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.

Southland in the Springtime: Part III, Williamsburg, VA and Washington, DC

We arrived in Williamsburg on Friday evening after an afternoon of driving in and out of rain. Beth had found us a suite, which meant we weren’t all crowded into the same hotel room, quite the luxury. There was a living room area between the kids and us, so we stood a chance of sleeping past six. We even had a king bed.

There was a kitchen, too, but no time to cook. It took a long time to check in and we wanted somewhere quick to eat so we were happy to find a Noodles & Company nearby. This is one of the kids’ favorite chains and it’s somewhere they’d both get vegetables and protein. We’d opted to visit Busch Gardens on Saturday instead of Friday because of the weather and sure enough we could see the rain coursing down the windows as we ate, but we were lucky to get out of and back into the car during breaks in the storm. We went back to the hotel and everyone went to bed. The kids did let us sleep until around seven. There was a breakfast bar downstairs, so we ate and headed for the park.

If you’re not from the East Coast, Busch Gardens may require a little explanation. It takes the theme in theme park seriously and the theme is Western Europe—specifically the British Isles, Italy, France, and Germany. (There’s also an area devoted to New France, or French Canada. Beth guesses they needed somewhere to put the frontier-themed rides all amusement parks seem to have.) The park is quite pretty. It’s no Cedar Point, of course, as it lacks Lake Erie, but it does have a lot of trees and flowers. Daffodils and tulips were everywhere. And the admirable adherence to the theme means there’s a lot of hokey scenery. Classical architecture and statues in Italy, big beer barrels marked Oktoberfest in Germany. You get the picture. We took a lot of cheesy photos, especially in Italy because my sister has spent of a lot of time there (in the real Italy) and I thought she might get a kick out of it. I liked the little touches—graffiti in Latin on the walls near the food court, fake ironwork on the bathroom stalls in Germany, etc.

No one but June had a strong opinion about what to do first, so after we entered the park, in England, which was strung end to end in Union Jacks, we headed for Germany and the Curse of the DarKastle ride, pausing only to get a dolphin painted on her face. The artist used a stencil and spray paint, which I’d never seen before. I thought $10 was a bit steep for face paint but it really lasted. It was still there three days later when June finally asked me to scrub it off because it was a little smudgy.

When we got to the castle it wasn’t open yet, so after admiring the icicles that hung from it and other details, the kids and I went and rode the swings twice and then it was open. The DarKastle, as you might guess, is Busch Gardens’ version of a haunted house. You wear 3D glasses and the effects are all computer-generated. Call me old-fashioned but I prefer a haunted house with actors or material props and scenery. June, however loved it and wanted to go right back on as soon as we got off, so I took her on again while Beth and Noah waited for us.

Next, after a long line that wound through what looked like a stone passageway in an Irish castle, we rode Europe in the Air, a flight simulator, with views of various icons of Western Europe (Stonehenge, the Coliseum, etc). It’s similar to an IMAX film, except the seats tilt and shake as if you were flying. It made both Beth and me a little ill.

We had lunch in shifts, Beth and Noah and I had crepes in France before Europe in the Air, and then June and Noah had pasta in Italy after it (yes, he did have lunch twice) while Beth and I got gelato.

The kids also rode a ride that looked like a gondola in Italy and that was about all we did, other than buy a t-shirt for Noah (who has outgrown most of his from last year) and ride the sky ride to get from one place to another. We would have liked to try one of the water rides (Escape from Pompeii looks fun) but it wasn’t quite warm enough to get soaked. We also considered riding the sightseeing train that circles the park, but there wasn’t time as we had a long drive back to Maryland and we needed to leave mid-afternoon.

We enjoyed our trip to Busch Gardens but part of day seemed almost long enough. We all agreed it’s not as good an amusement park for us as Cedar Point or Hershey Park. What we all missed was any moderate coasters. There were kiddie rides and big thrill rides, but nothing that fit our niche. I am not the daredevil I was (briefly) in my teens and early twenties, but I do still enjoy a classic roller coaster and there was nothing like that. I thought Noah, who’s a little braver than me, could probably handle Loch Ness Monster, but he took a look at it and said no.

So, we bid adieu to Europe and drove back to Maryland. We almost always go out for Indian when we return home from vacation, so we did that. We weren’t quite finished being tourists, though, because the cherry blossoms were in bloom and we went to see them the next morning.

We were lucky to catch the peak this year, as it only lasts several days, and we’d been gone over a week. It was the latest peak since 1993, according to the National Park Service, occurring about a week past the average date.

It was also a beautiful Sunday morning, in the low seventies and sunny, so we expected crowds, both for the blossoms and for a ten-mile race that was taking place along the Tidal Basin. Our friend Tom (June’s friend Talia’s dad) was running and we looked for him as we watched the race go by, but we didn’t see him. Getting across 15th Street to get from the Metro stop to the blossoms turned out to be quite the challenge, with the race going down it. We waited around ten minutes for a break in the race and were just about to sit down on the curb and eat our picnic breakfast right there when suddenly a bunch of other people who were also waiting to cross the street made a break for it and we all dashed through the middle of the race.

We walked the whole perimeter of the Tidal Basin, something I almost but not quite take for granted now, after years of having kids too little for that hike. Anyway, it was lovely. And June had fun climbing the rocks at the FDR Memorial, as always.

We’ve been home almost a week now and are well into the routine of work and school. The cherry trees along the streets in Takoma Park are well past their peak. We keep seeing the white petals blowing through the air (the other day Noah came home from school with his curls full of them) and little green leaves are replacing the flowers. Our dogwood is budding, the daffodils are almost finished, and there are tulips in our back yard. The flowers and flowering trees of home are sweet reminders of the flowers of the road—at the altar at YaYa’s church on Easter morning and in the gardens of the Biltmore and along the highway in North Carolina and in the plantings of a theme park version of Europe.

Icons of Spring

Have I mentioned we had ten snow days this year, six over the limit of built-in school days and the school district is only making up two? I have?  Oh, yes, of course. What I haven’t mentioned is that despite the fact that there are five contingency days clearly scheduled on a calendar sent home at the beginning of every year, that when the school district decided to make up the measly two days, only one of those two make-up days was on one of the contingency days?  The other one came out of spring break.

Now it could have been worse, we could have been faced with the horrifying prospect of school in session while we had a beach house rented, but it was just the tag end of spring break, Easter Monday, which fell two days after our return.  But the fact remained that Beth had made an orthodontist appointment and a dentist appointment for Noah on Monday and June had more exciting plans, in the form of two tickets for the White House Easter Egg Roll Beth received from a colleague.

We decided to stick with our plans and kept Noah out of school. June went to school in the morning, but I picked her up around noon to take her into the city.  So despite my letters to the superintendent of schools and to state officials about how the school year should be extended, I ended up in the seemingly hypocritical position of only sending one kid to school for a half day on the first make-up day.

But perhaps you wanted to hear something about the Easter Egg Roll itself?

Crowded would be one description. While we were standing in one of many lines I heard someone say there were thirty thousand people there. I checked later and it’s true, although they weren’t all at once—thirty thousand tickets were issued in five time slots. We were in the fourth slot, 2:30-4:30.  After a picnic lunch outside the Takoma Metro stop where Beth dropped us off en route to Noah’s dentist appointment and a train ride into the city, we arrived at the Ellipse and got into line around 1:40. I did consult my map when we got off the Metro, but if I’d misplaced it I could have just as easily followed the hoards of dressed up children heading in the direction of the White House.

It took an hour and ten minutes to go through security, get our wristbands, and wait in line to enter the South Lawn.  As we inched along, I read How to Cheat A Dragon’s Curse to June until we got closer to the front of the line where music was playing and it was no longer possible to read without raising my voice. As we approached the White House June wanted to know exactly when we’d crossed into White House property. We were walking along the sidewalk, next to a wrought iron fence and I told her the squirrel on the other side was on the White House lawn. She seemed thrilled to be that close.

Once we got inside we had to choose from all kinds of activities, but we headed straight for the Egg Roll itself because that’s the classic event and our time was limited. The line there was pretty short and soon June was pushing an egg across the grass with a long wooden spoon right in front of the South Portico of the White House.  Next we headed for the snack area where we shared an apple, some baby carrots in a kefir dipping sauce, and bottled strawberry-kiwi smoothies. We peeked at the White House vegetable garden and noticed that their kale is doing better than ours.

June had a hard time deciding between the story-telling stage where Miss America would be reading stories or the obstacle course. We stood in line for ten minutes outside the roped off storytelling area before realizing that at the rate it the line was moving (not at all) we’d be admitted after Miss America was finished and Debbie Reynolds had begun and as June had no idea who Debbie Reynolds was, we left the line and headed for the obstacle course.

Next we headed to a booth where she did a science experiment, making hypotheses about which objects from a jumble on the table would sink and which would float in a tub of water and then testing her hypotheses and filling out a checklist of her results.  By the time she finished, it was time to hit the restrooms and get in line again to exit.  We were issued a box of Peeps and a commemorative wooden Easter egg as we left.

