Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Girl Scout Cookie Controversy: Follow-Up

Earlier this week, I wrote about a Girl Scout issue that was vexing my household. I am proud and happy to report two things.

1. After a long discussion, including Helen offering that maybe she could take on the task of making prizes for the other girls who sold cookies, Helen decided she would write her troop leaders a note expressing her disappointment and confusion over the decision follow the parent's wish of not getting incentives, rather than the troop vote. She further decided that she would like to find a troop that was selling cookies for the incentives, and she would sell for them. That way, she would be helping out the local Girl Scouts, even if she wasn't directly helping her troop.

2. An email arrived last night from the troop leader I had conversed with at the meeting and in that email, she reversed course, and decided to let the girls' vote stand.

I am so proud of Helen for being willing to express her feelings. She hasn't done it yet, so I'm holding off on telling her the news above. Even though it won't be her letter that turns the tide, it's a good exercise in activism, and now, more than ever, we need activist voices. Speak truth to power - that's what a debate coach / friend of mine who died a few days ago always said. Encouraging Helen is my small act of following his advice. There's a huge hole in this world left by his death - and a whole lot of people are going to have to step up to fill that void. Thank you, Tuna, even in death your words move me forward. In your honor, I'm trying desperately to raise citizens of the world.

I am also so proud that our troop leadership has reversed course on this decision. It was absolutely the right thing to do. I will break the news to Helen with great joy.

Now...go sell those cookies, girls. And bring home that trinket!

Elaine

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A lesson in picking battles, brought to my house unintentionally by the Girl Scouts

Last night at Brownies, Helen's troop learned about cookie sales. They tasted cookies (Helen is willing to eat exactly ONE kind - which is one kind more than anyone else in the household - and I say this only because for years Ed or I would purchase cookies from folks we knew and at the end of the year, I was always throwing the entire box, unopened, in the trash!). They learned about face-to-face selling, phone call selling (we're looking at you, Grandma), collecting money, and making change.

There are two sales options that girls can participate in. The first option allows the troop to keep 68 cents for every box sold (cost per box is $4). If the troop chooses this option, the girls can work towards various prizes, most of which can safely be classified as junk. If you sell 175 boxes, you can get a t-shirt - woot! The second option allows the troop to keep 73 cents for every box sold, but the girls cannot get any of the incentives.

One of the troop leaders explained the two options, in what I thought was a slanted way in favor of the higher payout, and the troop voted.

The vote was 9 - 4 in favor of incentives.

So the troop leader and the volunteer leading the meeting re-explained the two choices, discussing how it wasn't easy to get the prizes, and another vote was taken. This time, the vote was 7 - 6 in favor of incentives.

And then the troop leader said she would leave out the sheet with prizes and the girls could look at them and see just how  many boxes they had to sell to get a prize - and then they could vote again at the end of the meeting.

As an adult in the room, I was actually feeling a lot of pressure to convince Helen to vote for the money, since this was clearly the option the troop leaders wanted. I resisted, because this is a great opportunity for Helen to assert herself, and she doesn't need a mother second guessing her choice.

I ended up hanging out near one of the troop leaders later in the evening, and we discussed the issue briefly. I told her that people make crappy decisions and sometimes we have to live in those decisions in order to make better decisions next time. I told her the troop had voted twice. The troop leaders should honor that vote. Then the troop leader told me the older troop she helps out in had never had the option to get the prizes, but that she was convinced at the cookie meeting she attended that the girls should get to vote and make the decision - it was their cookie sale.

The meeting ended and the mom who had explained cookie sales to the adults (the cookie captain - best title ever!) while I was with the girls came in and told me I needed to sign another form - the form saying I agreed to not participate in the incentives. So I told her - the girls voted to get the incentives - twice, in fact. She looked at me agog and said the parents had unanimously voted not to get the incentives. (Surprise!)

The troop leader confirmed that yes, the girls wanted the incentives, and then the four adults involved in cookie sales had a quick, confidential pow-wow and our cookie captain presented the form to me again stating that the parents had voted the other way and we were skipping incentives.

Helen was visibly annoyed, and I wasn't willing to take the heat for this one. So I told her she was being asked to sign the form as well. I explained the form indicated she agreed to not get prizes. She reminded me they had voted for prizes. I told her, loudly - because I am ungraceful like that - well, the parents voted as well and I guess only their vote counts.

The cookie captain was now getting a little nervous and said "maybe we can get everyone a prize for participating". Um...that's going to cost way more than the nickle per box you're foregoing, lady. Because you're going to feel compelled to get something better than what the kids would've gotten. And, what are you trying to teach here? I'm confused.

I don't want the prizes. A large part of my mothering these days consists of throwing out crap like what Helen would win for cookie sales. But this whole event still burns me because in my view, Girl Scouts is supposed to be a safe space for girls, where we foster independence and hope they feel empowered.

But in our troop's case, we won't even let them make this simple decision.

I'm a bit aghast that the girls were presented with a decision - voted twice, and were overruled by parents who were not even in the room with the girls.

So this morning, I decided I would talk to Helen and let her know the following.

1. What the troop leaders, cookie captain, and anyone else involved in the over-ruling did was wrong.

2. She has a variety of responses open to her, and we can talk through these and any options she comes up with.

  • Refuse to sell cookies. She's being asked to sell under conditions that are different than what she agreed to.
  • Write a letter to the troop leaders and let them know how she feels about the over-ruling and ask them to honor the vote - or ask them to be more honest in the future about whether they want the girls' opinions or not.
  • Decide she doesn't care that much and let it go.
  • Use this as a lesson for future meetings where she can ask the question - before a vote is taken - is this vote final? Does my vote count? Are you planning on doing whatever the parents want anyway?
  • Find a troop that is getting incentives and help them sell cookies instead.
I think she'll probably just let it go. But I'm happy to have this as a teaching moment, and also deeply disappointed that such a moment about authority is being presented to us in a place I would've thought of as a much safer space.


Elaine

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Baseball...

Winter has just begun and already Connor's baseball team is being put together. Though (almost) all of the former team members are in the same grade (there is a rock star younger sibling who plays on the team), the age ranges make it such that the boys could qualify for a couple of different leagues. In one league, the boys would stay together, in the higher league, the boys would be split up. Our coach, who has committed so much time to all of these boys over the past several years, has decided to stay in the lower league, where the boys can stay together. I don't know what the other boys will be doing, but I am so grateful that Connor has the opportunity to have one more spring with his coach.


I feel confident in saying that Connor will not become a professional baseball player. I'm fairly confident, in fact, that he won't play into high school. I'm less certain about what will happen in middle school. (But given what a confusing time this is for kids, I'm sticking with a general policy of not trying to guess about this piece of the future too much.) Which just means that this might well be his last season of baseball.


