Monday, August 25, 2014

Some Free Range Fun

You have to know upfront that I am dragging myself away from Hardcore History to blog today. It is becoming an addiction. But more on that in a wee bit.

Yesterday was the kickoff meeting for Eion's Boy Scout pack. This had been something, in the past, which Tim and E attended but I had never been. You could quickly conclude that it was a good time when I yelled down to the basement, "Hey Eion! Do you want to play xbox or go to the Boy Scout meeting at the pond?" The xbox was off and he was running upstairs to get ready. This must be good.

We arrive to this scene:


A large pond full of boys ranging from first to fifth grade were happily paddling around, figuring out how to get to their desired destination on their own. It was a free ranger's dream.


Eion ran over to join them, starting in one boat before turning to piracy and boarding and taking over other vessels. He had a blast.

Don't get me wrong, they were all wearing life jackets and help was nearby if any boys felt overwhelmed, but they largely were doing just fine on their own. It made me long to own some piece of rural property with a pond or stream. Maybe someday…

Now back to Hardcore History. Tim found this podcast a few weeks back. This guy, Dan Carlin, extensively researches a topic and then creates a podcast about it. The series I just finished was called Wrath of the Khans, a 6+ hour history of Genghis Khan and his empire. It was fascinating. Here was a topic about which I knew, or cared, very little and I was riveted for hours. 

The tone is conversational. The style was much like that of a storyteller. And for me, it totally works. I can't say that many specific dates and names stuck with me, but I feel that my understanding of the era is much greater and, who knew, it is pretty interesting.

I think it is my new favorite podcast. So if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to Thor's Angel's, the story of post Roman Empire western Europe!

Friday, August 22, 2014

And From Peeperville

Photo courtesy of Eion's new ability to text.

Yesterday was a big day in the land of the Peepers. We've been steadily getting more and more eggs. First just from Putin and Tank but then from the black and white chickens too. Last night was a milestone - five eggs in a day, which means they are all laying (except James Blond, who gets a pass since she is younger.) We've been eating them as fast as they can lay them. We're hoping soon to have a surplus to share!

Phone Mission Complete

Maggie had to wait a few days to get her phone, but the deed is done. We went to the AT&T store with the intention of activating her sister's old starter phone. When we arrived, however, we found out that she could get an iPhone for $0.99 (with a two year contract, of course.) In the end, we were softies and just got her the smartphone rather than using the old phone.

The reactions in the family were diverse and predictable. She was, naturally, thrilled to death. Maggie had permagrin for the remainder of the evening and spent an inordinate amount of time customizing her ringtones, lock screen, and app situation.

Her sister found this to be a complete violation of protocol and UNFAIR. We just agreed with her and told her tales of how the oldest child generally gets screwed like this. And by screwed, we mean that she too has a smartphone which was lost on her as she hissed at us, literally, and demanded to be alone. [By the end of the evening, she rallied.]

As she no longer needed her iPod touch, Maggie handed it down to Eion, who found this unexpected development outstanding. To his utter delight, we set it up so he can text and email us. None of his friends text, as far as I know, so we have been the recipients of many texts, selfies, and chicken pictures in the last 12 hours, most of which were followed up with a yell down the stairs, "Did you get my text?" We figure his text etiquette can only improve from here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Place Your Bets

Once upon a time, we were starry-eyed parents with plans to be the lone hold outs when it came to cell phones. These kids were getting them too soon and they didn't need them dagnabbit. High school, we decided, that was the time. But soon enough, we had Morrigan, dying for a phone in 5th grade.

We stayed tough and said no way to elementary school phones but as she grew older, we could see that the plan was not going to work. We weren't going to make it to 9th grade.

So the new and improved plan came in to play. She had to save money for the phone, six months of payments, and then be prepared to pay the $10 a month it would cost us to add a line. She was 10 at the time and we assumed this would take her some time. Maybe a year.

We soon found out all that laziness, displayed daily at home, only applied to things we wanted done. She started saving babysitting money, Christmas money, and any other change that came her way. She was focused. By the summer before 6th grade, she had met our demands and we felt moving the goalposts at that point would be grossly unfair.

