Thursday, March 27, 2014


Tonight, I showed Connor a video that was a tribute to runners training for Boston. It reminded me that while I don't always love running (I am seriously sore from 7 sub 9:00 miles at the track this morning), I do always love runners.

I love runners because - at least the ones I hang out with - are collectively cheering on every other runner they see. I appreciate that kind of energy. Runners also put their whole self where their mouth is. If they encourage you to run? They will run with you. It is so much easier to run with someone than to run by yourself.

They also don't care about anyone's time but their own. I suspect, still, this is a product of not being an elite runner who has a chance to win things. Those people might care how other people run. But at my speed? We pull someone along who's having a difficult run and we draft (figuratively) off someone when we're having our own troubles. In the end, we celebrate each step.

As we watched the video, Connor and I each made a promise to each other.

My promise to Connor? Should you ever be in a wheelchair, I will take you on the ride of your life as I push it. This, because Connor was so impressed by Dick Hoyt pushing his quadriplegic son in a wheelchair.

Connor's promise to me? He's going to make a sign that says "go Mommy" if I ever run a marathon. He'll include "and Daddy" on the sign if Ed runs it as well.

I'm hoping one of those promises gets kept.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tulip Babies

The Spring Dance at Helen's school is coming up. It's another one of those bittersweet milestones. Helen will most definitely remember many of the dances that are repeated each year, and she'll run around with her friends like she owns the place for the day. And even though we'd be welcomed back next year - this will likely be our last year attending the dance. Connor will be attending a birthday party instead, which he will be thrilled about. He still knows a few children at his old school, but he's not a huge fan of square dancing. He'll love the party more.

The handwork group leader has come up with lots of fun projects for the handwork group which will be for sale at the dance. She pinned some "tulip babies" on our group pinterest board, and I was thrilled that she reverse engineered the project and gave me a pattern. In exchange, I'm giving her the four tulips on the left to sell at the dance. The one on the right goes to Helen.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Third Grade

There's a natural tension between parents, teachers, and school administrators. Parents need to worry about their own child(ren), teachers need to worry about their class, and school administrators must worry about the whole enchilada. When all of these interests align, I imagine things are fantastic on all fronts. But I'm also guessing that for a fair number of people, the interests of these three groups aren't perfectly aligned, and the natural tension becomes more obvious. Ultimately, of course, the administrator wins. And you hope she wins in a way that isn't too costly for your particular child.

Back in first grade, I remember an off-handed comment that was made to me about third grade. I kept that in the back of my head, and did my very best to head the concern off during the first week of school. Now, many emails, appointments, and frustrations later - I am tired. I feel like there are simple solutions but the will to implement them is lacking.

I have, for all intents and purposes, an easy child to have in a classroom. Why? Because he knows how to sit still, pay attention, be quiet, and completes standardized tests with ease. The downside of this is that when there's someone in the class who demands attention, it's easy for my bookworm to settle into his desk, pull out a book, and read. I sense that he's allowed to do this because the teacher has more urgent issues to address. I don't want to contemplate the number of hours that child reads in class each week - but I will say that he finishes at least two, and sometimes three, books each week. Typical fare includes Hardy Boys, C.S. Lewis books, and Lemony Snickets. Is this normal? Is this appropriate?

It's the end of March. We have three more months of school. THREE. MONTHS. When people talk about "no child left behind", they often do so in the context of making sure everyone performs at or above grade level. But there's another group of children being left behind. And I'm pretty sure we can do better.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Living 40: Rock and Roll Recap - First Half Marathon

I want to remember this one for a while. Goal time? Two hours. My friend Rob paced me and told me on Thursday night we would cross the line at 1:57. Not a bad guess, eh?

Thank you Rob. You were steady the whole way through. You knew I had lost 10 seconds on the hill at mile 5 but stayed calm. (Thank you, Moms Run This Town ladies who were at the bottom of that hill cheering! You made that hill seem a lot smaller.) Rob, you did not freak out around mile 8 when I threw a cup of water on myself. I was wearing a t-shirt and warm leggings - and I was dressed way too warmly. I should've worn shorts or capris. At mile 10, you told me I had two minutes to spare, so I needed to turn it up if I wanted a little more cushion, but I'd be fine if I kept my pace. It was a subtle way to tell me that now was not the time to slow down. If you hadn't been there, I would've walked for a minute because I was tired, at that point. But because you were there, I sped up, and told myself I was sticking to your shoulder. I clocked my fastest mile at the end - 7:56 - the only timed sub-8 minute mile I have ever run - and you knew I was going super fast for me, and again, you just kept up and stayed calm. Knowing you were there meant a lot. And finally, when I misestimated how far away the finish line was, and realized it was a lot closer to 0.3 miles than 0.1 miles away, you just laughed as I grumbled something that rhymes with "go duck".

