About Steph

Your author, part-time, work-at-home writer.

The Accidental Chaperone

I was surprised on Monday afternoon when June brought home the sheet of paper indicating I was a chaperone alternate for the field trip to the living history museum in St. Mary’s City the next day. I’d checked off the chaperone box when I filled out her permission slip—Beth and I agreed one of us would go but we hadn’t worked out which one of us. And then I got an email saying there were more people who wanted to chaperone than slots and it was a busy week for Beth because CWA is on strike at Verizon, so it seemed just as well.

However, the email said you could show up at school and see if there were any last minute openings, but I wasn’t planning to do that. In general, I prefer to know how my day is going to unfold well in advance. The fourth grade will be taking another field trip to the Chesapeake Bay later in the school year and we’d have priority for that trip if we sat this one out.

But then the paper June brought home Monday seemed to indicate they actually wanted people to come to school and see if there was space, so I decided I’d pack a lunch and bring the $10 admission fee with me when I dropped her off at school, just in case. June really wanted one of us to come and I thought I should make an attempt, though I didn’t expect anything to come of it. I had work, but no deadlines until the following week, so it was possible for me to go.

The time students were supposed to arrive was stated in different communications to be, variously, 7:30, 7:40, or 7:45. We aimed for the middle and got there just before 7:40. We saw June’s English/Social Studies teacher in the hall on our way to the cafeteria where the kids were gathering, and she said she thought there would be room on the buses because three fourth graders have recently transferred to other schools. And then the teacher with the clipboard taking chaperones’ names and cell phone numbers and collecting money said in addition one fourth grader was absent, so he also thought I could go.

I texted Beth “Looks like I’m going on this trip,” so she’d know where I was.

Knowing my aversion to spontaneity, she texted back, “You are a very good mom.”

So I settled in to wait with June and her friends in the cafeteria. The buses didn’t arrive on time, so we didn’t actually get underway until almost 8:30. The five fourth grade classes were split across three charter buses and there was a little confusion about where everyone should sit, so I wasn’t convinced that I was really going on this field trip until the bus was in motion and I was still on board.

The kids were excited to be on a bus with plush seats, a bathroom, and best of all, several television screens. June and I sat in the last row of seats, just opposite the bathroom, with her friends Zoë and Evie in the row in front of us.

Shortly after we got underway The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe started playing. June and I read the Chronicles of Narnia last summer and fall and at first she seemed excited to see it, even though she was lukewarm about the books. But the sound was not turned up very high, so her attention wandered. I don’t think I could have followed if I wasn’t familiar with the story—but having read the series over and over as a kid and once aloud to each of my kids, and having seen this adaptation about five years ago—I am very familiar. I can’t read on moving vehicles without getting sick and I was wary of putting on my headphones and thus missing any announcements or instructions so the diversion was welcome. June went back and forth between watching the movie, reading a Dork Diaries book, talking and playing hangman with Zoë and Evie and looking out the window.

We arrived at the St. Mary’s historic site around 10:30. It had been raining when we left and I’d been hoping it would clear up while we were on the bus, but it was still gray and drizzly when we got there. In case you or one of your kids hasn’t been a fourth grader in Maryland, St. Mary’s City was the first English settlement in the state and it was also the first capital of Maryland. All the fourth graders in our county study its history and culture for much of the year and then visit it in the spring.

We started with the Yaocomaco Indian village. There were several houses made of bent saplings and grass, with beds and household tools inside. The guide pointed out a woven shelter in the garden area where boys had to sit with a basket of rocks to throw at garden pests. I asked June if she’d like that chore this summer and she said no. There were no actors in the Yaocomaco village, but apparently current members of the Piscataway tribe do occasionally act out scenes there.

From there we moved to a tobacco plantation where we met an indentured servant who was making mint tea in the kitchen of the planters’ house. She explained you could tell her master was prosperous because he had a two-story house with glass windows and a wooden floor. The guide took us out to the garden, which wasn’t planted yet but explained that all food and medicine would come from the garden, as it was “the CVS of the seventeenth century.” We saw some livestock around the house, mostly cows and chickens, though I caught a glimpse of a pig in the woods.

Our next stop was the town itself where we visited a tobacco barn, a general store (“the Walmart of the seventeenth century”), and a print shop (“the Staples of the seventeenth century”). At each stop we met actors playing the parts of a farmer, another indentured servant, a storekeeper, and a printer. I asked June as we walked from one building to another if there were any slaves in St. Mary’s. It was a tobacco farming community so I thought there must have been. June was well informed on the point, “Not until the eighteenth century,” she told me.

As we moved from building to building, a few kids were picked as volunteers to shape an axe blade, to use the counting board to calculate a shoppers’ bill, or to ink the letters on the printing press. At the inn, our guide picked kids and told stories about reasons why they were staying at the inn—to appear in court was a popular one—and then had them lie down on the bed. Evie was being tried for witchcraft and she could be heard later in the day declaring, “I’m a witch!” with some enthusiasm.

When it was Zoë’s turn the guide was telling a story about a man travelling to meet his girlfriend who would soon arrive by ship. After she’d referred to Zoë, who has short hair, as “he” and “Joey” a few times, I started to wonder if I should correct her. I was standing close enough to lean in and whisper. But I wasn’t sure if Zoë would appreciate that or find it more embarrassing. While I was equivocating, the kids started to giggle, and when they did the guide shushed them and said to Zoë, “You’re a good sport, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am a good sport,” Zoë said. “I’m also a girl and my name is Zoë.” Her tone was just right, not disrespectful, but self-assured. I could not have pulled that off in fourth grade.

We took a break then to have lunch in the bus because it was still raining and we watched a little more of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as we ate. I hadn’t eaten much breakfast, thinking I was just dropping June off at school, so I was pretty hungry by that point. My apple and container of vanilla Greek yogurt didn’t seem quite sufficient, but it was what I had. Worse still, the pint of bottled water June and I were sharing was definitely not enough for a whole day. I’d thought there would be water fountains somewhere, but there were no water fountains in the seventeenth century.

Our last stop was the Dove, a recreation of one of the boats that brought supplies to the colonists and carried tobacco back to England. June was most excited to see this as they had studied the boat. After touring the boat itself we went to various stations on the dock where a block and tackle and different navigational tools were demonstrated.

At the very last station, the guide asked for anyone who hadn’t volunteered yet, and June, who’d patiently raised her hand at every station and two other girls who were also never picked seemed about to get their turns. The artifact was a “honey bucket” to carry human waste to be thrown overboard. The guide explained its use but never asked the volunteers to do anything (though at this station I’m not sure anyone would want to demonstrate). When the group was dismissed, one of the girls lost her temper, asking, “Why did you ask for volunteers?” but there was no answer. June was a bit put out, too, but she didn’t let it spoil her mood.

We all trooped back to the bus. We’d been running a half hour late ever since we left the school and then around forty-five minutes into the ride one of the buses overheated and ours stopped, too, in order to stick together. We were stopped about twenty minutes, so we were almost an hour late returning to school. There was another movie to watch, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. By the end of the day the bathroom on the bus was starting to smell like a honey bucket. I was sorry to be sitting so near it and I was also getting dehydrated and headachy and I was hungry, too.

We went into June’s school to fill our water bottle before walking the mile home, but I couldn’t shake the headache, so instead of making black bean and spinach tacos for dinner as I’d planned, I just heated up a vegetarian hot dog for June (she got herself some strawberries), ate some cottage cheese straight out the container, told Noah to make himself something for dinner, took a painkiller and went to lie down for a while.

Eventually I felt well enough to read a chapter of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to June on the porch while we waited for her ride to her Girl Scout meeting, but the family who usually drives her to Girl Scouts forgot so she missed the meeting.

This seemed par for the course as it had been a day of the unexpected, both good and bad, but I was glad to have spent part of it in the seventeenth century with my favorite lass.

Wonder: Spring Break Report #3

Friday morning I was reminding June to get dressed so we could go to the Wonder exhibit at the Renwick Gallery. “If you don’t, everyone there will wonder why that girl is in her pajamas,” I told her. She was gracious enough to laugh at my joke. She usually does.

The Renwick was closed for two years for renovations to the building and when they re-opened in November, they celebrated with nine installations created specifically to showcase the building. I’ve been seeing people’s pictures of the exhibit for months and we finally got around to going on Friday, toward the end of the kids’ spring break.

Noah elected to stay home, but we invited Megan, and she was enthusiastic. We picked her up at her house at 9:30, drove to the Metro stop, took a train into the city and walked to the gallery. The first installation we saw was made of index cards set at different angles and piled into what looked like stalagmites or canyon rock formations. It was very cool, but the girls didn’t stay long in that room because they could see the rainbow in the next room and were drawn to it. From the pictures I’d seen online I thought this was made of projected light, but it’s actually colored threads.

The next room, filled with giant nests made of bent saplings, with doors to walk in and windows to look out, was also popular. The girls wanted to go back to that one once we had seen everything so they could go into more of them and pretend to be birds.

Some of the artists took the mission of fitting into the space literally. One artist took a mold of a living tree that was the same age as the Renwick building (about one hundred fifty years) and the rebuilt its exact shape with tiny cedar blocks that Megan said looked like Jenga blocks. The tree was hollow and laid on its side, suspended so you could stand by the roots and look into its interior. Another artist used the one hundred foot-long grand salon as the setting to explore the hundred foot-long waves of the 2011 Japanese tsunami by recreating the shape of the energy waves it produced in net-like fabric. This hung from the ceiling with different colors of light projected on it. The space was carpeted so a lot of people, including June and Megan, lay on the floor to look at it. They said they’d like to share a huge bedroom like that, with two beds.

