Thursday, April 30, 2015

Vulnerable

We are all vulnerable. Sometimes, our weaknesses are apparent to many; sometimes they are apparent to few. Sometimes, we make up weaknesses for other people just to make them feel bad, or pump ourselves up. Sometimes, we fool ourselves into feeling that it matters whether we are more vulnerable or less vulnerable, instead of remembering that the only thing that matters is that we are all vulnerable.

A normally friendly child in Connor's class decided to rally his friends to tease Connor at lunch. Over what, you might wonder? The food he brought. For real. The students decided that the best use of their lunch time was to point out that Connor was eating vanilla yogurt, packaged in a Yo Baby container. Remember when I said my children still loved Yo Baby for lunch? Not true anymore. Because even though the taste is THE SAME as the vanilla yogurt that comes packaged differently, this yogurt is now the stuff that gets mocked.

By an idiot eating lunchables, no less.

It makes no sense to me, of course, that another kid even cares what Connor is eating. But that's because I'm an adult, and I know from experience that everyone gets teased about something, and I even know that getting teased about what you are eating is WAY BETTER than getting teased about some characteristic that you hold dear. Because Connor doesn't particularly desire the vanilla cup of yogurt (though he likes it just fine), he can just switch to a Yo Squeezer (which the lunchable eating kid has not yet deemed unacceptable), without his life really changing.

As an adult, I know ignoring this kid will probably make him go away, and that someday, this kid may even regret his choice. Maybe the day someone teaches him that he's vulnerable, too.

But I also want to look this kid in the eye and tell him he's ugly and his mama dresses him funny.

Instead, I will hold my breath for now, and see if he finds something else to make fun of Connor about, or if he decides to go about his life without bothering my kid.

Spread love, friends. We can all use support.

Elaine

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Going Home: Under Magnolia, by Frances Mayes

About a year after I went to graduate school, my mom confided to me that when she and my dad dropped me off at school, she knew I was never coming home. She sensed, even before I fully understood it, that my heart needed to settle on the East Coast. And no matter how often I think about going back to the Midwest, I know she's right. I will never go home.

Oh sure, I visit regularly, and enjoy keeping up with all the nutjob things the governor of my former state is doing. I'm the first to defend my beloved Kansas when called upon, and I cheer desperately for my the Royals - who have brought me a lot of joy both over the years and in the past few months. (With a lot of heartache as well, naturally.) I am still mad at the Arlington County Public School Superintendent who made a stupid comment about "flyover states" at the one board meeting I attended in person. He had to have known there was a decent change someone from one of those states would be in attendance. Arlington is full of transient people.

But I will agree with Frances Mayes - that the home one grows up in imprints itself somewhere deep in your soul. Although I've lived in the DC area for almost 20 years, I still think of myself as a tourist here. It shocks me when I consider that my children have only known this as home. So while I place sunflowers, meadowlarks, and lightening at the core of my growing up - I'm guessing my children will place cherry blossoms, the white house lawn, and magnolia trees at their core. Shocking, in a way.

I do, occasionally, think romantically about going home. I could live in a more liberal, nearby town than the one I grew up in. I could head out front door and run for miles without seeing another person, if I chose a house on the outskirts of that town. And my kids could grow up near both my sister's family and my parents.

Frances Mayes' Under Magnolia was a lovely reminder about the permanence of the place I grew up.


Elaine


I received a copy of Under Magnolia as a member of the From Left To Write online book club.



Monday, April 27, 2015

Play Ball! Softball, Year 2

I was excited to attend my first softball game of the season last Saturday. I missed Helen's prior two games because I was in Minnesota and then running a relay marathon with friends. Sadly, it was a little too overcast on Saturday so I didn't get many fantastic photos of Helen staring down her opponents or generally looking fierce.

Helen is definitely becoming more proficient at the game, and was able to get an unassisted out at first base, track down a few balls and launch them in the generally right direction, and run hard. She was victim to the great softball tragedy on her first at-bat. She nailed the ball (which is pretty rare in Helen's league), but someone the other team fielded the ball properly and got her out. However - because she hit the ball to the outfield, she was able to collect on the $1 reward Connor has offered her before the game - so she was still pretty please about the contact.





Elaine


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Helenstyle

Helen endures the winter and what she sees as the oppressive fashion regime she must cow-tow to. Our only clothing rule is that she must wear something that is weather appropriate, and because she loves dresses so much (and I love them because she's skinny and it's easier to find dresses that fit than pants or skirts!) I have gifted her several pairs of thermal tights and leg warmers, so that she can double up and keep warm.

But still...she longs to wear tank tops and shorts - and she prefers the bright prints that tend to be in full bloom on her summer clothes.

And so it is, that on the first warm day, Helen opted to wear the below outfit to school. The best part of the outfit is the sparkly silver crown which her friend A. made her. All day when I was near her, people kept asking her if it was her birthday. Her response was so awesome. Every time, she would stare at them sort of blankly and say "no" with a clear look that said "why would you even think that?".

