Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mini-blog montage

            Ideally, I want this blog to do two things at once: 1) I want it to be a record of our lives and an archive of the stories that come out of that living and 2) I want it to connect those stories to broader issues and trends at work in the world. My ability to bring both of these goals together in a single post varies greatly from week to week as I struggle to find the right line between the narrowly parochial and topics that stray too far afield.
            And some weeks I just run out of gas.
            This is one of those latter entries. The last couple of weeks have had their share of little dramas and minor stories, but the things that have largely occupied my mind – school redistricting, Pip’s accelerated program application – I’ve already written about. This leaves me with a set of smaller stories and thoughts, none of which rise to the level of a full post. In light of that, I decided to collect some of them together into a line of mini-posts that capture some recent moments without trying to expand them into something bigger than they are. Think of this as an impressionist montage that when blended together perhaps finds its own organic logic.

Snow: During the month of February we got hit by two very large snowstorms each of which brought us somewhere between 10-14 inches of snow. As a result I spent a good deal of February working a snow shovel. At the same time, we also learned that Polly now really loves snow. This did not use to be the case. Two years ago, Polly would grudgingly come out and waddle around in the yard while Pip and I threw snowballs at each other. Last year, she got a chance to go sledding a couple of times and decided that that was pretty fun, but otherwise she’d rather just stay inside. This year when we let the kids out into the backyard Polly went galloping out into the drifts like a puppy. The snow was over her knees and she had trouble going more than a few feet before falling over, but this didn’t faze her one bit. She stumbled and rolled and frolicked and dove. She climbed up the piles we had shoveled off the driveway and went sliding headfirst down them like a penguin. She built a snowturtle with me after the first storm and a snowfort for Pip after the second. She ran up the sledding hill over and over until her body gave out and she couldn’t stand any more. This was Polly’s year when it came to snow. I can’t wait to see what she does next year.

Soccer: This spring Pip and Polly are both playing soccer and it should be very interesting to see what happens. First of all, since last fall Pip has grown bigger and stronger. He’s kicking the ball with more force. He’s plunging into our backyard games of chicken with more confidence. He’s using his hands and body more when I come at him with the ball. These are all signs that he’ll be a stronger, more aggressive player than he was last season and I’m interested in seeing what that means on the field. He played a great deal of defense last season, getting more solid in the back as the games went along. Now he wants to push forward into the midfield and get into the offensive action as well. He feels like this is his chance to shine, and he’s probably right. Next fall he’ll have to move up an age group.
            On the flip side, Polly is making her first efforts at soccer this spring and it makes me crazy nervous. Although she could play in the under 6 age group, we requested that the league bump her up to under 8 so she could join the same that team that Pip and I are a part of. She has a good friend on the team as well which I think will be good for both of them.
Polly is an agile and determined kid. If she’s committed to playing and finds it to be fun, she will do well. My biggest fears are that 1) she gets frustrated during the first two or three practices because she can’t do something right away or as well as the others and I don’t have the ability to work her through that frustration, 2) she feels left out during scrimmages because the ball doesn’t come her way as much as she would like it to, or 3) she can’t make the separation between me as ‘Dad’ and me as ‘coach.’ While any of these hurdles could derail the experience for her, I also feel that if I can get her through the first few weeks, then things will smooth out. I think ideally we would have started her in the all girls league but logistically having her play on the same team as Pip makes more sense. If she really does enjoy it this spring then when the fall comes around and Pip moves up to U10, we might consider other options.

Books: Pip and Polly are both very good readers. Polly spent much of the winter huddled over a heating vent in our living room paging through the likes of Geronimo Stilton, the Penderwicks, Tinker Bell adventures, and Magic Tree House books. Pip has cruised through the Rick Riordan young adult anthology, gobbling down the Percy Jackson books, the Heroes of Olympus series, and the Kane Chronicles. The speed with which he consumed each of these books led Ava and I to wonder how closely he was actually reading the texts, but whenever we asked him about this he seemed to be able to give a pretty good summary of what he’d read.
Now that he’s finished off those books, he doesn’t know what he wants to read next. I’ve brought home a couple of possibilities – The Three Musketeers, The Egypt Game, Magyk - and nothing has really taken. He’s mostly interested in rereading the Riordan books, picking out whatever is available on the library shelf and spending time revisiting familiar scenes. At one level this is fine. Knowing the plotline allows him to read more slowly and fully, taking in the characters and examining how the plot works. At the same time, it worries me that he’s not interested in exploring further afield. There are plenty of good books out there, but you have to take a chance on something new to find them. He isn’t interested in doing that yet. I imagine he will finally break out when he stops finding new things in the books he has already read. But I’m anxious for him to get on with it. Rick Riordan is fine for a cheap thrills kind of read, but there’s plenty of better stuff that I want him to get around to.

Spring Break: This year Ava’s university shifted its spring break week to align with the spring break week of the local county school system. This means that both Ava and the kids will be out of school for the entire week before Easter. To celebrate, we’re going to take an actual week-long, family vacation-style trip to Washington, DC. It’s still two solid weeks away but the anticipation is already pretty high. I’m looking forward to seeing the Air and Space Museum annex out at Dulles Airport (It has a Concorde, a Blackbird, and a Space Shuttle, three machines I’d drive all the way to DC just to see). Polly has spent a goodly amount of time over the past two weekends packing her things and then adding more stuff to the bags she wants to take with her. By the time the trip arrives, she’ll have half her worldly possessions stuffed away in her luggage. Pip has combed through several guidebooks to identify all the restaurants we could possibly eat at and Ava, in her usual way, has been organizing the food we will actually eat into boxes for the car.

            With all the work, thought, and planning that’s going into this trip, it will be a relief to get there and actually be able to go about doing all things we have in mind. 

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