Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Helen collects rocks. Not rocks that might have value to anyone else, just rocks she finds while she's walking around. Connor did it too, but not quite as much as Helen does it.

It started out as pebbles. As soon as she could walk, whenever we were outside and she was near some pebbles, she would pick them up. Most of her clothing, particularly back then, didn't have pockets, so most of the rocks would end up lost before we got home.

Occasionally, she has pockets. So occasionally she is able to gather a fair amount of rocks. At Christmas this past year, Ed picked up her coat and realized it weighed about 5 pounds. Seriously. She's doing weight training with all the rocks in her pockets.

So Ed freed the rocks from her pockets, and she started collecting anew.

Often, these rocks come inside. I put the tiny ones on a little shelf, she has a few medium sized ones on a puppet show stand, and the large ones get taken outside. When I clean, I often grab a handful of the small rocks and toss them out to where our trash cans sit, which is on top of a bed of rocks.

Last Friday, Helen showed me a very special rock. This rock would be classified as "large" in our home. It's a triangular slab with sides of about 5 and 4 inches. I found the rock in Helen's bag after school and she assured me that it was OK for her to keep it. She had found it in the bamboo forest at the park at school.

I argued it was much too big for inside, what could she do with it?

Helen replied:

It could be a boat for Pico.
A picnic table for the wooden gnomes.
A place to sit under for a bit of shade.
A raft.
A place for small animals to climb.
A bed.
A pillow.
A plate.

And at about this point, though Helen was continuing on, I said "Point taken. That is a very valuable rock you have found." It's now part of the inside collection of rocks.


Monday, February 25, 2013

There are some questions you just don't ask

I have a friend who has given me a lot of great advice over the many years we've known each other. Normally, I try and be a "let's get to the bottom of this" kind of person, but she's more of a "let's just see what happens" kind of person.

A few weeks ago, we were discussing mice in homes - and I told her the strange story about our singular mouse - which of course makes no sense - but it was over 2 years ago now, and we haven't seen another *knock wood*.

During the course of our conversation, I noted the absolute impossibility that a mouse traveled alone. Without batting an eye, my friend looked at me and said "Elaine, there are some questions you just don't ask".

Thanks, Chris, I have a feeling that's going to be a valuable piece of advice as my children age.


Friday, February 22, 2013

{this moment}

From SouleMama: {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Share your own moment in the comments at

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Teaching the Right Lessons

Connor's teacher's husband is very ill. He cannot be left unattended. Two weeks ago, he was in the hospital and the teacher was absent in the afternoons. Last week, the teacher was absent all week. This week, the teacher continues to be absent and will be so at least through the end of the week. After that, it's unclear what will happen, though more doctor's appointments mean that a clearer picture will likely develop.

Notably, she has sent in lesson plans every day for the substitute, and the substitutes are supported by a student teacher who has been in the classroom and knows the students. Connor's teacher may have physically left the building, but she's still working for her students.

I have mixed reactions to this. As a human, I am deeply sorry that my son's teacher is going through this awful time. I can't imagine how stressful it must be.

As a parent, I was initially upset that my son seems to be losing a second teacher this year. He's already lost one teacher, and the thought of losing another just seems like it's too much for one seven-year-old to bear. Also, his classroom teacher does a LOT of extra work for Connor, trying to find material that keeps him interested in what's going on. Most recently, she recruited the librarian to help with a special project. Without his teacher there, I'm sure he's getting lost quite a bit of the time - and this is a little depressing to me.

But then I got to thinking. What's the lesson in all of this?

It's simple, really.

The lesson is that when you partner is in great need, you drop as much as you can and you attend to that need. I would walk out of my office in a New York City minute and never look back if I was in the same situation. And just because you happen to be a teacher, doesn't mean you shouldn't do the same thing.

Years from now, I have no doubt that Connor will sail through the various academic challenges that come his way - whether he's excited about school in second grade or not. But more importantly, he might be faced with an awful choice as he watches a partner, friend, or child in need. And maybe in the back of the mind he'll remember a lesson he's learning right now - choose the thing that's most important to you every day - and do that thing.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Happy Mardi Gras

Last Tuesday was Academic Night at Connor's school. This is the evening that many teachers set up fun activities for students to do from 6 - 8. There are lots of math games, physical education games, the counselor sets up a cooperative game, there was a marketplace that helped children learn to allocate money, and the school's turtles were features. Having a sibling present saved Connor and Helen in the marketplace. They'd spent nearly their whole month's salary and needed housing. They cleverly joined forced and rented a 2 bedroom apartment together, which save both of them lots of dough.

