Clover lost her pale pink Crocs on the last day of the kindergarten museum. She's been running around in the sand pit and she and her classmates decimated the giant sand volcano that they made erupt as an interactive exhibit. When she realized the Crocs were lost, we looked in the sand pit and dug around the edges, but couldn't find anything. She went home barefoot and Kevin returned to the school over the weekend to dig up with pit, but the Crocs were forever gone. This is a school wear kids often take off their shoes before entering a classroom, which made the likely explanation that another kids inadvertently took them.
We gave up and bought a new pain, even though I was kind of annoyed. That was the end of the story, until two years later. Once again, it was the annual kindergarten museum time, and Chloe - who'd visited the museum with her second grade class, said, "The Crocs are back!" At some point, the Crocs were found buried under the volcano site. They had been so deep that roots had grown through them.
The Crocs have become a permanent part of the museum collection, brought out each year for the class event. The big roots are gone, likely lost in storage, but the dirt and sand remain. Chloe's now in fourth grade, and she has a big sense of pride that something of hers was forever left in kindergarten, but put on display each year. This must be similar to how museum benefactors feel when they see their name above wing.
Honestly, despite surviving some harsh conditions, the Crocs can easily be cleaned off and pick up where they left off, ready to be worn for a few more years. They are that tough.
I had the unfortunate experience of having to attend two funerals within a week. Here is what I learned from being surrounded many older people: they have cell phones; they turn up the volume on their cell phones so they can hear the ringer; they do not turn off cell phones or ringers, even in churches; when their cell phones ring in church, they either can't hear their cranked up ring or they believe that if they ignore it, it will end. Two funerals, three cell phones ringing, all belonging to old people. Not one was answered.
In other news, determined by what's on my iPhone:
My kids started skateboard camp. First, it was only Rocket, but when Clover saw his cute new skateboard, she developed a desire to ollie. This is the girl who is still scared of ice skating and bikes over 12 inches high, but we sighed, told her she'd have to stand on the skateboard not lie down, then forked over the money to add her to camp. Giant surprise: she loves it. She's no threat to Tony Hawk, but she's conquered a fear, which is especially awesome considering she is the only girl in a camp full of boys.
Kevin and I spent the day in San Francisco this weekend, walking around the Mission, stopping at Renegade Craft Fair, and loading up on pirate supplies. It was awesome.
Now I am experiencing the joy of listening to a nine year old dissect the intellectual gaps in Go Diego, Go! Clover: This is obvious! Duh! Did they have too little money for special effects? This is horrible! Obviously ice is slippery! Those bobos aren't really sorry, they just said they were sorry. First the blanket was on the llama's neck, then on her back, then on her neck. A llama can't move her own blanket, so how did it move? Are we supposed to believe this is magic? This is weird and stupid. Rocket (to everything said by his sister): Yeah! Oh holiday vacation, you test my patience.
Clover thought it was our second Stanford football game in one weekend, but I pointed out that even though Thanksgiving made it feel like one giant weekend, in reality, a whole week had gone by between games. She was as excited as ever to be there, the most die-hard, pint-sized fan that I know. Once she got out of the car, I told Clover that now the No. 1 fan was there, but within seconds, we saw a middle aged man with a bald head painted to look just like a Stanford helmet, complete with achievement stickers. Clover was suddenly demoted to No. 2 fan.
I'm grateful that Clover's a gamer. She's up for any sporting event and she refuses to leave early, even when it's pouring rain, like during the Cal game last week. I'm thankful for my sister, whose job makes our sweet football passes possible. Mostly, while watching the game, I was thankful for Andrew Luck. Not only is he an extremely good QB, but in a world where athletes are more likely to be in the news for horrible behavior than they are for on the field performance, it is so nice to have a smart, hardworking, nice guy to hold up as an inspiration for kids.
Because it was the last home game of the season, the seniors were announced individually as they ran onto the field. After the second player, Clover grumbled, "They're coming out one at a time? This is going to take forever!" She felt better when I said that it was only the seniors getting the special treatment, but I added that they deserved the applause. These kids are not only working hard as part of a nationally ranked team, but they are at Stanford, which requires them to keep up academically. It's not LSU for many reasons.
