Thursday, August 3, 2017

I scream, you scream, we all scream for (simple) ice cream!

A couple of weeks ago, my family spent the week in Minnesota with my childhood friend and her family. My friend is the antithesis of a helicopter mom, and this worked out fantastically for my family. We were in the perfect spot for some freedom finding, and while it may not have been the smartest idea to let four children aged 9 - 11 figure out how to relight a fire that had not been put out properly by some teens the night before, wow did they have fun. And, in our defense, we were not that far away when this mission was going down, and they were right by the lake and it was pretty wet - so odds were there wasn't going to be anything randomly lightly ablaze outside the fire ring.

Besides letting her children run wild with my children, my friend has also mastered the art of "just do it" parenting. Want a grilled cheese? She'd answer a few questions, and then her kid would make a grilled cheese sandwich. They're not at all intimidated by the stovetop, and failure is just part of learning. That's all kind of a side bar (and a reminder that I'd like to eventually post about this trip) to the real point - I want my kids to be more independent in the kitchen.

In pursuit of kitchen independence, I've been letting the kids make boxed mixes of cookies. And though a little part of me dies at not carefully measuring high quality vanilla into a bowl of other high quality ingredients - they're learning to cook - and that's good.

Helen moved onto ice cream a few days ago. In the name of simplification, I took Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk up on their offer of a free can of their product, went to their website and found a recipe for vanilla ice cream and voila - ice cream ready to be frozen in less than 10 minutes - all created by Helen.

Combine the three ingredients and either put in the freezer like the recipe recommends or do what we did, and stick it in the ice cream maker.
  • 4 cup (2 pts.) half-and-half or light cream
  • 1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 2 tablespoon vanilla extract
The ice cream tastes about as close to Dairy Queen's vanilla as I've ever had. And because I am from Kansas, I love DQ (we don't really have it out here, a pity).




Easy and delicious! And I see more in our future!

Elaine

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Group Bike Ride

Connor commuted by bike for the entire school year. A friend started biking with him pretty early on, and despite a few bike wrecks (one of which ended in a broken tooth!), they pretty much made it to school by themselves every day. Occasionally his friend's mom or Ed would drive them, and then Connor would either walk home or take the school bus.

As a result of his daily biking, he became quite proficient. His ride to school is over a couple of rolling hills. In the past few days, Ed and I both noticed he could charge up and down them with ease. He's also learned to see the value of biking. He wanted to put his pokemon in a nearby gym, so he hopped on his bike and did the deed. Independence!

Saturday afternoon, the local bike store was having a group ride that was family friendly. Best of all, it ended with two scoops of gelato at the store next door. This seemed like a win-win. Connor and I biked to the start, biked the route with the group, had our gelato, and biked home. (And every time we eat gelato, we remind ourselves how much we love it and say "Grandma Carlene loves gelato, too!", and Saturday was no different.

Round trip, our ride was only about 5 miles. Connor could've gone much further, and perhaps we'll try a longer ride this week since Helen is gone (she's good for about 5 miles, but the lack of gears on her bike means our neighborhood hills can be a bit much).


Elaine

Monday, June 26, 2017

Older vs. Younger Child? Boy vs. Girl?

Yesterday, I dropped Helen off at her first sleep away camp. She's been wanting to go for over a year. Last summer, I wasn't quite ready, and the week her friends went didn't work out for her. This year, she had two friends ready to go and there was no way I was stopping her. Off to Girl Scout camp she went.

When Connor first went to Boy Scout camp, Ed accompanied him for the first part of the week. I'm not sure if that's what made me more comfortable about him going away, or if it's because in general - I tend to approach Connor's milestones as "yay! you made it!". In contrast, I tend to approach Helen's milestones as "Ugh! Slow down!". By way of example, when Connor gave up nursing (19 months - forced off because I was sick)? I was pregnant with Helen on the way. When Helen gave up nursing (30 months!)? I knew I would never nurse a baby again. And that's been pretty much the pattern their whole lives.

In some ways, I think it's the difference between an older and younger child. But I worry that it's also that Connor is a boy and Helen is a girl, and somewhere deep inside I just worry about her more. Which of course, isn't one bit fair because of both my children, she's the one much more likely to know and demand what she needs. Objectively, she's better equipped to handle new situations.

It is not the fact that we're separated that makes me anxious. She's been to my parents' home for a few summers now without me, always having a great time. But there, she has Connor, which is often the case. And Connor will stick up for her, help her out, and in general make sure she's doing OK.

Have a great week, Hel! I can't wait to hear your stories. And I promise you now, I will not mention at all how anxious I was for you. Because I know you deserve this.


Elaine


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Memorial Day Camping

I'm not a huge fan of camping. Mostly, I don't like the mess that comes with it. I also don't have access to the internet and my computer, so I can't sneak in an hour of work in the evening. And while yes, I can admit this is probably a good thing, because of the hours I work - it's pretty necessary for me to spend some time in the evening catching up.

However, everyone else in my family loves camping. This has resulted in the three of them taking trips without me, while I am away doing something I prefer. But this past Memorial Day weekend, Ed planned a trip, and though he gave me the opportunity to opt out, I figured it was about time to show up at one of these.

On Saturday, I went running with friends and then hopped in the mostly packed car. Ed, characteristically, did the driving, which allowed me a little time to nap. I had decided to bring my friend Pico to enjoy the trip with me, and he settled right into the car. (Pico, as some of you know, is my favorite child because all day long he sits quietly, making not a sound. True to form, he kept his calm all weekend long.)






We arrived at camp, got set up, and then we waited out a brief shower before heading over to the lake to rent a paddleboat. Having older children makes paddle boats pretty nice. Not only did I not have to worry about someone jumping off the boat, I enjoyed being a rider the entire hour.

By the time evening rolled around, we were hungry. Ed had forgotten to pack some of the s'more ingredients, so he headed into town to get them. As our hunger mounted, I decided to try and execute Ed's plan of campfire pizza. And guess what? It was a total success - and I would do it again!



Sunday, we went on a lovely hike, although Pico spent most of the time hitching a ride with Helen.


That's Pico peeking out of Helen's hood.


Helen and Connor spent much of their time deciding how high and far they could climb, without causing me to have a heart attack. (See why I like Pico best?)

In the end, I'll call it a successful camping trip, thanks mostly to Ed's planning and Ed having learned that the thing I really hate about camping is all the stuff sitting around out of place for days after the trip. I believe everything was tucked back into its place before Monday night.

Elaine


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Middle School Math

In reviewing blog posts from last year, I can only guess that the reason I didn't record my fight with the school district for an adequate math class was because I was a woman suffering from policy whiplash and administrator induced PTSD. But as I sit on the other end of the year, I think it's worth putting down on these archives. If nothing else, Connor can read it later and know that I did my part, and eventually, the school system did its part as well.

