The kids have been back in school now for three weeks and so far everything seems to be going pretty well. Noah’s homework has been light enough that he’s finished before bedtime as often as not so he’s had some free time in the evenings. He was able to go see The Giver with me over Labor Day weekend. And the next weekend he was actually finished by lunchtime on Saturday. I made him do some research about his high school options that afternoon—because the Open Houses are in October and we need to decide which ones to attend—but we all went to the Takoma Park Folk Festival on Sunday. He invited Sasha to come with us. Noah had been at Richard and David’s house two days earlier to play a role-playing game called Dragon Lord. They are thinking of making a standing date every other Friday afternoon. It makes me happy that he’s had some time for leisure and hanging out with friends. If it’s true what everyone says about eighth grade being easier than seventh at his school, it would be a welcome change. Friday & Monday: Violin Lessons June’s violin lessons have started back up after a brief recess between the summer and fall sessions at her music school. At the last summer violin lesson, in mid-August, her teacher told us it was going to be her last lesson with June, as she was moving to Virginia Beach. Her husband got a job in the symphony there and the school didn’t want her to tell us until they’d hired a replacement. Elizabeth was a wonderful teacher, so we were sad to hear she was leaving. Right before this lesson, June started complaining about practicing and even said she wanted to quit violin so when we found out Elizabeth was moving, Beth said it was almost as if she had a premonition about it. Anyway, we decided she’d give it until November because we were right at the end of session and I didn’t want her to quit if it was a passing whim. The new teacher was sick the first week of the school year so June didn’t have a lesson until the Friday after Labor Day. Then she had another lesson the next Monday. Because the first one was a makeup lesson and I acted quickly to secure a good time, it was at four, which is when June’s lessons with Elizabeth were. I like this time. It gives us just enough time to take the bus to the music school when she gets home from school and have a snack at the Co-op before the lesson, which has become a comfortable routine for us. Unfortunately, her new regular lesson time is 5:45, too early to eat dinner beforehand and too late to cook dinner when we get home. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle this problem in general, but this week June and I made corn chowder before we left for the lesson and reheated it when we got home. At the first lesson, the teacher, Robin, spent about fifteen minutes chatting with June, asking her questions about her favorite colors, school subjects, what she wants to be when she grows up, etc. She said she needed to know what kind of person she was because music is all about conveying emotion and seeing into people’s souls. This would have been a bit touchy-feely for me and I was glad I wasn’t answering these questions and having someone assess my soul, but June rolled with it. Robin liked June’s answer about her favorite color—aquamarine. That always impresses people who are expecting a primary or secondary color. Then she looked through June’s music books and Elizabeth’s notations on them to see what kind of music June could already play. When June mentioned she’d composed two songs during her lessons with Elizabeth, Robin immediately decided to concentrate on these for the rest of the lesson (which ran over by about five or ten minutes—there was no one immediately after June and it wasn’t dinnertime so I didn’t mind). She listened to June play “Half-Scale Song,” and “Flower on a Butterfly” and taught her how to write the music. They did the first measure or so of the first song together. Her homework was to finish writing out “Half-Scale Song.” When I asked Noah to find some staff paper online for June, he knew of a program that would allow you to input the notes and print out the song. It can also play the song back for you. Over the weekend he took June to the site and he helped her figure out the notes through a combination of her playing them on the violin and listening to the computerized violin play it back to them. In about a half hour, they had it printed. At the second lesson, June and Robin went over the song again and they both played it—June as she wanted it to sound and Robin as it was written, and together they corrected some errors near the beginning. Robin circled the measures where there were still inconsistencies and asked June to fix them before the next lesson and also write out “Flower on a Butterfly.” All this was very interesting to watch. Robin’s an enthusiastic and engaging teacher, but I was a bit stressed by the fact that she seems to run habitually behind schedule. Our lesson started five minutes late and ended fifteen minutes late, even though there was another child waiting. It