It was hard not to think about last year, which was when we met Ms. Raimondo for the first time. Connor was delighted to show off for her. We missed her this year, but also love knowing she's surrounded by her awesome family right now.

Connor had fun seeing friends in the hallway and participating in the activities. Afterwards, we made the bold decision to let Connor and Helen stay up late and head to a local Mardi Gras parade. I gave them one G-Rated demonstration on how to acquire beads, and they were soon masters. The parade started at 8:00 and we probably stayed for a quarter of it. By that time, Connor and Helen were having a hard time holding their head's up with all of their new jewelry.

Beads, beads - the beginning.

Beads, beads - the end.
Something tells me it's going to hard to make them forget this event next year - so we'll see you on the streets next year, too!


Monday, February 18, 2013

Connorspreak: DInner Edition

Life, for Connor, is often black and white - particularly when it comes to food. A few nights ago, I was cooking red clam sauce - a meal he had requested, and he came inside from playing. He looked at me and inquired what the smell was. I told him what it was, and he shouted "yay". Then he said "that smell is so unfamiliar that I wasn't sure if I should think 'yay' or if I should think 'ugh, I wish I had never been born'."


Friday, February 15, 2013


Tonight, Ed and I went to a concert opened by Dan Navarro. Before his longtime partner Eric Lowen died from ALS, he toured as half of Lowen and Navarro. By the time I discovered Lowen and Navarro, opening for Eddie from Ohio, Eric Lowen had already been diagnosed with the disease.

Eric Lowen lived with ALS for nine years. As Navarro said onstage tonight, he fought a two year disease for nine years. He kicked it's ass.

And a few years ago, I would've said how unfair it was that someone would die at age 60. How awful that a disease could take you to the next dimension after nine years. What a raw deal.

But today? Today I want my friend with ALS to get those nine years that Eric Lowen had. I want my friend to be granted that same amount of time. Because my friend? He's just as strong, and just as loved, and his life is just as meaningful.

Which is just to say, a lot can change in a few years. Those nine years now seem like an eternity, a wish too grand to even utter out loud.

And yes, I'm realizing that we all have exactly one life to live, and we don't get any other promises, it's hard not to be upset. It's not fair.

Not one teeny-tiny bit.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Strange Connections: Reactions to Saturday Night Widows

I'm somewhat interested in how personal connections are made. Ed and I often remark to each other that these days, it's hard to make new friends. It's not like back in college when there were loads of displaced people all sharing an experience and possibly housing and meals as well!

When Connor was born, I met several women at the Breastfeeding Center of Greater Washington. A stranger connection I cannot imagine. Because of this strange connection, I think our group tends to have more random oddities than other groups. The political views are more diverse than many of my friend circles, and though we've certainly developed other ties (by necessity - you can't nurse a child forever - or at least none of us chose to!), there's still lots of learning about others that happens. Fundamentally, though, we tend to approach things in very different ways, which has its ups and downs.

I was curious to read Saturday Night Widows when it came up in the online book club I'm part of (From Left to Write), partly because these women all come together under fairly odd circumstances - they're all relatively young widows! And just like my mom friends, they are quite a diverse group, and this can cause some misunderstanding and awkwardness at times, but it can also prove to be great fun.

A few years ago, I joined DCMetroMoms - a now defunct blog written by many area writers. It eventually evolved into TheDCMoms. Slowly, I'm getting to know more of the writers, and every one of them is so generous in spirit. We gathered a few nights ago to celebrate the life of Susan Neibur, and I was once again in awe of many of these women, and so grateful to get to be part of the group. (They are almost all rock star, big-time bloggers. The last time we had a big party, I introduced myself saying I didn't know why they let me hang out with them, but I was happy they did.) And just like my mom's group, blogging seems an odd tie. And yet, in this case, tt works well!

I have no idea what chapters lie ahead for me, but if I can continue to be able to find a group of people to share it with, I'll consider myself lucky. And in case anyone is in the area - I'm always looking for a bridge group! I have visions of playing cards many weekends with that eventual group. If you have kids that we can throw in the basement with mine, even better!

