around here… late August, 2015

sunflower in my garden
sunflower in my garden

What’s going on around here:

In my head…
Back to School:
Oh, boy. After 7+ years at Island Montessori (which goes up to third grade), the switch to Gracie’s new school has been intense. Although they two schools have a lot in common, the two are also very different. Now I get what people talk about when they say “parent to a school-age child”- it’s just a lot of stuff going on.

First of all, the new school is off the island we live on, so that means a longer commute – 40 minutes or so each way. We’re part of a carpool, so that adds time, as well. The days are much longer- they start at 6am for Gracie and she doesn’t get home until 4:30-ish. At IMA, she woke up at 7:30am and got home just after 3pm. So that’s a big difference right off the bat.

Second is homework- it’s daily instead of weekly. Weekly homework is good in some ways because it means if there’s an overly chaotic day, then the homework can be done the next day, etc. But I like daily homework because it keeps the focus going after school. It’s nothing that Gracie can’t handle, but there’s 30 minutes of reading, plus some written homework, and then homework which sort of has her come home and incorporate the environment at home into what she is doing at school. The other day she had to go outside and measure leaves in the garden for a math project. Stuff like that. Yesterday was sort of chaotic after-school because a few things (non-school related) popped up that we all paid attention to, and so Gracie was still working on her homework at 8:30pm. And I heard this is sort of the beginning of what’s to come.

Third- she’s really tired at the end of the day. She used to come home from school and still have tons of energy left, but now she just zonks out really early. So we’ve gone from her sort of pushing her bedtime limits to as late as possible to her wanting to go to bed early, like at 8pm. By the time she has her shower, does homework, eats dinner, and does her reading, it’s beyond that. So it’s a busy time.

Fourth is the dress code, which hasn’t been too bad, but Gracie has been a little “spoiled” by a certain smitten grandmother (my mom) who never made her wear any kind of clothing that bothered her in the least bit. If you know kids, you know that EVERY kid has preferences and issues with clothes- seams on socks, t-shirts that tug, tags, the progression from stretch waists to clothes with snaps and zippers. My mom’s philosophy has always been “if it looks like it bothers her at all, don’t make her wear it.” Now it’s kind of a problem, because Gracie’s school clothes are not as comfy as the stuff she’s used to wearing, and so she’s slyly *not* wearing a lot of the clothes she chose before school started. So there’s a battle to get her to wear more than just her six pairs of khaki shorts and try skorts and pants and new shoes, etc.

And there’s a lot going on after school and on weekends, too. Before school even started this year, Grace had several school events to go to and invitations come in- meetings, a class party at someone’s house, etc. We’re trying to figure out if there is any time at all for after-school activities with all of it. She loves soccer, and I really really feel important that she does a team sport, but I’m torn between adding several hours a week to this new crazy schedule or waiting until winter soccer season when we have everything calmed down and are more used to this new schedule and letting her play on the island league.

There’s also a book club after school that she’s desperate to join (as well as cooking club, art club, volleyball, etc.) and I just don’t know how it will work. I can’t imagine her getting out of school at 5pm, not getting home until after 6pm, and then jamming everything into the few hours before bed. I’m NOT a fan of overscheduling- heck, I’m not a fan of *scheduling*. I truly believe one of the best things we can do for kids is provide them with ample time and space to explore and figure out what they want to do and figure out what they like doing. Kids don’t need to be entertained 24/7. I want her to have a little free time everyday to do what *she* likes. So this is all new territory for me.

It’s a lot. Everyday we’re figuring it out and trying new schedules and figuring out how to make the afternoons work. Oh well, we’ll figure it out.

All that matters is that Gracie still LOVES school, she loves going, and she loves learning. We just want to do what we can to keep it that way. If she has to spend around 8 hours in an environment of education, the least we can do is make that as positive as we can for her.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that our cat Ginger had been having some health issues with her glands for over a year, and we finally had been told that surgery was a good choice. We just had to wait until two infections passed, and so after a few weeks of antibiotics and frequent vet visits and care, she’s ready for the surgery to remove those. Now we have to meet with the surgeon and book the surgery.

I’m nervous, but hopeful. I want her better, once and for all, and I want her to be able to move around the whole house (she’s been in isolation in the back bedrooms to keep her stress levels down) and interact with the other cats and just have her regular life back. So I hope the surgeon can meet with us soon and do the surgery, and that it turns out well.

