imagesAs we prepared to bury three goldfish in the backyard this afternoon, I thought about William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, which I read in 11th grade and remember only bits and pieces of, but enough to picture a homemade coffin and grotesque family dynamics related to the family matriarch. By contrast, I dug a shallow grave in the mulch and dirt under the pathetic frozen hydrangea bush. I laid to rest Dumbledore (the fish, not the wizard), who had been stored in a small cardboard box within a ziplock bag since his untimely death on January 4, just 11 days after he and his fish friends Mad-Eye Moody and Tonks were given to Zoe for Christmas by Aunt Susannah and Uncle Aaron. The fish and their home were her favorite Christmas present. She had asked for fish for Christmas but revealed to me after the fact that she did not actually expect to receive any.

We thought Dumbledore died from too much poop in the fish tank, so we thoroughly cleaned the tank after he died. We journeyed to PetSmart to find a successor but instead bought new rocks and plastic plants for the tank. The fish woman at the pet store said goldfish are not really meant to be pets. They’re meant to feed larger fish or swim in ponds, she suggested. Perhaps that’s why they cost 15 cents each, or something like that. We learned that all the other fish available at PetSmart are not compatible with goldfish because goldfish can live in cold water, and the other fish need heat. So Zoe and I decided that we would continue to care for Tonks and Mad-Eye until they outgrew their tank or died.

We did not expect that death would come so soon, just two weeks later. Because of what happened to Dumbledore we were proactive in cleaning the tank on Monday night, before it was noticeably poop-ridden. Speaking of poop, Zoe had observed that each fish in turn was constipated. I had not known this was a problem that beset goldfish but it is. Zoe brought home a book from the school library about goldfish care that instructed us to feed the fish tiny bits of lettuce or oats if they were constipated. Randy and I each chopped up some lettuce and Zoe conscientiously fed it to the fish as needed until their GI tracts were clear.

So when we cleaned the tank, we did all the same stuff as before, except for whatever we did differently, because in the morning Tonks and Mad-Eye were floating awkwardly instead of swimming jauntily as they had been for the past two weeks.

Zoe was distraught. The night Dumbledore died she sat in my lap and cried for a while (probably also because she and Randy had just returned from an exciting adventure in Florida with her paternal grandparents and she was coming down from that). She apologized the next morning for crying and I told her she was entitled to cry and there was no reason to apologize.

So this morning she was even more distraught, and cried in my arms again for a while. I called school and told them she would be late. All she was missing was PE. I emailed her teacher to alert her to Zoe’s disposition. After school today, in the bitter wind and 25 degree temperatures, we held the fish funeral. I said thank you to the fish for being Zoe’s first pets, and for contributing to the soil so flowers could grow, and said that I hoped they were swimming happily in fish heaven. I held Zoe’s hand. She cried. She said goodbye. Later, inside, she told me there was more she wanted to say but she couldn’t because she was crying, so she said it in her head. I told her she could still say it, to me, or she could write it down, or she could just keep it in her heart.

Now the tank is empty. The light is off. The filter is quiet. It’s too cold to buy new fish right now and we’re expecting a massive snowstorm this weekend. I told Zoe this would be a good opportunity to research some heartier aquarium fish and–more importantly–how to take care of them. The fish were possibly a starter pet as we considered small mammals for the future–perhaps a pair of guinea pigs? But we’ve got to improve our fish skills before bringing anyone furry into the house.

When I was a kid I had a series of goldfish. I don’t even remember how many. One of them–who I know was named Patrick–jumped out of the bowl and I found him lying on the carpet of my bedroom when I got home from school. I couldn’t understand what had prompted him to try to escape. I buried them all in matchboxes in the backyard. I don’t remember my parents helping, but maybe they did. I don’t remember crying, but probably I did.

Today I could tell that Zoe’s heart was breaking, even though they were only fish, and even though she had known them for less than a month. They were her first pets. They were wholly hers. And she loved them.