Welcome, spring and summer. Helen is glad to see you!


Elaine

Sunday, April 19, 2015

From the Backpack: Black

Connor was given the assignment to write a poem about a color. Connor's favorite color is yellow - as in sunshine and daisy centers. He chose black. I was absolutely taken aback by this choice, and casually tried to inquire about it. He told me he couldn't write about yellow because he couldn't figure out what it smelled like.

We went to lunch with a couple of friends of his and the color poem came up. His friend's choice? Yellow.

When I pulled Connor's poem out of his backpack, I had a moment where I thought perhaps I should set Connor up with a psychiatrist. When my friend, a psychologist, saw the poem, she said "you do realize your kid is highly gifted, right?". Which is just one more reason why I adore her. More on my trip to Minnesota to visit another time, but here's the poem. It still seems a little deranged to me.


Elaine

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wearing My Parents Out

My parents took on childcare duty for most of spring break. My parent's basic strategy is to try and find an outing each day, let the kids run around and have fun, and then hang on until Ed or I returns home.

They started the week with a quick win - heading out to Chuck-E-Cheese. They arrived just about when the place opened, and luckily it was never too crowded. Connor continued fine-tuning his ski ball skills while Helen ran around trying to score as many tickets as possible.



Helen did take a brief ride on the Chuck-E-Cheese car which snaps a photo - and when she saw her photo, she announced "Grandpa photo bombed me!", which made both Ed and me laugh. For no reason, we are always surprised when she says anything about pop culture, though we really shouldn't be surprised at this point.


Upon exiting Chuck-E-Cheese, my parents saw friends of their from Kansas who were also out in Virginia performing spring break childcare. They made plans to meet up the next day at the Air and Space Museum at Dulles. Connor was excited to see the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb.


And because they had friends around, there is proof that both of my parents were present!


My dad's camera battery did not make the trip, so most of the photos were snapped by my mom on her phone. This meant that my mom was able to capture my dad in several phases of exhaustion, as he tried to keep up with Connor and Helen.


The dyed eggs were awesome - except they weren't rinsed and the first time I ate one at the office, I learned that a LOT of pink dye was still on the egg, which quickly transferred to my hand for the rest of the day.

They wrapped up their days with a trip to the paint-your-own pottery store. We haven't done this in a while, and both kids seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. I'm looking forward to the finished project. Connor's plate replaces another one he made that got broken a couple of years ago. Hopefully this one fares a bit better!


There were egg hunts, rides on the neighbor's zipline (which is pretty safe at this point), playdates with friends, a trip to the craft store to make an Easter chick and a zombie chick, a scavenger hunt through the toy store, and even a little reading. Helen was certain Grandpa would enjoy hearing about Babar. He needs to teach Helen how to play "let's take a nap", which is a game he used to play with his other grandchildren where he would pretend to sleep. Fun times. Fun times.


All I can say is, maybe if you get a lot of sleep between now and August, you'll be ready for their energy descending on Kansas this summer!

Thank you!
Elaine

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

White House Egg Roll 2015

I have an unnatural love of the White House egg roll. Every year we've gone, it's been a ton of fun and has produced a lot of fun memories. Sadly, neither Ed nor I have jobs that get us into the event each year, so we're at the mercy of the ticket lottery. This year, a second cousin of mine scored six tickets. She was hoping to come out with her niece, but was unable to take the day off, which is too bad because I would've loved showing her around DC. I wasn't confident I could handle both kids having a friend, so I passed along the remaining two tickets to a friend who also loves the event (and is one of few people I know out here with only one child) and Ed made his very first appearance at the event. Helen, Connor, and I wrapped up our fourth.



There are a few things that differed this year from our traditional visit. For starters, never before has a parent encouraged Connor to jump the security fence to see how long it would take to get tackled (ahem, Ed). Connor didn't go for it, and by the end, we almost had to resort to our friend's suggestion of tossing him over. But, we were all getting a little tired and ready to go home, so we kept Connor's feet firmly planted on terra firma and didn't test security.



This was also the first year that Connor noticed and was impressed by the gun toting security forces on top of the White House. He wasn't confident that they'd actually use the guns, but I assured him that in the right circumstances, they wouldn't hesitate. I also told him that those circumstances were ridiculously rare and nobody had ever been fired on at the White House Egg Roll.


Helen also discovered a new dress-up, and she has yet to meet a dress-up she doesn't love, and this was no exception.




For the first year ever, Helen zipped across the finish line before Connor. An errant flip of his spoon sent his egg flying into Helen's lane, allowing her to sneak past him. Connor congratulated Helen and was an awesome sport about it. But then I had to tell Helen to stop gloating several minutes later because I was guessing Connor was getting tired of her continual reminders, and I didn't want to trot back across the lawn and wait in line for a rematch.