The last half of the game felt a little melancholy, which is a surprise because the season is not over: a bowl game - hopefully a good one - is ahead. But it was sad because Andrew Luck is moving on. At the end of the fourth quarter, I told Clover to remember this, as it's likely the last time we'll see Andrew Luck play in person.
Knowing it was his last home game, we made sure to get to the game early to watch the last football team walk of the year. (It turns out we nabbed spots next to the mothers of two football players. There are few things sweeter than watching big football players hug their mamas.)
Thank you, Andrew Luck, for giving us many reasons to cheer.
It's November now, but one memory shines most bright from the summer. You and your brother rode the carousel twice before, grabbing the silver rings with everyone else, while you learned the game. With only tickets left for one ride, you and your brother took your spots, him on the inside near the shorter ring holder, and you on the outside, surrounded by adults trying their hand at a child's game. As you passed the ring holder, the announcement was made that the brass ring was loaded. My eyes were glued to the arm with the rings. Silver ring, silver, silver, and so on until finally, when you were two horses away, the brass ring dropped down. I sighed. It was too soon. But then something magical happened. The college kid on the horse ahead of you was busy talking and while he made a late grab, he'd missed the ring. It was all happening in slow motion. I could see the intensity on your face. You reached, stretching out as far as you could, with the loose leather belt from the horse now pulled tight at your waist. I held my breath. Then it happened. You grabbed the ring. I got the chills. The look on your face was first stunned, then pure joy as you looked down at the ring. Everything sped up, as one of the employees stood next to you, signaling you'd gotten the ring. Your brother cheered. I cried. You were the first child I'd seen get the ring. I will never forget the look of happiness that you wore that day.
Since then - unrelated to the ring - we've had plenty of talks about goals and the amount of hard work needed to achieve them. You are smart, but that alone doesn't mean success. It is strange to have this conversation again and again with someone so young, but it is the track you are on. Weeks ago, very seriously you asked me what it took to get into Stanford, and later, after much thought, you told me Stanford was your dream. That is where you want to go to college. So much will change between now and college admissions time, and we won't hold you to Stanford, but when I was your age, I doubt I knew what college meant. Now, I tell you it means work. It means putting in the work to reap the rewards later. It means letting the boy in your class talk as much as he wants about how he is the best at math because - as the saying goes - talk is cheap. Let him think he's the best, while quietly you surpass him. That's our strategy. If people underestimate the small girl in front of them, you will beat them every time.
Last week, prior to a school play, your drama teacher pulled me aside to ask if you were nervous because she said you'd been so quiet. I was surprised to hear that and I shouldn't have doubted your confidence because when I asked if you were nervous, you responded with, "Why would I be nervous? There is nothing to be nervous about!" When I mentioned your teacher's concern, you said it was because your role only had four words. "FOUR WORDS! That's it!" It wasn't nerves after all. It was annoyance. That is the Clover I know.
You want a iPhone desperately. A few of your friends have them and you want one too, but there is no way we are going there just yet. We may be a few steps behind, but I hope one day you appreciate this as deliberate. Your screen time restrictions are as strict as your bedtime, both things you bristle against. My job is to protect you, I tell you again and again, while you roll your eyes, especially while you strap in to your full booster seat. I lie, telling you some day very soon I will let you sit in a half booster. The day is coming. The day you get out of your booster seat, the day you get an iPhone, the day you can stay up as late as you'd like, but for now, you have to trust that we're trying to build a solid foundation from which you can grow strong. It's baby steps. Even though it feels like you'll be a teenager in the blink of an eye, growth and independence are happening in stages. Thankfully. I'm not ready to let go of the girl who reads curled up with her Snowy and Ducky, who plays with Legos, who has a loose sense of colors that match, and who needs to be reminded to brush her hair.
This was the your year of Harry Potter. You'd read the books before, but you re-read them and watched most of the movies, getting deeper into the world. Months ago, from the back of the car, you quietly and somewhat timidly said to me that you felt a resemblance to Hermione. I agreed and you beamed. You are a lot like Hermione. Smart, bookish, loyal, focused, somewhat of a tomboy, self-confident, and a bit bossy. My wish is that you always stay that way. As J.K. Rowling wrote about her own daughters, "Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons. Let them never be Stupid Girls."
