Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lucky Day for Connor

A couple of years ago, Connor wasn't having a great time at life in general. He definitely felt very oppressed by all the authorities in his life, probably most of all me. I'm cool with that. I know my job isn't to be Connor's best friend, it's to parent him. And because I have more political capital than anyone else, I tend to be the one that brings the hammer, so to speak.

On this particular day, we were on a ski trip. Connor had opted to spend the day with my parents and Helen rather than hit the slopes, and as grandparents and grandchildren often do, they went to a toy store. Neither of my children like to waste opportunities like this, and Connor wasn't about to let something good slip away.

So he asked for a Nerf gun.

My parents were backed into a corner, and the choice seemed to be to buy a toy I wasn't going to love and watch Connor experience the thrill of his life to that point, or tell a kid who wasn't particularly happy anyway, no. I imagine they were paralyzed for a few minutes, and then they got the bright idea to call me.

I answered that call, and I decided the kid needed a win. I authorized the purchase.

Connor was so happy. He went around the vacation house with his 5 Nerf darts and bright orange gun in complete glee - watching those foam darts shoot out and stick to various surfaces. It was all glee, until I said "don't shoot at that window, because it's very high and we won't be able to unstick the dart" and of course, the dart was stuck to the window in about a minute. Because moms? They don't know anything.

Connor didn't realize we could go to the store and buy a thousand more darts and losing the dart seemed pretty awful. He was back to feeling that nothing could go right.

We had quite an adventure tossing things at that dart at such an angle as to dislodge the dart but not get anything else stuck on a nearby ledge. The dart was freed - and that was the end of shooting towards surfaces where the dart couldn't be easily reclaimed.

For his 7th birthday, he received another couple of Nerf guns from friends, and he enjoyed quite a bit of fun last year building makeshift barriers in the basement and having shoot-outs with our babysitter.

Although Connor turned 8 back in August, and he's already had two birthday parties (one with each set of grandparents) and was celebrated at Hamleys, he still thinks he needs a "friend party". Although I swore after last year's party - when a tornado interrupted the outside play - that I was farming the job of party coordinator out this year, Connor decided he wanted a sleep-over party, and I capitulated. (As it turns out, even though I'm the toughest adult in his life, I'm extremely soft.)

Connor's idea is that they will fight over the xBox all night. My idea is that they need at least something else to do. And so Connor came up with the idea to ask his friends to bring their Nerf guns and set up a game in the backyard.

Invitations were issued.

Unrelated to all of this, I was invited to check out the new toys Hasbro is coming out with this fall. Prior to my arrival, I didn't put it together that Hasbro is Nerf (and a lot more). Hasbro is also 8 year old boy heaven. Two of the toys being demonstrated were a crossbow - the Blazin Bow - and a gun that shoots little foam discs - the Vortex.

I mentioned that we were doing a Nerf gun party and look what arrived in the mail a couple of days ago?

Connor's friend demonstrates the Nerf Vortex Revonix360 Blaster.
Connor demonstrates the Nerf N-Strike Blazin' Bow Blaster
Yeah...Connor is in heaven. I'll let you know how the party turns out.

Thank you, Hasbro PR folks. You made my son and his friend extremely happy.


Disclosure: As disclosed in this post, I received a Blazin' Bow Blaster and Vortex from Hasbro. They did not ask me to write this post.

Monday, September 23, 2013


Connor lacks Helen's moxie in most situations. He tends to get a little nervous when he speaks to adults, he definitely doesn't want to be wrong, and he mostly tries to go unnoticed.

Except for schoolwork.

For some reason, he shows a confidence there that he lacks elsewhere. He mostly keeps it to himself, but on our walks home, more than once he has shown a side of himself that I don't see often.

Last Friday, he told me he had a math quiz and there was an extra credit question on it. I asked him if he completed the question, figuring if he was like me, he'd answer the question just in case a mistake had been made on the test.

But Connor doesn't need that insurance. He told me "no, I didn't bother answering the question, I had already gotten a perfect score on the test".

Today, he brought the test home.

And guess what? He was right.

A friend of mine remarked - when you hit the ball out of the park - you take your time rounding the bases. True that.