Connor had amazing first and second grade teachers. They moved right along with him and when he needed a challenge, they handed it to him. Third grade crushed Connor's and my soul. By fourth grade, he had a set of teachers that cared but, after the school year ended and I talked with them (after having met with them multiple times over the course of the year), they told me that they knew they had failed Connor. The strategy is to teach to the middle, go pick up the students who are struggling, and then turn to the kids who are bored. The strategy, almost always leaves nothing for the kids seeking enrichment. Typically, it meant a packet of work with no explanation or assistance. Fifth grade, he had a teacher who was quite impressive, but in the end, just couldn't give him what he needed.

At the end of 5th grade, students in my school system take the Math Inventory (MI - formerly the SMI). The math inventory, coupled with the end-of-year tests are used to determine a student's math placement in middle school. Connor's score indicated he was ready for geometry. That's an 8th or 9th grade class in our school system (on the advanced track).

The school system assigned him math 7 for 6th graders. That class is two full years below where Connor tested. I talked with the gifted facilitator (not helpful). I talked with the math teacher (she was supportive of anything to get Connor into a better class, knowing he was facing boredom and knowing how bad that can be for everyone involved). I had meetings with the assistant superintendent of instruction for math. And, after our first meeting, she told me Connor could be skipped ahead an entire grade level (which I rejected) or she would get the principal at the middle school to put him in algebra, so one level below geometry. This was what I wanted, so I was happy with that. Present at the meeting were the math department head and the head of middle school math.

The assistant superintendent retired, the  principal balked, so I started down the path of talking with the middle school math coach and the math department head. They were unrelenting. We had more conversations than I care to recall, and with each one, I sensed time slipping right through my hands.

And then, the math coach proffered a compromise. She would take the top 20 or so students based on their MI scores (at least 1100), CoGAT scores (at least 130), and state test scores (these last tests are useless because every child in the class scored 100 percent on them). She'd stick them in the same room. The class would be called Math 7 for 6th graders, but she guaranteed the content would be rich and Connor would not be bored.

With a lot of skepticism, I relented, crossed my fingers and said a quick prayer to St. Anthony. I met with the teacher of the class and the math coach outside of conferences once, and I had a rough patch of email with the teacher which ended in Connor telling her "my mom said not to send this stupid stuff home to me". (For the record, he at least cleaned up my language, but I thought he wouldn't bother repeating the sentiment. The prior evening, as he had done for about a week, he handed me his iPad because this ridiculously easy program wasn't working. I couldn't get the stupid program to work again and I said "take this piece of sh*t back to your teacher and tell her not to ever send it back home with you".) By the time I emailed the teacher the following day, she'd already had the exchange with Connor, and the program never came home again.

But guess what? Once the class got on track, it provided an actual challenge to Connor. The school system kept its word. No one could be more please than I when Connor brought home is new MI score. He came home with a score indicating he had not just advanced "one academic year" - the stated goal of the school system, he had advanced 2 academic years. Which means he now owns a score indicating he is proficient in 12th grade math (the test considers geometry to be a 10th grade class - so he's now two academic years farther along than he was at the end of last year).

This is a miracle. I am grateful. Connor lit up when I told him how much progress he has made. It provides the perfect reason for WHY you challenge kids. I would say Connor was interested in the class about 60 percent of the time, which is light years ahead of where he's been the past several years. It is also about the level a math coach told me he needed to be at to stay interested in math.

Last I talked to the math teacher, she wanted to keep the students together for another year, but it's not guaranteed. Added to the fact that a new principal starts in July, I already know what I'll be spending July and August doing. Because I cannot handle going backwards and watching Connor sit in a class next year bored out of his mind. I need that class to keep going for my sanity, as does Connor.

Bur for now, I am really grateful the compromise worked out. One year of middle school math is in the books!

Elaine

Friday, June 9, 2017

Hershey

Last weekend, Helen and I went to Hershey Park with her girl scout troop. We had planned to have the whole family join, but Connor came down with strep throat on Saturday night (and learned the lesson of never going to an urgent care clinic without a book). Ed stayed home with Connor.


Helen is even wilder now than she was last year, which I remember thinking was pretty wild. There is not a roller coaster in the park that she didn't love, and for some strange reason (overcast skies? kind of chilly?) there were almost no lines at the park. We rode more rides before 4:00 than we usually get in during a longer day. Helen did indulge my love of the bumper cars once, but mostly she was a thrill seeker.


Lucky for me, a few parents that went with us were hard core roller coaster riders, even opting to ride coasters the girls were too short to ride. That meant I had a nice balance of riding and resting. I think only one parent kept her feet firmly planted on the ground throughout the day.


I had feared this would be a trip where the Girl Scouts essentially bought tickets for the girls with their cookie money, but then didn't actually spend time together - but that didn't happen at all. For most of the morning we were a pretty tight group (facilitated by the almost non-existent lines) and in the afternoon, there were essentially two groups making their way through the park.





This is my favorite - since Helen is clearly trying to look afraid.


And this one does the best job of summing up Helen's day!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Math Dice Volunteer

Many weeks ago, the gifted facilitator at Helen's school asked me if Connor would be interested in helping her out with the after school math dice club. (Connor's middle school lets out about an hour before elementary school.) When Connor learned it was his former gifted facilitator who had recommended him for the position, he was thrilled, and happy to participate.

I am really proud of Connor for the commitment he made. He attended every session and, because it was on Wednesday, he also waited an extra 15 minutes after every session to walk home with Helen (she was participating in a different after-school activity that let out 15 minutes later than math dice).

Last year, Connor was one of 6 students that represented his elementary school on the math dice team. When he played, he played to win, though he would often modify the rules when he played against me because I was unwilling to play by the actual rules. This year, he learned to sit back, keep it interesting for the younger students in the club, and LOSE to them on occasion. As far as I can tell, he was a bit of a celebrity. Our neighbor's son was in the class, and when I would see him, he'd tell me how great a player Connor was. And then, at a neighborhood festival,  there was a small crowd of young children pointing at him and explaining to their mothers "there's the math dice guy!".

At the end of the session, the teacher told Connor she'd gotten him a small gift, but forgot to bring it with her. This really excited him, as he truly was expecting no gift. So - he learned a lot about keeping the game fun for younger participants, sharing his love of something with someone else, and not expecting anything in return.

Yesterday, he received a 10-sided Rubik's Cube -  I don't even understand how to move the pieces around, let alone solve even one side. I'm pretty curious whether Connor will figure it out this summer.

Elaine

Monday, June 5, 2017

Night in - pass the popcorn!