It had been fun and exciting but also kind of exhausting between the sun and the crowds so when June asked if she could get a soft pretzel from a street vendor the idea of sitting down on the grass and eating seemed attractive so I bought it for her and an eggroll for myself before we got back on the Metro and headed home.

I’m glad we went, though, because although we’ve been to the White House several times—once for a Christmas tour pre-kids, once on a regular tour when June was in preschool (“All The Presidents’ Pictures,” October 19, 2010), and once for a garden tour a year later-—we’ve never been to the Easter Egg Roll and it’s an iconic Washington springtime event, just like the cherry blossoms.

We did go to see the blossoms this year, the Friday before we left for the beach.  They are often a logistical challenge, mainly because of the short peak bloom period, which is difficult to predict more than a few days ahead of time, and parking issues.  We ended up going in the evening after June’s violin recital and pizza dinner because Saturday was busy with June’s kung fu lesson and packing for the beach. It was a hurried trip and not ideal in some ways, but beautiful as always. And the kids did seem to enjoy the novelty of going at night. As we left Noah surprised me by saying, “This was fun. We should do this more often.” I pointed out we go every year. “No, in the dark, in the rain,” he said.

I probably wouldn’t want to go the Easter Egg Roll every year, even if such a thing were possible and it isn’t; most people who go win their tickets in an online lottery, which is a better system than we first moved to the Washington area and I’d read in the newspaper about people camping out overnight in line for tickets. I might also need to give up the tradition of always going to the cherry blossoms, because it is hard to manage some years, especially for Beth, who has to drive and park if we don’t end up taking the Metro. Still, I do feel fortunate to live here, among the symbols of democracy and the fragile pink and white blossoms that herald the arrival of spring each year.

Ripeness is All

If you blog, this has probably happened to you: you are anticipating an event and shaping it into a blog post before it even happens and then it goes differently than you thought it would, in a big or even in a small way, and then you’re not sure how to present it.

Anyway, we had out-of-town relatives visit this weekend and went to see the cherry blossoms and June has her first loose tooth.  Both events were long anticipated.  The original prediction for peak bloom was the last week of March and we thought we might miss it while we were out of town, but then we had a long cold spell and it was pushed back not once but twice, all the way to last weekend, which coincided with a visit from my mother, aunt, cousin and cousin’s son.  It seemed like the stars were aligning for my mom, who has never seen the cherry blossoms in full bloom despite several tries. We did come awfully close last year, though (“Cherry Blossom Baby,” 3/25/12).

Meanwhile, June has been watching her friends lose their teeth for years (the first kid she knew to lose one was a preschool classmate) with jealousy and impatience and the occasional spurious claim that she had a loose tooth of her own. But then on Wednesday evening she was eating a banana and when she bit into it she said her tooth hurt.  A little later she said it was loose and I asked her to wiggle it and sure enough it wasn’t just loose but nearly ready to come out, from what I could tell.  She showed it to her friends at school the next day and Megan, who has experience with loose teeth, predicted it would be out by Sunday at the latest.

Friday I spent the day with my Mom, while the kids were at school, Beth was at work, and my aunt Peggy was at her conference.  (Peggy being at the conference was the inspiration for my mom flying out from Oregon and Peggy’s daughter Emily and grandson Josiah coming down from Brooklyn to visit us this particular weekend.  We’d just missed Emily and Josiah during our New York weekend, so it was nice they were coming to D.C.)

I had a dentist appointment in the city in the morning to reattach a crown that popped off while I was eating saltwater taffy earlier in the week so after that Mom and I met at the Phillips Collection and spent several hours there. I’d almost forgotten it was possible to spend so much time in a museum, rather than rushing in and out so the kids won’t get antsy. I’d picked it mainly out of convenience because it’s close to my dentist. But that didn’t matter, almost any museum would have done.

At this one there was an exhibit on three abstract expressionists, one of Italian photographs, and another one consisting of rubber sculptures that were “meditations on the brevity of life.”  (This sounds weird, but I recommend it. You really have to see it to get it.)  We listened to a gallery talk on Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party” and went into a new, permanent installation, a closet-sized room whose walls have been coated with beeswax.  It smells wonderful and it’s quite soothing to step into it.  We also saw part of a Jacob Lawrence series of Northern migration of African Americans, and a good bit of the permanent collection, including Van Gogh, Cézanne, O’Keefe, and many other familiar artists. In between we had lunch at the museum café and browsed in the gift shop.

Mom came back to Takoma with me and once the kids and Beth were home we went out for pizza and then gelato at Dolci Gelati, which has a new location in Takoma.  We made arrangements to meet the next morning for brunch with the whole gang (Emily and Josiah got in that evening.)

At brunch we learned Josiah also has his first loose tooth and I told Emily we might have just the thing for it—some saltwater taffy we’d bought for them at the beach. After all, it took a tooth out of my mouth, albeit a fake one. I’d forgotten to bring it to the restaurant, (the taffy, not my crown) but I promised to bring it to our next rendezvous. Surely one of these kids is going to lose a tooth this weekend, I thought.

After brunch and some playground time (during which Noah seemed to have as much fun pretending the big climbing/slide structure was a ship going to France and then Indiana as the younger kids did) we split up so the out-of-town folks could go to Air and Space while we stayed home for homework, grocery shopping, and a birthday party. We met up again in the city for dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant, very close to where we used to live in DC. This mural really took me back when we exited the station. Seeing all those painted people was like re-encountering long-lost friends.

Mom and Beth had a difficult time convincing me to agree to this outing because I am a stick in the mud and I didn’t think the kids would eat anything and I knew even an early dinner would keep us out later than I’d like.  I was wrong on the first count.  Noah actually liked the food and said he wants to go back some day. June mostly ate tomatoes we picked out of one dish and the spongy bread, but it was okay because she was still full from birthday cake at her friend’s party.  After dinner, Josiah tore into the taffy, but his tooth did not exit his mouth.

Sunday was the main event: cherry blossoms.  I mentioned this on Facebook Saturday evening and a friend of mine said she’d been there that day and the blossoms were not in bloom yet, although she said they looked “ready to burst.”  Sometimes a day can make a big difference, so I hoped for the best.

We all met at the Smithsonian metro stop and walked toward the Tidal Basin.  I warned my mom ahead of time about what my friend said, and it was probably a good thing I did because they just weren’t there yet.  A few trees here and there were in bloom (we found one for the group photo), but mostly they were just as Kathryn had said, “ready to burst,” but not bursting.

Still, it was a lovely spring day, a bit chilly in the morning, but sunny and warmer as the day progressed.  We walked all around the Tidal Basin, stopping to admire the MLK Memorial and to look at the statues and waterfalls and climb the rocks at the FDR Memorial.  We picnicked on fried rice and eggrolls from the Asian food stand and everyone seemed to have a good time, even without the blossoms.

Emily and Josiah needed to leave for the airport after our Tidal Basin hike, and everyone else was pretty tired, so in lieu of another city activity, Mom and Peggy came back to Takoma with us, where we had gelato again and then went home where Mom and I played Birds of Summer with June, and Mom read her a Club Penguin pick-your-path book and we all listened to Noah practice percussion, and Beth cooked a delicious enchilada casserole for dinner and then drove Mom and Peggy back to their hotel. (This was not the first time she helpfully shuttled my relatives around during the weekend.)

Anyway, the moral of this blog post was going to be about the exuberance of spring and kids growing up and waiting for things and being rewarded, but the blossoms didn’t cooperate and neither June nor Josiah lost a tooth, so I guess it must be about something else.  Of course the blossoms will bloom, whether we make it down there at the right time this year or not, and those wiggly teeth are going to come out sooner or later. So maybe it’s about patience and enjoying what you have while you wait for other things, and doing that with equanimity rather than just managing keep a grip.  That’s often a good strategy for life anyway.

Cherry Blossom Baby

On Thursday morning I put June on the school bus with the instructions, “Have a good last day of school as a five year old,” and she flashed me a brilliant smile.

June is six now.  She was born right before the cherries bloomed on the Tidal Basin. She was six weeks early, and developed a bad case of jaundice so she had to stay at the hospital three days after I was released.  I hated being separated from her, even for those three days. We were constantly shuttling back and forth between the hospital and home, with bottles of pumped milk in tow.

The hospital was just around the corner from the Tidal Basin so one day either on the way to the hospital or on the way home, we made a drive-by visit. Beth dropped me and Noah and YaYa off to walk around a bit while she circled in the car (parking is often impossible when the cherries are in bloom).  We were just a little too early, but we found a couple of blooming trees for a quick photo-op and then we hopped back in the car.

The trees bloomed in earnest soon after and I wanted to go back, but once we got June home, she had to be wrapped in a phototherapy blanket round the clock, allowed out only to nurse, and we just couldn’t make it. Even though we didn’t take her that first year, I still associate the cherry blossoms with the surprising, chaotic days after her birth. We call her our cherry blossom baby, just as Noah is our iris baby.