This post was inspired by Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman. After being kicked out of her widow support group for being too young, Becky creates her own support group with an unusual twist. Join From Left to Write on February 14 as we discuss Saturday Night Widows. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Friday, February 8, 2013

{this moment}

From SouleMama: {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Share your own moment in the comments or at

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Wind and the Stars

Last year, my friend and fellow blogger, Susan Niebur died from Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Just like many  others, I donated money to a charity Susan liked - the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I miss her, still. Every time I look into the night sky, I think of her. She might be the only astrophysicist I ever knew. We still need more research on this disease.
A few weeks ago, Connor's gifted services teacher, Ms. Raimondo, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She has promised me that though she's no longer in the classroom with Connor, she'll always be looking after him from above. I really appreciate that. She's the wind we feel always. In her honor, please consider donating to the American Cancer Society, or any other cancer research charity.
I'm praying that Ms. Raimondo is surrounded by all the love and positive energy that she has shared with so many. She really tapped into Connor's love of learning. She started a fire that I know will never be put out. I think of her daily when I see Connor make some sort of interesting connection. Her beautiful words are below, alongside a photo of Susan. Her words have been a source of great comfort to me since she first shared them. It's a poem she wrote several years ago for a niece with ALS. It was written exactly one year before Ed and I got married.

Much love to all,

Please join bloggers throughout the web in honoring Susan Niebur's life and contributions with a post, and please add your link below.

Stonyfield Smoothies on the Moo-ve Ski Trip

Armed with a lunch box full of snacks and the brand new YoKids Smoothies, we set out Saturday morning for Liberty Mountain. The trip is about 90 minutes by car, and the hope is always that the kids will sleep, but that doesn't often happen. To save time, we've mastered the art of the car breakfast. Tradition dictates that we stop at the Pizza Hut on the way home, but that trip was eliminated on Saturday because Helen had a birthday party to attend in the afternoon.

Connor gets car sick when he reads on the road and Helen is chronically asking for "just one more story" in the car, which can be exhausting for the storyteller. (Why can't they just learn to knit like I do?) This trip, Stonyfield gifted me with a box of cards "52 Fun Things to do in the Car" which Helen was exceedingly excited about testing. As it turns out, the cards we read were more suited to Connor, but the games did kill a good half of the trip to the mountain, which was a blessing. Because that story about Helen when she was a baby? It's getting old. At least for me.

We were lucky enough to be joined by my friend Ellen so when we met for our 10:00 snack break, I foisted a smoothie on her daughter Esther. I knew Ellen would approve because the Smoothies are made with real organic fruits and veggie puree (don't tell Connor about this last bit!), they're not too big, and they're a nice alternative to most snacks you can grab and consume.

Three happy consumers!
So there you have it - three happy kids, drinking three nutritious smoothies from Stonyfield, with enough energy to tackle the mountain for the full four hours of fun. Esther actually made it all day, but after our four hour pass expired, we hit the road.

It was a very cold day - but we were ready! Well, after we bought hand warmers, we were ready. Note to self - next time it's cold, we're starting with the hand warmers right away!

Connor loves tearing down the mountain. And I love my new camera lens. Tough conditions, but I'm getting the hang of it!

Thanks, Stonyfield! We had a great day. And if anyone is at my house in the next couple of weeks, hit me up for a Stonyfield yogurt smoothie!


Disclosure: As noted in the post, I received free yogurt smoothies from Stonyfield, the deck of cards, and discounted lift tickets. All opinions are my children's, and they don't give a hoot about anything except taste.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Homemade Valentines

Part of the cost of attending a Waldorf school is that valentines must be hand made. No popping a box of pre-printed doozies in your shopping cart and calling it good. Most years, Valentine's Day falls conveniently after our annual ski trip, and that means my mom is tasked with making valentines with her grandchildren. It's a great system...for me.

Last year, I introduced Connor to the joy of a pre-made cards. This year, quite unexpectedly, he announced to me that he'd like to make his valentines. I had been planning on working with Helen that day, so adding him into the mix worked well.

First, we cleared away our breakfast dishes and painted our paper red. I was planning on indulging in a little painting myself, but between wetting the paper, preparing the painting boards, and making sure paint did not get anywhere it wasn't supposed to - I missed out. Connor and Helen each made two red sheets. Helen was sure to hold her paintbrush just right, so Peter Paintbrush wouldn't fall off the end of her brush.

After the paper dried, we traced hearts,

cut out the hearts,

This may be the last photo ever of Connor's awesome hoodie. He wore it to a birthday party and when Ed went to pick him up, it was gone. Grrr...
and then for Connor's cards, we added lollipops.

Connor addressed cards to each of his classmates and both Connor and Helen signed their names on the back of their cards!

Voila! Project complete in 1 day.


Friday, February 1, 2013

{this moment}

From SouleMama: {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Share your own moment in the comments or at