Just Like Today

I’ve had days and some were better
And some were worse and some just like today

“Only Today,” By Two Nice Girls

Looking at my recent posts you might think my life is one never-ending celebration. (They go straight from Beth’s birthday to Thanksgiving to Christmas to our anniversary.) Believe it or not, this is not the case. So I thought before Valentine’s Day rolls around, I ought to write about a regular day. It should be a weekday, I decided, and one June had an afterschool activity because there are three of those every week, which is more than the two weekend days or the two weekdays she doesn’t have an activity. The problem was, the week I got this idea there weren’t many normal days.

The Not So Normal Days: Sunday to Wednesday

Sunday afternoon Noah started to feel unwell. He was tired and headachy and had a sore throat so bad he was having trouble swallowing water. Given that I’d been diagnosed with strep throat six days before, Beth and I were sure that’s what he had, but when she took him to the urgent care on Monday morning the rapid strep test came back negative, as did the cultures at twenty-four and forty-eight hours.

Anyway, he was in no shape to go to school Monday, so he stayed home. He slept most of the morning and then tried to do some homework in the afternoon. After school, June had her violin lesson. It was her first lesson since we got a new time slot (4:45) that gets us home in time to cook and eat dinner at a less frenetic pace than has been our wont on Mondays for the past few months. I can’t tell you how happy I am about this. Now that June has activities either shortly before or after dinner three nights a week, cooking has become a real stressor for me.

Tuesday was a snow day. It was not a particularly impressive snowfall (less than two inches) and the roads seemed pretty clear, but nonetheless, the kids were home. As snow days go, it was okay. I’d worked over the weekend to bank enough hours to take it easy for this very contingency, so I didn’t need to work much. June played outside at my strong suggestion, sledding down the little hill in our yard and throwing snowballs at the fence. She and I read These Happy Golden Years and made homemade whoopie pies, which were very well received by everyone but especially Beth who is a big fan of this confection. Even though school was cancelled, June’s Girl Scout troop meeting was not, though it took an email thread of at least a half of dozen messages from several moms (whose opinions were all over the map) before the troop leader finally settled the matter.

Wednesday Noah went back to school, still a bit sick, but better than he’d been. I was looking forward to getting back into the swing of a normal weekday, but it was not to be. Registration for Girl Scout sleep-away camp opened at ten a.m. I knew from other moms that this is the kind of camp that can fill up within hours, so I logged on right at ten, with June’s list of top five programs. She and three other girls from her troop had spent a couple days trying to match their lists in order to get into the same program at camp. In the end everyone compromised some but they could only get their top two to match. Their first choice was Backwoods (which takes place in a wooded area of the camp) and their second choice was Watered Down (which features swimming, canoeing and kayaking).

The first thing that happened was that I was given a place in the queue. There were more than twelve hundred people in front of me. Yes, you read that right. Twelve hundred. It took about an hour to move through the queue and then early in the registration process my page inexplicably froze and would not progress to the next page. It wasn’t the computer freezing, my cursor moved fine. I called the help line and I was so relieved when they said they’d call back and register me over the phone that I waited too long for that to happen (about another hour) before I gave up on them and started again on the laptop. In the meantime I’d gotten a message from the mom of the one of June’s friends saying two of the girls had gotten into Backwoods, but it was closed now, and her daughter was in Watered Down and I should really register June now as spaces were filling fast.

This time I got far enough into the process to find out that June was not in the database as being a Girl Scout even though I had filled out the paperwork and paid dues for both her troop and the national organization in the fall when she joined. I found out later the troop leader never processed that paperwork. Anyway, it was a fairly simple matter and only $15 to join the Scouts online and I did it, rather than lose more time. On my next attempt to register her, my session timed out right at the end and I had to start over. This whole time I could see the number of spaces in each program and watch them getting lower (and in some cases selling out). I kept telling myself quite sternly that this was not a matter of life or death and I did not need to feel so stressed, but didn’t listen to myself and I was near tears more than once.

