Friday, November 28, 2014

The Oh Sh*t! Road

Connor spends much of his time in his own world, observing little of the action around him. Helen spends nearly all of her time cataloging every single thing going on.

Last weekend, we went to the Kennedy Center to see a show together. On the way home, we hopped on I66 and Helen remarked "this is the oh shit road". And indeed, she reminded me that the previous time we got on this very road, a few weeks earlier when Connor, Helen, and I were at the Kennedy Center to see the National Symphony Orchestra, I had nearly crashed the car and exclaimed "oh shit" during the quick affair.

Not my finest parenting moment.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Marathon training season started for me today, followed by a game of Risk in which Connor utterly crushed me. During the game, Connor announced that he and Helen had waited until 8:00 to wake up (a rare treat for Ed, indeed) and Connor had even set the table for breakfast before Ed came out to put something on the table - surely a good omen for the day.

Helen ran a half mile and Connor ran a mile as I told them we were participating in 37 days of awesome by running every day until New Year's. The original challenge I signed up for was to run at least one mile every day, but Helen feels she needs a little time to work up to that. 

Next came cheesecake (the dessert Connor requested) and banana bread (the bananas on the counter called me to end their misery) baking, a decadent seafood platter put together by Ed to take to our neighbor's home, and then back home for the main event with just the four of us. It's not our typical Thanksgiving, but it did provide a nice break. Friends joined us for cocktails and dessert to top off the day. Helen and Connor went to bed giggling, zipped up in the double sleeping bags that Ed and I first used on our honeymoon in Alaska back in 2001.

The 3.5 pound red snapper that we baked in salt, something which is becoming our traditional fancy meal.

There is cheesecake! We will conquer it later!

Potatoes Anna - so much buttery goodness.

The perfectly baked fish. We consumed about half of it - so there's plenty for leftovers! It's almost like having a giant turkey at our home!

Happy Thanksgiving,

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Good Toys

The basic standards for a good toy in our house is that the ratio of hours of entertainment must be high relative to the amount of space the toy takes up. A yo-yo, for example, need only be used by a child for a few hours but a pretend kitchen better be the center of a child's play for many, many hours. Recently, I've been doing a little clean out, and I've added the criteria that the toy should be able to be played with by both Connor and Helen, offering each of them something.

The marble runs in our home have been lifted up in status recently. Helen can build and test one route for the marble to come down while Connor builds another, often with the more complicated pieces, more twists, and a little more craziness.

The recently completed run?

I love this toy, so I'm always thrilled when it's revived from the shelves it normally sits upon.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Art and Memorable Moments

Today, Connor's art class presented artwork that showed a surprise. I wasn't able to attend, but a friend took this video of Connor and sent it to me. As soon as I saw the first frame, I knew exactly how this was going to end. Nobody has ever told Connor how serious his broken arm was. Nobody has every told Connor that a fall of a not too different nature could've ended in a broken neck. So while I immediately tensed up when I saw this, I know Connor is much more sanguine about the whole affair.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Lice...Round 2?

Arlington County has changed the reporting guidelines for lice, and it is no longer a requirement that families report the little buggers. This is unfortunate, since children can be asymptomatic carriers for several days, which heightens the chance for spread.

Last Sunday night, Helen attended a birthday party and one of the moms came up to me after dropping Helen off and said "just wanted to let you know, the classroom next door to ours has lice", which I thought was nice of her to mention. She has children in both classrooms.

Tonight, I received a note from a parent in Helen's class self-reporting that her son had lice, along with some information on how to spot lice and take care of it. That note inspired another mom to check her daughter's hair and sure enough, her daughter also was playing host to several bugs.

I get Arlington's position, that it's not a health issue, it's a nuisance. But it can become a big nuisance, and it seems to me knowing it's in the classroom is better than not knowing. I'm grateful to the parents for self-reporting, and I'm also once again grateful to the folks at Lice Happens who gifted me a comb at a blogging event several years ago. I'll be deploying that comb on Helen's head, hoping her head has not been near enough another child's to have a wayward louse decide to join her crazy hair.

