I think I've talked before about the Zen concept of a "worry basket." All your worries go into a basket, and it's up to you to decide what happens to them. Ideally, you will empty out your basket every day—delegating, letting go, solving, or doing whatever else you need to do to make the worries go away. Me? Not so much. I hang on to my worries—and even find others to add to the basket to keep them company. And at night? The worries expand and become larger than life.
This diagram has been circulating on the Internet for a while:
At first I loved it, and then I realized that it is so far from my own experience that it's almost laughable. I get stuck at almost every corner. First off, I can't imagine ever answering "No" to "Do you have a problem in your life?" I mean, really. Then, once I get onto the "Yes" path, it's no better. If I can do something about it, then yes, I suppose I can eventually stop worrying. But the trickiest part of the whole thing is the "If you can't do something about it, then don't worry" path. What else is there to do? I mean, if your kid is sick, you can't do anything about it, but that doesn't mean you can just turn off the worrying, does it? Does it?
I am a worrier.
And, last but not least, it's Julie! Julie will be 10 in a couple of weeks, and she's in the fourth grade. She has the same teacher Pete had, which was just what we had hoped. She enjoys school and really just loves learning in general. She's very excited because the fourth graders get to take musical instrument lessons, and she chose the clarinet. Her first lesson was today, but all they did was learn how to put the clarinet together! She has already practiced a bit at home, though, and she can make a few sounds out of it.
Her beloved piano teacher retired last spring, and we decided that it was a good opportunity to take a break from piano, since she hadn't been practicing much for a few months. I hope she'll go back to it, but regardless, she did get a good solid foundation that she'll always have.
Julie is also playing travel soccer this year, after several years of intramurals. It was a hard decision for her, because she'd been with the same coach and teammates for 2 years (fall and spring), but she decided to make the move. Now she has two practices and one game each week, and she's loving it. She also has Hebrew school twice a week, and we've decided that's enough for now. Maybe once soccer season ends we will look into some other activity.
In the meantime, she can usually be found reading or jumping rope or doing some sort of art project. She has perhaps the sunniest disposition of anyone I've ever known—I don't believe I've ever seen her even remotely grouchy. I hope that lasts as we approach the puberty years!
Next up is Pete! His update will likely be the longest, because he has the most going on right now.
Pete is in seventh grade, which is Bar Mitzvah year. (Don't worry, his isn't until June—I have plenty of time to plan it, right? Right?!) He's already been to two Bar Mitzvahs this fall and has two more coming up. As with Steph at this stage, we are aware that our kid has a way more active social life than we do. It's such fun.
So, he's obviously in Hebrew school this year, but it doesn't start for another couple of weeks. And he'll again be doing his community service work, but this year it will be at Rosie's Place! The soup kitchen he worked at last year was great, but there ended up being some conflicts with other groups who volunteered there, and our kids hardly ever got to do anything. So this year they will be sometimes cooking food and other times serving food at Rosie's. I think it will be great. He also starts his own Bar Mitzvah tutoring sessions next month.
School is going well. He likes (most of) his teachers and is handling the work just fine.
The big deal this fall is soccer. Pete is doing the city travel team again this year, and he is with some of his old teammates as well as some new ones. His coach is outstanding—probably the best coach he's ever had in any sport. But more importantly, sometime between last year and this year, Pete took a huge leap up in skill, speed, game sense, foot work, and everything else that goes along with it. I don't really know much about soccer, but Andy does, and he is just astonished—and delighted. He says he could watch this kid play soccer all day long.
And the really big deal is that Pete made the middle school team, which is something of a coup for a seventh-grader. That means that he has travel team 3 times a week (2 practices and 1 game) and school team 4 times a week (some combination of practices and games). If you think that that's an awful lot of soccer, you are right. And you are not even the one driving him back and forth to all of these fields. But he is loving it.
However, a few weeks ago, Pete started complaining of heel pain. Some of his friends mentioned something called Sever's Disease. (Man, I hate the word disease! It's a syndrome, or a condition, but not a fricking disease!) I consulted Dr. Wiki, and it might as well have just said "Pete's Disease." To wit: "Sever's disease ... is the most common cause of heel pain in the growing athlete and is due to overuse ... of growth plates of ... the heel ... with the majority of patients presenting between 10 and 14 years of age." And so on, all of it describing Pete to a T. Other websites concurred, and all suggested stretching, ice packs, and orthotic inserts.
