Readin’ and Ritin’ and ‘Rithmetic

School begins tomorrow. In fact, my alarm will go off in 12 hours and 10 minutes (it’s now 4:50 p.m.), and my year as a Buccaneer will have begun. Thad is going to kindergarten. I haven’t talked about it a lot. I guess the reason I’m not so overcome by it is because I REALLY felt like I let him go when he was three and I went back to work and he began going to school all day. Those first few weeks just about did me in. Kindergarten is just a way for him to be in the same building as his sister all day. . .

Anyway–run on over to Sarah’s blog. She has some link love going on over there. All of them are GREAT, but make sure to click on the video, then say a prayer for ALL of us who go back to school tomorrow.

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Back to School

Well, it’s that time again. The kids come on Monday. We’ve been forced to sit most of the week listening to other people talk when there were a lot of other things we’d rather be doing in our rooms. . .which, as someone wisely pointed out, should let us know EXACTLY how our students feel every day of the week.

I am headed up to school today to lose myself in my room. There have been too many distractions and meetings and “oh, I found one more thing that you are supposed to have” to be put away for me to get my head on straight. It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of wrapping my brain around first day procedures in a new place. . .especially with my new 8th grade experience around the corner. That being said, I have TWO and only two criteria for a successful first day of school.

1. Everyone eats lunch
2. Everyone goes home

If everyone eats lunch and everyone goes home, we’ve done our jobs on day one.

My team is great. It’s been a wonderful week with them. And I cannot even begin to relay the absolute JOY of being in the same building with my husband. Oh. My. Goodness. We barely see each other—which we knew—so it’s not quantity of time. It’s just that if I’m going to inhale my South Beach frozen entrée in 15 minutes, I can inhale it with him. If it is time to go to “Meet the Teacher”, we can BOTH go now. If it’s time to pick up the kids, we can BOTH go do this. OR he can do one thing while I do another, but we can actually discuss it ‘cause we’re in the same building. Tony is deeper into the maze that is our school than I am, so his cell phone doesn’t work in his room and all of our communication was e-mail dependent. . .not always the best source when you’re not at your computer all (or even most) of the day.

We did meet the kids’ teachers yesterday. Victoria’s are fine. . .not any that I knew or had heard of , but just good solid teachers evidently. Thad’s teacher. . .oh my. . .she is precious. She is not the bounce around bubbly high talking kind of kinder teacher—which is a great kind of teacher—she is BEAUTIFUL and calm and even keeled and soft-spoken and reminds me of a dear, dear friend. There is always a disclaimer on the kinder information that says, “Since we do not yet know your student, please be aware that to best meet his/her education needs, there may be teacher changes within the first two weeks of school.” I understand that completely, but please, please, please. . .I REALLY hope he gets to keep Mrs. Cathey.

I hope your returnings to school—whether that is in your home or out—are successful and happy and exciting. And if you have no little (or big) ones going back, pray for those who do.

Part the end: Erring on the side of caution

So, we’ve come to conclusion of our tale from fall, 2005. . .by now you should all know that south Texas is barely getting the fringe of this most recent storm, but since I wrote all of this on Saturday, I’m leaving it as is.

After we headed home, our minds were set on one thing. . .hot food. We were starved, and everything along the way was closed. As we approached Tony’s truck on top of the freeway, we stopped to call AAA to come and get it. They gave us a time frame of four hours, so we left it there with plans to come and get it the next day before the storm.

Even after we arrived back in Houston there was still no food to be found. I ended up cooking our dinner at about 9:00 p.m. while Tony tried to find out what was going on in the way of storm shelters. His mom and dad came out to our house as well. We had a neighbor down the street who had a key to a church building nearby where we could all go if the storm got too severe, but about 11:00 p.m. I heard on the news that they were opening a church building not far from our house as a Red Cross evacuation center. Tony went to check on it, and at 1:00 a.m. we were packed and headed that direction. The storm was still a day away, but we wanted to make sure we had a spot. It was our home for the next 36 hours.