It has admittedly, been a busy few weeks (end of school year rush, travel to graduation, etc). And while it's been fun - it has meant that Ed and I are more likely to plop down on the couch and watch the ONE TV show we've been into lately than head out the door.

Popcorn is our standard snack, because it makes me a feel a wee less guilty than the sugar treats I adore. And while Connor has become an expert popcorn maker, he's not always available. So I cheated. When G.H. Cretors offered me some popcorn, I said "YES" and then I posted a photo on facebook and said I wasn't sharing any. And that wasn't far from the truth. I ate almost all of it by myself.

A few years ago, my friend in Chicago introduced me to mixed caramel and cheese popcorn, and that is an unusual, but delicious, treat. I hadn't had it since she visited, because I just don't see it around here. But now I can buy it at the grocery store. And, fun fact, G.H.Cretors is a Chicago brand so maybe people from the midwest just love this combo? Maybe we have more finely tuned palates when it comes to balancing just a little sweet with some salty? I don't know - but as a Kansan, I can assure you I feel for the combo.

What's more, my brother-in-law saw my selfish Facebook post, so when I arrived in Kansas for my niece's graduation, he pulled out a bag of  jalapeno white cheddar and since we had run a few miles that day, what we did to that bag of popcorn was a bit destructive. That flavor has the bonus that my picky children won't even try and share because - spicy!

So...cheers to stay-at-home date night, and the rest that I need, and the ease of bagged popcorn that - while not as buttery as Connor's style popcorn, is darn delicious.

Elaine

G.H.Cretors sent me this popcorn. I then sent Ed to the store for more. Opinions my own. Apologies to my brother-in-law for eating so much of his popcorn.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Yogurt salad dressing by Helen

We have a LOT of greens in our refrigerator right now. In part, this is because I go to the farmer's market weekly and stock up. In part, it's because I received a few boxes of greens from Taylor Farms. We have some eating to do in my house. And, although I can sit and eat a bowl of kale at work (in my attempt to clean up my mid-day diet, which sadly has devolved again to Twizzlers and peanut M&Ms) my kids are not super thrilled to do this.

Dinner salads are an easy sell - and Connor eats them without dressing (which is how I typically eat them as well). But it was a wild and crazy night last night at our house, and I needed to occupy one child because she would not stop whistling tunes intended to drive her brother crazy and another child because he would not stop his non-stop singing and dancing of the Macarena (which he must have picked up at school). Rather than have them share kitchen table setting duty, which requires them to pass each other multiple times, I set Helen up with some Greek Yogurt, pepper, meyer lemon olive oil from a fancy story near us, and my friend's home made mustard (which at this point I am sparingly using because it's almost gone) and told her "make some salad dressing".

She was, admittedly, a bit skeptical. I knew it would be a win for my beet salad (the greens provide a little bitter, the beets are sweet, so it needs something tangy. I did not know it would become Helen's very favorite thing in the world and would end up drenching her bowl of greens.



So there. Rough recipe is:
1/4 cup Stonyfield Whole Milk Plain yogurt
1/4 cup meyer lemon olive oil (ours was from Olio)
Pepper to taste
2 tsp mustard (ours was homemade,  it's on the sweet and tangy side)

Serve on top of bitter greens and watch your kids chomp them down.

Cheers!
Elaine

Thursday, May 25, 2017

School 5K

Whew - this wrap-up is late, but for the record, Helen ran her school 5K a couple of weeks ago. We spent the month of April training - and by that I mean I ran with Helen 3-4 times a week for 0.5-1.5 miles. One of our runs would take place on Saturday or Sunday and it was our "long run". Because Connor had a band trip the day of the race, he was able to escape training for the most part, but several times he ran with Helen while I was cooking dinner. That was nice!

I decided to make some of our long runs "destination runs" so we would start at our house, run to a dog park, run to the farmer's market, run to a Starbucks to get hot cocoa - something to make it so we could just get out the door and use our run to get to something else. Then, Ed would come and pick us up when we were done with whatever we had run to do. I think it worked well, and it meant we had some chatting time after our runs, which Helen and I both like.

For our last long run, it was around 90 degrees, so definitely not ideal conditions. Ed joined us as we ran most of the course (only it's a teeny bit harder than the actual course because from our house, there's an extra hill and then we skip a nice flat part of the actual course).

Running and photography is hard! Sorry to cut you off, Ed.
By the time the race arrived, I figured Helen could run it in 28:30 miles, which in my book is a pretty solid run. Helen's official time was 28:36!! I was definitely impressed with her. She worked hard. A friend of hers had decided to start training for the race 3 days before the race, so she did not have as great a race. After Helen crossed the finish line, she went back and cheered all of her friends on.

But - the absolute highlight of the event is that this friend came up to Helen and said "Helen - you were so fast! You might even win an award! You worked really hard for this. I'm so impressed with you." And that is a nice thing for anyone to say. For a 9 year old girl who is tired from running a 5K to say it impressed me a lot.

The only lowlight of the run was when a boy in Helen's class heard her coming up on him in the home stretch. He was exhausted, Helen was running hard and getting faster. He moved to the center of the path to try and block Helen out. I reminded him he needed to share the path and Helen flew by.

Officially - Helen was the first finisher in our family. Ed tried his best to catch her at the end but he just couldn't do it.

Congrats on another great 5K Helen!

Before - with my friend from the Netherlands!

During

After!


Elaine

Friday, May 19, 2017

National Zoo!

For as many times as Ed and  have attended the National Zoo's annual fundraiser, Zoofari, it's somewhat surprising I've never written about the event. It's top notch. Food tents from probably 100 restaurants - all serving small bites of something delicious. (Pro-tip - resist all sandwich and pizza type items, there are usually only 2-3, if you attend. Eating them dooms the stomach to getting full too early. Even though I don't eat meat, I was so full the first year I attended I had to implement a "soup only" rule midway through the event, because chewing would've been too hard.)

In any case, last night was the big event, and again - Ed and I met up with friends and ate, and ate, and ate - and even when it sprinkled a bit, we just kept eating (though I did grab a second plate to keep my macaroons that I was bringing home for the kids dry). Most importantly, we won a backstage visit with an Andean bear with our friends, which will be awesome, whenever it happens. We've won a backstage sloth bear tour so many times, Helen and Connor used to think it was just something our family did annually.

I had prepped for the event by only having yogurt for breakfast and a light lunch, because I wanted me stomach to be empty.


That, friends, is the key to a power breakfast, brought to me by Stonyfield! And also, a power snack, which I employed a few times last week as I made presentations at a few places outside my office.