At 6:35 a.m. on Friday the phone rang.  I wondered if it was a wrong number or an early-rising relative wishing June a happy birthday.  Instead it was Baskin-Robbins, seeking advice of the frosting color of the ice-cream cake we’d ordered for June’s party. The whole cake-buying experience was bizarre.  June had fallen in love with this cake because it had real half-sized ice cream cones on top but Beth had customer service challenges placing and picking up the order and in the end we got a cake that said “Happy June Birthday” instead of “Happy Birthday, June.”  So, just a word of warning if you’re local and you don’t like receiving business calls before dawn or scrambled messages in icing–consider another vendor.

After Beth confirmed that pink frosting was fine, we all went to the living room where June’s wrapped presents were arrayed around her new two-wheeler.  “A bike,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone. “I like the bike.” Then she tore into the other presents.  We got her a cat-themed math game, Rat-a-Tat Cat, partly because her party theme was cats and partly because it looked fun.  Noah got her a bell for her bike and a pair of headphones (she uses headphones to watch television or play on the computer while he’s doing homework and he thought she’d like her own pair). Everything else was clothes.  My aunt Peggy sent Hello Kitty pants, we got her a Hello Kitty t-shirt, a numeral six t-shirt and other summer clothes and pajamas. There were clothes from YaYa, too, including a pair of ladybug rain boots.  It was only after all the presents were opened that June really focused on the bike and decided she wanted to ride it right then.  I told her she needed to eat breakfast and get dressed and ready for school first.  In the end, she had about five minutes practice in the driveway before I put her, clad in her number six t-shirt and new leggings, on the school bus.  “Have a good day, six year old,” I told her. Again, she grinned at me.

When she got off the bus, she was holding a cardboard crown.  Her teacher does not allow birthday treats to be sent in from home, but birthday celebrants get a crown and everyone sings “Feliz cumpleaños” to them.  I’m used to more elaborate school celebrations, both at preschool and in elementary school, but June seemed satisfied.  She wanted to practice riding her bike again–she’d do it three times before the day was out and she got a little better every time.  (By Saturday morning she could pedal up a slight incline and her turns were impeccable.) She said she thought we could take the training wheels off. I counseled her to wait.

My mom arrived for a weekend visit around 4:15, and there were more presents to open.  A pair of summer pajamas with cats on them had arrived during the day (“The cat’s pajamas” I told Beth—how could I resist that joke?), as had a rubber bracelet from Auntie Sara.  It has holes in it and it has letters you can fit into the holes to spell words.  It came bearing the words Junie Dell. (Dell is June’s middle name, and mine, too. I used to call her Junie Dell when she was a baby.  It was one of those baby nicknames that didn’t stick except with Sara, but I like that Sara has a special nickname for her.)  The next day, June changed the words to “I love you.”  Mom brought all kinds of presents—a giant wooden Pinocchio marionette, a tiny vase with a purple ceramic cat attached to it, a paint-your-own tea set kit, and of course, clothes.  June selected the belt from one outfit and decided to wear it with the other outfit (a hot pink t-shirt and leggings to go under a blue sundress with pink flowers) at her party the next day.

I gave June an early bath because we were going out for pizza at Roscoe’s and I wasn’t sure what time we’d be home. It was a warm evening so we sat on the patio, eating wild mushroom crostini, marinated olives (I let June go over her olive quota for the day), salad and pizza.  They were out of gelato because their freezer was broken, so we headed over to Capital City Cheesecake for cheesecake and cannoli.  When we got home, it was June’s bedtime and her big day was over.

But the next day was probably just as exciting because it was her birthday party.  We spent the morning and early afternoon running birthday errands, cleaning the house, assembling gift bags and getting the porch ready for the pin-the-tail-on-the-cat game and the piñata. I’d originally envisioned these as front and back yard games, but rain was predicted, and sure enough it started drizzling around 11:30. Beth and June went out to pick up the “Happy June Birthday” cake and to buy yellow roses and six balloons in varying designs. One has a cat wearing a birthday hat and sunglasses.  Another is the exact Dora balloon June got for her birthday last year. When you tap it, Dora sings “Happy Birthday” in English and Spanish. The sound of the song was still etched deeply into my brain, and Beth’s, too, so she set some strict ground rules about under what circumstances one might tap the balloon to hear the pint-sized bilingual songstress go at it.

The party was at 3:00 and her friends arrived between 2:50 and 3:15.  Maggie, who is June’s only friend who attended both her preschool and her elementary school, made introductions, while the girls selected instruments from the bin and there was an impromptu concert (most of June’s parties seem to start this way).  Once everyone had arrived, we gathered the guests onto the carpet to listen as Mom read them a story The Leprechaun Under the Bed. June remembered Mom reading at her party last year and wanted her to do it again. I’d suggested The Cat in the Hat, but she knew as soon as we checked this book out of the library and read it the first time that it was the one she wanted read at her party. (Spoiler: the leprechaun turns into a cat at the end of the story.)

Next we moved out to the porch for pin-the-tail-on-the-cat.  Last spring June attended a classmate’s birthday party that had classic games as the theme–pin-the-tail-on-the donkey, sack races, etc, and it occurred to me that though you don’t see kids play them much any more, these games are classics for a reason. It was a really fun party.  So I tucked that idea away in the back of my mind, and when June came up with the cat theme for her party I was all ready with pin-the-tail-on-the-cat. June was all over it, especially since she could make the cat and the tails herself.  One by one, I blindfolded the guests and gently spun them around six times each and let them go, sometimes with a subtle correction if they left my hands going in the wrong direction.  The kids laughed hysterically as the tails went onto the cat’s face or the air above its body.  A couple of them got the tail on or pretty close to the cat’s rump—I think Talia’s was the best placed.

Back inside, it was time for games.  We had two and let the girls divide into groups and choose which one they wanted to play.  The first one was The Cat in the Hat, I Can Do That.  In this game, you lay cards together to form instructions for a task to perform with props from the story and you get points if you complete it. June got this game for Christmas and was more interested in playing her new game and most of her guests followed her lead, but I supervised a game between Talia and Megan and then started another round with Talia, when Megan had lost interest and Talia wanted to keep playing.  Beth says she wished she’d thought to get a picture of me trying to wriggle my way under a low foam arch, while balancing the fishbowl in one hand.

Mom and Noah had played Rat-a-Tat Cat with June earlier the in day so they could get the hang of the rules, and Emelia already knew them because she had the same game at home, so the card game went smoothly. Beth said they all seemed to get the hang of it pretty quickly and enjoyed it.  When the games were over, we set everyone up with paper and crayons and asked them to draw cats, as a souvenir.  Some of them drew the Cat in the Hat, others drew Hello Kitty and others went with non-branded felines.  Keller divided her paper into three sections and did one of each.

We had cake next.  The kids thought “Happy June Birthday” was hilarious, an improvement on “Happy Birthday June” really, and as Beth divvied up the little cones they were agreeable about not all getting their first choices in ice cream (each cone was a different flavor).  As we ate cake, Mom sat on the couch with Morgan’s mom and baby brother and got acquainted with her, finding out she went to Oberlin—Beth’s and my alma mater. She even lived in Noah Hall, the dorm where Beth and I met, and after which we named Noah.

I gathered up the goody bags so the guests could stash their piñata booty in them and we headed back out to the porch to smash it.  All the kids had at least two turns.  When a hole opened but no candy fell out, Megan tried to tilt the piñata (or maybe enlarge the hole) by poking her stick in the hole.  It was Noah who finally sent the candy cascading to the floor with some mighty whacks.  Morgan’s mom commented that older brothers have their uses.

June wanted to know if we could have some music while we waited for parents to come collect the guests.  When Beth put on Blue Moo, June asked Talia quite formally, “Talia, will you dance with me?” and Talia did. They danced joyfully around the living room as June’s birthday party wound down to a close. It was cute to watch, especially since I am so very fond of Talia, whom I’ve known since she was not quite two.

After the guests left, June opened her presents–a book, three stuffed animals (including a cat of course), a mermaid magnet set, and a Lego café kit.  June wanted to assemble the café right away, but we went out for Indian first, and then she set to work on it. It was hard to tear her away to go to bed. She finished it the next afternoon, following all thirty-three diagrams–less than twenty-four hours after receiving it, and impressing Mom with her small motor skills and her tenacity.

The final adventure of June’s birthday weekend was an expedition to the cherry blossoms and the new MLK memorial.  The peak bloom period is short and notoriously difficult to predict.  Mom has never caught it, though she often visits us around June’s birthday.  For awhile the predicted four-day peak period spanned the weekend and we thought luck was with us, but then a few eighty-plus-degree days accelerated the blooming and the peak period moved back, ending Friday.  I thought if we went Friday it would be too hard to get back by bedtime, and going on Saturday before the party would make for a stressfully jam-packed day, so we waited until Sunday.