Maya Lin took local inspiration in the Chesapeake Bay, creating a map of the bay and its tributaries in blue-green marbles on the floor, walls, and ceiling of a smaller room. There was also a room with large bugs all over the walls in decorative patterns, a maze made of strips of old tires woven into walls, and a group of rods studded with white LED lights twinkling in never-repeating patterns hanging above a staircase, like a chandelier. The gallery is going to keep this one permanently.

The text at the beginning of the exhibit said the art was meant to inspire awe and when we’d been through it the girls agreed it was “awesome,” so I guess it worked.

We visited the gift shop because Megan had some money burning a hole in her pocket and wanted a souvenir, but it turned out it was “the most expensive gift shop ever!” and both girls had to be satisfied with the free exhibit brochures. Megan was generous enough to leave some cash in the donation box and she thanked us twice for taking her.

After we left the museum we walked by the White House, because it was close, and then to Farragut Square, where we patronized the food trucks that line up there and ate on benches in the park, where red tulips are in bloom. The girls got pizza and tater tots and Beth and I got a mushroom sushi roll, edamame, and seaweed salad. There was a FroZenYo around the corner, so we got frozen yogurt, too.

We took Megan to our house to continue the play date. I’d originally said we’d keep her until three, but we extended it until four because as I told Megan’s mom, “They don’t seem to be tired of each other.” They rarely are. I am quite fond of Megan myself, in the special way you are of your children’s best friends. Friendship is a wonder, too, and it’s rewarding to see how it unfolds in your child’s life.

There was a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote on the wall of the exhibit that I think applies:

“Man is surprised to find that things near are not less beautiful and wondrous than things remote.” I think ten-year-old girls might find that to be true, as well.

Portals: Spring Break Report #2

Monday

Monday morning at 10:25 we left for the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, where we’d rented a chalet in the woods for two nights. As we drove to higher elevations, I could see the shadows of clouds on the hills. I remembered how when we drove east across North Carolina last spring break I could see the spring advancing as we drove and I wondered if it would be the reverse this time. At home the flowering trees were all in bloom except the dogwoods and maybe a quarter of the non-flowering trees had tiny green leaves. In Virginia and West Virginia, there were flowering trees everywhere, including an apple orchard blooming prettily about an hour into the drive. I saw forsythia, redbud, and daffodils everywhere, but by the end of our journey I wasn’t seeing leaves on trees any more, except on the willows.

On the way we stopped at Skyline Caverns. Somehow we’ve neglected to ever take June to a cave, though Noah’s been to at least two, and she squealed with excitement as we pulled into the parking lot. We arrived at 11:55 and had to wait twenty minutes for the next tour, so we perused the gift shop. June found a bin of rubber snakes she thought I might like for my anti-rabbit campaign in the garden. I did buy one.

Skyline Caverns is modest as tourist caverns go, but it has the essentials—stalactites, stalagmites and flowstone. And it has a unique feature, a spiky formation called anthodite. It looks kind of like sea anemones stuck to the ceiling. There are also a lot of streams and pools of water that reflect and double all the formations in fanciful ways.

The guide kept the cheesy jokes to the minimum and always gave warning before he plunging us into total cave darkness so June could scurry over to me to hold hands. We didn’t see any animals other than the trout they stock in one of the pools. But there are bats in the parts of the caves where the tours don’t go and the guide told us about a species of tiny eyeless beetles, now thought to be extinct, that once lived in the cave, as well as a rare snail, found only there and in a cave in Germany. (“That snail is better travelled than most,” Noah joked.) June was entranced. When I asked her what she liked best, she said, “Everything!” and afterward she kept repeating cave facts to us, as if we hadn’t heard them ourselves. It made me think we should take her to a bigger cave someday.

After lunch at a pizza place and ice cream, we drove to the chalet. It was high up in the sky and surrounded by trees, with a hot tub on the deck and a Jacuzzi tub in the upstairs bedroom. Our bedroom was a loft overlooking the living room and the woods, visible from the two-story picture window at the front of the house.

June tried out the hot tub right away, while Noah and I read To Kill a Mockingbird in the loft. We were up to the trial. I made dinner—roast asparagus, egg salad (made from our Easter eggs) and fried tofu. Afterwards, June had a bath in the Jacuzzi. I sat perched on the edge of it, with my legs in the warm, bubbly water, reading to her the twelfth and final book in the How to Train Your Dragon series, a birthday present. As I read, I didn’t realize the plug wasn’t in securely and the water level dipped below the jets. Suddenly water was shooting from them, into the air and splashing the whole bathroom. I bolted for the switch on the wall and then had to spend quite a long time, mopping water off the floor and changing into dry clothes. June got out of the bath and it wasn’t until she was in her pajamas that we realized in all the excitement she never actually soaped up or shampooed. We decided to leave that for the next day.

Tuesday

The next morning we left around ten to go on an expedition to the Paw Paw Tunnel trail. Noah was reluctant to go on a hike and after an hour of driving to our destination, asked, “Wasn’t there a closer trail?”

“There were a lot of closer trails, but this was the one I wanted,” Beth replied.

We walked a half-mile between the Potomac River and the C&O canal to get to the tunnel. June wanted to climb up the stairs at the mouth of the tunnel, so I went up with her. She was startled and a little spooked to see there was no rail up there. She noted it was scarier coming down than going up, but we made it down safely.

We entered the tunnel. The canal was on the left and we walked on the towpath where mules once pulled boats through the tunnel. Here there was a rail and that was a good thing because it was dark in there and the ground was muddy. Water dripped from the ceiling, especially at either end, and Beth and Noah used the flashlights on their cell phones to light the floor, so we could avoid puddles. The tunnel is about three-fifths of a mile long and when you’re far from either exit, it’s just the right amount of creepy to feel like an adventure. It took us at least ten minutes to cross.

At the exit, we were faced with a long, deep layer of mud, water, and dead leaves. Beth tried one side and it looked like her feet were sinking so I tried the other side and it was worse. I got one sneaker drenched on one side and the other one completely submerged. The kids did better, using a downed stick as a kind of bridge. Once we were across we were rewarded with a pretty waterfall on the other side of the canal.

Having been through the hill the tunnel traverses, now we needed to take the trail around and over it to get back. It was two miles of switchbacks up and then down. Once we got some height, the kids wanted to throw sticks and rocks into the canal and listen to the satisfying splash they made. Noah got one stick all the way across the canal, where it lodged in a cleft in the rock face. It was around here Noah forgot to be grumpy about being on a hike and seemed to be enjoying himself.

Near the summit, we rested and ate some trail mix. I was happy to be headed downhill soon after that. On this part of the hike, we now had nice views of the Potomac and the rivers and farmland behind the river. All along the trail there were tiny purple flowers and white ones Beth thought might be mountain laurel and little butterflies with pale purple and blue spotted wings.

Back at the tunnel entrance, June wanted to climb up again. It had scared her the first time, so she wanted to conquer that fear. It’s how she is. This time Noah went up with her instead of me.

We had lunch at a sandwich shop, were Beth and I got very tasty avocado Reubens. From there we headed to the famous springs.

Berkeley Springs State Park is the site of several warm water springs that were used medicinally by first Native Americans and then colonists, including George Washington, and pretty much ever since then. It’s been a park since the 1930s, which means you can soak your feet in the source of one of the springs, which is enclosed in a concrete rectangle, watch the water flow through canals into the spas, or fill a water bottle from water fountains for free.

There are also indoor baths where you can immerse yourself in the mineral-rich water for a fee. We went to the Roman baths, which are narrow rooms mostly taken up with something that’s between a large, tiled bathtub and a small swimming pool. You can rent them for a half hour, which we did. There’s a pitcher of water to drink in case you get thirsty in the warm water, which we did, and every now and then we’d add some cool water from the spigot, or get out to cool down. Noah perched for a while on the windowsill.

Beth and I had visited the baths some time pre-kids and we hadn’t been back since, and it’s a little less relaxing with kids splashing each other (both of them) or trying to swim over the limbs of everyone else who is sitting in the warm water (June). It was nice, though, especially after a hike. I left feeling very relaxed. Even Noah, who had said before the outing he didn’t want to go to the baths decided, “I guess it wasn’t that bad.”

We’d been planning to eat dinner out, but it had been a long day and we’d had a late lunch, so we just picked up some food at a health food store and took it back to the chalet to eat there. As we were leaving Berkeley Springs, I noticed a New Age shop called Portals, and I asked everyone where his or her personal portal would go, if we could all have one. No one had to guess mine. It would go to Rehoboth, of course. Beth had to think about it and said somewhere in West Virginia, but she wasn’t sure where, maybe Blackwater Falls and June said “Grandmom’s house” in Oregon because we don’t get to see her as much since she moved west a few years ago. Noah said instead of a place, he’d like his to go to another dimension, one in which he never had homework.

He was taking a three-day break from homework on this trip, with the exception of reading two chapters from To Kill A Mockingbird every day and when we got back to the chalet, we did that, and then we had dinner and made S’mores in the fireplace. It had been such an active day I thought I’d go right to sleep, but perversely, I couldn’t sleep for a long time, and then I was up in the middle of the night for a while so the next day I was sleepy and subdued.

Wednesday

The next morning before we left, Beth, June and I checked out the recreation center associated with the group of houses where we were staying. The pool was in use for a water aerobics class when we arrived so Beth and June shot basketballs while I watched. June couldn’t resist giving Beth pointers on how to pivot and shoot and she sounded just like her coach when she did so, even down to his intonation and wording.

When the aerobics class exited the pool, we had a quick swim. June is taking swimming lessons so she can pass the swimming test at Girl Scout camp this summer and be allowed in the deep end. She showed me her crawl and backstroke.

Next we packed up the house and drove home, stopping in Frederick, Maryland for a couple hours to have lunch and walk around the downtown. Then we drove another hour and we were home.

