Thursday, September 27, 2012

Schrödinger's Cat


I mentioned before that Trey is teaching a Church History course at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia this fall. Since it's in the evenings, it disrupts our normal bedtime routine, which has been a bit troubling for Genevie. Trey has been her primary caregiver during the day since I returned to work full time when she was just 4 months old, and she is as attached to him as you can possibly imagine. Trying to get her to understand why Daddy isn't there on Wednesday nights to put her to bed has been a challenge.

This conversation last week was so hysterical I just had to share it. She just couldn't wrap her mind around the fact that her daddy could be both a teacher and a dad, which oddly enough made me think of Schrödinger's cat paradox explained here by the ever-lovable physicist Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jury Duty


Little did I know several weeks ago when I received my jury duty summons, that I would actually end up serving on a jury. Trey teased me as I left on Monday, saying he knew that I secretly was hoping to get picked. Honestly, I've always wondered about doing it and -- I'll admit it -- I thought it would be fascinating to actually get an insider's view into the judicial process. But I had no idea that my time serving would actually change my view of this responsibility, which so many view as a nuisance.

After frittering Monday morning away watching CNN and listening to my book, I was finally called with one group of prospective jurors to one of the courtrooms for jury selection. The first seven candidates were called, and I was not one of them, but after several jurors were dismissed for various reasons, my number was called. The list of reasons that individuals gave for why they could not serve on the jury was entertaining. It ranged from those who claimed they wouldn't get paid for the time off work to those with upcoming doctor appointments to those with job interviews lined up or childcare issues. One woman had a prepared laundry list of excuses. One man was a patient of one of the expert witnesses. Others had been in car accident related suits and felt they couldn't remain objective. After about an hour and a half, the 7 member jury had been selected (4 men, 3 women). We were strictly instructed not to do any research on our own or look up anyone on Facebook or other social media outlets. We were not to discuss anything about the case with anyone, including family or friends, and we were not to discuss it amongst ourselves until both sides had rested their case.

We began hearing opening arguments and testimony on Tuesday. The case was a civil trial being brought by a Russian man, who had recently become a US citizen, against a young woman (18 at the time of the incident) who had caused a motor vehicle accident. The man was alleging permanent neck injury and resulting pain from the collision. The defense contended that the neck injury was pre-existing. We heard testimony from two orthopedic surgeons, looked at MRI films of the plaintiff's neck, and heard from both the plaintiff (who spoke through a Russian interpreter) and the defendant. Once testimony wrapped up, our job was to answer two questions. First, was the injury suffered by the plaintiff permanent and proximally caused by the collision, and if we answered yes to that question, we then had to determine how much compensation the plaintiff was entitled to.

We began deliberating Tuesday afternoon, late in the day, and then returned the next morning to reach our decision. Interestingly, when we first began discussing the facts of the case in the deliberation room, it was clear that the 7 of us were already largely of one mind. We believed the evidence pointed to a pre-existing degenerative disc condition, that while potentially aggravated by the accident, was not caused by it and could potentially heal with further treatment, treatment which the plaintiff admitted on the stand that he stopped seeking because he was "tired of going to the doctor". In light of that we answered "no" to the first question, and so the matter of compensation was moot. We all believed the plaintiff was being a bit opportunistic about this case. He was still able to work and was able to control his pain with Tylenol.

So what did I learn in all of this? The biggest takeaway was how fortunate we are to live in a country where we have the right to a trial by a jury of our peers, and while our system is far from perfect, it works so much better than the alternatives. I never really thought about that before. I had always viewed jury duty as a big bother, but now I will forever think of it as a privilege, like being able to vote in a free election. It is a freedom we take for granted that we do not live with a tyrannical, dictatorial judicial system, but one that leaves the fate of justice to the fairness of ordinary citizens. Our group was from all walks of life and educational backgrounds, but I was so impressed with how we were all able to sift through the evidence and pull out the truth without any formal training in the law. We certainly felt compassion for the plaintiff, but we took our duty to fairly and truthfully apply the law to these circumstances very seriously. It was a pleasure and an honor to serve, and I will look forward to the next opportunity when it comes around.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Building


For a long time I've thought Davis might grow up to become some sort of engineer, but not just an ordinary engineer. I see him designing luxury vehicles or rocket engines. He possesses a rare blend of precision and creativity. It's so funny to watch how differently he approaches playing with Legos than his brother. Addison can't create anything without an instruction manual. Davis, on the other hand, is happiest making it up as he goes along, and he comes up with some remarkable designs.


