Friday, July 24, 2020

Day 104- June 24, 2020

Day 104- June 24, 2020

Today was supposed to be the day we headed to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware with my In-Laws and Aunt-In-Law.  My Dad-In-Law, Ed, and I have spent the last two Thanksgivings planning family vacations that we then "give" to our family at Christmas in lieu of normal presents.  The idea being, we all have enough stuff, and this way we instead create memories.  Last year, we all went to Martha's Vineyard, staying in a stunning house that dates back to the late 18th Century which just happens to be on a bluff overlooking Vineyard Haven Harbor.  It included its own private beach, a screened in porch, enough bedrooms and private bathrooms for Marian, Ed and my Mom-In-Law Pat, and us and our kids.

This year's place was a few blocks to the beach, and walking distance to the main boardwalk area.  When Ed and I found it, we decided it was perfect, and we were so excited to get down there.  Alas, the pandemic made that impossible, and we canceled in mid-April to avoid the cancelation fee.

Instead, we spend the morning putting an ad for my Mom's house in the New York Times's Real Estate section online.  We then migrated to Mom's, where Jeff and I installed an air conditioner in the attic (it's the only part of her house without air conditioning, and since we're in the middle of a two-week spell where the temperature isn't dipping below 85 during the day, and she's having active showings, we needed something up there).  The girls and I also went swimming with Mom and Bryan, and played more Marco Polo (it's quickly becoming their favorite game). R. continued to work on her diving, which is getting better and better each day.  She loves the water, and is a perfectionist, so she keeps having me videotape her, to see what she needs to fix on her form to make her splashes smaller.  The slow motion option on the camera phone is perfect for this, and I'm proud of her work ethic and how determined she is to get it right.  Today, she pulled off near perfection, and she was absolutely beaming.

Jeff met the photographer from RealTech at Sam's house (which is now officially going on the market this weekend), so we could get 360 degree photos.  It's remarkable to see how far this place has come, and I can't wait to see what the professional photos come out like.

Then, we reconvened at home for our first outdoor dinner of the season, and walked our neighbor's 19-month-old pup Parker.  Parker is a big labradoodle, with boundless energy, and a strict routine to help him learn how to walk on a leash properly.  He did a pretty good job, only becoming distracted a couple of times, largely the fault of two rather obnoxious pugs behind a weak gate on our trek.  

Ella was ecstatic to be out walking a dog- she misses ours, two golden retriever mutts named Jake and Layla who passed two years ago.  The girls loved them a ton, and being able to get all the puppy love from Parker was a lot of fun for them.  Our neighbor had hip surgery, and a group of locals are helping out, so I'm sure we will be on rotation with Parker again soon.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Day 103- June 23, 2020

Day 103- June 23, 2020

Today I did something with the girls that my dad did with me and my sister- I drove around with Freebird blasting out of the car stereo.  When I was about 16, we were driving home from my grandparent's house in Passaic, and I remember being in Hawthorne when the first guitar licks started.  My dad was cruising along in his purple (he thought "eggplant" meant black- it didn't- he was color blind, so all dark colors looked the same to him) Infiniti, a car that was a "company car" for his lawfirm, and he turned up the volume, explaining to my sister and me that this was one of the most epic songs ever performed.  It was 21 minutes, and you had to listen to the whole thing.  I just remember looking out the window, my hair whipping me in the face, my hand swimming in the wind, and thinking "this is the greatest song I've ever heard."  We giggled through it at my dad's enthusiasm, and his insistence that we take a long-cut home so we could hear the entire thing.   I've heard the song hundreds of times since, and every single one takes me back.

So of course, I did what I had to when Freebird came on: cranked the volume, and told the girls that we absolutely needed to bop along with the groovy music.  The windows were rolled down (despite the extreme heat), E. and R. obliged, and Freebird has thus taken hold of another generation.  

Today was also the first day of soccer practice for E.  She hasn't seen her teammates in person since March, except on Zoom calls (a poor substitute for real practices, but the best we had given the circumstances, and at least it meant the kids were getting footwork in.  E. is a little disappointed, because we are still in "no contact" mode, meaning no small sides games, no one vs. one work, and basically, just dribbling and working on little moves and skills.  It's not her favorite thing, she'd much rather be stealing the ball away and heading for goal, but she'll take it because it at least means soccer.  She also was happy because it means someone other than me was working with her, and she loves getting compliments on her skills from non-family members (she knows we think she's awesome).  She kept going on and on about how her coach had her demonstrate a move, and absolutely beamed with pride.  It's one of the first times in a long time that I've seen her this happy, and it's thrilling.

Sam's house is also done at this point, and goes on the market soon. I decided to stop by a local nursery and purchased impatiens to help with the curb appeal.  There's a flower box by the front door, and it looked bare with just woodchips in it.  A pop of color will hopefully be just what it needs to welcome people to the home, and help them fall in love with it.  

After we finished with the final touches (the photographer comes this week), Jeff and I were able to spend some quality time swimming, and enjoying rousing family games of Marco Polo with the girls.  We had to set some ground rules, like only in the shallow end, and no diving forward (lest we smack our faces on the side of the pool).  But it was good to take some time to just relax (as much as we could).  

Monday, June 22, 2020

Day 102- June 22, 2020

Day 102- June 22, 2020

The first Monday of summer is one of the best days of the year, when you're a teacher.  You don't wake up early, you don't need to worry about being anywhere, you don't need to do pretty much anything but just embrace that you have two months of freedom (and planning for the next school year, researching ideas, and stressing over re-opening plans, but we don't think about that today).

Artwork and furniture from E's room
And so we embraced it with a pool date at my friend Heather's house, where the girls and I went for a socially distanced swim date with her daughter L.  Heather and I were both relieved that we no longer have to worry about homeschooling (at least for the next couple of months).  We reflected on sports -her son B. is a competitive swimmer, and has been doing training in their pool to stay in shape.  E. is getting ready to start socially distanced, but in person soccer practices this week.  She can't wait, and neither can I.  She loved playing, but last week mentioned she doesn't really like soccer anymore because it's no fun without games.  I can't say I blame her, and Heather lamented how difficult it is for kids to stay motivated through something so unprecedented like what we are experiencing.  That said, we are both proud of our kids' work ethics, and they are putting in the work so that when competition comes back, they will be ready.

