Aug 31, 2012

Letter to the elementary school

Dear elementary school staff,

Please excuse Tyler for his tardiness.  We were running ten minutes ahead of schedule this morning until I couldn't find my keys.  After rummaging around in the house for a few minutes, I went out to the van, where four children were getting into their seats.  That's when I realized that my keys were in the ignition, Jon Schmidt music was blasting ("Dumb Song" was appropriate for the moment), and the air conditioning was running.  Thanks to Gavin's little stunt, the van's battery was dead.  My knight in dirty old car came to the rescue.

Is this a good enough dog-ate-my-homework story?  Because it's true.

And sorry that this note is written in orange crayon.


Mrs. Bartle

Aug 30, 2012

Better with friends

A random collection of photos is going to find a home in this post.  The common theme is friends.

On the first day of school, some moms (and pre-schoolers) met for "happy hour" at YoYogurt, when the yogurt is half price.  The Littles were ready to go long before I was, but the outing was still a success.

On one of the kids' testing days, we met ward friends at Black Forest Regional Park for a little hike. Kate has grown a lot since I last packed her around, and chasing after five kids was pretty strenuous.  I was reminded that being in the company of friends doesn't necessarily allow me to talk to friends.  But the kids had a blast with their friends, which was mostly the point.  (Did I get enough italics in there?)

These little characters are friends whether they like it or not.  Kate thought not the morning I took this photo.

The boys' first school-year pack meeting happened a couple of weeks ago.  They were thrilled to return to Cub Scouts and got lots of awards from Day Camp in June.

Because I produce a monthly newsletter for our ward, I'm always taking pictures at ward activities.  The ward FHE was lots of fun (though I had the same problem I did on the hike, minus the backpack).  These are a few of my favorite photos.  I'm lucky to be friends with these people.

And finally, Gavin and Lexi had little friends over to play yesterday afternoon.  It's fun to see Lexi with another little girl.  They played with dolls and kitchen stuff and the dollhouse in a way that Lexi never does alone.  I hope both kids can cultivate some friendships this year.  Hey, I hope that for me, too.

Who wants to climb a tree?

This kid, of course.

The other day, Gavin discovered that if he stood on the fire hydrant, he could reach the lowest branches of our front yard tree.  It was only a matter of seconds before he was high in the treetops.  Of course he was completely thrilled with the new-found activity--and with himself, for discovering it.

Yesterday, after breakfast and before school, Gavin threw open the front door and asked, "Who wants to climb a tree?"

I guess if Gavin is missing, I'll know where to find him.

Lunch lady

This year I'm trying to spice up the lunches my kids take to school.  It would cost $20 a week for them to buy cafeteria food that's mostly disgusting (imho).  The boys don't love sandwiches, so before school started I did some research on more creative (but simple) lunch options.  Zach and Tyler helped me make a list of main dishes, sides, and extras that they like and we put together a lunch menu. So far, the system is working really well and the kids are all happy with the changes.  Here are a few samples:

Below: Leftover pasta, clementine, and cottage cheese

Breakfast burrito [eggs/cheese/sausage/tortilla],
banana, and frozen smoothie

Summer sausage and cheese, strawberries,
and Ritz crackers with cottage cheese and paprika

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs (made and frozen the week before),
marinara sauce, carrots, and applesauce

And boring stuff: ham and cheese sandwich,
grapes, pretzels, Go-gurt, cookie

Gavin and Lexi eat lunch at home, but I prepare their lunches in the morning just like I do for Zach and Tyler.  Lunch boxes for the Littles make lunch time a lot more interesting, and food choices are already made at 7:00 a.m.  I absolutely love that, since by the time the lunch hour rolls around, I'm out of motivation for the day.

I feel like a real live lunch lady when I set up my morning assembly line, which always makes me think of the classic Saturday Night Live song with Adam Sandler.

Maybe I'll have to add sloppy joes to the menu.

Aug 28, 2012

News at work

Yesterday we were thrilled to get the final stamp of approval on Garry's new job!  He has been interviewing for a different position at Wells Fargo for a couple of months now.  He received a verbal offer last week and yesterday the final paperwork was complete.  He told his boss he's leaving.  It doesn't get a whole lot more official than that! 

Garry will join the Corporate Credit team and work on both the commercial and consumer portfolios.  He will focus a major portion of his time and efforts on the customer aggregation initiative.  He will be responsible for all the reporting (both production and ad hoc) related to that effort.  He has been tasked with automating as much reporting as possible in order to expand the reporting pipeline his new team supports.  (Thanks for the blurb on your job, Garry--it sounds all smart and legit when you say it.)

When he reports to work on September 10, Garry will drive to the same building (five minutes away) but sit at a different cubicle.  He'll be making a bit more money.  And he'll be starting a new branch of his career that we are expecting to be fantastic.

First Day: Gavin

Well, the day finally came.  I don't know who was more excited: Gavin or his mother.  Preschool is just fantastic.