Now I will say that given the choice between a few days before the peak period and a few days after I would choose after every time. There are drifts of petals on the ground and blizzards of them in the air with every breeze; there are petals in muddy puddles and on the rippling water of the Tidal Basin, and there are damp petals stuck to every horizontal and vertical surface.  In its way, it’s almost as magic as the classic picture postcard puffy pink and white blooms.  It looks like confetti strewn on the street after a particularly wild party.  So in a way it was a fitting end to June’s birthday celebration, an after party of sorts. She got to christen her new boots in the puddles, eat hot edamame from a stand, admire the trees (solemnly telling us “all trees are beautiful”), run through the paths between the tulip beds at the Floral Library, take pictures with Beth’s phone, joke with her brother, give her grandmother countless hugs, hold hands with everyone and seize the joy and the beauty of the moment and of being six.

Postcard Perfect

Somehow, against all odds, we picked the exact right day to go see the cherry blossoms this year. Peak bloom was predicted from Tuesday to Friday and the kids had Thursday off school—there’s always a day off in between marking periods—so our original plan was for me to bring the kids to Beth’s office in the late afternoon and to go from there. But Thursday ended up being a very complicated day. There was a fundraiser for June’s school at a local Mexican restaurant and the first meeting of my new book club was at 7:30. A late afternoon downtown outing did not seem feasible. As Beth put it, there were “too many moving parts” for any plan to work.

So I suggested we go in the morning instead but Beth said if she was going to go in late and leave early she might as well not go to work at all and she was too busy for that so we decided to do it Friday after school instead. On further consideration, we realized that by the time June had gotten home from school and napped, it would be pretty late and dragging her on a long walk when she wanted to be asleep was not the best idea either. It’s also worth noting that it was cold and damp and overcast all day Thursday and Friday and high winds were predicted for Friday.

So, Saturday morning it was. I was worried that Friday’s windstorm would blow all the blossoms away and that we’d miss the best few days of the ephemeral blooms, but there was really no other way.

By this time I was thinking nostalgically about how when we lived in the city we used to just walk to the Tidal Basin from our apartment and scheduling the trip around two people instead of four was so much easier. It didn’t help that Friday morning I had a dentist appointment in Dupont Circle with the dentist I’ve been seeing for almost twenty years and I’d spent the rest of the morning down there drinking coffee and reading some medical abstracts for a project I’m going to do for Sara and watching people come and go out of the Circle. I started to get very wistful about my younger and comparatively simpler days, not that they seemed simple at the time. Life never does.

The book club meeting the night before may have primed me for this dissatisfaction. It’s run by the Takoma Park Library and it’s called the Great Big Books Club–big in both senses of the word. I’ve never been before but they’ve read War and Peace, Middlemarch, Moby Dick and The Brothers Karamazov over the past two years. This time around it’s Bleak House (“a cakewalk,” someone at the meeting commented). Here’s the flyer that sucked me in: http://www.ftpml.org/PDF/BleakFlyer.pdf. Overall it’s a good thing I’m doing this. I’ve been interested in this book club for some time but it always seemed impossible. It meets in the evenings and I was always so tired and getting home after dark could be tricky, etc. And then June started sleeping through the night in January and after a couple months of that, I started noticing I feel better, not just physically but emotionally, too. I feel lighter somehow, more optimistic. So I was reading about the book club on the library web site and found out that another mom from June’s school was quoted in the article. I got in touch with her to ask some questions and before I knew it she was offering me a ride and all of a sudden it seemed as if I might actually be able to do this thing.

Aside from fatigue and logistics the other thing that held me back from joining a book club was my fear that I’d want to the be professor in the room and I’d try to take it over. But this book club has an actual professor who comes to lecture at the first meeting to help put the book in context for future meetings. He was very good, informative and affable and good at engaging the eclectic crowd. At one point I found myself admiring his shoes, lace-up oxfords, and thinking they make those for women, too, maybe I should get a pair some day when I realized I didn’t want his shoes, I wanted his job. And then I got a little depressed. But I managed to fight it back. I’m good at that. I do it all the time.

So, about those blossoms… this is a post about the cherry blossoms, right? That’s what the pictures seem to imply at any rate. We left the house at 8:40 on Saturday morning. Both children had complained of stomachaches earlier in the morning but ate breakfast and felt better. We picked up coffee and pastries for a snack to eat there and drove down to the Tidal Basin. Our first sight of the blossoms from the car window was promising. The trees were covered in big, puffy clumps of blossoms. It looked like a postcard of Washington, D.C. The high winds predicted for Friday had never come and the trees were just perfect.

We found parking without much trouble and didn’t even need to use the remote lot. The weather was odd. It was cloudy early and then cleared right before we left the house and then got cloudy again and it just kept doing that all morning until there was a brief downpour, but that was after we’d left. It was chilly but we’ve been to the blossoms on colder days. Late March and early April are most unpredictable so we’ve been to see the blossoms in everything from winter coats to shorts.

We walked all the way around the Tidal Basin for the first time in a few years, maybe since before June was born. Noah had a map and acted as our tour guide, identifying the different species of trees and regaling us with facts about them. He was a bit put out that we didn’t get the map right away so he didn’t have it for the whole walk (and we refused to go back to our starting point to accommodate his desire to do the whole route with the map). Still, considering that no-one got sick, it wasn’t raining, no one fell into the water (despite June’s best efforts) and we had two hours to meander around the Tidal Basin, all decked out in its April finery, I think it was just about as close to postcard perfect as real life gets.

Rites of Spring

Spring has now unwrapped the flow’rs,
Day is fast reviving,
Life in all her growing pow’rs,
To’rds the light is striving.
Gone the iron touch of cold,
Winter time and frost time
Seedlings working through the mould,
Now wake up for lost time.

From “The Flower Carol,” Folk Song
http://books.google.com/books?id=7zF6mDo_GJgC&pg=PA59&dq=jean+ritchie+flower+carol&cd=1#v=onepage&q=jean%20ritchie%20flower%20carol&f=false

April Fools Day
No one played any April Fools jokes on me this year but the representative from Washington Gas might have thought I was playing one on him when I called to report a gas leak in our basement that turned out to be…nothing.

Thursday morning I was putting a load of laundry in the dryer when it wouldn’t start. A half hour later I was back in the basement when I thought I smelled a faint odor of gas near the dryer. I called the emergency line and took June out to play in the yard while we waited for someone to come check out the situation. We had to wait about an hour and while I was sitting and watching June collect the tiny white wildflowers in the yard, I noticed the grass was starting to get long so I decided to give the lawn its first mowing of the year. I got the front and side yards done and pruned the butterfly bush, which suffered a lot snapped branches when it was buried under three feet of snow back in February.

Around noon I proposed a picnic lunch to June and right around then the service rep showed up. I took him down to the basement. As we approached the dryer I noticed the smell was completely gone. He turned on his meter, which detected nothing. He checked all around the basement and found nothing. Then he left and though he was very professional and told me to call again if I smelled gas again, I couldn’t help feeling a little foolish.

I should mention a peculiar thing about myself here. I sometimes smell things that aren’t there. It happened most often in my late twenties and it was usually pleasant smells like baking cookies. It still happens occasionally but not often and since the dryer was broken and I was under the impression it was a gas dryer (turns out it’s electric) it seemed logical and it never occurred to me it might be one of my olfactory hallucinations.

June was still excited about the picnic so I went through with it. I made a pitcher of lemonade (“the bestest lemonade in the world” June told me), laid a beach towel out on the lawn and we ate vegetarian salami, American cheese, saltines and sliced strawberries amid the damp clothes hanging on the drying rack and draped over the slide, the soccer net and our lawn furniture.

There were errands I’d planned for that morning that didn’t get done but I did get an hour and a half outside on a warm, sunny day, a half-mowed lawn and two loads of laundry with that incomparable dried-outside smell. Maybe I wasn’t so foolish after all.

Good Friday
“Is the beach talking to you?” Beth asked me. We had just gotten back into the car after a pit stop at for lunch at the Taco Bell near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

“Yes,” I answered.

“”What is it saying?” she wanted to know.

“Why on earth did you take that job?” I said. We were headed to Rehoboth for weekend getaway in the middle of Noah’s week and a half long spring break, but I would need to spend a few hours of it at the computer working on an article for Sara about an enzyme derived from fermented soybeans that has cardiovascular benefits. I’d hoped to have it mostly finished before we left, but due to the cats keeping me up half the night howling one night and only being able to find a sitter for one morning when I hoped for two, I’d only gotten about a third of the way through it and Sara needed my draft by Monday.

We arrived at our hotel around 4:00. There was a hold up getting into our room, but by 4:45 the kids and I were on the beach making sand castles. June preferred to decorate hers with shells while Noah elected to tunnel under his until they collapsed. He has loved doing this for years, ever since he learned it was an authentic medieval siege technique.

The last time we came to the beach in April it was so cold the kids wore their winter coats, but it was sunny and almost 70 degrees and we were all in bare feet. The warm sand felt good under my feet. Even the shocking little frisson of the frigid water felt good, too, as I fetched bucket after bucket full of water for the kids. I almost never feel so alive and present in my body as I do at the beach.

After a visit to Candy Kitchen (Noah got gummy teeth; June got a foot-shaped lollipop—what’s up with the body parts, kids?) and a pizza dinner, we bathed the kids and put them to bed. I slipped down to the hotel lounge for a half hour’s work on the article and then the sea called me and I answered.