My patio furniture and cushions
The girls and I also spent some time at Sam's house, working on the staging, as she really wants it on the market this weekend.  It means picking and choosing what is essential, and what isn't really necessary at this point. 

The transformation has been outstanding, and now that the finishing touches like curtains and artwork are going up, it's pretty incredible.  To say I'm proud of the effort we've put in, and the changes Sam has agreed to and Jeff has overseen, would be a major understatement.  Yes, half my furniture and a lot of our home's decor has been shuffled over and is on loan, so our house looks a bit empty and unfinished.  But this is temporary, and hopefully we can sell it quickly, and move our stuff back to our house.  In the mean time, it's pretty amazing to see how it is all coming together.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Day 101- June 21, 2020

Day 101- June 21, 2020

I'm thinking Father's Day may have been part of the reason for yesterday's panic attack. Heather mentioned it, and it's kind of the cherry on top of all my anxiety.  When I was a kid, I didn't have panic attacks.  Sure, occasionally I'd get anxious, but for the most part, it was more of a normal variety.  After my dad died when I was 19, it took on a whole new level, and here we are, 22 years later.

Father's Day got a little better after Jeff and I had kids.  We have always celebrated with my stepdad and dad-in-law (who are both amazing and deserve the celebration),  but the elephant in the room is definitely how much I miss my dad, his laughter, and the joy he brought into most everything.  But with kids, we celebrate my husband, and I get to see their excitement at giving him handmade cards and presents (we got him an insulated photo collage coffee mug, and an Intex pool).

We all headed over to my mom's to celebrate, each bringing our own food (or eating ahead of time in our case), so that we could see each other and converse.  The girls went in the pool, the adults sat around chatting.  Jeff swam with the girls, playing Marco Polo, and splashing around.  But Jeff had to finish up at Sam's and so the visit was cut a bit shorter than any of us would have liked. 

The girls and I went over to visit him in the late afternoon, but with all the paint touch ups, he was concerned about them touching something (they aren't the best with avoiding paint), and so we spent much of Father's Day waiting for him to get home.  Around dinner, I called to check in, and he said he was wrapping up and would be home soon (I was calling to see if we should bring him dinner).  We got into one of our only fights of this quarantine, as he thought I should have offered to do some of the work on the house, and I thought he should have asked if he wanted me to.  The girls and I held off on dinner, but 6:30 turned to 7 and then 7:30 as the tummies grumbled and our fuses started to run a little short, so I gave the girls some veggies to munch on,  called Jeff again, and got a terse answer that he was coming home.  At this point, he thought I'd fed the kids, and I thought he'd be home in ten minutes so I didn't, and it wasn't until almost 8:30 that he walked in the door,

Needless to say, dinner wasn't particularly pleasant, with him fuming and the girls tired and hungry, and me just exhausted.  It's a reminder of why communication is important, and why we usually don't fight- we're normally much better at speaking what we need and want.  But with everything going on stress-wise, we forgot about that for much of the day.  And at 8:30, the girls just wanted to spend time with their dad, so we crammed in some chess and storytime, and bedtime got pushed back.  It wasn't the best Father's Day, but it wasn't the worst, and sometimes, you need a little bad to remind you of how good you have it most of the time.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Day 100- June 20, 2020

Day 100- June 20, 2020

I had a really bad panic attack today.  I don't know if it's mom's house going on the market, the stress of the end of school and, you know, the hundreth day of quarantine for the pandemic going on, but it was awful.

I took a Benadryl, because my allergies are still acting up here and there, but then when the panic attack hit, I didn't know if I should take my medication for that too (I didn't want to have any bad interactions), so I called one of my best friends in the world, Heather, who also happens to be a psychiatrist.

Having a person that you know will drop everything to calm you down is a gift.  I know my husband would do that, but having a friend (who has been part of my life since she and I were nine) and happens to offer therapy for a living, is incredible.  She was able to talk me through the panic attack, and assured me that my dosage is low enough that I could absolutely take it and have no issues (besides possibly becoming more sleepy).  She's seen me have a few anxiety attacks- she was with me when I was driving across the country and had a particularly bad one in Las Vegas (and called the hotel doctor to come make sure I was okay).

I feel awful when I have these things, and worse when they interfere with things my kids are supposed to do.  Today, we had plans to spend the evening at my friend Shauna's house, hanging with her and her two daughters (O and C- O is one of my E's best friends).  But when this happened, I called Shauna, explained what was going on, and let her know I would call when I woke up from a nap.

Naps have a way of helping with these situations, and this one did the trick (that, and the medication).  Rather than risk a later panic attack, Shauna and I decided I would head over with the kids right away, so we ended up having an impromptu water-and-relaxing hang out session.  The girls played in the little pools, and Shauna and I talked about mom issues and school-related issues on her patio.

The girls also played with rocks and pavers that were left over from Shauna's recent patio project, and worked on creating a "kitchen" with them.  I told Shauna it reminded me of how my best friend and I used to create rooms in the woods between our houses, using sticks, rocks, and anything else we could find to make the "walls" and furniture (we were very creative children), and sent off a photo to Ali, who was the friend I used to create with.  It's amazing how I can send her a photo, 30+ years after we've done something, and she knows exactly what I'm remembering.

Old friends and new are gifts, and I'm lucky to have both.  As we navigate this crazy new world, they are more important than ever to hold onto.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Day 99- June 19, 2020

Day 99- June 19, 2020

Today was filled with seeing friends.  Since the restrictions have eased a bit, we have started doing selective socially-distanced playdates with the girls' friends, and today involved a bunch.

