Thursday, April 17, 2014

First swim of the season!

This past weekend, it was over 80 degrees. And for Helen, that meant exactly one thing. It was time to go swimming.

So she got the hose, filled up a little plastic crab sandbox we have, and went for a little dip. She dumped a small amount of water into the lid of the crab, to try and warm it up. Unfortunately, it was still freezing cold.

Clearly, she is crazy.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Playing on the Carpet

Helen and I spend most Friday afternoons together. A few weeks ago, we built a puppet show using many of the silks we have dyed together. Helen must be a little wiser than I give her credit for, because at one point, she covered our spring display with a carpet of snow.

This story was about a King and Queen who lived in a castle. The castle was surrounded by water. Beyond the water was a beautiful meadow, full of flowers that bloomed during the show. There was also a little pond and a dirt bank. At one point, the scene was covered with a white cloth as it snowed.


Yes, it snowed a bit.

Helen performed the show in a ridiculous wig that she purchased with her OWN MONEY. (Thank you, Grandpa Rodney for the shiny $10 bill you gifted Helen the last time you were in town. It's been burning a hole in her pocket for a while now.

I had the opportunity to sit with Helen's assistant teacher (whom she adores) this past Friday morning at a class potluck and Mrs. M. told me about a day that Helen and her friend G. had the whole class entranced in a puppet show they had created. There sat twelve children, watching these two girls. Only one child had a cell phone that beeped in the middle of the performance, and he was quickly escorted out of the show by a police officer. The rest of the audience thought that was hilarious.

I'm going to miss these days next year.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cherry Blossoms - 2014

It wouldn't be spring in DC if we didn't head down to the tidal basin for a picnic. Last year, we biked down to the tidal basin for the first time as a family of 4 (Ed and I did this plenty of time in our pre-kid days). I remember Helen waving to everyone whose attention she could get as she sat perched atop the trailer bike. Connor, on the other hand, was working pretty hard as it was the longest bike ride he'd ever taken.

Because Arlington is higher up than DC, the route to the tidal basin is largely downhill. So last year, we took the metro home, to avoid all the hills. This year, we went for it - and CONNOR MADE IT! Up all the hills! He would cheer or let out a little whoop when he got to the top. At one point, two adults nearly made him fall as they stopped riding, mid-hill, with no warning. But Connor was able to weave around them and pedal all the way up.

Bravo, Connor! Next year, hopefully we'll get Helen on her own bike, rather than on the back of Ed's!

Welcome, Spring!


Monday, April 7, 2014

Play Ball!

Helen tends to prefer crafting over running. She can string beads for hours, but ask her to play soccer and she'll pretend to play by standing in front of the goal and deeming herself the goalie. In part, I think this stems from the competition in the house. Who wants to be constantly outdone by a big brother?

I'm not exactly sure how Ed did it, but someone he convinced Helen to try girls' softball. She attended a clinic with girls ranging from Kindergarten through grade 3, and that about made her throw in the towel. We talked her off the ledge by explaining that the third grade girls were on different teams.

During Helen's first practice, which I note was held when it was cold enough outside that Connor's team opted to skip practice (good for me, as I had one fewer places to get a child to that night), the head coach's older daughter played first base. Helen walked out of practice excitedly reporting they had a THIRD GRADE GIRL on the team - which obviously a ringer, and obviously good news. She was a little disappointed when she learned the third grader wasn't a permanent part of the team.

She's tougher than she thinks. And she can stare down anyone.

Practices were rained and snowed out and finally, Saturday arrived, and it was game time. Helen was nervous before the game, noting they'd only practiced once. Ed and I assured her that the coaches would tell her what to do. And really, Helen has no idea, but she has absorbed a lot about baseball over the past three years. She's in great shape.

The game went off without a hitch. Helen played hard, hit the ball off the tee, and ran straight down the line. One of the assistant coaches spent a lot of time with her, which really made her feel good about what was going on.

My heart melted at the end of the game. We were leaving and Helen exclaimed "That was awesome!".

Indeed, Helen. You go girl.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Another season...

