Sunday, July 17, 2016

Summer - Week 3

This past week, Connor went to sports camp all week and Helen went to Junior Naturalist camp.

Even though Junior Naturalist camp ended with Helen being stung by a wasp 3 times - twice by her eye and once on her back - I can tell this camp is going to be hard to beat. Every day the kids did some cool activity, and they spent pretty much the entire time outside.

Highlights included building their own shelters, going on a stream hike, and going on a morning hike at a different nature center that ended up at a water park. As far as I can tell,  the leaders of the camp brought a ton of energy to their jobs, and it was obvious everyone just adored Helen - which I'm sure is partly because the kid was so happy!

Connor's camp was OK, but not great. It's been super hot here, and playing outside pretty strenuously was a bit more than Connor was up for (especially as he looked back fondly on his prior week in video game camp).

This week, we're chillin' with the in-laws in the Adirondacks. The trip started a bit rough, when Ed tried to put air in the car tires. The nozzle that you put air into broke off - and all of the air in that tire escaped. Thankfully, he was able to get the little spare tire on, we found a service station that not only stayed open late to get our car on the road, they then refused to charge us. When I tried to give the guy who had saved our vacation $40, he told me he could not possibly accept it, took $20 and said he'd split it. People from Pennsylvania are clearly the nicest people on earth.

Prior to the mini disaster, we had been whitewater rafting in the morning which ended Helen's longstanding fear of "foot traps" and whitewater. She is now ready to brave the rapids in Cessky Krumlov when we go there in August.

The kids had more fun running around today with their cousins than one would think possible, and by the end of the day, Helen's eye (which had been swollen completely shut the morning before) looked basically normal. She was also so tired that even though a cousin spent the night, she wasn't even tempted to stay up late chatting.

I rocked 6 miles in the hills with Ed and am looking forward to more tomorrow. These miles are happier than others because I had a 2-day bout with sciatica that I thought would surely end my dreams of running MCM. But game on - my back has been fine for the past week.

Elaine

Monday, July 11, 2016

Summer - Week 2!

And boom! Just like that, another week of summer has slipped away.

Helen and I went to Chicago (woohoo!) to visit a friend of mine from college, discovered that another friend from college happened to be visiting as well which resulted in a BBQ after a fairground hook-up. Photos in another post, when I remember to download the things off my phone.

When we returned, Helen spent her days at Knights of Columbus camp - which mostly meant hanging outside almost all day. Helen reported the camp was a lot more fun when she had slept the night before, than when she hadn't. This did not, however, encourage her to not sneak a book in bed at night! So yes, that makes two children that I now must wrestle books from after bedtime. This after hours parenting schtick is tiresome.

Connor went away to Boy Scout camp. Ed accompanied him for the first few (and rainy) days. Again, photos from that soon, if I can figure out how to pull them off Facebook. Sigh. Technology.

Helen enjoyed her stint as an only child, soaking up the attention, ability to choose what game we played at night, and even a night out dining with Ed and me. As soon as Connor returned, Helen spent the night at a friend's house, so he also got his own dining night out. Helen went for pizza followed by a trip to Pinkberry - Connor opted for Mussel Bar (a surprisingly kid friendly joint at 6:00).

Marathon training is officially on - and was kicked off by some mysterious ailment that I think was an acute case of sciatica. I could not even move without tremendous pain for two days, then I ran for 6 miles and everything seemed to loosen up (though my foot seemed to be trying to fall asleep a bit) and then the next day I ran 8 miles and voila - I was fine. I don't understand what happened and am naturally hopefully that this is just some weirdo thing associated with being old that doesn't pop up again this training cycle. I'm not quite ready to give up on running Marine Corps Marathon again. However, I really cannot miss any at-home training - given how many days away from home I'll be this summer. I'm already going to be plugging in a ton of solo miles, which will be tedious, I'm sure.