First, A. and N. came over for another soccer playdate.  We worked on shooting in our backyard.  N. is a natural athlete, who is super tall for her age and already excels at softball and basketball.  She's interested in playing goalkeeper, and so she hopped in the net for several of the shots that E. took.

A. has been in dance since she was very young, and you can see her footwork coming along quickly as a result.  She's never played organized soccer (except for some instruction at an after school YMCA aftercare program), but she's picking it up quickly, and I was impressed by how much better she already is in a week of practicing.  I think that's what I love about youth sports- kids can pick up sports quickly given the chance, and you never know who may learn to excel.  At the same time, I definitely feel like we start them super young now.

When I was going into third grade, I had never played soccer either.  Rec started in third, and a year later, I tried out for (and made) the travel team.  Now, though, kids can begin playing rec in first grade, which is way before a lot of them have the muscular development and motor skills (especially the foot skills) to take to it.  This can mean kids getting frustrated, or deciding a sport isn't for them that actually might be a good fit in a few years.

It also means that the kids who have been getting travel training by professional trainers for two years have a distinct advantage over the ones who are just learning the sport.  But- and this is something I like about our club- I've heard from other coaches that the kids are re-evaluated after the fall season and going into the spring, so that if there's been some real growth, or leveling off, that the kids can migrate from one team to another and still stay within the club.  Since there will be three teams (based on playing ability) at this age, it makes sense to keep evaluating the children- especially when you have some athletic kids that, after a month or two of training, can move up because they've gone from raw talent to more polished players.

After A. and N. headed home, I rushed over to Mom's house to turn on all the lights, because there was an impromptu showing (the house literally went on the market this morning).  It's exciting, because the house is finally on the market, and showings mean we've hopefully priced it appropriately and will get a buyer soon.

Mom's house with the sign our front.  Very surreal.
Unfortunately, it took longer than I would have liked, and I was a bit late getting home to E's second playdate of the day, with her friend K. and her mom who were also joining us for a bit of soccer.  K. has been playing travel soccer in our town (E's club is in the town I grew up in), and she and E. had a blast shooting the ball, and running around.  Her mom and I have become friends since attending a Taylor Swift concert (with our daughters) last spring, and it was great to have another parent to talk to about sports and try outs.  She played field hockey in college, and is excited for K. to try out for the club E. plays for.  While our girls are in the same grade, K. was born in one year, and E. in the next, so K. will be with the older kids.  I lament this a lot, because it means that kids who are in the same grade level don't play together all the time.

At the end of the day, my friend Bianca dropped by with R's friend A. and they were so excited to see each other.  A. is an only child, and Bianca said it's been rough with quarantine because she hasn't been able to see anyone else besides her parents for the last several months. Bianca is one of the smartest people I know- she is a translator by trade, speaking several languages fluently, and her daughter attends fencing with R. (when there's not a pandemic going on).  Our girls get along really well, which is a blessing (I'm always happy when my daughters pick friends whose moms are awesome- this has been a recurring theme in our lives, and one I'm grateful for).

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Day 98- June 18, 2020

Day 98- June 18, 2020

The new ice cream maker!
Summer Day 1-  Let the freedom commence!  I headed over to my friend's home with the girls for a swimming playdate with her daughter L.  Her other daughter, A, was napping in the house ), and so it made more sense to head over there than to have her be at the mercy of an almost-three-year-old's sleep schedule.

It felt almost normal to be sitting on her porch, chatting about the kids and teachers and expectations and summer, while the girls splashed and raced around their new above-ground pool.  She told me how her older son has been working on his swimming (he competitively swims races when there's not a pandemic going on), and has been doing conditioning in the pool.  That's a big part of why they got such a large one- so he can practice his strokes and stay in condition for when races start up again.

I'm so grateful to just see my friend and talk to her without a screen being between us.  As people begin heading out to restaurants (outdoor dining started up a few days ago), there's a sense of cautious optimism that I'm hoping isn't misplaced.  The NWSL, our national soccer league for women, will start playing games on June 27th, and MLB is inching closer to a deal to start games at the end of July.  Soccer starts up again next Tuesday, and then tryouts are next Sunday.

There are some surges starting to show around the country, though, and I'm praying that they are

isolated, and that the self-isolation has had enough of an impact that we can safely begin going about our business with the restrictions we have in place (wearing masks, staying socially distanced, avoiding cramped indoor spaces).

Perfect for night swimming (which is also
the name of an excellent REM song)
I got some great news from the free stuff gratitude Facebook group too.  Someone posted an ice cream maker, a brand new, still in packaging ice cream maker.  This is something E. had ordered with her birthday money, only to see it backordered over and over by Amazon. I wrote that as my reason, and the person who was gifting it chose my name randomly, so we got to pick it up!  Tomorrow, we make soy milk ice cream.

As day wore into evening, we met Jeff at my mom's, and put up the sign saying the house is for sale.  It goes live on the market in the morning.  I took a photo of the pool in the dark, with the pool light on and the twinkle lights on the fence illuminated.  I've spent many warm summer evenings in this pool with friends and family, and it's surreal to know that this is the last season there.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Day 97- June 17, 2020

Day 97- June 17, 2020

Jumping into summer like...
It's the last day of school!  The girls are so happy to be finished, and frankly, so am I (that they are done- I have one more day of work).  They had final zoom meetings with their teachers, and got to see their classmates virtually.  It's been a very odd year- I'm grateful that they were able to continue to learn, albeit in an unorthodox way, through the last few months.  There is a survey of parents that I received, and I was honest in my assessment of online learning.

The truth is, I think it worked and didn't work, and there are things that can be done to improve the effectiveness dramatically.  The biggest thing missing is real-time teaching.  Instructions are fine, but for younger grades, it's imperative to watch someone teach/lecture, then to have that person on standby in case you have a question.