Besides winning the bear tour (proceeds of which go to fund the zoo's conservation efforts), my friends also won a backstage penguin tour. It takes place in Pennsylvania and is only for 4 people, so my crew won't be joining. But cool - right - given that Stonyfield is partnering with the AZA Safe program and one of the animals being protected by this program  is a penguin.

A normal person would've taken a lot of great food photos last night, but it's really hard to balance a camera, a plate, lines, plenty of fancy cocktails, and good conversation. So, the camera was left behind.

Instead,  I leave you with one of my all-time favorite Zoo photos, for when they used to be open in the morning and allow runners through. I miss that run, a lot.


Admission to the National Zoo is always free (you pay for parking if you decide to park there),  which might explain the many hours we've spent as guests there. They let you bring snacks in (yay!), which makes this a trip that can be quite easy on the wallet.

Elaine

Thank you, Stonyfield, for the zoo recommendations and yogurt!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Whole Me - Prana Discount Code - Style!

Summer has come, gone, and come again - which is, I suppose, the definition of spring. Seriously, there have been runs in 80 degree + weather, but I was wearing long sleeves a few days ago. Friday's run was cancelled due to a monsoon outside my door, and Saturday's 5K was a perfect 50 degrees.

I've been spending much more time contacting my Senators than I ever have in the past. I needed to remind myself of this:


So while the Senate takes a moment to breathe before they start throwing legislation at us again, I'm focusing on a joint campaign by prAna and Stonyfield: #TheWholeYou. I'm making sure my wardrobe has a few new pieces that are:

  • reasonably stylish
  • travel easily
  • acceptable at bot the playground and at happy hour
And I'm making sure I bring a daily snack to work that will fill me up - without being junk food. Seriously, I need to turn my diet back around if I'm ever going to get faster. I'm taking daily walks at work, and something I'm proud of is that I've started biking to work. In the past six weeks, I haven't used my car to commute and I've only gotten on the metro for 3 rides - twice going home and once going in to work. 

I'm ready for summer, whenever it decides to arrive! This dress will roll up perfectly in my bike bag and be ready to wear once I arrive at work.



Use this code for 15 percent off your order at prAna: WHOLES17CHG.

Disclaimer: I was given this dress, but I actually own several prAna outfits that I purchased, and Ed owns a few shirts from prAna. I like their clothing, and the coat I got last winter is really warm! Stonyfield also send me coupons for yogurt. THANK YOU! 

Elaine

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Here We Go Again

I'm sure I've written this post before, but I can't find it. So, just so the record is clear - it is May and it is no longer acceptable to make any demands on my time related to school. Capiche? School has proven itself irrelevant enough that we are solidly in the "just get through it" stage and softball and baseball are taking up those evening and weekend hours where we might've been able to contemplate school, could we muster the ability to care.

School teachers get this. They're in their own sprint to the finish, trying to balance cramming for state run tests with needing to keep students engaged for 6 more weeks. That cannot be an easy task.

Other parents do not get this. Now that I have children in two schools, I have two teacher appreciation weeks to plan for, along with a coming email about end-of-year celebrations, gifts, etc. I don't reject the notion of doing something for the teachers. They're gutting it out - daily - and I've seen them after state tests finish. Rather than phoning it in (as I have already done), they turn on the good stuff. That favorite lesson plan that doesn't quite fit into the curriculum is sure to make an appearance and the willingness to try something nutty is high. But I do reject the stream of emails reminding me to send in particular items, wear particular colors, bake for this, provide a hand for this, and more.

Here's what I want. I want one email at the start of May laying out every damn commitment you expect me to make over the next 6 weeks. I want 1 signup genius that covers it all. I want to sit down with my calendar and figure out a strategy for getting through that doesn't involve compromising the other work I'm trying to do (both paid and volunteer). And I want 1 email summarizing every item that needs a donation - be it a class party, a thank you gift, or something else. Favorite teacher retiring? Get it on the list. Another teacher is having a baby this summer? Add it. Someone needs to use a hot glue gun to put some precious memories in a book? Yeah, that too. Most importantly, if you've already decided on the date of something, get it out there.

But here, friends, is the golden rule. If the project wasn't started in April, it's too damn late for this year. Hold your great idea until next year or summer. Really, people will appreciate it more and you will forever have my thanks for not adding one more thing to my pile.

Elaine




Wednesday, April 26, 2017

National Math Festival

There is no dearth of amazing things to do on the weekend around here, but there's a trick in finding balance. Do we need some outdoor family time? Would it be better to have some one-on-one time? Can we attend a festival without feeling overwhelmed?

Overall, I think we do a good job of mixing it up - and though it saddens me to let some really great opportunities go by, sometimes it's what the cards call for.

Last Saturday was the National Math Festival. Over the years, many people have told me how great the event is, but I've never managed to get myself or a child there. Often, I feel overwhelmed at the thought of dragging into DC on the weekend, or there's a playdate arranged, or I decide the kids need less, not more, academic enrichment. (Though they get basically no suitable enrichment at their highly rated public schools - despite honest effort by the teachers, in most cases.)

In any case, the day was drizzly, Helen had softball midday and Connor had baseball in the late afternoon. Helen had a playdate with a friend in the morning, opening up the opportunity for some one-on-one time with Connor. I floated the idea of the math festival, and he was game.

To compensate for my dread of riding the subway on the weekend (I seriously love having the option of metro during the week, but the weekend comes with the risk of very long delays, which make me nuts), I decided to risk driving. (Driving comes with its own problems, almost all revolving around traffic that's out of my control.) The drive in was not only smooth (thank you, Waze, for the excellent directions) but thanks to a second app on my phone (Parking Panda), I was able to easily find a cheap parking spot within a few blocks of the festival. (At this point, I had basically won the day because Connor is convinced I can't use my phone, but I had already used it TWICE to make our trip easier.)

The Math Festival was fantastic. We opted to attend a few lectures - one of which was mind blowing, and the other of which hit the sweet spot of Connor's interests AND the level of difficulty was perfect. He left with great questions, thoughts that kept coming up throughout the weekend, and a set of SOMA cubes - which are pretty fun to play with.

Most of all, we spent the better part of the day hanging out with each other, and I am all too aware that this is a state that won't last long.


This piece of art is crocheted, and was on display at the festival. Connor not only indulged my desire to go into this room, he struck up a conversation with an artist who had made a portrait using only two shapes in a non-repeating pattern. I felt a little weird snapping a photo of that piece of art - so I give you this one instead. I love it because I love when traditional women's crafts are elevated to art.


