Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Number of Children I Have Who Can Go Off the Diving Board Independently Now Equals Two!

Saturday night is float night at our pool. Failure to check the timing of the event (plus later than expected delivery of a dog we are watching for the next couple of weeks) meant that rather than being at the pool from 5 - 7 when floats were allowed in the pool, we were there from 6 - 8. This turned out to be amazingly lucky.

When float night ended, the kids set their enormous T-Rex float on the side of the pool, and I decided to swim a few laps. For whatever reason, this inspired the kids to swim laps with me. I don't tend to worry about Connor in the pool, but the idea that Helen would swim the length of the pool was almost unfathomable. Although I had thought she'd be swimming a year ago, she pretty much stalled out and hasn't seemed that into swimming.

Helen jumped in the water and started a very slow swim across the pool. She flipped to her back a couple of times and remembered to move her arms in "chicken, airplane, soldier" and she was steadily making progress. I only assisted her a couple of times. I was definitely impressed.

We got to the end of the lap lane, and Helen announced that she wanted to do it again. I told her if she was going to do it again, we were getting a lifeguard, because something inside me told me this kid was going to pass the swim test and become eligible for the diving board.

I accompanied her to the lifeguard table and made my ridiculous request. The lifeguard in charge looked at me as if I was crazy, and I shrugged and said "it might work out". And indeed, Helen swam the length of the pool. She flipped from front to back as needed, and twice she almost bumped into the side of the pool when she was going backwards, but she got herself off the wall and kept on moving, chanting "chicken, airplane, soldier". At one point, the lifeguard said "kick those feet", and Helen did. I started to get really excited when we were about 10 feet from the end of the pool. Helen was getting tired, but she flipped to her stomach and realized how close she was and swam to the end!

I can't even express how proud Helen was of her accomplishment. I think it took her by surprise. She's been telling me since the pool opened that she knows how to swim the length of the pool, but when I tell her she needs to show the lifeguards, she always declines "not now".

She then proceeded to jump off the board three times, and though Connor would later tell me he liked it when he was the only one who could use the diving board, he had a ball with her. Seems only fair that I missed her first solo jumps, given that I missed Connor's as well.

But now, I give you several of today's jumps. She apparently forgot how to swim between last night and today because I almost had a heart attack as I watched her try and get to the side. But she made it, every time.

Bravo, Helen!

Missing from this video is the moment when I came about 1 second away from diving in after Helen to fetch her out of the water, and the many times Connor tried to encourage her to do some sort of trick off the board.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Aunt Linda Series

I don't know if I mentioned how cool your nephew was lately, but I do believe you'll agree he's awesome.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Final Week

We made it. We're in the last week of school. It will include 2 early release days (thank you, Arlington County!), an awards day (where Connor has predicted he will get an award for being so well-behaved. Confident little dude - don't you think? [edited to add he received the award of class mathemagician]), a game day (where hopefully he will find someone who loves Monopoly as much as he does, I'm looking at you, A!), and a picnic in the park. This seems like a pretty fine wrap-up to me. Only thing better would be if school was already out.

Today was the award ceremony and picnic. During the award ceremony, Mrs. H. showed a slideshow of class photos and a photo of Helen was included. Nice touch, I thought. Helen could not have been more pleased. When her photo came up, Mrs. H. announced "honorary member". And at the picnic today, Helen spent her time bouncing from friend to friend in first grade.

I looked back at the post I wrote to start the year, and what strikes me is that what I wanted most was for Mrs. H. to recognize that she had a great kid in front of her. She did that in spades. From start to finish, Connor has felt loved. She challenged him when he needed to be challenged, she called him on a piece of sub-par work when it was necessary, and wow did she give it everything she had, particularly in those scary first days. Connor's teacher was as steady as could be with him. She was gentle, she was kind, and she absolutely recognized that though his background was different than most, it was not inferior.

I learned that it's a hard thing to drop your kid off in a classroom knowing that your child (my child), because of the background I had chosen, was going to struggle with reading. This, followed with the realization that Connor did not know how to hold a pencil. There was, most definitely, a moment or two when my stomach flip-flopped, and I questioned my choice to keep Connor at the Waldorf school - and for reference, I regularly tell people that sending my children to a Waldorf school was the best parenting decision Ed and I ever made. Those were hard days for me, and though Connor never came home mad at me, I'm guessing they were pretty hard for him, too. Now? I'm totally giving myself a pat on the back. As it turns out, that year of Kindergarten at Potomac Crescent was the perfectly right year for Connor. But I'm well aware it could have ended up being disasterous, if Connor had another first grade teacher. One day, I asked Mrs. H. how burdensome it was for her, and whether I should consider sending Helen to Kindergarten at public school. She was so cool. She told me things always worked out and there was no need for me to change course with Helen.