For instance, have the teacher use her computer screen on a Zoom call, and show the kids how to calculate perimeter.  Then, have the class work on their math problems while they are still on the Zoom call.  If someone has a question, they can ask (just like a normal classroom).  The kids are doing the work in real-time, in a structured setting (like at school).  Yes, there will be kids who, for whatever reason, can't do that time.  Fine.  So have them do it later, and watch the video.  Perhaps another kid in class asked the question they have in their head.  Or if not, they can email the teacher, same as they would have without the real-time lecture.  But the other 20+ students would have already done the work, and so the teacher isn't receiving emails from all of them.  Just from the students who missed.  AND those other kids got the structured, real-time learning.

Now, is this sustainable for all subjects?  Maybe not.  But if the teachers can do some of the stuff in real time, at least there is some structure  to the lessons, and some interaction (even if it is virtual).  I think it could be pretty effective.  And it would eliminate some of the confusion that kids feel trying to decipher directions.

I also would remove Pearson- PERIOD.  It's an awful system, with verbose incoherent questions that often have the wrong answers.  Literally.  Like they said this shape:
was not a triangle (E. answered triangle- the test marked her wrong.  I emailed her teacher- teacher was said, yep, it is a triangle, I'm pretty sure most four year olds would agree.  She also mentioned that Pearson has consistently had incorrect answers marked correct and vice-versa).

After school let out, we waited anxiously for 3PM, which is when report cards would be released.  Grades aren't what we cared about- they actually aren't doing them for the final quarter because, well, it's tough to grade assignments when you aren't in school and handing them in regularly.

No, it was all about what teachers the girls' got for next year.  At 3 on the dot, we received the auto email that report cards were available, and fifteen minutes later, finally were able to open them (the website wasn't exactly cooperating).  There was much excitement as we then texted friends to find out who was in their classes.

We also had a celebration- it is my Dad-In-Law Ed's birthday, and we had him, Mom-In-Law and Aunt Marian over for a little dessert.  I truly won the in-law family lottery. I've known them since I was 16, and they are literally my second set of parents.  I remember my mother-in-law asking me in a worried voice, sometime after E. was born, if it was okay that she stopped by unannounced to visit with us and R. and E.  I was so confused and said "Of course not!  I love that you come by!"

She was visibly relieved, and explained that a friend of hers basically had to make appointments to see her grandkids.

I was horrified and responded with "I don't know what is wrong with them, but if you stop dropping by, I'm going to be very upset.  I need the help!  And I love you!"  I can't imagine not having her, Marian and Ed coming by whenever they want to see us or the kids.  It always brightens my day, and cheers me up.  During some of the hardest times, they have been there for me, and I'm forever grateful.  I was looking forward to our big family adventure this year- we were headed to Rehoboth Beach next week- but unfortunately, we needed to postpone.

So for Ed's birthday, we are giving him a boat trip, where we rent a boat for a morning or afternoon and cruise around either a lake or bay (his choice).  They all went out on a boat last year when we did a family trip to Martha's Vineyard, and we also did this years ago on Lake George, so I know he loves this type of outing.  I braved the Lake George boat, but I tend to get motion sickness, so depending on the plan with this rental, I'll either take photos from the beach, or hop on for part of the trip and then do some swimming/photo taking.

Either way, the important thing is spending time together.  That's something that there's been too little of with all the isolation, and is probably what I'm most excited about now that restrictions are easing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Day 96- June 16, 2020

Day 96- June 16, 2020

Today was a rather nondescript day.  We did final school assignments for the girls (Covid 19 Time Capsule, End of 2nd Grade Memory Book, you know, the usual during a pandemic), and then went swimming.  We've been doing that a lot, and it's been bittersweet, knowing this is the last summer we'll be in the pool at my Mom's current house.

We also finished selecting the photos from the ones the photographer sent (hard to do since there are so many rooms and the yard has so many sections and good features), and worked on the write up for the house.

The original read:
A portion of the backyard and the pool- one of the
photos we selected for the listing.
Situated on almost 2 acres of park-like property, this 5 bedroom, 3.5 bath Victorian Colonial Home maintains its old-world charm and period details without sacrificing modern amenities and comfort (such as central air, master suite and a heated pool).

From the stained glass window in the foyer to the elegantly crafted mantel around a wood burning fireplace in the living room, this house exudes the beauty of a bygone era.  The family room boasts a gas fireplace and double sliding doors that lead to a three-season porch with views of the lush backyard.  Awake each morning in your master suite, and sip your morning coffee on the balcony while you take in the beauty of the sunrise.  Relax in the jetted tub, and enjoy the three master closets (including a walk-in).  The first floor is rounded out with a large kitchen with a wet bar and eat-in area surrounded by windows, formal dining room, powder room and laundry.  There is also a ground level in-law/au pair suite, complete with separate entrance and en-suite full bath.  Three additional bedrooms, a full bath with double sinks, and an office greet you on the second floor. 

The backyard features a heated pool, koi pond, fenced-in vegetable garden, additional gardens, and is surrounded by woods for privacy. With a hill for sledding in the winter, and loads of flat open space for hosting parties in the spring and fall, this house is a year-round entertainer's dream.  The main driveway leads to a 3 car garage with attic storage space, and there is a second driveway for additional parking.

With 3975 square feet, plus the finished basement and finished walk up attic, there is space for everyone in this beautiful home!

Not too shabby- but also a bit verbose for the word limit on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) where the house is listed for realtors.  So there were cuts and abbreviations added.  It reminds me of the Billy Joel song "The Entertainer," which has the lines:
It was a beautiful song
But it ran too long
If you're gonna have a hit
You gotta make it fit
So they cut it down to 3:05

Ours is a society addicted to brevity of the written word, and real estate listings are no different.  And as long as it sells, I'll feel like we've done our jobs well!