only started when it did because I tracked down the school director and asked if Robin was in the building and he found her. And it only ended when it did because once it had gone five or ten minutes late, I pointed out the time to her and mentioned I’d seen another child on the whiteboard schedule right after June. So, I guess I will need to be the timekeeper during these lessons, but other than that, June’s off to a good start with her new teacher. Tuesday: Brownie Meeting Tuesday night was June’s first night of Brownies. It was actually the third meeting of the year but we didn’t decide to join until after the list of after school activities at June’s school came out and she wasn’t interested in any of them. She had also decided against playing soccer because her best friend Megan’s not playing this year. Then I remembered she really wanted to join her friend Maggie’s Brownie troop the year before but it would have kept her up at least a half hour past her bedtime. Even with her new bedtime I thought it would be tight, but when I asked if she was still interested she was enthusiastic, so we decided to give it a try. So she now has regular evening activities on two consecutive days, which might mean I am lightening up about dinnertime and bedtime, although I keep asking at the music school if we can get an earlier time slot if anything opens up at any time, pretty please with a cherry on top, so maybe not. We arranged to carpool with Maggie’s mom. She would take the girls to the meeting and Beth, who gets home later, would fetch them. I went with Kathryn and the girls because I needed to do some paperwork. The troop meets in a little building in a municipal park with a playground and the girls were playing on the playground when we arrived. Three of June’s preschool classmates are in this troop and another is thinking of joining, plus there are three girls June knows from her elementary school, so she felt right at home, even though she was joining in media res. It’s a mixed age troop, Daisies to Juniors, though all the girls wearing vests (and only about half of them were) were Brownies, so I’m guessing it’s a majority Brownie troop. I’d mentioned to June when she said she wanted to join that it’s a school year-long commitment and then she wanted to know if she could attend one meeting before I actually paid. It turned out I didn’t even have to ask for this accommodation because while the leader had the required health forms for me, she couldn’t locate a registration form and she didn’t want payment right away. When June got home, though, she knew she wanted to stay. She’d earned a badge for politeness, after spending much of the meeting discussing said topic. Some, but not all, of the girls earned the badge for participating in the discussion. They are going zip lining next week, not on their meeting day, and in the evening, so June’s nightlife is just getting more and more exciting. Meanwhile she immediately started bugging Beth about buying her vest online. I think she’s hoping to have by the next meeting. Thursday: Back to School Night Two nights later, Thursday, was Back to School Night at June’s school. When Noah’s school had Back to School Night last week, we got a sitter, but because we’d be closer to home for this one, we decided to leave the kids at home alone. They’ve done this before, but never at night. Thursday morning we reminded Noah of this fact and told him he might have to put June to bed. “How about she puts herself to bed?” he asked. “You don’t want to exercise your new power?” Beth said. “Oh, right. She has a new bedtime. 7:45 again!” (Noah’s been annoyed that the gap between June’s bedtime and his has shrunk since she got a new one at the beginning of the summer and he’s unlikely to get a new one as long as he has to get up at 5:45 a.m. on school days.) For the third time in four days I was in a rush to get dinner on the table because of an evening activity. As we were eating I remembered I’d forgotten to give June her bath before dinner. It had been a hot day, too, and her hairline was all sweaty. She clearly needed a bath so I asked if she thought she could handle it herself. She agreed and before we left I started the bath water running, dumped half an envelope of bubble bath in, put her towel and a pair of pajamas on the bathroom counter, and brushed her hair. “Don’t be too bossy,” I said to Noah as we headed out the door and he told June she was his servant now. But when got home, five minutes before June’s bedtime, and I asked if he’d been too bossy, she said, “He was fine.” Beth then asked Noah if June was well behaved. “She watched Netflix the whole time,” he said. She’d bathed and gotten herself ready for bed on time, which is more than I can say for Noah even though he was getting ready while we were home. But it’s good to know we can leave them for a couple hours and they won’t kill each other. Beth and I might even go to a movie this weekend without getting a sitter, though probably a matinee. I think we’ve all had enough of the nightlife this week.