Monday, October 29, 2012

The best of what's around...

As Hurricane Sandy approaches, we've battened down the hatches and holed up in our warm little house to wait out the storm.  We're not supposed to get hit hard, but school was cancelled today as a precaution, and the wind and the rain is starting to pick up.  The irony does not escape me, therefore, that the post I've planned to write is on the adventures we've had in what has turned out to be the most glorious fall we've ever had.  Seriously - there's never been a more beautiful, colorful, perfectly seasonable fall weather as we've enjoyed this year.....

Early in October, just after the camping trip, the kids had the day off of school and Jeff was in Wisconsin for work.  I was itching for adventure, nature-adventure.  I packed up the kids, our lunches, lots of water, extra layers, and the camera, and we headed to our favorite hiking spot in Shenandoah National Park.  I felt brave and daring, committing to a 2 mile hike in the woods with 3 children, solo, but I was determined.  And so were they.  It was an unforgettable day, with gorgeous views even amid the clouds and chill and early color.  Mostly, it was the unforgettable adventure I shared with my three loves.  Some pics:

 Love these awesome hikers!  Turk Gap Trail, 2 miles round trip.
 At the summit!

On another beautiful day, Jeff and I decided to attempt a family photo shoot, self-portrait style.  In short:  there's a good reason people hire other people to take their pictures, especially when said pictures involve tiny subjects hellbent on NOT being photographed.  Although we might not have the "money shot" we were hoping for, we definitely had some good laughs.

 (Doesn't Pax look like the most cooperative little thing here, with his hand all posed on his knee and all?)
 (Hands clasped.... with death grips to keep them from straying.)

 (Almost a nose-picking shot from Leo.  Almost.)

 (Love this one!  Jeff looks like he's flying through the air; Pax is boneless.)

Later in the month, we took the kids to visit the biggest corn maze in the area - WOW!  We had three different mazes to choose from, and I demanded forced sensibly advised the group to do the one-hour, medium level blue maze.... that took us almost twice that time to complete.  Toward the very beginning, Jeff had to take Pax back to the car to change his diaper.  Before leaving, he handed me a map, pointed to a dot on it and said, "Okay, I'll meet you here.  You all go on ahead."  And then he turned and walked away.  Initially, I thought, how hard could this be?  But then suddenly I was seized with the same feeling of dread and disaster I feel pretty much anytime I'm driving somewhere in the car:  where am I?  I fought my rising panic and tried to act calm as Aidan impatiently urged us to get us going.  Thankfully, a maze employee wandered by, took one look at me and my panic-stricken face, and quickly led us back through the maze until we met up with Jeff again.  After that, I designated myself the permanent caboose of our little train and offered nothing more than encouraging words to keep on going - not a single turn or direction came from me.  Still, it was an aMAZEing experience, one that I'd love to become a tradition:
 Cool play area, separate from the corn maze....
 Oversized checkers.....
 You want me to do what?  Follow a map? 
 Future Navigator
Using the compass to steer our course...

This past weekend, we hosted our kind-of annual Halloween party.  Many weeks' worth of preparation led up to this awesome event, including tons of baking.  Pax has proven himself, time and time again, to be the most competent and capable little baker, and I absolutely love this time I spend with him.  This month alone, we've made cornbread, cupcakes, pumpkin muffins, brownies, caramel corn, granola bars, apple dip, pumpkin dip, biscuits, soups, and cookies.  I do believe that this will the the Year of Baking with Pax.  I don't think anyone will mind.

Fittingly, I suppose, the October that began with wonderful weather is ending with wacky weather.... along with some wacky hair.

Monday, October 22, 2012

BOS, round 2.

I've actually been working on a couple of posts the past few days, but suddenly my writer's fingers demanded a detour.  Unfortunately, it's to revisit an old, painful, unhealed wound.  (These metaphors are terrible.  I'm out of creative juice.)  Anyway--

You remember this whole mess from the spring, right?  And this?  And this?

Well, here's a quick and dirty summary of the current state of affairs (written by someone else, edited by me):

The School Board has reached a desperate point this year and will have to make decisions that will affect you, your family, your livelihood and your wallet.

Due to the under-funding of the school system, the School Board is now forced to decide between the following options. The one chosen will be implemented this school year, beginning in January 2013.  Options include:

• Operating the schools only four days a week (longer days) which would mean no sports or practices could be held on that closed day. Closing the schools would also create potential day care challenges for many parents.
• Additional furlough days for employees
• Eliminating all spring 2013 Virginia High School League sports.
• Closing C. Elementary which has 119 students and eliminate its 12 staff members.
• Closing C. Elementary which has 191 students and eliminate its 12 staff members.

One or more of these options will be implemented on Jan 1, 2013

...and here's my response. Again. 

Dear Board of Supervisors,

Your continued failure to make sound decisions regarding the health and welfare of our public school system is appalling.  I am angry that you, once again, did not approve the funding necessary to support the needs of the county's students and staff.  When the Superintendent approached you last week to request $308,000 for the sustainability of the schools, the only correct response would have been a resounding yes.  Instead, there was a single motion followed by the deafening silence of the devastation and destruction you're causing.