Every time one of my kids gets close to a "last" of anything, I get a little sad. I think I'm sadder about this one than most because Connor really does love playing ball, and a part of him still really wants to be a professional baseball player. Which just means that if this ends up being his last season, it might also be the season his dream dies. I have, of course, told him there are other baseball related careers that might be good paths - including becoming a sabermatrician or agent. I have yet to convince him these careers would be very cool, but maybe thinking about them this year will give him a soft landing.


Elaine

Monday, November 30, 2015

Cereal Saturday

We've long been lovers of the days-of-the-week breakfast. It's how we've started the day for a few years. This year, we tried to switch things up a bit, but I overheard Helen telling her friend "I always know it's Friday because we have pancakes" and I noticed nearly every morning I cooked breakfast, Connor would consult the new line-up.

So we've gone back to our old line-up:
Monday - muffins
Tuesday - French toast
Wednesday - waffles
Thursday - cinnamon rolls or toast and eggs
Friday - pancakes

and we have also introduced

Saturday - cereal and
Sunday -  kids cook.  Every day, they have fresh fruit and Connor also has yogurt - because otherwise he eats so many muffins / pancakes / waffles that it's ridiculous. He needs some good protein calories to get through the morning.

My choice? I've opted for Nature's Path Pumpkin Flax Granola, with it's 6 grams of protein per serving; topped with Qi'a Superfood Cereal -  which has another 6 grams of protein, all over Stonyfield Greek - which comes with its own 12 grams of protein. So a 24 grams of protein breakfast that can be put together in about two minutes.


Yum!

Elaine

I was given the above cereal selections to try. They'll be stocked in my cabinet regularly, it's such an easy breakfast.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

First 5K of the Season

Our goal race is a repeat of last year's Jingle Bell 5K. To train for this, Ed ran with the kids a few times, Helen has been running on Mondays with an after-school club, but ultimately we have not done as good at getting them running as we have before other 5Ks. When the chance to run a Turkey Trot with Moms Run This Town came up, we took it. Might as well see where everyone is at, I figured.

Ed has been ill, so he decided to run with Helen. Purportedly, her 11+ minute pace was all he could muster. Connor was jazzed about being able to take first place (the faster runners opted for the 5 mile route) which inspired him to drop from his 10 minute miles to a 9 minute mile to end it. It was a nice sprint, made nicer by the fact that my new Hokas were doing their best to cushion my steps, so I didn't end the run in pain.

To be faster than last year at the Jingle Bell run, Connor needs to get below 33:23, which he unofficially did last weekend according to my watch. To beat his best 5K time officially recorded to date, he needs to break 28:47. I'm pretty sure he can do this, particularly given that he was able to muster a sub-30 with virtually no training. I'm betting in two weeks time he can shave a couple of minutes off. Helen managed about a 35 minute Turkey Trot, so she's also got a shot a getting a PR when we run our goal race.

Fingers crossed for swift feet in two weeks!

Elaine

Monday, November 23, 2015

Odyssey of the Mind - Vehicles are in my future

The majority of my OM team members expressed interest in the vehicle problem. Without knowing much about OM, here is what I do know. At the first meeting I attended, one of the coaches told me it took her several years of coaching before she would coach a team in the vehicle problem. Apparently, it is one of the more technical problems the students can solve.

So I asked a mom I know through a few things in Arlington about it, and she said "this is the hardest problem to coach. Your son will love it. But you are going to pull your hair out". So I sought the advice of a friend who coached last year at another school and she told me she just didn't give it as an option. But she also told me I should feel free to call  her when  it gets close to competition time and I am totally losing my sh*t because she will talk me off my proverbial ledge.

Though it's not yet official, I have started reading the vehicle problem in bits and pieces. Hopefully it'll make sense soon. If it works, it's going to be awesome. If it doesn't work, we're going to promise each other a high five and ice cream or donuts at the end - or maybe both.

Hopefully my co-coach knows more than I do!

Elaine

Friday, November 20, 2015

Lost groove?

Tuesday, I ran 7 miles with someone I'm getting to know in the neighborhood, G.. We ran together a few years ago, but she was so much faster than me, I think I had to finally tell her to just go without me for the last couple of miles. She is, however, a very interesting person and while I was getting faster, she was having babies.

She had a preemie three months ago, and already she is at  my speed, so I'm guessing she'll leave me in the dust soon. But, I was all too happy when she posted on my moms' running board that she was looking for someone to run with in the neighborhood - even more happy when she posted a pace that matches mine. My own running partner fell though on Tuesday (MCM injury) so I shot G. an email and she was happy to meet up with me.

We ran pretty fast, but not as fast as she ran pre-baby, and not as fast as I thought I could run the route. I was tired. And she kept apologizing for holding me back and I was all "pant, huff, pant - you're not holding me back!".

On Thursday, I met a friend for my usual track workout, and somehow, the predicted rain turned into no rain, which was a super pleasant surprise. By the end of the workout, I felt good. But then today, I ran with a couple of friends for what should have been 10 miles but I had to walk a bit in the middle, probably cutting my portion down to 9 though they still got 10 in. And I was tired. So tired.

Possibly, I am tired because poor Ed is still struggling to make it through the work day, so doing laundry and other tasks around the house just isn't going to happen. Possibly, I feel tired because my shoes are worn out. It is now that I wish I kept better track of how many miles I logged in my shoes, but I do know it must be several hundred given the total number of miles I have run since I got them and my fondness for picking them up whenever the weather is decent. Also, I wasn't nearly this tired on Thursday when I wore other shoes.

In any case, I'm  tossing these babies (I already have an identical pair that I wore for MCM), and am hoping that I haven't lost my groove. Because I don't know what I'd do without running in my life. I was not exaggerating in my recent work performance appraisal when my boss complimented me on MCM and I told him that running was, quite literally, saving me.

Cross your fingers. And if all else fails, if you see my groove, send it back my way!


/
At some point, getting rid of worn out shoes will be a less emotional task, right? I still remember when I bought these at a sidewalk sale and couldn't believe my good fortune. I'm going to miss them, even with their replacement already firmly in my shoe rotation.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Illness - part 1

We spent a few years skating away from sickness in our house. The rare day out of school, headaches (me), but nothing that some rest and advil didn't take care of. Until last year, when the whole house went down with flu. I was the last one standing in that situation, and fell the moment I stepped onto the airplane headed home for Christmas. By the time we arrived in Kansas, the whole family was sick, though Helen and Connor were on the mend.