A fog had fallen and the wind was whipping it around the beach in tatters. The air was cold and wet. Even in corduroys and a fleece jacket I was soon chilled and my hair hung damp around my face. I watched the waves crash over the remains of someone else’s sand castle and then I walked back to the hotel, thrilled and joyful.

It was a Good Friday indeed.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite
We saw the Easter Bunny on Rehoboth Avenue after breakfast on Saturday, or rather a person in an Easter Bunny costume, as June was careful to correct me when I said, “Look! It’s the Easter Bunny.” Much to my surprise, she went right up to the Bunny and selected a Starburst from the basket of candy and even posed for a picture with the big rodent.

Beth took the kids to play miniature golf while I holed up in the room and worked. In the afternoon, after June’s nap, we took June’s new Barbie kite to the beach. Yes, you read that right. One of June’s friends gave it to her for her birthday. The picture on it could be worse—it’s just her head, but still… Barbie has breached the perimeter.

The morning had been cold and foggy so we’d put off the kite-flying expedition until afternoon, hoping the fog would burn off, but it didn’t. Still, Beth got the job done, getting the kite into the air. I never thought I’d see Beth flying a Barbie kite on the beach, but now I have. The amusement factor made it almost worth owning a Barbie kite. Almost.

Easter
The kids awoke Easter Sunday to find the Bunny had left two chocolate bunnies (milk chocolate for June and white chocolate for Noah) on the bedside table in the hotel room. It was a down payment on the candy they’d find in their baskets once we got home.

The day was warm and sunny. June and I played for hours on the beach and took a long walk down the boardwalk. She tested my hypothesis that no matter how many buckets of water I carried to her she could not make a puddle that would stay. She rode the car on the boardwalk with the clown that used to scare her. She made multiple attempts to talk me into another visit to Candy Kitchen, each as if the previous conversation had never taken place. She admired the “eagles,” as she calls them.

I could tell when church let out because all of a sudden the beach and boardwalk filled up with little girls in fancy dresses and boys in polo shirts and khakis or madras shorts. All the people in their finery gave the scene a festive feel. It was the kind of day when cold weather was such a recent memory and warmer weather seemed so imminent, that we saw people in everything from winter coats to bikinis. The sartorial diversity was a truly glorious thing.

We left Rehoboth after a boardwalk lunch and drove home. The first hour of the ride was pleasantly quiet. June was sleeping and Noah was reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. We met up with YaYa and Aunt Carole in Silver Spring. They’ve come for a brief visit to see the cherry blossoms. We ate on the patio at Eggspectations (http://www.eggspectations.com/usa/index.html). They kept getting our orders wrong, but we made do with what we got and when they comped us a free dessert and brought the wrong one, it was just too funny to be annoying. (I did make them bring the right one, though, because it was a slice of Smith Island cake—http://www.smithislandbakingco.com/– a Maryland tradition I’ve heard of but never sampled and which I’d spied in the dessert case when we arrived.)

We all came back to the house to dye Easter eggs and eat Easter candy. YaYa and Carole talked about how they loved the simplicity of dyeing eggs and discussed plans to make their own dye from onion skins one year. They left for their hotel before we applied the stickers with eyes, noses and mouths and taped little hats to the tops of our now not so simple colored eggs.

We got the kids bathed and in bed. Beth fell asleep in her clothes on the bed before I got June settled down. It had been an eventful weekend.

Loveliest of Trees, The Cherry Now
I love the cherry blossoms, enough to go every year despite the hassles, and there are hassles no matter how you go. Parking is hard to come by, the shuttles from the remote parking lots are not particularly convenient and going by Metro adds a lot of time to an already long trip. We decided on Metro this year but it was clear from our discussion of logistics that morning that there was no way we could get home by noon, which is the latest I like to get June home from a morning outing.

We left the house at 8:15 drove to Silver Spring and met YaYa and Carole at their hotel. From there we walked to Starbucks, picked up some snacks and boarded the Metro. It was already 10:15 when we arrived at the Tidal Basin. June was complaining she was tired before we even arrived. We’ve been stroller-free for about two months (the big storm that left sidewalks impassable for weeks was the impetus) and on some days it’s been harder than others. I had a feeling this was going to be one of those days. I told Beth I didn’t think we were going to make it all the way around the perimeter. We rested and ate for ten minutes or so by the water before we starting walking. We set a goal of reaching the FDR memorial, which was slightly less than half way around.

Noah had a map and pretended to be a tour guide as he read to us about the points of interest we passed along the way. June kept stopping to collect petals from the ground. When YaYa and Carole planned their trip, the peak blooming period was supposed to extend into this week, but warm weather caused the blossoms to open early and we’d missed the peak. More than half the blossoms were already off the trees, but it was still lovely. It’s always lovely. We admired the Jefferson Memorial across the water and posed by the stone lantern. As we approached the FDR memorial, it was eleven and June was really dragging. We didn’t go through the whole thing because it was so late, but the kids enjoyed seeing the waterfalls.

On the way back I picked June up and carried her every time we got significantly behind the others. I would carry her until we caught up and then I’d put her down again. We proceeded this way, with June whining, “I want my nap!” over and over again until Beth made threats against her Easter candy if she continued. She continued to whimper from time to time, but she didn’t say the word nap again after that. As we passed the Department of Agriculture, we saw a landscaping crew digging up some tulips that hadn’t even finished blooming yet. Who knows why? The way they are constantly changing the plantings down on the mall is irritatingly wasteful. Anyway, the gardener must have thought the same thing because he offered a bunch of tulips (with two bulbs still attached) to June. June ran to show them to Beth, arriving before I could with the explanation and Beth gasped, thinking (naturally) that June had yanked them out of the ground. We carried them home to put it water and I will try planting the two bulbs in the yard. We have crocuses, daffodils, hyacinth, irises and tiger lilies but no tulips, so it was a fortuitous gift.

Our first train was delayed for ten or fifteen minutes by a sick passenger on another train ahead of us on the track so it was a relief to finally get moving and to transfer to the second train, where we could sit down and rest our weary feet. I was positive June would fall asleep on the train and ruin her nap but some how she stayed awake not only on both trains but in the car, too, though it was a close thing. In fact, when Beth asked me if she was asleep and I said no, June insisted that she was and she didn’t seem to be playing a game.

We got home at 1:15 and June dawdled over lunch so it was nearly two by the time she fell asleep. She then slept for almost two hours. I was intending to lie down for just a little while and then get up and work but I fell asleep and slept for almost a half hour. Spring can be exhilarating, but it’s also exhausting.

A Is For Alphabet

On Wednesday morning I was toweling June off after a bath and she noticed my shirt in the bathroom mirror. “You have letters on your shirt,” she observed.

The shirt said, “Feel the Power: VOTE.” I got it back in the early 90s when I worked for Project Vote (http://projectvote.org/?gclid=COWA_PW90JkCFR4hnAodPEgwvQ). “VOTE” is the largest word on it.

“Do you see a V?” I asked June. She pointed to the V. “How about an E?” She pointed to the E. We went through all the letters in “VOTE” and she got them all right. In the past several weeks June has become intensely interested in letters. She doesn’t know all of them yet (maybe 75%), but she’s learning more all the time and she can recognize her own name. She is always asking us what letters begin various words and what sounds they make. The wooden alphabet puzzle she inherited from Noah has become a favorite toy. She’s taking the first wobbly steps of literacy and it’s exciting to watch.

So I read a lot of alphabet books to her these days. Luckily we have quite a few, though ABC: A Family Alphabet Book (http://www.proudparenting.com/node/309) is a favorite. Reading these books over and over (and reaching the twenty-six month anniversary of this blog) has inspired me to make an alphabet of our lives over the past twenty-six months. Most of the pictures have appeared in the blog already, but a few are new. A lot has changed since I started writing here, both for our family and for our country. June has turned one, two and three. She’s learned to walk and talk and started school. Noah has turned six and seven and he seems bound and determined to turn eight next month, despite my protests that he can’t possibly be that old. He overcame a difficult kindergarten year, learned to read and stopped believing in Santa Claus. He’s now thriving in second grade. Since I started writing a woman came tantalizingly close to winning the Democratic nomination for President and an African-American won the Presidency (and the world economy imploded, but let’s not dwell on that).

Here are some snapshots of our lives during these times:

A is for Alphabet

Here’s June playing with her alphabet puzzle on Saturday morning.

B is for Baby

She and I were at a coffee house and she was cruising around and around a low table, eating bits of Fig Newton I handed her every time she passed by. She paused every now and then to remove the sugar packets from their container and scatter them across the table and floor and then she replaced them. As she reached the corner of the table closest to me, she let go and stood, swiveled on her feet to face me and smiled, as if she was going to do something dramatic. I waited, holding my breath, thinking this was the moment. Then she chickened out, dropped to her knees and crawled to me. I don’t know when she will walk any more than when Noah will start having an easier time in school. It could be months from now or right around the corner. (April 25, 2007).