Loved my negative splits.

Loved my run.

Loved it when a woman who runs by / with me at the track on Thursday mornings drove by my house on Sunday to issue congratulations.

Considering a half marathon trail race this fall and a marathon next year.

On pace to hit 1,000 miles by December 31.

I love you, 40.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

That Stinkin' Leprechaun!

It happened again.

Connor and Helen set traps to catch the leprechaun, but rather than foiling it, they were led on a roundabout hunt for gold. He's getting pretty tricky!

This year's hunt started with the Leprechaun swiping the golden / chocolate coins from each of the traps. He left these notes.

Thanks for the candy
Don't you know about leprechaun luck?
We're much too clever
To ever get stuck!
Followed by:
A second trap?
Think you can catch me?
I'll just eat this candy

Go in the bathroom and _____.
 I was just thankful he chose the children's bathroom instead of mine. I don't like green pee!

When they got to the bathroom, they found this note:

It's nice to be back
The year went by so quick
To start your quest
Look on the porch under a ______.
There was some debate about whether it was the front or back porch, but eventually they made it to the back porch, and with a little help from Ed, uncovered another note.
Not even close -
You're not as smart as you think.
If you want to keep trying
Look in the basement under the ______.
Down the stairs our intrepid searchers went, only to find this:
You'll never get me
Haven't you learned?
The next clue is where
Your dinner gets ___________.

I had just flipped on the oven to bake muffins, but luckily our leprechaun had thought of this, and put the next clue in a storage drawer of the oven, not the actual oven. Phew!

Now the hunt gets hard
If you want to stay on the trail
Put on your coat
Look under a blue box where you send ________.
As it turns out, our mailbox is blue, as is the federal mailbox down the street. Connor and Helen rushed out to the front porch, and when Connor realized the clue was not at our house, he came inside and muttered "Stinkin' leprechaun!".
And for good reason! It snowed over 6 inches last night! Helen was a bit nervous about getting lost in the snow, so Connor cleared her a path.

Yes - that is our street. On MARCH 17. I am so over snow I cannot even express it.

You made it this far
You came through the snow
Now back to the shed
By the tool your dad uses to ___________.

It took a couple of tries to figure out where in the shed the mower was, but once they found it, Connor and Helen sensed the end was nigh.

I'm starting to tire.
You'll find the treasure
In the place you build a _______.

We ate dinner on very fancy paper plates that Helen had found at the grocery store the week before with Ed. 
And that's a wrap for St. Patrick's Day for us. The kids have vowed to use even stickier tape next year so they have a better shot at capturing that little green man.
Cheers, all!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sometimes you win...sometimes you lose

A few years ago, Ed's mom gave Connor a coupon to redeem for a transparent tadpole. We were supposed to mail the coupon in and watch the tadpole grow into a frog. We were supposed to view its organs as it grew. Creepy? Yes. But also awesomely cool.

Connor also received "Frog Planet" that same year. I can't remember who gave him this (Linda?), but in any case, we sent away for the tadpoles for that setup first.

Frog Planet was ridiculously disappointing. Our tadpole was weirdly large, and that thing lived for a LONG time - maybe even a year, definitely more than six months. It NEVER turned into a frog. A woman at our local nature center was giving a talk on tadpoles and insinuated the things turn into frogs rather quickly. We asked about ours and her first answer was "are you sure it's not a fish". Well, no, I wasn't sure. Eventually, she decided it was probably a bullfrog, because that was the only thing hearty enough to ship in the winter. By the end of the tadpole's life, it looked like it was trying to grow some legs - but it died before it got to enjoy full frogness. Totally. Disappointing.

That was five years ago.

I never bothered sending away for the transparent tadpole, perhaps because of the great disappointment of the first tadpole experiment. Perhaps because I end up taking care of all the things that live in this house, and I'm not interested in any more care taking responsibility. Perhaps I was just too lazy to mail the card in.

Connor found the transparent tadpole container a few weeks ago and Ed and the kids excitedly sent away for the tadpole. It came! Only the folks sending the tadpole had written the wrong address on the label, and how it eventually came to us is a bit of a mystery. By the time we opened it, things did not look good for the tadpole that would be named "Bob".

"Bob" lasted fewer than five hours outside his shipping container.