Monday, June 15, 2020

Day 95- June 15, 2020

Day 95- June 15, 2020

So I had to go to the doctor today.  I've had some issues with panic attacks recently, and I have a (very rarely used) prescription for a medication that calms me down.  To put into perspective how often I use it: I was prescribed 15 pills in January of 2018.  I still have about three left, but they have deteriorated, and have been reduced to mostly powder, so I needed new ones, just in case.  With Covid-19, mom selling the house, and life in general being chaotic, apparently my anxiety has been escalating, and my body informed me via these anxiety attacks.  They aren't fun, and while I can usually calm myself down, every now and then, I need a little help.

Going to the doctor during a pandemic so you can get a prescription for anti-anxiety medications seems a bit counterproductive.  It's causing me anxiety to have to go into a building, where there are doctors who see patients, and be around others in a closed environment.  But when I arrived, it was solidly socially-distanced in the waiting room (two people on one side, a guy in front of me on line who was picking up blood work results).  They took me right back to the room, and everyone wore masks.  I have to assume that they are doing all the cleaning/freshening they are mandated to, and they specifically told me they are only doing well visits (preventative care, no sick patients).  So that helps- a little.

It's also the last Monday of the school year for 2019-20! The girls are ready to be done, I'm ready to be done, I think the entire state is just finished with attempting to homeschool children.  There's been a news story about my school (and district where I work) because the mayor apparently made an announcement that he was hosting an in-person graduation for our two high schools.  Meanwhile, our superintendent and the principals have made it very clear in emails that this is not a school-sanctioned graduation, as that could result in loss of funding from the state since it's not really allowed just yet.

Instead, our school is holding its virtual graduation on Thursday, with a Youtube video virtual graduation.  Teachers were asked to send in messages, and as I posted in an earlier blog, I was able to reach out to a friend and get Tony-Award-Winning Actress Ali Stroker to do shout out (which was the sweetest thing- she and her family are some of the kindest people).

It's surreal, to not have all the pomp and circumstance of a normal graduation for these children.  Harry Potter, and other years it has been The Wizard of Oz, Toy Story, and Night at the Museum. The parents fundraise all year, and it's all hands on deck for the 24 hours leading into that special night.  The attraction is huge, and people from all over town come to walk through before the seniors show up around 11 PM.
One of the Harry Potter lounge spaces from 2019
Graduation is a big deal in my town, and every year, the parents create this huge "project graduation" night where students go from the graduation itself onto busses, have dinner, and then head back to the middle school, which is transformed according to that year's theme.  Last year, it was

The idea is that by having an all-inclusive party that is chaperoned by staff and parents, you can avoid kids doing stupid things like drinking and driving, doing drugs, etc.  Not that kids don't try- I have friends who chaperoned, and inevitably, someone tries to sneak in a flask (one year, someone had a friend toss alcohol through a bathroom window- nope, not kidding).  But overall, a good time is had by all.

When I was 18, my graduation night also consisted of a project graduation.  We went straight from the field onto busses, and headed to a cruise around Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.  There was a DJ, dancing, and lots of shrieking and photo-taking.  My now-husband and I had broken up a month earlier, but got back together on the boat, and I remember spending most of the rest of the night hanging out and dancing with him.  I also remember running around the school when we got back there, as it had been decorated to resemble the 1980's, complete with awesome life-sized cardboard cut outs of characters from Star Wars and other 80's films, video games, cartoon drawings and more.  In the wee hours of the morning, they held a raffle, where microwaves, tv's, and those cardboard cut outs were handed out to students with winning tickets.  Jeff and I both won microwaves, a huge boon for our college dorm rooms that coming fall.

 I was delirious by the time I headed home at 7 AM (I'd never stayed up all night before), and I had an hour to sleep before I had to be at soccer practice.  After all, Regionals were two weeks away.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Day 94- June 14, 2020

Day 94- June 14, 2020

We had a visitor in the backyard today- a little deer who jumped the fence, and we saw through the kitchen window, chomping on the foliage in the backyard. We've gotten really into the wildlife over the last few months, what with the many MANY groundhogs (Woody and her babies, all five of them), plus bun-bun the bunny and friends, not to mention the copious number of chipmunks who dart through the yard. But with the fence surrounding our property, the deer have been a rarity in the yard.

This sweet one wandered at her leisure, though- chomping on the hedges (which is great, they needed
a trim), munching the leaves from some of the trees in the far back.  We were a bit concerned about startling her, as the back edge of our property is basically a cliff behind the fence, and we didn't want her blindly trying to jump it and injuring herself.  We also didn't want her eating the apple trees we planted a few years ago, or the blueberries and blackberries that are just starting to form on our bushes, so we did do a small amount of gentle shooing to ensure their safety (and the deer's).

The girls have discovered Hannah Montana, and we are watching copious amounts of it.  They also are loving their Prodigy memberships, and I'm honestly shocked by how much they have both improved in math.  It's become fun for them, and the little prizes they win (pets that transform, houses, furniture for the houses) have been the perfect incentive in this game.  I never wanted my kids to be into video games, but I feel like this is a reasonable option.  Thinking back, I definitely played my share of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. when I was a kid.  It wasn't all-consuming, like I know it is for some people, but I enjoyed it and I feel like that's the case for the girls.

The kids are also excited because school ends Wednesday. I am giddy myself.  Part of the joy of being a teacher or librarian is interacting with your students- and I've missed that these last several months.  It's been exhausting trying to find new and innovative ways to help my colleagues and students, and at this point, I'm in the somewhat-boring stage of ordering things for next year.  But it's hard, because we don't know what school will look like in the fall.  I'm holding off on ordering hard-copies of books, because if everything is online, I need to focus more on ebooks.  If we go back to school, some of the online things I'm looking at would likely go unused.  So I'm holding off for more directives, which will hopefully come by August or so, when we have a better idea of what the new school year looks like.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Day 93- June 13, 2020

Day 93- June 13, 2020

We had a socially distanced play date today, the first one in about 100 days.  E's best friend A. and her older sister N. (who is the same age as R.)  have signed up to try out for soccer, and their mom and I talked about me going over there to work with the girls a little before the tryouts take place.  Since we are still being careful about social distancing (of course), we did some passing, foot skills, and then the girls just ran around the yard and played.  It was fantastic to chat with another mom, and talk about the "normal" mom things, like her adorable 5 month old daughter, getting back into the swing of things as stuff reopens, and what playing on a travel soccer team looks like in terms of commitment and money.

