You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘playground’ category.

When you tie-dye a t-shirt, they tell you to keep it in the plastic bag for at least 24 hours, or several days more, to allow the dye to soak into the fabric so the colors of your shirt will be vibrant. What they don’t tell you is that after those first several days have come and gone and you’ve more or less forgotten about the tie-dying because you’re home from family camp and fully transitioned into school year mode, your wet shirt, which has been scrunched or twisted up and secured with rubber bands and enclosed in a sealed ziploc bag, will become fertile ground for colonies of mold. Or possibly mildew. I am honestly not sure of the difference, when it comes to gross spots growing on something I was planning to put on my body. Either way, when you remember to take the shirts out of their bags and start the chiropractic appointment-inducing process of rinsing them out in the bathtub, and you see the grayish brownish spots clustered across the shirts, you make a face that indicates an unpleasant mixture of disappointment, frustration, and disgust.

Yuck.

Your research reveals that a possible remedy could be soaking the shirts in vinegar. Although in your gut you feel like they’re too far gone, you have to try. Surprisingly, three different stores you visit are completely out of white vinegar. Finally, you order some online from Target, in one of your midnight shopping sprees where you make other exciting purchases such as frozen burritos, saltines, maxi pads, paper towels, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. You are living the high life.

Because that’s the way you roll, it takes a few more weeks for you to actually soak the shirts, although they have been rinsed and are dryish and you are pretty sure no longer nurturing the fungus (if it even is fungus?) besmirching them. You’re just feeling kind of defeated by them. The giant jug of vinegar sits in the hallway, mocking your bad decision making and poor time management skills.

As time passes, you think a lot about preschool. One of the many mantras at your kids’ amazing cooperative preschool was “process, not product.” Emphasis on the kids doing whatever they wanted to do with the materials put in front of them — or that they unearthed while playing in the mud garden or tromping through the woods — rather than the ultimate creation of something recognizable or a specific end goal. This is a good rule of thumb for life with little ones, as products rarely–if ever–turn out as expected. Also a good thing for adults to remember, although we are usually held to the standard of producing some kind of acceptable end result. And process is how you learn. Process is the journey. Process is the sensory experience of getting your hands dirty–or stained with dye in the arts and crafts cabin at camp. You recall the peaceful hour spent with your nine-year-old carefully choosing tie-dye patterns, helping them rubber band the shirts, and finding exactly the right color combinations. You each made a shirt or two and a couple bandanas. The bandanas are easy but not quite as satisfying as a result.

If you’re being truthful, each of you already has several tie-dye shirts in your drawers, that you made at previous family camps or on summer vacations during the pandemic. So you’ve enjoyed the process many times before, and even managed to make some decent shirts.

Now that you have soaked the shirts (and stunk up the house with the aroma of vinegar) and washed the shirts and dried the shirts, you discover that three of the shirts still have enough remaining mold (or mildew!?) stains to make them unwearable. Somehow one shirt emerged unscathed, as well as two bandanas.

You wonder if there is anything useful to do with the rejected shirts. You already have enough dust rags for a squadron of Cinderellas. You fleetingly imagine cutting up sections of the shirts that aren’t stained and sewing them into something else. But what? A doll-sized blanket? Plus, you can’t sew. You think of your friend who can sew and wonder what she would do. In addition to sewing, she is an expert at tie-dying, and you’re certain she would never have made the mistake of allowing tie-dyed t-shirts to languish in their baggies until they grow things. But her kids attended that same preschool, and you know she would appreciate your “process not product” attempt at consolation.

Lately I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Somehow more than what I expect from myself, as if I am more than human. My new mantra, although I am many decades out of preschool, is process, not product. I am still learning.

On Saturday they wouldn’t let me give blood because my pulse was too high. I had no idea why my pulse was so high, as I have never experienced that particular problem before when trying to give blood. Later it occurred to me that the venti chai Frappuccino I’d consumed earlier might have been the culprit. But at that moment I had no idea and I was incredibly disappointed that I couldn’t donate. I have been taking supplements to increase my hemoglobin levels for several weeks, as suggested by the phlebotomist at the American Red Cross last time I donated, because I was only allowed to give whole blood instead of the double red blood cells I was hoping to donate. This is way too much detail, but all of this is to say that after they told me I couldn’t donate, I went out into the parking lot and got in my car and sobbed.

