Monday, June 29, 2015

Helen's Softball Wrap-up

I think we convinced Helen to wear a pair of Connor's old baseball pants to exactly one game this season. They simply are not stylish enough for her, and since there was probably only one other girl who wore them, we didn't have much of an argument about them being part of the required uniform.

Helen possibly agreed that pants might work better than shorts (even though there's no sliding in her league - or at least no intentional sliding), so she took to wearing a pair of leggings under her jersey.

All of her games happened early in the morning, so either Ed or I trotted out to each game with coffee in hand. We both went to a few games, which gave me the opportunity to snap a few photos of Ed's mid-game coaching session with Helen.

I suspect every softball photo I have that includes an adult also includes a coffee cup.

Ready for action! She was actually quite aggressive in the field, and got pretty good at tracking down balls and flinging them in the correct direction.

And she also became a pretty reliable hitter. 
Helen is much better at softball than she thinks, but as confident as she is about many things, that confidence doesn't seem to overflow into her softball life. But I'm pretty sure she's planning on giving it at least one more season.

Go Hurricanes!


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Keeping the Mosquitoes at Bay

I'm not sure what the final total rainfall this past week was, but it was a lot. The toddler sandbox that still gets play as Helen's favorite watering hole was filled to the brim. Water was pooling on the side of our house, which inspired me to at least temporarily fix some of our many drainage problems - getting completely soaked in the process. I also ran 9.5 miles but that is only because I didn't get the email or text suggesting we cancel until I was already sitting in front of my friend's house. And by that point, I was ready to run (my friend and her neighbor, another friend, decided to join after all which was super nice of them).

And now we sit and wait for the swarms of mosquitoes that will surely thrive in all this water that has been left behind. Our backyard has the worst mosquitoes - and they bite during the day and in the evening. We've done a lot of work in our backyard to get rid of them (mostly getting a lot of air circulating through there, and getting rid of standing water before it is around for more than a couple of days) but still, they persist.

We leave bug spray on our screened in porch at all times so that anyone who dares venture out beyond the screens can try and protect themselves. But last weekend, I tried something new! We had friends over for a BBQ on Friday night, and when Helen went out to play ping pong with her friend, I turned on the Stinger All Natural Mosquito Lantern. I placed it beneath the center of the table.

The packaging claims it'll keep mosquitoes away over a 225 square foot area, and by the looks of Helen's legs, it actually worked! Which is awesome, because we love hanging out not just on the deck, but the patio beside it. And normally, we get enough mosquito bites to be driven back to the safety that screens offer.

When I'm brave, I'm going to try weeding the garden with this lantern nearby. I'm thinking it might be possible to NOT have to put on two layers of long sleeves to keep from getting bitten!

The Mosquito Lantern is super easy to use - just put this little strip that looks like a piece of Juicy Fruit gum in a holder in the lantern, drop in the batteries, and turn it on. Almost like magic!


I received the Stinger All Natural Mosquito Lantern as a gift from Stinger. I'll be purchasing additional ones for my annual Oktoberfest party, in a bid to keep the mosquitoes out of the party!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Best Game of the Season

Every time my parents visit and attend Connor's baseball game - he does something completely out of character and amazing. One year, he fielded a ball in right field and threw the runner out going to first. Another time, he caught a ball headed fast and hard toward his head, and somehow had the presence of mind to put his glove up and catch the thing, rather than duck or just swat it down. He once hit a double.

A couple of weeks ago when my parents were visiting was no exception. The team had a great year, due almost exclusively to the amazing rotation of pitchers on the team. Many of them play travel baseball, and it shows. The team is endowed with a catcher that can routinely throw kids out at second when they try to steal, another player who has almost hit the ball OVER the fence, and yet another who hit an inside-the-park home run.

Despite a solid effort, Connor is not a stand-out athlete. But during the final game of the season, he pounded a ball for a single (advancing all the runners!) and made an amazing catch in left field. The ball was hit long and hard, Connor started stepping around - backward, forward, a little to the side. I know that every parent was holding their breath (bases were loaded, the pitcher was struggling) and we were probably all thinking "anywhere but Connor". But somehow, Connor managed to plant himself directly under that ball, reached his left hand up, caught the ball, and tossed it back into the infield. Ed even commented that he looked more graceful than lost.