I am a little disappointed that I didn't go back with Helen later in the day. I hate the idea of reinforcing that math is for Connor and not her. But, I wanted to attend with just one child at a time since they have very different math abilities at this time. And, she had played one of two scheduled softball games, was wet, and a friend invited her over to play. She was excited about that offer, so I figured that's where she should go. About the time that playdate ended, another friend invited her over for a sleep over, which she was very excited about - so heading back at night wasn't an option. This did allow the rest of us to sneak over to Mussel Bar for dinner - which, if you are wondering, is a horrible place to eat the day before a 10 mile race.

Elaine

Elaine

Monday, April 24, 2017

Penguins...and Yogurt

Years ago, our first South African au pair arrived and the first night at dinner, we were talking in broad strokes about what we knew about South Africa and asking lots of questions. At some point, Ed piped in about a penguin that lived in South Africa, which he had read about in the newspaper.

Having just helped Connor with a report on King Penguins, I wasn't so sure Ed knew what he was talking about. More to the point, our South African au pair had no idea what Ed was talking about, so it wasn't long before we decided Ed had just misplaced the penguin from whatever story he had read. But Ed would not be deterred, and occasionally he would tell me that he knew there were penguins in South Africa.

And not that surprisingly, he was right. Today, I would bet a lot of money that the article he read made the point these animals are in trouble. In the last 100 years, the number of African penguin breeding pairs has dropped by 97 percent. Today, scientists estimate there are roughly 25,000 breeding pairs left. The reasons are many and are not surprising - oil spills, loss of nest burrow sites, and a reduction in prey caused by commercial fishing.

I learned this, because tomorrow (April 25th) is World Penguin Day - and as part of that day, Stonyfield yogurt is kicking off their support of the AZA SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction) program. They're supporting the program in several ways - but big ones are making a substantial donation and also doing their part to keep toxic pesticides out of the environment. The penguin is one of ten endangered species the program aims to help.

As a big kick-off event, Stonyfield and AZA are hosting a Facebook Live for kids and their parents to get a firsthand look at these awesome animals, and learn about the conservation work being conducted. The broadcast will be direct from  Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT at noon (EST). It will broadcast from the Stonyfield Facebook page  You can also check this out for a little AZA-Stonyfield humor.

Further, Now through the end of September families who buy two specially-marked YoKids yogurt multipacks will receive a FREE kid’s admission to their local AZA-accredited zoo or aquarium when they also buy an adult ticket.

For my crew's part - we headed up to Baltimore on the Monday after Easter to visit the Maryland Zoo. I'm not sure I've ever been there - we tend to head over to National Zoo (which is not nearly as big, but is very close). And guess what the Maryland Zoo has?


Even though our visit was cold, drizzly rain, we had a fantastic time visiting the zoo. Connor was a great sport. For some reason, I decided it was going to warm up, so I convinced him a jacket and shorts would be fine. I was wrong. We were both freezing.


We brought a snack (there's even a pavilion for picnickers) and also had some pizza from the zoo snack bar. We needed warmth!


And I think Helen and Connor stayed in here just so they could be warm for a few moments.


Elaine

I was gifted tickets to the Maryland Zoo - which was a real treat, and inspired our trip when I realized the kids didn't have school last Monday (surprise!). Opinions are my own.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Born in China

Last Tuesday, Helen was off at a birthday party, leaving Connor free to be my date for "Born in China". Although we had friends living in China for a couple of years, Connor and Helen were both too young to visit and too young to leave with my parents for a couple of weeks. That was probably our best shot of ever visiting.

After seeing Born in China, I got a little sense of what I'm missing. The movie follows a group of pandas, golden monkeys, and snow leopards through a year, providing incredible images of what life in diverse habitats looks like. Of course, it is nature, which means it can be a little harsh for this mama!

Every time I see a panda cub, I think back to the first baby panda at National Zoo. It was born about the same time Connor was born - and though Connor was the mightier of the two at birth, a few months in the panda was bigger. Friends of ours had passes to see the pandas many times, and because the timed passes were often for daytime hours when most people were working, Connor and I were their guests a lot!

The movie is slow paced, allowing the viewer to really let the beauty sink in. My only complaint was that sometimes the narration was a little campy - and at times seemed to be driven by anthropomorphism more than research. Perhaps the traits they were describing as human really were what the animals were feeling, but I think the movie might have been more powerful without this angle being on display so overtly.

Both of us enjoyed the movie, and I definitely enjoyed the chance to hang out with Connor. We had dinner beforehand and even got in a quick shopping trip since we arrived at the mall an hour before the movie started. I can finally ditch some of Connor's clothing that he has grown out of!

Elaine

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Standing Together

*I just looked in the "draft" folder of this blog, and realized there were over 100 draft posts. Talk about starting something and not finishing! In any case, this was obviously written a few months ago, but I figured I might as well make it permanent.

It's really this simple. We are so much stronger when we stand together than when we fail to support each other and tear each other down. It's obvious, right? And yet, seveeral recent incidents have left me confused / upset / feeling alone.

Helen's friend told me not too long ago that she hoped Hillary didn't win because she wanted to be the first President. This sentiment made me want to explode. Because in my heart, I know that the chances of Helen's friend being elected President are a million times higher if Hillary is elected now. I realize Helen's friend is 8, and she hasn't experienced glass ceilings and sexist undertones at meetings. She hasn't watched a male colleague pass her idea off as his, hasn't had someone tell her she's being too emotional, and if a boy has spoken over her to make his voice heard over hers, she's probably elbowed him or shouted louder - because at 8, that's a totally cool reaction. She hasn't strategized with other women in the office about how to amplify voices at staff meetings (and if you think that isn't happening, read this). I think I handled the comment well by telling the friend I was extremely hopeful that Hillary would be elected and that I thought we were all better off if she was.

And then there are my running friends, a sub-group of which ran Ragnar with me. Every single person did everything they could to get the team across the finish line. It included saying a run was too much, picking up extra legs, our VOLUNTEER - a mother of two of our teammates - switched from volunteer to runner by donning a pair of running shoes and taking a leg. Now that's teamwork! We were so lucky. It was such a clear example of everyone working together and just doing whatever it took. Heck, two of our injured teammates drove the vans (a surely thankless task), one of whom eventually picked up a leg as well. It was crazy. I am so lucky to have these women in my life. Another woman who was doing a different race the weekend of Ragnar has come through so many times when I have emailed some ridiculous request about meeting some random time and place to help me through miles. She even sacrifices her husband sometimes telling me I should hook up with his group.

I was at a bachelorette party on Saturday night and I know half of the women well and some I really didn't know at all. The women I don't know well took the lead and planned an amazing weekend (I missed Friday, which I had thought was a bad choice and it ended up being worse than I could've imagined). I was having so much fun on Saturday that I wore a kids' headband with sparkly things on top and served as wingman for the bride in accomplishing a few ridiculous tasks on the checklist the planners had devised. Apologies, Kent Narrows. I promise we will not be back. Again, so lucky to have the bride to be and her friends in my life. The whole weekend was about coming together to celebrate a common friend. Even one of the women telling me she was voting for Trump (I was wearing a Hillary shirt) couldn't dampen the spirit of unity in the group.