Of course I wasn’t just crying because I left with the same amount of blood I had come with. That was just the moment that the floodgates opened. Oddly, I have hardly been able to cry in recent months, even when I wanted to. I think some part of me feels like if I start crying now, I may never stop because there is so much to cry about. But on this particular day I was weeping for the loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, because of her humanity, her intelligence, her determination, her fierceness, and everything she did for women and other humans over the course of her legal career. And I was weeping because I know she must have been trying so hard to live through the election (hopefully) of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris so that her seat on the court would not be filled by a Trump nominee who doesn’t believe in reality, or humanity, or science. And I was weeping because the thought of the confirmation of such a justice during this already extraordinarily dangerous time for our democracy is terrifying.

All of this emotion may have contributed to my elevated pulse as well. Who knows? 2020 has proven reliable only in its ability to break my heart again and again.


Sunday I rallied. Perhaps the car cry was cathartic. Zeke and I made challah french toast in the morning, which was delicious. Then we went to the park by our house with the brand new basketball I bought this week, and a pink rubber ball like the ones I played with as a kid, and a tennis ball. Amazingly, the basketball court was empty except for a shirtless guy doing push-ups and jumping rope. So Zeke and I practiced some dribbling and passing. So far so good. Then I took some shots. I made a bunch of them. I tried to show Zeke how to hold the ball up and push it up in the air toward the basket. Although Zeke is tall for his age, he’s still quite a bit shorter than the net, and his shots mostly went straight ahead of him rather than up or anywhere near the net. After a few minutes, he got discouraged and shuffled over to the side of the court to pout. I tried everything I could think of to cajole him back onto the court to try some more, but nothing worked.

So we went to the next court–although I don’t know if it’s actually a court–it’s that area by the tennis courts where you can practice throwing or hitting a ball against the wall and catching it when it flies back to you. Maybe there’s a technical name for it, but I call it the ball wall. By this time Randy had joined Zeke and me, and he suggested we take turns throwing a ball against the wall and the other person has to catch the rebound. Randy and I alternated playing this with Zeke while the other person retrieved errant balls. It took Zeke a few tries to get the hang of this, but once he did he was excited. He started counting to see how many balls in a row he could catch. He figured out how to position himself in front of instead of off to the side of the incoming balls, and his throws got more powerful. Later that evening he said that playing at the ball wall had been “unbelievably fun.” I wasn’t quite as giddy as that, but I was definitely pleased we found something new he liked to do that involved moving and being outside. And we will absolutely try again with the basketball. Randy suggested going to an elementary school that might have lower baskets. We will investigate.


As soon as we got home from the park, Zeke’s long-awaited new desk from IKEA was delivered. Since we planned to start our home school curriculum the following day, I wanted to build the desk immediately. Zeke and I tore into the boxes and got all the pieces out. We studied the instructions together and assembled a drawer and part of the cabinet. Zeke hammered and screwed and refreshed his knowledge of the different kinds of screwdrivers. I estimate that he worked alongside me for a good hour before he became completely restless and wandered away. I soldiered on. Bob Marley kept me company. After another hour or so, Randy had finished his mandolin lesson and came up to assist. At that point we discovered we were short two screws, so Randy was dispatched to the hardware store to find replacements–which he did! For only 27 cents each! While he was gone, I built the hutch that goes on top of the desk. All by myself! When Randy returned, he helped me finish the desk, taking on the challenge of installing the hinges on the cabinet door. Then we attached the hutch to the desk and slid it into place. The whole process took about four hours. Zeke is going to use this desk for the rest of his life.

After I showered and we got dinner, I worked on the finishing touches for Zeke’s room, putting books and notebooks and pencils in their proper places on the desk, and putting the books that had been piled everywhere into the bookshelf that had been serving as his desk for the past few weeks. I created a little nook for him between the bookshelves. I cleared off all the junk from the dresser. I put some stuff under the bed. And I only ended up with one plastic bin of stuff that I have no idea what to do with. It’s in the hallway right now because I didn’t want to spoil the effect. We still need to put some art and photos up on the walls, but the room looks good. Zeke is excited to have a real big-kid desk. That he helped build!

