Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Great Falls

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fall, Part Six

It's been a fall like none I have ever experienced. I don't remember feeling as happy and full of optimism and as sad and disappointed as I have this fall.

It's the day before Thanksgiving. The office is quiet, but someone needs to keep the light on. That someone is me. The kids are at home, and Nanny has arrived for the holiday. A Southwest flight from a palm-lined runway in Ft. Lauderdale disgorged her out onto Terminal A and 15 waiting wheelchairs lined up to take silver-haired relatives to baggage carousels and taxi cabs. Elise texts me often to tell me that she has a headache. I am hopeful, however, that I will get to leave soon. Leaving the office early will still mean going home in the dark, unfortunately, the wind and the cold.

It's been a long, stressful couple of weeks. Through the golden light glowing in halos around the auburn crowns of tress with falling leaves, the kids play seemingly oblivious to everything that's going on around them. I am happy for that. Maybe they see all, and I am just focusing on the wrong things. Again, a matter of perspective.

In as short a span of time as a few days, I sat on the sidelines of Sam's game in the Arlington fall tournament. It was the first game Sunday morning. The temperatures had plummeted the day before in a powerful, awe-inspiring display of the raw power of nature. The skies -- clear that morning -- had become mottled over the course of the afternoon until bloated by blotchy black clouds, releasing a bitingly cold wind that -- in the span of two minutes -- vanquished every leaf left in the trees of Virginia. The kids on the field couldn't concentrate on soccer, and every player on each of the four fields turned their heads and palms heavenward and whirled in the swirl of leaves.

Pete, Clem, Elise, and I were wrapped in a blanket on the sidelines, attempting in vain to ward off the wind. After staying a tie game for most of the morning, one of Sam's teammates scored on a breakaway and I pumped my fist into the air and whooped in excitement...his team gave high-fives.

This morning, Pete opened the door to our room and crawled into our bed. Clementine followed soon thereafter. After what happened in Chattanooga, all I have wanted to do is hold them close, but they are like unstable molecules created in a physics lab; The amount of time they exist in a state for hugging is fragile and measured in nanoseconds by sophisticated atomic timepieces. My co-worker insists on working with CNN on in the background, and I have to leave the room frequently. I can't bear to watch without fearing I'll burst into tears. I can't help seeing the footage and not imagining Peter or Sam on that bus.

I read the following this morning, a quote by Damian Kulash, the lead singer of OK Go.

"Humans are not equipped to understand our own temporariness; it will never stop being deeply beautiful, deeply confusing, and deeply sad that our lives and our world are so fleeting. We have only these few moments. Luckily, among them there are a few that really matter, and it's our job to find them."

There have been many such moments this fall. I only hope I found all of them.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fall Soccer Tournament

We pretty much spend the entire weekend as a soccer mom and soccer dad, supporting Sam from the sidelines as he played in the Arlington league fall tournament.

The back story on the Rescuers, Sam's team, is that they had to make their way through a very strong Arlington travel team and a combined recreational team that also gave them a run for their money just to make it to a championship game against yet another travel side. Coach Tate watched their opponent in the final beat their Sunday morning team 7-0 while the Rescuers were struggling against the Rec team and he was already preparing for how to deal with a lopsided game. But the Rescuers played with passion and teamwork and grit against a group of boys that were collectively much more talented, but not nearly as committed as Sam's team.

After going 3-0 in tournament play, in the championship game, the Rescuers managed to find themselves up 2-0 in the middle of the second half with their Defense First strategy. A first goal by the other team was almost just a matter of time, but the Rescuers didn't even blink.

Coach Tate wrote in an email to the parents, "To be honest I felt like the momentum immediately swung our way after that goal instead of the way it often goes when you lose the clean sheet."

And the Rescuers actually had two horrible offsides calls against them on two separate breakaways that surely would have resulted in a 3-1 final score. Unfortunately, the referee just didn't understand that if two of our players are completely behind their defense, there is no offsides. But the referee is absolutely part of the game just like a lumpy field and the game went on. As fate would have it, an amazing corner kick combination with 90 seconds to go equalized and the game went into overtime.