The surgery is fairly simple, but there’s one possible complication- there’s a nerve that runs by the glands near the tailbone that, if accidentally severed, would make her incontinent. No matter what the outcome of the surgery is, we adore her and we’re committed to her, but we are aware that’s an issue. So I’m anxious to get this process going, get her the surgery, and have her come home and recover.

Tropical Storm/Hurricane Erika:
Right now it’s in the Caribbean, and the forecasters aren’t sure if it’s going to strengthen into a hurricane and hit Florida or just fall apart. Argh. Seriously. I just want it to dissipate.

Outside my window…
Erika has brought us some weird weather- lots of storms and gloomy skies- so much so there’s nothing to GoPro- it’s all just a gray haze in the late afternoons and evenings.

Other than Erika’s rainy weather, the days have been mostly sunny and very hot, but almost every afternoon and evening we get an epic storm. Since I spend the mornings and early afternoons outside, this weather pattern suits me perfectly.

This summer has been such an anomaly, weather-wise. This is how summers *used* to be, about ten/fifteen years ago. Sunny days, with storms rolling in after 3 or 4pm. But then it shifted to summers being really soggy and dark and dreary from morning until night the last few years, which sorta broke my heart because I used to prefer spending spend summers down here when I was in college and graduate school, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. I realized earlier this year it was because the weather wasn’t like it has been. It was like a different climate back then.

I really, really hope that the last several years has been because some sort of “glitch” in the weather (like El Nino, etc.)- some shift in something that made the summer weather so terrible and wet.

Maybe now the weather is back to “normal”, or this is the new trend for the next several years. I really hope so. REALLY hope so. Of course, there’s still two months left in hurricane season/summer, so I know it’s still early. And the storms that roll in are REALLY crazy, like nothing I have seen in past years. They develop very quickly, and the lightning is phenomenal and scary. Definitely more intense.

In years past, mid-October is when things cool down, the sun gets lower in the sky, and the magic of autumn (by far my favorite season!) begins. So not long now…

In the art studio…
There hasn’t been much time for me to do many creative things with all the Gracie-school stuff, but when I do have little bits of time, I have been keeping up with my summer routine of mostly watercoloring, plus the little project of going through my older art supplies, organizing and re-evaluating them, trying them all out, and swatching them and making color charts. I find making color charts very soothing, and I’m rediscovering things I didn’t know I loved (watercolor pencils!), and also getting rid of other things that are either too old, or things I’m not interested in anymore. It feels good to know exactly where everything is, *what* everything is, that I love using it, and that I feel confident in using it. By swatching everything, and cycling through things, it keeps everything fresh.

(I would be lying if I said I wasn’t getting new stuff to try out, as well, and also getting a lot of clear stamps. I LOVE floral images, and there are so many beautiful ones out there. Now I just need to learn how to stamp properly- there is a definite art form to it, and lots of techniques. Maybe a project for fall/winter.)

I definitely want to keep doing coloring/swatching, but I also am starting to get the itch to paint in acrylic again, and get back to my canvases. I haven’t felt like painting in months, so it’s very interesting to me to witness my own cyclical nature of creating. The idea of spending long winter afternoons working on canvases with acrylics makes me feel really excited right now.

I don’t know if I’ll take Flora Bowley’s class again (I have for the previous two falls) or just pick the paintings back up on my own and work on them since I know her class by heart at this point. If I’m not painting by October, I probably will sign back up, because her class DEFINITELY has me painting.

One sort of weird drawback is that  her class is very immersive- at least for me- and I tend to abandon EVERYTHING else, creatively, to keep up with all the class stuff. I struggled with this the last few years (only painting when I also wanted to do other projects, but feeling guilty when I wasn’t at the canvas…) so I’m hesitant to do anything that might force me into a sort of creative rut. When I don’t regularly cycle through projects, I tend to keep doing whatever is comfortable. It just becomes way too easy to pull out the same colors of paint and the same brushes and the same canvas and keep noodling away, day after day, never finishing, always a little scared of moving on to another project.

In the garden…
Survival mode. Well, sorta. Every year since I started the garden, I’ve embraced native plants (tropicals and hearty annuals) more and more. So every summer, the garden in summer becomes less about trying to keep everything alive and more about actual gardening.