Travel isn’t exactly like having your own portal that transports you somewhere else, with no expenditure of time or money, but it does take you out of your own reality, even if for a few shorts days, and that’s usually a good thing.

Lovely Blossoms: Spring Break Report #1

On the first day of spring break June asked me some questions about her donor for a family history school project and I dug out his file, which I hadn’t looked at in years. I noted he’d taken a personality test and was an extrovert. I don’t think I paid much attention to this at the time we selected him, but it certainly explains a lot. For instance, we were looking at the file soon after June got home from back-to-back play dates, one at Megan’s house and then she and Maggie arranged to meet at the playground. Afterward, completely without irony, she said she hoped she had more to do the next day than she’d had to do that day because there had been too much down time. So it was a good thing we took her on a five and a half hour-excursion to the Tidal Basin the second day of spring break.

June wanted to dress like a cherry blossom for the occasion. She found pink sweatpants, socks, and crocs, but she had no pink shirts, so she settled on a white one, reasoning that some of the blossoms are white. She finished the outfit with a pink headband with white dots. Later on Facebook, Beth’s mom opined June made a “lovely blossom.” I have to agree.

Meanwhile, Beth wore a long-sleeved t-shirt with pictures of actual cherry blossoms she bought during some previous Cherry Blossom Festival. This was good, but Noah and I were in various shades of blue, brown, and gray and completely without floral design. Beth said I looked like a dead, dried up cherry blossom in my gray turtleneck, and June thought this was pretty funny. And actually, I had been feeling kind of like a dried up blossom for at least a week, headachy and easily fatigued.

We left a little before ten, took a bus to the Metro and then stopped at the Starbucks in Union Station for treats. Still in the cherry blossom spirit, June got a Cherry Blossom frappuchino. Beth tasted it and thought it was actually strawberry. I thought it might be raspberry, but I looked it up and she was right. It also had a green tea drizzle, either to evoke the stems or to give it an Asian twist. I decided to get into the spirit, too, and I got a cherry-oat bar and a hot green tea. Soon after I drank the tea, the caffeine chased my headache away and it didn’t come back the next morning as I feared it might.

From Union Station we took a circulator bus to the Tidal Basin. It was raining as we got off the bus and we’d elected not to bring umbrellas, which was seeming like a bad idea at the moment, but it wasn’t raining too hard and it stopped after ten or fifteen minutes so we didn’t get drenched.

We picked just the right day to go. We mainly picked it because Beth had the day off for Good Friday and the crowds would be less than over Easter weekend, but it happened to be the peak bloom day. All the trees were covered with puffy pink and white blooms, the slender saplings and the gnarled old ones. We walked all the way around the Tidal Basin, stopping at the MLK, Jefferson, and FDR memorials, reading the quotes carved in stone.

We lingered at the FDR Memorial the longest, because it’s the most interactive, with the most things to look at and read. I like the MLK memorial, but Beth and I were talking afterward about how they could have made it about the whole civil rights movement in the way the FDR memorial is about the Depression and WWII. From June’s point of view, the FDR memorial is the best because it has big blocks of stone to climb. Unfortunately, she slipped on the wet stone and banged the back of her head so hard it made an audible crack. Beth and I were checking her for signs of concussion the rest of the day but she seems to be okay.

On the way home, we had a late lunch at Union Station. The kids got pasta from Sbarro and I had a spinach Stromboli. Beth got avocado toast from Le Pain Quotidien and then June got candy from the Sugar Factory, and the rest of us got cupcakes from Crumbs. I thought the Cherry Blossom one, with pink frosting and cherry jam inside was the only choice, but they did have a wide selection of Easter-themed cupcakes, with jelly beans or Peeps on top. Noah got a chocolate one with yellow squiggle of frosting meant to evoke a chocolate egg.

By the time we got home it was almost three thirty. Noah and I read To Kill a Mockingbird and June did a phone interview Mom for her family history project and then we went out for pizza and gelato. It was a Good Friday indeed.

The Best Birthday Ever

June’s ten now. We are all in the double digits, at least until Beth turns one hundred in November 2066. We’ve been making this joke for a few weeks now and it still amuses us.

Friday: Pre-Party

Friday after school June and I set to work finalizing the schedule of activities for her birthday party the following day and decorating. Mostly this consisted of filling goody bags with noisemakers and sticking foam stickers in the shapes of instruments, microphones, and musical notes to the windows in the living and dining room. She’d already painted the staff with a missing note for the Pin The Note on the Staff Game, and our living room had been festooned since the previous weekend with helium balloons—one that said “Rock Star,” one with a picture of a guitar and one that plays “Good times! These are such good times! Leave your care behind! These are such good times!” when you tap it.  We decided to hold off blowing up the black non-helium balloons with white musical notes until the next day so the cats wouldn’t pop them. (Matthew had already popped the first one she’d blown up when she wanted to see what they looked like.) The theme of the party was, you guessed it, music.

Saturday to Sunday: The Party

It was a slumber party, her third one, and it started late Saturday afternoon. I felt a little more relaxed about it than I did the previous two years, like we’ve got this down now and we know how to do it.  On Saturday morning we gave her some early presents. We have a slumber party tradition that I buy her pajamas related to the party theme. I had the hardest time finding pajamas with either violins or musical notes on them, so I reached out to a few music teachers I know and her orchestra teacher knew of a web site that had just what I wanted. I gave June the pajamas along with a few music-themed shirts (two from us and one from Beth’s mom). She chose the yellow t-shirt with the heart, peace sign, and violin to wear to the party on Saturday and the one with Olivia the pig singing to wear on Sunday.

Megan came over a half hour early because June she needed some one-on-one time with her BFF before the big event. She “never” sees her alone any more, she said, only at basketball and Girl Scouts. I relayed this to Megan’s mom, who says she’s been getting a lot of “never” and “always” from Megan recently. She speculated it was a ten-year-old thing. Megan’s been ten for four months now, so her mom would know.

The rest of the guests arrived between five and five fifteen. They came bearing their band and orchestra instruments because they all play one and the party started with a jam session featuring two violins, a viola, a cello, two clarinets, and a saxophone. Everyone played at least one song alone and then they played some together. Because most kids start instrumental music in the fourth grade, the guests are all relative beginners on their instruments so we heard a lot of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” but Maggie performed “Happy Birthday” for June on the saxophone and Evie played one of their winter concert pieces on her viola.

After each girl played everyone else chanted her name. I was happy to see this brought a little smile to the face of her shyest guest, the one who periodically needed to retreat a little from the crowd before re-joining the fun. Being an introvert myself, I understand how it is in loud, chaotic environments.

And it turns out a music-themed party is loud, or this one was. June had six guests, two more than last year, so that could have been a factor, too, but over the course of the party there was a lot of playing and singing and in between there was non-stop chatter. Before the party June had brought up some instruments from the bin in the basement and throughout the festivities people picked up the guitar, the accordion, the toy piano, and the penny whistle and played them. Maggie kept asking if she could take the accordion home and June kept saying no.

After they’d finished their jam session, we had pizza. (I was impressed that no one had to be told to put her instrument in its case—they all just did it on their own.) Claire’s mom was still with us because she’d gotten a flat tire and was waiting for a tow truck, after trying unsuccessfully to change it herself. The jack wasn’t up to the job. She chatted with the adults and helped serve fruit punch until the truck came and she was able to leave.

Next June opened her presents. She got great gifts—a set of glow-in-the-dark stars, a book of fiddle music, a stuffed cat, an Amazon gift certificate, multiple kits—one for felting, one for making a nightlight out of crystals and one for making wind chimes—and two gift certificates for the local nail salon, which put together were more than enough for a mani-pedi. Zoë and Claire seemed as surprised as June was that they got her the same thing.

After presents we served the cake—shaped like a music note—and ice cream, and the girls changed into their pajamas to watch a movie, The Sound of Music, or part of it—that movie is really long. We projected the movie onto a sheet hung in the living room for a big screen experience. Most of the girls liked it, though it was a bit slow for Megan’s taste. They sang along with the songs they knew and June and Maggie reminisced about being in a summer camp production of songs from the musical when they were five, or mostly Maggie did because June doesn’t really remember it very well. There was a lot of lively commentary during the movie and a general consensus that Maria should not have kissed Captain Von Trapp. Sample feedback: “No, you’re making a terrible mistake. You’re like twenty and he’s like fifty nine.” I kind of agreed with them on that point, truth be told. Maria’s only a few years older than his oldest daughter. And speaking of Liesl, when the girls were all singing, “I am sixteen, going on seventeen,” it suddenly seemed they really would be some day, and not in the distant future either.

When it came to the Intermission, we paused the film for the night, and shortly afterward Norma’s mom came to pick her up since she wasn’t staying the night, and the rest of the guests got settled into their sleeping bags to tell ghost stories. I told them they should stop talking and go to sleep at ten, and I came out once shortly after ten to remind them, but I could hear the quiet murmur of voices for a while after that. Since it wasn’t enough to keep me awake, I decided to let them be. June says she thinks she was up until midnight.

Beth and I rolled out of bed around seven and started toasting bagels and slicing strawberries for breakfast. Everyone was awake, although Megan seemed to be trying to go back to sleep. She got up to eat, though.  Beth and I ate in the living room, listening to the girls’ breakfast conversation, which centered around Donald Trump (they don’t like him because he’s mean) and a girl at Maggie’s school who looks just like a vampire, pale skin, black hair and even long canines. All the boys like her because she cast a spell on them. Her brother looks like a vampire, too, but not their parents, so the kids may be adopted.

