Friday, June 28, 2013

Digging out - piano!

Work, in a word, has been a disaster lately. I don't have enough time to complete the tasks I need to complete. Even when I focus on only completing important tasks (ignoring urgency) I'm overwhelmed.

In the evening, when I would normally catch up from work missed during the day, I've been booking flights for summer travel, crocheting edges on Helen's potholders, and trying to finish a sweater for Connor that is absolutely doomed - having ripped the thing apart FOUR times now!

And in the midst of it all, I was slammed with the end of school - who I need to get money to for a well-deserved gift for a teacher or coach, where do I need to be when for Field Day, end-of-the year picnics (TWO!), the start of piano lessons for Connor, the opening of dive season, managing two cars for three adults and trying not to forget anything too important.

Good problems, to be sure, but I'm drowning.

As is typical, the first thing to go is my blog. And so it is, that I have missed recording so many things these past few weeks.

Probably the most important thing I've completely punted on is that Connor started taking piano lessons. I'm in favor of these for a few reasons. First, I played piano from grade 2 - high school, and I have a lot of fond memories sitting at that keyboard. I want Connor to have a chance at developing similar memories. Second, although Connor can write fairly neatly, he usually doesn't. At the beginning of first grade, his teacher at the time realized what a funky grip he had on a pencil, and I totally blew it off as a product of never holding a pencil. At the time, she offered to get him some Occupational Therapy and I very confidently told her Connor didn't need that. Well, I *might* have been wrong to refuse that offer of help. Because still, he struggles with writing and it is the only consistent criticism his second grade teacher has. I now think Connor has crappy fine motor skills. Enter, the piano! How can his fingers NOT get stronger and have more control if he learns to play piano? Cross your fingers for me. Third, Connor is quite possibly tone death. To be fair, he comes by it honestly. Very early on in our dating days, Ed was humming a song and although he had the words perfect (something I often tangle up), the melody was nothing like the actual melody. Connor seems to have inherited Ed's ear, and I'm hoping that piano playing can sort this out a bit.

Connor loves piano for two reasons. First, he gets to sit with a teacher who tells him how awesome he is for 30 minutes each week, and Connor loves that. In fact, he confidently announced to me that Mr. C. said he hadn't ever had a better student and he was awesome. His face sort of fell when I told him he actually wasn't that awesome. He salvaged his ego by deciding that - for the amount of time he's been playing piano, he's awesome. That's not something I can judge, so I didn't. Second, he gets a treat at the end of the lesson.

Connor gets frustrated with piano, which I think is good for him. When he screws up a song, his first instinct is to close the book and announce "I'm done". At which time, I open the book and calmly say "not true, Connor, we're going to work through this". And so it is that measure by measure we've worked through a few songs and by the end, Connor feels a real pride at figuring something out. I enjoy this time with him.

Here's a clip of Connor's first time at the keyboard. He's gotten better since then, but he's still no Mozart. He does, however, recognize that a half note gets twice the amount of time as a quarter note.

He's looking forward to impressing Aunt Linda when we visit Kansas this year!


Monday, June 24, 2013

Tea Party

When Connor was in utero, we didn't know if he was a boy or girl. One of my friends was hoping girl, just because the thought of Ed sitting at a too-small table having tea with a little girl made her laugh so much.

Well...stranger things have happened, but I do laugh every time the scene below repeats itself, thinking about my friend.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Date Night with Connor - Monsters University

Last week, Connor and I went to an advanced 3-D screening of Monsters University. Because movies have not always been Connor's thing (he's seen fewer than a dozen), it's hard for me to tell which ones will be hits, and which ones will be misses. Connor and I give Monsters University two thumbs up, and Connor would give the movie-theater sized Dots he consumed three thumbs up if he had a third thumb! It took me only one bit to remember how gross those things are. Ugh!

Connor laughed his way through much of the movie, which wasn't just a tribute to the clever script, but also a tribute to the animation. This clip, in particular, had Connor laughing out loud. It's at the beginning, so made for a good start.

My favorite part of the movie was the ending. I don't want to spoil it, but the theme that it's important to work very hard at your job, no matter what that job is, played prominently - and I appreciate that theme being relayed to children. I'm pretty much a prude when it comes to movie, and Connor is pretty sensitive about movies since his exposure has been so limited, but I think he's old enough for the occasional treat night, and it is fun to do something really different, that he can enjoy because he's older. He always seems so grown up on these dates.

Put it on your summer list for a day when it's too hot to be outside!