This year, it seems the flu has already visited us. Ed spent all his energy moving some furniture on Sunday, resting here and there, and by Monday, he was basically immobile. It hasn't been pretty. Never have I been more excited to have our house cleaned than yesterday, when our cleaner came and worked her magic.

I'm now walking around the house reminding the kids to wash their hands constantly, I wipe off light switch covers and door knobs whenever I have a cleaning product in my hand, and I'm hoping that by being in the office - I'm able to duck most of the germs.

The kids have also become experts at getting themselves to school, which of course they are perfectly capable of, but usually Ed or I still walks or bikes with them the half mile in the morning. So far, nobody else seems to be sick. Knock on wood. I am really hoping not to go through a repeat of last year.

Elaine

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Can Change Happen?

Last year, I joined the English Language Arts curriculum committee. Ostensibly, the committee meets and makes recommendations to the school board. Whether the committee really has a voice, I'm unsure.

I joined the committee because all of the committees have great representation from parents with connections to special education, but almost no representation from parents of advanced learners. It seemed like an interesting enough adventure.

The first meeting I went to was horrible. Not only did people on the committee not care about my kids sitting in classrooms drooling from boredom, they were openly hostile. At one point, just by mentioning that I was at the meeting because there had been an announcement at the gifted advisory committee that it might be a good idea to try and join a committee, a man (who is thankfully no longer on the committee) stood up and yelled at me about how until we solved the achievement gap, there was no way our committee was going to deal with anything else.

Now, step back in time with me a few years, before I was a parent, when I spent my days researching public policy for people with disabilities. Somehow, Ed, a friend of his, and I got into a discussion about education policy. His friend pondered whether the whole system would be better off if more resources had been sunk into him and Ed - the best and brightest in the class. I told him no, the system would not be better. That he was allocated plenty of resources and we should be worrying about whether we could get everyone ready to take a job.

Fast forward back to today. Now that I'm a parent with a kid sitting bored in class, my tune has changed. So I understand where this guy was coming from when he yelled at me (though it was a bit of an overreaction and an awkward first meeting, to say the least). But I'm also keenly aware that the achievement gap can be solved in one of two ways - you can bring the bottom up, or you can put bricks on the heads of the kids at the top. And I'm really not interested in seeing a brick on my kid's head - and I've become more concerned with levels than gaps. Every child ought to perform at the highest level they can.

And so it has come to pass that I just turned in a recommendations report that, prior to my pen, was focused almost solely on struggling learners, which now includes some important mentions of the County's first goal - which is to ensure that every student in the County is challenged and engaged. We will debate the report at our next meeting. I'm curious whether my edits will stay in and if they do, if it even matters.

I figure I might as well try, right? And if nothing else, I'll force a dozen people to sit and listen to the other side of the story for one meeting.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Wardrobe Update via prAna - Office to Playground

Most days, I wake up, take a quick shower, and then dash out the door to get to work (3-4 days per week, add in time for a run). On days when I pick Helen and Connor up from school, I need to make sure I leave my office at 4:00 so I can get to their school by 4:45. If they don't have an after school activity, the schedule gets shifted earlier - with my departure coming at 3:00.

I then race to school, meet the kids, and typically take them to soccer / piano / trumpet / or violin. This means my clothes must be able to transition from work to hanging out at one of these places, and quite possibly to heading to a school meeting after that.

Enter prAna, a company Stonyfield introduced me to. They also hooked me up with the skirt to the left. It's the Trista skirt in spice. It's from prAna's organic cotton line and fits true to size (which is good, since I failed to try the skirt on until I put it on immediately before I headed out to a baby shower).

The skirt easily meets the standards in my casual office, and is stretchy enough to allow me to comfortably sit on a blanket while I watch kids practice soccer, or run around with them on the playground waiting for a sibling during an activity. The skirt also feels durable enough to  go the distance, which is important to me, because I tend to wear clothing for several years.

The only thing else  I need as  I run from one place to the next? A cup of Pacific Coast Strawberry Oh My Yog, Stonyfield's latest whole milk yogurt offering - which comes with 7 grams of protein per serving!

I'm looking forward to a week from now when soccer practice ends. I'll actually miss seeing the kids play - they've both made huge leaps this season. But I will enjoy having an evening back.

#JustBeYou

Elaine

For a 15 percent discount on prAna clothing, enter JBYF15CAH at checkout.  (Not valid for Influencers, on Gift Certificates or with any other offers; Valid Nov 1 – Dec 15, 2015.)

Thank you to prAna for the skirt and Stonyfield for the new treat I've been enjoying at my desk.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Halloween with Helen

Helen and I partied with her class for Halloween, which ended up being a lot of fun for me. I'm in her class every couple of weeks running a book club (which has been extremely fun for me) but I'm generally not around when her teacher is around. Helen insisted I attend her Halloween party, and when I saw one of the volunteer jobs was to sit and read books at the end of the party, I saw a clear match.

I showed up to the party before it was time to start reading, which meant I got to turn Helen into a toilet paper mummy. I was pretty happy when she decided to dance around her classroom pretending to be a mummy rather than spend the second half of the allotted time wrapping me up. I think she saw that my larger-than-second-grade-size would make it difficult to cover me with our second role of toilet paper.

Happy Halloween!

Elaine

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Putting my body back together...

I am now two weeks out of the Marine Corps Marathon and today's run finally made me feel like I was put back together. But it took a lot.

For the first couple of days after MCM, I rested. On day 3, I ran 2.5 miles, just to try and get the lactic acid that was likely in my muscles to start easing its way out. After my last marathon, this was enough, but after this one - I was still sore.

And then a friend of mine sent an offer to try out Massage Envy, and since there is one located less than a mile from my home in Clarendon, I was happy to say yes (even though it meant missing part of one of the Royals' World Series games). I booked a 9:00 PM appointment so I could see Helen read a story at a school event before heading off to heal my muscles.

I had warned the spa when I set my appointment up that my body was a mess. The massage was fantastic.  I should've gone sooner - and the next time I run a marathon, I will! For only $60, you can get a first-time massage -  and since they got my legs back to working order, I'm guessing they can fix a lot of muscle aches.

After the massage,  I went on another short run during my regular track workout, one more easy run that resulted in me walking up the final hill, and today, finally, I made it about 10 miles at a pretty decent clip without feeling exhausted.

I've decided to drop my full marathon entry, which I picked up cheaply at last year's Rock-n-Roll marathon, down to a half. I'm spending the winter working on my form, including cashing in a certificate I won at a silent auction for a stride analysis. I think spending the next few months working on speed will be better than continuing working on endurance. Not sure what a reasonable goal for the half will be, but I'm thinking somewhere around 1:45 is reasonable (though a stretch, for sure). A friend wants to run a 1:37 half and use it to qualify for the NYC marathon, in order to avoid the lottery, but I'm pretty sure I need a bicycle to go that fast.

