We’ve had a very eventful, exciting, and emotionally draining few weeks for Jamie and Paulina. I figured the easiest way to update you would be a blog post. (I think clicking on photos will make them bigger.)

Let’s start with Paulina. This spring Paulina really got into her first traditional Ballet class. She had toyed with a dance class two years ago, but it didn’t really click with her. Over the winter, however, she started begging us to let her take ballet, and was very clear that she wanted to do real ballet, by which we assumed she meant: the frillier the better! We were a little concerned something too traditional would be too intense — “Ve Vill learn ze Ballet Basics: Session One: Binge! Session Two: Purge!” — but found a great dance studio nearby that came highly recommend. Paulina was the youngest in her class, and the girls (they were all girls) went up to about 10, but most were 7-9. Polly did great.

Paulina at rehearsal

Warm ups

Her teacher — a perfect mix of fun and non-nonsense — has her own modern dance company. A couple of months ago, they had a show and Paulina really wanted to go. Kiersten and I love modern dance, but we didn’t know how it would resonate with a six year old. Well, it was definitely modern, but also good and Paulina absolutely loved it. “This is f,f,phee-mom-a-nul!” she exclaimed at the end. (Jamie, on the other hand, was bored silly. Not enough Hip Hop music.)

Sylvana, the teacher, told the girls that they should all make a point of going to see dance at the Kennedy Center, so that became Paulina’s big request. So the first thing in our busy month was “Polly and Dad’s Date at the Kennedy Center.” We got all fussied up and went to see a superb collection of national collegiate winners of regional dance contests. They were competing for national awards during a three day series of performances here in DC. Paulina absolutely loved being dressed up and out with all the grown-ups at the beautiful Kennedy Center. The quality of dance was very, very good, too. All modern, some with complex or even mature themes (e.g., a terrific dance about the Triangle Factory Fire in 1911 that Paulina loved even though I spared her the details). Paulina really got into it, loved talking about which she liked and which “didn’t do it for me.” It very much reminded me of going to theater and dance with my dad as a kid, and so it meant a lot to take her. We had a blast.

All Dressed up for our Date

Shortly after that, Paulina had her first dance recital. This happened to be the same day as the first playoff game for the little league team Jamie is on and which I coach, and a soccer game for Jamie. Thankfully, I’m commissioner of the Little League so I could schedule our game to make sure there wasn’t a conflict! Paulina’s class performed the number they had been working on for months as part of a program featuring about 20 other performances. There were literally about 300 people in the room. I was joking with my dad that this was way more than I recall him performing in front of when I was a kid! The kids were great, and Paulina really nailed her performance. It was so amazing to watch her out there, all beautiful and having improved so much since she started just a few months earlier.

A week later Paulina learned that a collage she did in art class at school had not only been selected by her teacher as one of a handful from all grades to be entered in a city-wide school district contest, but that it had been selected to hang at the American University Art Gallery in a show that would stay up for two weeks! On opening night, we all got dressed up (again! This is more than I dressed up all year at work!) and went to see all the chosen art work from around the city. Paulina really shined. I tried to explain how cool it was that it would hang for a while, like in a real gallery (because, after all, it is a real gallery) and that hundreds of people would see it over the course of two weeks. I told her how her grandfather used to own a gallery, and how I had grown up going to see art in galleries, and how granddad had had his own art hang in galleries, just like her. That didn’t really resonate with her until we went back a couple of days ago and she saw a tour group walking through looking at it. Suddenly she realized that this had been happening all along and that many, many people had seen her work. This caused her to really beam.

As if that wasn’t enough, Paulina finally lost her first tooth! In classic Polly fashion, she hesitated to pull it for days, and then just decided to yank it out. Lots of blood, which made it cooler.

Finally, Paulina finished her third soccer season under Coach Kiersten. This year her love of soccer reached a new level. At a camp over the winter in which she was one of only two girls, we encouraged her to combat all that helter skelter boy energy by just being extra aggressive. As a joke, we started telling her that if she knocked a boy down, as long as it was because she was going for the ball and not a cheap shot, we’d take her to get her favorite frozen yoghurt. That has become a running theme in our family, and every game she’d inevitably run over some hapless boy on her way to scoring (or passing — she’s a great passer, as is everyone on the team thanks to coach Kiersten’s rule that anyone who doesn’t pass in a game gets set upon by the Tickle Monster!). She had a great season and is now talking all the time about how she wants to try out for travel soccer next spring, which would be a year early. We’re not sure we want her to do that, but we’re trying to be encouraging without pushing it too much. At any rate, it’s a blast to watch her play.

Things have been, if possible, even more dramatic for Jamie these past few weeks. Here’s the rundown of the last three weeks for Jamie:

First, he ran for school treasurer. Speech in front of the whole school, etc. He and another fourth grader split the 4th grade vote and a third grade friend won. Much sadness. On the other hand, as you’ll see below, Jamie had the absolute coolest campaign posters in the history of student government campaigns! But still, that was a blow.

Treasurer For Life!