In other, possibly more exciting news, Helen has fully immersed herself in the internet and all it has to offer via an old iphone. We decided to get Connor a phone, and patiently waited for a buy  one get one free offer that I had heard were rare, but possible. The offer arrived, I took advantage of it, and Ed and I upgraded to new phones. This pushed my still decent phone to Connor, and Ed's barely serviceable phone down to Helen. There's no plan on Helen's phone, but she immediately got herself hooked up to the wifi in our house. She then proceeded to pretend to be just vaguely familiar with the vast expanse known as the internet, and asked me if I could help her find videos of puppies. As soon as I picked her phone up, she reached over, clicked on the internet and "Look Mom! I guess I already found them!". Oh dear. A wiser parent would've seen this as a sign of what's to come, but not me.

And what is to come, you might wonder? The next day she found a rent-a-puppy website, complete with price variation relating to cuteness of the puppy. I fully expect a puppy to show up at our house any day, as soon as she figures out how to enter the credit card information. Fun times are ahead, I'm sure. It might be time to up my parenting game.

Elaine


Friday, July 1, 2016

Summer...week 1

Helen tried out a playwriting camp this week and Connor went to video game camp. Yes, that's a real thing. No, I don't really want to sit and think about how much dumber he probably got. I'm just focusing on how happy he was most days.

Helen's camp was filled with middle schoolers, which was naturally impressive to Helen. When I saw the camp counselor on the second day of camp, he told me she was able to hang with them,  so hopefully that's true. She certainly seems like she's had a good time - although I fear it has moved her even closer to understanding and emulating teens.

The best example of this is that a few days ago, I upgraded everyone's phone. I had decided getting Connor one for middle school was  a good idea. After all, we definitely need another electronic device in this house to fight about. IPhone 6s were on sale buy one, get one free - so I upgraded my 5 (which originally came from my brother-in-law) and got Ed a 6. This left my 5 for Connor and Helen quickly seized on the fact that there was now an iPhone 3 not in use by anyone in the household. She claimed it as her own, even though it doesn't have service.

The first thing she did was to look up puppy videos. She must have seen some with a friend and decided they were the best the internet had to offer. She came up to me asking innocently how to search for puppy videos, but as soon as she clicked on the internet icon to do the search, results from a current search "Puppy Videos" was displayed. I have no idea how many of these things she has discovered, but I do know that kid loves her wifi. She is continually disappointed that neither Ed nor I will allow her to take the phone to camp. I don't think she has quite figured out that without our home wifi, she's got a brick.

Helen's group wrote a tragedy. She is a princess that dies in the show. I'll see the fruits of her labor this afternoon - before we head out of town to Chicago!

Elaine

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Weekend trip - -Ed

Ed took the lead and planned a family outing for Memorial Day weekend. It came complete with hiking, a hotel overnight, and canoeing. I was more than a bit nervous about the canoeing - and having the kids debate who should get to ride with me did not help. Helen felt she should be on my team, because she's lighter; Connor felt he should be on my team because he can paddle better. Ed offered that I could be my own team (who says there's no I in team?) and rent a 1 person kayak. The kayak actually made me even more nervous than the canoe. Plus, I know a little bit about Helen and I knew that despite her excitement at the idea of a long canoe trip, she'd be complaining at some point and complaining with two other people in the boat seemed a setup for getting on too many nerves.

So...we compromised and decided the kids would shift canoes halfway through the adventure (which turned out to be about 1/3 of the way into the adventure, just by chance). Helen (predictably) lost steam a couple of miles into the canoe ride. I was glad to have her in my canoe, lest Ed feel the need to flip her over the edge and not look back! 

First up was the hike. The somewhat strange thing about the hike was that it started at the top of the mountain, dipped down to a waterfall, and then we had to climb back up. Up is hard when it's hot and you haven't been hiking in a while. Ed tried to infuse a little levity into our hike by jumping over a tree branch that was blocking the path. I'm still shocked that he was able to jump over it AND Connor successfully jumped over it a few times as well. When we got close to the end, Ed let the rest of us stop early as he ran to get the car while we waited at a parking lot for him. I had already run 10+ miles that morning (in the heat!) so I didn't offer to get the car, though normally I would. 