And that A+ he brought home? It's good for a free cupcake at Sprinkles in Georgetown tomorrow (Tuesdays in September). We'll be heading there after traffic clears.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Blackbeard Left a Little Something on the Beach for Us

It's a little known fact, but the famous pirate Blackbeard apparently spent a bit of time in what is now known as Chincoteague. I'm not sure of all the details, but I learned over Labor Day that he left a little bit of treasure behind.

It started out like any other day. Connor and Helen ran across the street to check on our crab trap. (And actually, although we did catch a few crabs, it was more of a crab feeding station since there were so many holes in the trap, and most crabs opted to dine and dash, rather than stay around and get eaten by Connor and Helen.)

There was initial disappointment at not finding a crab, and more disappointment when we found an old jar and piece of trash instead. But quickly, the day started looking up. Inside the glass jar was a map left by Blackbeard which indicated there was buried treasure nearby. There was much excitement as Connor and Helen raced to show me their find.

We drove to the beach and carefully studied the map, which seemed to indicate the treasure was buried on the bay side. Never mind that the bay side probably didn't exist in its current state when the map was allegedly penned. We were not going to be dissuaded from our hunt by facts!

We gathered a couple of apprentices and set out on our hunt!

We were doing our best to act casual, so as not to attract unwanted attention and risk having to split the booty multiple ways.

The treasure hunters followed a series of clues, and eventually we found this:

Our treasure hunters seemed a bit lost at times, but our intrepid adviser Stephen (who has been on a few hunts in his day) reminded us that sometimes pirates have peg legs, and they walk with a limp, which might cause them to veer off to the left.

There was lots of digging...

A bit of mid-adventure analyzing:

And finally, there was treasure!

Connor requested I contact the newspaper right away, but instead I told him I'd run the store on the wire out of my office. I might have forgotten to do this. My only hope now is that Stephen joins us next year. Otherwise, Ed and I are going to have to get mighty creative to top this year's trip.

Upon starting back to school, Connor seemed to have forgotten all about his trips to Kansas, Loon Lake, England, and Paris - but he did remember the treasure!


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Labor Day in Chincoteague

We might have started a new family tradition of heading to Chincoteague for Labor Day. Originally, the trip happened on Memorial Day weekend. But, unless you are at the beach every Memorial Day, you may not know that it rains every year at that time. You could probably guess the water was cold - which is not the best time to go to a beach if you want to swim.

The trip was then moved to 4th of July - and we had a string of great ones.

But this year, Labor Day made the most sense, so we gathered a crew of new and returning 'Teaguers alike, and it might have been the best trip yet.

Connor still has mad boogie board skills, which he happily showed off.

Ed found a Horseshoe Crab washed up on the shore. Luckily, it was not too stinky.

Helen has surpassed the Mr. Whippy sign in height. Click here, for past years' photos.

Connor and Helen can practically lead the Captain Barry's Backbay Cruise - and bonus this year - a photo of Connor and his friend Eamon appears in the brochure. This cruise has provided so many great memories for both me and the kids. As has been noted in these pages before, I take particular pleasure in finding activities that I loved before I had kids, that I love with my kids as well.

Our new au pair was game for the campiness of Captain Barry. She's even smiling at the end!

The water was a little rough - so there wasn't a lot of going out super deep, but there was lots of playing near the shore. Helen has decided that wave jumping is her sport of choice.

Up next? The treasure hunt dreamt up by my friend. It's what kept 'Teague fresh for us this year - after 18 years of visiting!


Thursday, September 12, 2013

My Heart Melted Over a Piano

After a 6 week break, Connor started back at his piano lessons today. I love that he plays piano. I have such fond memories of banging out tunes and belting out Broadway hits that it's hard for me to imagine not playing piano. I mean, what do you do if you can't read music and start singing whenever you want?*

Connor was extremely proud to be able to play piano for his grandparents and my sister (a professional piano teacher) when we were in Kansas back in July. And you know what the absolute best part of the whole trip to Kansas was? The day my sister sat down and played a secondo line opposite Connor's primo. If I was harboring ill feelings toward my sister, they melted that day. She must have sat with him for at least half an hour. During that half hour, Connor felt like a professional musician. He was absolutely inspired to keep playing piano because finally, after several weeks of one note at a time, he experienced the art of making music.


