Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I Think I'd Like That, Too

On Sunday, Connor and I went to the National Gallery of Art to participate in their Artful Conversations class. This is the first year Connor can attend the class (ages 8 - 11), and is the follow-on class to Stories in Art, which Connor and Helen have participated in for several years, thanks to my friend Helen asking us to join her there.

Neither Helen nor Connor are huge fans of art museums, unless they are destroying them. But they do love these programs, and I love attending with them. Stories in Art is very popular, and the first two sessions of the day fill up basically upon the museum's opening. Artful Conversations is less popular, and I thought that if we showed up right before it started, we'd be able to get in. I was wrong. We arrived at noon, having not eaten lunch, and were told the noon groups were full. We could come back for the 2:00 program.

I told Connor we could find a place to eat lunch and then walk around the museum a bit, or we could head home for lunch and come back at 2:00. He opted to go home.

As we were exiting the museum, he explained "I think three hours of being in an art museum would just be too much for me, Mom. What do you think?"

Me: "Well, Connor, I would actually very much enjoy walking around for two hours and then sitting her for another hour for your program, but it's fine to go home."

Connor: "Maybe we should go look at a few paintings together, then. I think I would like that."

Me: "I would, too."

And then we wandered into the gallery on our left, which happened to house several of Monet's painting. Connor instantly remembered they were painted in France, reminded me he had tried to recreate one of them, and then we guessed about what time of day each was painted.

It was a nice half hour - and then we went home, had lunch, and returned for the program.

Thanks for the lovely afternoon, Connor. It's a keeper in my book.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Oh Crab! Petsitting, Resurrection, and Weight Loss

Two years ago, Grandpa Dick gave Connor three hermit crabs for his birthday. There was a teeny-tiny crab that had a shell painted black with a batman logo, a medium sized one painted like a ladybug (Helen picked this one out - it may have been hers), and a larger one painted with Angry Birds on it. He was also given a couple of extra shells in case the hermit crabs grew and needed a new shell. We were very hopeful crab owners. So hopeful, that after about a week, I got an old aquarium out of our basement and dumped a bunch of sand in it. Having the crab live on the rocks that came with it just seemed like a bad idea - plus it sort of freaked me out when I would hear them walking around at night.

Angry Bird, as he was known, died a few months later. He was in the care of a friend, and his friend felt awful. I, however, wasn't too sad. One down...two to go.

Batman died about six months ago, I think, though I'm not exactly sure when.

Ladybug marches on. And these past few weeks with her have been quite exciting.

First, we went on vacation. We left the crab with Connor's friend (not the one who had to deal with the death of Angry Bird, we chose a different victim this time). Connor's friend was super excited to have the crab for two weeks, and we feared he nearly loved that crab right to its death. When Ladybug was returned, she was not looking good. I dropped her in a water dish, thinking maybe she was just a little dry, but when I saw her - I was confident she was dead.

The mom, of course, felt awful. I admit to feeling not awful (except I felt bad that she felt bad). I was free of another pet. It was the end of the weird pet chapter of our lives. Nobody actually cares for the crab except me. I do get a kick out of it when I walk into the room and she drops her shell, as if she's not there. Sneaky... This is the only interaction anyone in our home has with the crab. Ever.

After a few hours of letting Ladybug soak herself, I was ready to pronounce her dead and perform whatever last rites seemed appropriate. Only when I retrieved her from the bowl, she reached out her teeny-tiny claw and gave one last hurrah of a wave. Surprised, I put her back on the sand, covered her house with a blanket (it seemed the respectful thing to do), and told everybody that they were to ignore the crab (as if they need this instruction) to hopefully give a chance for the resurrection to take hold.

And behold! She didn't move much for a few days, but occasionally she moved, and I said a silent cheer for her.

After a few days of this - she simply walked outside her shell. I am obviously not a hermit crab expert, but this did not seem good. She spent most of her time sitting in the water dish, which I feared I would find her floating in some morning. I did not photograph this because I assumed she was getting ready to die, and that just doesn't seem like a good thing to photograph.