She had her phone. It was a shitty starter phone with no internet, but it was a phone.

Flash forward two years and we are more than aware that while it has been great for her, we really appreciated her having it as well. She could let us know when after school activities changed, if she needed to be picked up somewhere, and generally aided in her planning her own social activities. Not to mention, the threat of taking that puppy away is invaluable. We were a family with no regrets.

The time grew neigh when Maggie would grace the halls of James Madison middle school and, knowing how it all worked out, we told her she could get a phone. [And yes, it is vastly unfair that we didn't make her save for a phone, have an emergency fund, and would accept chores as payment but whatever. It sucks sometimes to be first born. I should know.]

She didn't even need to think about it. Her answer was no, making her the first child ever to refuse a cell phone. I mean ever. But she justified that none of her peeps had them and she could text at home from her ipod touch.

That's when the betting started.

The rest of the family recognized her clear short-sightedness. Personally, I said she would want a phone within five days of the start of school. Eion bet a week and a half. Morrigan said a month. Tim was on the outside, sure Mags' resolve would hold and went with three to six months.

It took one day.

You were so right Mom. Like you always are.

It was pouring down rain Monday when the girls were due home on the bus so I drove the half mile to their bus stop to pick them up. By 4pm, ten minutes after they normally arrive, I was getting antsy. I called Morrigan, who confirmed they were still at school, in their classrooms. Her teachers were ok with me coming to get her, but we had no reliable way to make sure Maggie wasn't loaded up on a bus while I was in transit. Both girls got to wait for the bus.

More than an hour after school let out, they finally were home. A wet Maggie jumped in the car and told me, "You know, I think I might want that phone." Would that our wager had been a monetary one. I'll have to settle for the glory of being right!

Monday, August 18, 2014

First Day of School

In spite of missing lunchboxes and a general lack of appropriate water bottles, the kids got off to school without a hitch! Considering some of the marginal weather we've had the past few weeks, I think we were all ready.


Off to 8th and 6th grade.

As we walked in E told me, "I'm going to rock 3rd grade." 
No doubt my boy.

In the unrelated but terribly exciting news, we now have a new confirmed layer in the flock. I found our first brown egg today which means Attila or the Koch Brothers are making themselves useful. Woohoo! 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Middle School Madness

Seriously, sixteen seconds ago, she looked just like this.


And today she happily skipped off to middle school orientation.


Friday, August 8, 2014

A Week in the Mountains

Well, considering we live in them, further up into the mountains. We spent the last week at Snowshoe resort in West Virginia, where our friends Ann and Hans have a condo.


I generally think of it as a winter, skiing destination and wasn't sure what to expect in the summer. But we knew no matter where we were, our two families could have fun!

It was much cooler than Roanoke, generally mid to high 60's, perfect weather in Tim's opinion. The first day we were there, the resort had a Brew, Blues and BBQ festival which was great fun for the adults.


There was a little rain, but not much. Their place was walking and biking distance from the little downtown so the kids were free to roam, which was great fun for the younger set.

We spent the balance of the week enjoying the beautiful outdoors. We went on a hike one day through woods quite different from those at home. The forest was much more lush, with lots of moss and tons of Red Spruce.



Part way through, we were at the area fire tower, where there you had a gorgeous view of the surrounding area. All hikers, including the afraid of heights Maggie, went to the top for a look.



From there, we hiked down and emerged at a mountain top lake.


At the lake, there was a playground, canoeing, paddle boarding, a small beach, and plenty of places to relax. It was a popular place with our family.




When you were done, you could take the chair lift back or, as Ann and I did foolishly one day, hike up the ski slopes.

A smart decision day.

We also rode the Cass Scenic Railroad, where we took an old fashioned coal fired steam engine train up the mountain and learned about the history of the area along the way. The engines and routes were used for logging though it is strictly a tourist area now.




Can't say for sure, but I think the kids' favorite part might have been the ice cream we bought at the end!

We also relaxed in the hot tub, swam in the pool, and roasted marshmallows. One day, we even had a black bear sighting!


This picture was taken from our deck. Close encounters!

Maggie spent the week loving their dogs. She was a fixture on walks!


It was a low key, perfect way to close out the summer.