We watched the rest of the movie, with me offering running commentary on what was going on politically because there was some confusion about that and then Noah ran a karaoke session for them. They warmed up with “Let it Go,” and then sang a bunch of pop songs I didn’t know until they got to Katy Perry’s “Roar.” You can’t live with June without knowing this song. In fact, she’s got the chorus printed out and taped to the wall of her bedroom.

Next we moved them out to the porch to Pin the Note on the Staff and smash the piñata. These are birthday party games June loves and does every year. The guests asked me to judge who had pinned his or her note most exactly in the blank space intended for it and I pointed to one. “That’s mine!” Claire cried. Claire also knocked the piñata down (she was third in line, so only June, Maggie, and Claire got a turn.) It didn’t break, so I wondered momentarily if we should hang it back up, but the girls and Noah all descended on it and started emptying it through the hole used to fill it. Then Noah grabbed one side of the note and ripped it off and the thing was history.

We finished the last scheduled activity with twenty minutes to spare before parents were expected. It was a cold, gray day despite being the Spring Equinox, but given the choice between more karaoke inside and running around the back yard, they chose the back yard. That seems to be how all birthday parties end, at least in my experience.

Sunday: Post Party

June asked if she could get her mani-pedi that very day and Beth launched into an explanation of how Spring Break would be better because there would be more time and then interrupted herself to say, “But you want your friends to see it, don’t you?” and June said yes, and Beth said maybe and sure enough, that afternoon, Beth took June to get her finger and toenails painted dark purple that afternoon.

June spent a lot of the rest of the afternoon felting. Do you even know what this is? I’d never heard of it, but it involves shaping differently colored balls of wool by poking them with a needle. “It’s like magic,” June said. And it is. Over the course of a couple days, she made a hedgehog, a rabbit, a dog, a bird, a little person and a ball that’s dense enough to bounce.

June’s birthday was still three days off, but at dinner Beth mentioned she was almost into the double digits. “Until you turn one hundred,” June said.

“Will you visit me when I’m one hundred?” Beth asked.

June said she would if her busy schedule as a pop singer allowed. Beth pointed out she’d be sixty then and maybe not touring any more but I said Dolly Parton’s in her seventies and touring and Willie Nelson is in his eighties and touring so you never know. Maybe she should be a country star instead.

Tuesday: Class Party

Monday passed without anything particularly festive happening, though June did wear the last of her early birthday presents—a long-sleeved t-shirt with a violin made of butterflies.

June’s Science/Spanish class was supposed to have a party on Wednesday, the last day before Spring Break, and coincidentally, June’s birthday. The teacher had agreed she could bring some kind of trinkets to the party, since it was her birthday, and she settled on the leftover instrument and musical notes stickers. June was pleased to have hijacked the party into being partly hers because none of her teachers do birthday parties this year. But then Señora Y learned a number of kids would be out on Wednesday and she moved the party to Tuesday, and June ended up having to share it with a boy who had his birthday the previous Saturday and who was also going to bring party favors. She was slightly put out on both counts, but she brought the stickers anyway.

When she got home she reported Señora Y forgot the treats for the party and left her class with another teacher while she went off to get cookies. So the party was short and not only did June not get a chance to distribute her stickers in the confusion, but she also she forgot to go to her violin lesson.

Wednesday: Double Digits At Last

June requested cheese grits for breakfast on the morning of her birthday, because she likes them and I don’t often make them unless I’m also in the mood for them because they tend to get the pot messy. It was good strategic thinking on her part. I made them.

While June was at school I wrapped presents and made strawberry frosting for the cupcakes Beth had made with the leftover birthday cake batter before the party. We’d saved them for her actual birthday.

We planned for June to open presents in the narrow slice of time between dinner and when I needed to leave for book club. But when Beth got home at 6:40, I told her we had a problem. June was fast asleep. I’d found her in bed five minutes earlier when I’d called her for dinner, and I had no idea how long she’d been asleep. Usually when June falls asleep in the late afternoon or early evening it means she’s getting a migraine, so I was reluctant to wake her. It was the wrong weather for a migraine, though. She most often gets them when the temperature is dropping and it was a warm day.

June woke on her own at 6:45 and said she had a headache but not a really bad one yet. She wasn’t hungry for the birthday dinner she’d requested (nachos with pinto beans). I gave her some painkiller and asked if she wanted to try to go back to sleep or open presents. Open presents, she said, but she was pretty unenthusiastic unwrapping clothes I’d thought she would like. She did smile when she opened two books How to Fight A Dragon’s Fury (How to Train Your Dragon #12) and the second book in the Dork Diaries series. She’s been wanting to read both of these for a while and they’re never at the library. She also got some fabric for making doll clothes, an iTunes gift card, a membership at Animal Jam and a gift certificate to get her hair dyed again. This will be the third time since school started and it’s her last big gift-giving occasion until next Christmas so she’s going to save it for a while. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had it done right before sleep-away camp, if she can wait that long.

The big surprise was an aquarium with two new snails. June brought two snails (Moonlight and Sunlight) and a mosquito fish (Peppermint) home from school in a soda-bottle habitat some time last fall, after a science project (and a long successful, campaign to wear down Beth’s and my resistance). Peppermint died in December and Sunlight some time after that, and June was concerned Moonlight was lonely so she lobbied hard for a new snail and bigger digs for the snails. There’s a color-changing light in the aquarium and a sculpture of a turtle they can climb if they get tired of climbing the walls and the plants. She named the new snails Lollipop and Emerald. She’s very happy with them.

June was well enough to take a birthday phone call from my mom right after opening presents and when I got home from book club, she was in bed but still awake. I guessed from that her nap had been pretty long. Beth said she’d perked up after I left and had eaten most of her dinner, though she opted to save the cupcakes for when everyone could eat them together. She also took phone calls from Beth’s mom and Megan. “It was the best birthday ever,” she’d told Beth, headache and all.

I came into her room to say goodnight and she asked me to climb up to the top bunk to lay down with her. She speculated that she was still awake because she didn’t want her birthday to be over. Then she said maybe it would be her birthday until eleven a.m. the next day because that would be ten years and twenty-four hours after she was born and Noah said she’d previously said it would be her birthday starting at midnight on Wednesday so she couldn’t have it both ways. Eventually, she fell asleep.

And tonight we ate the cupcakes.

Red Letter Days

Friday

June had a highly satisfactory weekend. Friday afternoon just before five I took her to the basketball hoop down the block to shoot baskets. I told her I was only going to stay for ten minutes or so but she was welcome to stay longer by herself. Back home, when I realized she’d been gone over an hour, I went looking for her. It was going to be dark soon and she needed to change clothes for her school’s Latin Dance.

When I got to the hoop, I found her kneeling on the ground with a neighbor girl building a fairy apartment building in between the roots of a big tree using of pieces of bark, twigs, and pebbles. There was even furniture in the rooms. This was a major social coup for June. Olivia is a fifth grader who rides the bus home with June in the afternoon but who doesn’t wait at the bus stop in the morning. As a result, I’ve never met her parents.

They’ve been wanting to play together for a while, but whenever I went over to her house with June—to introduce myself and make sure it was okay for June to be there—Olivia wasn’t there or wasn’t free. And whenever they arranged for Olivia to come to our house she wouldn’t show. So I was starting to think she wasn’t interested but didn’t know how to tell June. But June reports Olivia heard her shooting baskets and came out to play so apparently it was a logistical problem.

We walked home and June got changed into a long red velour dress she bought with her own money at a thrift store a few months ago. (It’s the same dress she wore on Christmas.) I had no real idea how much of a dress-up occasion the dance was, so I offered no sartorial advice, which June probably appreciated. She selected a pair of white tights, a white cardigan, and her shiny black bejeweled shoes to go with it. When Beth got home she gave her some money to spend and June tucked it into a silver and gold clutch I think she got as a hand-me-down from Beth’s mom. And she was ready for her first school dance.

June and two of her friends had been making plans to go to this dance at school but apparently Evie and Zoë didn’t share these plans with their folks because when I contacted their moms to see if they could take June, they both said their daughters weren’t going. Almost ten seems to be an awkward age in terms of making plans. June and her friends often want to do it themselves but can’t quite get the plans off the ground without adult involvement.

The reason I was trying to palm June off on someone else was that neither Beth nor I was interested in attending the dance and we weren’t sure if you were allowed to drop your kid off and leave. I contacted the mother of another one of her friends, who was the main organizer and she said people do, so that’s what we did. I think being left at the dance without a parent might have made it even more exciting for June.

When Beth brought her home a little after eight, June ran into the house yelling, “Mommy! I won all the prizes I tried to get in the raffle!” She was carrying a big stack of boxes full of Monster High paraphernalia: four dolls in varying sizes, a cup with a lid and a straw, and a DVD. One of the dolls levitates by means of a magnet in her head. Take a close look—she’s hanging under the big purple ball: http://shop.mattel.com/product/index.jsp?productId=65561156

Beth had bought her some raffle tickets but when she had money leftover after buying herself pizza and a cupcake (plus brownies to bring home for Beth, Noah, and me), she bought a lot more. Every prize she won she did so by putting in more than half the tickets in play. Beth hadn’t really intended for her to do this but she hadn’t told her not to either. “Well, it’s for a good cause,” she said ruefully. The dance was a fundraiser for fourth grade field trips.

In addition to eating and winning prizes, June danced with her friends and her teacher and generally had a good time.

Saturday

As exciting as Friday was, Saturday was possibly even more so. In addition to a gymnastics class in the morning, the last game of the basketball season and the team party were that afternoon. After the second to last game of the season, June told me, “We can’t have a losing season now. If we lose the next game it will be a tie season and if we win, it will be a winning season.” The Pandas won that game by a big margin—16-5 and they were playing the same team, the Lady Terps, so I thought they had a pretty good chance of winning, but you never know.