And then one morning, she did what none of our crabs did over the past two years (or however long they were with us), she switched shells. Holy cow is this exciting. And, if you think I'm kidding here, it is because you must have a normal pet that actually interacts with you. We were thrilled. Seriously.

Just like that, Ladybug became Baseball.

And that makes sense, as you can see below, because Baseball is bigger than Ladybug. I figured she (actually, the kids now refer to the crab as "he") would live for at least a for more weeks in his new digs. A photograph did not exactly seem urgent.

Only that baseball shell? It is not housing the crab formerly known as Ladybug. Where, you might wonder, has Ladybug / Baseball gone?

To become Batman reincarnated.

At first, I tried to reason with Ladybug / Baseball / Batman. I told him/her that there was no need to pretend like she was of the age that corsets were required. I told her it was OK to wear the bigger shell - it looked good! Everyone liked it on her.

But Batman was all - I've squeezed myself into this thing, I intend to live here a while. And just to make her point that she fit just fine, she dropped a claw. As in, there is a crab claw sitting on the sand right now, that is no longer attached to the crab body.

I have to hand it to Ladybug / Baseball / Batman - that's a lot of sacrifice to wear that cute shell. Having lost some weight last year, I do admire the way she has literally sunk her whole self into her weight loss goals. I have run many miles, but I have never even considered just chopping a leg off.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Dude Ranch

A long, long time ago - I decided my family needed to go to a dude ranch. Here's me pondering it in 2008 and again in 2013. I was unable to convince my sister of the merits of this trip, but I did somehow luck out and my parents agreed to come. Let's just say, I may no longer be their favorite child, but it's OK. I have some great plans for future trips, as soon as the memories of this one wear off.

To start our trip, we decided we needed to get some real cowboy clothes. Ed's mom sent Helen a bunch of dress up clothes a few years back, so Helen was set with her cowgirl gear. Connor was a lacking though, so we stopped at a store in Laramie, Wyoming and bought him the best ranch shirt ever. He wanted cowboy boots (as did I!), but they were expensive, and I couldn't justify buying them for Connor. I could have justified buying them for me - because I will actually wear them for more than a week of vacation, but I felt guilty buying a pair for me and telling Connor no. So we purchased no cowboy boots.

We added a hat to Connor's ensemble, and then stopped at a cheap retailer for bandanas and $12.50 cowboy hats for me and Ed. As it turned out, the ranch we visited loaned guests boots and hats, so we didn't end up needing the hats.

We were totally ready to rock the ranch look when we arrived.

Connor did not care to join us in our photo snapped on "auto" by the camera, but luckily a ranch dog joined so we could still be a group of four.

But don't think Connor wasn't super stinkin' cute.

Although his preferred photo stance was with two guns drawn, because I guess that it Connor's cowboy image.

My parents were not quite as into the dress-up portion of the vacation as we were - at first!

But they came around soon enough.

Here is probably a good time to mention a few things about my mom. She does not like animals, especially large ones. She does not like dirt - or which there is an abundance on a very dry farm. And she would never consider a fun day in the afternoon to be riding a horse.

Yet? She rode a horse! Many times! With no complaint! Her horse was wearing some kind of net to protect its eye because it had an infection. Well, that's what the owners of the ranch told us. Quite possibly, my mom is riding a blind horse because my mom is that awesome of a rider. Also, I think I get some credit for keeping her young.

My dad was Connor's dinner champion because somehow, Connor convinced my dad to squeeze lemon on his salad each night. Pretty good living for Connor!

More to come...


Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Possibly the best thing to come out of debating in college is having connections to people literally across the entire United States. A few weeks before Ed, Connor, Helen, and I departed for Laramie, Wyoming - where we planned to stay for one day before our dude ranch vacation started - I asked a friend of mine how to spend 24 hours in Laramie.

His advice?

From Laramie, take Interstate 80 east 15.8 miles to Vedauwoo Road/ exit 329. Just get off the exit and head into the giant rocks; you'll find your way around.

The morning was nothing short of fantastic. We started scrambling up the rocks, definitely going higher than we should have, until we found a spot at the top to sit and enjoy the view.