Next, our baseball team had its playoff/championship run. This was the last season for this team we’ve had for four years before two guys move, and four move to the next level of play (the “majors”), including Jamie. Also, and most heavy, this was the last season I’d be coaching Jamie’s team. So a lot of emotion there, for both of us. We won our first game, and then our team absolutely imploded in the semis — 13 errors in six innings, no earned runs, all 10 of the other team’s runs with two outs — and we lost 10-2. Jamie played his tail off, including a diving catch that had everyone oohing and ahing, but alas it was not to be. Tears for two nights about that. (And that was just me!) Anyway, that was a little better than the student government thing because we won a game in the playoffs and Jamie had a great season (hit .737, made only one error, and only gave up one run pitching), but ultimately very, very sad.

Wearing the eye black new Nationals’ teenage phenom Bryce Harper wore before turning pro

Smashing the line drive single to RF to try and spark a futile last inning rally

As always, wearing the number of his favorite player, Nationals’ stellar 3B Ryan Zimmerman

Then he had travel soccer tryouts. This coming year gets very serious and the players trying out were much better than the last two years Jamie has tried out/played travel. To make it in the past was a big deal, but to make it this year would really be a statement about how good someone is (or so the coaches said). About 100 kids got cut, including six that were on a team the last two years. Jamie, however, made it! So big relief there. He was very excited, especially since he had twisted his ankle the day before tryouts and could barely run. He’s really rediscovered his love of soccer the last few months. The only downside was that instead of being on the second team as he has been the last two years, he was on the third, but that’s still great and he could use a chance to work on some things. (In particular, like most of his team, he needs to get tougher and learn to run over boys like his sister does.) So in the crescendo of events for him, this was the next step up, and a very positive thing, so we were all happy.

Finally, the biggie (other than our baseball team): All Star baseball tryouts. He’s been looking forward to this for literally three years. Not making it would be crushing, and particularly since the coach is the guy who has been coaching these tournament teams he’s been playing on the last three seasons, a great guy Jamie really likes. As you may know, we moved when we did so he could be on this team (you have to live within the league boundary). So a lot riding on this (e.g., a massive mortgage.) Jamie worked his tail off, asking me to take him out four to five days a week for extra practice, and after an incredible two day tryout in which he really starred, he made the team! We found out Sunday morning, so that was a great Father’s Day for all of us, capped by a great afternoon watching the Yankees play the Nationals (I wore my new Yankees #1 Dad shirt Jamie got me and a Nationals’ hat to express my divided loyalties…but I rooted for the Nats).

He has three tournaments in the next three weeks, another after that if they win the city championship, and practices for two hours every night. In other words, heaven for Jamie.

On the DC Baseball Tournament team that led to his All-Star selection

You can see the emotional drain from all of this in his face. As parents, we had seen this three week period coming on the schedule for months, and were dreading it. It could have been epically great, or tragically horrible. Ultimately it was, like life, somewhere in between, but thankfully closer to the former than the latter. And at the same time, Paulina’s month has been just amazing, including unexpected serendipities like the art show. All in all we’re a very happy household right now. And one of the best parts was being able to host the baseball team party for the first time in the four years I’ve been coach, because we finally had a backyard for the kids to play in. I don’t know if our lawn will ever recover from the hours of slip-n-slide, but it was worth it.

So a tumultuous few weeks around here. We’re happy the summer has finally arrived. Jamie is at his first DJ Camp today, and Paulina is going to rock climbing camp the rest of the week. Then Jamie has chess camp before three weeks of baseball, soccer, and basketball, in that order. Paulina will be doing a series of outdoor, dance, and sports camps. Both kids are going to have one week alone at Camp Dad, which the Camp Director is especially looking forward to. Then it’s off to Oregon and Tahoe!

Phew. I can’t wait until the fall when work starts again and I can finally relax!


Paulina’s 5th Birthday

Loads of fun for Paulina during her multi-day birthday extravaganza this year. Things got started with the classroom party last Friday, then the big birthday bash at Chuck-E-Cheese’s on Saturday with 17 of her closest friends. Thankfully we had a couple of days to recover from that before the official birthday on Tuesday (though Jamie kept telling her that morning that she wasn’t actually five until 9:30 a.m. because that’s what time she was born; this, as you might imagine, didn’t go over very well). While Jamie went to camp, Polly and I saw “Yogi Bear” in 3D and played “School” with her new teacher uniform. I was lucky to get a good grade (“A” for “Awesome”); another student in our imaginary class got a “B” (for “Bad”) and was told that if she complained she’d be locked in school all night! Then it was off to get Jamie and hit the Duckpins bowling alley. For those who don’t know, at a Duckpins alley you have a small ball and very small pins and you get three throws per frame. It’s perfect for kids. The day wrapped with pizza and ping pong with our friends Brian and Mona and their 8-year-old son Lucas and 4-year-old daughter Willa.

Polly spent the entire day in her new outfit from Aunt Pat and Uncle Ernie, tu-tu and all.

Can’t believe we’re going to go through all this again on Saturday with Christmas morning!