This photo was taken right after Connor's errant sideways flip. I love how happy Helen appears.
Connor claimed his own victory of sorts in the science area where he built a boat that was able to hold ALL of the bean cargo the volunteers had without flipping or sinking. He was quite proud of this accomplishment. He had made a boat that was much less seaworthy at last year's event.



Both enjoyed seeing a bat with a five foot wing span.

Ed was a total trooper. He doesn't really love crowds, and he doesn't tend to get into touristy things like this, but I guess his curiosity was piqued enough (and we had end of the day tickets, so it wasn't a huge imposition on his work schedule) that he was willing to join us. I have our first ever family photo on the lawn.



I, of course, enjoyed the trip down memory lane, reminding both kids of various funny things they'd done over the years. For example, in year 1 (2009) Helen tried to steal quite a few things from the event and Connor rolled on the ground, delighting in the lawn's softness. Just for kicks, he dropped down for a good roll this year, too, and confirmed the lawn is still exquisite. We also got waylaid in the crafting area making jump ropes and I still shiver when I think of how painful it was stringing all those pieces onto a rope. I was not sad that that particular craft was not repeated this year.



Our second trip to the event (2012) brought a fierce determination from Connor at the starting line of the egg roll, and he pretty much flipped the egg across the finish line in two smacks. Helen, on the other hand, took her time - clearly signaling that she was being forced to participate in a ridiculous task. Despite being so far behind everyone else in her heat that the other children had left the area, Helen declared herself to be second place. I still like her moxie.

Last year (2014) was marked with our mad dash to the event, not enough food, and a weakened condition by the time we got out of there. Amazingly, we all held it together and still talk about the race to the finish at the egg roll and Helen rocking the obstacle course. They both rocked it this year, too.


Another egg roll is in the books. It might be our last, or maybe we'll get lucky again before the kids age out of the event. No matter what, the kids are now old enough that they'll have their own memories, not just the stories I tell them.

Thank you, Kerri. You were so kind to have entered the lottery and we hope to share our city with you soon!

Elaine

Monday, March 30, 2015

Cards...

My parents have come into town to play the role of full-time childcare provider while I head to the less chaotic confines of my downtown office. That means two things. First, my children are extremely happy, because my parents are not afraid to hand them a stack of quarters (my dad) or a cookie (my mom). Both are still equally cool.

The second thing it means is that I don't get anything done that is not essential (and I do count my ten-miler on Saturday morning as essential). Rather than tooling around in this space or on Facebook at night, I'm playing cards. Only thing different this time around? Connor has been playing spades on his iPad and was ready to test out live competition. So instead of playing bridge after the little people went to bed, we played spades with Connor and then resumed our usual bridge game. After Connor and Ed got crushed the first night (when Connor learned that bidding something other than 4 is occasionally wise and sorting cards can be helpful), they walked away victors last night - right on the edge of disaster.

Connor was super thrilled.

I'm pretty sure after my parents leave, Connor will start teaching Helen the fine art of cards, because he'd love to keep our  nightly game going!

Elaine

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Boy Scouts

Ed led Connor's Boy Scout troop, and to say he was out of his element would be an understatement. But he did a fantastic job setting up weekly activities for the boys, and making sure they all me tthe requirements to move onto the next level. Finally, he can start coasting, as the end of the year banquet has taken place. And just in time for it, Ed decided to attach patches to his shirt, so now he is the proud owner of his first scouting shirt.

Connor loved having Ed as the troop leader.

Elaine

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Biking Milestone

Ed and I used to bike most of where we went. I think Ed would fill the car up with gas about once a month. But then we had children, and biking everywhere was no longer practical. So we became part of the two-car driving world, ferrying children from place to place.

But last week, I do believe we crossed a big milestone. Ed needed to do some work, so I decided to take the kids on a little trip with me. I tossed some library books that needed to be returned into my backpack, instructed Connor that he was my sweeper and told Helen her job was to keep her bicycle between mine and Connor's.

Both children rode brilliantly. We maneuvered through neighborhood streets with hills, turned onto a pretty busy road with a bike lane, carefully crossed our bikes when we arrived at a crosswalk at the library, and then successfully locked them up - despite the piles of snow blocking the bike racks.

We exchanged our books and then headed another half mile to Connor and Helen's favorite restaurant. For this part of the trip, I did take them on some very wide sidewalks, thinking the road we'd have to travel on was a bit much for Helen.

After dinner, we made it home without incident.

I felt like such a huge milestone had been reached, and Helen's confidence on her bike just soared. She wanted to tool around in a courtyard, but I was worried that the sun would set quickly, and we didn't have the proper lights on our bikes. It had been such a great trip, that I was worried it would get marred at the end by me freaking out because of the lack of light.

I am really looking forward to this summer.



Elaine