Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Week Away

On Friday, my dad flew from Kansas to DC. On Sunday, he left - accompanied by Helen and Connor. Knowing that my parents have raised two children to adulthood, I knew I didn't need to give them a lot of instructions. My mom would ask occasional questions about what foods they liked - and mentioned the 699 fun things they have planned.

I was willing to send the kids unaccompanied, but when I mentioned this to Helen she firmly stated "I need someone to ride with me on the plane. And it needs to be an ADULT - not just Connor." Clearly, she could see the future and knew we were going to tell her Connor would take care of everything for her. Connor was totally game. My parents thought I was as crazy as Helen did, which is why my dad insisted on coming out and back with the kids.

On Saturday, I sent my mom the following email. I figured Connor and Helen might enjoy seeing it when they're older and read through these pages.


Helen still has not lost her teeth [my parents were here a few weeks ago and Helen was discussing her loose teeth then]. I'm sending Dad back with an envelope that contains a poem that our tooth fairy brings, along with the stones the tooth fairy leaves. She also leaves $1.
Helen and Connor are excited about staying - but who knows if Helen will have a meltdown at some point. If she does, she can call any time. It really does not bother me. [Note: Helen remarked on Sunday morning that she was really going to miss me because she wasn't used to having fun without me around.]
If Helen seems unreasonable and grumpy, give her some food. I wouldn't say "do you want a strawberry" I would say "we should eat some strawberries". She's not particularly good with choices when she's hungry.

Connor ate so much the other night he puked. Hopefully he won't do this again - but if he does, don't worry about it.

Helen hasn't done it in a while, but occasionally she vomits from overeating or eating too much of a particular kind of food. Again, it's nothing to worry about, she'll feel better after she gets it all out.
Make sure Connor stays hydrated. He sometimes forgets to drink, and then he doesn't poop. He hasn't done this in a while, but I do try and get him to drink. Related - if he drinks a bunch and you notice him dancing - tell him "go to the bathroom". Strange, I know, but he sometimes doesn't seem to realize he has to go.

Helen is allergic to mussels and shrimp. Connor is just picky.
If you have any questions - feel free to call or drop me a note. I can't think of any other things that are too weird about the little people but then again, I've probably just gotten used to all their weirdness so fail to recognize it as weird any more.
Connor has been enjoying watching soccer on TV, so he'd probably be interested in seeing some of that.
Have fun

Monday, June 16, 2014


Frozen has landed at our home. I suppose I should be happy that we've been virtually free of children's entertainment for the past 8 years and call it a win, but I see my future - and it looks bleak.

It seems as if every child in the universe has seen Frozen, and as a result, any time Helen is around any child at or near her age - they talk about it. Which of course makes Helen long for the magic of the big screen. Even her friends at her Waldorf school (which does not allow video / computer / tv etc.) saw the movie. We gave in by purchasing the CD. Helen promptly memorized it, and then found herself in the car with Ed without the CD. Tragic.

So Helen decided to have a Frozen sing-along, during which she attempted to teach Ed all of the songs she knows. Apparently, Ed's not a very good singer (even to Helen's untrained ear) because at one point during the ride, Helen told Ed "maybe this one's just too hard for you - let's try another". When asked if he was singing Ed said "kind of", which translates to "yes - but as you know, I am tone deaf, so I had no idea I wasn't singing anything close to the melody".

Sorry, kid. You'll be at your Aunt Linda's house soon. Maybe your cousins can sing the tunes with you.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

What Exactly is Happening on this Field?

People talk about the benefits of being active as a justification for encouraging kids to play sports all the time. Advocates also talk about inner-city sports literally saving children's lives. Both of these are great, but they're not my concern. My kids bounce on trampolines, swim, ride bikes, and chase each other often. They can safely move about our neighborhood and at least as of this year, there's no lure to check out illegal drugs after school. But the lessons on the field still abound.

1. Respect. The players are learning respect. Respect for the game, respect for the coaches who give so much time, and respect for each other. They learn to play by the rules, fist-bump their friends, and treat their opponents kindly. As for the parents, we congratulate our own children on a well made play and when that kid on the other team makes a great grab in the field breaking our own child's heart? We congratulate that fielder, too. It's not at all because we think we have to tell everyone good job. It's because we really respect that player who put himself on the line and played hard.

2. Compassion. We've had a lot of instances lately where a child gets hit by a pitch, slides in the dirt and gets hurt, or face plants on the field trying to make a play. The game stops, we quiet down, and every player on the field takes a knee. When my team's pitcher hits your child, I feel awful for your child. When your son hits my son, I know you feel badly, too. And we both empathize with the pitcher because unlike an angry major-leaguer who was trying to plant one in revenge, these pitchers are just trying to sling that ball over the plate. No harm was intended. And we never root for injuries - not the players, not the parents.

3. Give it everything. Sports isn't everything. In fact, it's practically nothing. I'd hazard a guess that among all the players I watched play this year, maybe one or two will play college ball and not a one of them will ever wear a major league uniform as anything more than a bat boy. But none of that matters. What matters today is giving everything you have in this one game. And I have watched the boys mature over the year so that when they pop up a ball, they run that bugger out. And even when the play at first seems obvious, they try to leg that single out. Often, they make it. Because at least in your first year of kid-pitch, balls get bobbled, someone else fails to give it their all, and if you're playing hard - you have a good chance of getting that single. We even have a child with a broken arm on the team who comes just in case he gets a chance to pinch run.