This is what a kid who just made a great catch looks like.
All of the parents on the team might dread when the ball goes toward Connor (only a slight exaggeration) but all of them also pull for him so hard, because they see how hard he's working out there. I have never heard so many people cheer. His friend W. was in centerfield and ran over to left to high five Connor and give him a hug. After the game, a dad of a friend of Connor came and remarked on Connor's great game - and I have to say, this dad has been steadfast in telling me he hopes Connor sticks with it. I appreciate that. And that dad's attitude shows in his son, who routinely says nice things about Connor's baseball playing.

And so ends another season of Spring baseball. The team lost, but it was a true high note for Connor. Thank you, every parent on the team. You have been so kind to Connor. Thank you, teammates, we couldn't ask for anyone better by our sides.

I am, of course, sad that I have no photograph of that catch. It would've been fun to hang on the wall. I did, however, catch that single.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

L'Hermione - docked in Old Town!

A replica of L'Hermione, the ship that carried General Lafayette, troops and supplies for the American Revolution docked in Alexandria. Through a bit of confusion, I was able to score a pair of tickets after waiting in line - and a kind man in line behind me gifted me his second ticket so that I could take both Connor and Helen on the tour.

Connor's class has been studying Virginia history, and he is particularly drawn to all part of history related to war, so I knew this would be a big hit with him. Helen is not quite as enthralled with wars, but she does love old-timey things, so there was a change this would be a huge hit with her as well.

In order to pick-up our tickets, we needed to arrive at noon. Our tickets were good for touring the boat at 1:30. This left us plenty of time to walk around the dock, get a ridiculously thorough explanation of naval navigation at the time of L'Hermione, and have an ice cream snack.

Even before stepping foot on the ship, Connor kept muttering "this is awesome" and "thank you so much, mom". He then spent his time on the ship noticing details, asking about them, and reminding me of tidbits about the ship he had read earlier in the day.

This solidly qualifies as another one of the ridiculously great experiences Connor and Helen have gotten to go to because they live in this area.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

(almost) Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner! 6th Sweatiest City!

Good news, friends who are visiting soon! We are NOT the sweatiest city in the US! Good news, right? The bad news? Honeywell's recent survey selects DC as the 6th sweatiest city. I'm guessing there's not much difference between 1st and 6th, but I'm not planning on traveling and finding out.

Instead...we here at Chez Connor and Helen will be porting about personal fans this summer (at least when we are not actually immersed in water at the pool or beach), trying to keep ahead of the heat.

And you can, too! Just hop on the metro and head down to the mall on Friday. Snag a FREE fan, and then pack that thing in your backpack so when you're children start complaining about the heat, or you fear you will soon be melting like the bad witch in the Wizard of Oz you can whip it out and air yourself a bit. We will personally be comparing it to the combo fan / water spritzer that Helen acquired in Disneyland a few years back.

WHAT:                         Honeywell Fans, in partnership with a team of scientists at environmental consulting company Environmental Health & Engineering, developed new criteria to rank major metropolises across the country on their potential “sweatiness” -- and, Washington D.C. has ranked sixth! To help Washingtonians prepare for summer heat waves, Honeywell will be deploying the Beat the Heat Street Team to hand out portable fans on Friday, June 12th at the National Mall from 9am-4pm.
Washingtonians go to great lengths in order to cool down from climbing temperatures. The new, USB and battery operated Turbo® on the Go! portable fan from Honeywell provides strong air circulation in a convenient, compact design that folds, stands upright and pivots for personalized cooling that goes with you anywhere you need it.
WHERE:                       The National Mall | Washington D.C.
WHEN:                         9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Friday, June 12th

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Think First

Like everyone else with a child in elementary school (and probably at all school levels), I am getting crushed by the end of the school year. It happens every year, and I feel about it the same way my research assistant feels about a project we do together annually - if it doesn't result in at least two heart attacks and one instance of forgetting our names, we haven't really done the project.