E. and R. were SO happy to see their friends.  I can't remember the last time I saw E. this happy.  She and A. were inseparable when we lived in the same town.  When we moved back to our house, E. was devastated that she had to leave her friends behind (especially her besties,  A. and O).

Kids need socialization, and it's definitely taken a toll on the girls that they haven't been able to have in-person meetings until now.  Yes, I completely agree with the social distancing, and I'm glad that we have curved the spread of this horrible virus.  I wouldn't exchange the lives of anyone for a playdate.  But there's definitely something to be said for the normalcy that comes from just having someone to laugh with and run around with that isn't your sibling.

We also got a visit at Sam's house from Jeff's parents, my awesome in-laws, who dropped by to see how the work was going, and to visit with the girls in the yard.   Jeff and I have been so busy between work (him) and school (me) that we feel like the girls aren't getting as much attention as they would like.  In step the grandparents- my mom and Bryan have spent a lot of time with them in the yard, and so have my in-laws.  Jeff was also proud to show off the changes that have happened at the house- it's a different place than what it was when we started, and I'm proud of him.

When it got closer to dinner time, we headed home, and the girls and I watched the series finale of The Kicks, an Amazon show that came out several years ago, and unfortunately was canceled after one season.  It follows a group of middle school soccer players whose team is called The Kicks, and a girl who has just moved to California and joined the team.  It's based on the books of the same name that were written by Alex Morgan of USWNT fame.  E. has been reading them with Jeff every night, and so watching the series is the icing on the cake.

That said- I wish there were more shows about girls playing sports.  It's something that millions of girls do, but there haven't been many television shows built around this.  Nickelodeon had one in the mid-2000's called Just For Kicks, which was also canceled after a season. It's a shame, because in both that show and in The Kicks, there are strong female protagonists of different cultural backgrounds all coming together to play a sport they love.  Liv and Maddie, which ran on Disney for four seasons, also centered on a sporty teen- a basketball player (and we watched every episode).  I'd love to have more of these types of shows to let me girls watch, but they are few and far between, and I suppose one of the issues is that the stars of them change so much from one season to the next that it's tough to keep them as believable middle schoolers for too long.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Day 92, June 12, 2020

Day 92, June 12, 2020

I'm a terrible school mom.  I mean, I'm a good mom.  I know this.  But I have given up on trying to keep up with all the activities that the school is trying to have me do with my kids.  Between art challenges and merry melody challenges and town-wide "art display" shows, I simply can't keep up.  I love my girls, and I  like their school.  The enthusiasm the teachers have is tremendous. But I'll be honest, I was just not feeling a home Field Day.

Field Day, when I was a kid, involved a lot of relay races and was the most fun day of the year.  I'm athletic, I thrive on competition.  It was red vs. blue, friend against friend, and I took it VERY seriously.  Points were awarded at every station- each game counted, so whether you were running while holding an egg on a spoon, or changing into dress up clothes and spinning in circles, you had to do your best.

When it came time for that tug of war, the points for red and blue were tallied, and at each grade level, you knew which team had won.  Then, the tug of war was held to award MORE points, usually enough to give either the blue or red team a school-wide victory. The highlight of elementary school was being in the 6th grade tug of war, where the blue team took on the red team while the whole school stood lining the field, and each kid was cheering for one of them (depending on the color you were assigned).  The decibel levels reached were gigantic, and I'm glad it was held outdoors.

There was only one year I didn't participate, and it was soul crushing.  I'd pulled my hamstring at a Memorial Day soccer tournament in Virginia, and was still on IR when Field Day rolled around two weeks later.  My teacher, Mrs. Lewitz, could tell how upset I was, and gave me the honor of dividing our class into the blue and red teams.  I tried to be as diplomatic and fair as possible, and I must have done something right, because it was the only time I ever saw two teams tie.

Now, Field Day is more about participation than winning, and I'll be honest, I think it loses some of its luster because of that.  The games can be entertaining- throwing at a dunk tank was a highlight last year at the girls' old school- but it's not the same as each relay counting towards the greater prestige of blue vs. red.  Now, they don't even HAVE teams of colors, just all the kids wearing school colors.

And this year, of course, Field Day wasn't to be at school because of quarantine.  And while I appreciate the phys ed teacher for trying to have the kids do something related to field day at home, I simply didn't have the energy to go seeking out all the scorecards and items to create field day games (I don't have multiple spatulas, and I certainly don't want the one I have broken while the kids try to bounce socks on it- I know, I'm a terrible person).  Instead, I took the girls outside, where they swam in the Intex pool (R.), and played soccer (E.).  It wasn't field day, but it was outside play, and I think that's the most important thing.

Speaking of outdoor play, we did have a minor meltdown today, as E. was upset that soccer isn't fun anymore.  This is a kid that, like me, thrives off competition.  Put her on the field with a bunch of other girls (or boys) and she'll be having the time of her life slide tackling, shooting, playing defense, scoring.  During her winter season (before all this lockdown stuff happened) she would lament that she only had soccer three days a week.  But she is over doing drills on her own, and through zoom.  She doesn't want to kick the ball against a wall- she wants to pass it with a teammate.  Tryouts for her club team are two weeks away, and can't get here soon enough, because she needs to feel that camaraderie and competition for this sport to be fun.  I can't blame her- while I understood that practice was necessary to get better, I was always a gamer too, and I can't imagine having four months of nothing but individual skills with zero competition. 

I told her if she doesn't want to play, it's totally her call, but that she might miss it when the games start again.  Which she responded to with "I want to play games.  I just don't want to do this boring stuff by myself".  Sigh.  The governor today mentioned summer school being able to start- in person- on July 6, so I have to imagine that in-person outdoor sports are going to be more normal soon (socially-distranced training is starting on June 22nd).  Tryouts for E.'s soccer team are the 28th, so I'm hopeful that she returns to her soccer-loving form soon.