Thank you, Massage Envy, for setting me on the right path back  to feeling good!

Elaine

Disclosure: My massage was complimentary. I'll be heading back after long runs in the future!



Friday, November 6, 2015

Walking home

The loveliest thing about Daylight Savings Time is surely the walk home from school when Helen and Connor stay late for special programs. Our street is bathed in golden light right at 5:00.


Elaine

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Run, Cowboy, run

On Halloween, my running group held a Kids' Fun Run. I had offered to help marshal the course since my children were among the older children attending, and they'd be fine without me running beside them. The night before the run, both Connor and Helen stayed up late. (Sadly, this was the game Ed and I chose for Connor to stay up for - and it was the one World Series game the Royals lost.) In any case, I decided if they were awake for the run, I'd take them with me. If not, they could sleep in.

Connor woke up about 15 minutes before we needed to leave, so he quickly donned some clothing  he could run in, gobbled something for breakfast, and we were out the door. I did not check in on Helen, because I didn't want to risk waking her.

Sadly, she probably came downstairs a few minutes after Connor and I left.

When Ed woke up, Helen was reading in the living room - and she was mad. She said she had been reading for HOURS, which was probably about 15 minutes.

And although I did miss running with Helen, I had a ball running with Connor. Often, when we run as a family, I run with Helen. Her litany of complaints can get a little tiring, and I'm not sure I want to subject Ed to that.

I started off with the half mile group, and made sure the runners had safely navigated the area of the course that could have cars on it. I then looped back to find Connor - and though one of my friends had the audacity to say I'd never catch him, I did. (That won't be the case for many more years, so I'm hanging tight while I can!) We then ran the last half mile of the mile long course together - and during that time, Connor was working really hard.

Not only was he working hard - he was doing it while keeping his cowboy hat on and his holster and gun at his side, a feat I found particularly impressive. (My costume was a pair of wings that I grabbed out of the dress-up box.) He opted to run through the water stop, and was fast and steady the whole time I was with him.

A friend snapped our photo, and it is most definitely my favorite running photo ever.


On the way home, Connor asked me if I thought he could run a marathon before he went to college. Could he? Absolutely. Will it be the best use of his time? Maybe not. I suggested maybe he should try out cross country in high school and see if he liked the longer distances before committing to marathon training.

Someday, we will run a big race together, Connor. And probably, you will have to hold back if you want to run with me, or you will be waiting for me at the finish. Either way, I hope you use that body of yours to see the world.

Elaine

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Campaign Season

Our home is inundated with campaign related phone calls. And despite all of these calls, I still didn't bother to figure out what voters in my area were deciding today. Guess I'll hear about it on the evening news tonight, or read about it in the paper tomorrow.

But there's one campaign - which makes NO phone calls - that I'm pretty excited about. Connor decided to run for school treasurer. Like the handful of other students who are running, he doesn't actually know what the treasurer does. In my mind, he's imagining sitting among piles of dollar bills counting and recounting them, just to make sure the total is correct.

In order to run, he had to promise not to run a negative campaign and he had to write a speech that was about 3 minutes long. Ultimately, he came up with the following platform.

1. Use the climbing walls that are in the gyms more frequently. (Some snake oil salesman convinced Arlington Public Schools to purchase these walls a few years ago. They are basically used as a display for a sign that says "keep off". Connor wants to help develop a policy to increase their use.)

2. Ice cream for everyone. (Because that's what the people want to hear, he told  me).

3. Develop better snow rules for the playground. (On the few days it snows, several classrooms end up staying inside. A few tend to go outside, but you're not supposed to pick up the snow. If you want to build a fort, you have to kick the snow around with your feet. Connor thinks kids ought to be able to pick it up.)

He noted his affiliation with various school groups and his willingness to work together as reasons to vote for him. Plus, he's good in math!

Each student running for office got to hang 6 signs. It was clear that Connor was going to need help completing his signs, so I enlisted Helen - who was all too happy to be designated campaign manager. She proved her worth immediately by discovering that Connor had glued his name on one sign backwards (LastName FirstName). She also helped write his slogan on one or two of the signs "Here Comes the Money Man", and helped decorate the signs and erase errant pencil marks.

She proudly helped hang the signs, and has begun trying to get the vote out in second grade. Unfortunately, at least one other candidate for Treasurer has a sibling in second grade, so Helen might not be able to bring second grade home for Connor quite like we hoped.



I think the campaign season lasts two weeks. Will the candidates decide to go back on their promise to run a clean campaign? Will all of the rumors Ed keeps pretending he's going to start get started? We're on pins and needles at Chez Connor and Helen.

Elaine

Monday, November 2, 2015

My One Woman Party - Royals win the World Series

You can read actual news accounts of what happened over the past few weeks, but the short story is that the Kansas City Royals - after 30 years - became world champions last night. I stayed up for what would be the second game of the five game series that stretched across midnight.

It was totally worth it.

With my sister in Kansas City and a friend I used to babysit in Texas, we set up an online living room - as we had done for several of the games, complete with banter from friends who stayed close to home and those that fled, like me. What a way to spend a post-season.

After the final out was recorded (a strike where the Mets player was caught looking), the television erupted in cheers from the few Royals' fans who had gone to New York for the game, and my facebook feed was on fire.

These are the moments when I most miss living closer to home - because while I was reading reports of neighborhoods being lit up with fireworks (for over half an hour, in some cases!), my neighborhood was dark. Not even Ed had stayed up to watch the end with me.

So I slipped on my shoes, and went outside to light a ceremonial firework on my patio.

It was my one woman party.

And while it would've been even sweeter to be with like-minded fans, it seemed a fitting end to a glorious October and November.




Thank you, Royals. I'm already sad about how many of you will play for other teams in the near future. That's just the economics of the game. But for two post-seasons now, we've been treated to just about the best games a fan could hope for.

It would be impossible to describe how bad the Royals have been in many years - particularly those following the death of Ewing Kauffman, when the Royals basically had no owner. But the memory of those years is enough to remind me that all things are possible.

Elaine

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Marathon #2: Marine Corps Marathon

Every runner I talked to said the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) - particularly the 40th anniversary of the MCM - would be amazing. Huge crowds on nearly the entire course, only one pretty steep hill (toward the start) and a smaller hill at the end (up Iwo Jima). Plus, the course runs along many places that I run weekly - including the monuments and Georgetown.

Those people were absolutely right. What the Rock and Roll marathon lacked in inspiration, the MCM made up for in spades.