The biggest lessons I have learned is to back the eff off in June and respond quickly. As soon as an email comes asking for money to thank some person who has no doubt, done something amazing for my child, I put cash in an envelope with the person's name on it, and deliver it ASAP. I know these (mostly moms) are hunting down a lot of people, and they don't need the trouble of having to ask multiple times for something. I also quick-scan all class or activity party invites and decide what I can realistically bring, sign up, and move on. For Connor's classes, I always volunteer to bring a treat. He's picky, his friends all tell me how much they love my baking (which endears me greatly to them), and I know whatever I bring will be appreciated (and it might be the only treat at the party Connor likes). For Helen, I let the pinterest moms do their thing (thank you - your thing is always amazing), and take something that's easy to prepare. If someone needs napkins, I volunteer those as well due to a napkin ordering mistake I made a few years ago which resulted in more napkins being delivered to my home than I have been able to use in the past several years.

I do not start new projects.

I do not ask other parents to do anything for me. We are all dying.

I organize a carpool to every bday party that isn't in the immediate neighborhood. For whatever reason, most of Connor's friends' parents tend to drive their kids both ways to everything. But the last two parties, I simply emailed one other parents and said "I can drive either way, want to carpool" and both times, I had the parent practically kiss me through email at the thought of not driving. One of the times, we were able to shove a third neighbor in the car which was awesome because his mom was - at the moment my note came - fretting about having to say no to the party because she couldn't figure out how to drive either way (which is no problem when there are three kids and two parents have already offered to drive).

Finally, I try very hard to be thoughtful about every decision that is not on the above list, because I know when I'm busy I make crappy decisions. I have already scheduled a playdate when my parents are supposed to be arriving - and it's a playdate that got rescheduled to that time because I had to first cancel it about 45 minutes after making it when I realized I was not going to be home to host the playdate. Gah! So...I'm hoping my parents don't curse me too badly for either sitting at the airport for me waiting for the playdate to end, or having to hop on the subway or a cab.

I also try not to overreact, which is why I'm posting here, instead of on Facebook. For real, I received an email today asking me to BID ON A SPOT to recreate the first grade musical with parents on the last day of school and donate the proceeds to a music department in need.

My thoughts, in this order:

1. That performance was for our children. Yes, parents. I get it. We have all memorized every line in that show after hearing it sung over, and over, and over, and over these past couple of months. But guess what? That performance is not ours. Yes, we could recreate the show. We could also talk loudly to our children about how we ride bikes up hills faster, read better, and can totally kick ass at the monkey bars (well, maybe they own that last one). But we shouldn't. It's their show.

2. Rehearsing at home would only mean Helen would likely be prompted to sing the score over, and over, and over, and over - with Connor joining in frequently. I've lived that hell (twice), I'm not encouraging it to happen again.

3. It's a children's show. It was not designed for adults to perform. There's a fine line between engaging in something with your child and mocking them.

4. If there is a music department that needs money, surely we can get it to them without going through the trouble of a performance and the two or three rehearsals that are planned. Asking me to take part in this is a demand on my time that I simply don't have in June.

I'm thinking before responding to that email, and I'm glad I had the presence of mind to do so. I'll be sitting this one out. I hope the other parents do as well. And Helen, when you read this, let it be known that you were the best damn Crabby Cabbage that How Does Your Garden Grow has ever seen. And I hope you always remember how much fun you had sharing your role with Miley and how the two of you, in your words, "could not stop laughing during part of the show because you were having so much fun." I almost missed that performance, and I almost had a heart attack when I thought I didn't get it on film. I am so proud of the work you did - even if it did make me want to put ear plugs in and run outside because the thought of hearing the musical even one more time was driving me nuts when the show got close.

But you know what my role was? Costume assistant. And I had a ball meeting other moms to take on this task. You noticed right away that I had put special golden gems on your cabbage, and you thought they were divine.

I'll update with the video - probably some time in July.


Friday, June 5, 2015

World War II Planes

No shortage of cool adventures exist in our area, a true gift of being located near the nation's capital. We end up taking advantage of a small fraction of these events, largely because they can be very crowded and ultimately difficult to get to.

We did, however, make a point of heading down to the mall to visit Ed for lunch and see a recent display of World War II planes that flew over the mall on the 70th anniversary of VE day. I made this a priority given Connor's near encyclopedic knowledge of WWII. (He once had the chance to hang out with a friend of his and that friend's dad who is a military historian. They geeked out so hard on WWII trivia that they completely alienated another friend who could not have been more bored. I felt her pain, since I live with it almost daily.)

Helen does not share Connor's love of all things WWII, but she does share his love of leaving school early. She happily joined our party.