It’s a terrible and relentless cough and Zeke is miserable. I think it’s croup again. Tonight before bed he was just wailing in despair. He didn’t want his stuffed animals. He only wanted to snuggle under the blanket with me and rock in the glider and for me to hold his feet. 

When I thought he was asleep I laid him down in the bed. He sat back up. I asked him what was wrong. He made some indecipherable noises. I urged him to use words. 

He said, “I want my friend!”

“Your animals?” I offered. “Mimi?” (The cat). “Uh Oh Dog?” (The dog).

“No!” He cried. “Zoe!”

“You want Zoe? Ok, I’ll go get her.”

So I ran downstairs to summon Zoe. 

Often all Zoe wants to do is collect hugs and kisses from her brother. Rarely does he oblige. 

Zoe returned upstairs with me and sat down on Zeke’s bed. “Do you want me to sit with you?” He nodded. She said, “why don’t you lie down?” And gently eased him back to his pillow. She tucked the blankets back over him and laid down between him and the wall, wedging herself carefully into the space so as not to disturb him. She rubbed his back for a while. She smiled at me and asked if he was asleep. I nodded and she started to sit up. He opened an eye and raised his head slightly. She lay back down beside him and I covered her legs with a extra blanket. She rubbed his back some more. She stroked his hair. She lightly kissed the top of his head. She put the extra blanket on top of him and gave him one more kiss before climbing down out of his little bed. 

Soy-Candle-Flame-Inquiring-ChefThe watermelon scented soy candle

I lit on top of the stove could be

in memory of the departed soul of

the decomposing mouse I discovered

under the oven or

a desperate effort to

mask the odor of


Cindy_lou_whoAt 4:41am Zoe came in to our room and stood by my side of the bed and asked me to tuck her back in because she had just had “a slightly bad dream.” I walked her back into her room and helped her rearrange the blankets. She turned on the Muppets Christmas cd on her iPod at low enough volume so as not to wake Zeke, but loud enough that I could still make out the reassuring Muppet singing when I returned to my room. Zoe’s wall is on the other side of our closet, which is currently completely empty (including floor and most of the drywall) because of recent water damage. For some reason I could not get back to sleep. Perhaps because I fell asleep while putting Zeke to bed at 8:30. Even after I laid him down, I was so groggy that I then fell asleep on the floor in the hall outside our bedroom door. Randy tried to wake me up but I was confused and I think I said something rude to him (sorry, babe) and lay there for a while until I could rouse myself to brush my teeth and take my vitamins and fall into bed.

So this morning at 5 I was wide awake, thinking of things undone. Not that it’s unusual to lie in bed and think of things undone, but since today is Christmas Eve, there is more than usual to do, and I’ve just been in denial. A month ago yesterday my mom had a stroke, and continues to deal with expressive aphasia. Our family life has been disrupted, to put it mildly. We are immensely thankful that she didn’t suffer more severe consequences from the stroke, but I would be lying if I said things were back to normal. Meanwhile, we experienced the aforementioned water damage, which has caused us to basically rearrange our house while the crisis was resolved. The real repairs have not yet been done, so we are still in a state of disarray, although we’ve tried to make it as liveable as possible, even though we will have to rearrange it all again once we get a contractor in to fix the ceilings, build a new closet, and install new flooring throughout the house. So this is a nuisance, to be sure, but I think I’ve been less worried about it (although still annoyed) because relatively speaking, the house issues shrink in the shadow of more meaningful issues like my mom’s health.

A few weeks ago in church the service [scroll down to sermon archives and select December 13 if you want to watch] was about our church delegation’s trip to Guatemala to spend time with people there who have endured decades of oppression, abuse, and marginalization at the hands of their government (trained by the US) and international corporations (based in the US). The altar and the entrance to the sanctuary were surrounded by cardboard boxes bearing the addresses of locations in Guatemala where human remains of persecuted people have been rescued from mass graves. Forensic technicians, who Rev. Aaron aptly called angels, are working to identify the remains to return them to their families.