Because the marathon course runs about a mile from my home, there were a lot of people out cheering who knew me, which is just a huge boost (including Connor and Ed, who came with a sign for me). Also a huge boost on the course was knowing that the women I train with were either running the race or cheering for the race - including one mom who is going to give birth in a few weeks! Pretty much every time I thought that today was not my day, I saw a friend who was screaming like crazy - and I am not a person who can stop running with that kind of pressure. They were sprinkled throughout the course up to mile 22, and at that point - might as well finish, right?





The race started out exactly as I had hoped. I pulled back, in order to save energy for the later stages of the race. I ran the first half of the marathon exactly as I wanted. But at mile 3, I got a blister (something that has never happened in a training run) and by the midpoint of the marathon, I was feeling it. Luckily, it was between my little toes, so at least I wasn't pushing off the blister for every step. It also rained at the start and during the race, after a weather report that showed the rain had cleared. That was disappointing, because I didn't wear my trail shoes (which I wear in crap conditions because they let the water drain out better than my other shoes and they grip the street better). I was debating which shoes to wear up until the point we left to line-up, and ultimately chose wrong. Lesson learned.

Mile 17 was hard, made harder when I passed one of my training partners who is absolutely a stronger runner than I am. Something happened with her knee and though she still finished at 4:12, she could've gone 3:40 if she hadn't run into troubles. Her husband was there, and I had nothing to offer as I was struggling myself.

Mile 20 in MCM is soul crushing. It is the point when you cross 14th Street bridge - and that bridge is the longest, loneliest passage back into Virginia that exists. The few times I have run it during training runs, I pretty much just put my head down and try to get over that thing with my soul intact. On MCM day, it's worse. People are cramping up all over, puking on the side, making choices about whether to continue or not. A very good running friend had passed along the advice that when I made it to the bridge, put my head down, focus inward, pick a line - and run it. I did all of those things, but still people were dropping right in front of me and that is hard to watch.

Crystal City is a huge boost. I spent a few months running in Crystal City last winter on Monday morning, and that proved super useful. I knew the roads and knew how flat they were. Plus, a woman I met at that time actually found me on the race at mile 22 and screamed her head off for me. Earlier in the race, she had actually jumped in and run me through two miles when I wasn't sure I was going to keep going.

My super-stretch crazy goal was 3:45. My "if everything goes right goal" was 3:50. And my "I will absolutely not cross the line later than this goal" was 4:00. I came in with a 3:55, which is exactly what I thought I would get, as soon as the rain came and the blisters sprouted. When I looked at my watch at mile 20, I knew I could own a 4:00 - as long as I didn't get too distracted.

I carried 55 ounces of Tailwind on my back with seven scoops of powder in it, which means I successfully consumed 700 calories during the race. I had estimated I could take in 600 calories in 50 ounces of liquid. I drank a bit much up front because I was feeling so good, which meant I had to walk through two water stations towards the end of the race, trying not to waterboard myself as I gulped Gatorade from the little cups amazing volunteers were handing out. I also dumped two small cups of water down my front because once the rain stopped, it was heating up and I needed a bit of a refresh. I will carry more liquid the next time I run a marathon.

A big accomplishment in this run is not letting my stride fall apart once I got tired. Typically, when I start to slow down, I over-stride, and land on my heel. As a result of this, I have a nagging point in my rear end that starts to hurt, and someday, whatever is getting pulled in the wrong direction is going to break - and that's going to hurt a lot. But today? I didn't do that, I don't have even a twinge of pain in the typical spot. I've been working a lot on that, so I'm glad that work has paid off.

This is THE marathon to run, as far as I am concerned, particularly if you call this area your home town. I can't wait to get the official race photos, because for the first photos, I smiled. For the last photos, I didn't change the expression on my face at all - I wanted to see what I looked like, because I know how I felt.

Now... to decide if I can knock another 10 minutes off before next year and make it my BQ!


FINISH Time
FINISH Net3:55:06
FINISH Gun3:57:09

LocationNet TimeClock TimeTime of DayPacePace Between
START00:002:037:57:04
5K27:2729:298:24:308:49 /mi
8:24 /mi
10K53:3355:368:50:368:37 /mi
8:39 /mi
20K1:47:231:49:269:44:278:38 /mi
8:43 /mi
13.11:53:201:55:239:50:238:38 /mi
8:52 /mi
25K2:14:522:16:5410:11:558:41 /mi
9:16 /mi
30K2:43:422:45:4410:40:458:46 /mi
9:20 /mi
35K3:12:433:14:4511:09:468:51 /mi
9:37 /mi
40K3:42:363:44:3911:39:398:57 /mi
9:09 /mi
FINISH3:55:063:57:0911:52:098:57 /mi

Friday, October 23, 2015

Book Club: Day 1

I started a book club in Helen's and Connor's classes - and although it was a lot of drama getting it done, we had our first meeting in second grade over lunch last week. Yesterday, I met with the 5th graders, and next week, I'll be back in second grade (so many students volunteered to participate that I needed to break the second grade into two groups).

In both groups I, as well as the students, had a ton of fun. I was so amazed at how much detail everyone remembered, the diversity of thought in the room, and the general awesomeness that surrounded me. The 5th graders enjoyed our lunch so much, that they expressed deep disappointment that it would be a month before I came back. So I agreed to try and find another adult to come in once a month so they could meet twice each month. That adult has been located.

The second graders keep forgetting when it is their date, so they keep being disappointed that I'm not there - but I don't have physical space to meet more often than we are meeting, so getting more hands won't help me get them more lunches. Once a month will have to do. In my dream world, by the end of the year a group of about 8 will develop and we'll be able to move our book club forward into next year.

In second grade, our story was The Happy Lion. The basic gist of the story is that everyone is nice to the lion when he's in his cage, but when his keeper mistakenly leaves the cage open, the lion is at first worried that people will come into his cage, and then decides to take a walk around Paris. Not surprisingly, people freak out, the lion wonders if the people are always like this when they're not at the zoo, and eventually a little boy walks him back to his cage.

The idea of a lion walking down the street was hilarious. And while some of the boys claimed they would just pop the lion in the nose if they saw him, a few admitted it would be rather terrifying. It was really interesting to hear their ideas about why place matters, and why we might react differently to the same thing if circumstances changed.

Next up was "Laurie", excerpted from a collection of stories focusing on parenting "Life Among the Savages", written by Shirley Jackson. It was impressive how the students pulled examples from the text to support their ideas, how students disagreed with each other and kept the conversation moving forward. I was in heaven.