In overtime, both Joshua, the Rescuers goalkeeper, and the other keeper had amazing save after amazing save to keep the score 2-2, and Coach Tate took the blame for not shifting strategy to an all or nothing press to offense in the second five minute overtime.

In the end, the Rescuers lost on penalty kicks, but won the hearts of the parent and the respect of the tournament officials and the Arlington travel sides they faced.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Family Museum

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Day After

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Fall, Part Five

Last weekend, we had the most perfect two days of fall. Until they weren't.

Sunday afternoon, Elise had a family shoot at Burke Lake Park. Elise usually goes to the shoots by herself, but this was one twenty minute mini-session. It was a beautiful fall day. Sunny, blue skies, so we decided to join her and play at the playground while she worked. Afterwards, we might ride the carousel or toy train, then stop at Open Road on the way home for burgers, beers, and football on the big screens.

We dropped Elise off at the boat ramp to meet her clients while I strolled across the frisbee golf course, autumn leaves falling around us, with the kids. When we got to the playground the kids sprinted for the jungle gym and I found a spot on a bench in the sun. My legs were wobbly from a long run early that morning, and I might have even thought about closing my eyes for a minute if I thought I could get away with it.

Not a minute later, Peter comes running toward me, screaming and clutching the side of his head. His hand is covered in blood. I pry his arm away from his head, but I have no idea what I am looking at. All I see is blood. I tell Sam and Clem to follow me, then guide Peter toward the men's room. He doesn't seem to be in too much pain, but as soon as he sees the blood on his hand he freaks out, "I don't wanna die!" he squeals, much to my horror.

It takes us a minute to find the bathroom. The whole time we're walking, all I can focus on is this giant orb of blood hanging off his ear, and me wishing for it not to fall and stain his sweatshirt before I can get it off him. It stays there, defying physics, unmoving. I can't believe it.

When we get to the bathroom, I take his sweatshirt off and ask Sam to hold it. He is pale and looks like he's about to pass out. In a few minutes, he will ask me if he and Clem can wait outside to which I will acquiesce. In the meantime, I look for something to sop up all the blood with, but there are no paper towels. Only toilet paper. So I wind toilet paper around my hand and carefully start dabbing at his ear, still not sure what I'm dealing with.

Pete's hair is long. The kids have very little control over anything in their lives. Most nights they don't have control what we have for dinner. They don't have control over their bedtimes or when they get to watch TV. We move frequently. We've moved no less than five times in the last six years and anticipate another move within the next year. And they have no control over where we move to. Even Elise or I have little control over that. But we do try to give them control over little things. Like their hair. We don't make them cut it, and let them decide when they need a haircut. It may be the only thing they do get to control these days.

I was cursing Pete's long hair and rethinking giving him control over this decision as I combed through his blond locks now matted with blood. I pulled back fistfuls of hair, trying to see a wound past the blood. I finally mopped up enough of the blood with soggy pink toilet paper (Peter hyperventilating the entire time) to see that he had a gash on the back of his ear. It didn't look bad, and I attributed all the blood to it being his ear and not the side of his head where I was initially looking.

Several men came into the bath room to pee and wash their hands. Two of them offered first aid kits out of their car. I thought we had our own so I declined, and once I got the bleeding to stop which mercifully it eventually did, I gave Peter a piggyback ride back to the car to wait for Elise to finish her shoot.

Pete would be fine. The kids rarely -- if ever -- get hurt. So when it does happen it is almost surreal. Even more so on such a beautiful day.


By Clementine.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Fall Soccer, Part Two

Post-game antics. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Fall, Part Four

The ten minutes in the morning as Sam, Pete, and I wait for the bus is perhaps the only truly uninterrupted block of time where I have their complete and undivided attention. This is less a commentary on our busy our lives are or how my work schedule overlaps with key moments in their day, either getting ready for school in the morning or getting everyone ready for bed in the evening, running them through baths or showers, brushing teeth, getting them into bed. When we are at home there are a lot of natural distractions; They'd much rather play legos or Pokemon than listen to me. I can't really blame them. They're kids after all, and though they seemingly wither like houseplants deprived of the sun when I am not around, when I am around, I am a suggestion, and yet they seemingly derive comfort from my mere presence.