Hello, Monday!


Updated: NO LICE - so far, at least!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

In answer to the question...

Will a seagull steal a chip from a child's bottom?

The answer is yes! If he lies still enough. But it takes longer than you might think.

Connor was totally complicit in our antics. Five adults and Helen watched very quietly, reloading and baiting the cap on his bottom as necessary.


Saturday, November 22, 2014


This past Halloween, Connor and Helen - along with a friend of theirs - took part in our first family Bike-or-Treat. The ride was sponsored by KidicalMass. I forgot that costumes were allowed, so when we arrived, I tried to make up names for our complete normal clothes. I think we decided that we were undercover agents.

No matter - there were a few stops along the route where other riders who had ridden ahead were posted and ran through the bike train with treats. This was perhaps the best use of Helen's basket ever.

We're hoping to catch more of these rides when the weather warms up again. It will warm up again, right?


Friday, November 21, 2014

The Signers and the Non-Signers

Once upon a time, I was the kind of parent who signed her child's school paper every single night - just as the teacher asked. But then one day, I just stopped. I didn't stop caring about my child's progress, I guess I just got tired of signing.

That day was towards the end of Connor's first grade year. I like to think I was pretty much the most kick-ass-paper-signer-of-all-time up to that point. And then I just fell apart. I remember realizing it when I looked in his notebook and had to flip back quite a few pages to find my last signature.

I was sorting papers in Helen's class a few weeks ago. And I have to admit, as good as I was at signing stuff when Connor was in first grade, these parents put me to shame. Many of them signed not just the box marked "parent initials", they signed their full name next to each line of the paper. They, by the way, are all parents of first born children.

Poor Helen, she never even got to witness all my kick-ass-signing glory. As I was sorting papers and got to hers, I noticed this. It's not that I don't care - I just fail to sign.

Helen is super proud of the forgery, and occasionally requests that I not sign, even though I now try and sign the paper before she turns it in each Friday. Sometimes, Helen asks Connor to sign. When I texted this photo to my sister and mom, my sister wrote back "looks like she's pretty close to Ed's", which of course made me laugh out loud while I was volunteering in the class.

Good thing I know the teacher well. Otherwise, she might request Helen bring another parent to class with her!


Thursday, November 20, 2014


Connor hit upon the game Pokemon a few months ago, and he's been playing with friends, Ed, and occasionally Helen and I whenever he gets a chance. I actually don't mind the game, but my favorite part is not actually part of the game at all.

For the uninitiated, it's a card game where you draw Pokemon, that come with special fighting powers and abilities to fend off attacks and evolve into strong Pokemon. The names of the moves can be things like "stretch kick", "spiral drain", "ice ball", "spit poison", "powder snow"... The first time I played, I just presumed this was some weird theater game, so of course I pretended to be the Pokemon, and would try and act out the various moves. This thought had never entered Connor or Ed's mind, so they had failed to incorporate any crazy acting into the game at all. And in fact, when Connor tried to act out a move on Ed, Ed thought he was being a little rude. I, of course, confidently said "that's the whole point of the game". Which of course, it is not, but it still makes the game a lot more fun.

Even though Helen does not possess the level of reading skills required to play the game, she enjoys it anyway. Last night, she leaned over Ed's shoulder and created her own move - the "power cough". I almost fell over I was laughing so hard. Ed was a little concerned about the germ spread, but that's what makes it a powerful move, right?*

Now...I want to start making my own Pokemon cards with powers Helen or I deem awesome. It's going to add a whole new dimension to the game.


*Connor did come down with a high fever and ear infection following this great move, which may or may not be related to the move.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Season Ending Hike

As mentioned last Wednesday, a week ago Sunday, we should have been coming back from a camping trip. But by the time we settled on where we wanted to go, the campsites were full. No matter, Ed had a friend from high school in town, so he met him and another friend from back in the day out, while I caught up on some reading after putting the kids to bed.

But Sunday, we took advantage of what would turn out to be among the last really pleasant fall days. For at least a week now, it's been hovering around and below 30 when I run in the morning, and the day's aren't getting that warm either.

Old Rag, a hike that started the summer with a challenge, is getting to be old hat for the kids. I can't believe I haven't posted photos before now, but here are a few shots captured with the iPhone. Crappy photos, to be sure. But good memories all the same.

After the hike, I ran along the tow-path back to the car so I could meet the kids and Ed a little further on down the trail, letting Connor and Helen avoid the trek back to the car. No need to ruin a great hike with pushing it just a little too far.

Until Spring, Old Rag.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

We Never Eat Science

Helen received a gift subscription of Little Passports from my mom for her birthday. This month, the packet took us to South Dakota. One of the items in the packet was a science experiment to better understand erosion, which was discussed in the context of the Badlands.

The experiment called for dropping different amounts of water on Skittles to see what happens. Before we started, Helen admonished Connor and I saying "we never eat science". This, of course, is not true, since we eat science every time we bake, so I asked Helen where she got that idea from.

It is a rule in her first grade class.

And in a first grade classroom, that rule makes a lot of sense.

Several hours later, our Skittles have nearly eroded away entirely, except the purple one which was doused with the fewest drops of water. I'm wondering if it will hang on until morning. And luckily, because we never eat science, I will get to find out!

This started out as four Skittles that did not touch each other.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The turkey family grows

Over the weekend, our turkey family grew by two. The number of needle felting injuries grew by one, as did the number of children in my home with an ear infection (Helen), and the number of children sporting a fever high enough to stay home for the day (Connor). The number of children who now have a second song memorized on her violin also grew by one. Hopefully I'll capture it on video tomorrow.


Sunday, November 16, 2014


Helen, holding one of the roughly 300 American Girl catalogs that will find our mailbox over the next month: "How is it even possible that I did not see this arrive in the mail?"

Me: "Because as soon as I saw it in the mail, I buried it in the recycling bin hoping you wouldn't find it."

But, of course, Helen's radar for that thing is very strong. And now, her willingness to look through the recycling bin has been increased about a hundredfold.

Dear Grandma,

Helen would like everything in the catalog. I know, because she has been pouring over it the past two days, marking ONLY the very best items. It's hard to find something without the signaling mark on it.

Your daughter / daughter-in-law


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Piano Recital

Connor had his first piano recital today. It was absolutely wonderful to hear him play in front of a crowd, and to think back on all the recitals I played at during my childhood. I remember one particularly traumatic one where I had worked very hard on a piece, and a note that is played over and over in the piece was a sticky key on the day of the recital. It sounded awful, but I was too shy to tell my piano teacher what was going on. I was the first performer, and so proud to get to be that performer.

The next student was a much older student, and she immediately realized what was wrong, stopped playing, flagged the teacher over, and then the teacher worked to fix it along with a couple of parents (my teacher was around 80 years old at this point and about 4 feet tall - so mucking around inside a grand piano was physically almost impossible for her).

I got to play again, and was so relieved.

Nothing like that happened today. I know my sister and parents would've loved to been here, but the timing just didn't work out. Here's the recording.

Friday, November 14, 2014

View from a parent of younger aged kids - My Niece and Her Sleepless Fake Baby

My oldest niece is taking a class in high school that involved her taking a baby doll home that attempts to simulate having an actual baby. It cries in the middle of the night, can be impossible to settle, has multiple needs that can be met- which the caretaker must guess at. Importantly (and unlike any real baby I know), it gets taken back to the teacher after one night. I have no idea if the exercise is mandatory or voluntary. I do know my sister and niece were awakened multiple times in the middle of the night, everyone is exhausted the night the 'baby' was at their house, and they agreed in the morning that nobody in their house ever wanted one of those things again.

Which of course made me ponder - is this even a remotely reasonable exercise?

No, is my conclusion.

The exercise operates on the assumption that teens are choosing to have babies, or are more careless about having protected sex than they otherwise would be if they knew how disruptive a baby is. Of course, we know that most teen pregnancies are not planned, and I'm betting money few teens decide to have protected sex or abstain from having sex because of a one night stand with a doll. To me, it seems a lot like an exercise in sleep deprivation with little to no benefit.

I told my sister I hoped her teen was not so tired the next day that she ended up having unprotected sex because she couldn't think straight.

I also wrote to my sister "Mark my words - if Helen brings one of those things home in her teen years, I'm sending a note back to the teacher letting her know we've discussed birth control and the "baby' is sleeping outside. This whole thing just sounds awful to me. I might also include a note to the teacher letting her know I have PTSD from a non-sleeping baby that was in my care."

And immediately, I recognized that statement as exactly what it was. A mom with a younger child who can't actually know what it's like to have a teen, saying something that would be forgotten as soon as the fake baby lands in her own home.

So I'm writing it down, just so my sister can make fun of me when I'm up all night with a fake baby!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Number NINE!

I can't believe I failed to post on Connor's  birthday. But then, things were busy, and I guess I just never got around to it. In any case, Connor turned nine and is now on the brink of double digits. It's almost more than I can bear to think about. He's still perfectly snugly, but he's also developing a bit of an edge - often deployed on Ed.

Last year, Connor had a sleepover birthday party. We started with a Nerf gun fight, followed by a pinata and a treasure hunt, and then the boys proceeded to nearly drive Ed completely nuts by barely being willing to contemplate sleep.

Connor had a ball.

He wanted to do it all over again.

Ed and I decided we'd buy him out of that dream. The price? An evening rental of the Game Truck. When the website says "mom's love Game Truck because it's easy", they are not lying. It was super easy. I met the boys after school, paraded them down the street to our home, offered them a snack which they ignored, and then shut them in the dark playing video games for the next two hours. Ed and I remarked that there's a pretty good chance we actually made the world a worse place.

But...the boys had a ton of fun, and we tried to ease our conscience by having them eat pizza on our deck and then they ran around the backyard, playing a round of Nerf guns. By the time the parents arrived to retrieve their children, all of them had acclimated to natural light again, and were at least reasonably tired out from running around the backyard.

We have a huge array of Nerf guns at this point - but the Vortex Revonix always gets chosen as the house favorite. Because the guns have different ranges, the boys come up with various house rules and a few kids always run around trying to be the referee. They are ignored, of course. I always like to see which boys dig their heels in and insist on getting to use a particular gun, which ones run around like crazy people, whether they are armed or not, which ones try and develop teams, and which ones get tired and start swinging on the tree swing (which, after about 6 years, is finally reaching the point it might need to be replaced).

At the end of the party, Connor's closest friend asked if Connor was going to have another sleepover. come back and run around our backyard anytime you want!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Happy Belated Birthday, Ed

On Sunday, Ed advanced a year in age. We spent the day hiking Old Rag, which has become a favorite outdoor activity of both Connor and Helen. For some reason, their normal instinct of needing to fight about who leads gives way to just enjoying being on the trail and scrambling over rocks without worrying about much else. This is good, not just because I tire of the pointless bickering, but also because some parts of the climb are quite difficult, and they need to focus on not becoming injured.

After our hike, the kids and I went to a dinner with my mom's group, and then we came home and munched on brownies Connor had made before Ed work up that morning. Ed found a bottle of whipped cream in the refrigerator, which made the brownie consumption all the more exciting.

Happy birthday, Ed.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fall Needlefelting

Last night, I stayed up late making my first needle felted turkey. It sits beside a pumpkin Connor needle felted when my parents were in town.

Maybe that turkey and pumpkin will acquire a few friends before Thanksgiving passes.



A few weeks ago, I noticed Connor turning his head when he was trying to read new piano music. Prior to that, he'd been complaining of a few headaches, which always worries me. Poor eyesight seemed like the easiest explanation for the two situations, particularly given that fact that Ed's and my eyes are crap, and have been since early elementary school.

I took Connor to the eye doctor on Thursday, along with Helen and her vomit catching towel*. We were an awesome crew, I assure you. I was completely fleeced because our Fancy Dan insurance might rock when it comes to ER visits and surgery - is nonexistent when it comes to eye care. First, the eye doctor charged me more money for an appointment than I have ever paid for myself. Next, the person selling glasses got me. (She gave me a 10 percent discount, which I appreciate, but it didn't really reduce the pain much.)

I have a vague recollection of my parents allowing me to pick any frame I wanted, and that seemed the right thing to do with Connor - not knowing whether the first pair of glasses was good or bad in his mind. After the appointment, I did let him know what a fortune he was wearing on his face and told him the next pair would be the cheapest ones I could find if he lost the current pair.

I have to admit though, I didn't really flinch much at the price because he is just so stinkin' cute in those glasses!


*Helen, like me, is prone to getting sick to her stomach. The good news is that, also like me, she is a champion when it comes to knowing she needs to vomit. If she's at home, she will almost always make it to the bathroom in time (except for one exceptional puking incident last year where Helen projectile vomited on her way to the bathroom, and then slid in it - that was truly gross, and messy, and sad). On Thursday, Helen vomited basically right after Ed left for work, sticking me with home duty for the day. Helen dutifully carried a towel with her everywhere she went, just in case she needed to puke. Thankfully, she did not, but we were prepared!

Monday, November 10, 2014

From the Backpack: Growing up... and Vote for me!

This week's edition of "from the backpack" contains two specimens of Helen's work.

1. Vote for me!

Helen and her friends jump up and down and hug and kiss each other whenever they meet. But a few days ago, Helen was telling me she really didn't like it when certain girls hugged her (and the names were surprising, because they are girls she really likes). It was a little bizarre to hear her say it, because she initiates so many hugs and kisses herself, which in my mind, is why girls are always hugging and kissing her.

Maybe all her hugging and kissing was just politics. You see, the election of the 5th grade class officers just occurred at Connor and Helen's elementary school, and perhaps Helen's mock campaign for first grade whatever (an election made up entirely in Helen's head - there was no actual first grade election) just didn't pan out as Helen had hoped.

Translation: Vote for Helen
I will kiss everyone
please, please
thank you
Maybe she's got big plans to try a new mock campaign strategy next year, and is ready to move on.

2. Kittens

Helen and Connor desperately want a cat or, in Helen's case, a kitten. I have an irrational fear of them and Connor, Helen, and I all have some degree of allergy.

But hey, a girl can dream, right?

This is Helen's "about me" poster that she made at the start of the year. And yes, I can look at it without even thinking about getting her a kitten.

"My mom's aunt's farm is my favorite place  [because there are always barn cats there].
When I grow up, I want to be a cat owner.
My favorite thing to do is play with cats.
If I had one wish, I would wish for a kitten.
Sorry kid, you're going to have to get a new dream, or wait until you move out of my home.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

My put together self

I wish, everyone always saw the put-together version of myself. The one that shows up confident, ready to work together, and well prepared for whatever twists the conversation takes.

Unfortunately, I think people are seeing more of my not-quite-put-together self lately, which I think happens as a result of my increasing rigidity in thought. Although I try and remain a very open person, I fear that I'm growing less tolerant of ideas that just do not make sense to me. And I am well aware that I'm becoming increasingly likely to fall under the description of "that out of touch crazy lady". I no longer think of all the twists a conversation might turn quickly enough, and at times, I'm so stunned that I just can't respond.

Take, for example, a recent conversation that happened at Connor and Helen's school. During the PTA meeting, the principal mentioned that Arlington had won some sort of grant, and as a result of that grant, police officers would now be stationed at the elementary schools, something that was apparently common practice 10 years ago (maybe as a result of 9/11?). An officer rotates between schools, so s/he is not a constant presence.

I asked whether there had been any discussion of asking the officer to hide his gun, and the principal correctly noted that it wasn't her business to tell a police officer what he could and could not wear. As I looked around the room, it was completely clear to me that everyone else in the room was stunned at my suggestion. Because of course we are happy that the officer is there and of course our children are safer with an officer packing heat that can be seen than any other type of officer.

So I followed up the PTA meeting by emailing the non-emergency address for Arlington County Police. I suggested that concealed carry may be more appropriate for an elementary school. I relayed the dinner table conversation at my home the previous night, which centered around Connor and Helen's deduction that someone very bad must be trying to get into the cafeteria, in order for a police officer with a gun to be needed. I received a call back the next day from the officer stationed at Connor and Helen's school, which in my mind was a complete mishandling of the issue.

For starters, the officer began his remarks to me stating that he understood I was against police officers carrying weapons at school. During the conversation, he made reference to the fact that having a gun locked in his car was simply not as effective as having it in his belt.

Of course, that wasn't my complaint. My complaint was that he ought to be able to conceal his weapon (hmm....are there other security forces that do that? the Secret Service, perhaps? probably many night club and hotel security guards?). Eventually, he changed tunes and his basic argument could be summed up as "I won't look like a real police officer if everyone can't see my gun". His arguments were worded slightly better than that, but barely. But the whole time I was listening to him, all I could think about was "he doesn't even hear me - and I really do think I'm the only person who is concerned that when her children see a gun in the cafeteria, they perceive they are less, not more safe." And I feel so strongly about this, that I have a hard time understanding the other side of the discussion. I hear arguments and I think "that person has no grasp of data and is crazy". And of course, they are almost guaranteed to be thinking "that is an old-out-of-touch-lady with no business bugging me, she is crazy".

Admittedly, I was caught off guard. Had the officer bother to share some sort of statistic or data with me, or some sort of rationale that made any sense at all, I think I would've been more prepared to talk. But instead, I was totally flat-footed in the conversation. I wish I'd had my put-together self present, rather than being tripped up by his only somewhat related discussion, because if I had? When I realized I was talking to the officer - someone who has little to no control over what he wears - I would've told him my complaint was forwarded incorrectly and asked him for the phone number of the person who handles policy questions. I also would've been able to boil his arguments down a lot sooner and point out that he was being ridiculous.



Saturday, November 8, 2014

Crushing the spelling test

Three weeks ago, in this space, I pointed out Helen's inability to grasp spelling and owning the (very few) words she did get right, rather than focusing on the majority of words which she spelled incorrectly.

Since then, Helen learned to read. As in, she will pick up a book, not act like she is completely intimidated by it - and proceed to attempt to read it, even if it's above her reading level. Watching Connor help her may be my favorite thing happening in the universe right now.

Along with reading, naturally, Helen is cracking the code to spelling. She was determined to score 100 percent on her spelling test this week. So determined, in fact, that when she was sick on Thursday, she insisted that she would be well on Friday because she "needed to take her spelling test".

She was well, so off to school she went. There was a substitute teacher in the afternoon. I was volunteering in the class to put together the information packets and papers that go home each Friday with the students, when I came upon Helen's spelling test. The grade hadn't been recorded, so I couldn't take the paper home - but I did show it to Helen.


Helen's remark "but I was sure I got 100 percent!".

Me: "You did, Helen - of the eight words you were asked to spell, you spelled eight correctly".

She was so stinkin' proud of herself she called Ed at his office to share her news.

I figure we can talk about math another day.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Halloween 2014

Connor decided to be Darth Vader this year (last year he was Darth Mal, which apparently is a very different costume). Because I know almost nothing about Star Wars, I just call all the characters R2D2, which Connor finds endlessly amusing.

Connor started out trying to piece a costume together at Target, but I ended up ordering him a costume online. It made for a lot of fun surprising friends whenever they came over for a playdate. He would quietly greet them at the door. He would often send them home after a quick light saber battle.

The moment Helen opened her Elsa dress up for her birthday, there was no doubt she would join the throngs of Elsas tromping through the neighborhood.

At their class parties, Helen turned into a mummy and Connor won a guessing contest which earned him a jar of candy (it's possible the only person who has eaten candy from that jar has been me!).

Another fun Halloween is in the books!


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Save time for fun...end of year soccer

Playing soccer is hard work - and the practices can be pretty hard as well. The field size increases each year, so the children playing need to be able to run farther, faster, and generally have more endurance.

Connor has been gifted with some wonderful soccer coaches - who have figured out how to work the boys hard, but also how to have fun. Yesterday, the boys capped off the season by settling a bet with their head coach.

Connor's team played one game on our "home turf" (the elementary school most of the boys on the team attend and where they practice). The head coach told them that if they won the game, they could dump Gatorade on him at a future game or practice. We've had some very cold and windy games and practices since then, but the coach wanted to honor the bet. So yesterday, during the time slot that would've been practice had there been another game and some daylight, the coach told the boys to meet at the school.

He provided a bunch of stadium cups, a huge cooler of water, and stepped in front of the firing squad.

The guy wins best natured coach in the universe for this, and for everything else he does throughout the season. It's a special gift to be able to motivate kids and still have them adore you.

Thanks, coach!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Reports from the Lunchroom / The Sharing Table

Connor is not a fan of food. He does not seek it out and he rarely tries new things unless told to do so. Helen, on the other hand, is more adventurous with food. As a result, I'm learning a lot about how the lunchroom at the elementary school operates.

1. The Sharing Table - according to Helen, there is a table in the lunchroom called "the sharing table". The table is near the trash bins, and the idea is that you may leave behind any whole fruit or packaged item that you have not started to consume. At first, Helen told me, she thought the sharing table was just for "all those kids in wheelchairs who come into the cafeteria who always forget their lunch money". Until one magical day, a friend of hers who was at the school in Kindergarten told her that anyone may take anything off the table. KA-CHING! This sent Helen into a bit of a frenzy, collecting items that looked particularly appealing. But, the catch is, you have to peer at the table from your seat - because "the mean lunch ladies do not like it when you leave your assigned table" - and then make a dash for whatever food item you want. Helen almost always brings her own lunch, so she's not actually a contributor to the sharing table - she's just a taker.

Connor's comment when asked about the sharing table: "I guess there's one. I never look at it.".

2. Try New Foods - a few parents run a campaign to "Be Your Body's Best Friend". The campaign centers around improving nutrition; teaching children they need a lot of sleep, few sugar drinks, and limited screen time; and improving exercise habits by encouraging children to walk to school on certain days and run a 1-mile or 5K run at the end of the school year.

One component of the nutrition piece is to encourage children to try new foods. Moms show up in the cafeteria regularly with post of soup, vegetables, and other nutritious offerings and the children my have a sample. They also bring recipes in case the children want to know how to make the food at home. The number of times Connor has approached the new foods table is probably one - enough to learn it was an activity he didn't care for. Helen? She's crushing at the new foods table and even won a pencil last week - which she loved - for knowing some facts being focused on in the campaign.

These moms, by the way, are saints - and the person heading it up graduated from culinary school, which I think is amazingly cool.

3. If you bring your lunch and your friend buys her lunch, you can try and spread out a lot when you get to your seat so that your friend may squeeze in when s/he acquires lunch. Tried and tested by years of students, including both Connor and Helen.

Helen and I used to visit Connor for lunch one or two times a year. With two children, my visit to the cafeteria will be a lot longer, which might do me in.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014


I've lost track of how many years we've hosted an Oktoberfest party. There was one year that got skipped due to Connor's terrible sleep habits, and one year that probably should've been skipped because I was so close to going into labor with Helen.

The party consists of three basic elements on our part.

  • A moonbounce to entertain many children at once - this year's version was particularly ridiculous, because Ed thought we needed to get something better than the typical bouncer with slide. It worked out really well because the company we rented it from left it in our yard for a few extra days, which allowed the neighborhood kids to have several turns at bouncing.

  • Bratwursts (veggie and meat), along with a few other German sides. No photos of these.

  • And Ed's homebrew. This year might've had more variety than any other year.

Add friends and the most amazing weather possible, and we have Oktoberfest!


Monday, November 3, 2014

Photobook coming...