You were tested at school the other day when some of your classmates were daring each other to jump from your school's front porch. It's certainly not a life threatening height, but high enough that it could hurt. You refused. Some of the kids started to tease you, egging you on, but you held your ground, saying you didn't want to do it. Eventually, they all came around to support you in your decision. When we learned about this from another parent, we praised you for listening to yourself and what felt right for you, instead of falling for the teasing and pressure. I wish I could bottle up this confidence, all of the Hermione in you, as a precaution, in case it fades. But instead of looking ahead and worrying about the challenges to come, I'm going to enjoy you right now. I am the Muggle mom, a little surprised and befuddled by your magic, yet incredibly proud of who you are. You astound me every day. Nine is going to be the best yet. I love you so much, sweet Clover.
Stanford won! Two years ago Stanford last hosted the Big Game on Clover's birthday, only to lose in a heart-breaker. Clover cried. It was awful. This time the sky cried. It began raining just before the teams took the field, not letting up, not even for a few minutes. Thankfully we wore snow jackets, even if Clover resisted wearing hers because it was blue (one of Cal's colors) until I forced her to put it on. Our faces and hands were numb, but Clover would not leave until the game was over and the celebration began. The kid is a gamer. She didn't complain about the rain once, and even though I reminded her that we could leave at any time, she always responded, "I'm not leaving until the end."
From the team walk, where I held Clover up to see the team and band walk by ("Mom! Andrew Luck was right next to us!"), to the very end, when Stanford students ran onto the playing field with the axe, the No. 1 fan was there watching one of her birthday wishes come true. For that, I am grateful.
Today marked the end of Clover's soccer season, for which I am grateful. Sadly, it may be the end of her soccer career too. She's liked soccer, but never loved it, and a losing season (one win, countless losses) hasn't helped. One person noted on Facebook that it's not whether you win or lose, but whether you have fun. It turns out, having your ass handed to you each week is no fun.
The same fun matters most sentiment was said by a dad on Rocket's team at the start of the season, after about only their third loss. If this were a sitcom, we'd flash ahead to a game about two weeks ago where, judging by his sideline coaching, the dad did not appear to be having any fun watching yet another loss. Rocket's team has yet to win a game, and with next week's game the last of the season, they are likely to have a 0-10 (? I've lost count) season. If this were the NFL, we'd be thrilled because they'd be first in line to draft Andrew Luck. But this isn't the NFL, so what you have instead is a group of beleaguered boys, including my son, who flipped the double bird a few weeks ago when an opponent scored yet another goal. Thankfully there are no penalties for poor sportsmanship in U6 soccer.
The upside is that Rocket scored a goal this week and headed two balls, which wowed the crowd. The best news of the day is that after next Saturday, the weekends are once again mine.
We host an annual Super Bowl party because I love football and throwing parties, but the unmentioned reason is because I yell at the TV. It's awful, I don't know what to say other than my dad does it too, but when you get used to yelling while watching games, it's hard to turn that feature off. It's especially hard when you're watching your young child play a sport, which I would have thought would be the easier time to just enjoy the game, but really, when they are older and are actually playing and have serious refs, it's much easier to sit back and watch. Rocket's soccer games look more like a rugby match, and they are only overseen by the coaches. Which means when a player on the other team starts straight-arming opponents, knocking them down while looking for approval from his family on the sidelines, it's a little hard not to yell.