Suffering seems to come in small, medium, and large right now and each example may shift to a different category depending on what else happens. My mom’s stroke relegated the water damage and resulting chaos in my house to medium because aphasia is LARGE. But Guatemala, the recent anniversary of Sandy Hook and the colossal, wasteful spectre of violence looms even LARGER. And regardless of the size of the problems, they all need to be addressed. I still had to figure out how to make dinner for my family when the light fixture in our kitchen was out. Randy has been replacing bulbs all over the house, including those CFLs that are supposed to last seven years but certainly don’t in our house. Yesterday we got a new toilet and a new flange (more expensive than you’d think!) because when the plumber took out the old toilet he discovered the flange was rusted through. No, we don’t want sewer gasses seeping into our house, thank you. This year we’ve had to replace all kinds of stuff, and we just hand over our credit card again and again. But at the same time, we are alive and free to live our lives basically however we want. We are not oppressed, or threatened by the government that we or our loved ones will be arrested, imprisioned, tortured, or killed because we are trying to defend our land or keep our community from being poisoned.

Everybody has something they’re dealing with. Divorce, illness, a terrible job, isolation, grief. I hear a lot of these stories lately, from people I love. Also it’s been raining here all week. But we did put up a Christmas tree. Zoe and I put on the lights and most of the ornaments ourselves one night while Randy was putting Zeke to bed. We saved some of their favorites for them to put on the next day. And all of us worked together, or in pairs, to put up Christmas lights outside our house on the night of the Winter Solstice. We are making our small contribution to drive out the darkness and the gloom with little colored lights. We’re just leaving them on all the time because we need that little bit of illumination.

We didn’t do an advent calendar this year, or put together a gingerbread house. We didn’t make latkes or play dreidel but we did celebrate Hanukkah (and I did make latkes for my book club). Zoe arranged all her nativity sets on the mantel and hung the stockings with care. We do have presents, although I haven’t wrapped a single one yet. We did make cookies, thanks to my aunt’s initiative. We haven’t finished the Christmas letter yet, but I did write my mom’s portion, based on her sketchy instructions. We did buy and wrap Christmas presents for kids in need through our church’s tree. Some kids in DC and Arlington will have happier Christmases. I bought Target gift cards for families at Zoe’s school who needed a little extra help. We make a lot of charitable gifts in honor of our family members at Christmas. Tomorrow they will open envelopes with cards that say some homeless pets or homeless people or children in Haiti or children in the hospital were helped because of donations we made specifically for them. So this is what I can do. Christmas isn’t cancelled, even though it’s not exactly the Christmas we had in mind.

I think what I really need to do is have a family reading of How the Grinch Stole Christmas today. I need a reminder from the Whos down in Whoville.

Welcome Christmas. Bring your cheer,
Cheer to all Whos, far and near.

Christmas Day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to grasp.

Christmas Day will always be
Just as long as we have we.

Welcome Christmas while we stand
Heart to heart and hand in hand.

 More leaves blanket the

Ground than linger on the trees

No going back now 

Even Superheroes SleepThe mice, wanted dead or alive. Wanted out of the house.

The overpriced cleaning of the utility closet deluged with mouse poop.

Careful inspection every time a black speck is spotted on the floor. Usually it is lint, or mulch. Only occasionally, poop.

The lice, unwanted but oh so tenacious.

$100 worth of prescription lice killer. The combing and combing and combing of the hair.

Llama llama, anxious in his red pajamas.

Dora, learning to use the potty. Press the button to hear it flush!

Even superheroes have to go to sleep sometime.

The light sabers made of pool noodles, purple and yellow: “Are you ready to fight? Me want to fight!”

The catalogs, filled with toys. The letters to Santa. The objects of desire. The lack of any empty space in our house.

The glue, all over your brand new winter coat: “What’s all over your coat?” “Glue.” “How did it get there?” “I don’t know.”

Things to recycle, freecycle, donate, give away, purge. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Removal of dust and lint from hidden ducts and pipes. The secret fire hazard. The reminder of all the other secret hazards lurking within your house.

The assignment that hangs heavily over my head, seemingly impossible to complete. The question about why I agreed to do it. The answer: money.

The joyful morning spent helping struggling readers to decipher, understand, and maybe even learn to love words and the sentences. The payment for this: minimal. For four hours, I earned less than my hourly professional rate. But it was fun.

The stacks of enticing books, unread for weeks as I panic about my undone assignment.

The wrapping paper ordered, the wreath ordered, the dinner eaten out for the school fundraisers. The food drives. The PTA. The soccer. The make-up games. The snacks. The pick-ups and the drop-offs.

The patches to be stuck on (we don’t iron here) to the Brownie sash. If only we knew where the Brownie sash was.

The FitBit. The 4,643 steps remaining to make my daily goal.

The leaves, blanketing the ground. The trees, missing their leaves.

The sun, escaping with increasing impatience from my day.

playgroundZoe has been complaining more and more about the paltry 20 minutes of recess she is granted at school every day. I suggested she write a letter to the superintendent and the school board and her principal expressing her concern about the lack of outdoor time and her desire for change. I shared with her some facts about how outdoor time benefits kids intellectually, emotionally, and of course physically, that I had learned in my own research for something I’m writing. I told her I would help with the mechanics of the letter but that the ideas and the words had to be hers.

We brainstormed tonight–I asked her questions about how she felt before, during, and after recess and she wrote notes. Then she dictated the letter to me. I looked up the addresses for her and she wrote them on the envelopes. She’s very excited to send her letters off tomorrow. At bedtime she whispered, “Do you think they’ll actually change the amount of recess we have?” I said I didn’t know, but you never know until you ask.

Here’s her letter:

Dear Dr. Murphy,

My name is Zoe Rosso and I’m a third grader at A******** Elementary. I really love my school. We have great teachers. I have tons of friends. My favorite subjects are math, reading, and science. I love almost everything about my school except that we only have 20 minutes of recess.

If I don’t run every day my legs start to feel weird like I have to move around. I need more than 20 minutes to get enough exercise. I love to climb and hang upside down. Climbing exercises my brain and muscles and improves my strength. There are very few things that you can do outside that you can do inside.

When I’m outside, I feel great. I feel like this because the outdoors never end. It’s just a big open space—a big field of fresh air and fun. Also before I go outside I can get bored, but when I come in after recess I am really into the subject. Being in fresh air helps me to focus in class. When I don’t go outside I start to get really tired of just sitting around. When you sit around it can make it much harder for you to think.

Being outside helps me to relax and stop worrying about things. Being outside also makes me feel good because I get to run around and play with my friends and it doesn’t really matter how loud or quiet I am. Many of my friends are in different classes than me so at recess I get to see and play with them. I am also not allowed to run in the hall, but outside there is no hall.

It would be wonderful if we could have more recess. Please consider increasing recess for elementary school students.


Zoe Rosso

balanceIn my mind there is a balance, with which I am constantly trying to weigh unequal things against each other. Two weeks ago on one side was the horrible, senseless, preventable deaths of 10 students at Umpqua Community College–just a fraction of the gun violence in our country this year because we lack the courage or compassion or common sense to put an end to it. On the other side that night was a delicious meal of roasted pork and red potatoes that I had made in the crockpot for the first time.

There is gratitude that I am joining new communities, like the covenant group I met with last night, which I am co-facilitating. The group is designed to help people get to know themselves and each other better, and I was stunned by the candor of the participants, and their willingness to listen with quiet empathy. And then there are the times when I feel excluded, wishing I fell more easily into circles or relationships where you always know you’re going to be genuinely welcomed, that you’re not intruding, where you know what treat they’d most like from the bakery, and you don’t hesitate to ask for help because you know it will be freely given.

Of course there is the moment to moment dichotomy of colossal love for your children and awe at their development–Zeke just started to say “I love you” to us completely unprompted, and there’s pretty much nothing better than that. His language skills and vocabulary are thrilling. Tonight Zoe said we were going to have pancakes for dinner when she meant pizza, and Zeke said, “You were just joking!” He says please and thank you of his own accord and will eat anything you put in front of him. And then there are those moments when he hits us with a stick or a remote control or throws a plastic shovel across the playground at the boy who wouldn’t let him cross a line of acorns he was creating in the sand, or when he keeps running when I yell “Stop!” or melts, boneless, into the mulch, when I say it’s time to go.

There is the leak under the kitchen sink that we have already had fixed several times. Right now there are layers of wet newspaper on top of rotted cardboard until I get around to calling a plumber. The cleaning supplies are clustered in a corner of the kitchen. There is the back panel of the dryer drum that needs to be replaced because a tablecloth accidentally included in the laundry melted onto it. But then again, the dryer still works in the meantime, and we have mountains of dirty clothes to keep testing it. We have endless clean water flowing from our faucet and a sink full of dishes on which we enjoyed good food.

There is the sacred and the profane. The Syrian refugees and those who are welcoming them and providing sanctuary and those who are arresting them or turning away. There are delicate, cool fall days. There is sickness and depression and more than enough emotional and physical anguish to go around. There are weddings and new beginnings and the messiness and embrace of family. There is Zeke approaching Zoe at the end of an evening where everyone was dancing in celebration of a marriage, saying to her, “Zuzzy–dance?” and dancing so joyfully with his big sister. And she was so delighted to dance with him. There are mice in our house–again. Tonight while I was reading in the family chair I saw one emerge from under the sofa, look around, and dart back underneath.

There is sleeplessness. There are naps. I have a lot of work to do and I am painfully behind in doing it, which is not really like me and uncomfortable and embarrassing. But I am thankful to have work and so happy that I’ve been working for myself, doing what I love, for 10 years now. I know I am lucky to have a vocation that I identified 33 years ago and I’ve been pursuing it every since.

I have been struggling with this idea that I am always seeking equilibrium that is impossible to achieve. My head and my heart so often see-sawing up and down, so easily weighed down or lifted up.

Our leaf collageYesterday, in the middle of watching Project Wild Thing, a fun yet serious British documentary about the dramatic causes and effects of today’s generation of kids spending so little time in nature, I decided to turn off the tv and take the kids to the park. Seriously. And not just the playground, but the woods. Yes, there’s a paved path, but there are also lots of trees and rocks and a large meandering creek that invites kids to explore it.

Sure it was about to get dark, but I didn’t let that stop us. Zoe didn’t want to go, but I dragged her off the couch. After hearing what filmmaker David Bond had to say, building on what I learned from another stunning documentary–School’s Out: Lessons from a Forest Kindergarten, I felt a certain urgency to be outside with my family, especially after we’d been cooped up for a few days while it rained. But it wasn’t raining anymore, so we went.

The path was covered with wet leaves that had fallen from dozens of different kinds of trees, none of which I could identify. But I observed the diversity and my kids picked up some leaves to bring home. “We can do art!” I exclaimed, remembering how Zeke’s preschool teachers had the kids painting leaves last week. I am always the kind of mom who wants to do nature art but rarely the kind who makes it happen. I am more likely to get irritated when doing the laundry at the pieces of outside that wind up inside, stuffed into my kids’ pockets.

Instead last night I was collecting the leaves in my pockets, trying to keep them smoothed out so we could make a collage with them later. As we walked, Zeke inevitably picked up and brandished sticks. He and Zoe threw some rocks into the creek. We reminded Zeke to throw small rocks, and not to throw them in the direction of Zoe. Eventually Zeke and Randy went back up to the path while Zoe and I ventured further into the creek. We were wearing our boots. I only just bought rain boots last week. I hadn’t owned any for decades. We climbed and maneuvered and squelched in the mud.

Zoe pointed out a boulder that had a hole running through it and we took turns rolling a pebble though. Then she saw what she thought was a carving on another rock but then realized it was my wet boot print. I told Zoe it was gettinIn the creekg dark and we needed to get back to the path, but she wanted, not surprisingly, to go a little deeper. She waded over to a tree that had fallen across the creek and hoisted herself up onto it and shimmied across to the upended root system and up onto the bank. I held out my arm to her, but she said, “No, I don’t want you to help me.” She wanted to challenge herself, as usual.

In the midst of this activity, Zoe said, “you can’t be a Rosso if you don’t like adventure.” How great it is that she thinks that, I thought, even though I have never really thought of myself as adventurous, at least in the outdoors. In these nature documentaries people my age talk about how when they were growing up they were always playing outside. It was just a given. When I was growing up, my given was reading. I could read inside or out, but I was pretty much always reading. I played with my friends and I definitely went to the park, went roller skating, and rode bikes. But I also got teased for my lack of natural athletic ability and I didn’t like heat or bug bites. In fourth grade a classmate told me that I sweated too much. So I was kind of flattered that Zoe thought of our family as adventurous. I felt like I’d earned an adventure badge in mom scouts.

So while I certainly appreciate nature and enjoy being outside and all that, in a general sense, I still don’t think of myself as an outdoor type. But I do think of myself as a writer, and as a good mom, and an engaged parent. Last year Susan Parker, the director of our fantastic preschool asked me if I would be interested in writing something about the outdoor classroom program that she and AUCP teachers had piloted, modeled on the forest kindergarten highlighted in School’s Out. This is Arlington and we are progressive but still we like things the way we like them, so the idea was to take one class of kids to spend the whole preschool day (three hours) in the woods every couple weeks. Timber Tuesdays and Forest Fridays were born, and in the first year it seemed to pour rain or snow every Tuesday and Friday of the winter. But the kids were undaunted, and the adults made sure to match their spirit and wear extra layers. Zeke’s not old enough to do this yet (the program focuses on three-, four-, and five-year-olds) but I heard all about it and Susan shared with me how thrilled she was to be seeing what the kids could do outside. “It’s all there!” she said. Dramatic play, reading, science, critical thinking, negotiating skills, leadership development. She said kids who struggled in the classroom tended to shine outdoors and some who were stars sitting inside were pushed a little out of their comfort zones in the woods, forcing them to learn new skills. Susan handed me stacks of studies and articles about the positive effects on kids’ mental and physical health of being outside, or the dangers of not enough outside exploration. When kids are outside more, exploring the natural world, they are less likely to

  • struggle with gross or fine motor skill development
  • have ADHD
  • be obese

In fact, Project Wild Thing‘s David Bond said this generation of children is the first to have a lower life expectancy than their parents, which he (and presumably scientists he cites) attribute to a more sedentary lifestyle. People in hospitals heal faster when they can look out the window at nature, he said.

I’ve been working on the article, although I still haven’t found someone to publish it yet, but the process has been inspiring. Even just hearing about what goes on in the woods on Timber Tuesdays and Forest Fridays has inspired me to be more patient, and even more encouraging, when my kids want to splash in puddles or dig in mud or collect acorns or climb rocks. And it makes me want to do those things too. Maybe not so much the mud, but definitely the other ones.

When we got home from the park, by which point it was completely dark, I found a piece of cardboard and two bottles of glue. I made Zoe promise that she would let Zeke glue the leaves the way he wanted to, even if it conflicted with her artistic vision. She agreed and they collaborated beautifully. Glue was everywhere, but that’s ok. I still don’t know what kind of leaves we found, but that’s ok too. That’s an activity for another time. As is watching the rest of the film, which I am eager to do. Right now, I’m just glad we squeezed some time outside into our day.

UPDATE ON 10/6/15

My friend Kevin kindly identified most of the leaves we found!

leaf ID

louseWhile I hate to keep Zoe home from school when it’s only the second week, I also don’t think she’ll be in much shape to learn anything tomorrow morning at 8 when she went to sleep just before midnight. Why did she stay up until midnight on a Monday night, you ask? The answer is a repugnant four-letter word: LICE.