Before school Gavin posed for the camera.
This boy cracks me up.

Gavin left his backpack at preschool orientation, so he carried his school supplies (change of clothes, copious paperwork, a snack, and a water bottle) in a crinkly Walmart grocery sack.  He didn't care one bit and skipped off to the car.  Garry drove him to school, a friend drove him home, and I spent the time in between visiting teaching.  I swear he was only gone five minutes.

He asked for a snack when he was two steps inside the door. 
He and Lexi had a major brawl at the lunch table.

Ah, school days.  It's so good to have you back.

Aug 27, 2012


Dear FedEx,

You're on my black list.  Three weeks ago I made a darling photo book.  Two weeks ago I ordered it (I was waiting for a coupon to take effect), and today I found out that you lost it. I know it's not a life-altering catastrophe that I'm going to have to mail a gift rather than hand-deliver it, but you seriously make me mad.

You'd better deliver the wedding album I ordered on the 18th.


A customer bound to Blurb's shipping options

Dear Courtyard Marriott Downtown,

Thank you for employing English-speaking personnel on the early shift.  I appreciated being able to converse with someone about my reservation issues without saying "Pardon me?" 100,000 times in ten minutes.

See you in a few weeks,

The lady who can't wait to get out of town, even if it's only 60 miles away and for 24 hours

Dear YMCA,

I was astonished to find you so full when I stumbled into your establishment, all bleary-eyed, at 5:13 this morning.  I think some of those folks in the cardio room had been burning calories for a full 13 minutes by the time I arrived.  I wonder if any of them were as reticent about getting out of bed as I.

Also, am I the only one whose toes go numb after an hour on the elliptical?

Just wondering,

The lady with the worst photo ID on the planet

Dear bathroom scale,

You're probably going to be the best part of my day/week/month, since you told me today that I've lost all my Kate weight.  I might have checked three times and giggled a little. And clapped.  The fat lady hasn't sung yet, though, so plan on seeing me for a while.

Especially since I celebrated (slash recovered from my lousy day) by eating homemade chocolate chip cookies.  Three, actually.  And they were fantastic.

Your owner

Dear writers of the Ensign,

I mostly love you, and the whole magazine, and how I feel when I read what you produce. But I am totally confused by the theme of this year's visiting teaching messages.  It's just a little awkward to talk with ladies I teach about what great visiting teachers we all should be, when probably none of us are great visiting teachers, but we're all too nice to speak up and say, "Hey! You need to work on that!"  I mean, really.  It's the end of August and I still don't get it.

A trying-to-be-faithful VT

Dear Lexi,

There is a reason I haven't gone visiting teaching with children in tow for TEN YEARS. Today you reminded me, and I won't be repeating that mistake.  Thank you.

Yo mama

Dear readers,

Does anyone out there [who is local; be reasonable] want to babysit for me while I go visiting teaching next month?  I'm happy to trade....and bring you chocolate, because you'll need some.

That lady with the crazy kids

Dear Kate,

Your pigtails are so stinkin' cute that I just want to eat you up.  That, and your dimples, and your darling waddly-walk, and your newest word: "Uh-oh."  Delicious.

But even though you had all that going on at church yesterday, I was still worried. Remember how we played hooky during Sunday School so you could stretch your legs? The way you zoomed around the building, explored every doorway (including the men's restroom, while I was talking to someone), climbed onto a stool, worked the drinking fountain, and picked through other people's diaper bags made me think, "Wow. This girl is a force of nature."

I think my Beaverton friend was right when she told me that calm, docile, quiet children just weren't in my gene pool.

Yours in intensity,

The one who gave birth to you (and don't you ever forget it)

Dear Walmart, Ross, TJMaxx, Kohl's, and Albertsons,

I have plastic bags full of items to return to all of you.  Do you employ a courier service? Because I'm just not sure I'm ever going to get my money back.  But you probably already knew that.  Very tricky.

The hard-to-fit and fashion-clueless shopper

Dear orange couch,

The saga of your construction is almost complete.  (I bet most people don't know it continued beyond July 31).  Since we can't fix how deep you are, or how tall you are, or the fact that I made the pillow covers too large for the actual pillows, I put layers of stuffing in the pillow covers and bought some cute throw pillows.  There's a fun pop of color now, and it's a bit more comfortable for me to sit on you.

You won't be lonely down there for long; I intend to buy a new curtain rod, curtains, something coordinating for the walls, and possibly a coffee table.  I don't want those things to end up on my Christmas list.  (Haha.)

Your short-legged owner

Dear lunch,

I mostly hate your middle-of-the-dayness and the hassle you add to my life.  But I had a stroke of brilliance and decided to pack lunches for the Littles when I pack lunches for the Bigs at 7:00 a.m.  Sometimes I even make something for myself at that time.  It's pretty much the best parenting/housekeeping thought I've ever had.

Well, that, and 7:00 p.m. bed time, but I can't get away with that very much anymore.