*That's sort of a rhetorical question. My friend hosts a caroling party every year and I know exactly what you do if you're not making harmonies with several people who really know how to sing. You stand at the back and drink from a flask, or you stay at home and stir the chili while everyone else walks around the neighborhood (Ed's preferred option).

Monday, September 9, 2013

Little League

Connor, my contrarian, roots for neither the Royals (my hometown team from the way back days) nor the Nationals (my hometown team of the present). Instead, he roots for the Orioles (understandable, I suppose), the Cubs (t-ball team), the Diamondbacks (little league team), and just for good measure he has a soft spot for the White Sox, driven solely by his desire to annoy me. Occasionally, he'll root for the Red Sox since Ed grew up a Yankees' fan.

It's a mess. And it can also be embarrassing when he wears all of these random (terrible) team hats he has.

So of course, it should come as no surprise that the little league team name for fall is the Yankees. I received the email, read it, and promptly told Connor he had to quit baseball for the Fall, because I was NOT going to have a child that played for the Yankees.

Connor wasn't quite sure if I was serious or not. He told me "Ah mom, you can root for me, can't you?" and I told him that I supported what George Brett said when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame "I  don't like those Yankees still".

But come Saturday, I'm a Yankees fan.

That hurts.

A lot.

I'll be the fan in the enormous sun hat and dark glasses, trying to hide.


Sunday, September 8, 2013


Helen is my creature of habit. And she's also my creature who develops the perfect way to complete a task, and she does not like to deviate from her system. For example, each night before bed, Helen requests Liam, her baby of choice for the past year or so, possibly another stuffed animal or two, and an "ice cold glass of water". Sometimes, she'll decide her foot hurts and needs a piece of ice. In the winter, she often wears a very snug hat to bed and will also don her pumpkin Halloween costume, which is just a bright orange fleece blanket with a hole cut out for the head.

In the morning, Helen insists on drinking her orange juice before consuming any other food, otherwise, the juice tastes "sour". She also insists that she needs a different fork for each food item, particularly if syrup is involved, because she doesn't want the syrup from her French Toast to comingle with her fruit (which is, naturally, in a separate bowl).

I know most of you are rolling your eyes at this point - but here's the thing. Each particular habit got layered on top of an existing habit, in such a methodical way that it hardly seemed bothersome. And many of the habit come with a reward of great value to me. For example, she might be quite insistent about several things at bedtime. But in return? Every night for several years I have gathered her items, kissed her good-night, and turned around and walked down the stairs. She follows about 11 hours later. In my mind, 5 minutes of detail results in ELEVEN hours of sleep. And I'll take that bargain any day.

Because each habit was layered onto another, it's sometimes difficult to even realize what's going on. Only the introduction of a third party can make you see things for what they are - a series of ceaseless demands.

A few days ago, I was working from home. Our new babysitter had given Helen breakfast. Helen started to eat her fruit, and then decided to go for another item on her plate. And here is what happened.

Helen: "M, can I have a fork?"
M.: "I gave you a fork."
Helen: "But I need another fork."
M.: "Why?"
Helen: "For my eggy bread. I don't want to get my fruit on my eggy bread."
M.: "Can't you just lick the one you have."
Helen responded quite matter of factly "no". Because the thought of two items touching each other? That has really never occurred to Helen.

And so it is, that another adult now gives Helen one fork for each breakfast item. And I had the opportunity to realize how ridiculous my life has become.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Space Shuttle Launch

Tonight, NASA is scheduled to launch LADEE to the moon. Ed reminded us about this at dinner tonight. Connor was nonplussed by the whole affair. As he put it, what's so exciting when we can't even see it?

After I removed the dagger that was piercing my heart, I noted that this shuttle was going to the MOON. It's leaving the EARTH.

Connor noted that people had already been on the moon, so what could be so exciting.

You know what's exciting, Connor?

That a long time ago, someone dared to dream about getting to the moon. And every time that dream comes true, it's amazing.

Every. Single. Time.

And you know what else makes this so exciting?

At a time when the world seems to be caving inward, and I sometimes stop and wonder where the humanity of everything has gone, I find hope in the knowledge that a whole team of people kept on working together on a project, focused on the moon.

To the moon and back, my love.