At the very least, kids are getting a chance to eat lunch in an environment that's not quite the mess that the school cafeteria is. And hopefully, at least a few students are getting excited about reading for pleasure, and looking for meaning - maybe becoming better writers along the way.

Elaine

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Catching up on past vacations - Shutterfly!

A few years ago, I started making photo books after we returned home from a vacation. The problem, of course, is that when we come home from vacation I am always behind on life in general, so often the project gets pushed back, sometimes getting forgotten completely.



So I did a survey of missing books and came up with several:
  • 2015 trip to Adirondacks / Montreal / Vermont
  • 2014 ski trip
  • 2013 ski trip
  • 2012 ski trip
  • all vacations in 2011
  • 2006 trip to Adirondacks
  • 2006 trip to Kansas
  • 2006 trip to Chincoteague

And there are probably even more, but getting through these will be a big project. Luckily, all of the photos are at least organized, so it's just a matter of drafting some words to go around them and popping them into an online book.

The strategy that has been most successful for me? Find a discount code that expires, and then stay up all night the day before it expires to finish the project. Better would be to just use the codes as I come across them, of course.

Lucky day for me - Shutterfly and Stonyfield have teamed up to offer the next discount I'm planning to use. It's simple.

  • Purchase any Stonyfield YoBaby or YoTot yogurt 6-pack and enjoy $20 off your order at Shutterfly.com. Simply enter the code on the package and the discount will get stored in your shutterfly account. Details here.

  • Offer ends February 29, 2016, which means I have a ridiculous amount of time to get at least one of these projects done. If I'm really moving, I can get it done before Christmas and turn the book into a Christmas present for one of our traveling companions.
  • It's a one-time use offer - each household may get the discount once.
Nice things about these books are that not only do I enjoy the trip down memory lane when I make them, the kids enjoy looking through them and remembering their trip. They also make great gifts for our traveling companions, which often include grandparents.

Perhaps this winter will be the year that I catch up on all these vacations. That would be a huge accomplishment for me.

Elaine

Many thanks to Stonyfield and Shutterfly for providing the latest kick in the pants to work on one of my favorite projects. I'm looking forward to reliving a few of these vacations!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Happy Birthday, Helen!

Helen is 8 years old. She's closing in on double digits and remains a constant light in my life. Yes, she can cop an attitude with the best teens. She sighs. She rolls her eyes. She curls her upper lip toward the heavens. But still, she is my little girl who can rock a Taylor Swift song like nobody's business and always seems to have time to put on a quick puppet show if there's an audience.

She has taken to soccer with a vengeance and is proud to be among the fast runners in her after school run club. She dove into after school programming choosing a different activity for every day, save one, which is when she has violin lessons. I asked her to participate in science club, led by a wonderful teacher, and after the first week she was totally hooked, letting me know that if Connor could sign up - he should! (His turn will come next session, when the teacher operates a class for the older students.) She is even trying her hand at guitar, though I'm somewhat skeptical anything can be done with a once a week lesson and almost no follow-up at home - but maybe?


Although she tells me she is shy, she easily commands a room when she wants to. Occasionally, I have seen her walking in the recent past, but mostly she still skips wherever she goes. Happiness just seems to follow her. When there is tension near her, she will do anything to try and remind everyone that life is good, trying to get as much negative energy to leave the room as possible.

Fall is definitely Helen's season, with it's warm rains, colorful leaves, and opportunities to run around without being hot.



She is every bit the consumer of words that Connor is, so now we have two children to constantly remind to get their real-life things done and stop reading that book! (Which of course, feels very odd, but I'm pretty sure my kids would both skip meals and basic self care if it meant they could read more.)

Helen loves everyone, and parents regularly tell me what how well she treats everyone. It makes me smile every time.

Helen - I can see already that you and I will knock heads more than a few times in the coming years. So I'm just going to hold onto all these good times now, and put my head down and do my best with whatever is coming my ways.

Happy birthday!
Love,
Mom

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

2015 Elementary School 5K

Last spring, Helen ran her second 5K and Connor ran his third. Somehow, I never wrote up the run, even though I remember it as being both a huge accomplishment and a fun time.



Prior to the race, we spent about one month preparing. Inspired by our monthly physical challenge, we ran a half mile one day, took a rest day, ran half a mile, one mile, then another rest day, and we kept adding to our distance until we hit about 2.5 or 3 miles. By the time the big day came, the kids were totally ready. Helen was even ready with a strategy that would involve her sprinting to the finish. I know Connor planned to do this as well, but since Ed ran with him, I'm not sure if it actually happened, though I think it did.



Helen was part of the cheer squad for the 1 mile fun run, but I had already told her that no matter what, she was running the 5K. We had worked too hard to not do it, and it is super important to me that Helen knows she can be in the action on the race course, not just on the sideline.


Connor and Helen both knocked several minutes off their Jingle Bell 5K time they had recorded in December 2014. (Helen made it to 35:23 and Connor checked in with a 28:47). Unlike the Jingle Bell race, which was mostly flat, the school 5K involved a pretty good hill. All the way up it I sang silly songs - and though Helen pretended to be embarrassed occasionally, she was also laughing and not thinking about how hard she was working. And, when a person a few yards back shouted "please don't stop singing" when Helen and I got to the top, Helen loved being able to roll her eyes and pretend that she didn't need the song at all.

When we got to the finish, a bunch of adults were running down the sidewalk leading to the end. Helen wasn't quite sure what to do, because they weren't sprinting. So I shouted "spring through the grass" and she took off, passing probably 6 - 10 runners in the last half block or so. She felt so incredibly strong, and it was a joy to see her huge smile. She was particularly proud because everyone she passed was older than she was.

Per usual, she complained throughout much of the race. But unlike the last race where she stopped to walk a few times, she pretty much chugged right along, possibly because she didn't want anyone she knew to see her not going full blast.

Since she completed this race, she has told many, many people about her MULTIPLE 5Ks and without batting an eye will let anyone know she can run one with no trouble.

Next up? This year's Turkey Trot or Jingle Bell.

(I love training with Connor, but we haven't raced together. I feel guilty subjecting Ed to the endless stream of complaints from Helen while she runs, and I don't want to mess up the good groove Connor and Ed have going.)



Elaine






Monday, October 5, 2015

Reflections on Place: The Little Paris Bookshop of My Life

I have come to know the streets of DC very well this past year. To date, I've run nearly 1,100 miles - almost all of them in DC or Arlington. And even having run past every monument on the mall, the White House, and the Capitol more times than I could ever count - I still think I have the very best place to spend my time. And that's a different feeling than when I was training for my first marathon last winter.

