Day 8: Saturday
Saturday afternoon we went to the National Portrait Gallery café to meet up with another tourist family. (Washington D.C. is a popular spring break destination.) Mary and Karen used to work with Beth at HRC (http://www.hrc.org/) back in the 90s and now they live in Northampton and have two daughters, ages four and six.
June and I had been at the Portrait Gallery about two months earlier when her preschool class took a field trip there and I volunteered to chaperone. She was eager to show Beth and Noah her favorite painting, the portrait of John Brown (http://www.flickr.com/photos/leonandloisphotos/2967613827/) so we went to go see it while waiting for it to be time to meet Mary, Karen, Sadie and Lily. On the way I also caught glimpses of paintings of Ann Landers, Allen Ginsburg and other famous and not so famous folk.
We met our friends in an atrium adjacent to the café, which made a perfect large, enclosed place for the girls to run around, inspect the plantings, climb on the marble benches and pretend to be ballerinas while the grown ups talked. At one point Lily, the younger girl, brought her moms a botanical sign for a lily because she had noticed her name on it. Her alarmed mothers told her to return it. Overall, the girls seemed to have a great time. I was sorry there was no one Noah’s age, but he sat with us, and listened to our conversation and surfed in the Internet on Beth’s phone.
Back at home, after June’s nap, we boiled eggs for dyeing and hit the garden. About a week and a half ago, Beth and June started cucumbers, watermelon and various flowers in little pots. Saturday they planted basil, edamame, okra and more flowers in more pots and Beth started breaking ground and expanding last year’s main garden plot in preparation for planning lettuce, carrots and broccoli. We decided to dig up the patch of lemon balm that comes back on its own every year and move it into a big pot so it doesn’t overrun the garden. I weeded some of the grass and dandelions out of it in preparation for transplanting it.
June kept filling various containers with muddy water and pretending to be a philanthropist/dairy farmer, distributing milk to the poor. Beth and I were the poor. June had the most patrician-sounding accent when she spoke to us in character. We have no idea where she could have heard it. She next set to work picking the leaves off a weed that looks like rhubarb so she could make a milk and rhubarb pie for the poor. Apparently she thinks it’s the leaves and not the stalks you use in pie and that this is a treat the poor particularly appreciate.
After dinner, it was time to dye eggs. We chose a variety of decorating strategies. Beth and Noah tried drawing on the eggs with the white “magic crayon” that came with the kit, creating a batik effect. The kids and I did some two-tone eggs, dipping the halves of the eggs in different colors. June created an egg that had three bands of color. We also had stickers (bunnies, flowers and eggs). I was amused by the idea of attaching the simulacrum of the egg to the real thing so I did stickers on both my eggs. June was predictably drawn to the glitter glue. And then there were the hats. In an Easter egg kit we got years ago, there was a selection of stickers of facial features and little felt hats. We’ve been re-using the hats ever since but this year we ran out of eyes, nose and mouth stickers so I elected not to make any egg people.
It was only when we got out the egg decorating materials that June realized Easter was imminent. She had all kinds of questions. Would the Easter Bunny bring jellybeans? (Probably, he usually does.) Why does the Easter Bunny come at night when children are asleep? (He’s shy.) We always call the Easter Bunny “he”, but do we know he’s really a boy? (No, we don’t.) Maybe it’s “half-boy, half-girl.” (Maybe.) Had any of us ever seen the Easter Bunny? (Noah claimed he had, then said the Bunny was invisible and then declined to clear up the resulting confusion.)
This conversation spilled over past bed time, but the kids quieted down and went to sleep surprisingly quickly after Beth reminded them that the Easter Bunny would not come until they were asleep.
Day 9: Sunday
“Look what I got!” June exclaimed as soon as the search for the Easter baskets successfully culminated in the closet in the kids’ room. She was so entranced with the stuffed unicorn that she barely looked at the candy. She needed the doll hairbrush immediately so she could brush it. There was another volley of Bunny-related questions. How did he know? (Maternal shrugs.) Did he buy it at Candy Kitchen? (Probably.)