In other news, we took the 360 degree photos of my mom's house through Real Tech today.  They came in with their special equipment, and even did a flyover video, which should be an awesome way to showcase the two acres of property I called home for much of my life.  It's interesting to look at your childhood home through the lens of a buyer- my mom has been going over it with a fine-tooth comb, and notices every imperfection.  I'm aware of some of the shortcomings, but overall, I feel like the warmth and history of the house more than outweigh them.  The goal is to get it on the market next Wednesday, so we'll see how buyers react.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Day 91- June 11, 2020

Day 91- June 11, 2020

I feel like at times, I've neglected my kids during quarantine.  Don't get me wrong, I'm spending a TON of time in the same room as them.  We are together constantly.  But a lot of that time recently feels like it's been spent with me working, and them trying to finish their homework on their computers.

A few years ago, things in our lives went financially crashing.  The business I'd thrown myself into for years was suddenly shuttered, and we found ourselves unable to afford our house.  We didn't want to sell, but at the same time, we couldn't stay.  So while trying to figure out the best alternative (rent?  sell?  Move into an RV on our buddy's property - a viable option we actually thought could be fun, considering how much we'd been watching "Tiny Home" shows that were all the rage), my stepdad Bryan jumped in and offered to let us move in with him and my mom.  My mom, after checking to make sure he was serious, and not suffering from a stroke, okayed the plan, and my two kids moved into my sister and my childhood bedrooms, while Jeff and I took up residence in the in-law suite off the kitchen, which had been created when my Granny moved in with my family around the time I turned 16.

The ironic part of this extreme downsize was how much it brought us together as a family.  We had moved from a large house with about 3000 sq. ft. of living space down to a bedroom/living room hybrid that clocks in closer to 300 sq. ft- that didn't have a lock on the door- and was off the kitchen we now shared with my mom and Bryan. Jeff was working as a bartender at an upscale restaurant from about 7 PM until close, I was teaching until noon, then working at the public library until 6, and my kids were in school until either Jeff or my mom picked them up.  Perhaps because of our insane schedules, those hours we spent together were extremely precious.  We made a point that if Jeff and I were both off on the same day, we had a family adventure.  We drove to the beach, took trips to Princeton to walk around, and Pennsylvania to hike.  There were days we went into New York to see the Museum of Natural History, walk around central park, or head north to the Bronx Zoo.   We made a point to have dinner together during our hour overlap even on the busiest of days.  And it was great.

The thing I've learned is that the things we do daily- those become so routine we take them for granted.  The people we see, the friends we spend a lot of time with, the little moments.  Yet when there's a rarity, or we miss out on these daily doses of the mundane. we yearn for them.  That's how it was with our family time- with it suddenly in short supply, we made a point to cherish each moment.

My VERY wet child after her run.
MyAnd now, with all of us cooped up together, it's almost something I started to take for granted.  Jeff has noticed it too, and he had make a conscious effort to do chess, swimming, and gardening time with R. and E., and finding other activities that appeal to each girl individually.  Today, for instance, he and E. went running (she's prepping for soccer, he's in the best shape he's been in since playing college lacrosse).  They got stuck in a sudden downpour, which E. thought was the greatest experience ever.  While she was showering post-run (since she was dripping wet anything, R. asked, for the third day in a row, if we could please bake cookies.

I acquiesced, and I put down my computer, she put down hers, and we spent some quality time going through her Children's Baking Book to find the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies she's been craving.  We had a minor mishap when we exploded some butter in our new microwave (oops), but otherwise, she was on task with mixing in the flour, oats, and cinnamon, and then adding in the eggs, melted (and cooled) butter, and sugar.  By the time we folded in the chocolate chips (which, of course, she had to sample to ensure they were yummy enough), she was grinning from ear to ear.  The finished product was delicious, and each girl was allowed one right away, because there are few things in the world better than cookies still warm from the oven, when the chocolate is still soft and gooey.

We took our Mommy- Rooskie (her nickname- a twist on "roo", which is what my best friend Ali and
You can never have too many BSC books
I have called dogs since we were kids)  time a step further, and worked a bit on the library she's making in her room.  I'm a librarian, and she's a "rule following" child who likes things to be done exactly, so finding her alphabetizing her collection of books last week didn't really seem out of the ordinary.  When I got in there, she'd already done a lot, including putting all the Babysitters Club books under "M" for Martin, and going a step further by putting them in order as well.

The only issue, though, is that as bright as she is, she gets distracted easily, and her biggest weakness is books.  Since she started reading at almost-four, if she has a book in her hands, forget it.  She has mentally checked out of our world, and is immersed in whatever is printed on the page.  So she needed a bit of help staying on task, and she wanted me to work with her on arranging her nonfiction texts by the Dewey Decimal System.  While I'm proud of her enthusiasm, I was more concerned with getting the books off the floor to remove the tripping hazard, so we compromised and put subjects (science, space, biographies) together, and alphabetized the fiction.  We can further divide the nonfiction some time in the future.

While we were working on the library, E. was reorganizing her diner once again.  She likes to freshen things up, swap out the animals in the "pet adoptions petting zoo" section (I know, having an alpaca and platypus next to the plastic food is probably some kind of health code violation), and add offerings at the diner.