At half time, the Pandas were leading 6-0. It looked so lopsided Beth was relieved when the other team finally got a basket in the third quarter. “It’s sad to be shut out,” she said. The Terps’ playing the week before had indicated the team wasn’t as experienced as the Pandas. Their defense in particular wasn’t very good. It seemed like there were organizational problem, too. A lot of the players didn’t have jerseys. And there weren’t as many parents in the bleachers cheering for them. This was a little uncomfortable and eventually some of the Panda parents started clapping for both teams.

But the Terps were better this week defensively and in the second half their offense clicked together (mainly due to the efforts of one really good player), more baskets followed, and by the middle of the fourth quarter the game was tied 8-8. And then they scored another point in a free throw and the Pandas were losing 9-8.

There was thirty seconds left in the game. I said to Beth, “They can’t make a basket in thirty seconds.”

“Yes, they can,” she said. And they did.

As you can see in the middle picture, Megan was pretty stoked as they lined up for the postgame handshake. All the Pandas were. One of the Terps crossed her arms over her chest and refused to participate and least one other player walked through with her arms at her sides. They’d done the same thing the week before. The Pandas had discussed it and were offended at this show of poor sportsmanship and exasperated to see it repeated. The players in the next game were already waiting so the Pandas hurried out of the gym to the hall for a quick team meeting—which Mike does after each game to offer praise and suggestions for improvement.

All he said at first once he had them all gathered around was “Wow…” Then he went on to say how proud of them he was for “digging deep” and coming from behind. At a recent game, when the Pandas were way ahead Mike called a time out with a minute left in the game to talk to them about their next move and all the parents, even his wife, laughed. But Mike’s central lesson for the Pandas is that it’s never too late for a learning opportunity and you are never too far ahead or too far behind to stop trying your best. He takes them all seriously as athletes and that’s why June loves playing on his team. There’s almost nothing that’s as important to her as being taken seriously.

While they were posing for a team photo I went to the bathroom. I thought I heard a girl crying in one of the stalls, but when a Terp player came out, she looked okay so I thought I must have imagined it. As we walked to the parking lot, however, I realized I wasn’t. Half the Terps were crying, one saying she was quitting basketball and another trying to dissuade her. In five seasons of basketball I’d never seen a team so distraught at losing at game, not even when they were five years old. I later learned the Terps lost every game this season. It must have been very hard to lose this one in the last thirty seconds. It made me glad for Mike again, because last year when the Pandas lost every game, he kept them buoyed and they left their last game happy and ready for the end-of-season party.

We had a party this year, too. It was graciously hosted by Talia’s dad. There was food and the Pandas ran around the back yard and there was a trophy ceremony in which Mike took each girl aside to tell her what he appreciated about her playing while the others chanted her name. (This keeps his remarks private.) It was a lovely way to mark the end of the season.

Because this is June we’re talking about, she’s moving right on to the next thing. This morning before school she had her first Girls on the Run practice. This is a running club at her school (and other area elementary schools). In late May she’ll be running a 5K. Parents are invited to participate. I told her I might walk it because while I can’t always keep up with her whirlwind pace, I like to be where my girl is.

Hop Year

Four years ago when June was in kindergarten and had just learned to read, I wrote a leap-year themed blog post about how kindergarten is a year of leaps and bounds. I was thinking about writing a similar post about Noah’s first year of high school, but the more I thought about it the less true it seemed. Sure, high school is different from middle school but not different like elementary school is different from preschool. It’s been more if a hop than a leap, really.

Partly this is because he’s been in magnet programs since fourth grade, so he’s used to academic rigor. If anything, the Communications Arts Program (CAP) at his high school is a little easier than the Humanities middle school magnet. In fact, when some of the CAP kids who came from regular middle schools complained about the workload at the beginning of the school year, Noah says the kids who had attended the Humanities magnet at his middle school all burst out laughing.

So he occasionally has a free evening and some weekends he’s not working all day every day. And that’s nice, but he’s still working more than we’d like. The difference seems more attributable to his program being a little easier and not the ADHD medication he’s been taking since November. Some days he works efficiently, but he’s always had those days. And he still has days when his gears run agonizingly slowly.

For example, two weekends ago, by Sunday morning he’d finished all his homework for the weekend except reading some excerpts from the Constitution and then writing a letter to the editor from the point of view of a WWII-era American citizen, arguing for or against Japanese internment camps, using a Constitutional argument. The letter was supposed to be less than a page long. He worked on it from 9 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Most of that time was spent reading and re-reading the relevant sections of the Constitution and trying to decide what arguments to make. Once he’d done that, he wrote the letter pretty quickly.

We’ve been thinking maybe we need to find help from someone with specific expertise in slow processing because even though he has an ADHD diagnosis, his problems may stem more from his processing issues than the ADHD per se. Beth learned (after it had taken place) that the school district recently hosted a lecture about helping kids with slow processing, so she’s going to contact the speaker to see if he can point us in the right direction.

One way his slow processing manifests itself is that he’s a pretty slow reader…and he’s in a humanities-based program with a lot of reading. So I read to him. We read for pleasure at least once a week—we just started a dystopian trilogy called Chaos Walking on Friday afternoon and I often read the books he needs to read for school to him as well.

On Saturday morning we finished Unbroken, which the CAP 9th graders are reading as part of a unit on WWII. It’s interesting but grim if biography and popular history about Japanese prisoner of war camps sounds like your thing. (It also made me wonder if my recent fretting about violence in the media he consumes—I was particularly concerned about the true crime documentary Making a Murderer—is misplaced, just closing the barn door after the horse is long gone.)

There’s a lot about ninth grade that’s going well. He enjoys being part of the small community of CAP students within his vast high school and he knows a lot of them from the middle school Humanities program. He seems engaged in his work and less stressed out than he did in seventh and eighth grade. His teachers have had nice things to say about him when we’ve met. His drama teacher recently told us he is one of her funniest performers and that she enjoys his stage presence and dry wit.

His school operates on a block schedule, which means each class meets every other school day. This translates to longer class periods and fewer transitions, which is good for his learning style. And best of all, he can never get homework that’s due the next day, which makes it easier for him to plan ahead and manage his time.

He’s been making a lot of movies, which he enjoys, even though he can be self-critical of the results. This year so far he’s made several short movies, including a couple autobiographical ones. One was a collection of clips from movies he’s made for fun outside of school with narration about his hopes to work as a video editor some day. Another one was about band and drumming and the role music’s had in his life.

This comes under the heading of perqs for Beth and me, but because he’s often assigned to go to plays or watch movies, we often do this with him. I’ve been to three plays with him this year, most recently a pantomime production of As You Like It. And we’ve watched Stagecoach, Citizen Kane, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the original 1956 version) together. I enjoyed them all but especially the last one, which was right up my alley. I have a soft spot for mid-twentieth century horror, whether campy or more serious.

But as I mentioned, none of this is that different than middle school, as Noah’s been on a humanities track since sixth grade, but it often feels different because he’s getting older and we know in a few short years he’ll be on his own. Twice in the same night Beth and I were thinking about this. Saturday he and I made a stir-fry together. Cooking with me is his usual Saturday night chore, but I always do the dishes afterward. As I was doing them I was thinking—he really needs to know how to do the dishes before he leaves home. I was doing my family’s dishes twice a week at his age. Later I went on to fold two loads of laundry and said something about how never-ending laundry is and Beth commented that Noah should probably learn to do his own laundry before he goes to college.

As a step toward independence, we’ve made him his own study area in the basement this year, at his request. He got an external monitor for Christmas and he hooks it up to the family laptop, which sits on a card table down there. The basement is unfinished and often chilly, so there’s a space heater down there, too. Because his drums are also there, and he not only works but also watches movies at the little card table, he’s in the basement a lot. The kids share a room, so it’s been a way for him to carve out a space in the house for himself, which at his age, he probably needs.

And as if to emphasize the fact that college is coming, he recently took the PSAT at school. He was initially disappointed in his score but he was thinking it was a percentage of right answers, which he translated into a letter grade in his head. His scores were fine. The math one, in fact, was higher than my math SAT score. And I certainly wasn’t taking physics in ninth grade, being more lopsided academically than he is.

So, there’s my year-to-date report for Noah. Four years from now, maybe I will have a more dramatic account of his next leap year. Or maybe by then he will be writing his own blog and he can tell you himself.

Wintry Mix

If you live in the mid-Atlantic region, or anywhere in the country where the temperature hovers right around freezing for much of the winter, you’re familiar with wintry mix, precipitation that switches back and forth between rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow. We had a whole day of that on Tuesday. I think we had all four kinds of precipitation over the course of the day. Because we were right on the rain-snow line, forecasts for the day varied wildly. We might get ten inches of snow! Or nothing! There ended up being a dusting of snow in the morning that melted by noon with no more accumulation, even though it kept snowing (and sleeting and raining) throughout the day. The afternoon snow squalls, while pretty, didn’t stick.

This post will be wintry mix as well, a mélange of four things that happened over the course of the last week and a half.

I. Thursday to Saturday: Visit with Uncle Johnny

Beth’s brother Johnny, who lives in Seattle, was swinging through the East Coast on a trip that would include New York City, the DC area, Wheeling, WV, and Kentucky. He arrived in DC from New York on Thursday night. Beth met him for dinner after work and they had dinner at a teahouse in the city. Friday she worked a half-day and then they went to the Building Museum before meeting me for lunch at District Taco. (I was already in the city because I had a dentist appointment to get a temporary crown applied.)