After Zeke zipped around the track several times on his bike, riding at least a mile or two, I suggested for a new challenge that he could ride around the elementary school. There’s a brick walkway down the side of the school, which becomes a paved path that goes through the woods to a residential street, and there’s a paved area near the playground where kids ordinarily play basketball and run around and hang out.

I forgot that, because this was not Zeke’s elementary school, he was not as familiar with the path and the basketball court area as I was. This was his sister’s school. Also I forgot that he goes fast now, and if I don’t run behind him I am not going to be able to see him. Also I forgot that when you’re wearing a facemask it’s harder to make your shouting heard.

Fortunately on the first foray, he zoomed up the asphalt path, through the trees, and stopped just short of the sidewalk leading to the street. When I caught up to him he said, “I didn’t know where this went and I couldn’t stop!” Well, I guess he could stop, just not as soon as he would’ve liked.

So we turned around and headed back to the playground. I attempted to shout after him that he should turn right at the end of the path and loop around the paved area to go back to the brick walkway. Due to the aforementioned voice muffling effect of the face mask, he didn’t hear me. I watched him careen around the pavement and head straight toward the school. I broke into a run even before I heard the screaming.

I guess he had slowed himself down at least a little before he hit the brick wall. Apparently he thought there was another path on that side of the school, but there isn’t. Luckily he wasn’t hurt nearly as badly as Zoe was a couple weeks ago. He scraped his hand and leg and bruised his leg and tush, I think. But he screamed a lot, so I wasn’t quite sure at first what was hurt. I couldn’t carry him and his bike back to the car, but I offered to give him a piggyback ride. He declined. So I held his (unscraped) hand and walked his bike back to the front of the school. By then he had stopped crying so I left him on the curb with the bike and ran to drive the car around to pick them up.

When we got home I brought him into my bedroom for first aid. When Zoe got hurt I bought a bunch of new first aid supplies, including some different kinds of antiseptic sprays, in the hopes that they might be less offensive than our standby hydrogen peroxide. Also the store was out of peroxide. When I tried to get the cap off one of the sprays, it popped off and hit Zeke in the eye. A few more tears were shed. After I had atoned for that and successfully sprayed the scrape, I put a nonstick pad on top of the wound, because it was in one of those awkward places where no bandaid will stay. Then I tried to wrap Zeke’s hand with the kind of bandage that sticks to itself, and somehow when I tried to gently put the bandage on top of the nonstick pad, the nonstick pad flew off his hand and under the bed. Eventually we got it wrapped.

Three hours later, it is now unwrapped, but Zeke seems fine. We had a little talk about brakes, and how he needs to learn to use them. One thing at a time.

I’ve been taking for granted all the things I love to do that involve being surrounded by strangers. Hearing live music and singing along with people you’ve never met but who find meaning in the same songs that you do. Seeing a movie and laughing or crying along with everyone else who is laughing or crying. Eating delicious food at your favorite restaurant, noticing everyone else satisfying their craving for that same food. Exploring a museum, learning something new, being inspired, wondering how the exhibit is speaking to those around you. Going to the beach and watching people fly kites and build sandcastles and splash and swim and throw frisbees and soak up vitamin D. Being at church and listening to a sermon that might be preached just for you and also for hundreds of other souls searching for ways to make sense of the world, and lighting candles, and praying and meditating together, and holding hands and agreeing to help each other be a force for good in the world.

Even reading, which you might think of as a solitary activity, often involves strangers. I love going to the library–helping my kids pick out books and finding something for myself. And in Arlington I almost always run into someone I know at any library. Browsing in bookstores, which is as much a sensory experience as an intellectual one. I’m one of those people who likes to feel the covers of the books and inhale the scent of paper and ink. At my favorite bookstores there are post-it notes or little notecards taped to the shelves explaining which books are recommended by which of their booksellers and why. I love discovering wonderful things to read thanks to mysterious other readers who are humans rather than algorithms. This month I had planned to go with three good friends to hear Glennon Doyle read from and talk about her new book, Untamed. I would’ve been in the audience at the Lisner Auditorium with thousands of other fans, mostly middle-aged moms like me, feeling intense sisterly solidarity. I was also excited to go with one of my best friends to see one of my all-time favorite authors Ann Patchett speak at a local middle school. Being in a room with strangers and knowing they have all read the same books you’ve read and have been moved by them too is heady.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time over the past 13 years at playgrounds, which are usually lively and well-populated. Around here, if you spend more than 10 minutes at a playground, you’re likely to hear families speaking in at least a couple languages besides English. It’s always fun for me to guess what language they’re speaking and where they might be from. I haven’t heard any languages besides English (random French, Spanish, or German phrases thrown around by my family notwithstanding) in a couple weeks now. Even when we’ve been out on hiking trails in Northern Virginia, I feel like I hear mostly English. We see a lot of white guys in their teens and 20s, some of them talking on their bluetooth earpieces, looking like they’re training for something big.