The pain started migrating to his ankles, to the point that he was visibly limping and had to be taken out of the game on Saturday! He was miserable! We got him some generic orthotic inserts yesterday and stressed the importance of stretching and icing, and he said that the pain wasn't so bad at practice today. Meanwhile, he has an appointment at the end of the week with a podiatrist to see what else we can do—maybe custom orthotics or some other kind of cleats?
The good news is that if this is indeed Sever's, it's neither harmful nor permanent—just painful and frustrating! Here's hoping we can get rid of the pain so he can have a great season. He is so excited to be on both teams and really excelling at this sport.
Pete has given up the sax, which is a disappointment but not a surprise. And the drums, which is mostly a relief. I hope he will find a way to incorporate music into his life at some point in the future.
Other than all of that, Pete is happiest when he is hanging out with his buddies, particularly if they are riding bikes. This summer was the first time Pete really took to his bike. He'd ride to the pool, to Starbucks (just like when we were kids, right?), to his friends' houses, or just around the neighborhood. He loves the freedom of just announcing that he's going for a ride, and I love that we live in an area where it's safe for him to ride around alone, and where there are desirable destinations that don't require riding on or across a highway.
And that is Pete. Tomorrow is Julie's turn. (And yes, I promise to post current photos, per Scott's comment yesterday!)
Yikes, it's been so long since I've blogged that I had to log in to Typepad! Sorry.
Anyhow, here comes the first of three updates on the kids.
Steph is in ... (drumroll, please!) high school! How can this be possible, you ask? I don't know. (And the first person who reminds me that she'll be driving in a couple of years gets smacked.) Three weeks into her freshman year and she thinks it is "awesome." So far the work is manageable and she likes most of her teachers. I'm glad we were able to fit chorus into her schedule, because that is her only nonacademic activity right now. She is thinking about getting involved with the school newspaper or the drama stage crew.
Steph has had two best friends for years now. One of them, who lives in our neighborhood, started private school this year. That's been hard, because they used to ride the bus together every day in middle school and got together all the time on weekends for sleepovers, mall trips, movies, and just hanging out. I'm hoping they can still keep up the friendship (Steph is at her house right now, in fact), but I know it gets hard when you don't see each other regularly and start having all different friends and activities. Her other best friend (since kindergarten!) just told her that she's likely moving overseas in November! Not fair! So sad! Steph has other friends, but these two have been the mainstay of her social life for a long time, so it's going to be tough.
Once a month or so, Steph babysits at the temple during Friday night services (with an adult). Anyone who wants to drop off their young children in the preschool wing during services can do so for free. Steph thinks it's fun—and gets paid for her 2 hours of playing with cute little kids! I think she would do it even more often if they needed more volunteers. (I always said that once Hebrew school ended, you couldn't pay Steph to set foot in the temple again, but it turns out I was wrong—you can pay her!)
She still loves Glee [and this is the point at which I stopped typing last night, put Julie to bed, forgot to finish up and hit PUBLISH, and went to sleep myself], the Red Sox, shopping, and reading. And that is what Steph's up to these days! Next up: Pete.
Yes, Internet pals, I'm still here! But "here" = in over my head (so as to explain why I haven't posted in a dog's age).
School has started, and all is well (details on all 3 kids to come, I promise!). I'm the Library Coordinator for the elementary school, and it has been an exponentially greater commitment than I ever imagined. Yes, I did this last year, but this year I am the "senior" partner, which means that I get to do the schedule. Which necessitates finding a minimum of 4 volunteers for each of the 18 classes, scheduling them to come in based on their availability and the classroom timetable, and then training all the newbies. I can delegate some of the training to my co-coordinator, but the scheduling itself is by its nature a one-person job—you can't have two people trying to fill out a single calendar, now can you?
Twitter pal Kathy put things into perspective for me, though. She is a school librarian in Atlanta and replied to my whining tweets with this: "Wow, I wish I had enough volunteers to have a schedule!" So yes, I am very grateful that I now have to email more than 60 volunteers whenever the schedule changes. But still. It has taken up an enormous amount of time that I had planned to spend working. Next fall I will know better.
So: Work. Endless forms and meetings and such for school. Other volunteer gigs. Household and life responsibilities.
Consider yourselves caught up.
