Sunday, April 29, 2012

Helen's View of Williamsburg

We just got back from our first home exchange! We went to Williamsburg for the weekend while a couple from Williamsburg came to DC for the big Science Fair. At one point today, Helen said

Helen: "Didn't George Washington die a long time ago?"
Ed: "Yes"
Helen: "Well people should just forget about him!"

This took place after touring the Governor's Palace, when Helen believed she had been invited to a ball that evening and was a little disappointed when I explained to her the tour guide was just pretending.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Connor Joins the Ranks of Men Everywhere in the Relationship Department

Me: Connor, what's up with E?
Connor: I don't know. For a long time, we were going to marry each other. Then, she got mad at me.
Me: Why?
Connor: I have no idea.

You might not realize it now, Connor, but there are men across the globe sharing this same thought with you tonight.

Friday, April 27, 2012 the School Store

After the semester break, a "school store" opened. I presume it's some fun way to teach math or something of that ilk, but maybe it's for kids who lose their stuff. I don't know.

My drop-off day is Friday. Occasionally, when I work from home on Thursday, I drop off Thursday as well. Thursday happens to be one of the days the school store is open. Because I can't seem to manage to get Connor to school very early and I often don't have my wallet with me (which lessens the chance of getting fleeced by some random request to buy something - but also means I can't take a detour to the coffee shop on the way home), he wasn't able to make a purchase at the store a few weeks ago. So I told him we could make a purchase the next day, but the store wasn't open the next day because it was Friday (possibly why I didn't realize it had existed for so long?).

This past Thursday, I sent him with $2. I told him to not purchase something we didn't need - like a canvas bag with the school's name on it or a pencil (because apparently pencils reproduce in our house because we have about 20 million, none of which is ever sharpened).

As soon as Connor got to school, he left his babysitter in the dust, darting through the front door straight to the school store. She turned to walk Helen home, and at that point, Connor purchased 2 erasers that look like hands (because we need those?).

However, when he got home that night, he gave me $1 change and showed me 1 eraser and told me it cost $1. I was a little shocked at the price tag, but it was $1, so not really worthy of much investigation.


Today, when I picked Connor up from school early, I spent a few minutes talking to his teacher at recess. She told me that Connor had purchased an eraser from the school store and given it to E., a girl he has been saying he will marry for quite some time. Apparently, they hold hands in line whenever girls are in one line and boys are in another, they sit next to each other all the time, and by all accounts, Connor is the driving force in this relationship, if you can call it that. At recess today, E. came up to me and told her Connor was trying to kiss her. I told her to tell her she wanted a high five.

What's funny is, this relationship seems to be contained exclusively to school. Connor never talks about E. at home, he didn't want to invite her to our annual egg hunt, and really, I have no idea where the whole thing comes from!

But, I did think it was cute that he bought her an eraser. I'm sure she loved it, and he did fess up to having purchased 2 erasers and giving 1 away when I asked about it today.

Ahhh...first grade love.


Friday, April 20, 2012

"I Don't Think I've Ever Had a Bad Day"

Today, Helen and I ate lunch with Connor and several of his classmates and their moms. One of the moms had been volunteering in the classroom that morning and she told me she about died from cute today. Apparently, the students were studying cause and effect, and their task was to write a cause and effect story about a very bad day they had.

Connor drew a blank, looked at the other mother and said "I don't think I've ever had a bad day". As it should be, she thought.

Tonight, when I was putting Connor to bed, he ranted amid tears that he "never got anything he wanted".

I think I'd like to parent Connor during the day and turn him over to his teacher at night - especially nights at the end of very long weeks.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

The 6th Annual Egg Hunt

Since 2007, we've been hosting an egg hunt at our home. This is something my parents did for my sister and I for enough years that I have lots of memories of the event. Our hunt started innocently enough. A friend and I were knitting, I tossed out the idea, she threw in that she wanted to make a cake shaped like a bunny and a tradition was born.

At first, we'd have adults hide the eggs and the kids would find them. But then we learned that Connor and Helen think this is much of the fun! This year, I think they hid more eggs than anyone else!

Super stealthy hiding on the climbing wall.

Will anyone look behind this bush?

The Bunny Cake!
I think we're up to hiding over 400 eggs at this point - all in the name of me not being interested in having any child not have a full basket. Connor and the neighbor kid suggested we count all the eggs and then ask people how many they got so we could make sure we got them all back. I suggested they just live a little and not worry about the squirrels having a little bit of sugar. Interestingly, in the few hours between hiding and hunting, at least three eggs were chewed through by some clever animal. I was pretty amazed by this. Usually this only happens to eggs left overnight.