Connor's soccer team used to be terrible. Some shuffling of players, combining of various squads, and general improvement seem to be paying off. Last fall, they made it to the play-offs and were third. But the team typically struggles in spring because most of the boys choose to play baseball instead. Only a few of the boys play both. Connor is one of those boys. It likely stems from Ed and I loving baseball, but Connor really enjoys soccer.

I missed most of today's game. I had attended an impromptu baseball practice in the morning in lieu of a canceled game. Then I went to Helen's first softball game (more on that, next). After lunch, I went on a 6 mile run to take down signs I had posted for a sale that took place earlier in the day. By the time I got to soccer, there wasn't a ton of time left.

But timing is everything, because as soon as I was in view of the field, Connor got right in the middle of the action and launched the ball away from the goal his team was defending, toward another member of his team. "Bravo! I shouted." And several of the moms applauded my very timely entrance.

And then the moms went on to tell me that Connor had actually been good that day. Now, none of these women would ever say anything negative about Connor's play, but there's no doubt he is not the star of the team. What he lacks in talent, he makes up for in enthusiasm though, and this is a pretty important characteristic for Connor - since typically he doesn't get that excited about anything that's not in a Minecraft video game.

I have often said what I love about soccer is that there are enough levels of play - that everyone should end up where they belong. The very best boys go play on travel soccer teams. They are truly awesome. We had a boy bound for travel soccer on our team once, and it seemed as if any time his foot touched the ball it went into the goal. It was amazing. He was singlehandedly (or signlefootedly, as the case may be) beating other teams. The coach had to implement rules like "no scoring - just passing" for this guy. By the time you get to rec league, you basically have a team of school friends that just want to play.

Today, though, it seems that Connor wasn't just the captain of cheer for the team. Instead, he chased down another player who was heading for a goal, stole the ball, and got it turned around. I saw several clean passes he made. One of the moms came and asked Connor if he had drunk "soccer juice" for breakfast.

It was really fun to watch. The coaches each made a point of telling Connor about some nice play he had made.

The best moment of the game was when a boy on our team managed to in-bounds a ball, get it straight to the open player, who kicked the ball hard - and right into the goal. A last-second goal which tied the game. No, Connor was not either of those players, but the whole game was filled with boys kicking the ball to their teammates in a timely manner and really playing with joy.

I hope it's the start of a really fun season.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April Fool's Day

I think Helen was the April Fool's victor yesterday. She started on March 31 by taping the light in the refrigerator so it stayed turned off. I casually mentioned to Ed that the light was broken and it was making Helen nuts. By the time Helen and I got home from Connor's soccer practice, Ed and both bulbs out of the refrigerator and was preparing to replace them.

The next morning, on April Fool's Day, Helen told the parent who was taking her to school that they were going to the park (which they do on Wednesday), not school - hadn't he gotten the message? She's reliable enough that he probably did believe her, though maybe he was just playing along.

Then, according to Helen, she told her classmates at school "your shoe is untied" followed by "April Fool's".

Not bad for a 6 year old.

Connor got a couple of jokes in, Ed got one in on Connor, and our au pair had paper fish hidden in all sorts of crazy places, which made for a lot of laughs as Connor and Helen discovered them. I have a feeling we'll be finding them for a few days!

I sent Ed into a panic at work, which I thought was pretty good since I had told him earlier in the day I had a trick planned.

All in all, a good start to SPRING! May it officially be here. (It snowed on Sunday. A part of me started sobbing when I saw it. But since Monday it has been SUNNY!)


Thursday, March 27, 2014


Tonight, I showed Connor a video that was a tribute to runners training for Boston. It reminded me that while I don't always love running (I am seriously sore from 7 sub 9:00 miles at the track this morning), I do always love runners.

I love runners because - at least the ones I hang out with - are collectively cheering on every other runner they see. I appreciate that kind of energy. Runners also put their whole self where their mouth is. If they encourage you to run? They will run with you. It is so much easier to run with someone than to run by yourself.

They also don't care about anyone's time but their own. I suspect, still, this is a product of not being an elite runner who has a chance to win things. Those people might care how other people run. But at my speed? We pull someone along who's having a difficult run and we draft (figuratively) off someone when we're having our own troubles. In the end, we celebrate each step.

As we watched the video, Connor and I each made a promise to each other.