Clover's game was easy to stay quiet, even as the other team dominated them. It was easy to sit back and watch the girls play. The girls are at an age where they know what they're doing, they're trying to be fair, refs were on plays that weren't, Clover's team looked like they were playing the sport for the first time. Before the game began, Clover volunteered to be goalie. I held my breath. They'd done zero goalie training this season and Clover had just moved up an age division from a younger group where the rules were much looser. Now goalies need to respect the lines, do proper kicks, and most harrowing, defend penalty kicks. Just minutes into the game, under some confusion, a teammate picked up the ball (she was going to do the goal kick and didn't realize it was live), prompting a penalty kick. All of the girls had to move back behind the lines, while one opponent moved forward about 10 feet to take the kick. Clover, confused, was directed to the goal line. Everyone was quiet, with only the two girls on stage. The whistle blew, the girl kicked the ball cleanly into the corner. Or so it seemed. She'd moved before the whistle, forcing a rekick. Once again: boom, boom, boom. Another goal, practically in exactly the same spot. It was only one goal, but it felt like two. Clover hunched her shoulders and started to cry. Her teammates tried to console her, the opponents' parents cheered her, but I still couldn't breathe because if I did, the real tears would begin for me too. This is the hard part of being a spectator.
My friend said last season that she wished she could be seven again, just for that soccer game, so she could go in to dominate the hell out of it.
I know exactly how Clover felt because the same thing happened to me in fifth grade. I was on a good soccer team, so good that there were rarely goals kicked against me as goalie. One day, Jody, our best player, a girl so tough that she could have easily beaten the boys, shoved an opponent, forcing a penalty kick. I remember thinking that Jody should have had to defend the shot since it was her fault that I was in this mess. But there I was, with everyone watching as the opponent charged the ball. I moved to my right, but not enough because the ball smacked the ends of my fingers and deflected into the goal. My hand stung and I cried, embarrassed that I'd let my team down. My friend Julie came over to tell me that it wasn't my fault. I don't remember crying during a game ever again.
After the game, we talked about it with Clover and commended her for being brave enough to be the first goalie. At practice, her coach told her he tried to be a goalie when he was young, only to have seven goals scored against him in his first game. She recovered soon enough, but the question is whether or not she'll ask to be goalie again. I want her to overcome any fears and try it again, but at the same time, it's hell to watch from the sidelines. For now, I'm staying quiet.
The school year is underway, finally. The kids were excited and nervous, both up early and ready to go before I got out of the shower.
We got to school early and waited for one of Clover's teachers to open the door, while she fiddled her hair and let out great sighs, the only signs that she was a little anxious. Once a teacher opened the door, she disappeared with her classmates to start their lives as fourth graders.
Fourth grade is the great transition year. At least I remember it being that way. Like Clover, my fourth grade teacher was also male, he had a couch in his classroom, signifying his late-1970s coolness, and he cooked with us during the school year. This was a stark contrast to the female teachers at the school, and kids who were assigned to his class were lucky. We all knew that. The classroom was in the center cluster of rooms at the school, unintentionally signifying the end of young childhood as we left the younger grades behind and transitioned into the older grades with the kids who seemed much more mature, though they were only a year ahead of us. It was the year between hopscotch and tight Chemin De Fe jeans with a plastic comb in the back pocket. We collected and traded stickers, the last vestige of childhood. It was the year that we started caring about clothes, hair and what our peers thought. We may have cared some before, but the intensity started to pick up in fourth grade.
Clover's year is similar. Her teacher is known for being laid back, including his first day of school tradition of showing the Simpsons and giving the kids Ho-Hos. I know it will be a transitional year for her, but it just hit me today. Dropping off Clover at fourth grade was much bigger than Rocket at kindergarten. Clover is taking a big step ahead and there is no slowing down the progress.
The only small sadness in dropping off Rocket was how much he did not care. I had to hunt Rocket down outside to say goodbye, and even then it was from a 20 foot distance as he waved over his shoulder while running with friends.
Within minutes, I was alone. I jumped into my car and possibly yelled, "Adios, suckers!" to my friends still with their kids. One person asked what I'd do with all of my free time. "Catching up on years of recorded Oprahs!" I answered. What the hell? I work and even if I didn't work, someone has to do the laundry and cooking around here.
Once home, before jumping into the long list of unanswered emails awaiting me, I made my family Mikey's Peanut Butter Pie to celebrate this important week. My kids start school, finally alone, I get to work in peace or sit at home painting my nails (depending upon what people think that at home moms do), and Kevin started working at a new company this week too. It's a week of transition. All good.
Now to catch up with Judge Judy.