Sorry, Bob. Ed has sent away for your next of kin. Hopefully they have a little better go of it than you did. The kids, at least, are very excited to watch that thing turn into a frog. I'm skeptical that will actually happen.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Fairy Visit

Right before our last snowstorm, Helen and I were looking at the garden beds on the side of our house and found evidence of fairies moving in.

We were thrilled by our discovery, and immediately set about trying to welcome whatever fairies wanted to live in our garden. I figured each week we could add a little something, and in a couple of months - we'd probably have a pretty fun space.

Our first additions were some sparkly golden rocks, that surely fairies would love.

Helen also cleared away some of the dead pine needles that had gathered over winter, and as soon as a weekend is nice enough, we'll prune the branches of the plants back.

I had no idea another snowstorm would come and bury the start of our fairy garden. Helen and I have both been waiting for everything to melt to confirm our fairies' home is OK.

Think warm thoughts! We don't want any more snow this weekend to potentially bury the house again!


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Helen's Hair

A well-loved book at our home is Stephanie's Ponytail. For those not already familiar with Robert Munsch's book (a brilliant children's author, by the way), the basic story is that Stephanie creates a unique hairdo, all her classmates call her strange and then copy her, eventually her teachers start copying as well, and finally Stephanie tells them she's going to shave her head - and they all do, but she comes to school with her ponytail the next day.

Helen, apparently, has taken the text to heart, and had her babysitter create a crazy hairdo on her for a few morning. Her friends at school think it's hilarious (as do I), and she had lots of fun surprising them with it by popping her hat off. Not sure if she's trying to adopt the role of class clown or if she has other things on her mind. For now? It just makes me laugh.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lost Teeth!

The reporter in this house (me) should be fired! She's been prioritizing her running and working over blogging. Teeth have been dropping - and not one word in this space. Forgive me, Helen, I do realize it was a really big deal. You played it for all it was worth - and even now, as the new tooth grows in, you still tell me at least three times each day how strange it feels to have a hole in your mouth where there used to be a tooth!

On February 28, Helen lost her first tooth. She started wiggling the tooth and worse, regularly sticking her fingers in her mouth (eek!) probably 6 weeks ago. She assured me her tooth was loose, and I assured her that was impossible since Connor did not lose his first tooth until after first grade - and I didn't lose my first tooth until I was 8. Clearly, the girl is an overachiever - at least in the loss of unnecessary body parts.

While at the dentist a few weeks ago, the dental hygienist mentioned Helen's loose tooth and I assure you, the "I told you so" look from Helen was fantastic. Now that she had a professional on her side, she became emboldened.

Not one to back out of a good story, Helen opted to milk the loose tooth for all it was worth. Regularly, she informed us that it was extremely difficult to eat particular foods. Regularly, she told us how loose her tooth was but DO NOT TOUCH IT! And regularly, I told her I would pop it out if she wanted me to.

She sent notes to each of her grandparents with their box of valentine's cookies letting them know she had a loose tooth. I believe she announced this fact to her Aunt Linda as well. On Valentine's Day, Helen and I worked together to design and make a pillow for her tooth. The back has a tiny heart where the tooth gets placed after falling out.

Despite our readiness, the tooth held on.

Finally, it was so loose that I was certain it would fall out that night, and I didn't want to miss it - so I mentioned trying to wiggle it out once more.

She gave the tooth three wiggles and out it popped!

Connor, on the other hand, not one to play up the drama these days, is so used to teeth falling out that twice, he has mentioned "my tooth sort of hurts" and then gone into the bathroom and just popped it out. The first time, before he did this I confidently told Ed there was no way Connor was in the bathroom pulling his tooth out because he would never do that.

Turns out, I was wrong. When he did it a second time, I wasn't home, so he left this note for the Tooth Fairy.

He was so nonchalant about the loss of this tooth, that after writing the note, he promptly forgot about the tooth entirely. Luckily, the tooth fairy was able to find the tooth on our family desk and replace it with a gem and a dollar. Connor was shocked when he went to retrieve the tooth about a week later, only to find it gone. You just can't trust the tooth fairy, I guess.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Valentine's Day

Our traditional exchange of homemade valentines happened again this year. Connor and Helen also diligently worked to make cards for each of their classmates. At Helen's school, Valentine's Day was a planned day off, so there was no official card exchange (so sad), but she still worked with Ed to make valentines for each member of her class. Ed had no idea when he made his great pop-out valentines last year that Helen would request they be mass produced by him this year! But she did.

And so they set about first drawing, then coloring, then cutting, and finally pasting about 20 cards together. They did bring a lot of smiles to Helen's classmates and friends. Connor made Star Wars themed cards with pixie sticks, I made valentines with snowflakes with messages like "I love you SNOW much!", Ed created puzzles for everyone, and our au pair crafted hers out of toilet paper roll tubes. If there had been a contest for fanciest valentine, our au pair would've won.