The next morning early Tony and his mother headed over to get the truck before the storm hit. It was nowhere to be found. Lots of cars were towed, but there was no record of Tony’s truck being one of them. He was more than dejected when he arrived back at the shelter. We called to report the truck stolen. Finally some Sherriff’s deputies arrived with the news that the truck was, indeed, in a tow lot in Baytown. And in the back of it was MY overnight bag (that had slid under the rabbit cage so we didn’t see it) with all of my medication inside. Despite the fact that I really needed my inhaler, I was most upset about my new eyeshadow being gone. 🙂 I have never seen Tony happier. He loves that ugly paid for truck.

We really DID err on the side of caution being at the shelter. We had funny colored skies and some strong winds and rain, some power outage and downed trees, but we were on the clean side of the storm so it wasn’t too bad. There were people there who were in really bad shape though–people from along the coast where there WERE problems–one who had a five day old by c-section. A mom who’d had ear surgery the day before and had three small children with her. I was very thankful for my little family about me even if we were being overly cautious. I got permission to open the church’s nursery so that the kids could have a place to play away from the constant news broadcasts on the devastation of the storm.

Nature. It’s both a blessing and a curse that we can see so far in advance what is coming our way. We can atleast attempt to prepare for the worst, but we still don’t know what the worst will be. Despite the anxiety of waiting, I am thankful for radars and contra-flow plans and evacuation routes. I am glad that the lessons of Katrina and Rita were not forgotten but hope we don’t have to put those preparations to the test.

It appears that we will miss the wrath of Dean. But we’re ready. We’ve got canned goods, dry goods, batteries, candles, and water. And the receipt to return it all after hurricane season is over in November. Please keep all those who are impacted by this storm in your prayers.

Part the third: “Breathe through the burlap. It’s a loose knit.”

(My children thought it was great when I had a Veggie Tales title. . .and this line from the “extras” of Jonah fit perfectly as the title for this section. Read on.)

We finally got to a point where we were actually moving again. I was driving, the kids were sitting like perfect angels (I am NOT kidding–they were silent and still and PERFECT the ENTIRE time), and Tony was holding the bags of snakes in his lap.

Some people who heard our story thought I was a saint for doing all the driving in the 12 hours of time we made our mad evacuation attempt. I told them my choices were to drive or hold the snakes. I almost became physically ill at the thought of them in my bags, so my choice was pretty clear.

At one point Tony said, “Don’t look. Don’t look. Don’t look.” So, of course, I looked. What I saw was the head of the corn snake about 6 inches out of my purse headed in my direction. We own a CRV, so I wasn’t that far away from him to begin with. When I calmly asked screamed at my husband to explain why that was the case, he said, while quickly stuffing the loose snake back into my purse, that he was concerned the snake might not be able to get enough air. My reply was, “Well, he can suffocate in my purse or die on the side of the road, ’cause if I see him AGAIN, he’s going out the window.” (I remember my words exactly, because I MEANT them.) After he had gotten the bag zipped ALL THE WAY, I more rationally explained that seeing as how the purse was made of a woven nylon fabric, I was pretty sure that enough oxygen molecules to sustain the life of one snake could make it through.

Other than the little snake hiccup, there was no frustration with each other but lots of frustration with our journey as we finally got off the freeway and started trying to make our way north. We had mapped out several routes, which were all being rather inconveniently blocked by Texas state troopers. I even shook my fist at one of them. I was getting a little frantic and devil may care. We decided that anywhere headed north would do, and we’d figure out how to get to Bastrop (my home town) later.

We’d been in the car for about 9 hours with no bathroom break, no gasoline, and no food other than a couple of bagels and an apple. It was nearly 100 degrees and although we had kept the air off, we were flirting with an empty gas tank. Pretty much every station was closed due to their own evacuation, but we finally found a closed station that had (very graciously) left the pumps on for customers with credit cards. We filled up and found the only road NOT blocked by a DPS officer that headed north. The going was fine for about 30 minutes, then we hit a two lane parking lot just on the outskirts of Vider. The south-bound lane was deserted, but the north-bound lane was packed and standing stock still. In an effort to save gasoline, people had their windows down, mini-van doors were open. . .some people were even WALKING alongside the cars they had been passengers in just to get out and move.