Next came the neighborhood egg hunt. Wow are there a lot of kids around here!

We also attended a hunt put on by a nearby group of restaurants that we frequent.

Last year, Connor went to a nearby hunt and developed a horribly unsuccessful strategy. He had decided that he would pick-up only "golden eggs" (worth big prizes) and had surely envisioned an overflowing basket of these. That is not how things worked out.

I was thinking about that strategy this year and you know what? It's genius. If you always do what everyone else does, you can always expect to be average. But if you go out on a limb and try thinking a different way? The rewards could be great. Despite early failure, I hope Connor goes out on lots of limbs. Sometime, I bet the rewards of such behaviour will be sweeter than can be imagined now.

Another Easter in the bag!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Kicking the Can on Cleaning

Up until last week, I have avoided hiring someone to come in and clean my home. Every person I know has someone do this, and every person stares in disbelief when I tell them I don't mind cleaning, and it makes me feel very virtuous. Strange, I know.

But about a week ago, I realized I had hit my limit. A couple of months ago, Ed and I did a major toy declutter, which was so fantastic I can hardly express it in words. That was followed up with the semi-annual consignment sale I participate in which allowed all those toys to find new homes. We have gotten rid of so much kid related clutter it's amazing. And as soon as the truck that comes around our neighborhood shows up to take more stuff away, we'll be in great shape.

This should have created time for regular cleaning of things like ceiling fan blades, floors, and general dusting - but it didn't. Instead, I immediately filled that time first with doing more handwork, and then with yoga classes a few nights each week. And I love my handwork and my yoga, so it's not a bad thing. But at some point, I needed to realize that something that annoyed me a week ago (everyone else not doing as much cleaning as I thought they should do), annoyed me several months ago, and annoyed me a year ago.

If my kids had a pattern like this, I would tell them to get rid of the annoyance. So I did. I hired a small army of people to clean all the nooks and crannies and I'm promising myself to give it through the summer because mostly, I keep thinking "but I can do it!", but I'm not doing it. And neither is anyone else.

In my last burst of attempting to clean, I received a box of cleaning products from Green Works. Thank you, Green Works, for loading me up with cleaning products. They did, in fact, inspire me to clean for a few weeks, and I loved all the products. And because they're environmentally friendly, I didn't even feel that bad letting Helen use them as she "helped". When I handed the products off to the woman who owns the cleaning company she was a little skeptical, but after using them once, she's in love. So, your cleaning products get a thumbs up from someone who knows cleaning, and I have a clean home. I can attest that my home does smell lovely and it's awfully sparkly. Now...I just need to figure out how to keep everyone outside so it doesn't get dirty again!


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Gardening - Week 3

The first sprouts are popping up. Vying for space in this tiny garden, plants fight for sunlight and water. In a few weeks, I'll do some thinning, but for now, I'm letting everything rejoice in newfound life. Spring manifests itself outside my home office window.

So far, no rabbits have been spotted munching the tops off bean plants that sprout stealthily in the flower beds. The layer of Fall mulch that the worms have yet to work in still provides cover.

The fig tree has leaves starting to unfold out back, and the blackberry bush (bramble?) is trying to set berries.

Today, when Helen and I walked by the garden, we could see the first kale leaf taking shape. It's going to be a great season.


Friday, April 13, 2012

White House Egg Roll 2012

My friend Kim scored White House Egg Roll tickets this year, and kindly took the little people and me. Because last time we attended the Egg Roll, we missed the actual egg roll event, I was determined to go there this time. Thankfully, Helen and Connor obliged when I told them I wanted a photograph of them doing the egg roll.

By the time our turn came, Connor was super amped up. Helen? Well, Helen was in one of her slower moods, so even though Connor completed the egg roll with about 3 whacks of his spoon to his egg, Helen set a more leisurely pace.

Connor - preparing to dominate the egg roll.

One hit places him ahead of the pack. Helen? I have no idea what she's doing back there.

And with two hits Connor is almost across the line! Helen? I have no idea what's taking her so long.
Connor? Finished. Helen: Are you serious that I have to get this stupid egg all the way to the next line?

Eventually, Helen did finish. And, the girl has so much moxie that as Connor gloated about coming in first, Helen respond "yeah, I think I was second".

There were tons of characters walking around the lawn, and this is mostly lost on my crowd. However, the Cat in the Hat showed up and that was awesome!

The President and Mrs. Obama also showed up.