None of the options currently being weighed by the School Board are viable options, because every option will result in catastrophic effects on this community.  Furloughing underpaid teachers is unacceptable, particularly coupled with the increase in insurance the teachers have been forced to bear.  Closing the smaller schools is unacceptable, as the number of students per teacher has already increased since you first slashed the school budget in the spring.  Lengthening the school day and moving to a four day week is unacceptable for myriad reasons, including the fact that a good number of students rely on free and reduced breakfast and lunch, every day, for their nourishment.  Eliminating transportation for students is unacceptable, because those who need to be at school the most will have the hardest time getting there. 

Your continued failure to fund the schools demonstrates your complete lack of commitment to the children in this county and to their sound educational futures.  Please hear me loudly and clearly: your actions are unconscionable.  You do not represent the majority of the individuals who elected you into the office you now hold.  You have made, and are continuing to make, the most egregious budgetary and financial errors.      
Yet you, the Board of Supervisors, again have the opportunity to do the right thing.  You have the opportunity to approve additional funding for the 2012-13 school year and avoid creating even more crippling effects on our students and staff. 

Nothing is more important than your provision of $308,000 for the sustainability of our schools. 


Anne S. Carter 


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Embarking on the Known World

Because the Most Ridiculous National Holiday Ever afforded us an extra-long weekend, we made like Columbus and embarked on an adventure to the known world... of camping a local favorite campsite.  (We did not, however, claim to discover anything new, nor chart the course for other ships to bring ruin to the peaceable Natives inhabiting the land...) In hindsight, I find it positively amazing that we ever embarked on a second - let alone eighth or ninth - camping trip after that first ill-fated affair some 3 1/2 years ago. 

Oh, how the times have changed!  Most notably, this camping trip didn't include a single raindrop.  Not one.  I believe this is a Carter Camping Miracle, in fact!  The weather was positively glorious, perhaps the finest weather we'll see this fall.  It was warm and breezy during the day, cool but not cold at night.  The leaves had just started to change, promising more brilliant days of color ahead.

Our tent was cozy and warm, and since I had my very own sleeping bag this time and didn't have to share with Pax and his youth-sized bag, each of us slept better those two nights in the tent than we sleep in our own beds at home - I know, right?  So hard to believe, but so true.

We took the canoe this time, which was one of the biggest highlights of the trip.  As we paddled, both Jeff and I were deeply nostalgic about the many canoe memories we enjoyed in our younger days.  Jeff loves to recount the stories of the 21-day canoe trip he took for several summers through an amazing camp in Quebec.  My own memories from being a camp counselor and taking kids on overnight canoe trips are particularly fun to tell to my own children, but most especially do I love telling them about my canoe trips with my family.  Whenever I was partnered with my father (which was usually), I sat in the front to "navigate" and "help paddle."  I interpreted this to mean "deliberately direct the steerer to forge ahead into shallow, rocky paths in the river for the sheer joy of getting stuck, possibly capsizing, and listening to the mock harrumphing and annoyance that ensued."  This was my modus operandi every. single. time.  Did my dad ever catch on to my antics, or was he possibly as amused by my mischief as I was?

After giggling uncontrollably upon hearing this tale, I could tell Aidan was trying to do the same in our two manned canoe.  Lucky for me, it's hard to get stuck in a wide-bottom canoe in a lake.

Another highlight was that friends of ours also camped at the same site, and our visits overlapped for one night.  What a perfect coincidence!  The 8 kids between 3 families skipped rocks, went on a scavenger hunt, attempted to find a geocache (ha!  It was never found, despite two overly determined fathers), played on the playground and ran the beach together, and generally made for a wonderful and relaxing time for the grown ups.  Relaxing!  Great sleep!  No rain!  Was this for real?

Well, yes, it was still very real.  We still made the "if you don't stop this minute we'll pack up our stuff and go home IMMEDIATELY" threat once each day.  Our box oven brownies?  FAIL.  And I didn't even touch them, so I can't be blamed like last time when I added glowing wood tinder to the box instead of adding more charcoal, resulting in a decidedly smoked flavor.  We totally forgot to bring the brand-new rain/sun/shelter tent cover we bought specifically for this trip.  Jeff, ever the one to lecture me on not over-packing, managed to bring not one...not two...not three... but FOUR pairs of shoes for a three day excursion.

It was a great trip.  We came home happy and deep-down fulfilled by our time outside, together, with friends, as a family.

Some photos (I took 257.  I spared you all but this dozen):
Fresh flowers, festive tablecloth, fantastic beer.  Does it get any better than this?

Aidan was such a rockstar on this trip - so helpful, so careful, so willing.


Look what I caught in the lake!

Trying to beat his mom in a footrace!
Look at this awesome little baby!

This is one of the most genuine pics we've ever taken.  This was "a moment"!

Anonymous oarsmen

Notice my position in the boat - once a coxswain, always a coxswain!

Leo's photo idea:  throw leaves up when the camera goes off.  This took five tries to get the timing right!
"Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile."  -William Cullen Bryant