I learned a few nights ago at an evening event with adults from Connor's school about something else Connor's teacher did those first few weeks. She specifically instructed another parent when the parent was helping Connor with work that she should only discuss letters in terms of their shapes - that he came from a non-academic background. Does she even know that's how the alphabet is taught at a Waldorf school? It's as simple as straight lines and curved lines. That's a little gift Connor's teacher gave me without Connor or I even noticing.

The most important thing Connor's teacher did for Connor - and I'm sure she does it for all the students in her class - was to recognize that things change. So while he started out in the worst reading group (and I'm using the term "reading" very loosely), when he finally caught on to reading, she advanced him right up those reading groups until a few weeks ago when she announced to me Connor was reading at the 6th grade level. Connor is, for the most part, a very easy going kid - and he never would've protested a placement in a reading group. His teacher could've easily left him to the side of the road and not watched his advancement, but she didn't. She was on it the whole time.

In the end, kids stuggle. People struggle. It's probably where we find our humanity. And from beginning to end, Connor was supported by a great teacher. She may, in fact, be the one he remembers for a long time.

We won't be doing a single academic thing this summer. We'll be playing and painting and vacationing. We've earned it!

I sent this kid to school in September:

I'm getting this one back for the summer:


Monday, June 11, 2012

Field Day! a.k.a. Ways to suck up time hoping the school year will end.

I'm ready for school to end. I even wrote a grumpy post about it over here. My neighbor up and went to a wedding in California about a week ago and I'm sitting on my deck drinking mojitos at night wondering why the hell we didn't try and stuff ourselves into his suitcase. He actually did what I have dreams about doing. He ended the school year early. Poof. It's over.

Connor's classroom has a system where each kid has their name on a fish that sits on a rock. If a child misbehaves, they move their fish to blue. If a child misbehaves a second time, their fish goes to yellow and they score a note home. One more strike and your fish goes to red and you get a visit with the Principal. Some offense are large enough to merit instant red or yellow. Follow that? Yeah, me neither.

In any case, Connor's fish sat on the rocks for nearly the entire year. It was moved once when the whole class got their fish moved. Then, a few weeks ago, I do believe that fish decided it was too hot on those rocks, so off to the comfort of the blue water it went. This happened four times in six school days and at this point, I started getting notes from the teacher and holy-moley, those notes are shockers and cut right to the core. Knife, meet stomach. Now twist and add lime (and I wonder why I always feel like drinking a mojito these days).

That's when I gave some consideration to ending the year early. I have full-time childcare, after all. And Helen's school is finished for the year. Ending early isn't particularly difficult for me logistically. Connor has had a couple of sick days (one of them being lice - so that surely doesn't count against him, right?) and he was gone for a week of skiing. It seems to me that adding another couple of weeks of absences wouldn't be enough to cause him to have to repeat the year, although that's probably a puzzle not worth solving.

Here's the thing. The last misbehaving was Connor truly being an a** (that word rhymes with pass, in case it's not obvious) to a classmate. Apparently the class failed to get a "mystery motivator" (which I have now learned is a class prize like extra recess) because a couple of kids had their fish moved. Connor not-so-kindly let one of the offenders know she was responsible for their lack of prize. She cried. I got a note. He didn't actually feel that badly. My first thought was, OMG my kid has turned into a jerk, and my second thought was "wow, kid can really bring the pain when he wants". After I freaked out inside, I emailed my friend Jean, because she is master of all things behavior related and school. She talked me off my ledge, and then I summoned Connor and told him to knock it off. I also informed him how few days of school were left and further informed him that his fish had better not swim again. So far, so good.

One thing that kept me from ending the school year early was the promise of Field Day. Really.

Back in the day, Field Day was awesome, if only because it involved no actual work, and did involve a lot of sitting around. It was always on a day that really tested the stuff Kansans were made of. And to think, kids these days have air conditioned classrooms. So. Soft!

Field Day, at least for Connor, is not like Field Days of yore. No. Field Day involved no potato sacks, no giant bands strapping legs together for the "three-legged" race. And it did not involve running around the entire school. I told you, kids these days are soft.

It did involve games with a parachute:

an unattended bucket of water:

crab soccer (note to Therese, perhaps Ireland was confused with this and football last Sunday?):

and Gatorade.

Connor was thrilled.

Nine more days, Connor! You can do it!


P.S. My spellchecker is a teetotaler. It doesn't know the word mojito.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding - Go See It If You Like Happy

The Independent Film Channel recently released the movie "Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding". The invitation to the screening said Jane Fonda which meant I said yes.

One of the things that really annoys me in the world of movies is the disappearance of women of a certain age. It makes me almost as crazy as the disappearance of woman of a certain size. Welcome back, Jane Fonda.

I've been thinking a lot about happiness this year, trying to weed out things that don't have a clear path to happiness for myself or those I love. When my friends announce changes they've made and want my opinion, I regularly respond, I'm for happiness. If what you're doing makes you happy, then I support it. Likewise, when decisions need to be made, or people want to know how I feel about legislation, I tell them my position on happiness.