The geraniums I had left over from last winter are starting to get tired. I can usually keep a few going, but there’s always a bunch that just can’t last through the heat of summer, and so a few of mine, including my beloved Appleblossom, are on their last legs. I’m thinking about cutting off the live branches of it and trying to get those cuttings to root inside the house in a sunny spot. I’ll need to do it soon, though- the bottom of the plan near the soil has turned brown and I know it’s only a matter of time before the mush gets the rest of the plant.

On a positive note, I’ve been growing a bunch of sunflowers this summer and I’m learning the magic trick- keep them super-moist (they dry out so easily, even when it’s super rainy) and spray the flowers and leaves daily to keep small pests away. The leaves stay green and get bigger, and the plants do better. Also, plant about 4x more seed than plants I want to have, as most of the seedlings won’t make it in the heat. A few pull through, and the more seedlings there are, the more plants grow. Right now I have two planters of mature sunflowers in bloom, one in stalk mode, and one planter full of seedlings.

Also, can I say just how much I love Mandevilla? Why have I never grown this before? I have three and I love them.

Hoping/looking forward to…
Cooler weather. I can’t wait to throw open the windows and doors and let in the fresh air.

I’m also thinking about the fact that in just a few weeks we’ll be able to go back up to Universal/Disney for day trips! I don’t know why that excites me- maybe it’s the fact that Gracie can/wants to ride almost everything except the super scary roller coasters and she really enjoys the trips we take.

I have a lot of great memories of the handful of trips we took to theme parks when I was a kid (my parents came from NY to Marco Island to vacation annually, which is how we all ended up here, but there was usually a stop at Disney on the car ride coming from New York or on the way home…) It was like time stood still and everything was ultra-saturated and and fun and colorful. I just remember that feeling so well. Even the stuff that’s sort of an inconvenience to adults- the parking, the monorail to and from the parks, the waiting in line- it all seems part of it for kids. It was an escape from reality, which I appreciated because I had so much health stuff going on.

I know Gracie really loves her time there, as well. It’s perfect for kids exactly her age (nine going on ten), and so I guess I want to spend time there with her so we can have these memories. Everything is still big and magical and adventurous to her in those places. And it’s all *for* her, especially the Harry Potter stuff. It’s a place designed for kids. I remember feeling that way about Disney when I was a kid- that it was one of the few places in the world that was designed to appeal to me. And their old policies made it an especially amazing place for disabled and sick kids, so that made it even more fun for me because a lot of the time I was in casts or recovering from whatever surgery I had, so going there felt good. It’s not like that anymore, unfortunately, because people abused the system. But back then, Disney was one of the only places on earth where being disabled was just not an issue. I have no idea what it’s like now- we haven’t been there in a few years and from what I read, the new system kinda sucks. I’m glad I got to experience it when it was still a well-oiled machine.

So, when the weather cools and the rain is less of an issue, we’ll go ahead and do a day trip or two a month. The good thing about going more frequently is that the pressure to see and do everything in one visit fades, because you know you’ll be back soon enough. So every visit is a little new and novel and you have the luxury of going a little slower and checking things out. And the good thing about ONLY going for a day is that you go home at the end of the day, so the exhaustion that sets in after just a few hours at the park isn’t so much an issue when you have the next day to recover. You don’t have to worry about summoning the energy for another three or four days at the parks.

“First Frost” by Sarah Addison Allen, which I have had on my Kindle for a while.


Mr. Robot, on USA, which is pretty much the best TV show, ever. Well, maybe not, but it’s INCREDIBLY good, and the pilot was astonishing. Wow, what a great show.

Sense8 which is… iffy. I really expected *me* to love it and Tom to be “meh” on it, since I’m all about the whole empath/intuition thing and Tom is so hard science. But it’s the complete opposite- I think the show, while interesting and compelling, is very awkward and silly, and often more cheesy than I can handle (the whole sing-along montage of “What’s Up” was so painful to watch!) Tom thinks it’s pretty great, though. I don’t know… I do have to say the last few episodes have been good. Less song montages and silliness, more about the characters relations to one another.

And then there’s Big Brother, which is sort of annual summer tradition around here. I’m glad the last two season have had casts that are open-minded, fair, and not terrible, racist people.  There was one season a few years back that we stopped watching almost immediately because the people they cast were really racist and generally terrible people. But the past two years, the casts have come acorss as generally okay people. However, the twins and Austin, while seemingly nice are, well… *blech*. If they send Johnny Mac home, we’ll all be super pissed around here (Haven’t watched last night’s episode yet…)

Okay, I’m signing off for now. If you got this far, thank you for reading! I hope you have an amazing weekend.

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