My promise to Connor? Should you ever be in a wheelchair, I will take you on the ride of your life as I push it. This, because Connor was so impressed by Dick Hoyt pushing his quadriplegic son in a wheelchair.

Connor's promise to me? He's going to make a sign that says "go Mommy" if I ever run a marathon. He'll include "and Daddy" on the sign if Ed runs it as well.

I'm hoping one of those promises gets kept.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tulip Babies

The Spring Dance at Helen's school is coming up. It's another one of those bittersweet milestones. Helen will most definitely remember many of the dances that are repeated each year, and she'll run around with her friends like she owns the place for the day. And even though we'd be welcomed back next year - this will likely be our last year attending the dance. Connor will be attending a birthday party instead, which he will be thrilled about. He still knows a few children at his old school, but he's not a huge fan of square dancing. He'll love the party more.

The handwork group leader has come up with lots of fun projects for the handwork group which will be for sale at the dance. She pinned some "tulip babies" on our group pinterest board, and I was thrilled that she reverse engineered the project and gave me a pattern. In exchange, I'm giving her the four tulips on the left to sell at the dance. The one on the right goes to Helen.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Third Grade

There's a natural tension between parents, teachers, and school administrators. Parents need to worry about their own child(ren), teachers need to worry about their class, and school administrators must worry about the whole enchilada. When all of these interests align, I imagine things are fantastic on all fronts. But I'm also guessing that for a fair number of people, the interests of these three groups aren't perfectly aligned, and the natural tension becomes more obvious. Ultimately, of course, the administrator wins. And you hope she wins in a way that isn't too costly for your particular child.

Back in first grade, I remember an off-handed comment that was made to me about third grade. I kept that in the back of my head, and did my very best to head the concern off during the first week of school. Now, many emails, appointments, and frustrations later - I am tired. I feel like there are simple solutions but the will to implement them is lacking.

I have, for all intents and purposes, an easy child to have in a classroom. Why? Because he knows how to sit still, pay attention, be quiet, and completes standardized tests with ease. The downside of this is that when there's someone in the class who demands attention, it's easy for my bookworm to settle into his desk, pull out a book, and read. I sense that he's allowed to do this because the teacher has more urgent issues to address. I don't want to contemplate the number of hours that child reads in class each week - but I will say that he finishes at least two, and sometimes three, books each week. Typical fare includes Hardy Boys, C.S. Lewis books, and Lemony Snickets. Is this normal? Is this appropriate?

It's the end of March. We have three more months of school. THREE. MONTHS. When people talk about "no child left behind", they often do so in the context of making sure everyone performs at or above grade level. But there's another group of children being left behind. And I'm pretty sure we can do better.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Living 40: Rock and Roll Recap - First Half Marathon

I want to remember this one for a while. Goal time? Two hours. My friend Rob paced me and told me on Thursday night we would cross the line at 1:57. Not a bad guess, eh?

Thank you Rob. You were steady the whole way through. You knew I had lost 10 seconds on the hill at mile 5 but stayed calm. (Thank you, Moms Run This Town ladies who were at the bottom of that hill cheering! You made that hill seem a lot smaller.) Rob, you did not freak out around mile 8 when I threw a cup of water on myself. I was wearing a t-shirt and warm leggings - and I was dressed way too warmly. I should've worn shorts or capris. At mile 10, you told me I had two minutes to spare, so I needed to turn it up if I wanted a little more cushion, but I'd be fine if I kept my pace. It was a subtle way to tell me that now was not the time to slow down. If you hadn't been there, I would've walked for a minute because I was tired, at that point. But because you were there, I sped up, and told myself I was sticking to your shoulder. I clocked my fastest mile at the end - 7:56 - the only timed sub-8 minute mile I have ever run - and you knew I was going super fast for me, and again, you just kept up and stayed calm. Knowing you were there meant a lot. And finally, when I misestimated how far away the finish line was, and realized it was a lot closer to 0.3 miles than 0.1 miles away, you just laughed as I grumbled something that rhymes with "go duck".

Loved my negative splits.

Loved my run.

Loved it when a woman who runs by / with me at the track on Thursday mornings drove by my house on Sunday to issue congratulations.

Considering a half marathon trail race this fall and a marathon next year.

On pace to hit 1,000 miles by December 31.

I love you, 40.