Noah was happy with the big bottle of bubble soap in his basket (the kind that works best in his bubble rocket). He also appreciated his chocolate bunny driving a classic car, though he lamented the fact that it was hollow. He ate the whole thing right away and didn’t want breakfast, even though I made French toast.
We are not churchgoers so the rest of the day unfolded like a normal busy Sunday in the middle of spring. June had a swim lesson; Noah finished his homework (after a protracted negotiation about which homework not due Tuesday needed to be completed); Beth went grocery shopping, worked in the garden and did some housecleaning and I finished the abstracts and cleaned. I made egg salad sandwiches for dinner and as a small Easter observance, I listened to Jesus Christ Superstar while I did the dinner dishes and mopped the kitchen floor.
Day 10: Monday
Being a teetotaler, I don’t have much experience being hung over, but I think that must be how I felt Monday morning. All the time with the kids over break had been really nice, don’t get me wrong, but it was as if I’d had too much of a good thing and now I was tired and irritable. (It didn’t help that June had been up during the night and it had taken me an hour to get back to sleep.) I snapped at the kids more than once. I had a simple, straightforward editing job I’d volunteered to do for June’s school and I just wasn’t getting it done. Even after awarding June an extra half hour of television on top of her normal hour (“because you’re doing such a good job on the potty”), between breaking up fights and fetching snacks, I only managed to get through about five pages of the fourteen-page document in ninety minutes.
Once I gave up and decided the work would get done when it got done, the day got much better. We took a walk (the kids rode their scooters) to Starbucks and we had an early picnic lunch of veggie hot dogs, broccoli and pineapple on beach blankets in the back yard. While we were outside, we noticed the first two zinnia sprouts poking out of their pots. (By this morning there were be nine zinnia and two cucumber sprouts.)
Lunch was early because June needed her Quiet Time early so we could get to the White-Tailed Deer’s birthday party at two o’clock. While she was in her room listening to a CD of folktales (it was too early for her to sleep) and Noah was practicing his percussion, I sailed through the rest of the document and even enjoyed the work of figuring out how to make the organization clearer. I had just needed forty-five minutes of uninterrupted time. When I finished, I even had time to lie down with my eyes closed for fifteen minutes.
I wondered if Lesley would be free to go over the document in person so I called her and she was. We made an appointment for right after the party, which was being held at a playground five minutes from school.
The party was huge, at least twenty-five kids and probably more than half that many adults. It was nice to socialize with June’s school friends and their parents whom we hadn’t seen in what felt like a long time. The theme of the party was butterflies and June got a butterfly painted on her face. There were butterfly (and other) decorations for the kids to stick onto their goody bags and cupcakes with butterfly wings made of pretzels and a butterfly piñata that eventually spewed candy, gum and trinkets. (June got two plastic butterfly necklaces and a butterfly fan.)
Much of the two hours however, the kids spent racing around the playground and splashing in the creek. The weather was lovely, sunny and in the eighties again. There were a few older siblings there and Noah spent a lot of time mucking about in the creek with the Deer’s older brother, who’s in second grade.
I twisted my ankle early in the party (I stepped in a hole), but the Deer’s dad lent me a Ziploc bag full of ice from the cooler and after I’d rested a while and iced it, it felt okay.
We headed over to school, and the kids played, peaceably for the most part, while Lesley and I went over the edits. I was glad to do it in person because we could talk through my reasons for changes and I think that was helpful for both of us.
During the walk home, my ankle started to hurt again, but not too badly. I made dinner and we put June to bed early because she hadn’t napped. She was reeling with exhaustion by 7:00 and crying over every little thing. She actually fell asleep during the poems section of the bedtime routine and by the time I got her into bed at 7:45, she was asleep in three minutes flat.
Once June was asleep, I read to Noah from The Titan’s Curse for forty-five minutes, probably for the last time until next weekend, put him to bed and break was over.
While June’s at school this afternoon, I plan to sit on the porch, elevate and ice my ankle, which is feeling a bit stiff and sore today, and read Bleak House, which I have not picked up in almost two weeks. I enjoyed having the kids off school for ten days, but today I will enjoy having them go back.