This week, she's creating a menu, as that is part of her final "writing unit" for school.  The kids were given the option to do another slideshow, write poetry, craft a short story- or create an original restaurant menu.  I've got to hand it to her, the menu is adorable, with descriptions of the entrees, desserts, appetizers and drinks.  She even put in prices, complete with options to save money (appetizers are $2, but if you buy a dessert too- at $5 a dessert- you can do the appetizer for only $1).  She's got that entrepreneurial spirit that I have, and I'm impressed with her moxie at such a young age.  The only downside is that she likes creating so much, she loses track of bedtime, and has to be reminded 72,486 times to put down the ears of corn and cupcakes, and get into bed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Day 90- June 10, 2020

Day 90- June 10, 2020

Another friend of a friend came through my mom's house today.  It's one of the neighbor's besties, and we were hopeful for a match, but I don't think it's meant to be.  It's a unique house, a large victorian colonial with a ton of charm, history, and character, but not the cutting edge modern updates some people are looking for.  Also, with three teens, the master bedroom on its own level is amazing, but the three bedrooms upstairs work for only two of them (the third is tiny), and the fourth large bedroom is ground level- with its own entrance- which may be a teen's dream, but probably not so much for a parent.

As I said to my mother, "Can you imagine if Nicole had been living in that room when she was 16?  She would have been sneaking out nightly."

To be fair, her response was to quip "She just climbed out the window."  E. overheard and I had to pretend we were joking- which we (sort of) were.

The porch where I spent a lot of humid
summer nights hanging out with friends.
As teens, my sister and I were pretty good, but there were definitely times we both snuck out, or snuck people (boys) into the house after hours.  I have some pretty distinct memories of climbing oh-so-carefully down the stairs to avoid the ones that squeaked, and pulling open the heavy sliding glass doors in the family room for some clandestine meetings (sorry Mom).

It's been tough coming to grips with selling this house.  Teenage antics aside, there were also a ton of additional memories in that house, the floodgates for which I'm not quite ready to open just yet.  There's history in a home that's been in your family for 35 years.  I grew up there, I learned to love there, I cried, said good-bye, said hello- all at that house.  As I said to my husband today, "there's not a place I can look on this property that I don't have a memory."  To demonstrated, I pointed to the giant rocks, which were pulled up and moved when they demoed an old barn by the side woods.

"See those boulders?  That's where Nicole and I used to draw with watercolors- and jump off of when we were feeling ambitious."  I turned towards the woods near the back.  "That big oak?  There was a vine that hung from it that I used to swing on, until it fell.  Then, we had a tire swing hung from a big branch, and I used to sail out over the blackberry bushes."

I kept pointing.  "And that tree at the start of the path in the woods?  Ali and I  transplanted it when it was a sapling.  And the path to her old house-  remember when we lit it up with Christmas lights and had that epic Memorial Day party in our yard and Ali's, with all those people from college and our home friends because we ran into high school buddies at The Office and invited them- and they all showed up, with more friends?!  There must have been 200 people here!"

Now I was looking closer, checking things off in my head, thinking of the inside of the house as well as the yard.

That's where we first saw my puppy, Greta, when I was in third grade.
That's where I used to swing and sing along with Billy Joel's Greatest Hits while my dad built the three-season porch.
That's the window my crush broke in 6th grade by tapping it with a flashlight as he and a bunch of the boys from my elementary school crashed my birthday party. 
That's the dirt path Greta created by running around the pool area, trying to "herd" us.
That's the hallway where my sister and I played epic battles of indoor soccer.
That's where we had soccer practice for my rec team in the backyard.
That's the spot where my mom stood cradling Allison the puppy in her arms on Christmas morning, with Greta bounding around her feet.
That's the deck where I ran around with  my friends, swinging bells and blowing into noisemakers, shouting "Happy New Year!" and freezing in our nicest outfits.
That's where we put a canoe in the pool when we had our final soccer party in 8th grade, because our coach had to stop coaching us since she worked at our high school (the canoe was for her).
That's where I walked into the only surprise birthday party I've ever had, singing "Au Bal Masque" with Ali and Heather at loud decibels.
That's where my treehouse was, where I had my first real kiss (my parents may have been smart to take that thing down)
That's the spot where I had my first kiss with my husband- when we were 15- right before his mom pulled into the driveway to pick him up. 
That's the garage where I had my sweet sixteen party.
That's the basement where we filmed a French video about zombies.
That's the porch where I my friends and I hung out during hot summer rainstorms in our late teens.
Those are the steps I stood on while hugging my granny after my dad, her youngest son, died.
That's where my sister and I hung up tarps so we could continue to have bands playing in the rain for a party.
That's where my mom and stepdad threatened to call the police because there were still late party guests in the pool at 4AM.
That's the kitchen where my husband asked my mom for her blessing before picking out my engagement ring.
That's the spot where we told my mom she was going to have another grandchild, and she said "How did this happen?!" (we had a nine-month old at the time) and my husband responded "Well Laura, when a man and woman really love each other..." before I smacked him on the arm.
That's where my daughters met their cousins for the first time.
That's where we took photos for my mom's wedding to my stepdad.
That's where the girls learned to swim.
That's where we had a mini-reunion of my best friends (and their children) before our 20th high school reunion.

PART of the backyard (there's a whole soccer field
on the other side of the pool)
It's a lot, and those are maybe a hundredth of the memories that swirl every time I walk through that house, on that property.  It's hard to believe how quickly the time flew by, and how much I'm going to miss it. Over the next several weeks, while I'm writing this daily blog, I'm sure I'll elaborate on these (or others) that are shareable to the public as I'm reminded of moments while experiencing the present.  The private memories, which are some of the best of course, those I'll keep to myself and to talks with friends and loved ones.  But it's good to be writing, it's good to remember.

When I was writing my thesis, I wrote about a theory on time that exists- one that says that at any moment, in any place, that everything that has ever happened, and will ever happen, are all going on simultaneously.  If you could just peek through the fabric of time, you could glimpse those moments.  At my mom's house, I always have that feeling, and I think that's what I'm going to miss the most.  With access to that place, it feels like those memories are alive, that as long as I'm there to see them in my mind's eye, they are still occurring, somewhere in the ether.

And I have to remind myself, it's a place.  It's just a place, and the memories - those are going to be with me, long after my mom moves.  They are a (rather large) part of who I am, who I am becoming, and who I'm going to be.  And that's always going to be true.