Starting with Cherry Blossom season, I made the jump to run with women I had met at the track. It was almost entirely inspired by my running friend and nearby neighbor, Courtney. I wasn't confident I could keep up with everyone, so every time one of them suggested I meet them on the weekend for a run, I made an excuse to avoid it. But Courtney was very persistent, and met me many times just to run with her. I was able to really push myself while she ran a comfortable easy pace, but she was so kind and encouraging, that eventually when she asked me if I was going to join the larger group run, I took the plunge.

And just as Monsieur Perdu floats around his perfect bookshop on a boat, healing hearts and doling out advice via books, my running friends and I do the same as we wind our way through neighborhoods on foot. Nina George's "The Little Paris Bookshop", has such beautiful descriptions of France, that I immediately wanted to relive my trip through the Loire Valley with Ed the year before Connor was born. But that's not going to happen anytime soon, so I started thinking about how my own city is perfect, too.

If I had to name a spot where good things always happen, I'd go with the Lincoln Memorial. The first time I ran with a couple of folks from the larger group, they asked if I wanted to run up the steps. Um, no, I will wait at the bottom. I had no idea that it was one of the runner's trademark moves - but I've since learned that if HJ is running, we run those steps. And now I can't wait to see Mr. Lincoln up close when I run, though I will admit to skipping the ritual if HJ isn't around. But I always look up at Mr. Lincoln and think - if you can be here on a Tuesday, I can be here on a Tuesday. And it's been many months that we've met every Tuesday, except when I've been out of town. (As a stone sculpture, he doesn't have nearly the freedom I do, so he never goes out of town.)

I love books with beautiful settings. This one lives up to that, just as the title suggests it will. And I'm so glad to have so many memories of my own beautiful setting triggered as I read this book.

Elaine

Disclosure: This post was inspired by the novel The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, where Monsieur Perdu--a literary apothecary--finally searches for the woman who left him many years ago. Join From Left to Write on October 8th as we discuss The Little Paris Bookshop. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Stonyfield Fruit Snacks - Three Ways!

We don't eat a lot of fruit snacks at our house, mostly because I'd rather the kids just eat a piece of fruit.  That, and whenever we do buy fruit snacks, the kids forget about them and then end up getting old.

But...sometimes, convenience wins. So when I was offered the opportunity to test Stonyfield's newest offering - fruit snacks - I decided to go for it. Our family tested the fruit snacks in three settings: my 5th grade son's birthday party; my daughter's soccer game; our very fancy family diner. All were a hit.

First up, Connor had his birthday party (more later on that). When asked, he told me he wanted a Nerf gun party in the backyard, so I told him we could go purchase a bunch of Nerf ammo and a new gun and invite some friends over.

The party was super low-key, Ed handled all the Nerf procurement, and I handled the food and decorations. (Decorations, for the record, consisted of a table cloth, plates, napkins, and some cardboard shields that at least gave Helen something to enjoy while the boys were nutting it up in the backyard.)

The fruit snacks were a huge hit with the boys, who also consumed some yogurt, chips, and pizza.

That bowl was refilled, twice, because hungry boys like fruit snacks, I suppose.
Next up, I was in charge of snack at Helen and Connor's soccer games. I think the big winner at the soccer game was Helen's friend Taylor, who squeezed four packages out of Helen, and consumed them super fast - probably so her mom wouldn't notice what had just happened.

The fruit snacks were loved by the 2nd grade girls. And, as with all packaged foods, they were easy for me to transport to the game (much easier than the sliced watermelon I served as the halftime snack).

Also, the girls ran around making cow noises, as soon as they saw their snacks were in the shape of a tiny cow. Cute!


Finally, last night Connor and Helen decided to run a fancy Spanish café that served veggie burgers and tilapia for dinner. I was the chef, and then the customer. They were the servers. Before the meal began, they insisted that all fancy restaurants had appetizers, so they grabbed the fruit snacks and placed one package on each plate.



The restaurant diners all loved the wonderful appetizers, especially the two that are shorter than five feet.

Stonyfield gave me so many fruit snacks, that I think I can even hand them out at a school book club I'm getting ready to host.

Thank you, Stonyfield!

Elaine


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Soccer

Both Connor and Helen are playing soccer this year, and as part of that effort, Connor has taken to coaching Helen in the backyard. It's super awesome, because we can run around outside after dinner until it gets dark, sweating, laughing, and passing the ball. Helen's coach constantly tells me how great and aggressive Helen is, and I suspect part of the reason Helen is willing to chase down the ball is because she's used to doing it with Connor. Second grade girls are less intimidating than fifth grade boys.




Helen typically plays hard, from the moment she steps onto the field until the moment she steps off. In the rare moment when she starts to sag, I yell the only thing I will say to her when she plays soccer - "no quits". She instantly pops out of her sag and keeps going. She is finally starting to believe how strong she is, which is a great joy for me to see.

Connor has turned it up a notch on the field. He plays hard, he can keep up with most of the kids, and rather than shying away from the ball, he's getting right in the middle of the action. He's had a few nice kicks, which have made him feel pretty good.

During the first game of the season, he answered his coach's call to play goalie. I thought he was crazy to do this, but figured I should stay out of it (which I did). However, when I saw him in front of that huge goal, in a game that was tied 0 - 0, I was terrified for him.



He played all right, but then let a goal in. This clearly disturbed him greatly, and he looked a bit ill. Ninety percent of me wanted to tell the coach "just put us all out of our misery - take him out", but I did not. I sat on my hands and reminded myself that Connor doesn't need his mama to save him. In fact, he needs to be up against the wall, feeling stress, and realizing that he can get through it. (And perhaps I need this, too.)



In the end, he made a couple of stops, kept the ball out of the goal, and rejoiced when his friend Sam got a goal evening up the score. After the game, he reported how stressful playing goalie was, and let me know he never plans to do it again.


I was secretly happy about that.

Elaine

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Biking to Gymnastics

Helen started taking gymnastics a couple of weeks ago. A studio moved in near our home, and lo' and behold, they have beginning classes designed for girls older than three. Helen's last attempt at gymnastics was deemed a total disaster by her, because all she wanted to learn to do was a cartwheel, and they never taught her that. (Never mind that she needed to learn some easier things, first.)



Because it is September, and our family fitness challenge is to bike, Helen and I have been riding to her class. Getting there is no problem. It's basically downhill the whole way, and we only have one city street to cross that requires hopping off our bikes and walking across the street.

But that means that getting home is basically uphill the whole way. On week 1, I tried to route us a little out of our way so we'd have a little more flat territory to cross along with the hills. I was not fully successful, which resulted in Helen crashing on her bike.



She was an absolute rock star, taking it all in stride, and hopping right back on her bike to get home.

