Long Saturday

Saturdays these days start with soccer at 9:30. Today, it was tough to get him out the door. K had surprised him the night before with a bunch of Star Wars toys from my childhood that Nana and Papa had saved. He complained about his busy schedule, about his inability to have any time “just to relax.” He just wanted to have some time to rest and play with his new toys. And it grew to a fuss-fit. So I gave him a simple option: “You don’t have to go play soccer today. We can spend the time packing up all these Star Wars toys and taking them back downstairs.”

Needless to say, he was very willing to go after that.

Soccer was fairly typical: after a twenty-minute practice session, the kids played a game. And the Boy played as he usually does, drifting around the periphery, watching, not quite sure whether he wants to engage with the other players. That’s a fairly accurate description of many of the players, to be sure, but for me, knowing him as a parent, it’s a natural outgrowth of his personality.

It’s not something I’m really interested in trying to change. It’s part of his personality. While I think a little more assertiveness might be beneficial later in life, it’s not something I’m terribly worried about for a five year old.

Besides, there were certainly enough assertive players out there today, enough that E’s team won 4-1 (though one goal wasn’t counted, I believe). Again, I don’t care whether his team wins or loses — and E even less so — but I find it ironic that, given all that, his team is so far undefeated.

When we got home, though, the real fun began.

And in the evening, a rarity. The Boy wanted to play instead of reading — nothing really new there. What was surprising was that the Girl wanted to play.

“I thought you hated Star Wars,” I asked.

“I do. But the toys are great.”

So the three of us played for a little while.

“Daddy, is this a good guy or a bad guy?” was a common question. We didn’t really worry about it. Han Solo battled Luke and the Empire collapsed on itself in a grand civil war.

ET

One thing I’m known for throughout the school is a simple, weekly assignment that I’ve been giving for three years now: the article of the week. It’s simple, really: kids read an article from some news outlet and annotate it. I choose a few words that they must annotate, using context clues to determine the word’s meaning (as nearly as possible), and the rest of the annotations come from what Kylene Beers calls effective readers’ skills: commenting on the text, connecting to prior knowledge, questioning the text — skills like that.

I model it for them and provide a video of my own annotating process every week, and after a month or so, most students have figured it out and get straight As on the assignment. I tell them it’s like batting practice for a baseball player or shooting free throws for a basketball player — the essentials. We do it again and again and again and again and again.

It provides a great deal of insight into students’ thinking as well. Sometimes those insights are sobering.

Two things here: first, I’m more than a little worried that this student made the connection with ET in this text. He included it in his summary as well, and I asked him some questions about it.

Look again — does it make sense for an article talking about a hurricane suddenly to switch to a movie? What exactly did it say about the film?

His connection to the film makes me wonder if he was reading closely at all. After all, it talks no where about the film, obviously. The fact that it comes directly after “11 p.m.” makes me wonder if he was thinking critically at all. After all, even an eighth grader who is severely lacking in background knowledge knows what “11 p.m.” means, right?

The second concern didn’t strike me as all that unusual, and yet for that, it seems all the more frightening. “This child doesn’t know what the Caribbean is,” I almost said out loud, shortly followed with the thought, “like most on-level eighth graders.” It’s a sign of the huge gap in cultural literacy that so many kids today have compared to earlier generations. I would wager that many kids in my eighth-grade class wouldn’t be able to place the Caribbean on a map, and some might not have even known it was a sea, but they would at least know it’s a body of water.

This is not intended as a gripe about how kids today have so much less background knowledge, are so much less broadly culturally informed. The same could have been said about us, undoubtedly. At the same time, it’s an indication of how that marker keeps being moved every generation.

 

Irma

It’s all we’ve been hearing about for obvious and logical reasons, but still, it’s not every year that we’ve had thoughts and worries about what a hurricane could do to us here in Upstate South Carolina. Irma was just such a storm, though. For most of last week, we heard on local news that it might impact us significantly, that it might reach us still a hurricane — even a Category 2 hurricane — and not merely as a tropical storm or depression.

In the end, it turned to the west just a little, and the resulting path took it fairly far west of us. Or so it appeared on the map. What we got today — and are still getting to some degree — were sustained winds in the twenties and thirties with gusts up to fifty miles an hour.

My concern was which direction the wind would be blowing. It turned out that most of the day, it was blowing in the most stressful direction: east to west. From the back of our house, with several large trees, each of which with the ability to do significant damage should one fall. What we got was a bunch of leaves and small twigs in our carport and a renewed leak from an upstairs door that was poorly installed. In short, nothing major. And for that, we are very thankful.

As a precaution, though, school was cancelled today. We spent the day feeling a bit like Sally and her brother in Cat in the Hat. Our story might be renamed Puppy in the House, though, for it was especially hard on Clover. How does a Border Collie pup get her energy out when she’s afraid even to venture into the hard to relieve herself?

And how does the day end? With an announcement that, due to fallen trees on roads and extensive power outages, we have no school again tomorrow.