**New material, added today.**

It is easy to get really sad, these days. I am surrounded by thoughtful people working very hard to keep this country on what we perceive to be the right path. We call, we write letters, we talk about important issues of the day. And despite the losses (Gorsuch is now on the Supreme Court thanks to the republicans deciding to change the rules rather than nominate a more moderate judge), there have been some victories. Namely, 22 million people who were threatened with losing their health care still have it and tax reform that dumps tons of benefits on those who least need them isn't even close to passing yet.

So hang on, folks. Find someone you trust, stand together, and let's right this ship!

Elaine






Tuesday, April 11, 2017

5K Training Season Begins

The elementary school 5K is coming up in May, so Helen and I have started preparing for it. Last year, Helen needed a lot of assistance. She requested that Ed (1) have an iPod playing her music; (2) carry water; (3) carry the arm warmers she borrowed from me when she warmed up; (4) carry the visor she borrowed from me after it started annoying her; and probably more. A friend dubbed Ed the "running Sherpa". She had a great race, including a sprint to the finish.

We started this year slowly, as usual, logging a couple of half mile runs. On Saturday, we went for our first long run - which was 1.8 miles. We stopped once to fuel with a Hershey kiss, stopped a second time to see the dog park, and ended our run at Starbucks for hot chocolate. Afterward, we found a Starbucks a few blocks further down the street, which is our goal for this weekend. Our big plan was to run to get hot chocolate, shot at the nearby farmer's market, and then have Ed drive us home. Thankfully, Ed was game, because I'm not sure Helen could've managed running back home. (The path there is mostly downhill, home would be uphill - with a backpack of veggies!)




She definitely understands that it's not possible to just hop up and run 5K. This means she's willing to train, but would kind of like to skip it all together some days. At the finish of these races, she is always so proud - that I don't have it in my heart to have her skip it.



Connor won't be running the race this year. He's got a Boy Scout camping trip that weekend. I've thought about trying to run it "all-out", but I'll do whatever Helen wants, given that this is really her race.

I ran my own 5K not too long ago. I went out with friends the night before, had trouble waking up, and essentially drove to the start, grabbed my bib, and started running. Not ideal race prep, but it was fun. I won the entry - and in the end, I was glad I ran it. Official time was 24:51. I had decided I should at least run a sub-8:00 minute mile - and I came it at 7:59. Phew! 7th in my age group - so nothing too grand, but solidly respectable. Now though, I kind of want to run when I'm ready and see what happens.

Elaine

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Leprechaun didn't forget us - but he was late

I ran with a friend the morning of St. Patrick's Day. It was a lovely run, and a bit of a celebration to honor a baby of hers that didn't live. During our run, we talked a little bit about family traditions, and one in our house is the annual leprechaun visit. Annually, the leprechaun visits with a riddle, sends the kids running all over the house looking for clues, and eventually gives them a few coins (often from their banks, which the leprechaun appropriated because he forgot to get new ones). As we talked about this, it never even dawned on me that he was supposed to have visited the night before.

By the time I got home from my run, Helen was pretty upset that there hadn't been a visit. Connor figured we had just been skipped. He was off to school and Ed reported he didn't seem that upset. But the lucky thing for our house is, that even though our regular leprechaun failed to visit, that night we would not be left unharmed. A replacement leprechaun headed our way. I missed the event, as I was out running (again), but by the time I got home - there was much excitement. Though how s/he escaped the slime trap Helen had set is beyond me.

No photos this year, but I did want to note the tradition lived on - though in a slightly revamped form.

Elaine

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Play ball!

It's baseball / softball season again at our house, and both kids have gotten a game in. Helen played in a rescheduled game on Saturday afternoon (Ed was out raking the field bright and early, which paid off when her team was able to play at 3:00 that day, delayed from 10:00). Connor's team got their first game in Monday night - just before the rain (thank you weather!).

Helen's team is largely unchanged from last year. There are a few new girls, and several dads helping out. I have mixed feelings about this pile of dads. Obviously, it's great that they want to support their daughters - but it strikes me as a little annoying that they're all in for a sports activity but not big volunteers in other parts of their lives. It could be as simple as timing. I suspect many would say it's because they actually know how to play ball, so it's a natural fit. Maybe that's it. But I can't help but wonder about the message being sent "you're valuable to daddy when you're playing ball!". Hopefully I'm wrong. The other issue I have with the pile of dads is that there are probably half as many coaches as players. And while this could create an atmosphere for a really efficient practice, I sometimes worry that the girls see so many adults on the field as a sign that they (the girls) must not know what they're doing. That also makes me kind of sad.

Every year, a few new rules are introduced. This year, the girls can keep running until the ball is under control in the infield - though still they don't take bases on overthrows. Possibly most exciting is that by the end of the season, the girls will be pitching. Helen has been to a pitching clinic and generally seems interested in the activity. I hope she at least gives it a try, though she has already expressed fear at hitting another girl. I assured her that part of this level was learning how to jump!

Helen made an out at home plate when she was playing pitcher (though she just stands there- the coach does the pitching), fielded several balls, and generally displayed competence on the diamond. She had fun. Her whole team has improved. There was only one call to "stop playing in the dirt" and one girl caught a ball in the air! This is pretty much the most amazing thing a kid can do at this level.

Connor is playing in the same league as last year, but with a new team. Most (maybe all) of his team moved up a league. But Connor's birthday keeps him in the younger league for another year. I'm not sad about this. Ed reports that the boys in the next league up are BIG! Connor had a great first game. He walked his first time up, stole second and third, and was left stranded. His next at bat was a basic repeat, except he ran in from 3rd! His third at bat he hit a single into the outfield and eventually stole home. That was quite exciting, though did leave quite a bit of dirt on his WHITE pants. His final at-bat, he represented the third out and the tying run. He got two strikes, a foul tip, and then hit the ball. One kid scored on his hit and the next got thrown out at home, ending the inning. He was definitely excited by the whole affair.

Afterwards, Helen and Connor played on the playground, which always makes my heart happy.

Elaine

Saturday, March 18, 2017

How am I? Bitter.

The President's skinny budget was finally released. It's gross. Just gross. Cuts to tiny programs that make huge differences in people's lives and giveaways to the people who least need them. And it's hard to walk around these days and not be bitter.