The other day while Addison devoured a National Geographic special on the USS Eisenhower, Davis decided to actually build an aircraft carrier. That's my boy!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Homework


Something about this time of year makes me want to renew my blogging efforts. I know that probably sounds peculiar, but I first embarked on this journey at this exact time of six years ago. I know. Six years. It's starting to sound like a long time to keep a blog going consistently, and since we returned to the US, now more than four years ago, at times I've questioned why I even keep blogging. The posts have become fewer and farther between. My life looks very different than it was six years ago. As a result, the blog's content has changed considerably over the years, and I only share a handful of family anecdotes here and there. More often than not, they end up on Facebook instead -- just because it's easier. But then I get a pang of nostalgia and flip back through past blog books and former posts, reliving the memories in far more vivid detail than I otherwise could simply because they were documented so well. Ultimately, that's why I keep blogging. This has become an organic family chronicle, and if one day our three can derive pleasure from reading the stories and seeing the pictures of when they were little, I will feel a sense of tremendous accomplishment.


I have a little nugget I want to share about each child, starting with the first-born. Homework was a struggle last year. I'm not going to lie. The transition from Kindergarten to first grade was bumpy. Addison's mind is almost too wonderful to describe. It is in a thousand places at one time. I can only imagine the speed at which he is processing information and the beautiful thoughts that are bouncing around in there. But it also means that focus doesn't come naturally. One task leads to a thought and a conversation or a question and so it goes, dragging him way off track to the math problem at hand. To an outsider I know it seems adorable, but as the parent just trying to get homework done, it is maddening. But the good news is that he is making progress. He is learning techniques at school to help him with "whole body listening", which is exactly what it sounds like, and amazingly at this age, even the passing of a few summer months has made a huge difference in his maturity. Now in second grade, his home assignments have become more complex and require greater attention. He is being asked to read on his own silently, and I have been so encouraged to see how he has risen to the challenge. His attitude is positive. He is working more quickly, and he clearly is learning a great deal.

I just had to share these pictures of him concentrating on his homework one night this week.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Sod Story


I have had a very tumultuous relationship with our front lawn and it reached a fever pitch this summer. When we first moved into the house in 2010, it was really the last thing on my mind, but as we got settled, how the exterior of our house looked from the street began to really matter to me. I'm a sucker for a neat and tidy lawn, and that was about the last thing we had. It was a mixture of different grass varieties predominated by Bermuda in the area adjacent to the driveway with a nice mix of crab grass in there for good measure.


Last autumn we worked on pulling up all the weeds on our tree belt and planting fescue. The grass did well at first, but fell prey to the oppressively dry, hot weather we had this summer.

Then this spring we tackled the rest of the front lawn. It quickly became clear that it was a much bigger job than we had anticipated, and we only ended up doing the two front sections -- leaving the side yard for this autumn. The lawn was overrun with Bermuda grass, which is a very low growing variety that tolerates hot, dry weather well and turns brown in the winter, a feature I hated. It also spreads via suckers and is incredibly challenging to get rid of as a result -- part of the reason we only managed to finish the very front.


Our grass planting endeavor seemed like a success at first. For several weeks we had a bed of lush green. And then it started to die in patches. And then the hot, dry weather hit. Literally one morning I left for work with a semi-green lawn and returned to a completely brown one at the end of the day. To say that I threw a toddler tantrum when I got into the house would be an understatement. I flipped out. All that hard work -- blood, sweat, and tears -- for nothing. Of course, at the time I was reading One Thousand Gifts, and so I immediately felt incredibly ungrateful and spoiled. I mean, we actually had water to offer our lawn while millions across the world live without a source of clean water to drink at all.

And then we went on vacation for a week in June and the lawn lay unwatered for most of the week. You can guess what happened. That put the nail in the coffin. Where the lawn had died the most hideous crab grass you ever saw emerged in indestructible patches.


They say that if there ever were a nuclear holocaust and every living thing died, cockroaches would survive. Maybe so, but I contend they would have fields of crab grass to frolic in. Those seeds are indestructible and the bane of my existence.


So all of that was a preamble to tell you that last Wednesday the landscapers came, tore up all the crab grass, graded the lawn, and laid the most luscious strips of Kentucky Bluegrass sod you ever saw. Sometimes, after a good faith effort, you just have to call in the professionals. Needless to say, we've been watering morning and evening and will continue to do so for the next couple of weeks until the sod is set.