I started this blog in 2004; on 9/11 of that year I posted this:
Three years ago today, Rachel and I dropped off Hannah and Stephanie at preschool and went back to her house with Matty and Pete for some tea and chit-chat while the boys pushed trucks around the playroom. Soon enough Rachel's husband called and told us to turn on the TV immediately. We remained glued to the set for the next several hours (during which time, Rachel at last heard from her Wall St. brother, who was safe and healthy). The boys were just toddlers, so we could leave the news on the whole time without their noticing anything. I can just barely conjure up my feelings of disbelief and shock and fear and confusion. At last we had to go back to get the girls at preschool, and two things stand out in my memory. First, I had forgotten that Stephanie was wearing a T-shirt of the Manhattan skyline (her choice that morning), so the Twin Towers were staring me in the face as I tried to be brave and cheerful. Second, the preschool director informed us that we should be on the lookout for any children who might be upset because the preschool's pet dove (yes, dove!) had died suddenly that morning.
The rest is all a blur, although I do recall thinking in those first few scary days and weeks, "What if I have to give birth in a dark basement, all alone?" (I was 8 months pregnant with Julie at the time.) I ended up being grateful that I didn't dare turn on the news anytime Stephanie was around, as I was spared at least some of the nonstop soul-numbing images and commentary during that time. I am still moved to tears at almost any mention of the victims and their families and the many, many ordinary people who acted in extraordinary ways that day.
Now I'm watching the History Channel, which has some amazing footage I'd never seen before. I'm rewatching that documentary by those French brothers about the NYFD. I'm looking at photos like these and weeping. I'm thinking of my cousin, who was in one of the towers but got out in time—and just ran and ran until he couldn't run anymore. And of course I'm thinking of those who didn't get out, and those on the planes (a friend's mom, another friend's sister), and the families of everyone involved.
Pete had to interview me for his history class, and one of the questions was about what I hoped might be accomplished by this ten-year anniversary commemoration. I said that right after 9/11, there was a feeling of unity and pride in this country, but that it had faded over time. Perhaps we can get it back.
I'm not actually reading anything right now (the horror! too much work though), but I did read two books last month.
First was Insignificant Others by Stephen McCauley. I didn't hate it, but I certainly didn't love it as I have loved others of McCauley's books (like Object of My Affection, True Enough, Man of the House, etc.). He explores the same territory as always—gay couples living in Boston and Cambridge—but, not surprisingly, his characters have gotten a little older over the years. So while I appreciated that he's allowing his characters to age, I was still not happy with all the infidelity and deceit. Maybe it's just not my community, but it didn't feel right. I liked the way it ended though.
In any event, I do get a huge kick out of McCauley's use of language—some of his bons mots are worthy of Oscar Wilde. For instance:
From what I can tell, the chief distinguishing factor between children and adults is that children hear everything while appearing not to and adults hear nothing while pretending to listen.
Elsewhere the narrator talks about his first visit to IKEA when the chain finally came to the Boston area:
My reaction to it reminded me of my first visit to a bathhouse in Chicago, deades earlier. I'd approached with enthusiasm and excitement, and had, upon entering, felt overwhelmed by the plethora of possibilities. Fifteen minutes later, though, after adjusting to the light, I'd started to notice the flaws and potential hazards, and I realized there wasn't much I wanted to take home and nothing I'd care to see on a daily basis.
The other book I read was Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, which was beautiful and moving, but really, really sad. It's a novel told in the form of 13 interconnecting stories, each of which could easily stand on its own. Olive Kitteridge, retired junior high math teacher in a small Maine town, appears in each story—sometimes as the star, sometimes as a mere mention by another character. I personally preferred the stories that featured her prominently, as she was fascinating to get to know. She's stubborn and opinionated, but she also displays the deep feelings of love and pain and confusion and regret and everything else that makes us human. Strout's writing is plain but gorgeous; I'm so glad to hear she has other (traditional) novels that I can seek out now. I highly recommend this book (did I mention it won the Pulitzer?), although some of it was heartbreakingly sad.
What should I read next, while I wait for Jeffrey Eugenides's new novel to come out in 33 days (but who's counting?).
As we do every Labor Day weekend, last Friday we headed north for one last summer blast. We spent the day Saturday at the 141st Lancaster County Fair, where vertigo-inducing rides were ridden, deep-fried Twinkies were scarfed, money was donated to carnies in exchange for dime-store "prizes," helicopter rides were taken, lambs and goats were patted, quarters were pumped into the coin-dozer machines, and in general a good time was had by all.
And today? Today I watched Steph get on the bus to high school! Then I watched Pete get on the bus to middle school! Then I walked Julie down to the elementary school! Then I went home and tried to get some work done. I have too much on my plate right now, but I'm trying not to complain because at least it's better than not having enough. But it's tough.
So all three kids had a great first day of school, and I'm looking forward to settling into a routine.