On week 2, I had a better route, and there was only one small portion where I needed to give Helen a shove up a hill near our home.



This week, as I was going through her Friday folder, I found her artistic version of our week one ride.

I believe she is saying "ow-ee", not "owe" as in "you owe, me, Mom".



I'm pretty impressed with her very accurate drawing of me. All that running has clearly paid off. And biking with a purse takes a lot of talent!




Elaine



AN UPDATE: Helen clarified that the picture she drew was an example of when she was being a "good citizen". Laying on the ground with no helmet is Connor, after falling from his bike in the backyard. (For the record, I didn't even know about this injury until this discussion about the picture came up.) Riding her bike with no helmet and offering assistance to Connor is Helen. Helen told me I should have known this, because Connor's bike is green. I reminded her that she and I have blue eyes, but Connor has brown eyes. I'm pretty sure her response to me was "what-ever", which is her basic response to everything that annoys her lately.

Friday, September 25, 2015

New Family Mantra

Helen has always been the light in our house. As crabby and obstinate as she can be, she remains an optimist through and through.

A few days ago, Helen and I headed off to her girl scout meeting in the pouring rain. Ed happened to be commuting by bike that day (as he often does) and as we stepped outside I told Helen "I feel so badly for Daddy riding home in this rain".

Without missing a beat, Helen responded "well, at least the bike path won't be crowded today".

And I think that should be our new family mantra. When things are not going well, we should just look at each other and repeat "at least the bike path won't be crowded today" as a reminder that somewhere, amidst whatever trouble is happening, a silver lining exists.

Even if it's tiny.

Elaine

Thursday, September 24, 2015

First Volley Thrown

Connor launched his first volley in his war on school a few days ago. It started out innocently enough. The teacher (who was an intern at the school last year, but is teaching her first solo class this year) asked the students to write about themselves - their families, their pets, what they were looking forward to, and what the student wanted the teacher to know.

Connor responded with this:



The teacher was a bit taken aback, as was I when I read it at his conference. She told me he didn't just riff it off, that he had actually sat and thought about it a bit. She thought it was pretty funny, as did I. And she also thought it was pretty sad, which I also agreed with. Connor is the type of kid who should enjoy school.

After Connor and I talked about the letter, I asked him if he had to pick a favorite subject, what it would be. He chose science, which is not too surprising. He had a great science teacher last year and this year's science teacher is reputed to be just as good. But then he said "because it's the last class of the day and it means I get to go home soon".

I have a feeling it's going to be a long year. For everyone.

Elaine

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Arlington County Fair

This year's trip to the fair did not bring job offers, as one many years ago did. But it did bring the usual bit of fun at the usual ridiculously high price. We almost didn't get to the fair, because it was the day before Helen and Connor left for Kansas for two weeks (which I believe my parents and sister have recovered from). But the bags were pretty much packed, and a friend's email inviting me to the fair that weekend reminded me that we had a few hours to ride some dangerous rides and possibly eat a sweet treat.

The best (and only free) part of the fair that we go to is the pig races. Ed has a crazy record of picking winners, though Connor and Helen did a fine job with the strategy of "pick your favorite color". Yellow won half the races and purple won the other half of the races, as I recall. But maybe I just told the kids that so they wouldn't argue about who picked the best pigs.


Note the handmade dress Helen is wearing. She made it in camp earlier that day. Sadly, she wanted it in Kansas, and when I dried it on a very low setting, it went from dress to shirt. Happily, she made a new one with my mom the next week, which is handwash only, though I'm guessing the fabric my mom chose wouldn't shrink that much.

Connor, as always, was drawn to any ride that seemed dangerous. Helen abstained, and even went on a ride that she was technically too tall for, but reported afterwards that it was pretty wild. You're my kind of amusement park gal, Helen.






The next morning, they were off for two weeks.

Elaine

Thursday, September 10, 2015

First day!

The first day of school went off without a hitch. ON TIME ARRIVAL - motivated at least in part by a neighbor coaxing us to the starting line with muffins. And while I had the best intentions to arrive at school right on time at the end of the day, I only managed to do this because I saw I had about 12 seconds of crosswalk time left when I rounded the hill at the top of the street leading to the school, and I turned on the gas. As I ran through I shouted a greeting to the crossing guard and added "picking up right where we left off". He laughed. This was followed by a second day sprint bike ride from the subway which did get me to school right as the bell rang.

We went to the baseball game after school the first day, only to witness ANOTHER 7th inning collapse by our home team. Getting into the play-offs is starting to seem a distant possibility. As Ed noted last night, now the whole house can commit itself to the Royals. On the way to the game, the metro stopped for an enormous amount of time, but thankfully the kids and I had books so we spent the time reading. I may finish my book club book yet, despite my late start on it.

Second day brought a sick Connor, so he stayed home from school. Helen came home wanting to do her math packet and I had to break it to her that she lives in a house that doesn't do summer math packets, even with the shiny prize of a sticker in your sticker book on the line. I told her I'd give her an at-home sticker though, which seemed acceptable.

Cheers, all. Hopefully the bug is gone from Connor and he can enjoy today.


There goes my heart again.

Elaine

Monday, September 7, 2015

Summer Is Over?!?

Wow. After two weeks without the children, followed by two weeks of vacationing first in the Adirondacks with Ed's family and then in Montreal and Vermont with just the four of us, it seems as if summer has officially found its end. As I type this, Helen and Connor are sleeping, with first day of school clothes laid out, and Ed and I figuring out who's going to perform drop-off duty and who will take on pick-up.

I don't cherish the end of summer. I like the time Connor and Helen have at home. I like the looseness of most days, and even on days when nothing seems to get accomplished, I like the idea that at least we probably weren't rushed in the morning, grabbing sips of coffee on the way out the door and crossing fingers that nothing requiring a return trip to school would be forgotten.

Connor will be entering fifth grade - the oldest grade at our elementary school. He's in a classroom with many students who have never been in his class, the byproduct of having four sections of his grade.

Helen feels like she's flying a bit solo, but she's absolutely ready to dive in. She has the same teacher Connor had for second grade, and that is a huge relief for me. I am certain Helen will love her.

I have my own first-day jitters. I'm starting a book club for students in Helen's and Connor's classes. If I don't get enough takers in their classes, I'll expand to other classes in the grade. But since I'm hoping for a group of about eight, I suspect it won't be too difficult to fill.

This is the moment in the school year, when the world seems full of possibilities. Pencils are sharpened, backpacks are clean, nobody has asked a child to do any meaningless homework. The hope of getting the perfect teacher fills the house, and somehow I am able to believe that THIS will be the year that everything will just work out.

Fingers crossed. Let's do this!

Elaine