most parents, we’re not trying to actively screw up our children so we want to make sure that we put at least some thought into where they’re going to spend 6+ hours of their weekdays. So now sticking my toe into the water when researching possible new locations involves looking at GreatSchools scores and using Google to make sure that the administration aren’t devil-worshipers or Justin Bieber fans. Because they’re the worst.

So I guess the cat’s out of the bag that we’re not planning to homeschool. And while we’re not anti-private school, we will enroll Weston in a public school kindergarten and go from there (because we obviously don’t care about his future).  I am in the process of educating myself about the current state of public schools – after all, a lot has changed in the 12+ years since I graduated high school, like the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Common Core seems to be one of those divisive terms like Global Warming, the Keystone Pipeline, and Taylor Swift, so it can be difficult to find non-biased information about the impact of such standards. For the record, I am somewhat of a Taylor Swift fan.

I realize that the scores produced by GreatSchools are fairly subjective and that test scores themselves aren’t always good indicators of teaching ability, school function, or true understanding of the material. I stumbled across this 2011 PBS report on the determination of ‘good’ schools ‘bad’ schools based on test scores. And the piece did give me pause to the amount of weight I was putting into such scores during my brief ventures into researching potential new places to live.

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Apparently I also need to brush up on my fundamental skills. The other day, my neighbor brought out her son’s long-division homework and inquired about my math abilities. She had a couple of questions about how he arrived at his answers and asked for my assistance. I’m fairly confident with numbers and thoroughly enjoyed my college-level statistics and calculus courses so I took a stab at the problem. I solved problem using the long-division methods I learned during my elementary years, even making sure to show my work as thoroughly as possible. I knew the answer was correct (thank you phone calculator) but when I showed the solved problem to my neighbor’s son, he looked at it as if I wrote the Russian alphabet. Apparently I am not versed (at all) in Everyday Mathematics and my (previously stellar) math skills need work if I want to check my children’s homework in the future.

When thinking about my children’s academic career, my hope is for them to have their love for learning continuously nurtured. Unfortunately, there isn’t a test score to indicate a school’s ability to do so. Having them graduate the top of their class isn’t a high priority for us – we’ve been out in the ‘real world’ long enough to know the ability to work hard and to maintain a lifelong thirst for learning are invaluable tools and carry more weight than a perfect GPA ever can. Part of the reason why we’re choosing for Clay to make the Army a career is because we believe that exposing our children to various regions and cultures will provide an education that regular school simply cannot. Our ultimate goal is to release two functional adults into society – two adults who are capable, inquisitive, thirsty, and compassionate.

I realize that I am perhaps encroaching on paralysis by analysis, I mean, we don’t even know where we are going next.  Researching school scores for hypothetical locations seems a bit silly now that I put it in words. But since we’re subjecting our children to multiple schools throughout their children, I want to at least make sure that we’re making an informed choice. And I suppose at the end of the day, that’s what we as parents do – hope that we’re doing an okay job while on this crazy but exhilarating ride.