From there we went to the Portrait Gallery, where we took in paintings, drawings, sculptures and, in the most interesting interpretation of “portrait,” a short animated film, set to John Lennon’s song “O Yoko.” The film was continuously playing on a small screen mounted on the wall between two paintings. I heard a guard confess it was driving him crazy listening to it all day. I liked it, but I didn’t have to listen to it any longer than I wanted to, so I saw his point. We made sure to show Johnny the portrait of John Brown, which is now a favorite of ours because when June was in preschool she was fascinated with it and always insisted on coming to see it whenever we came to the portrait gallery. (She has no memory of this now, but we are still charmed.)

I peeled off early, leaving Beth and Johnny at the museum, because I wanted to be home when June got home. She had left her violin at school two days running and I wanted her to be able to practice for her upcoming orchestra concert over the weekend, so I’d told her if she forgot again, we’d be heading to school to get it, getting a custodian to unlock the classroom door if need be. It didn’t come to that, as she remembered to bring the violin home. Perhaps this was because I got down on my knees on the wet pavement of her bus stop that morning and begged her to bring it home. That’s the kind of maternal behavior a nine year old will strive to prevent from occurring again.

So Johnny got to listen to June practice the violin when he and Beth arrived at the house, and then he wanted to see Noah’s drum kit, and Noah practiced, too. (I had them do it sequentially to spare Johnny the experience of listening to both at once.) We went out for pizza in Silver Spring and left Johnny at his hotel.

Saturday Beth and June went to meet him so June could swim in the hotel pool, but it was closed until ten and June had gymnastics in College Park at eleven, so they hung out in his room instead and June watched the Disney channel. After watching June’s gymnastics class and eating lunch with her in the University food court, they all returned home just long enough for June to change into her basketball clothes and to pick me up so we could go to the Pandas’ game.

Going into this game, the Pandas had lost a game and won two. It was a remarkable turnaround for a team that lost every game last season. “It’s like they just realized how to play basketball,” another parent said to me. Well, they didn’t forget, winning the game 8-4, against the Warriors, a team I remember beating them twice last year. The Pandas’ offense was apparently not as strong as in the game we’d missed the week before but their defense was great and they caught a lot of rebounds and that was enough to do the trick. It’s so fun to watch them win and Johnny was a good fan, cheering and taking a lot of pictures.

June still wanted to swim in the hotel pool, even after gymnastics and basketball, so we left her there with Johnny and headed home until it was time for dinner. Noah had been working all day but he took a break to go out for Burmese with us. Johnny had never had Burmese before and enjoyed it. He came home with us for a little while and then we said goodbye because he was leaving for Wheeling early the next morning. It was a nice visit, but too short. June had hoped to take Johnny ice-skating and shoot baskets with him at the hoop near the end of our block. But there’s always next time. 

II. Tuesday: Two-Hour Delay

Monday night, considering the forecast and the fact that he had a long history reading on WWII with two dozen questions due Wednesday and only about a third done, Noah said, “I need a snow day.”

“You don’t always get what you need,” I responded, thinking one of us wasn’t going to get that, though at the moment I didn’t know who it was.

But there was a two-hour delay, which was a nice compromise, long enough for Noah to get make some progress on the assignment and for June to practice her violin, make a card for Megan (whose grandmother just died) and for the two of us to take a walk to Starbucks where she had a slice of lemon pound cake and I sipped a green tea latte while I read to her. “That was nice,” she said as we headed for home shortly before her bus was due. And it was.

III. Thursday: Band and Orchestra Concert

The band and orchestra concert delayed during the snow week finally happened on Thursday and it was worth the wait. As Beth came in the door around 5:45, I was exhorting June to change into her concert clothes and find her music. This must have sounded pretty familiar from all Noah’s years of concerts.

I’d laid out a variety of white tops and dark bottoms on my bed so June could mix and match. She chose a white cardigan and a black pleated skirt, with black leggings. But she hadn’t changed out of the socks she’d been wearing that day—they were turquoise with pink hearts.

“What socks are you going to wear to the concert?” I asked, thinking surely not those.

“I am wearing socks,” June said, matter-of-factly.

We looked at each other silently. I almost opened my mouth and said you can’t wear those socks to an orchestra concert, but then I decided why not and said if her dress shoes fit over them it was fine. They did.

June was sure her sheet music was tucked into her music book, but when she looked, she couldn’t find it. So we left without it, telling her she’d have to share with someone.

When we got to the school gym, scores of young musicians and their families were milling around, finding their seats and tuning their instruments. There are one hundred and sixty kids in the band and orchestra, so you can imagine how many people were in the room. And while most kids at the concert were in white and black concert garb, a number of them were in street clothes, so I guess colored socks weren’t really a big deal. And they were packed together pretty tightly so sharing music wasn’t either.

It was a while before the concert got started, so there was time for socializing. We waved from our seats at parents of June’s classmates and fifth-graders we know from the bus stop and elsewhere. The mother of a fifth grade trumpet player came over to ask about the Communication Arts Program at Noah’s high school because her eighth grade daughter just got into it.

After a fanfare by the advanced brass, the whole orchestra played a medley of fiddle tunes. June had a duet with the first violin from the advanced string ensemble. This was originally going to be a solo, because no one but June volunteered, but then the first violin changed her mind. June was a little peeved about this, but I’m pretty sure she’ll get a solo in a concert some day if she sticks with it. I got a little teary while the two girls played. It happens to me at least once at every concert.

Although that was the highlight for us, it was just the beginning of the concert. The beginning band played a series of songs meant to evoke different parts of the country (this part of the program was called “Road Trip”) and the orchestra did a series of songs representing different animals from the Chesapeake Bay, as well as the water and wind.

There were movie themes, from Jurassic Park and Star Wars, which was preceded by two boys acting out the “I am your father, Luke” scene and there was an audience sing-along to “Hey Jude” and later we all stood to do the chicken dance with accompaniment from the advanced clarinets. (“I wasn’t told I would have to dance,” Noah commented afterward, but dance he did.) A girl who attended June’s preschool in the class one year ahead of her played her own original composition on the flute. The advanced clarinets and flutes played “Silent Night,” which seemed little out of place in February, and because there’s a little-known law that at least half of all elementary and middle school band and orchestra concerts should feature a jazz tune during which the musicians don sunglasses, they did that, too.

At one point, the bridge popped out of June’s violin but she ran over to the director between songs and he fixed it for her.

It was a fun evening. I am really in awe of elementary school music band and orchestra teachers. Imagine if your job was to teach a few hundred mostly inexperienced nine-to-eleven-year-old musicians from two different schools enough music to pull off two concerts at each school every year. Because he also works the elementary school where Noah attended fourth and fifth grade, Mr. G was Noah’s first band teacher, too, and he does a wonderful job.

IV. Friday to Sunday: Valentines’ Day Weekend

Friday morning, about twenty minutes before June’s bus was due, she decided she wanted valentines for her class. This happened after weeks of insisting that no, she didn’t want to buy or make any valentines this year. She just wanted to give a few friends some big Hershey’s kisses privately. I never thought June would lose interest in class valentines exchanges at a younger age than Noah did, but apparently she had.

Her last-minute change of heart was partly motivated by the fact that she wanted to bring the candy to school and couldn’t unless she had something for everyone. So I found a bunch of printable valentines online and she selected a page with cartoon animals and robots she liked. Then I printed them and she cut them out and signed them. She thought she had a class list but she couldn’t find it so she left them unaddressed, saying “They will know who they are for because they will be on their desks.” I couldn’t argue with that. Three minutes before we needed to leave for the bus, the valentines were sealed in a plastic bag tucked into her backpack. Sometimes I feel like I’ve really got this elementary school mom thing down.

That afternoon Megan came over. We’d been planning to take both girls on a field trip to a high school girls’ basketball game, an annual tradition for the Pandas, but snow was predicted so the game was cancelled and we decided to switch plans to a play date. June gave Megan a big chocolate kiss and Megan gave June a card with a drawing of bees that says, “We were meant to bee,” with a chocolate kiss taped to it. While they were playing, I swiped a conversation heart from the stash of candy June brought home from school and I broke my temporary crown on it. Karma, I suppose.

On Saturday, Noah wanted to make something heart-shaped for dinner. I was thinking grilled cheese sandwiches we could cut into hearts but he had more ambitious plans: heart-shaped slices of lasagna. So we made spinach lasagna and used a cookie cutter to cut four little hearts out of it. (The rest we ate in more traditional slices.)

On Valentines Day proper, Beth made heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast and we all exchanged gifts, mostly chocolate and books, but I also got a Starbucks gift card.

The kids have Monday off for Presidents’ Day and we’re supposed to get more wintry mix Monday through Tuesday—snow, freezing rain, and rain, with an ice storm thrown in for good measure. I guess that’s how we know it’s winter here.

Jammin’

The kids went back to school Monday and I admit that even after Noah told me there was an official announcement on the school district web site to this effect, I kept checking it to make sure they weren’t going to take it back. I’m just a little paranoid now. But they did go back and then yesterday the groundhog didn’t see his shadow, which was cheering, as I am all for an early spring.

But before the kids stepped on their buses and I went back to my empty house to enjoy my normal workday routine, we had a very musical weekend. Both kids had a public performance. To my amusement, June played violin at something called a jam and Noah played drums at something called a recital.

Saturday Afternoon: Peanut Butter and Jam

Saturday June performed with Becky, her old preschool music teacher, and the Takoma Ensemble string quintet in a program for children seven and under. It’s part of a series called Peanut Butter and Jam. The theme of this performance was feelings. We dropped June off at the community center for a dress rehearsal a couple hours before the show. (Or rather Beth dropped her off. I was already there, having stood in line an hour and fifteen minutes to register June for drama camp next summer. Early in-person registrants got a hefty discount that day, so it was worth it.) June had rehearsed a couple times previously with Becky but this was the first time all the performers would be together.