But that was just the tip of our valentine crafting this year!

We also had a painting day, and when the paintings dried - we cut them into hearts and hung them by the fireplace.

We decorated heart shaped cookies for our neighbors and a few out of town friends.

And finally, my favorite craft of the season were these heart shaped candles. We pressed them out of beeswax, stacked the sheets together, and then strung a candlewick through them after poking a hole through the stacked wax hearts with a bamboo skewer.


We never did burn the candles all the way down. I can't decide whether to leave them out for spring or to squirrel them away for next Valentine's Day!


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Family Date Night: Pinstripes!

I can hardly believe that the last Family Date Night recorded on these pages was our trip to Chuck-E-Cheese back in 2011. I'm pretty sure we've been on a family date night more recently than that, but I guess it wasn't worthy of recording.

Our most recent Family Date Night took us to Pinstripes. They just opened a franchise in DC (Georgetown), and it is full of fabulous. We ate some great food, tossed back some great drinks, the little people made pizzas, and we played a couple of games of bowling. On the night we were there, the bocce courts were full, but I have my eyes on a return trip to check those out.

First up? A lesson from the chef on how to make the perfect pizza.

First - press the ball of dough down around the edges of a well-floured board.

Next, press the ball down - and as you do this, the pizza dough ball turns into a flat, round pizza crust - no rolling pin required!

This turned out to be very serious business.

Next...add topping while your mama has a margarita!

Then go bowling while your mama eats a bunch of veggies.

Beat your mama at bowling.

Make sure your mama hasn't snuck off to the gorgeous bar upstairs.

 And finally, go back the party room and eat your pizza!

Dinner for everyone, no mess for mom, and enough stuff to do that the parents can actually have a conversation - or two - while the kids play games!

We'll be back, I'm sure.


Connor, Ed, Helen, and I were invited to check out Pinstripes a couple of weeks ago. We're absolutely planning to return with friends - and think it would be a great afternoon or evening outing. Ed's favorite part? The patio that overlooks the canal that has a fireplace. It's nice!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Armchair Traveler - Little Passports

I have a friend who often talks about wanting to give her children experiences, not just things. And I agree with that. We've slowly been broadening our travel experiences with Connor and Helen. At first, we confined ourselves to places with family, beaches, and ski resorts (and those ski resorts were always loaded with family!). This allowed Ed and I to manage Helen and Connor and also relax - because the demands of those places were minimal - or at least familiar.

Last summer, we decided to travel to England and France, and what I noticed the most was that although Connor and Helen enjoyed almost everything they did, Connor really dug into those things he had been exposed to before. In second grade, he had study Ancient Egypt and that meant that our trip to the British Museum was just amazing. Connor led us through an explanation of the Rosetta Stone, the significance of various burial customs highlighted in the museum, and the amazing Egyptian tombs at the museum. It was a real treat - and an eye-opener.

Although we did some reading about England before our trip, we could have prepared better. And pretty much every time I turn on the news I realize how important it is to give my children some sense of international education. If I were better about thinking internationally, I wouldn't have to worry. But we tend to talk about things happening closer to home, so I fear my children have limited knowledge of the wider world.

Enter Little Passports.

Little Passports puts together a monthly World Edition package for children ages 5 - 10. They have a US focused package for children ages 7 - 12.  Subscribers receive a package in the mail each month. They also have a blog loaded with awesome activities. Right now, there are instructions about how to build your own mardi gras float. - which might be how we will tomorrow if school is canceled again!

Connor received the international edition a couple of weeks ago and was thrilled to read about Japan, learn some simple origami, and answer questions about Japan. It was a conversation starter for the type of food people eat in Japan and the map that was included was perfect for being able to talk about where the country was - and how it's location influenced the cuisine. He also went to international night at his school, and saw many similar items representing Japan - which meant he was exposed to the country in two ways, with a lot of similar information. We can now go to visit some of the Japanese art at the Smithsonian and hopefully - this all builds to a pretty cool understanding of another part of our world.

Connor was thrilled. He instantly asked for us to sign up for more - which I will. All of the activities fit into a small carrying case that looks like a suitcase and is easily packed away - so I won't have random pieces of something floating around with no home. That pleases me, of course.

I wish I could take my children on multiple trips around the world, but that's not going to happen. So we're going to do some armchair traveling instead - and when the opportunities arise to go further, I hope it adds to our enjoyment.


I received the Japan box in the mail free. All subsequent boxes will be purchased by me.