Which mean I loved the move Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding. Pure joy. Because the screening was on date night, I asked Ed to go as my date, and even he thought it was a good film, which must mean it's not pure chick-flick joy. It's a good film.

If you're into happiness, you should see it. If you're into seeing extremely talented women of a certain age in movies, you should see it. If you need an excuse to escape the insufferable heat that has settled in, you should see it.

Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding - at theatres across the country now.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012


This morning, I dropped Helen off at her Morning Glory class for the last time ever. Next year, she will be in the Oak Tree class, and as much as I know she will love it, I'm marking this morning as my saddest parenting day yet. She will miss class so much.

This year, she has learned a ton of funny games. One evening, she surprised us by teaching us a game that required a small stick. Ed and I had no idea how we were going to make a stick materialize in the children's bedroom at bedtime, but Helen did. She had carefully squirreled one away early in the day, so when we said "I'm sorry Helen, I don't think we have a stick up here", she happily announced "I know where one is!" and though Ed and I doubted her, she went right to her previously hidden booty and showed us the stick. Well played, Helen, well played.

Miss A. and Miss K. will both be leaving the school. That's too bad for all the children yet to come. For as much as I know the next teacher will be remarkable in her own way, it won't be this pair. Together, they were great.

Every morning, the two of them greeted Helen with a smile. Most days, Helen was happy to bound off without even a glance back, though there were lots of days she'd shout "see you later, alligator" and I might respond "bye, bye, butterfly". Funny enough, we started the year this way, and we ended it this way this morning. "Don't forget your vanilla, you silly gorilla!"

Helen has played with nearly every child in her classroom. She has tales to tell about all of them, and often mimics their speech pattern in the evening. Pure comedy, I tell you. Helen is blessed with particularly clear speech ("funder" recently turned into "thunder", even!). She's also blessed with a very good ear and the ability to mimic other people's accents, missing r's, internally scrambled consonants and the like. I'm glad that almost all of these children will be in class with her next year. Although a few are leaving and that's sad.

From the moment Helen and I walked into Potomac Crescent Waldorf School, Helen has looked forward to being dropped off, and was just thrilled that this was her year. She owned it. In every way possible, she owned it.

For a time, she would greet every single child with a huge smile and hello when they entered the playground, as if they were the most important people in the whole world to her. I loved this. I wish I could take credit for it. But it's not me, that's just how Helen is. She's happy. She's surrounded by people who love her, and she wants the whole world to feel loved. If she could wrap us all in her little arms, she would.

I could never possibly thank Miss A. and Miss K. enough for the way they've watched Helen blossom this year, and I'm dreadfully sorry that it is unlikely Helen will hold many of these memories very long. She's just too young. But, we have a special doll and sling made by Miss A., and of course, the star child she was gifted for her birthday. I'm hoping these are always special touchstones for Helen.

For our class gift, each child / parent was asked to contribute something small to hang on a wreath. Helen did a little piece of finger knitting that I turned into a flower. Miss A. had sent me a link to a website showing me how to do it at the beginning of the year when Helen had fire balled into a finger knitting stage.

At today's picnic, Helen spent time soaking up her two newest friends, and even scored an afternoon playdate with one of them. A more thrilled child you have never seen. And the mom of the playdate extended a standing invitation for Helen to come over anytime. I'm sure we'll be taking advantage of that offer.

And now...onto summer!


Monday, June 4, 2012

Technology Fail

This past weekend, my parents came to visit. Sadly, I have few photographs from the weekend because at some point, my memory card became corrupted.

Saturday was Helen's dance recital, and afterwards Connor and my dad played baseball. They were having a blast with my dad pitching meatballs to Connor that Connor promptly pounded out of the park (our backyard). Both of them were laughing. Connor played with my dad for probably the longest stretch of baseball in his young career, and Ed and I both stood there thinking that if Connor practiced like this every night, he couldn't help but learn to play well.

Dad - I realize this is somewhat of an inconvenience, but could you please fly back for another visit? I promise I'll make sure all the photographs I'm taking are actually getting written to the card.

Other lost moments: Connor's first grade musical today, Helen's recital, and I can't even bear to think of what else. Thankfully, my mom took photographs of the recital, and the day we were horsing around at the playground, I snapped photos of Helen with my dad's camera.

Flowers from my front yard that my mom acquired for Helen. She was thrilled.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Let's Go O's!

A few weeks ago, I was invited to see an Orioles' game from one of the boxes with the players' wives. I jumped at the chance. Sadly, the game the night before was rained out, so the game I was supposed to attend turned into a double-header, and they needed to cancel the tour. The next day, a box of O's paraphernalia arrived, which was a huge hit in our home.

They also sent a magazine about the players, and as it turns out, this is a brilliant marketing strategy when there is a 6 year old boy in the house. Connor buried his nose in that thing and has started what may turn out to be an extended relationship with baseball stats. I guess he has officially turned into a man.


Thank you, Orioles! You've earned yourselves a new fan. I, myself, will continue living in the agony known as being a fan of the Kansas City Royals.