Michelle Obama - You Rock!

Don't mind us, we're just having fun on the White House lawn. No need to look our way!

And in case you wondering why my kids were dressed in sweats (I certainly was!), it turned out to be a good thing when it came time for the obstacle course.

And when a real football player tells you to knock something down, that is more fun than you could imagine. Really. Just ask Connor.

We crafted, we drank water, we ate apples and clementines. Finally, our time was up, so we exited. But not without grabbing the white house lawn photo first!

The event was loads of fun. Connor and Helen were thrilled with the M&Ms that they got with their wooden eggs, and I was reminded that even though 2 hours is not enough time to do all of the activities, we couldn't have made it 5 more minutes if we had wanted to.

Thank you, Kim! We had a ball!!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Finding Your Bonds

A few years ago, I picked up the book "Just Us: Adventures and Travels of a Mother and Daughter". I fell in love with the idea of traveling with my mom - pushing her to do things that I would love, because no matter how many times my mother says she doesn't enjoy traveling, or how odd spending a week at a yoga retreat might seem to her, or how unlikely it would be for her to plan to hike Machu Picchu - I would love all of these enough for both of us. Really. I promise.

I am so in love with the idea of traveling with my mom, in fact, that I included it on my "bucket list" that I put together in 2010.

Just finding out that my online book club was going to read "Up: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure" by Patricia Ellis Herr was enough to get me thinking about this dream of mine. Of course, my mom is currently traveling in Italy and Switzerland, so the chances that she'll run off with me anytime soon are slim. And that's OK.

Reading the book made me realize that although I find the idea of traveling with my mom fascinating, the travel isn't the point. Patricia Ellis Herr could have written this book about anything at all that she shared with her daughters. She could have written about making chocolates, wheatweaving, knitting, or even taking her daughter to a restaurant on her birthday for pancakes and french fries. And even though I haven't convinced my mom to travel with me yet, she's done all of those things.

And I have lists of things I do with each of my children as well. Connor and Helen, for example, are turning into my theatre buddies. I've taken them to full-length shows along with loads of children's theatre. Perhaps this will be our thing?

Maybe we haven't stumbled upon our "thing" yet, and maybe our "thing" will evolve as we all grow older. And maybe Helen will someday invite me on some crazy adventure and I promise, Helen, I will leap at that chance.

Although I've realized that it's not the travel, it's the memories, I also think I've figured out the perfect vacation - cooking school in France! A little adventure, good food, great scenery...I think it could work. I do hope I get the chance, but even if I don't, my mom has given me a million memories.


This post was inspired by Patrica Ellis Herr's book "Up: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure". I received a free copy of the book as a member of the From Left to Write Book Club.

Wordless Wednesday: Preparing for the Egg Hunt

The eggs were hidden in my neighbor's yard. The children were scoping things out. Most amazing? The fence did not fall down, in spite of its rickety nature. That's a good thing, since the fence technically belongs to my neighbor - who was already being super generous letting us litter her yard with candy-filled plastic eggs.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Connor Rides His Bike!

Prior to today, Connor hasn't ever gotten really into the idea of riding a bike. He certainly has lots of fun on the trail-a-bike with Ed, and he was always up for riding in the bike seat when he was younger, but propelling himself didn't grab his attention. This is only a problem because as semi-regular bike commuters, I want Connor to enjoy riding bikes as much as Ed and I do. And I also want to be able to have him bike himself to the beach when we visit Chincoteague, so Ed can put Helen on the trail-a-bike, and I can worry about only myself.

For whatever reason, Connor decided he didn't want Ed to teach him to learn to ride a bike, so I decided I would give it a go. For a few weeks, when Ed and Helen would go to the grocery store, Connor and I would go and practice at the dead end street around the corner from us "in secret". A neighbor of mine gave me an awesome tip when she saw me running behind Connor helping him to balance his bike - which turned out to be the best piece of unsolicited parenting advice I have ever received. She showed me how to grab the back of Connor's shirt so that now Connor was controlling the bike, but I was aiding him enough in his balance that he didn't crash.

Connor is exceedingly concerned about crashing. I continue to assure him that crashing is inevitable, and that he's lucky he's a kid now, when kids get bike helmets. Because in my day? Not so much.

A month or so ago, Connor requested that I remove his training wheels, so I told Ed to remove his training wheels and pretend he knew nothing about it. Because bike maintenance? That is not my department. This all, for the record, was killing Ed because Ed really wanted to see Connor learn to ride a bike.