Yours truly,

The Mom

Dear Fox Run Park,

It was great to see you again after a four-year hiatus.  The party we attended among your trees and grass (and, let's be honest, lots of dirt) was so fun for the kids.  But we came home with FOUR (count 'em: 1-2-3-4!) new goldfish.  I guess the fish we already have will have company.

Except that one of the new fish will not be in that group.  He died, and Garry ground him up in the garbage disposal.  Gross.


The lady who swore she'd never, ever have pets

Dear Zach,

No.  That does NOT mean you can have a dog.


Aug 24, 2012

The school angle

We're a step closer to the "real" school year, i.e. when all eligible children are attending school.  This week Gavin and Lexi both had preschool previews, wherein they toured their classrooms and met their teachers.

Gavin is back at the district office.  He landed in a great class and I'm really excited about his teacher.  There were, however, some hiccups. The administration placed Gavin in an afternoon class, despite telling us he was in a morning class; and Gavin can't ride the bus to and from school.  (He's not disabled enough.)  I complained, so Gavin is back in the morning, and even though he can't ride the bus, a friend has generously offered to bring him home for me every day.  God is good!  And all is well.

Lexi begged for Daddy to take her to her preschool orientation meeting.  She was elated to find a place to hang her backpack.  She is convinced that her full name is Lexis (it is actually Alexis--I think she's confused about A being a letter and a word, because she spells it out loud correctly but insists her name starts with L).  Poor fourth child....I need to help her a bit.

Today Zach and Tyler had literacy testing at the elementary school.  They scored right where we expected, so we're pleased about that.  When the boys finished testing, the TAG coordinator came out for a conversation.  I just love her, and especially enjoy the insights she offers on my boys' behavior at school.  She shared one hilarious tidbit about Tyler.  It was a conversation that followed a math lesson on obtuse vs. acute angles.  Mrs. Reynolds explained that she remembers "obtuse" by saying the word in a loud, booming sort of voice, and saying "acute" in a high, squeaky voice.  Big vs. little.  Makes sense, right? Well, the class decided that "obtuse" reminded them of the word "obese."

Later, Mrs. Reynolds realized that while standing near Tyler, who was seated on the floor, she had stepped right on his hand.  Tyler hadn't complained, but she apologized profusely.  As I understand it, the rest of the conversation went something like this:

Mrs. R: I'm so sorry, Tyler!
Tyler: It's okay. You're not nearly as heavy as I expected you'd be.
Mrs. R (who, by the way, probably wears size 2 jeans): What?!
Tyler: It's not like I'm calling you an obtuse angle!


To celebrate all of our new-school-year successes, we met Garry for lunch and root beer floats.

Here's to another great school year!

Aug 23, 2012

I climbed up the apple tree

When she was in my back yard a couple of weeks ago, my bridal shower co-conspirator offered to help me make applesauce.  My apple trees were loaded and she was confident that with a little assistance, I could do it.  I hedged for a while, but eventually decided that Nancy's kick in the pants might be for the best.  My kids LOVE applesauce, and I always hate seeing our trees' harvest go to waste.  So last Saturday during the boys' swim meet, Gavin and Lexi and I picked apples.

Yesterday I borrowed some equipment, and at 11:30 this morning I started making applesauce.

The apples looked all pretty and happy in the sink.

Then I started chopping, and I remembered why I haven't made applesauce for eight years.  It's so much work, especially with the little apples off my tree.  I had to cut out a lot of bad parts.

The next step was steaming the apples.  The house smelled fantastic, which was good motivation to keep going.

I didn't let the apples steam quite long enough the first time, but that realization didn't come until I tried running them through the sieve and they were too firm to mash.  So those went back in the pot.  I had two large stock pots going at once.  The process still took all afternoon.

Eventually I did churn out some applesauce.  I added cinnamon and sugar, and then bottled it up.  By 5:00 I had made 16 quarts.

My lovely friend Nancy processed the full jars for me because she's nice like that.

And now we have a little store of applesauce...but not nearly as much as I think we ought to have for the amount of effort I exerted.  Lesson learned.  Again.

The last time I made applesauce, Zach was three.  He helped.  I remember the experience being magical.  Am I forgetting a few details, or was 2004 just more magical?

Aug 22, 2012

Back-to-school cell phone stories

Back-to-school shopping: Pantry edition.

These are really yummy (thanks for the tip, Melissa).

Kate wants to ride bikes like the big kids.

These kids can't figure out how to ride a bike properly.

Words of wisdom from the school wall:

 While the kids are away, the baby will play.

Some moms in the ward gathered for YoYogurt's "happy hour" on the first day of school. I wasn't part of the group shedding tears.

Even Kate got a new outfit for the school year.

Zach on his first day of middle+elementary school:

This has nothing to do with school, except that on the first day of school I finally sealed it up in, appropriately, a box from

First piggies: Hilarious.

The end.

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