When Beth, Noah and I arrived at show time, we took our seats. Most of the audience was in seats, but there was a kind of toddler and preschooler mosh pit right in front of the stage.

We saw a lot of people we know, most with younger kids: the toddler brother of a boy from June’s school bus stop, a preschool classmate of June’s who was there with his younger sister, the two little girls who live down the block and whom June helped watch last week. But we were especially happy to see June’s best friend Megan and her dad. June had missed a Pandas’ game due to the dress rehearsal and Megan reported they’d won “by a lot of points” and that she’d scored a basket. (I later found out from the coach that they won 23-8! Since they won their last game as well, the Pandas are now, surprisingly, having a winning season.)

The show started with Becky talking about the snow and how it caused many people to have feelings—happy, angry, and sad. I could relate to that. Then she sang a couple songs with the audience. During “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” June entered from backstage, looking sad and singing, “If you’re sad and you know it, drag your feet.” Then for the bulk of the program she and Becky then discussed various feelings, with the string quintet playing or Becky singing music that demonstrate those feelings.

At once point when Becky asked her what she does to feel good, June said she plays the violin and then she played “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Her right pinky was still in a splint, but it didn’t seem to affect her playing. If you’ve ever seen June act, you won’t be surprised to hear she was very expressive and enjoyed hamming it up with Becky. The cowered together during the scary music (a Vivaldi piece meant to evoke a thunderstorm) and scowled and stomped during the angry music (Shostakovich). Finally, the musicians introduced their instruments—violin, viola, cello, and bass and then Becky sang a few more songs with the audience and it was over.

After the show there was a reception and we stayed and June ate snacks (fruit and sunflower butter sandwiches, in deference to possible allergies) and we talked with people we knew and a few we didn’t, a few of whom came up to congratulate June.

Sunday Afternoon: Winter Recital

The next day the music school recital was being held in three shifts, at 4:00, 5:00, and 6:00. Noah was playing in the middle performance. He and his drum teacher had composed a partly improvisational piece called “Percussion Duo.” They’d been working on it for a few weeks and Noah even came in for an extra lesson that the teacher gave him free of charge. They also had to go to a jury, or audition, for the school administrators a couple weeks before the recital.

I was glad about this because Noah gets very nervous at auditions and his last two haven’t gone very well. The music school juries aren’t as competitive as the honors band and jazz band auditions, so I thought it would be a good way to re-build his confidence for the next one he has, whenever that is. This one went fine. If you’re judged not ready you can come back for a second jury, but he passed the first one.

Before the recital I went swimming (at the pool! Which was open!) and then to the library and when I’d finished there I realized I was actually closer to the music school than home and if I walked home it would just be time to get in the car and go, so I called Beth and told her I’d meet everyone at the recital. So naturally, I was forced to go wait at the bakery and have a cup of tea and a slice of marble cake and read the Sunday Arts and Style section of the Post, which I happened to have in my backpack. (I have been spending far too much time at that bakery, or more precisely eating too much there, but it had been a very hard week.)

At ten of five I left the bakery and I saw Beth and June in the car driving around looking for parking. Noah was already in the building. I went in and saved three folding chairs in the rapidly filling room and watched as Noah and his teacher Jason set up the drum kit. Noah looked very serious and avoided eye contact with me as he went up and down the aisle.

On the program Noah was second to last out of sixteen performers. They generally order them from less to more experienced musicians. The school’s students range from preschoolers to teenagers, but they skew young, so I wasn’t surprised to see him so close to the end.

The drum kit was right in front of the piano and there were chairs for the musicians and audience almost right up to it so I wondered where the violinists would stand and where they would put the guitarists’ chairs. I like the music school front room. It’s warm and sunny, with three windows facing the street and the walls are painted in nice shades of blue and cream. Nonetheless, it’s a small space for these events and I’ve often thought they should rent a larger space for recitals.

Then the office manager answered my questions by announcing they were changing the order of performances to have Noah and Jason go first, after which they’d disassemble the drums to make room for the other performers. Compared to the rest of the performers, Noah and Jason were dressed casually—Noah in his trademark sweater vest over a tie-dyed t-shirt and Jason in a black short-sleeved button down. Later Noah asked why we didn’t tell him to dress up. The answer was he’d been to enough music recitals of June’s that I thought he’d remember what people generally wear and he could make his own decision. Besides, he’s a drummer, and his teacher wasn’t really dressed up either.

Noah and Jason took their seats at the drums. Jason warned the audience it might get loud and said, by way of explanation and to some laughter, “There’s not much we can do about that. It’s drums.” They began to play. Noah continued to look very serious as he played. They sounded good to me and I liked their composition, but I can never tell when he’s going to be satisfied with a performance and when he won’t.

The rest of the kids played, a couple in duets with their teachers. The next three performers after Noah were pianists and then there was a violinist who plays in the advanced strings ensemble at June’s school with her. A girl played “Ode to Joy” on the guitar, alongside her teacher. I’d never heard that song on guitar and it sounded a lot different, in an interesting way. Because the winter recital is often in December a few kids had prepared holiday music—we heard “Greensleeves,” “The Dreidel Song,” and “Jingle Bells.” In a music school recital first, one of the guitarists went electric and played The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me Now,” which was fun. The recital ended with a very skilled teenage violinist who played a Bach concerto.

After the recital, we asked Noah how he thought it went. Okay, he said. He didn’t have a list of errors he’d made as he sometimes does, but he didn’t seem buoyed as he is at other times by a good performance. I was glad he did it, both to practice composing and to stay in the habit of public performance.

This duo of musical events was actually supposed to be a trio, ushered in last Wednesday by June’s first full-length elementary school orchestra concert but the concert was postponed due to the snow. It’s been rescheduled for next week, so we’ll be in the audience again soon. It’s one of my favorite places to be. I love to listen to my kids play.

Siberian Train Wreck

When I was in college I ate and most years lived in the student-run co-operative houses at Oberlin. A friend of mine who was a menu-planner at one of the co-op where I lived recently posted a recipe on Facebook for a casserole from those days. It features noodles, canned tomatoes, kidney beans, ground beef, and cheddar. I didn’t recognize the exact recipe but it seemed like the sort of simple, hearty, easy-to-cook-on-a-large-scale fare we ate back then. For some reason it was called Siberian Train Wreck. I decided I’d give it a try, for old time’s sake. It amused me to write the name on the white board, and given the predicted weather and how it was likely to derail the region, it seemed appropriate.

If you live on the East Coast or know someone who does you’re probably aware we had a big storm last weekend. Snowzilla dumped two feet of snow on the Washington area. It snowed from early Friday afternoon into the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Friday

The school system panicked and cancelled Friday, which irritated me because if they’d done an early dismissal, the kids would have been home before the first flake fell and even if they’d had a full day of school they would have been home before the roads were messy.

When the first flakes did fly, around one p.m., I was at the food Co-op, picking up a few groceries. I knew it would be crowded but I wasn’t quite prepared for what I found there. There were easily three times as many people as I’d ever seen in the small store and the line snaked halfway around its perimeter. When I saw it, I almost abandoned my oranges, soups, kidney beans, and bag of vegetarian ground beef. But I was on this errand partly to get out of the house and have a little alone time while I still could and I had part of an episode of This American Life I hadn’t listened to yet, so I got into the line. To my surprise it moved pretty quickly and I was out of the store fifteen minutes later. The staff was doing a great job handling the crowd and with one notable exception the customers seemed understanding and in good spirits. (The one who wasn’t was pushing her way past people with her cart. What is the point of acting like that?)

From there I went to Spring Mill Bakery for a cup of Earl Gray and an enormous brownie. Their shelves were almost bare and the woman at the counter kept announcing they were out of bread, though they had baguettes in the oven. I got a table by the window, to watch the snow. I was making an effort to see the beauty of it, which I know is there, but I have been having trouble seeing it for a few years. I have to admit I didn’t quite succeed because I was just full of dread about the storm, or more precisely its aftermath, which was likely to be lengthy and trying. (The last time we had two feet of snow was when Noah was in third grade and June in preschool and a few days later there was another foot of snow and school was cancelled for almost two weeks straight.)

An inch of snow is just about the right amount for me. I know this because we got an inch two days before the big storm and even though the roads became impassable and I had to walk home from book club and there was a two-hour delay the next morning, it was kind of fun, walking home in the snow in a group of fellow book clubbers and taking June down to the creek for a walk the next morning.

It was a fluffy, sparkly snow, quite pretty, and I let June venture out onto the ice of the half-frozen creek further than seemed 100% safe because I’ve been trying to encourage her to get back into the habit of playing outside and I thought she’s only going to do it if I let it be fun. And what’s more fun than a little danger?

I didn’t stay at the bakery long because I needed to go get June from Megan’s house They had a five-hour play date that day—it started at our house and then moved to Megan’s house during the gap between my press release deadline and Megan’s mom’s conference call.

June and I got back home around 2:40, twenty minutes before the blizzard warning took effect. Beth had come home early and Noah, who had been home all day, was studying his lines for a scene from Romeo and Juliet his drama class is going to perform whenever they go back to school. So everyone was present and accounted for.

We passed a quiet afternoon and evening. We live on a busy road so it’s notable when traffic stops but by evening it was only plows, police, and emergency vehicles in the deepening snow.

Derailed: One day of school

Saturday

We woke to thunder and eighteen inches of snow on the ground and more coming down hard, but we decided we’d better start shoveling so it wouldn’t be impossible when it did stop. We have a corner lot and a big back yard so we have a lot of shoveling.

