Friday, October 14, 2016

Fall in New England

 I have some catching up to do.... School started just after Labor Day. Bruce started middle school, Phoebe started first grade, and Oliver started preschool! They are at three different schools with three different schedules, so I spend most of my day picking up and dropping off kids. Bruce said the first week of middle school was boring ("it's all introductions.") and was happy to dig into learning the following week. He is running cross country, playing piano and drums in the jazz band, and working on activities with the Boy Scouts. 
Phoebe thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of summertime, but was happy to get back to school where she sees her friends every day. She says she isn't going to be a firefighter anymore; when you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, there is a different answer almost every day. Some of the recent responses: astronaut, scientist, veterinarian, taekwondo instructor, and preschool teacher. She is taking guitar lessons and learning to play Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." She joined a soccer league (more on that later) and is still passionate about taekwondo. She has a double black stripe belt and is immensely proud of it. I love taekwondo too: it is the one time during the week that I see her focused and serious. It lasts 45 minutes and it is wonderful. I keep waiting for all those skills of patience and respect and whatnot to translate into other areas, but so far not so much. But those 45 minutes! Ahhhhh.
Oliver started half-day preschool! It is a city-run preschool that is free and part of the public schools, so when I enrolled him forever ago I thought we would just try it and see how it goes. It was free, so there was nothing to lose. For the two weeks, he moaned about how he didn't want to go to school while we walked there. When we arrived, he would run in and say goodbye and be just fine. After those first two weeks, he was happy about preschool all the time. He loves his teachers and talks about them constantly. It is a small class with only five kids and two teachers, so it has been a good transition for him. Now that all my kids are in school for at least part of the day, I thought I'd have so much time on my hands. But I've been running most of my mileage while they're at school rather than waking up super early (more sleep = happy mom!), I started volunteering at my neighborhood food pantry, I'm getting back into a more regular routine of writing, and I'm working on a few side projects (a blood drive next week!). Today was classic: I dropped off Oliver, walked to the food pantry and worked for a few hours, walked home and grabbed a sandwich for Oliver and a sandwich for me, ate my sandwich while walking to pick him up, pushed him in the stroller while he ate his sandwich to the pet store, picked up hermit crabs for Phoebe's birthday this weekend, and walked home. I do a lot of walking. I don't have a FitBit, but the mileage on my iPhone's health app usually logs a couple non-running miles. Today it was 4.4 miles walking, 7 miles running.
Scott has been working a lot, so when we get a free weekend we take advantage of it. One weekend we went apple picking (the photo of Oliver above) at a farm near the beach. We picked apples (and Oliver sampled most of them), got cider donuts, and went for a hayride. Then we drove down the street to Crane Beach and played in the sand. The ocean is cold, of course, but that didn't stop the kids from getting in.

They dug a million holes, buried each other in sand, built castles with moats and dams, and had a blast.
This has been our other recent weekend activity: soccer. Phoebe has been begging to join the youth soccer league and I've been resisting because I feel like we do a lot already. But she kept begging, so I caved and now our Saturday mornings are spent at soccer practice and scrimmages. Phoebe is on the red team, which she was pumped about because it's her favorite color. As it turns out, she is pretty good (I guess being aggressive is a positive thing here). At her first practice, she scored three goals. Each time she scored, she threw her hands up and screamed and did a victory dance. Her team has a tradition of having a "pig pile" at the end of practice; I believe Phoebe started this.
Last weekend was a three-day weekend (Columbus Day or Indigenous People's Day or whatever you want to call it) and Scott had the whole thing off, so once again we took full advantage. We drove to Maine and rented a little cottage on a lake. We kayaked, biked, and hiked in Maine and nearby New Hampshire. The photo above is Bruce biking with me on my run, which he's done a few times. He has biked 10 miles with me and been just fine; he keeps up and usually chatters the entire time, sometimes about the molecular structure of Fritos and sometimes about theoretical war between squirrels and people. He's a great running partner.
The fall foliage was out in full force in Maine.
The kids had a day off school for Yom Kippur, so we drove down to Hartford to see the new temple during its open house. The kids were wild before and after (pictured above), but by some miracle were amazingly reverent and quiet in the temple. Even Oliver held my hand and walked calmly next to me and listened to the tour guide. Afterward, I asked the kids if they felt the spirit. They said they did. I asked where they felt it the most. "The room with the big chandelier that was really quiet," said Phoebe. That would be the celestial room (photos of it and other rooms in the temple here).
And despite all the craziness afterward, here is what Phoebe wrote in water by the fountain: "I (heart) God's House."
 There was a visitor's center after the tour that had this statue of Christ in there. I told the kids to smile so I could take a picture, but they wouldn't listen (except for Bruce, of course).
 But when Oliver gave Jesus a big hug, I thought that was probably a better picture anyway.
 And then Phoebe joined in the hug. Sometimes these kids make my heart explode.

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