I felt a little guilty about pulling Connor out of school, because his teacher had sent a note a few days earlier asking parents to please keep their children in school. I emailed back right away letting her know we had this plan, but could cancel if needed. She knows how much Connor loves WWII. She not only agreed he should attend, she asked if he'd like to talk about what he saw later in the day! (Which was much to my delight, because presumably every word uttered about WWII to someone else is one fewer word uttered to me, assuming there is a finite number of words one can speak about WWII!)

We scored a parking spot about a block from Ed's office (thank you, congressional parking sticker!), got tossed off the nearby lawn briefly because someone left a package unattended, then finally tossed our blanket on the mall just in time to see the first of the planes start to fly over. Connor removed the binoculars from his eyes for a few moments, but not many. He was definitely loving the action. I had a field guide of the planes, but still had difficulty figuring out what plane was flying over at different times.

Upon his return to school, Connor ran into the gifted teacher and told her how he had seen his two favorite planes, neither of which I can recall right now. Even she was caught off guard by his excitement, and usually she doesn't tend to get thrown by kids being super intense about random stuff.


Thursday, June 4, 2015


My friend is moving in a couple of months. We've been running at the track together since I started running in November of 2013 and more recently, we've been running on the weekends together. (I needed to get a lot faster to keep up with her on these 8 - 12 mile runs.) She has helped me get a lot faster, and is an absolute joy to run with as the minutes turn to hours.

She's also willing to run in terrible conditions, including the rainiest day ever when we both decided to brave the track - the only ones in our group to do so. But she's super smart, too, and knows when to hold back, when to push, and when to analyze what's going on and find an answer.

As we got to know each other, we learned we had more in common than running, including our oldest sons being very young for their grade, both of our sons play instruments in school, and we have jointly raced to school on many days when we didn't leave quite on time. (This last thing is distinct from just about everyone else in the neighborhood, who arrives at school early every day.)

A few days ago, Helen commented on how my friend was going to live where Peter Pan lived. And it was then that I realized Helen had confused the mythical place of Neverland with the actual place of the Netherlands.

When Helen told me about my friend moving to where Peter Pan was from, I bit my lip and said "she might as well be".

I'm going to miss her.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

From the backpack: Bats

And here's my entry for Connor from the backpack this week. I think he wrote it so sloppily the first time, the teacher made him type it. Even though Connor likes hunting and pecking around to find the keys, I think he's realized it's pretty tedious - and every assignment after this he wrote more neatly.


P.S. Teacher, please teach Connor when to use less and fewer.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

From the Backpack - How To Writing: Knitting

I keep intending to make this a series of posts, but looking back, I see the backpack posts are spurious, at best.

But how to resist these ditties that Helen brought home this week.

Her class has been working on "how to" writing.

The first one, she worked on with the Vice Principal - because "Mrs. C-M is a PROFESSIONAL knitter, Mom!" Helen was so thrilled to go down the hall and ask for help on her writing. I was thrilled that the vice principal has enough time to help a first grade student trying to work on her writing.

Step 1. You will need two needles and a ball of yarn.
 (this seems like a good enough way to start to me)

Step 2. You will need to loop the yarn 15 times.
 (this is when you ask your mom or the vice principal to cast on 15 stitches)

Step 3. Begin knitting.
 (easy, right? just start right up!)

Step 4. Repeat until long enough.
 (did I mention she was making another scarf?)

Step 5. Enjoy!
  (I love that Helen added a 5th step and that's this is what it is.)


Monday, June 1, 2015

Out at Second! Softball update.

It's hard to remember just how much has to go right in order to get an out on the softball field. But Helen and her friend M. had a great display of what it takes a few days ago. All of the steps below are virtually unheard of in a first grade girls' softball game, and I have never seen all of them completed before Helen and M. pulled it off.

1. M. was playing third and cleanly fielded the ball.

2. M. threw to second to get the lead runner.

3. Helen moved toward second, since she was playing second base.

4. Helen caught the ball thrown by M.

5. Helen turned around and stomped on the bag - all before the lead runner arrived at the bag.

Out at second. Helen would go on to get one more out with a catch of a ball thrown by someone close to her and two unassisted outs (everyone bats in Helen's league, it doesn't matter how many outs the defensive team gets).