Connor and Helen have loved hiking that involves scrambling over rocks lately. We've gone up to the Maryland side of Great Falls twice, the second time going further along the Billy Goat Trail than the first. We only have the easiest piece of the trail left to tackle.

As a result of these hikes, Helen and Connor have become quite proficient in scrambling up large rock areas, which gave them a lot of confidence to tackle Vedauwoo.

Connor started out strong.

And as we climbed over rocks and up the mountain, Helen's small size became an advantage at some points. At many, of course, it's a disadvantage since her legs simply don't span the needed distance!

At some point, Connor advised not looking down, which turned out to be good advice. We climbed up those!

After that, Connor and I took a moment to be awesome.

And then Helen and Connor fueled up with some m&ms.

Finally, I set the camera on auto and snapped our final shot at the park.

Next up...going in to Laramie to buy cowboy clothes.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Stroke by stroke

Helen has been swimming with the mini tigers for just over a week. They had a meet tonight, and in spite of the monsoon I drove home through, the meet started about 1.5 after its original schedule. I was extremely grateful, because it's not at all clear there will be another chance for Helen to swim.

I don't quite understand Helen and the mini tigers. For whatever reason, she is determined to be on the swim team. But she absolutely does not want to try and be on the regular swim team, because she says, they have to swim "too far, too fast". She has a point, of course. I think in her mind, she'll just swim for the minis throughout all time. I've mentioned to her that at some point, I think you age out of mini tigers and you have to swim with the bigger kids, but she's not at all convinced that's true.

In any case, Helen is not the fastest person in the lanes. And really, she can barely swim the lap. That said - she's gotten a ton more proficient at swimming since she made her debut last year. And - she has figured out how to dive into the pool from the side, rather than jump in. I wish I had bothered to look at last year's time. This year? She checked in with a 1:01, being barely inched out by another swimmer for next to last place. Ed and I were sure she was going to take that other little girl in the final strokes, but it wasn't meant to be.

But no matter. All glory comes to those who swim, no matter what position they place. Just ask Helen. The only person in our home who swam a lap today!

For my mom, who wanted so badly to come cheer Helen on, I present the video of tonight's 25 meter freestyle.



Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sailing on...take two!

Remember three years ago when Connor ended his time at our beloved Waldorf school? I do. Like it was yesterday. Helen, too, has ended her stint at Waldorf school. And this time, it was even harder to say good-bye. Oh, we'll go back for the fall festival and maybe the auction dinner for a few years - but realistically, our time at the school has ended.

There will be no more daily trips to South Arlington - no more juggling cars and different start times to make sure each child ends up at the right place at the right time each morning.

There will also be no more playground drop-offs. Unlike Connor, Helen knows this is coming. I still get choked up when I think of that first morning dropping Connor off in first grade. I knew he was in good hands. And I'm desperately hoping that Helen will be placed in those same good hands. But still, when you spend three years of your life being dropped off on the playground, it's quite jarring to be dropped off in a classroom - with desks - that are used for sitting!

In her first grade readiness evaluation, Helen's teacher had no doubt she was ready to move on. But he also noted that Helen has a shy side. She didn't show this often in Kindergarten this past year, but when faced with something new, Helen will turn inwards. She'll wait and watch until she figures something out, these days, and then she'll try and do it better than anyone else. Sometimes, this is a winning strategy. Sometimes, this is a strategy that results in a lot of anxiety. I have a feeling we'll both be doing a lot of slow breathing these next few months.

Helen's last handwork project in Kindergarten was making a sword. She cut the wood, fitted it together, sanded it carefully, and sewed a case to keep it in. She loves this sword. She's ready to take on the world.

At her year-end class picnic, Helen jumped rope for so long, her teacher nearly ran out of songs to sing. Helen was not only pleased, she shouted to me the glory of her accomplishment. Will there be anyone to turn the rope for her daily next year - or support whatever new thing she tries to tackle?

Helen, you are more ready than you could possibly know to take on the next phase of your life. I only wish I was as ready to say good-bye!