Everyone needed to potty. Everyone needed a break. Everyone was hungry. The cars were barely moving. We pulled into a closed convenience store that had a little shaded yard next to it with a picnic table and some conveniently large bushes. We let the chickens walk around and took the rabbit out so it could get some water to drink. Tony, wisely, didn’t even mention the snakes.

After both the picnic table AND the bushes were used, a man pulled up on a four wheeler and introduced himself. His name was Mr. Porteet, and he lived about a quarter mile up the road. He offered to let Tony come and refill our water jug and watch the Weather Channel. Normally we wouldn’t take a total stranger up on such an offer, but seeing as how we were in a pretty bad fix, Tony took off. About 20 minutes later, he returned with some not so good news. The road we were on was being used by all the people who were evacuating Beaumont, Lake Charles, etc. The storm had turned east and was head RIGHT for where we were sitting. We had to decide what to do. Stay or go back home.

The choice was a hard one but didn’t take much time to make. We had to go back to Houston. We wouldn’t make it more than 10 miles if that far before dark, and the storm, though still a day and a half away, was headed in our direction. It was my turn to lose it. I COULD not tell the children. . .and I could NOT call my mother (who had practically killed the fatted calf awaiting our arrival) to tell her I was taking her grandchildren back to Houston. Tony told the kids what had to be done, called my mother for me, and we headed back home. It took us 10 hours to make a two hour trip to Vider and only two hours to make it back home.

Part the second: The long and grinding road.

After we made the decision to keep moving, we had to decide what to do with the animals. Up until this point, both Tony and I were very focused on our plan. We weren’t worried. We weren’t rattled. We were focused on our goal. North was our goal. The burned out clutch did it for Tony, though. He was feeling a little defeated. How does one fit two chickens, a rabbit, and two snakes–one very, very large–into a car that’s already holding a bunch of stuff and two kids aged 7 and 4 years?

Well, you unload stuff into the truck that you DON’T think you’ll need, you pack extra stuff in around the children, you put the chickens’ box and the rabbit’s carrier into a big plastic bag to hold the things they tend to leave behind, and you (while trying to not vomit) offer your two zippered bags to your husband for the housing of the reptiles.

The cornsnake landed in my new rainbow striped purse, and the boa went into a large red bag that my aunt had given to me.

Sarah, who was blogging at the time, had a comment for that: “You really earned your hilltop mansion when you evacuated with an 8 foot snake in your purse!! “ I had no choice but to agree.

After everyone got settled into the car, we took off sat there just like we were before. We were listening to the radio as much as we could. There was non-stop coverage of the evacuation. The local ABC t.v. station was being broadcast on the radio when two government officials made some rather unfortunate statements. They are as follows.

Rick Perry, Governor of Texas on the gasoline shortage due to stations closing:
“We told people at the beginning of the week to top off their tanks. I guess they just didn’t take that seriously.”

Again, Sarah had this to say about Governor Perry’s stupidity, “Um, Rick, what sort of vehicles are in the gubernatorial motorcade that can idle for 10-12 hours and don’t need gasoline? We gotta get some of those.” And, as I recently told Sarah, I don’t care HOW many people encourage me to top off my tank before leaving in the event of an evacuation. It STILL only holds 15 gallons.

His idiotic comment was not only broadcast on local t.v., but also to millions of cars on the freeway in a 300 mile radius. I actually heard the man say it in real time, then looked at Tony and said, “Did he really just say what I thought he said?” To which he replied, “Yep. I heard the revolver click when he shot himself in the foot.”

The next was from Bill White, mayor of Houston on the traffic congestion and stalling cars:
“Well, there was much more congestion on the evacuation routes than we thought because more people left than we thought. We only thought those in the evacuation zone would leave.”

Why did so many people leave, and why were we all sitting on the freeways? Well, not only had New Orleans just been totally devastated by Katrina, but a meteorologist that I have very high regard for was reporting at 4:45 on the morning before that IF Rita hit us (and was at that time on a direct course for Galveston Bay) and if it were even just a category 3 hurricane, that I would have winds of 100 mph at my house some 50 miles from the coast. I guess houses that can stand 100 mph sustained winds for up to 6 hours are built for those who can afford the cars Sarah mentioned. It seemed at that point that Houston and all surrounding areas were the evacuation zone.