I have spent a crazy amount of time trying to explain to people what particular policies being advanced by the administration and his daughter mean. I oscillate between thinking they were designed poorly as an honest mistake (so maybe they can be fixed) and they were designed by people who pretend to care just to market an idea, knowing that they're in the end it's just another big giveaway to high-income families.

Do you know what I should be doing? I should be working with colleagues to decide just what would be the best way to address poverty. I shouldn't be trying to hold the line, I should be stretching the safety net as far as possible, granting access to as many people as possible.

And sometimes? It makes me bitter. I want to say "you voted for this monster and when you vote for monsters, monstrous things happen". But that's not who I am. So instead, I call, and I call, and I call. I answer question after question that shouldn't even be being asked.

But when people ask me "how are you", I'm not being honest when I say "fine, and you?".

Elaine

Monday, March 6, 2017

B-Corps - check 'em out!

There has been a lot of chatter about buying products that support one political side or the other. And I am all about following your beliefs. But we could also focus on purchasing products that treat the environment and community well - and there's a mechanism in place to do that - Certified B Corps
Certified B CorporationsTM redefine success in business.
Individually, B Corps meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems.
Collectively, B Corps lead a growing global movement of people using business as a force for goodTM. Through the power of their collective voice, one day all companies will compete to be best for the worldTM, and society will enjoy a more shared and durable prosperity for all.
And...these B-Corps cross all types of products -  from toothbrushes, to yogurt, to eggs - and more! Below is a smattering:
King Arthur flour - a staple in my house;
Stonyfield yogurt - also a staple; and
Method cleansers - which sit in every bathroom in my home (refillable!).
Beyond that, I was introduced to pukka teas, purely elizabeth snack products, and Pete and Gerry's eggs!
I even have a certified B-Corp toothbrush from preserve.
Admittedly, it's going to take me a while to familiarize myself with some of the other products, but I figure I might as well try and save the planet with my wallet. Join me!
Elaine
As part of Stonyfield's blogger program I was gifted the items pictured here. No complaints - and feeling good about incorporating the ones I don't already incorporate into my home.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Arm Fracture

Helen and her friends regularly turn our kitchen into a roller skating rink. It's a large space covered with linoleum, so other than the hazard of various counter tops, it's a good space for this. On Saturday nights, a local community center turns their gym into a roller skating rink - and Helen loves it.

A few weeks ago, we took one of her friends with us to check it out - and within minutes of arriving, Helen crashed and ended up with a slight fracture in her wrist. She doesn't tend to complain about pain when it's real, and she had been lamenting the fact that ALL OF HER FRIENDS have been in a hospital - and she was even born in one. After the fall, she skated for another 45 minutes and then it was time to head home. I slapped a wrist brace on her that I had from years ago and Ed and I headed over to a neighbor's house to play bridge.

Helen said once the brace was on she felt fine - and indeed, when we went to the ER the next day they were unable to see a break on the x-ray, so they told me to keep it in a brace until we could see an orthopedic specialist. She said the ER's braces were larger than the one Helen was already in - making this possibly the only time in my life when my freakishly small wrists have been useful.

Ed took Helen to the orthopedist who had treated Connor. Given how severe and traumatic his break was - and yes, I still wake up in a sweat over it - this was extremely easy to deal with. Treatment would be the same whether there was an actual break or just some deep tissue damage, so the orthopedist did not take an additional x-ray (the ER PA had told us that the the orthopedist might take another x-ray, looking for bone growth which would reveal where the fracture was).

After consulting with Ed and Helen, the orthopedist recommended keeping the arm in a brace, gave permission to Helen to all her friends that she broke her wrist, and sent her on her way.

After a few weeks with the brace, Helen tends to find it annoying, which I think is a good sign that she's close to healed. She was cleared for soccer and has been playing a bit of violin - but gymnastics and softball pitching remain no-gos.


I am, of course, grateful that this injury was relatively minor compared to Connor's injury at about the same age. Now...to sort out the medical bills and determine which ones we pay and which ones insurance pays.

Elaine


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Recharging: Whole Milk Smoothies

Typically when we ski locally, our strategy is to ski hard in the morning and then head home. But a few weekends ago, Ed took the kids on an overnight weekend adventure. I stayed home to join the Women's March (more later), and joined them late.

By the time I arrived, they'd already put in two full days, and they had not taken it easy on themselves. Which meant in the morning - they needed calories! So they slurped down some Stonyfield Whole Milk Smoothies and fruit.
 

The verdict? Delicious. And the fate of those caps? They've been turned into wheels for an Odyssey of the Mind vehicle,  which I will reveal in a few weeks when my team publicly reveals their solution to this year's seemingly impossible problem!

Elaine

Stonyfield sent me strawberry and peach whole milk yogurt smoothies. And even though my kids usually balk at non-strawberry items, they were not offended at all by the peach smoothies and sucked them right down. Thank you, Stonyfield!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Newsies! Coming to Arlington - WIN TICKETS!

I am, admittedly, a late comer to the Hamilton craze. In fact, it wasn't until last Fall when I ran the Marine Corps Marathon that I finally listened to the whole musical. (I had time, might as well use it!) And downloading it to my phone is likely what got Helen interested, and now she sings the show from opening to closing and has listened to it enough times to make me crazy. (I used to do this to my sister, so, ahem, I'm not complaining.) With Hamilton on the way to DC next year, I am struggling with whether or not to purchase tickets for us. Pricetag = OUCH!

But...there's another, more accessible musical coming to the theater a few blocks from my home - Disney's Newsies. I don't even think I need to go into a natural political commentary on the importance of news - in reliable sources, something the Newsies of the day were trying to deliver. 

You can purchase tickets to the filmed version of Newsies by clicking here. (You can enter zip code info to find your closest theater.) Or - see below to win free tickets.

Set in New York City at the turn of the century and based on a true story, Newsies is the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a ragged band of teenaged ‘newsies,’ who dreams only of a better life far from the hardship of the streets. But when publishing titans Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack finds a cause to fight for and rallies newsies from across the city to strike and take a stand for what’s right.

I'm giving away four tickets to see Newsies at the Regal Ballston Common Stadium 12 on Saturday, February 18 at 12:55 PM. For those who haven't been, Ballston is now a reserved seating, very fancy theater (according to my kids).

Click on the form below for a chance to win tickets. Contest ends at 11:00 AM on February 16. After that, the winner will be contacted with information on how to pick up the free tickets.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Filmed live on stage at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, CA, this not-to-be-missed high energy show stars Original Broadway cast members Jeremy Jordan as “Jack Kelly,” Kara Lindsay as “Katherine,” Ben Fankhauser as “Davey” and Andrew Keenan-Bolger as “Crutchie”. They’re joined by North American Tour stars Steve Blanchard as “Joseph Pulitzer,” and Aisha de Haas as “Medda Larkin,” and Ethan Steiner as “Les” along with members of both the Broadway and North American Tour ensembles, filling the stage with more “newsies” and more dancing than ever before.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Steamboat, 2017

As far as I can tell, children always say they hate ski school. They will say they hate ski school, even if they are laughing when parents pick them up. They will persist with their stories of hating ski school, even as they tell you about the cool trails they went on, the other children in their class, and the extra Gatorade they inhaled at lunch. They hate it, I suspect, because they can't stand the idea of their parents spending the day away from them on vacation.