And kudos to my mom. She made the dress Helen is wearing when I was a little girl. I loved that dress, and remember showing anyone who would watch how far it would twirl out. At her current school, she is the envy of all her friends in that dress. Will the new girls in her class understand the fabulousness of this dress? Or will they only see it as not something girls typically wear? 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sometimes, the world crumbles

Connor's first gifted resource teacher died yesterday. It's not a surprise. She's had end stage pancreatic cancer for 18 months now. She left DC to head back home for treatment. I still remember the last time Connor saw her. He knew she was retiring, but didn't know why. Ed plans to tell Connor the news tonight, but if he doesn't, I'll tell Connor the news tomorrow. So much for a little guy to hold - but I'm terribly afraid that if Ed or I don't tell him, someone else will. And Connor deserves more than that.

And a few nights ago, after Connor pulled out yet another tooth, he plainly told me he just didn't believe in magic any more. He told me he thought I was responsible for the tooth fairy. So I promised him I would not touch the tooth, and promptly walked downstairs and told Ed he was on for tooth fairy duty. Nothing was said in the morning, but Ed and I decided that maybe we ought to confirm the fact that the tooth fairy is not separate from us. It is us. We figured Connor would feel so grown up if we told him - and I'm pretty sure he'll keep the magic alive for Helen - who still walks carefully around mushrooms growing in the yard just in case the old grey gnome is hidden beneath them.

But how much can the world crumble in one day?

Maybe the news of the tooth fairy will wait.

And maybe there's a teeny tiny fairy out there who will visit our house tonight, and bring just a little magic inside to soothe our broken hearts. Because we could really use it.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Week Away

On Friday, my dad flew from Kansas to DC. On Sunday, he left - accompanied by Helen and Connor. Knowing that my parents have raised two children to adulthood, I knew I didn't need to give them a lot of instructions. My mom would ask occasional questions about what foods they liked - and mentioned the 699 fun things they have planned.

I was willing to send the kids unaccompanied, but when I mentioned this to Helen she firmly stated "I need someone to ride with me on the plane. And it needs to be an ADULT - not just Connor." Clearly, she could see the future and knew we were going to tell her Connor would take care of everything for her. Connor was totally game. My parents thought I was as crazy as Helen did, which is why my dad insisted on coming out and back with the kids.

On Saturday, I sent my mom the following email. I figured Connor and Helen might enjoy seeing it when they're older and read through these pages.


Helen still has not lost her teeth [my parents were here a few weeks ago and Helen was discussing her loose teeth then]. I'm sending Dad back with an envelope that contains a poem that our tooth fairy brings, along with the stones the tooth fairy leaves. She also leaves $1.
Helen and Connor are excited about staying - but who knows if Helen will have a meltdown at some point. If she does, she can call any time. It really does not bother me. [Note: Helen remarked on Sunday morning that she was really going to miss me because she wasn't used to having fun without me around.]
If Helen seems unreasonable and grumpy, give her some food. I wouldn't say "do you want a strawberry" I would say "we should eat some strawberries". She's not particularly good with choices when she's hungry.

Connor ate so much the other night he puked. Hopefully he won't do this again - but if he does, don't worry about it.

Helen hasn't done it in a while, but occasionally she vomits from overeating or eating too much of a particular kind of food. Again, it's nothing to worry about, she'll feel better after she gets it all out.
Make sure Connor stays hydrated. He sometimes forgets to drink, and then he doesn't poop. He hasn't done this in a while, but I do try and get him to drink. Related - if he drinks a bunch and you notice him dancing - tell him "go to the bathroom". Strange, I know, but he sometimes doesn't seem to realize he has to go.

Helen is allergic to mussels and shrimp. Connor is just picky.
If you have any questions - feel free to call or drop me a note. I can't think of any other things that are too weird about the little people but then again, I've probably just gotten used to all their weirdness so fail to recognize it as weird any more.
Connor has been enjoying watching soccer on TV, so he'd probably be interested in seeing some of that.
Have fun

Monday, June 16, 2014


Frozen has landed at our home. I suppose I should be happy that we've been virtually free of children's entertainment for the past 8 years and call it a win, but I see my future - and it looks bleak.