That night, we visited a restaurant that Ed and Connor had enjoyed on their previous Front Royal trip, and then in a great stroke of timing - Angry Birds was playing at the movie theater in town - and we arrived about 5 minutes before it started. Of course, it took forever and a day for the previews to play, and I don't even remember any of the movies being advertised. Strangest thing about the movie? The people behind us - adults without children - were complaining about the stupidity of the movie...loudly. What did they expect?

Helen and Connor made the movie completely endurable because they kept cracking up at the stupid humor, which made me laugh along with them. I think Ed felt a wee bit dumber at the end, but he has a few extra brain cells so all in all, I think he weathered it OK.
The next day was the big canoe trip. We hopped into a bus that took us upstream. So far, so good. We then began meandering down the river. Things learned that day include (1) how to blast water into the other canoe with a paddle; (2) how to paddle with your feet (something Helen made up during a stint of boredom); and (3) boys don't pay attention very well (OK, we already knew that). The crowning achievement of our canoe ride was tricking the boys into going through a very small rapid backwards. It provided enough laughter for Helen that she was able to soldier on to the end of the trip. The boys were intent on splashing us, but weren't paying attention to the river. As they maneuvered around into position, we lured them to the side of the river - and then we took off, leaving them backwards in bumpy water. They might have a different version of the story. They can start their own blog.

We ended the trip with milkshakes and still had Monday to do some deep cleaning and tossing out of stuff - something that has been a theme for too long in our home.

Elaine


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Talking Guns

A few years ago, I was at a family funeral. My cousin's son told me this story - and I think it's important because it's an indicator that it's not just that we disagree about the place of guns, it's that we're not even in the same room talking to each other.

My cousin's son described to me that every week, during hunting season, his buddies and he get in a buddy's pick-up truck and they go hunting. My cousin's son rides shotgun. A third friend rides in the back.

One week, my cousin's son was ill. He didn't go on the weekly trip. The guy that normally sits in the backseat was promoted to riding shotgun.

That week, the driver's gun went off. It was loaded. A bullet blasted through the friend's head. Dead.

My cousin's son told me this story as I'm sure my eyes were popping out of my head and he concluded it with this.

"Clearly, God has plans for me, or I would've been in the truck that week."

Before he made this statement, I am sitting there thinking- OMG, I cannot imagine anything more traumatic than knowing a friend's brains were blasted out because of an accidental misfire from a gun, and this is surely the moment when you are going to say "I used to be all-in for recreational guns but now, I just cannot support it. No friend should have a bullet planted through their brains." That's not what he's saying.

In fact, that's not even close to what he said. He made his friend's death a statement about his own worthiness. His friend's death was a wake-up call to him to make the most of his life, because he was spared.

We need to figure out how to get in the same room, because there are too many gun deaths in this country every year.

Elaine

Sunday, June 12, 2016

News

I don't read the newspaper very often. It stresses me out. It makes me sad. It is just a little more reality than I can handle on a daily basis. Instead of diving into the front page, I skirt around searching for articles of interest either because they intersect my work or someone has recommended them to me.

Today was another one of those days. My facebook feed was full of people standing strong with the families of the many people who were gunned down in Orlando. I don't know any of the facts, really, just that a machine gun - just like the one used in Newtown - was used again to commit mass murder.

It makes me sad, but deep down I do believe that eventually we're going to win this one.

But I am very much wondering how many people are going to be sacrificed to the cause before we do.




Elaine


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Spring and Summer with prAna - with discount code

Spring is here - or at least it was, for a few days. And with spring came my desire to add a few new pieces to my wardrobe. I jumped at the chance to add another item from prAna (last winter, I snagged a winter coat that is both warm and more stylish than my old coat, a corduroy skirt which fits perfectly, and a shirt for Ed which is easily the most stylish thing in his wardrobe).
I'm still  drooling over a few dresses, but I made it out to a Memorial Day brunch sporting this dress.
It's the "Quinn Dress". I was giving it a test drive for my upcoming vacation with Helen. I'm visiting a friend from college, and I want to be both stylish AND I need my outfit to be functional at whatever playground we end up on. This dress is made with this stretchy quick drying fabric (a huge plus) AND has  a built in bra (fewer pieces for me to remember) and I'd say it's true to size.
Next on my list are these two skorts, which I'll be purchasing using my prAna discount code - SCS16ELMA - which you can use, too. It's good for 15 percent off until July 7.

All of these are candidates for my suitcase, which is bound for Prague and Vienna this summer. We've locked down housing reservations for that trip, so I'm starting to get excited!
Elaine
I was gifted the Quinn dress. I've purchased several pieces from prAna and so far, they've held up very well. They are solidly on my "go to" list when it comes to shopping!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Boy Scouts

Another one coming off the "draft" board...

I have a very complicated relationship with the Boy Scouts. Nationally, they are often turds. Yet, Connor has a ton of fun with his troop. He enjoys the other boys, he enjoys the activities, and I've been impressed with small gestures I've seen from older troop members toward younger troop members. I think Connor will find some comfort in middle school when he's walking down the hall and an older student says "hi".

This year's end of the year banquet was a biggie. Connor officially moved from cub scout to boy scout. (It was also a biggie for Ed because it meant he could retire his volunteer roll as troop leader, something he did not seem sad about letting go of.) I presumed this year's banquet would be like every other year's banquet, which would mean there would be some mild chaos, troop leaders would announce awards, kids would provide entertainment that was pretty half-assed, and we'd share a meal. (For the record, the banquet was super well organized by a few moms in the troop - not me - and the meal was really yummy, thanks to catering gone awry at one of the attendees' parties the night before.)

What I did not realize, perhaps because I have ducked out of these banquets early pretty regularly over the years, is that there would be a point in the night when the 5th graders would invite their parents onto the stage to stand with them as they ceremonially wrapped up their cub scout careers. Guess who wore jeans to the banquet? Guess who wore her "LOVE WINS" shirt? To be fair, I was wearing that particular shirt because I attended the local Odyssey of the Mind tournament earlier in the day, and it is solidly my lucky shirt. Whenever I wear it, people are extra nice to me. They smile at me more than usual, they comment on how much they like my shirt. And if they are part of the Momastery,  they instantly call me out as a sister.

Fortunately or unfortunately, this shirt is also received as a pro gay marriage shirt. To be clear, I am all in on gay marriage. There is no legitimate argument against it in my mind. But the boy scouts are not so sure about that, and if I had thought about it, I might have worn the shirt anyway. I did not think about it.

So I went up onstage, stood next to Ed (who was in full boy scout leader regalia) and mentioned to him that alerting me to this portion of the ceremony might have ended in my NOT wearing a shirt that could be perceived as controversial and not wearing jeans and sneakers. He then made the moment even more awkward, by sort of standing in front of me to block the shirt, probably assuming this would make me more comfortable. But instead, I felt even weirder because he is taller than me, so I was sort of trying to look like I wasn't being elbowed out of the way, while also not moving much and drawing attention away from whatever was going on at the banquet.

***New material added to original draft below ***

A few days ago, I received an email from Ed about Boy Scouts and an upcoming ceremony. The email highlighted that perhaps I would like to NOT wear my LOVE WINS shirt to the event described in the note. And while I do most certainly appreciate this tip, I'm now thinking "how can I show up at a scouting event not wearing it? I might have a reputation to uphold, even if nobody even noticed my shirt at the first event".

Connor and Helen most certainly do not see my shirt as a statement on marriage equality. When I asked Connor if I should wear my "love wins" shirt, he sighed and asked me if I could just dress like a "normal parent" and not stick out. Helen immediately piped up in support of the shirt, letting me know that "EVERYBODY loves my LOVE WINS" shirt. Ahh...the innocence of youth where the world is so clear.