June took her first steps about a week later. Noah’s school troubles cleared up when he started first grade with more sympathetic teachers.

C is for Cherry Blossoms

We went to see the cherry blossoms on Friday and it was…challenging. June had been very cranky for almost a week. She’d been sick the weekend before and at first we thought that was the reason but by Friday she’d been better for several days so I’m not sure what was up with her. Anyway, she wailed in the car, she whimpered in the stroller and when she was walking she kept tugging on my arm, wanting me to go in another direction. At one point she darted under a chain and headed straight for the Tidal Basin before Beth dashed off to capture her. Anyway, the blossoms were gorgeous and afterwards we went out for really excellent pizza in the city that made me wish we still lived there. June threw fits in the restaurant, too.

D is for Duck

Once we were back on land, the guide let Noah pass out the souvenir quackers (duck-bill shaped noisemakers) and instructed everyone to quack “Happy Birthday” to him. It wasn’t quite recognizable as “Happy Birthday” but it was impressively noisy. (May 4, 2008)


E is for Election

The transition from Obama-land to McCain-land was not subtle. Either that or I missed it while I dozed briefly as June napped in her car seat and Noah watched downloaded episodes of his favorite shows on Beth’s phone. Before I closed my eyes there were Obama-Biden signs everywhere. When I opened them it was nothing but McCain-Palin as far as the eye could see, including those annoying ones that say “Country First.”

When I commented on the shift, Noah looked out the window long enough to spot one. “That’s the first McCain sign I’ve seen in my whole life,” he noted.(November 5, 2008)

F is for Friends

Jim is one of a handful of people in my life who bridge past and present. We lived down the hall from each other our first year of college and we were roommates the next year. We were living in a student-run co-operative dorm where co-ed rooms were possible with a little administrative subterfuge. The summer after sophomore year, when I fell in love with Beth, Jim and I were living together again and he was the one who urged me to kiss her while I was agonizing over the decision. Even if we had no more history than that together, I’d be forever in his debt. (February 26, 2009)

G is for Gabriel

Gabriel is usually known as the Caterpillar on this blog. He’s a sweet, affectionate, well-loved boy, who will be three in July. His moms are hoping to adopt a younger sibling for him. They are looking for an African-American or biracial baby. Here is their webiste: www.emmyandbethadopt.com. Please visit if you think you can help.

H is for Hug

As we were getting ready to leave the house to go vote later that morning, I found Noah and June in a spontaneous embrace. “Hug!” June announced.

“Take a picture, Mommy!” Noah suggested.

I went for the camera, thinking it likely June would have wriggled out of his arms before I got back. But when I returned, they were still at it.(February 14, 2008)

I is for Ice Cream

It wasn’t a perfect day, but fairy tales aren’t perfect either. They just have happy endings. Here’s ours: And then the queen and the prince and the princess had ice cream. The End. (July 18, 2008)

 

J is for Jump

At 5:30, I could hear Noah singing out in the yard as I poured orange jack-o-lantern lollipops into a bowl….I brought the bowl outside and set it down on the round table on the porch. Noah and June were playing in a pile of leaves under the dogwood while Beth watched. (October 31, 2007)

 

K is for King

This was the first headshot of Noah that appeared on the blog. It was taken in December 2006 at the Children’s Museum in Wheeling, West Virginia.

L is for Liberty

We caught the last ferry of the day, the 3:40, and sat on the top level, for the view and so I wouldn’t get seasick. After a scenic (and very windy) ride we arrived at the statue. She’s impressively large in person and really quite beautiful. We admired her and walked around the island. We paid a quarter for Noah to look through the telescope at the harbor, and then we got back in line for the 4:45 ferry. On the way back we opted for the heated lower level. We shared a warm soft pretzel, and Noah got a pair of Statue of Liberty sunglasses, much coveted by a little boy sitting near us. (December 27. 2007)

M is for Moms

Clearly he was paying attention at Kids’ Camp because he knew exactly what to put on such a sign. He instructed me to write, “I Heart My Moms!” and to fill in the heart with rainbow stripes. As a finishing touch, he decided the point of the exclamation point should be heart-shaped. (June 9, 2007)

N is for Nest
It turns out four adults to two children is about the right ratio for me to spend an almost perfect day at the beach. Noah and I arrived around nine, and had built just enough sand castles and played just long enough in the water to be looking at each other and wondering “what next?” when my mom arrived and he had a fresh playmate. He found a hole someone else had dug and spent a lot of time jumping into it. Later it was a nest and Mom was a bird laying eggs they made out of balls of wet sand. (August 25, 2007)

O is for Ocean

He’d been quite taken with the idea that he was “the only one in the whole world” who knew both my “versary” gift to her and hers to me. He kept the secrets faithfully, only letting slip that he thought Beth’s gift to me was better. “But they’re both good,” he added diplomatically. This piqued my curiosity since Beth had hinted she would make up for her absence on the actual day of our anniversary through the gift. Inside a store bought card with a picture of a falling star on it was a card she and Noah made on the computer. It had a photo of the house where I lived during the summer of 1987 on the front and the Rehoboth boardwalk on the inside. “We’re leaving Friday afternoon for Rehoboth Beach,” it said. (July 22, 2007)

P is for Princess
June wore a dress with a black velvet top and a puffy, gold satin skirt that a friend of Ya Ya’s bought for her. Ya Ya said she looked just like a doll. Beth’s brother Johnny and I both said, independently of each other, that she looked like the Infanta Margarita in this painting (http://www.artchive.com/meninas.htm). In either case, doll or princess, it was a new look for her. (November 23, 2007)

Q is for Queer

We went to our favorite Mexican restaurant that night to celebrate twenty years with spinach enchiladas and virgin mango daiquiris. (July 22, 2007)

R is for Redhead
The snow was dry and powdery, useless for snowballs or snowmen, and just barely serviceable for sledding. He went down the hill a few more times, then bored of it. We took turns dragging June around the yard. She was tranquil, but not as enamored with it as the last time. (February 7, 2007)

This is from my very first blog entry. June’s hair turned blonde the following summer.

S is for Santa

Noah seemed happy and satisfied with his visit to Santa. But as soon as we left the little house, he asked if it was possible that the person he’d seen was just someone in costume pretending to be Santa. We allowed that this might be the case. Beth pointed out that Santa couldn’t be everywhere at once so maybe he needed some helpers to visit with children and find out what they wanted. Probably, they would send an email to Santa with the requests. “But he just asked my name. Why didn’t he ask my address?” Noah was suddenly alarmed at the possibility that his information would be incompletely conveyed to Santa. (December 10, 2007)

T is for Train
Just around the time I reached the tricky part of the operation, spooning the batter onto the griddle and making sure none of the pancakes burned while I was distracted by something else, they both wanted my attention at once.

Noah had tired of his magazine and said, “What should I do?”

June wanted to know if I could “play train tracks?”

“Maybe Noah can play train tracks with you,” I suggested. I only gave this idea about a 25% chance of succeeding, but you have to try. Much to my surprise, Noah took June’s hand and they walked into the living room. He repaired a track I had built earlier in the day and they took turns running the trains over it, looking startlingly like two full-fledged kids playing together.(March 23, 2008)

U is for Underpants

This was the headshot of Noah when he was in first grade. If you remember the photo and thought he was wearing a bandana on his head, those are underpants. Beth took it on their mother-son camping trip in September 2007.

V is for Valentine
Noah dug around in his bag and pulled out a card. “Here,” he said, handing me the funniest valentine I’ve ever received. There’s a snowman lying on its side on the front with the words “Love you to death!” written in crayon. Inside it says, “OOPS! I guess I loved you to much!” Like mother, like son is all I have to say about that. Also this– it was the perfect Friday the 13th valentine. (February 13, 2009)

W is for Wizard

The last day of spirit week was “Put on Your Thinking Cap” day so after some careful consideration, he put on his wizard hat. (March 9, 2007)

X is for Xylophone

You were expecting something else? I took this picture on Thursday.

Y is for Yard

After Noah ate breakfast, brushed his teeth and got dressed, it was time to bounce. Along with the hopping ball, we bought Noah his own personal bouncy castle for vestibular stimulation, deep pressure on his joints, oh, and fun, too. He loves it. We’ll see if it helps organize and focus him the way the occupational therapist says it will, but in the meantime he’s using it several times a day. When possible, we try for a bouncing session before Beth takes him to camp. (July 10, 2007)

Z is for Zeitgeist

Next we moved inside to carve our jack o’ lanterns, or in Beth’s and my case, our Barack o’ lanterns (http://yeswecarve.com). (October 26, 2008)

I can’t claim this blog consistently captures the national zeitgeist, but if you have or once had elementary-school or preschool-age kids, or if you live in Takoma Park or its environs, or if you’re gay, lesbian or bisexual, I hope you sometimes find a little of yourself reflected in it. Thanks for reading.