Most nights after she showers, Zoe asks me to comb her hair, and tonight when I was combing I observed some small, unwelcome creatures crawling on her scalp. After Randy had taken Zeke upstairs to bed, I told Zoe that I thought she had lice, and she started weeping. I called my mom for advice. I tried to calm Zoe down but I also felt like the need to expunge the bugs was rather urgent. I combed and she cried. I texted friends whose children I knew had dealt with lice. After Randy came downstairs I dispatched him to the drugstore to buy some lice-repellent product. Zoe asked if I was going to be combing her hair for the rest of her life, and I said, yes, I would be combing her hair when she breaks her board this Saturday at the martial arts growth ceremony, and when she goes to the prom, and as she’s walking down the aisle during her wedding. She added that I would be combing her hair while she was giving birth to her first child, and then while she was combing her own child’s hair. By then she was laughing instead of crying.

I did the treatment. Randy stripped the bed and sprayed it with some magic lice-be-gone spray. I did the second treatment and combed again and made the bed. I put most of the stuffed animals in the wash and some pillows in a trash bag where they’re supposed to live until the lice suffocate and die. I inspected Eve, Zoe’s doll who cannot go into the wash, and she looked clean. I didn’t feel like giving her the treatment. Also she doesn’t have hair.

It’s Randy’s birthday too. Fortunately we celebrated yesterday, as tonight was not especially festive. Exciting, sure. Festive, maybe not. Although yesterday was also exciting when the cake we made for Randy caught fire in the oven (marshmallows on top) and Randy blew it out and made a really big wish. That was festive AND exciting.

Before the discovery of the bugs tonight, Zeke had mysteriously melted down at dinner. He burst into tears because Randy cut up his broccoli too small, so he could eat it. He wanted big broccoli. This might not sound crazy, but Zeke doesn’t usually get upset about such things. He usually spends dinner either eating his food, spilling it on himself, or trying to make us laugh. I guess he had a long day. We went to the meet and greet at his preschool today so he could check out his classroom and spend a few minutes of quality time with his teacher. On the way into the school he was so excited that he started sprinting across the parking lot and fell down and scraped up his knees. They were still hurting him at bedtime. We tried to assuage him with Muppet band-aids. So Zeke was feeling a little fragile all day, although when I strapped him into his carseat as we were leaving preschool he had tears welling up in his eyes and I asked him what was wrong and he said, “Nothing. Happy.” Perhaps even he didn’t know what was wrong. But he seems to love his teacher, who was once Zoe’s teacher and as a result greeted Zeke by name last year when she saw him in passing. I didn’t know he even noticed or remembered her, but when I introduced her to him as his new teacher he leaped into her arms and gave her a hug like they were long-lost buddies. It is possible he doesn’t understand why he keeps going to school for brief periods of time only to have to leave again just when he’s getting going. Thursday is his first real day. Hopefully it will be satisfying for all of us.

The report on third grade: so far so good. Zoe says her teacher is awesome. She is thrilled to have a locker, for which she shopped for decorations this past weekend. I still haven’t gotten a lot of concrete details about anything she’s learning, but she’s seemed happy every day when I’ve picked her up, so I’ll take that. Except today when I picked her up, I asked how her day went, and she said she spent most of it worrying. This afternoon she had her green solid belt test at Evolve All, where she had to demonstrate the exercises, techniques, and understanding that green solid belt martial artists are supposed to master. She was nervous. She said Master Emerson reminded her last week that it’s good to be nervous because it means it matters. During the test I kept Zeke entertained with puzzles and snacks and a blue car we rolled to each other, while I watched Zoe out of one eye. She did awesome. I can see how much confidence and poise she’s gained over the past year, even though she still gets nervous. She passed. She wasn’t as pleased with herself as I expected, but she stood on her head in the turf room for a bit afterwards, which always seems to make her happy. Now onto the board break on Saturday. I will remind her again then as I did today, what Rev. Aaron said in his sermon on Sunday, “We got this.”

So watch out, lice. Move on out. We have our combs and our creams. We can run our washer and dryer all night if we have to. We got this.

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