Part the first: Dean? Rita. Rita? Dean.

10:00 p.m. news update. . .Dean has turned a little more northwest, and it now appears it will hit Mexico and the far south Texas coast.

Well, Hurricane Dean is on a collision course with Texas. That is a fact. The only thing that remains to be seen is his exact destination. Hurricanes don’t believe in detailed iteneraries. They just work on generalizations.

Last night when the weather men had moved the projected path of the storm way on over along the Texas Gulf coast, Tony and I decided it was time to get ready. Last time this happened, during Rita, we weren’t really that worried. We were going to just pack up and go to Momma and Daddy’s house. No prob, Bob.

Ahem.

The night before we left, I went to Wal-Mart where all I was able to find was a double pack of Pringles, a bag of Tostitos, and canned mustard greens. I didn’t even know people CANNED mustard greens. The next morning at 5:00, we had both vehicles loaded. I was in the Honda with every photo album, snapshot, etc. that we owned, a big jug of water, a little food, some clothes, and the children.

Tony was in the truck with the 3 foot corn snake,the 8 foot boa constrictor, the two chickens, and the rabbit. The corn snake was in his aquarium–the boa was in the rabbit’s hutch. The rabbit was in a cat carrier, and the chickens were in a cardboard box. I was right behind Tony, and I wish you could have SEEN the looks that snake got from all the people with whom we were stuck on I-10 east.

We were moving along at a pretty fast clip until we got to the Baytown area where traffic slowed to a very sporadic stop and start sort of dance. We’d turn the cars off until someone crept forward more than 10 feet, then we’d start ’em up, move ’em forward, and turn ’em off again.

After about three hours of this, Tony’s truck clutch cried uncle and died a quick and painless death on top of a 30 foot high overpass near Baytown. He and the livestock/wildlife were dead in the water. This was not good as we were in the center lane surrounded by more cars that we could count.

People were nice and let us across as Tony pushed the truck to the inside shoulder of the freeway. We had a decision to make. . .keep going? Go home? What to do with 11 combined feet worth of snakes?

Dry as the Sahara

No, I’m not talking about the actual land around our house. We’re rather soggy. I’m talking about my daughter’s sense of humor. She inherited it from her daddy.

I have been known to say a humorous thing or two. . .but mine is normally southern, fast talkin’, loud kind of humor that I find more humorous than anyone else. So, people end up laughing more at me laughing at myself than at what I actually said. (Sarah will confirm this.)

My husband, however, has that dry, droll, understated, straight-faced sense of humor that catches you off guard. And it appears that our daughter has inherited it.

While in Galveston, Tony and I were being lazy one morning after breakfast. The kids were in our room begging us to play, but we were just done in. Finally Victoria said, “So what do you want us to do?” To which Tony replied, “Oh, go outside and play in the street.” This would normally have been met by shocked indignation on the part of Victoria, but this day she put her arm protectively around Thad’s shoulder and said, “Well, come on Thad. Let’s go. I know how to twist the key to open the door.”

She and her daddy are both so serious most of the time that you just don’t expect it from them. He pretty much floors me with something on a daily basis, as in the other night when we were delivering the children to his parent’s house. Thad said, “Daddy, what is an F-O-U?” (He asked his daddy, because his daddy knows a lot of stuff.) Tony looked a bit confused, so I said, “I think he means a UFO.” To which Tony replied, straight-faced, “Well, son, a UFO is an Unidentified Flying Object. It’s what most people call a flying saucer. Of course, if you’ve identiied it as a flying saucer, it’s no longer unidentified.”

See. He floors me. . .’cause he’s funny, but to him it’s just logic.

So just now Victoria was upstairs trying on hand-me-down jeans for the fall. She is so long-legged and willowy and grown up that it just takes my breath away. After several pairs had made it off and on, I said, “Sugar, come here. I need to hold you.” She immediately came over, plopped herself down in my lap, laid her head on my shoulder while twining her arms around my neck and said, “I’m getting to be a big girl.” And I said, “Yes, you are.” And she said, “Go ahead . Cry, Momma. I don’t care.”

Which made me laugh and laugh and laugh.