Parents, of course, must love ski school. Why? Because it costs and arm and a leg. The hope, of course, is that the children will eventually learn to ski well enough that the whole family can ski together, enjoying the same trails. In the interim, parents get to enjoy skiing wherever they want, without worrying about a child falling, getting stuck somewhere, or having to stop and go inside every thirty minutes.

We've had somewhat of a compromise with Connor and Helen for a few years. When we're someplace local, we ski all day with them. The mountains aren't that great and it is fun to watch them become more confident skiers. But when we got out West, we sentence them to at least a few days of ski school.

This year, Ed purchased two days of ski school for each child. Connor and Helen, naturally, complained about their fate. But, the smile on Connor's face after day one is one I hope I remember for a while. He was grinning ear to ear as he announced that he had graduated from level 5 to level 6 - and his teacher confirmed that the whole class was moving up together the next day - and in fact, they'd been on level 6 skills after a couple of hours in the morning.

For the uninitiated - level 6 is the real deal. Black diamonds, trees, moguls - no more dancing around the mountain, just solid skiing. He was actually excited to go back the second day, because I think he senses he is on the edge of freedom from ski school forever.





Helen had, naturally, befriended everyone in her class and was very excited to return on day 2 because one girl in particular was planning to be there. After that, she wasn't too keen on going back because her friend wouldn't be there. Helen made it about halfway through level 5, which means she has skills, but lacks some confidence in execution. Also, unlike Connor who thinks he must go down the mountain the hardest way possible every time, Helen still enjoys cruising down an easy trail.

In the end, two days of school it was.

And what did we get in return?



We got two children who can get down pretty much anything, love taunting me as they ski through trees, and one child (Connor) who looks for the bumps just to show he can do them. But don't worry, even as they threaten to eclipse me on the mountain, I'm still willing to race them occasionally just to show them you gotta be fast to keep up with this old lady!


Friday, January 27, 2017

The reopened breakfast for dinner cafe

When I take breaks, I never know whether to start from the present and work backwards, pick out a few highlights, or try and cover what's been missed. Regardless, there will surely be big spaces of time left uncovered, and that's unfortunate because those times are probably the most important to me - but I'm too busy doing other things to blog at night.

Sigh.

Connor and Helen love having breakfast for dinner. And truth be told, because breakfast foods can be cooked fast, come with simple clean-up, and the kids like them - I like it, too. But it is not lost on me that Ed basically groans every time he comes home to find I've reopened the kids' cafe (which only serves breakfast). He knows it means I've pretty much given up on dinner, but he also knows he can't complain because the kids are so happy about it (and they like taking the orders, helping with food prep, etc).

We had breakfast for dinner a few nights ago.

It was awesome.

This time, it made sense not just because I am lazy, but because February is National Hot Breakfast Month, celebrated by none other than the folks at USDA (though whether they'll be able to talk about it remains to be seen - I'm only kind of kidding about that). So here, for your February breakfast inspiration are the kitchen scenes from our breakfast for dinner night.

(And yes, I am already planning on having a repeat in February when Ed is out of town and he won't be around to roll his eyes when he see the waffle maker out at night!)





Thanks, Krusteaz!

We had leftover waffles the next morning - still yummy!

Elaine

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Book Two!

Helen has been playing violin for a couple of years at this point - and a few weeks before Christmas, she graduated to Book 2 in the Suzuki method. This, for the uninitiated, is a big deal. Studios differ on how the move from Book 1 to Book 2 will be celebrated. In Helen's studio, the choice is to play most of the book at a group lesson, or to hold a recital. In order to be considered a recital, there should be ten people attending.

Now, I'm not saying it's not lovely to hear Helen play. And I assure you, because I am the practice parent in the house, there is nobody who has heard Helen play for more hours. But still, asking others to come to a 30 minute recital of beginning violin is a stretch.

My parents decided to come visit (phew) and wow, did we pack a lot of performing into that weekend. I knew Ed and Connor would attend, so now we were at five guests. My friend Helen has three children that play violin, and I actually have been to non-violin performances of them, so I didn't feel too guilty asking her to attend. She skied up with herself and her three children (and her husband would've even come if he'd been able!). That brought us to nine attendees, which I was pretty comfortable with. Her music teacher said she'd love to attend,  but in the end, was unable. And then there was Lulu. Lulu is the girl that Helen walks to school with most days. Lulu mentioned that she'd like to attend (awesome!) and she even brought her mother with her.

I laid out a lovely table of snacks and Helen played her heart out. My friend, Lulu's mother, had no idea what she was getting into, I am sure. Yet, she delivered the absolute best line on the video. After Helen had finished playing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", my friend commented "wow - she nailed that one". I'm guessing her enthusiasm was waning by the 15th song on the performance, but she endured - I can never repay her. Helen was so thrilled to have her good friend watching.

Helen played in our back room, which had the most beautiful Christmas tree in it that I have ever owned in my life. I'm still a little sad we took it to the curb a few days after Epiphany, but Ed seemed pretty convinced it was going to spontaneously combust on us.


Elaine

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Run Streak? with Strength?

I have still not come up with an adequate New Year's resolution. I like to stack the deck on these things so I know I can succeed (e.g. Drink more champagne! my all-time winning resolution). I'm toying with the idea of completing a big run streak - like at least three months long. To count as a run, I need to put running shoes on and run at least 1 mile. That's not too hard, so I'm adding in another element: strength training.

When I started running a few years ago, I was in great shape. I'd worked with a personal trainer and felt strong. I'm guessing this had a lot to do with not suffering any early running injuries. But fast forward to today, and I'm a mess. the muscles I use for running are in good shape, but everything else just sort of tags along with me.


I have tried to strength train for at least a year, but just never got into it. This time around, I purchased "Quick Strength for Runners" and I've been treating in like it's holy. Of course, it's January 4 and I am still in the relatively easy "week 1" phase of the book. So on top of my run streak, I'm adding the strength workout - and on days when I'm not doing an official workout from the book, I'm challenging myself to 25 sit-ups or the New York Times 7 minute workout. That way, I spend some time each day getting stronger.


Three days in, I can report that I am killing it. Any bets on whether I can go the three months?


Elaine