However, the fourth time was the charm and shortly before one in the afternoon, I got June registered in the water program. I thought it was a pretty good outcome, with two girls in each program, so everyone will have a friend, and the four of them have requested to bunk together. The help line never did call me and a big chunk of my workday got sucked into a black hole, but I was so giddy with this accomplishment, I didn’t care.

The Normal Day: Thursday

Thursday I woke up in a good mood, partly because of my Girl Scout camp triumph, and partly because June had basketball practice that evening. I do enjoy watching the Pandas practice, but more importantly, most weeks this is my prime opportunity for conversation with an adult who isn’t Beth, aside from the five minutes I spend at June’s school bus stop every weekday morning.

June had an 8:00 a.m. GeoBowl practice session before school, so we left the house early, at 7:45. I meant to leave five minutes earlier, but the last time she had one of these I didn’t even remember it until 7:45 and considering that at the moment of realization I was in pajamas and hadn’t eaten breakfast and it’s a twenty-minute walk to her school, the fact that I got her there by 8:15 is really not too shabby. Anyway, I was happy to have improved on our previous performance.

It was a cold morning, and when we got to the creek, June peered at the ice-rimmed rocks in the middle of it and noted how the dead leaves on the ground next to it were outlined in frost. I warned her not to step on a half-frozen puddle and she probed it with her sneaker toe gently until the ice on top broke. There was the thinnest skin of ice on the creek, too, in the still parts. I didn’t hurry her along because she seemed so genuinely interested in her surroundings.

We were about a block and half from home when I noticed she wasn’t wearing her backpack, which contained her GeoBowl packet, her homework and her lunch. So much for getting there earlier this time. I found I really didn’t mind. My good mood was that durable. We went back home and set out again. Just before the playground, we came across a snowman someone had built. It had stones for its eyes and nose, a twig for a smile, a garland made of evergreen and a scarf of dried pokeweed stems. It was listing a bit to one side but that only added to its rakish charm.

We got to school by 8:10 and I left her with her geography-studying peers and came home, after a detour to Starbucks. Once home, I tidied the study, exercised, ghost wrote a blog post about cherries and wrote some marketing materials for a cherry blossom extract. Once June got home, she did her homework and had an early bath. I made dinner and tried to talk Noah through an analysis of “The Long and Winding Road,” which he had to analyze for English class. He was having a hard time with it, despite the fact that the song is not that complicated. I think he might have still been fatigued from his illness.

We got a ride to practice with June’s friend Megan, her sister, and her mom Kerry. As we waited for them, we sucked on two of the last few candy canes we have left from Christmas. The taste was sweet and sharp on the cold, dark porch, lit with the blue and white lights we still have strung along it. When their car pulled up, we gave Megan another candy cane, and she was excited to have it, even if she had to share with her sister.

At basketball practice I was happy to see Talia’s mom, also named Megan, whom I hadn’t seen in a couple weeks. She’s recently returned from a vacation in Puerto Rico so there was that to talk about and she wanted to know more about the Girl Scout camp registration process because the camp her daughter wanted to attend was starting its registration the next day.

At the beginning of practice Mike gave the girls a pep talk about how they shouldn’t be discouraged about their losing streak. (They have lost all three games this season.) He told them he knew they were disappointed and he was too but that since the score was 10-4 at the last game and eight of the other team’s points were scored over the course of several minutes, the Pandas had lost four minutes of the game but they’d won the other twenty-eight. Pretty good spin, I thought.

I had my eyes on the girls most of the time I was talking to Megan, but somehow I missed June scoring two baskets during a drill. She is definitely getting better. In the second game she very nearly scored a basket. It bounced off the rim and then she caught the rebound and shot again. That one went wide, but still, that’s good playing. She also had a few good steals from opposing players. As a result, she’s not too discouraged about how the season is going.

We came home, put June to bed, and I nudged Noah along until he finished his song analysis. It had been a week of many ups and downs (dare I say a long and winding road?) but I was happy to have arrived at a day just like this day.