Tuesday, September 29, 2015


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!