And a dilemma.

Elaine

Friday, June 3, 2016

Teacher Pleasers and Not Teacher Pleasers

I started this post a few months ago, and didn't have the heart to post it then. But I think it makes an important reflection on Connor's and Helen's elementary school days, so I'm pulling it off the "draft" board - and posting it now.

As long as students and teachers have existed, there have probably been students who want to please their teacher, and students who do not care. I have one of each in my home. One of those children is particularly easy when it comes to schooling. She's happy to do the work (even if it gets mundane) and she really wants to make her teacher proud. The other one doesn't really care if his teacher is happy with him or not, and I think he would go so far as to say "if I'm not happy, no reason for you to be happy". Shared misery, baby.

My non-teacher pleaser is not alone in being bored at school. In class, I'm confident in saying his class is pretty packed with kids who are likely bored. But half of them are fine with this boredom - they are teacher pleasers. They sit and listen. A few are willing to daydream, sketch, or do something under the radar. And then there's one, maybe two, who have decided that outright defiance is the answer, so they read. Guess who the teacher does not like?

Although I frustrated my elementary teachers, I was definitely more aligned with the teacher pleaser, at least through grade 4. (Grades 5 and 6 were taught by the same person - and I think we both walked away worse for those two years.) In 7th and 8th grade, I was an obnoxious twit in enough classes that I think I can safely say I had crossed the line into not being a teacher pleaser, and high school was a mixed bag.

Often, I look at my non-teacher pleasing kid and think "just do the effing work with a smile and be done with it". But just so my non-teacher pleasing kid knows it some day, I'm also pretty impressed that you can look at the big picture, identify something as too trivial to care about it, and let it go.

Elaine

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Miles to run

The Marine Corps Marathon is my goal race this year. Everything else is just for fun. There are miles to be run in pursuit of that marathon. Many, many miles.


The weather has turned into full on summer here. Sadly, that has been a huge setback for me in terms of endurance, pace, and excitement to hit the road. The one thing keeping me going is that I really love the women I'm running with these days (same group I've been with for over a year). They are just this amazing source of can-do.


One of the (many) things we've done so far this year was the GW Parkway Classic 10 miler. That race is coordinated by one of the local running stores, and it is top notch from start to finish. They even allow people who are worried about hitting the course cutoff time to start super early. If that does not tell you there are races for everyone, I don't know what would.


There are a bajillion fun races in the area - a quick search on Eventbrite yielded many in the next few weeks - varying from mud runs (Ed and I joined friends for one of these 3 years ago), to moonbounce runs (a couple of friends tried this last year), to low-key 5Ks, and even some pretty big endurance event. If you, like me, lack motivation - a race to look forward to can keep you on track with training.


The bonus of signing up for an event via Eventbrite is that you'll get notified of similar events in the future. We've used their ticketing system to attend a lot of children's events, which has yielded emails about some great events that I wouldn't have known about otherwise. I am considering using their "sell tickets" feature for a few school activities I'm organizing in the upcoming year. On the surface, it at least looks easy to use - and the fees are fairly modest.


But...back to my tired self...I've kept my racing lineup to a minimum, because although they provide motivation, they also take a ton of extra time - and it works best for me to minimize my run time on what tend to be busy weekends. That said, I joined a Ragnar team with my friends, and that race is going to be run with only smiles, I promise. Ragnar is a 200 mile relay race from Cumberland, MD to DC. It actually gets super close to my home towards the end, which I think will be fun. Of the 12 women on my team, a handful will also run MCM, so I suspect it'll be our training run for the weekend.


But now, in June, I am looking at my tired self, looking at my friend's race plan which calls for a 14 mile run this weekend, and wondering how the heck am I going to do this?


To my running friends - just get out there! The heat will break eventually, right?


Elaine