A few mornings ago, we talked about volcanoes. This morning, I explained to them how the NFL was organized and how CenturyLink Field -- the home of the Seattle Seahawks -- was the loudest stadium in the league. I told them about 'home field advantage' and the '12th man'. Sam was tickled.

"It's because they're used to the cheering, right?"

"No! It's because the fans are on the same side as the Seahawks and get quiet when they have the ball, but then get really loud when the other team has the ball so they can't hear each other on the field."

"Oh, yeah!" Sam suppressed a giggle behind a closed fist.

I told the boys this morning that fall was my favorite season. Pete agreed. Sam likes spring. We all like the cooler weather. There are not a lot of different ways to walk from our house to the bus stop at the end of our street. It's pretty much a straight shot, but yesterday morning, I walked them a block down a side street to look at some especially beautiful fall leaves.

I feel it important to point out these things to them, like especially beautiful trees. When they were babies, I pointed out to them the moon, airplanes, helicopters, mountains, snow, jeeps, the ocean. I guess I never stopped. I once read that what makes a photograph memorable is not the physical photograph itself but the mental decision to take the photograph, that what you are looking at is worth cataloging or capturing for posterity. Likewise, maybe they will remember these things that I think it is important for them to remember because I take the time to stop and point them out to them. Maybe they won't remember the fall leaves, but will remember their father making them walk the wrong way to the bus stop to look at the fall leaves.

Fall -- like spring -- is a season of transition. It is a season that ends summer and ushers in winter. Summer dies in fall, and fall is a season of decay. Leaves loose their verdant greens. In the throes of death they scream brilliant colors before wrinkling and dying. I can imagine an earlier time when there were just animals and early, native civilizations thinking the world was ending. If you didn't know that after winter, spring would come and warm the earth, you could imagine fearing the world was slowly dying.

Many seem to still think the world is ending. The climate surrounding the current election has many thinking that regardless who wins, the world will end. In this day and age, in order to be heard, one has to scream, and there a lot of people screaming. You have to ratchet up the rhetoric and paint things in cataclysmic terms in order to illicit a response. To them, I say relax. The world is not ending. Winter is coming, but it is not the end. Spring will come, too.

The morning was blustery and crisp. When we got to the corner, wind was whoosing leaves out of the trees. They were falling like rain, and Peter and Clementine held their arms above their heads, wheeling amidst them, completely carefree.

I envied their obliviousness.

The election isn't the only thing making Elise and I nervous.

We are supposed to know where we are going by now. The key words here are 'supposed to'. As you can probably guess by now, we don't. Many of our friends and colleagues learned of their next jobs. We were supposed to find out on Monday, October 31 . Halloween. How apropos.

But, alas, Halloween came and went, and no email sending us off to some far-flung corner of the globe arrived in my inbox. I could bore you with the countless details and a thousand reasons why we haven't heard anything yet, but I won't. None of that is really all that important anyway, and when we do finally learn what the next two to three years holds for us, none of us will remember the daily ups and downs that came before the big reveal.

But there have been daily ups and downs.

Yesterday, the microwave at my office was broken, so I had to eat my dinner cold. I have an app on my phone that tells me when the next train is arriving. When I left my office building at a quarter after nine, the app told me the next Orange Line train would be at Foggy Bottom in ten minutes, so I ran the 1/2 mile to the train station only to discover the next train wasn't coming for another fifteen minutes. I ended up sweating like a pig with nothing to show for it. When I got home, I stubbed my toe on the basement stairs. We were out of beer.

But today, I called Apple iTunes service and was able to -- not only get a refund on two movies I had rented that never downloaded -- but also receive two more rentals free. When I got to work, someone from Venice, Florida called me to tell me I won a coupon for an all-expense paid trip for two to South Africa.

Ups and downs.

I interviewed for a job in the Philippines I would not get. We're back to the drawing board. There is something strangely liberating about going back to square one. I remember feeling the same thing when we hadn't received an assignment bidding out of India. The whole world is our oyster again.

For now, I try to focus on enjoying the fall, because this time next year, there may be no fall where we are. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Sam's School Halloween Party

Being wrapped up like a mummy. 

Happy Halloween!

Harry Potter, a dragon, and a rainbow fairie!