A couple of weeks ago, Connor finally showed Ed his stuff, and yesterday, he coasted down our street with Ed trotting behind.

Today? He is officially a bike rider. He cruised around the parking lot with ease, and then went around our block a few times. He loves riding too fast and in the span of a few minutes, I went from being super happy about Connor's new skills to super terrified. Can't win for trying, sometimes.

I present to you in video form Connor's bike riding, with interludes of Helen skating and cruising around on her Radio Flyer.

Music by Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers - Gravity


Monday, April 2, 2012

Everyone Should Live Life Like Helen

She thought our gazebo was impossibly high to climb, until I told her I wasn't about to help her up there. Turns out? It's scalable. *


*No children dressed as horses were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

108 Sun Salutations

Sometimes, you have to say something out loud to understand its power. And sometimes, you speak it out loud often enough just so your subconscious and conscious minds can get in the same place. And sometimes, at the end of all this, you will find yourself rewarded with more peace than you could have imagined possible, though you sensed the possibility all along.

One of my resolutions this year was to complete 108 consecutive sun salutations. For those not into yoga, my husband says these are like "squat thrusts", which means absolutely nothing to me. Why 108? Well, there's some debate about that, but let's just leave it at 108 is a karmically sound yogic number. And it's a really big number, and that makes it feel really powerful to me.

For a couple of weeks leading up to two Saturdays ago, just about any time I could fit it into a conversation, I would tell friends that I was going to attempt this feat. I asked a friend who has done this exercise many times to join me, and he did. I also asked a yoga teacher and friend of mine to join me, and she showed up as well. She also gave me the advice that "child's pose is always waiting for you", which was comforting. And, the evening of the event, a third friend showed up that I didn't even know went to this yoga studio. We stood in a line, among a roomful of others, and the energy was absolutely uplifting.

I believe in the power of yoga. I believe in the power of sending positive energy out into the world. At every practice I have ever participated in, I have given thought to my intention, and always, spending an hour or more thinking about that intention has improved my disposition, or provided clarity. I also believe it has helped provide peace and comfort to others who have been in my intention.

The most profound yogic experience I have ever had with respect to intention setting, is a time I set my intention for a friend with metastatic breast cancer. There she was, fighting like hell through massive amounts of pain on a daily basis, and at the end of class, my yoga teacher read the following passage.

"A woman was being chased by tigers. They were gaining on her and she was exhausted, drained. She came to the edge of a cliff that had a vine growing down it. The woman decided to climb down in hopes of escape. When she was half-way down, she heard a noise and looked up—the tigers had arrived. She looked below to her escape only to see tigers there, too! In a panic, she looked up again and saw not only the tiger, but also a mouse chewing on the vine! She looked about in fear and noticed a beautiful strawberry plant with one ripe strawberry. The woman looked at her predicament from all directions—tigers above, tigers below, and a mouse eating her lifeline! Then she did the only reasonable thing: she reached out and plucked the strawberry, popped it into her mouth and enjoyed it thoroughly. "
A Buddhist Story, as told by Pema Chodron

This coincidence still seems impossible. When I told my friend about it she commented "I keep wishing I could hook the mouse up with the berry and distract him, jumping to an here-to-fore unseen tunnel to escape. But I'm not very good at yoga. Thank you, so, so much."

It would be two months to the day that Susan would leave this dimension and head to the next. And I do think she tasted that strawberry. I think about that particular practice, with its near grueling hip work - the focus of her pain at the time - almost every time I take to my mat.

And Saturday night was no exception. For nearly two hours, I moved my body in rhythm with about 40 other people. Up, down, back, balance, stretch, keep moving. For nearly two hours, I thought about that previous practice and about how unfair life can seem. For two hours, I questioned the universe and then, at the end, for fifteen minutes, when my body was spent, when I had almost nothing left to give, we went into shavasana. And during that time, one of the people leading the practice knelt beside me, and placed the most soothing pad imaginable on my resting eyes. She moved my body to improve my own comfort. She made me recall the moment my midwife arrived when I was a few hours from giving birth to Connor and placed her confident hands on my legs as I lay sprawled on the cool floor, letting me know that everything was going to be fine. Touch is so powerful.

I am so lucky to be able to serve as healing hands for two incredible children. I am so lucky to live in a body that, by all signs, will be in this dimension for a long time. I've known that all along, but it was a profound and important reminder for me.

Completing the series of sun salutations was a huge deal to me. I think I needed it to move forward. I've felt so powerful since that Saturday night. And I've also been full of so much internal peace.