In Theaters June 21 (Disney Digital 3D™)
Voice talent: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Dave Foley, Julia Sweeney, Joel Murray, Peter Sohn
Director: Dan Scanlon
Producer: Kori Rae
Rated: G
Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan are an inseparable pair, but that wasn’t always the case. From the moment these two mismatched monsters met they
couldn’t stand each other. “Monsters University” unlocks the door to how Mike and Sulley overcame their differences and became the best of friends.
Screaming with laughter and fun, “Monsters University” is directed by Dan Scanlon (“Cars,” “Mater and the Ghostlight,” “Tracy”) and produced by Kori Rae
(“Up,” “The Incredibles,” “Monsters, Inc.”). The film opens in U.S. theaters on June 21, 2013, and will be shown in Disney Digital 3D™ in select theaters.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Military Style Fun - Run Amuck and the Air Force Cycling Classic

A couple of weekends ago, my whole family took advantage of sporting events sponsored by the military. Ed and I completed Run Amuck, which is an obstacle course "race" sponsored by the folks that run the Marine Corps Marathon. It's not timed, nor was it possible to run without stopping, since most of the obstacles had a fairly long line that participants needed to wait in before they could complete the obstacle, so I use the term "race" rather loosely. But no matter, it was loads of fun.

Besides the course being about 3.5 miles long, it included a slip and slide, climbing up stairs and bleachers, rappelling down a hill, crawling through a mud pit, which was covered with a tarp, a few places where marines yelled at participants to complete some physical fitness challenge, carrying ammo cans (which were not heavy, so I'm guessing they were empty), and running through tires. The portion of the course I was most worried about were the monkey bars. But by the time I got there, I was so psyched about the race that I cruised right through them. In fact, I completed all the obstacles and for that, I feel pretty awesome.

Ed and I ran with a friends' son who had completed the race last year. My friend has done a few of these mud runs, including Tough Mudder, and at the end, he shouted "this was the best mud run yet"! He went on to explain that the two prior days of rain had made the course muddier than any other so by "best", I think he meant "muddiest". It was so muddy, in fact, that running up the hills was really not an option. Instead, I had to sort of duck walk up the hills like a beginning skier and hope I didn't slide down and take another participant out with me.

I have never been so covered with mud.

Ed has never been so covered with mud, either.

Thankfully, I opted to wear my old running shoes that were completely shot, because I would still be crying if my new shoes were as messed up as these shoes got.

There were two downsides to the event. First, I failed to hook up with a couple of friends who were there, including this one. Second, on the way home, I was napping and a rock hit our window so hard that the windshield cracked. Yikes! One upside is that if you ever need to get a new windshield, if your car is anything like mine, you will be AMAZED at how clean a windshield can be. Really. It's not that I recommend getting a new windshield rather than cleaning your current one, but, um, it is nice!

The following day, Connor participated in the Air Force Classic cycling race for kids for the second year, and Helen joined on the short course for her first year. Little did we know that in a week, she'd be able to ride without her training wheels!

I think I had three showers between the photo above and this one. And still, I found a little caked on mud that evening!
I'm not sure why Connor is as hunched over as he is here, but I'm guessing he thinks it's a more aerodynamic riding position than his usual, more upright self, because every photo I have of the event he's hunched over like that.

Like most athletic events, Helen was most interested in looking "right" - so we were happy to find her bike gloves that matched her chosen outfit!

Next year, we might drag Connor through the mud with us, and Helen will likely be doing the whole course, rather than the shortened course at the bike race.

Thank you, Air Force and Marines! You created a lot of fun for my family a couple of weekends ago.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Last Week of Second Grade

We’re slogging to the finish now – just one week left in second grade. I think there’s a special activity every day – and while I appreciate the joy this brings to the schoolhouse, I can’t help but feel we’re pretty much at the “glorified babysitting” portion of the year. Although, just to make it real, I understand there will be a test at some point this week. There will not, however, be homework* (thank you, universe).

There will be a picnic (today), two “early release” days – wherein the kids will leave school 2.5 hours early, Smartapalooza (think of it as field day for art), and who knows what else. Because I’m trying to seal the deal as flakiest mom of the year, I’ll also be begging the teacher if I can bring in birthday cupcakes to celebrate Connor’s summer birthday. I simply forgot to do it earlier. I had hoped I had done it when Connor had his 7th birthday party, a month late back in September, but I was pretty certain I hadn’t. And Connor confirmed that indeed, he never got his cupcakes. I brought cookies three or four times this year, including one time that was just a thank you for all of the kind cards Connor received from his classmates when he broke his arm. I’ve been informed that these cookies don’t count on the “did I get cupcakes for my birthday this year” scoreboard.

*For the record, homework is not really an issue in our house. My policy is to give Connor ten minutes and tell him to finish his homework or go to school with it undone. Except for a couple of weeks when the babysitter took to bargaining with Connor to do the work (*@!*), and a few nights of rejecting the drawing pictures of word study words, Connor buckled down and got the work done. For the most part, I considered it a waste of time (as do the majority of analysts on the topic), even if it was only a few minutes each night. Starting about the third week of school, I told him he didn’t need to do anything that couldn’t be verified by the teacher the next day, so out went sorting and reading his words on Monday. And after Connor brought another perfect word study test home last month (I believe he missed three words all year – “announce” being the latest), I told Connor he should just give it a rest on the homework. But he wanted that sticker, so persevere he did. Never mind that there’s a whole box of stickers in the craft room he can get without doing anything other than reaching his hand in the box to retrieve one!

But alas, we’re solidly staring the end of the year in the eye, and no matter what happens this week, at 1:25 on Friday, Connor will be DONE with second grade!