The morning after the workers finished the job when I came out to leave for work, I felt like a little kid on Christmas. It looked exactly as I had pictured it in my head and was worth every penny.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Our Little Preschooler


It's been just over a week now that Genevie has been back at preschool. Boy, was she ready. In fact, Trey and I have talked about possibly putting her in 5 days a week because she loves it so much. It's become a bit of a struggle to get her to leave at noon.


These pictures were taken at the end of her first day. She was clearly a little silly and very happy to be back.

Smiling Faces

To say the month of September has flown by would be a gross understatement. I simply do not know where the weeks have gone. Actually I do. They've evaporated into preparation for school and then adjusting to the new routine. In fact, I am the only Holloway not involved in some sort of education right now. Addison started second grade. Davis started Kindergarten. Genevie started pre-school. And Trey is teaching a Church History survey course at Westminster Theological Seminary this fall. What does this all mean for us.


Well, first the boys are taking the bus, so we have to adjust to that change. It has definitely made our mornings less hectic, and all the children seem more cooperative than last year. I guess they really are growing up. I'm also learning ways to streamline the morning as much as possible, like having them eat cereal bars on the go rather than pouring bowls of the stuff.


I am working from home on Wednesdays now so that Trey can leave for his course late in the afternoon . It's a long night for him since the class is 3 hours. He usually doesn't get home until nearly 11pm, but it's the good kind of tired -- the way you feel after you've accomplished something really worthwhile.


Then, of course, this month has had the other usual things like doctor's appointments, dentist visits, and new sod. Oh wait, new sod isn't usual? Stay tuned and you can hear all about that. We also have swimming lessons gearing up this week and I have jury duty next Monday. See what I mean about being busy?


Everybody seems to be taking to the new pace of life well so far. It's been a drastic change from the lazy, hazy days of summer, but I actually enjoy the activity. It somehow feels productive. Trey and I have chosen the divide and conquer approach to nightly homework, now with two to manage. And somehow we're still managing to squeeze workouts in, Trey in the morning before everyone is up and me in the evenings after dinner. I'm not saying it's the most elegant arrangement, but it's working so far.


I took these photos of the kids on Saturday in the church playground directly behind our house. We've had such marvelous weather the past week -- sunny, low humidity, mild temperatures. Classic September days. Hope you're enjoying this time of year too.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Swimming Lessons


This past summer when we were down in Atlanta and visited the cousins' swim club, it became really evident how much the boys loved being in the water but how hampered they were by not knowing how to swim. I did some investigation when we got home, and believe it or not it wasn't easy to find affordable swim lessons in our area. I did finally stumble upon the Greater Philadelphia Aquatic Club, which offers lessons at a local technical college's fitness facility. It's not super close -- about 25 minutes away, but certainly doable for a 6 week period. We'll be starting both boys off together in their Level 1 program in 2 weeks and just take it from there. I have a hunch that they will both really love it. Genevie can join the boys in the spring once she's turned 4. You never know. We may have the next Michael Phelps or Missy Franklin in our bunch!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The First Day of School


I am always amazed at the bizarre way time passes. As a parent, time really does go at an interminable pace and then all of a sudden you arrive at a milestone and you look around, wondering where the time slipped. That's how I feel looking at this picture of Davis and Addison ready to start their first day of school. I simply cannot believe that my middle boy, Davis, is old enough to be in school full time. It doesn't seem all that long ago he was a toddling little boy.


Today's routine was a little different. We've made the decision to let the boys ride the bus to and from school. With only one car, it makes our lives a little simpler. Plus, the district changed where the bus stops, making it closer and incredibly convenient. Today Addison rode the bus to school by himself because the Kindergarteners had a later start.


Davis's teacher, Mrs. J, had all her students create a poster about themselves and their family. Here he is proudly sporting it.


The first day included parent orientation. Davis and I waited out on the front lawn to be ushered into his new classroom. He was very serious but not nearly as nervous as I thought he would be.


I was able to coax a smile out of him for the camera. He actually already knows 4 of the students in his class. They were in his Pre-K class last year. I feel like that was a real gift from God so that he would feel more comfortable.


I love this boy so much and can't wait to see what the year holds for him. He is so smart and ready to learn more. I know there are amazing things in his future.


While we got settled in his classroom, Davis took the opportunity to count the 1-100 number chart on his placemat -- several times. He's such a wiz! Stay tuned for the first day recap from both boys.

PS Genevie was distraught - full on drama queen tears and all - that she was not going to school with the boys this morning. Thankfully her year starts on Monday. She will be going to the same preschool as last year three mornings a week again.