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.


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.


Sunday, June 12, 2016


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.


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!
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.


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.


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?


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Spring Baseball

We have had a LOT of rain this spring. I think about one-third of Connor and Helen's games were cancelled, which got to be beyond tiresome. And sadly, the week my parents came out to visit was no exception. I was particularly crushed by the rainouts while they were visiting because every time they watch Connor play ball he has a great game.

Fortunately, his luck that usually comes from grandparents in the crowd came around these past two games. A few days ago, I arrived to the field (after being sent home to retrieve a cap that Connor THOUGHT he had left at home but he had actually left it AT SCHOOL!) to find a very happy kid. He had gotten a hit (which was actually hit a few feet from the first baseman, died in the mud, and for whatever reason the first baseman didn't bother to reach down and pick it up for the out). No matter, he stole second, stole third, and rounded home on another player's hit.

He then clocked a legit single into the outfield between first and second base. The ball was fielded, but not in time. I am always extra proud of my kids when they run hard down the baseline.

And then yesterday, as Helen and I were heading from the pool to the game, he got another hit, which was a actually a fielder's choice. It ended up being scored as a double, because he hit the ball to second, the second baseman threw home to try and get the guy before Connor in the line-up out at home. (That kid has hit multiple TRIPLES this season - which is awesome for Connor because I think it throws the pitcher off a bit before Connor comes up to bat!) Connor looked up, saw that nobody was paying attention at second, and without being told to run by the coach, stole the base.

That steal would be important, because it allowed him to get home on a single two batters later. There was a play at the plate, and the coach at third had NOT told Connor to keep going, but Connor had it in his head he could make it. Luckily, he was right. After that, a new pitcher was called in, and that was the end of the hitting for a while.

It's been really nice to watch Connor get on a bit of a roll toward the end of the season. One more regular season game - and then they play-offs.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Wanting to go to school

This morning, for what might be the first time since second grade, Connor told me he wanted to go to school. The context was that today was his last SOL (state end-of-year test). He has learned that after the SOLs are finished, school actually gets pretty fun.

For starters, his reading group was self-selected. And even though he has had outstanding groups all year, it's a nice treat to be surrounded with friends. Nicest of all was that three of the boys are natural fit partners, and the fourth seems like a good fit - though I'm not sure Connor has ever noticed him much. The three grouped quickly and the fourth was looking for a group so the three boys invited him in. It was a nice gesture that made me proud. Connor has been a real "tester" of my nerves lately, so I needed a reminder that he's not a surly turd all of the time.

His gifted teacher scored a few robots from the PTA, so he knows that programming is coming up, which should be fun. Related, I was looking for report card folders a few days ago because both children's teachers sent me a note that I still needed to turn the folders back in with my comments. (My former self used to get these returned a lot more quickly!) I ran across Connor's third grade folder, and noticed he had scored a 98 percent in math...on the beginning of year pretest. I didn't absorb this much at the time, but looking back - all I can think is "just what exactly did they think they were going to teach him?", given their utter lack of creativity in deviating from the curriculum. Ed pointed out that they could've just given him a school computer and told him to create a video game. It would've allowed him to develop a useful skill (programming logic), it probably would've been fun for him, and it wouldn't have required much in the way of additional resources (certainly not anything beyond what Ed and I could provide). Programming now? Awesome. Programming then? I think it would've been a good fit.

His math class has turned into a fun design project that will require a fair amount of math application. He's interested in the project, and reports to me about it pretty regularly. Oh, where was this project all those days he was bored?

I still have absolutely no idea what he does in writing or Social Studies.

Science has kept him interested the entire year, and there's a sense that it's only going to get better.

I remember last year, about this time, the gifted teacher and I were talking and queried "why can't we do this kind of learning all year long?" because the classes really do come alive.

And of course, there's field day, fifth grade lock-in at the school, and a few school parties yet to enjoyed.

I do believe we're going to get to the end. keep from crying when I say good-bye to Helen's teacher for the final time since she's retiring this year. I am grateful every day that Helen had her as a teacher. She was a perfect fit teacher for both Connor and Helen.