What I Learned

Today, at E’s first soccer game of the season, a certain little boy managed to break from the pack of children that attempt to herd the ball in one direction or another, and he dribbled the ball down half the field and blasted a devastating shot at the opposing team’s unprepared goalie. A few moments late, in a move reminiscent of German’s complete destruction of Brazil in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals,

broke away again and scored a second time in as many minutes. That little boy was a hero all around. That little boy was not the Boy. He spent most of his time lingering around at the edges of the hive of children always swirling around the ball, never charging in and begin aggressive as he does here. He almost shot a goal, but truth be told, it was because he just happened to be where a deflected ball just happened to land. Yet he was so very proud of that.

“I’m going to tell Mommy I almost got a goal,” he told me several times on the way home, as if to make sure I understood that he was going to tell her. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I’ve mentioned before that the Boy is not overly aggressive, and I even mentioned it in the context of soccer.

First Game

I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t have a problem with him shooting an own-goal (as he did last year) or only barely missing a goal because an ironic combination of luck and misfortune. I don’t have a problem with him wandering around the edges of anything, looking in, unsure and unwilling to commit himself until he is. I don’t have a problem with him giving up on any and all sports.

That is what I learned about myself and my son today.

What I learned about my daughter will have to wait until I have to fix what I learned about myself at the same time.

Sunday

It’s been a week of firsts and almost-firsts for the Boy. Yesterday, it was soccer. He did not want to play, pure and simple. He was fine with the races, the drills, the silly games. But when it was time to scrimmage, he panicked. Eventually, he got up his courage and went into the game, but there was a long period of waiting, watching, and fussing — just a bit.

Today, it was Cub Scouts. “We’ll start by making some slime while we wait for everyone to get here and settle in,” the den leader said. No go. He absolutely did not want to do anything but bury his face in my belly. He finally joined in, but as with soccer, there was a moment of hesitation.

Back home, we were in the familiar territory — swinging, bouncing on the trampoline, playing with the dog.

A spendid Sunday, like so many others.

Polish Mass Sunday

Sunday

Sunday

Sunday Lazy Sunday

Animals

We’ve added another animal into our family, and now four or so weeks on, we’re all finally settling into some kind of rhythm of normalcy. Clover is still full of surprises, to be sure, but we know each other much better at this point. We know that if she’s chewing on something she’s not supposed to, it’s usually enough just to give her something designated for chewing. But every now and then, the rhythm skips a beat, we are less than vigilant, and Clover gets a hold on something she’s not supposed to have, like an inflatable rubber ball.

Which she promptly pops with her pin-sharp puppy teeth. And so she has a new chew toy.

Our new openness to new animals might get carried away if we’re not careful, though. We’ve had a black stray cat wandering around our house lately, undoubtedly drawn by our compost. We’ve made friends, then determined that the poor thing is pregnant.

What else can you do but temporarily — “Temporarily, kids!” K and I have both reiterated — adopt the animal. We’ve been feeding her while we confirm that she is indeed a stray. Monday, we take her to the Humane Society. In the meantime, we argue about what to call her for the next couple of days: Midnight or Nightmare.

Infinity

Driving home from Mass today, the Boy and I somehow got into a discussion about infinity. I can’t remember how it came up or even who brought it up, but there we were, discussing one of the great paradoxes of life and math.

To try to explain it to him, I talked about numbers: “You can count on and on and on and on,” I said. But this didn’t seem to support what I said earlier, about infinity having no beginning or ending.

“But it does have a beginning,” he protested from the back. “When I count, I say, ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5.’ You start at one.”

I tried dipping into the topic of negative numbers to show him that we really could start anywhere.

“Negative numbers? Like 5, 4, 3, 2, 1?”

Growing with the Pup

Having a puppy is like having a newborn in the house — that’s what we’d heard. There is a certain amount of truth in this: Clover requires a lot of time and attention. And like a baby, she can’t be just left unattended. But the attention is easy to give: she’s such a sweet puppy, always eager to get a belly rub or a scratch behind the ear. Eager to please. Genuinely remorseful-looking when corrected. Or is she just playing us? Probably a bit of both.

And she’s so curious. Those two things combine to torture our cats. Bida tends just to hiss. It’s all it takes after a snoutful of claws a couple of times. But Elsa runs, and so what does Clover do? Chase her, of course. Isn’t she just trying to play? It’s not just Elsa and Bida, and that’s a little worrying. There’s a little black cat that comes around often enough, and Clover tried to make friends with her, to no avail.

She remembers the encounter with Bida that left her with a slightly bloody ear, so she kept her distance.

The Boy is having a bit of trouble with her, too. She’s still trying to herd him, and the herding is getting more intense. She nips at his shoes, chases him when he walks in the room — the tail is always wagging, but like Elsa, the Boy is starting just to avoid her at times.

Unless there’s a toy to play with, like a stick.

Still, despite it all, we’re all pretty much wrapped around her paw.

How could we not be?