Tonight I spent the past 3 hours editing a photobook of our family trip to London and Paris a year and a half ago. Per usual, I bought a discount code to use on a photobook months ago - knowing I had PLENTY of time to use it. And also, per usual, I am completing the book just three days before the discount code expires, and I will be crossing my fingers that Ed will find the time to edit the book to get rid of the most egregious errors.

The best part of doing this was looking at a scrapbook that we wrote in during the trip. At one point, Helen commented that children in London do not hold hands - they wear leashes!

I love that kid's observations!


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Go Big AND Go Home - Connor Pops a 105!

Our house has been super lucky when it comes to illness these last several years. I don't think either child had a sick visit to the pediatrician last year, and it might've been for the past two or three years. Connor had the year where he broke himself regularly, but sickness doesn't seem  to come to us - and when it does, it's more of a one-day, under-the-weather thing with not much of a fever or other symptoms.

Which is why it was a bit surprising when Connor woke up a little under the weather on Tuesday. By the time I met him for an after-school activity he's starting, he looked awful. We left about five minutes after I got there, and when I got home, I decided to check his temperature with my new, fancy thermometer that I received from Braun last week. It's the Braun NTF3000 No Touch plus Forehead Thermometer.


That's good enough to score a red light in the thermometer's indicator, and good enough for me to leave a panicked missive for the pediatrician on the answering machine (though I wasn't quite sure if I should leave it on the emergency answering machine or the non-emergency answering machine).

The nurse called back pretty quickly and advised a lukewarm bath to go along with the Tylenol I'd already given Connor - and told me to get the fever down as fast as possible, and that I should come in at 6:30 to be seen by the nurse practitioner. She also mentioned that the nurse does not need to see the fever in order to believe Connor had it, which echoed advice my brother-in-law has given me. He's an ER doc and regularly, parents come in with children with super high fevers, and the parents have given their kids no meds because they want the doctor to see the fever. Not good.

The fever responded pretty instantly and we ended up not going to see the nurse practitioner until the following day when Connor just could not keep his temp below 103 (which is still good enough for the red light indicator on my fancy thermometer).

Eventually, the fever made its way down to a yellow light, where it settled for about 24 hours and then finally, on Halloween, Connor was back in business. Even Helen chirped a little "woohoo" when she saw the thermometer measure "green".

I'm not required to write about the thermometer, but it is pretty awesome. I can take Connor's temperature without touching him, and I can turn the sounds off so there is almost no chance I will wake him when I take his temperature before I go to bed at night or in the middle of the night. It measured within 0.2 degrees of what the doctor's office ear thermometer measured when we went in to see the nurse practitioner.

I tried to convince Connor that the thermometer was a high-tech brain sucking machine, but he was unconvinced. I guess even though he was hot, he hadn't quite reached delirium.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

NaBloPoMo Take 8! Kicking it in gear once more: From the Backpacks

In 2007, another woman in my mom's group issued a challenge to herself, myself, and our friend Vickie to try and join National Blog Posting Month. I'm pretty sure I've participated in the challenge to post something every day for a month every year since then - although I know I missed several days the year we spent Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico. I still look back fondly on that trip. I hope we repeat it someday - and maybe this time I can convince my sister and her crew to join us.

I received an email a few minutes ago from another friend in the group, reminding several bloggers in the group who have since taken on the challenge that indeed, November is upon us.

And so it is that I dive off into once-a-day posting for the month, or however long I can sustain it. This year's special feature will be a once-a-week "from the backbacks" edition, which will highlight something Connor or Helen brought home from school in their "Friday Folders". This week, I have two gems.

The first, from Connor. He is not my confidence filled kid, so when he does something to boast about himself, it always makes me smile.

On the back of a brochure trying to explain what a group of science tools is, he had written the following:

"For more info go to

Helen's teacher has been trying to convince her that she's a reader. It's tough, because my normally very optimistic daughter is sensitive to the fact that she has befriended the most advanced reader in the class. A. has her own word study group and Helen definitely feels a little inferior. However, Helen has made huge strides in reading, and can absolutely figure out simple texts. Here is the artwork that came home in her backpack. I love the exaggerated frown in the top panel and the joy in the bottom panel.