Monday, May 9, 2016

Glebe 5K - 2016 Recap

Another school 5K is in the books - and even with a slightly longer course (an actual 5K, rather than the 3 miler of years' past), both Connor and Helen got a PR. More importantly, I got to run with Connor and he ran a perfect race, complete with negative splits AND a super fast finishing mile, and Helen went sub-30 for the first time! Proud mom here!

Our training was not as consistent as I would've liked. We got most runs in (running 3 days per week for a month), but not all - including missing some key longer runs. What I think helped Connor a lot was a day he and I went out and ran the race course (mostly), starting from our house. This is key, because it means we get the two fairly big hills on the official course, plus one more that's between our house and the course. This means I can tell Connor he's running a harder course than the actual race, which gives him a lot of confidence for the race. Helen and I also had two great neighborhood hill runs. On one of them, she was just not into running. We decided we would head out and see how we felt after a half mile, giving ourselves permission to turn back early. As soon as we got out, we noticed that our neighbors have some amazing flowers. So we bopped from street to street, looking for the most beautiful flowers, which was enough to keep Helen's mind off the hard physical work she was doing. We ran a lot of hills that day, completed almost 3 full miles, and at the end, Helen felt great. A second run was a good long hill up to return a friend's keys, followed by sprinkles that looked like they would turn to pouring rain soon (which they did), which gave us good motivation to run home, fast.

Per usual, getting Helen to the startling line was perhaps the most difficult aspect of the race. Although her training runs were done remarkably well, steadily improving pace and pretty much keeping up with Connor most days - she requires a LOT of race day accommodations. She had decided to wear her running skirt and a tank top (an outfit I can certainly support, as it is my preferred race day outfit as well), but a chilly predicted start meant she wanted to add my running sleeves and her running tights. But the sleeves got left at home on race day, so she insisted she needed to run with a bulky, zip-up sweater she owns. She needed music playing for her via my iPhone (I sing to her, but have never carried music for her) and she also needed water. (I always carry water for Helen when we run, so this last one was not a surprise.) For a brief period, she also wanted Ed (now known officially as the running sherpa) to carry a squirt bottle and spritz her throughout the race as needed. I did draw the line there, given that Ed has only 2 hands and if one of them had water and one had my phone, there simply wasn't going to be room to carry a squirt bottle, too. Helen and I compromised when I told her my parents (who were visiting for the week) could stand on the course and spritz her as she ran by them. (Luckily, it was too cool on race day to even contemplate this, so the squirt bottle was left at home.) Finally, she decided to wear my LUNA visor, which has a built in sweatband, but even after adjusting it to its smallest size, she needed another sweatband beneath it to keep it in place. Both of these items, along with the sweater that got shed mid-race, would also end up in Ed's hands.

Connor was a champ. That kid needs a pacer and a bottle of Gatorade and he is ready. He has totally internalized the "go out easy", but also has a fantastic kick at the end which he proved he could sustain for a long time. And his easy is not that easy anymore.

We got tangled up in traffic at the start. I didn't want to start at the front of the pack because it's too tempting to try and keep up with the super fast racers (who will run sub-20 minutes 5Ks). The middle of the pack is good for pace, but the race starts with a big bottleneck, and that's difficult to get through. It definitely cost us time, but not much distance. The course was changed from running around a field to start (too muddy!) to running out and back on a street. My parents were stationed about half mile into the race, and having them cheer was great. The whole course is out and back on a bike trail so we also got to see them toward the end when Connor was just killing it.

This is just about at the end of the race. Connor is running an 8:24 mile, and speeding up. 
Helen is free as a bird - Ed is balancing everything, without missing a step. Importantly, Helen can hear the music and is one song ahead of where she needs to be to finish her playlist. She's definitely feeling good here.

Connor's official time was 27:20. Helen's official time was 29:21. As fast as these both are, they were both 5th in their age groups. There are some fast kids out there!