4. Persistence. Kid-pitch is hard. Balls are flying at you in a sometimes erratic manner. The pitcher changes every inning so you never get a consistent rhythm. But you keep trying, and in Connor's case, you take a few lessons on the side, and you know what? All of a sudden those hits start dropping in, you're advancing the runner, and you realize somewhere deep down that keeping at it can pay huge dividends. Baseball has been a lot of fun this year.

5. Thankfulness. It's no small task to coach a little league team. There's the lugging the equipment, showing up early to every game and practice, planning and executing the practices, and keeping all those boys focused on the game. If your guy draws a walk, you run in to pitch to him (league rule - no walks, coach takes over if the kid pitcher walks a player). At the end of every game, I walk with Connor to each coach and thank them for their time. I wasn't at the last game but Ed reported that on his own, Connor made sure to thank his coaches. Connor could never know how much his coaches give to him, but he most certainly should be thankful for the commitment shown to him. Ed gives them home brew.

6. Sometimes it takes a team. You cannot play baseball by yourself. And though you might not need all the players all the time, you most certainly need a group around you. I'm not much of a team player myself - I prefer to work alone. But it's important to recognize that sometimes a team of people is the only thing that will get the job at hand done.

Well done, boys. Undefeated in the regular season and a win in the first playoff game. The weather looks dismal tonight to get the second playoff game in. No matter when the season ends, it's been a great run.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Nerf Water Play - Or How to Cool Down on a Hot Afternoon

A package with three of Nerf's new water blasters showed up in the mail - followed by a day that felt like it was at least a 100 degrees - or 80. Is there even a difference?

Connor and his friend went straight to soaking each other and Helen was thrilled to join for a while.

Connor's friend chose the Nerf Super Soaker Tri Strike Crossbow Soaker, Connor opted for the Nerf Super Soaker Barrage Soaker and Helen was left with the Nerf Rebelle Dolphina Bow Soaker. The boys were not impressed with the Rebelle, and at first Helen thought she wanted one of the other soakers - but it turns out, they're pretty heavy! So about 1 minute after trading with Connor, she went back to her first water weapon.

The Tri Stike Crossbow and the Barrage Soaker can shoot far - not quite across our yard, but over a third of the way. The crossbow allows for some sneak attacks, if the bow is extended. It can also be set to just shoot straight.

Even with the smaller weapon, Helen got a few good shots on Helen - and was cause for the "no aiming at the face rule".

We have big plans to take these water guns on our annual tubing trip - which might happen this weekend. Beware friends who come with us!


I received the three super soakers from Nerf to test out. I'm not required to write about them. The kids had a blast with them, and they held up well during their play. I suspect these will be popular in the neighborhood this year as we settle into hot summer days.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Play Ball!

My parents came to visit last weekend, which means we were going full tilt. They came to watch Connor play baseball and soccer and Helen play softball. Although Connor's Thursday game was cancelled to rain, the back-to-back-to-back weekend lineup held up, and my parents trotted from field to field, praising their higher power more than once that this was a weekend event for them, and not their regular life.

The last time my parents came to watch Connor play baseball, he made a crazy play in the outfield, catching the ball and then getting it back to the first baseman cleanly and quickly. It was great to watch. This time, he turned on his bat with a 3 for 4 performance (something he's been working on) which resulted in a few huge grins. The team ended the regular season undefeated and head to the play-offs tomorrow. Go team!

Soccer was hot - as were the games Connor played yesterday and today.

After the game, Connor and I chatted and then he had a huge grin for my parents. Somehow, he looks so old in the photo with me. He really has become a pleasant person to chat with.

Helen had more of her awesome game-day looks, and hit the ball to the outfield! It wasn't in the air that whole distance, but it eventually meandered its way out there, rolling lazily by the girls on the other team.

Helen played her last game yesterday. I accompanied Connor to his game (Ed and I generally trade off who we watch) and then Connor and I dashed over to see Helen's last at-bat of the year. It was a great season. I suspect about half of the girls on the team understand the general concept of the game, which puts them squarely in the running for tops in their league.

And now...on to summer sports!


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Climbing Mountains - and Fueling Up!

An article in The Atlantic struck a chord with me recently. Part of the argument is that children need to feel like they're taking on risk and resolve it. It struck a chord, because on Mother's Day, Ed and I hiked up a portion of the Billy Goat trail . Connor and Helen spent the whole time scrambling up rock faces, running ahead, climbing up and over big obstacles, and then cheering. It was a great way to reflect on how climbing can bring such satisfaction.

It was so fun, that we went back a couple of weekends later - to tackle a larger part of the trail. Connor and Helen like to bicker. But when they are outside, they seem to ease up on this a bit. When we faced the 50 foot rock climb that is midway through the trail, Helen wasn't confident she could make it.

Connor turned on the super sweet and told her to just believe in herself, and that would make it easier. He further advised to not look down.

She scrambled up those rocks with amazing grace and speed (as did Connor) and was hugely impressed with herself.

The trail is long enough and challenging enough, that we needed a mid-trail refueling break. So we stop for a picnic on the side of the trail - and if we're lucky, we can look across the water and see rock climbers scaling the wall of rocks across from us. Luckily, strawberries are in season, so we purchase a few quarts of them weekly at the local market. I also give the kids a little protein power, which they happily suck down (thank you, Stonyfield!).

The other two important elements for our hikes are:

Biking gloves - to make grasping the rocks easier.

And a whole lot of chutzpah to get up the big rock faces!

I also position Ed below Helen so that if she does slip, there's at least a chance he'll stop her fall.


This post was created in partnership with Stonyfield. All opinions are my own.