Loveliest of Trees

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

By A.E. Housman

(http://www.bartleby.com/103/33.html)

Like many of you, no doubt, I first encountered this poem in high school. I’ve always liked it, but guess I wasn’t as far-sighted as the twenty-year-old speaker because fifty springs seemed pretty long to me then. Now that I have used up more than forty of my allotment and my parents are in their mid-sixties, it doesn’t seem long at all. My mother recently told me that as she approaches her sixty-fifth birthday, death seems a lot closer, a lot more real. She’s already a few years older than her mother was when she died.

Of course, the poem is as much about life as about death, about enjoying life and savoring its fleeting beauty. There’s a word in Japanese for this, “hanami,” which refers to the act of viewing cherry blossoms and appreciating the “ephermeral nature of life,” (unless the staff writers at The Washington Post are putting us on.). For me, the cherry trees will always be a reminder of June’s birth, because they were just starting to bloom when she surprised us by entering the world six weeks early two springs ago.

Beth and I first started going to see the cherry trees in bloom along the Tidal Basin in 1991, the very first spring we lived in the Washington area. I still remember the magic of that first visit, the delicate beauty of the blossoms, their extravagant profusion, and the holiday atmosphere as people picnicked and strolled around the water. We’ve been back every year since, except one. Having a premature baby in the hospital undergoing phototherapy re-arranges your schedule and your priorities. Even that year, though, we did try, but we missed the hard-to-predict peak and couldn’t get back in time to see it. We have been to the blossoms as a couple, as parents and with extended family on the rare occasion that relatives were lucky enough to time their visits in sync with the fickle blooms.

We made our yearly pilgrimage this morning. The idea was to arrive early, before the crowds and we did make it out of the house by our 8:30 target, despite a meltdown on June’s part and foot-dragging from Noah who had no idea why we would want to go, since blossoms are “not special.” Nevertheless, when we arrived at 9:15, the crowds were already there. Cars were circling around; parking was scarce. This year for the first time, the Park Service is running a free shuttle to remote parking, but it didn’t start running until 10:00, so we parked in remote lot at Hains Point and walked to the Tidal Basin. It was cold, probably around 40 degrees, and there was a stiff wind blowing off the Washington channel. March is apparently not going out like a lamb this year. I sipped my take-out caramel macchiato to keep warm.

“I’m cold! I want to go home!” Noah complained. I wondered if it was really worth the hassle to drag the kids down here every year. It was a lot easier when we lived in the city and we could walk to the blossoms from our apartment. Parking wasn’t an issue and no one whined or complained during the outing. Some years we would go more than once. I remember going alone one year after Beth and I had already gone and camping out under a tree to read or maybe grade papers. I stayed for hours, working, listening to the radio on my Walkman, and taking in the beauty of an early spring day.

Then in less time than I thought it would take, we were there. We hit the peak perfectly this year. Almost every tree was in full bloom, their branches laden with puffs of white and the palest pink. They look like popcorn trees or cotton-candy trees or something out of Dr. Seuss, a more fragile cousin of the Truffula tree perhaps (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lorax).

We ate a breakfast picnic on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. After the bran muffin, lemon pound cake, coffee cake and orange juice were devoured, Beth bought Noah a cherry blossom festival magnet in the gift shop and soon he was running around happily, shaking hands with trees, hiding behind them and snapping pictures of them. He ended up taking more photographs than anyone else, including two of those featured here.

We didn’t stay long because it was cold and June got cranky. “Aww…Do we have to go?” Noah asked. I would have liked to walk the whole perimeter of the Tidal Basin, as we used to do, and will again someday, but it wasn’t in the cards for us this year.

To look at things in bloom, less than an hour was little room, but it had to be enough.

A Death in the Family: A Memorial

Beth’s uncle Gerry died early Monday morning, at home, surrounded by family. He was a well-traveled man, with a hungry mind, a crusty exterior and a dry wit. He had a Ph.D in math. He could fly planes and speak Polish. While bed-ridden with the cancer that killed him, he was teaching himself ancient Greek. Gerry is survived by his wife Carole (Andrea’s oldest sister), his sister Patricia, his children Meghan and Sean, his daughter-in-law Aine, and six grandchildren: Micheal, Tristan, Holly, Kawika, Rebecca, and Eanna.

Gerry was sixty-nine years old, so he didn’t quite have his three score and ten, but even if he had, it would still seem like too little room, much too little.

R.I.P. Gerry Ryder.

http://www.news-register.net/page/content.detail/id/507538.html?nav=516

Postcards from Spring Break

Things have only gotten worse for Noah at school. There was the glue incident. (A scuffle over a bottle of glue left another boy with his face covered in glue and Noah holding the bottle. Interpretations of how the boys got into this tableau vary). There was the cutting in line incident. (Noah maintains the girl cut in front of him and he was merely reclaiming his spot, but only he was punished.) And so on. He’s so deep in dutch with Senora A that he has to sit out free-choice play frequently and he’s a regular at the school disciplinarian’s office.

More disturbing are the things he’s been saying about school. While he and I walked through the college campus on our way home from drama one afternoon shortly before spring break he saw a sign for a job fair and wanted to know what it was. I explained and he said he wished he could go to the fair and get a job and not have to go to school any more. I told him three quarters of a year of kindergarten was not enough schooling to become a meteorologist (his current career goal) and he conceded he’d have to keep going. Then one night when Beth was giving Noah a bath, his rubber duck told her, “Most of the things Noah does at school are wrong.” It breaks my heart he feels this way when he’s accomplished so much this year, learning to read among other things, and doing it all in a foreign language he’s quickly mastering.

So Beth and I have a meeting with Senora A and a school counselor later this week. Meanwhile, Noah’s ten-day spring break was a welcome respite for everyone. When he got off the bus two Fridays ago I greeted him, “Welcome to Spring Break.”

“It’s not Spring Break until Monday,” he said, ever the stickler for accuracy.

Here are some snapshots of what happened over the course of spring break, starting with the weekend before it officially began.

Day 1
At the cherry blossoms Noah’s mood was all over the place. One minute he was grumbling that he didn’t like cherry blossoms and the next he was running gleefully up and down the path. We picnicked near a plaque that informed us that this particular cherry tree was donated by the class of 1972 of a Catholic school from New Jersey. Noah studied the date and decided the plaque was a time machine that would take us back to “the year one thousand nine hundred and seventy two” if he jumped on it.

“How old were you then?” he asked. In April of that year, I was almost five and Beth was nearly five and a half, we told him. “How would you like to be young again?” he asked.

“Go for it,” I said and he jumped. As we spun back through the years toward five, I gave Beth a lingering kiss. We must have gotten stuck for a moment at twenty.

Day 2
In the morning Noah had a real honest-to-God tantrum, the first one he’s had in a year and a half. He and Beth were playing computer games together and when she said it was time to stop, he seemed fine and began to walk away from the computer. Then without warning he was crying and waving his arms and hurling his body around the study, seemingly completely out of control. Beth remembered what to do, dropping to her knees to get on his level, putting her arms around him and speaking soothingly. Once he calmed down she asked him if was upset about anything, maybe something at school? He said no.

Attracted by the noise, June kept crawling into the study and I kept retrieving her so Beth and Noah could talk. I wanted to leave the door open so I could eavesdrop but eventually I gave up and closed it. June stood outside the door balancing against it with her palms. When Beth and Noah emerged I asked her if she got anything out of him and she said no.

That afternoon we had lunch at the Taste of Takoma festival a few blocks from the house. Noah was still grumpy and wouldn’t eat. Then Beth made the wondrous discovery that the moon bounce was free this year. I went home to clean house while Beth and June watched Noah jump for a full hour. They came home; he ate a big lunch and was happy the rest of the day.

Day 3
At 2:50 pm, June and I arrived at the Round House Theater’s spring break day camp. We’d signed Noah up for the camp before his school troubles intensified but Beth and I were both hoping that three six-hour days of make-believe followed by a short family getaway to Ocean City would be just the mix of fantasy and family time Noah needed. Still, I was a little nervous picking him up because he’s been so negative about everything recently. Noah’s friend Maxine was also attending the camp and I chatted with her mother as we waited for the kids to be released. When we were invited in, we found ourselves in a long rectangular room scattered with art supplies and full of kids running around collecting lunchboxes and backpacks. Maxine came over with her arms full of art projects to show her mother. Noah had just a paper bag painted black, with small white paper cups glued to it for eyes. A cat, he told me. Every day at camp they went somewhere and today it was Music Land, he said. They’d made costumes and instruments and played in a band. It sounded too good to be true. Dress-up and music are among Noah’s passions. His group all dressed as animals. “I wish you could see my cheetah costume,” he told me wistfully, but somehow, he’d lost it. We looked around for it unsuccessfully. I asked if he had an instrument to bring home like some of the other children. No, he’d spent so much time on the missing costume he never got around to making the instrument. All this sounded pretty familiar. Noah misses free-choice play working on half-finished school projects about as often as he’s forced to sit it out for behavior. But he seemed pretty happy and not to mind, presumably since no one had made an issue of his not finishing.