Just before coronavirus exploded in the US (fortuitously), I had the opportunity to be part of literacy activities at both my kids’ schools. At Zoe’s middle school, I coordinated Booktopia, where invited all 1,100 students to come to the gym (not all at once) to pick out a book to keep. Any book they wanted (that we had)! This involved a lot of volunteers who helped me sort, organize, and restock the books, then sell the leftovers at the used book sale at the school a few days later. Booktopia involved conversations with students and teachers and touching a lot of books that a lot of people had touched. I didn’t think too much about that at the time. The book fair at Zeke’s school was held the same week. This year the book fair was presented by one of my new favorite Arlington organizations–READ (Read Early and Daily). READ’s mission is “ensuring babies and young children have new, quality, culturally relevant books of their own that are mirrors and windows into their everyday lives and communities.” One of the ways READ funds its book giveaways is by running school book fairs. One of the best things about this set-up is that our school book fair had the most spectacular selection of books with diverse characters by diverse authors that I have ever encountered. And since I had just spent several months ordering books for Booktopia that featured diverse (in every possible way) characters written by diverse authors, I was super impressed. The point here is that book fairs are another occasion where many kids and teachers and parents are swirling around. I love helping kids pick out books. I love reading with kids. Now when I think about that I just think about all the possibility for transmission of germs.

Then there’s substituting as a co-oper at Arlington Unitarian Cooperative Preschool, which I have enjoyed doing on occasion since my kids graduated from there. Turns out it’s much less stressful to co-op when A) you’re not required to do it but you’re getting paid for it and B) your own child is not demanding your attention when you’re supposed to be helping with the whole class. The bad news is that infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are pretty indiscriminate about who or what they touch and when and it doesn’t matter where their hands have been. The good news is that AUCP is really into good handwashing. Every kid and every adult washes their hands before snack and after snack and after the playground and before lunch and after lunch and of course after diaper changes and using the potty. One of the lines I always remember from the many parent orientation sessions we attended there was the preschool’s fabulous director Susan Parker saying, “I suggest you invest in a good hand cream because you will be washing your hands all day long.” All that hand washing practice has paid off! So many adults have had to come up with creative ways to remember how to wash their hands properly, but I guarantee you that the five and under set at AUCP have it down already.

Next Monday would’ve been the first game of the soccer season with my amazing women’s team Ice & Ibuprofen. We have cool new jerseys for the season, with a new logo. I don’t know when we’ll have a chance to wear them. Soccer involves a lot of contact with other people. You could kick a ball back and forth while standing six feet apart, but you couldn’t play a game. I know a lot of my teammates know each other because they live in the same neighborhood and their kids go to school together, but I only see them on the field. We had tickets for our family to see the Washington Spirit play their season opener at Audi Field for my birthday. Randy has season tickets to DC United. There are few things as thrilling as cheering on your favorite players and teams in a stadium filled with tens of thousands of other fans. No matter how big your TV is, it’s not the same watching from your couch.

Even though we’re going a little stir-crazy, my family is fine. We have more than enough stimulating and fun activities to do in the house. And we’ve been hiking. We’ve been FaceTiming and Zooming with friends and family. All that is absolutely saving our sanity and keeping our brains engaged. But there’s something about being out in the world, surrounded by strangers, doing something you love and they love too, that I am missing deeply.

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.

Sincerely,

Zoe Rosso

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,257 other subscribers

Archives

Follow You Ask a Lot of Questions on WordPress.com

Listen to my podcast: Five Questions with Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso

http://betsyrosso.podbean.com
%d bloggers like this: