Monday, April 27, 2015

Back on the Nature Trails

 After leaving the Heidelberg Project, we stopped at Grandma's because it was coffee time for Mom and the boys wanted to share with her about their visit to the project. A quick explanation of their take on all they saw, they took off to play with the kids next door. While trying to wrangle my boys to head home, I was surfing Facebook and happened to come across as post about free donuts at a cider mill we have not visited in a few years. Instead of heading home to make dinner we were on our way for donuts.

After enjoying our cider and donuts without any bees to pester us, I thought we'd walk the short path at the mill. Almost at the end of the path, Jordan found a side trail he wanted to follow. Jordan is more into the "off the main trail" hiking, than the semi-paved paths. We followed the newly found trail for about a mile, when my phone died. Not having a clock to gauge how long before the mill closed, I really wanted to turn back. Jordan keep insisting that we were  almost at the end. There was a large loop and that's where we called it quits and headed back to the car. Jordan and Joey had spotted where they thought the trail continue, and were really bummed I wouldn't let them follow it. So I made a deal with them, we'd come back the next day after church and see if the new path continued to anywhere.

True to my word, we drove back out to the mill and followed the same path. We had packed lunches to eat at a nifty little bridge. We'd spend as much time wandering whatever paths they found, and wandering them as far as they wanted. Turns out, we had been only 5 minutes away from where path appeared to end on a dirt road. The boys had more fun the second day we walked the path as there was no need to rush. They spent a great deal of time climbing on and around the trees. We were almost back to the semi-paved path when (being the cool mom) I found a snake. I'm cool enough to tell my kiddos to come check out the snake, but not cool enough to actually pick it up. I allowed the snake to continue on it's way. Jordan and I were having a debate about rather it was a garter snake or something different; Jordan said garter, I said something that would be happy to bite my toes. During our debate we happened upon another snake. Unlike the first snake this one was happy in his sunny spot on the path and wasn't going to wiggle out of our way. It actually stood it's ground and kind of pulled itself into a squiggly "S", we carefully inched our way around it. Seeing 2 snakes was more than enough for me, I was ready to get back on the main path.

We walked the main path all the way to it's end. My boys were not too impressed the the straight line packed dirt path I had wanted to walk. Today must have been their lucky day, because lo and behold there was another side path. They were excited about taking this path, that looked as if not many people have traveled on it. So we took the less traveled path; I had told them I would walk whatever path they wanted (me and my big mouth). This path was exactly the type of path Jordan had been hoping we'd be walking. The kind where every so often you have to look for matted down grass to make sure you were still going in the right direction. We climbed over fallen trees, ducked under branches, and gotten ourselves turn around a few times. After off-roading our hike for a mile and a half we came out of the dense trees just behind the mill.

So all in all we walked just shy of 2.5 miles while ducking and diving through the trees.

*I later learned that the first snake we seen was could in fact have been a garter snake. Considering that we second we we saw was a brown snake, the first could have been a brown snake. I guess we'll never know.

The Heidelberg Project

For years I have been planning on taking my boys down to Detroit to see the Heidelberg Project. Life would get in the way and another year would pass without going. A couple years ago I was determined to go check out the project, seems even Grandma had been to visit. That was the year that a couple houses in the project fell victim to arson. So Saturday morning when I thought of going, I decided that we should just go; like right then, before our day filled up with other activities.

 The project is only the size of a city block. It is like no other city block though. We ended up spending over an hour looking at everything. The houses are painted and decorated with everyday trash to make unique pieces of artwork. It really is a place you have to visit to fully experience it. As we walked down the street, I was really sadden we would not be able to see the houses that fell victim to the fires as they were before. However, what remained of the burnt houses did show signs that they were remembered; items that had decorated those houses were placed back upon the remnants.We even got to met Tyree Guyton the founder of the project; Joey preformed a skit for him on the "Heidelberg Television"
 Signing The YellowHouse Guestbook

  Pictures of some of the houses that were destroyed, and how things are beginning to be rebuilt.

Click here to learn about The Heidelberg Project

Monday, April 13, 2015

Dating After A Decade- Part 2

We had planned to walk a nature trail at a park near his neighborhood after church, which sounded good because the park was only a couple miles down from Papa and Grandma's where my kids would be staying for a couple hours. My mom was excited to meet my friend (10 years is a long time for a mom to wait for her daughter who is over 30 to date), my dad wasn't as My friend was a gentleman and opened the car door for me and helped me into his car and we were on our way.

My friend had walked the trail before and unbeknown to me had a plan set in place for how our date would go. I on the other hand had no expectation other than to see where the day took me. The trail was rather busy with bikers, roller bladders, and families walking, enjoying the wonderful weather we had that day. I love walking and could easily walk for hours without needing a break, especially while walking and talking to a friend. So when he asked after just five minutes if I'd like to sit down for a bit it threw me. I said I was fine to keep walking but if he needed to sit then we could. I was mentally preparing myself for a walk with frequent breaks and trying to figure out what time I'd be back to pick up my kids, when he found a bench at the first bend in the path. Sitting on the bench with the sound of a small river behind us and a slight breeze blowing. I realized "this was a planned checkpoint". My friend is a very quiet person, so him sitting without saying anything for an extended period of time didn't send up any flags for me. After a couple minutes of people watching he made his move. I had a feeling it was coming, but still was not prepared for it. He went in for a very awkward teenage kiss that I was not prepared for and was not expecting. I tried to gracefully duck away and gave him a hug. Not wanting to hurt his feeling I blamed my avoidance on the fact that there were young children coming around the bend, and I could hear them. I don't like taking my kids places and having them seeing people locking lips, and wouldn't want to put other people in that position. I suggested we could maybe continue our walk.

The picture for Joey :)
We made it to what must have been "check point 2" where he suggested another break to sit on a giant tree that was laying on it's side near the river. There were less people traveling this route, so he made his move again. Again, I ducked away to get a picture ("for Joey") of a tree that ash tree bugs had left their paths on.  I wasn't sure why I kept dodging his show of affection, but thought it could be that I felt he would bail on our relationship that day with his deal breakers. His deal breakers were always in the back of my mind. I voiced my concerns. I was given a quick reply that he wasn't going to bail. It sounded like a hollow promise to me though; a knee jerk reply.

I had on hiking boots and walking on the paved path in them which was hurting my ankles, so I detoured us to a mountain bike path. I must have upset his planned route for check points, because he was a bit worried about which direction the paved path was going. I kind of took over the direction of our walk and the path I had us on didn't look to have anywhere we would be taking another break at. My friend was a determined man and stopped our progress when we came to a bit of a valley with blooms in the nearby trees. He went in for another kiss, I stepped back a bit to put some space between us. I realized that it wasn't just the fear that he'd bail, I just wasn't feeling the "spark". I had been good during our walk and had not smoked at all, but I was dying for a cigarette now. I hate to admit it, but I hoped my cigarette breath would keep any more advances away. I forgot to mention that during the whole 2.5 hours we were walking there was very little conversation happening between us. I attempted many times but was unable to uphold both sides of the conversation. Did I mention my friend is very quiet. I'm not saying he didn't talk at all, just that all topics kind of fizzled out quickly and left just silence in it's place.

By this point I had given up on talking and moved to walking in front of him, having him follow me back to the main path, then to the car. I just wanted to go home and see my kiddos. This time I didn't wait for him to open the door for me. We rode back to my parents with less than 10 words spoke between us. He noticed my silence and commented on it, I said he must be rubbing off on me. I was lost inside my own head trying to figure out how our "official date" had been so unlike our "family dates". Plus trying to figure out how to tell him were should stick with being friends.

Back at my parents I had expected him to head home to spend time with his kids who had been away for a week on vacation with their mother. Instead he hung around for a bit, he's kids had apparently already gone back to their moms. My friend sat outside chatting with my dad and Jordan. My mom pulled out extras for dinner as she had not expected my boys and I to be there so late. My friend joined all of us for dinner. Then being a complete computer whiz worked on speeding up my parents computer. I walked him to his car around 7 that night. Being the thoughtful guy he is he gave me some movies he had borrowed from the library he thought my boys might enjoy. (The movies were sequels to the one we had watched the last time we "broke up")

That evening after getting home I touched base with a couple of my friends who had been itching to know how things went. While messaging one of my friends from out of state I received a message from him thanking me for the lovely day we spent together. I closed out my chat with my friend so I could focus on what I needed to say to him. He inquired what I had been telling my friend about our date. I have never really filtered what I say to him through text and told him pretty much the same thing I had told my friend. I did try to be nice about it, but I think I still hurt his feelings.

We went back to attempting to be "just friends" but when I tried to message him as a friend twice that following week he dismissed me. I hate that my feelings of him bailing on me were correct. I have talked (text-ed) to him only once since our "date", when he thought I was avoiding him the following Sunday at church. (I hadn't been, I was running late for service, then had to rush out after service to meet with friends for lunch) I've seen him at church and we are in the same small group through church, but we have not shared a single word. It's kind of like if he doesn't acknowledge I'm there, then the "perfect date" never happened.

I give him much credit for all the thought and planning he put into the date. He truly is a wonderful guy and I hope he finds someone to share his affections with, that person just isn't me though.

Dating After A Decade - Part 1

I have been struggling about how to write this post. At the end of our date, we had different views of how things went. I see the whole thing as humorous as when I went to the singles New Year's Eve event, but at the same time want to be respectful of the guy who took me out.

Let me give you a little background on how this whole "date" came to be. A friend of a friend had started a singles group on Facebook. It's not a  page in which you'd be looking for a potential partner, it's more of support page for singles. Most of the people on the page have been divorced, so it's kind of a place to chat with people who can relate to what you are going through. A friend of mine invited me to the page even though I have never been divorced (never been married either), when the page first started up. Through that page I started chatting with a guy who was struggling through issues I had dealt with in the past. I thought I could just be there as a sounding board for him. The more we messaged back and forth the more we learned we have similar interests. We attend the same church and arranged to meet up, after all when you're going through some tough things you can use all the friends you can get. Shortly after meeting we started chatting for hours every night, sat together during service and starting going places on the weekends he had his kids. Apparently, we were the only ones who saw this as two families hanging out as friends, and soon decided that the masses were corrected that we were actually dating.

Once coming to that conclusion after a pleasant evening of sitting at my house watching a movie with our kiddos, he dropped his "deal breakers" on me. While most of them I agreed with and respected like not wanting to date a smoker (I'm still working on quitting, so he allowed that one to slide). He had this one that there was no way I could abide by, not only could the lady he was dating not drink but neither could her family members. I would not consider myself as drinker. I am known to have a glass a wine in the evening while reading or watching a movie, but that's like 1-2 glasses every 3 months. Also in the rare occasions my friends and I can get  night away from our kiddos for a girl's night I'll have a drink or two; but a girl's night only happens once a year at the most. Anyways, there is no way I could have all my extended family refrain from consuming any alcohol when my friend and his children were around, especially if he was planning on sticking around for years. Nor would I want to, I love my family for who they are, not for what they do. Personally, it doesn't bother me if people drink, even around my boys, unless they're getting to the point of falling over drunk. I see it as a teachable moment, that moderation is key and to know your limits.

So he decided that we'd be better off remaining as "just friends". I was crushed. Here I had just learned that I had been dating a guy for almost 2 months without really realizing it. (I've been away from the whole "dating scene" for quite some time, so I was a bit slow realizing this fact). Now he dumps be because of something I have no control over.

He felt bad for breaking my heart and we continued to chat most nights, working on figuring out how to be "friends". It didn't take long before we were confronted with there could be something more between us and we should give dating another shot. His deal breaker still stood but we'd try to figure a way to address it that would suit both of us. We decided that we'd go out just the two of us. Usually we did kind of a "family date" where my kids were with us or both of our kids were with us. Also he and I needed to spend more face time together besides when we were in church, 95% of our conversations were through text.

 While we have many of the same interests, we are polar opposites. I can be quite loud and outgoing and am very talkative. I'm always on the go and enjoy being part of things. He is so very quiet. He's more of an observer than a participant. I thought maybe we'd balance each other out; play off the other ones strengths. He's not really "my type", but he is what "my type" should be more like. He had also confirmed that I'm not his typical type either.

Want to know what happened on the actual date? There is a part two to this post :)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

2015 Resolutions March Progress

March was not a productive month for us at all!! Other than the boys working on their goals nothing from our list was accomplished. Jacob is doing much better with his volume control, although he still has some room for improvement. Joey has been all over the place, his behavior seemed to vary day to day, only one major outburst over a homework assignment. Jordan mouth is still always running, but at least it seems like he's realizing that sometimes less is more.

Now to all I haven't done this past month. Still no couponing going on, I may just scratch this from my person list. The TV is still hooked up to the cable. Still working on getting a weekly menu going again so I can schedule in "from scratch" meals, so that one didn't get done either. My scrapbooks finally found their way back into the dark corner of my closet. I've been up way to late chatting with friends or stressing over issues pertaining to friends. So with the lack of sleep there was no way I was going to even think about cutting down my coffee intake :). Morning workouts haven't happened, however I have been getting some walking in most days, at least a mile each walk. My relationship with God hit a couple bumps this month, but is back on track now. I'm looking forward to another growth group starting up in April.

There has been very little reading going on. Jordan has been the only one of us who sat still long enough to read, he added another 2 books to his total.

That's it for our update. Not very impressive, we need to really step it up around here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

No to the Stress of the M-STEP Test

 I found a wonderful Facebook page that supports my views on Common Core and the M-STEP (Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress). I found an "opt out form" that I could fill out for each of my children and take to their principals which was to insure that my children would not be taking the M-STEP, and I had another copy ready to take to the superintendent for the district, if need be. I printed off many copies, mainly because I wanted to insure that I had a copy for my records at home that had an original signature from whom accepted the form. I had heard stories from other parents on how they ran into some trouble spots with school personnel while opting out of the test. I thought there was a good chance that the stories had been embellished; until I took my forms in.

I thought it would as simple as walking into the principal's office asking for his signature and I'd be on my way. I had not made an appointment as chose to just wait in the office after dropping my younger two off at their classroom doors. I let the secretary know the reason for my visit and she asked me to have a seat. A short time later the other secretary asked what she could do to help me, I said "Just getting some opt out forms signed", she said something along the lines of she wasn't aware there were opt out forms. I have had many visits with the elementary principal due to issues that have raised this year with Joey, so when he saw me he was less than thrilled. The principal said he had a meeting he was running late for and what could he do for me today. I really thought it would be a quick visit and told him "I'll be out of here in less than 5 minutes. I just needed him to sign four papers for me". I followed him into his office where I was invited to have a seat once he saw the forms I handed him. I was told that he did not believe our school was accepting any opt out forms. After hearing the stories from other parents on the Facebook page I have been following, I had brought a copy of the state law that stated that I had a legal right to opt out my children, just in case. It took him a moment to compose himself then checked something on his computer. Then every word I had heard other parents say they were told, were recited to me. It almost sounded like he was following a script. I presented me with a copy of what the Michigan Department of Education had to say in regards to student participation in state assessments. After 45 MINUTES of him trying to explain that by opting my two children out of the testing I was putting all the teachers in the school and the school's funding in jeopardy by not allowing my boys to take the test. For every negative consequence he tried to convince me I was inflicting on the school, I had done my research was able to counter it with laws that backed up my rights as a parent. Michigan Department of Education states that 95% of participate in the assessment to ensures the school is in compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act. Michigan law states that it is the fundamental right of parents (and legal guardians) to determine and direct the care, teaching , and education of their children. After going back and forth for 45 MINUTES, I stopped debating with him and literally stood up and said "We love this school. We are school of choice and we chose you're school because of the teachers here. I hope you get the 95% of students to take the test so the school is not effected. However, as a parent I do not feel this test is in the best interest of my children. Would you please sign the papers". You know what, he signed the papers. He wasn't happy about it, but he signed them. Just before I left the office he informed me he would need to speak to the superintendent about if I was allowed opt my child out of a state test, and he was sure the superintendent would be in contact with me. I reassured him that I was fine with that. Then I walked out with my head held high, knowing I was doing what was best for my kids. That day after school, I stopped by each other their classrooms to inform their teachers of the choice I had made. I wanted the teachers to be aware that when my child said they were not to take the test, that were being truthful and should not try to be swayed to take the test.

After the ordeal opting out turned out to be with the elementary school, I was prepared to have a repeat when I went to the middle school to opt Jordan out of the test. It also just so happened that the elementary principal and middle school principal are married. I was pleasantly surprised when I talked to the secretary and she said she could have the forms sign for me in a few moments. She even chatted with me while we waited for the forms to get signed. I was informed that Jordan was the first student in their building that would not be taking the test. She was so helpful and even left a note to check into what alternative assignments Jordan would be given in place of the test. That was it. Done.