After camp we went out for ice cream and to play on the Astroturf. (In downtown Silver Spring, there is a vacant lot the city covered in Astroturf to create a temporary green space where a skating rink is to be built. The turf attracts a real social cross-section– teenagers, singles, families of all income levels and races, anyone who wants to sit outside, which as it turns out is almost everyone. Due to overwhelming popular support for the turf, the skating rink may be scrapped and the turf made permanent. Here’s hoping.) I meant this to be a treat, but as it turns out, the turf is a two-adult activity, one to sit with June and one to tear around with Noah. He didn’t want to run around by himself, so we headed home. Mulling his day over, he decided that he didn’t like the cheetah costume he’d wanted me to see so badly because “it wasn’t very successful.” This is something Noah does frequently these days, revising his first report of events, always in a more pessimistic light. I wondered what his final assessment of drama camp would be.

Day 4
I needn’t have worried. When I picked him up the next day he said, “I’m sad tomorrow is my last day.” Maxine had even more numerous and complex art projects than the day before. Noah had a single tissue paper flower on a ribbon, but he was happy and excited to tell me they had gone to Sports Land and attended the Olympics. Campers invented and demonstrated their own games. Noah made the tickets and Maxine made the concessions. The paper flowers were medals, Maxine told me. No, Noah said, they’re flowers.

“Maybe medals that look like flowers?” I suggested. Maxine’s mother and the theater’s receptionist chimed in their agreement.

“Hers is a medal, but mine is a flower,” Noah asserted. Maxine agreed. Everyone was satisfied.

As we left I told Noah I had a surprise for him. April is Maryland Math Month and Noah had brought home a sheet of math games and activities, one of each day of the month. He wanted to do them all, but some required books we didn’t have. Beth told him we’d have to skip those, but I had made a trip to the library and to Borders and acquired all the books. Noah’s face was joyous when I told him. Today’s book was an I Spy book. For those of you unfamiliar with the I Spy series, every page is a photograph of a jumble of objects with a rhyming riddle directing you what to look for in the picture. The math sheet activity involved counting and sorting objects by attribute. We went to the café at Borders where I thought we could work at the tables. This turned out not to work since June was so antsy. “You have ants in your pants,” I told her.

Tiene hormigas en sus pantalones,” Noah chimed in and I laughed at the translation.

We ended up moving into the children’s book area where June could crawl on the floor and play with a beanie baby display while Noah and I pored over the book, looking first for the objects in the rhymes, then for red circular objects. The day before Maxine’s mother had offered to drive Noah home the remaining two days but something made me turn her down. I wanted to make this after-camp time special for Noah and it seemed easier to do that away from home. Now I knew we were in exactly the right place. If we’d taken the book home we would have been distracted by something– television, computer games, laundry, cooking, whatever. As it was we were both totally present and focused on our task and each other. I put my arms around him as he pored over the book and nuzzled the top of his tousled hair.

Day 5
By the final day of drama camp, June had what child psychologists call situational awareness. She knew what was coming when we walked through the doors of the room and she began scanning it eagerly. The room was a visual treat– full of colorful objects and kids running around, but she only had eyes for Noah.

Mystery Land was Noah’s final destination. Each group had a mystery to solve. His involved the disappearance of all the lights at the Round House Theater. It turns out a window-seller (who wanted to create demand for windows) was the culprit. Before we left, Noah went up to each counselor and said, “See you this summer!” We’d told him he was going to the spring break camp so he could decide if he’d like to attend the longer summer version. I guess he made up his mind. We made a quick trip to Whole Foods for a smoothie and while we sat at the counter we looked at the I Spy book some more, but Noah wanted to get home quickly to pack for our trip to the beach. On the bus home, I looked down and noticed that June and Noah were holding hands.

Day 6
It was mid-afternoon when we got to Ocean City. After inspecting our quarters, a deluxe suite with a balcony overlooking the ocean and a Jacuzzi tub (the kind of accommodations we could never afford in-season), Noah and I went down to the beach. We ran around in the surf in our boots until I saw Noah was getting pretty wet. We retreated up the beach and built a sand castle, which we decorated with shells and a beach grass flag. It was the castle of a weather wizard, Noah said. He took a short section of beach grass, which he identified as the wizard and another he said was the wizard’s nemesis, who wanted to steal his power to control the weather. The game proceeded without much need for input from me, other than my listening and asking the occasional question. I lay on my side alternately watching the rise and fall of the waves, and Noah’s play. When it was time go up for dinner, we headed back to the room, where a cold and sandy Noah took a Jacuzzi bath. He said he did not like Jacuzzis, but he couldn’t suppress a grin when the bubbles came on.

Day 7
At the information center at Assateague Island National Seashore (http://www.nps.gov/asis/), Noah was back and forth about everything. He couldn’t decide whether or not he wanted to touch the horseshoe crab, whether or not he wanted anything from the gift shop, whether or not he wanted to do the Junior Ranger activity sheet. Finally he settled firmly into a bad mood, lying down on the floor and saying he didn’t want to go hike the trails, he wanted to go back to the motel. “Noah, get up right now,” Beth said firmly, and for a wonder he did. We hiked three short trails: forest, marsh and dunes. The whole time, Noah alternately grumbled and dashed ahead of us, seeming carefree and happy to be out of doors, asking me to read all the informational signs and pretending Hacker, the villain from PBS’s Cyberchase cartoon, had stolen the many missing signs and that he was on a mission to read all the remaining ones before they disappeared. We saw the famous ponies, but Noah didn’t seem all that interested. His reward for completing all three trails was the chance to ride his scooter down a paved trail near the beach.

That night we had pizza at a restaurant on the boardwalk in Ocean City. As we left, Noah announced, “I have great news. At 7:50 p.m. Noah Lovelady-Allen will be performing tricks on his scooter on the boardwalk.” And he did, zipping around, trying to make the little wooden scooter do a wheelie. After the performance, we took a walk down the boardwalk. It was cold, but the lights were bright and Noah zoomed ahead of us on the scooter, weaving around pedestrians, nearly crashing into many, hitting none.

Day 8
On the way home from the beach, we stopped at two lighthouses, one at Fenwick Island, Delaware (http://www.beach-net.com/lighthousefi.html) and one in Saint Michael’s, Maryland (http://www.cheslights.org/heritage/hoopers-str.htm). Noah has been in love with lighthouses since he was three and touring them and photographing him in front of them has become a hobby of ours. At the first lighthouse, which was closed to the public, Noah refused to be photographed. He’s been camera shy for the past year. (Disclosure: I bribed him with a deck of Old Maid cards for sale in the hotel lobby to get his consent for the Jacuzzi photo.) I decided not to push it. So at the second lighthouse, I was surprised when he agreed with only minimal coaxing to pose on the steps of the Chesapeake style lighthouse. Once inside, Noah delighted in exploring. He was particularly interested in finding the ropes of the pulley-operated fog bell on each level of the lighthouse. He and I went up the narrow, winding stairs to the top while Beth stayed on the lowest level with June. When we came down, he insisted Beth go up and see the top, so I stayed downstairs with June while they went up. We thought we were finished when Noah insisted I go up one more time to go out on the walkway. I had not noticed the tiny doorway at the top level when he and I were up there, but he’d found it and opened it while he was up there with Beth. I hesitated because the grounds were about to close and I wanted to use the restrooms before they did. “Beth could take a picture of us up there,” Noah bargained. That did it. Up we went.

Day 9
The night before Easter as I lay with Noah at bedtime he said, “I’m going to keep a lookout for that bunny!” Last year around Easter I got some very pointed questions about the Easter Bunny. Noah finally decided it was not a giant bunny at all but a man in a bunny costume. With this revision, he was able to swallow the story. I was sure it was his last Easter believing in the bunny and I doubted Santa Claus would make it until Christmas, but this year Noah actually seems to believe more easily than last. I wonder if he has a greater need of magic right now.

The bunny came, unseen, and brought chocolate bunnies for each child and jelly beans for Noah. In the afternoon I hid plastic eggs on the front porch and the lawn for Noah (he was unwilling to get our real eggs messy) and then he hid them for me. Once we came inside, we scattered them on the living room rug for June to hunt.

Day 10
Easter Monday was the last day of spring break. Beth was back at work after a four-day weekend. I had a busy day planned—a trip to the pediatrician to get June’s one-year shots (she couldn’t have them at her one-year appointment because she was one day shy of her birthday), a trip to the library, laundry, etc. But June had a truly horrific night and as I lay in bed that morning feeling as if I hadn’t slept at all, I began scaling back. We’d go to the doctor, but everything else was negotiable. Noah had come into our room and was playing with June, touching different parts of her body gently and telling her their names. June watched with grave attention. Beth called from the dining room that Noah’s cereal was ready and he said, “Bye, Juney. I gotta go eat my breakfast.” Then he hopped off the bed, dropped into a starting position and said, “Ready, Set, Go!” and dashed off.

We went to the pediatrician for June’s shots and out to lunch in the city. Then we came home, watched television and looked at the I Spy book. We did not go to the library; the laundry stayed unfolded. Instead of homemade broccoli, lemon and egg soup I boiled some rigatoni and made a salad. I wanted to take it easy because the next day spring break would be over and we’d be back to our routine.

Ready, Set, Go!