It seems as if every child in the universe has seen Frozen, and as a result, any time Helen is around any child at or near her age - they talk about it. Which of course makes Helen long for the magic of the big screen. Even her friends at her Waldorf school (which does not allow video / computer / tv etc.) saw the movie. We gave in by purchasing the CD. Helen promptly memorized it, and then found herself in the car with Ed without the CD. Tragic.

So Helen decided to have a Frozen sing-along, during which she attempted to teach Ed all of the songs she knows. Apparently, Ed's not a very good singer (even to Helen's untrained ear) because at one point during the ride, Helen told Ed "maybe this one's just too hard for you - let's try another". When asked if he was singing Ed said "kind of", which translates to "yes - but as you know, I am tone deaf, so I had no idea I wasn't singing anything close to the melody".

Sorry, kid. You'll be at your Aunt Linda's house soon. Maybe your cousins can sing the tunes with you.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

What Exactly is Happening on this Field?

People talk about the benefits of being active as a justification for encouraging kids to play sports all the time. Advocates also talk about inner-city sports literally saving children's lives. Both of these are great, but they're not my concern. My kids bounce on trampolines, swim, ride bikes, and chase each other often. They can safely move about our neighborhood and at least as of this year, there's no lure to check out illegal drugs after school. But the lessons on the field still abound.

1. Respect. The players are learning respect. Respect for the game, respect for the coaches who give so much time, and respect for each other. They learn to play by the rules, fist-bump their friends, and treat their opponents kindly. As for the parents, we congratulate our own children on a well made play and when that kid on the other team makes a great grab in the field breaking our own child's heart? We congratulate that fielder, too. It's not at all because we think we have to tell everyone good job. It's because we really respect that player who put himself on the line and played hard.

2. Compassion. We've had a lot of instances lately where a child gets hit by a pitch, slides in the dirt and gets hurt, or face plants on the field trying to make a play. The game stops, we quiet down, and every player on the field takes a knee. When my team's pitcher hits your child, I feel awful for your child. When your son hits my son, I know you feel badly, too. And we both empathize with the pitcher because unlike an angry major-leaguer who was trying to plant one in revenge, these pitchers are just trying to sling that ball over the plate. No harm was intended. And we never root for injuries - not the players, not the parents.

3. Give it everything. Sports isn't everything. In fact, it's practically nothing. I'd hazard a guess that among all the players I watched play this year, maybe one or two will play college ball and not a one of them will ever wear a major league uniform as anything more than a bat boy. But none of that matters. What matters today is giving everything you have in this one game. And I have watched the boys mature over the year so that when they pop up a ball, they run that bugger out. And even when the play at first seems obvious, they try to leg that single out. Often, they make it. Because at least in your first year of kid-pitch, balls get bobbled, someone else fails to give it their all, and if you're playing hard - you have a good chance of getting that single. We even have a child with a broken arm on the team who comes just in case he gets a chance to pinch run.

4. Persistence. Kid-pitch is hard. Balls are flying at you in a sometimes erratic manner. The pitcher changes every inning so you never get a consistent rhythm. But you keep trying, and in Connor's case, you take a few lessons on the side, and you know what? All of a sudden those hits start dropping in, you're advancing the runner, and you realize somewhere deep down that keeping at it can pay huge dividends. Baseball has been a lot of fun this year.

5. Thankfulness. It's no small task to coach a little league team. There's the lugging the equipment, showing up early to every game and practice, planning and executing the practices, and keeping all those boys focused on the game. If your guy draws a walk, you run in to pitch to him (league rule - no walks, coach takes over if the kid pitcher walks a player). At the end of every game, I walk with Connor to each coach and thank them for their time. I wasn't at the last game but Ed reported that on his own, Connor made sure to thank his coaches. Connor could never know how much his coaches give to him, but he most certainly should be thankful for the commitment shown to him. Ed gives them home brew.

6. Sometimes it takes a team. You cannot play baseball by yourself. And though you might not need all the players all the time, you most certainly need a group around you. I'm not much of a team player myself - I prefer to work alone. But it's important to recognize that sometimes a team of people is the only thing that will get the job at hand done.

Well done, boys. Undefeated in the regular season and a win in the first playoff game. The weather looks dismal tonight to get the second playoff game in. No matter when the season ends, it's been a great run.