After a breakfast of oatmeal and buckwheat pancakes that Beth made and after Noah vacuumed the living and dining room—I asked him to do it, thinking we might lose power at any time as some of our neighbors already had—all four of us shoveled for a couple hours. We hired a passing man with a shovel to clear the driveway because that was too much for us to tackle. At first he said he’d do it for $100, but part way through the job he changed his mind and said it would be $200. I don’t know if this is standard operating practice or if it’s because we have a long driveway, but it’s how it usually seems to go whenever we hire someone to do this job. (In the end, we had to have it done again and paid $325 total.)

June wanted to try sledding on the rise in our back yard, but the snow was too deep and powdery and the sled just got stuck. I asked Noah to try to make a sled run for her by going down it a few times and he tried but he couldn’t make anything workable.

When we came inside I read a chapter of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to June and we all had hot chocolate and soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. Noah had a list of sixty English vocabulary words to memorize and exercises to do with them, so I quizzed him on these while Beth and June made chocolate chip cookies.

In the late afternoon, we watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. June had seen it already at a slumber party but even so, she needed to sit between Beth and me and hold Muffin (her favorite stuffed animal) on her lap during the basilisk scene. This strengthened my resolve not to let her watch anything past the third movie for a while because I know they just get scarier as they go along.

No one felt like making dinner, so we heated up frozen tamales and lasagna and June had hot dogs with leftover soup from lunch. I got into warm bubble bath to soak my sore back and read the newspaper, which had miraculously arrived that day. Meanwhile Beth and June listened to a Nancy Drew audiobook and Noah practiced his drums.

Once June was in bed, I read Library of Souls to Noah. It was snowing when we all went to bed and the sidewalk we’d shoveled was filling back up.

Derailed: One day of school, a gymnastics class, and a basketball game

Sunday

The next morning the snow had stopped—Beth measured 23 inches on our patio table—and the sun was shining. Beth, Noah, and I shoveled the walk all over again, an easier job the second time around, and Beth and Noah lent some neighbors a hand as well. We had one fewer shovel to do it with, as someone had stolen one off our porch. The footprints in the fifth photo belong to the thief.

I read to June again while Noah started to memorize a monologue for another drama class assignment. Then two neighbor girls came over to play with June so their mom could return a child who had gotten snowed in with them while her younger sister was being born. Our neighbor needed to re-unite the girl with her parents at the hospital and then drive the whole family to their house in D.C. This was why Beth and Noah dug out their car earlier in the day.

By mid-afternoon school we’d found out had been cancelled through Tuesday. (Monday was a scheduled day off because the kids get a day off between marking periods.)

I was tempted to go to bed and hide with a book when I got this news but instead I checked in on Noah and found him despondent about his progress memorizing the monologue (which is based on Beth’s mom’s memories of her youth in the 1950s). I broke it into chunks for him to make it easier to learn, ran him through the first five chunks several times, and then suggested he take the rest of the day off since he wasn’t going back to school until Wednesday at the earliest.

He went downstairs to practice his drums while Beth made a white bean soup for dinner and June played with the little girls. They are in first grade and preschool and June’s really good with them. It makes me think she might be babysitting in a few years. They played with My Little Pony figures they brought, June’s American Girl doll, magna tiles and the castle and its inhabitants. They only had to resort to a Care Bears video almost three hours into the visit.

Derailed: One day of school, a gymnastics class, a basketball game, and my weekly swim

Monday

By Monday I was feeling I needed to get out of the house so I was happy to meet Becky, June’s preschool music teacher and a friend of the family for lunch at the bakery. Becky and June have an upcoming acting and musical performance together (more on that in another blog post) and they needed to go over their lines.

It was quite a challenge getting there. Nearly all the sidewalks were shoveled but the bridge over Sligo Creek wasn’t (it never is) and there was a long stretch of sidewalk belonging either to the hospital or the university that wasn’t either. Usually we could walk in other people’s footprints, but on the bridge there were no footprints and the snow was halfway up my thighs. I struggled along for a while, with June trailing me, but eventually we had to walk in the street.

At the bakery they were still out of a lot of their menu items, but they had the makings of grilled cheese sandwiches, so we ordered three of them and chips and drinks, and a big lemon bar to share three ways. We ate and then June and Becky practiced their lines. I went across the street to the Co-op for more groceries for us and a gallon of milk for a neighbor. When we’d left the house, there were two men shoveling out our driveway again and I texted Beth to see if they were done and if she could come get us. She could and she did. It had been just about the right amount of adventure walking there but I didn’t really want to do it again.

Beth took the kids sledding shortly after we got home while I stayed home to work. They came home sooner than expected and when they got onto the porch I could hear June was crying. She’d flown off her sled and sprained the pinky on her right hand. Beth took her to urgent care to make sure it wasn’t broken and they came home with June’s pinky in a splint.

That night I made the Siberian Train Wreck for dinner. Beth said it was “just like Hamburger Helper” and it was. Sometimes that’s the kind of food you want.

Derailed: One day of school, a gymnastics class, a basketball game, and my weekly swim

Tuesday

Tuesday was the day I really lost it. The trigger was Girl Scout sleep-away camp registration. Last year the process had taken three hours and nearly brought me to tears. This year was worse. It was also worse than the dream I’d had the night before before about walking down a long, swaying bridge with no handrails.

I was logged onto the site at 10:01, one minute after it opened. There were 1,004 people ahead of me in line. I waited patiently, watching the count go down until it was my turn. This took a little less than an hour, about what I’d expected. Once in the site I rushed to find June’s choices. There were two spaces left in Storm the Castle, an archery-themed program and her first choice. Her friends Maggie and Leila were trying to get into that one, too.

But by the time I got through the registration process it said the session was full. I thought it had filled while I was registering, but when I went back to the selections to see what was left, it was still showing spaces, more in fact than there had been before. I kept trying over and over to register her either for Storm the Castle or to get on the waiting list for her second choice, Artistas, which was full but allegedly had space on the waiting list.

I asked Beth (who was working from home) for help and she tried, too, but all we could get to work was my very last choice—Moonlight Mania, a program based on staying up late. Even though I’ve gotten more relaxed about bedtime recently, it’s still a hang-up of mine and this seems like an almost comically bad choice. Plus June doesn’t even really like staying up late.

I regretted registering her almost immediately, as it leaves me with the decision of whether being the mean mom who says June can’t go to Girl Scout camp or whether to worry for six months about sending her to this camp. Beth gingerly suggested we all give it time before making any decisions. She seemed wary of me. This could have to do with the fact that after I got off the computer I started to cry and once I started, there was no stopping and I had to shut myself in our room. I wasn’t even sure what I was crying about anymore. There were too many options.

Later in the day I learned Maggie got in to Storm the Castle and Leila got on the waitlist for the same session, which I would have considered a better outcome than what we had.

I was so upset about the whole thing that I almost didn’t care when school was cancelled for Wednesday or that I seemed to be getting sick. In an email to a friend, I wrote, “I hate summer and winter and everything.”

Derailed: Two days of school, a gymnastics class, a basketball game, my weekly swim, a Girl Scout meeting, and my mental stability

Wednesday

Beth went to work for the first day since Friday. June had a friend come over for a morning and early afternoon play date. I ran Noah through his vocabulary, the Romeo and Juliet scene, and the monologue and then we did an extra long reading from Library of Souls because it seemed more worthwhile than anything else I could be doing. (Later that day I read June an extra chapter of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.)

After I’d made lunch for all three kids and Claire left, I decided I really should be getting some work done, so I outlined a couple of brochures and worked on some social media posts.

If Tuesday was the day I lost it, Wednesday was the day my stay-at-home mom friends started to lose it. After three snow days with nary a complaint, when the fourth was announced around 3:30, my Facebook feed lit up with laments. This must be the point at which it seems the kids are really never going back to school. Apparently we live in the worst possible place for this kind of misery: south and we wouldn’t get big snows; north and our cities and towns would own the equipment needed to clear them away in a timely fashion.

Derailed: Three days of school, a gymnastics class, a basketball game, my weekly swim, a Girl Scout meeting, my mental stability, a basketball practice, and an elementary school orchestra concert

Thursday

Thursday morning I was tempted not to get out of bed but I decided it really would be better for me if I did and that it might even be a good idea to try to get out of the house, which I hadn’t done since I waded through the snow banks to get to the bakery on Monday. We were running low on milk, so I walked to the 7-11, which was good and bad. Good because it got me moving and it was a mild, sunny day. Bad because it allowed me to assess how well cleared the streets and sidewalks are in my neck of the woods and how ridiculous it is that we can’t break our huge county into at least two pieces for snow cancellation purposes.

Anyway, after lunch Becky came and rescued June from her cranky mother and took her to her house for three hours, where they practiced for the performance and had a tea party. I wrote most of a brochure on fiber supplements while she was out of the house.

When Noah told me school was cancelled the next day I wanted to say some very bad words. Instead I said, “I suppose you wouldn’t make that up just to torment me,” and I went back to work. I am a paragon of restraint.

But there was a small ray of hope. In the evening Noah had a drum lesson that wasn’t cancelled. It was the first organized activity either kid had that hadn’t been cancelled in a week.

Derailed: Four (soon to be five) days of school, a gymnastics class, a basketball game, my weekly swim, a Girl Scout meeting, my mental stability, a basketball practice, and an elementary school orchestra concert

On Track: One drum lesson

I don’t know when the kids will be back to school. I hope it will be Monday, but at this rate, who knows? We once had a longer cancellation, but that was for three feet of snow. We’ll exceed our allotment of snow days for the year when we have our fifth one tomorrow and then there will probably be some more and then there will be drama about whether or not we’re going to make up the extra days and chances are we won’t and then I’ll be mad about that all over again.

But in the meantime, I’ve invited Megan to come to our house tomorrow morning and then in the afternoon Megan’s mom is taking both girls to meet another friend at Kung Fu Panda 3, so chances are I’ll get some more work done and we’ll all survive another day.