The end of the season

After a long, cold spring, the summer has finally arrive with heat and humidity. The daylight lingers so long that you forget it’s time for your kids to be asleep. This last week was a week of closings.

Edwin Hubble readies his “Famous American” presentation

School ended on Friday. Today we’ve spent time spelunking through backpacks, throwing away pencils stubs and uncappered markers, while saving previous mementos and projects in folders marked “Thane – Second Grade” and “Grey – Fifth Grade”. Those folders will get no more entries. Monday they begin the adventures of summer camp, and kick off what will be an extremely busy summer for them. (Actually rather more relaxed for Adam and me!)

It was a very good school year for both boys. Thane is desperately in love with his teacher. He learned sign language from her, and felt valued and respected by her. He asked me a few weeks ago if he could fail second grade so he could do it all over again with her. (Sorry kiddo. Your grades are way too good!) I’d definitely been worried about sending Grey to Middle School. But he thrived in his classroom. He loved his teachers, learned a lot and has continued to grow in maturity and capability. Also, I think 5th grade is a fantastic time to learn what a 0 for not turning in your homework does to the ol’ GPA.

I’m always jealous at the end of the school year. The nature of my work is seasonless – the tropics of effort. I can’t help but thinking how lovely it would be to do work which both begins and ends.

This Saturday was also the last day of the soccer season. We require our kids to play at least one sport, and we can’t make baseball work. So that one sport has been soccer since Grey was wee. There have been quite a few years where one pondered whether it was a good idea. Grey used to have to be cajoled onto the field. Thane was apparently working on his PhD in falling down and didn’t like to get sweaty (sorry kid – it’s a requirement!)

Because of church commitments, I haven’t seen my kids play much this year. It feels like I’ve spent six months in non-stop committee meetings trying to find a pastor we want to hire. But I made it to all of this tournament. It’s really Stoneham at it’s best and brightest. The field is covered with children and parents. There’s a vast melting pot of colors, accents and levels of skill. Children in blue jersey as young as four to the teenage refs showcase sportsmanship and teamwork.

In it to win it

Best of all, though, was watching how much my kids have grown and flourished. Grey, the once reluctant player, was masterful in his defense. It was such a joy to watch him stretch his long legs, find his spots, challenge for the ball – and come away with it. In the tournament, he took two hard-hit balls to the his face. Where in prior years this might have been enough to keep him off the pitch entirely, this year he picked himself up and got right back into the scrum. I was incredibly proud of him, and grateful to his coaches.

Good luck getting past him!

Thane was equally wonderfully transformed. His team only had one sub, and was missing some of it’s skilled players, but managed to fight their way to the championship. They played back to back games. I couldn’t believe how well Thane read the field repositioning himself to be in just the right defensive spot. He did a great job stopping attacks and clearing the ball. He was focused, fast and good. I’ve never seen such a look of concentration and passion on his face. They ended up coming up short in the final game with a late goal by the other team. Instead of falling into sorrow, Thane cheerfully pointed out how fantastic it was that they got to play in a championship at all. I was delighted at the attitude!

Proud championship player

It’s not only the school year that is coming to a close. It’s also a chapter of our life on our street. We have an incredible neighborhood, where many of the families know each other very well. We have meals together, our kids play together all the time. We are deeply connected. This has been true for years now. But the time has come when our dearly beloved friend is being transferred to DC. We’ve known this was coming for years, but we’ve all been in denial. It’s getting harder and harder to deny, though, since they leave next week. Nothing will ever be quite the same – it never is. But this will leave a big hole in my life and community.

Love you forever, Stef!

Love you all the time!

Moving On

I remember Grey’s preschool graduation – my first ever graduation as a parent. The little kids sang this song with a refrain that “Now I’m Moving On” and I got a little weepy.

This week marks a lot of moving on in the life of my family. There are three people who stand in the heart of my life who are marking major transitions this week.

The Certificate
The Certificate

First and foremost, my eldest son. On Thursday, we attended a graduation ceremony for the 4th graders, which as unexpectedly excellent and poignant. I think his teacher this year is the best artist we’ve had so far, and the artifacts she helped the kids create are very poignant. The music was good too, with the kids having mastered many more numbers than the usual concert pieces. I was struck at how capable and competent they all looked – these kids whose faces and names have been part of our life since Kindergarten or before.

The "I wishes" were interesting to read. One little girl's made me want to apologize for failing her. It was "I wish girls could play baseball for as long as they want."
The “I wishes” were interesting to read. One little girl’s made me want to apologize for failing her. It was “I wish girls could play baseball for as long as they want.”

Next year is Middle School. I think we all have questions and trepidation about that. Should the little kids continue to walk to school? (I’ve been super impressed at the walking they’ve all done – the kids walked pretty much 100% of the days this year, and have run out the door to not be late to walk with their friends.) What will Middle School be like? What’s the schedule look like? How do afterschool clubs work? Where are there crossing guards? The only way we’ll really figure out how it all works is to do it. It’s a big change.

2016 Walkers
2016 Walkers

So Monday, the kids head off to Camp Melstone for a summer of trying to remember their swimming trunks and towels, and sunscreen and bug spray and… and it will be great.

But Monday is a change in routine for someone else. On Monday, my husband starts a new job! He spent 8 years with his prior employer, with people he loved and respected deeply. Eight years is a very long time in today’s tech economy, and moving to a new role feels like a very big deal. Just the logistics of figuring out how you get to a knew job can feel daunting – never mind learning the new job! I’m excited for him, he’s excited for him… but it’s going to be a big change all around.

Her accomplishment numbers the millions
Her accomplishment numbers the millions

And then the biggest of the changes. My mother is “graduating” after 29 years of teaching school. I still remember her first day, teaching pre-K. She’s spent almost all her life teaching those early years of middle school. (She used to say, before, that if she were noble she’d teach middle school. She taught me never to admit what I’d do if I were really noble.) I was in 5th grade when she started teaching 6th grade at Columbia Crest. She’s had generations of kids come through her class and learn about geography, French, history, technology and how to be a good human. Many have come back with their 4 year degrees in hand to come sit on Mr. Stool.

Mom definitely has her face pointed to the wind of freedom, though. In fact, in what I consider to be an insane move (but one that is entirely in keeping with my family!) she’s crawling on an airplane on her last day of school to fly to London! I hope Mom and Dad have the amazing, international adventures that they both long for.

So good luck to all my loved ones trying new things. To my sons, heading to summer camp and middle school. To my husband, headed to a new day’s work. To my mother, headed to a new phase of her life! I love you all!

Preschooler No More

My company hosted its annual convention this past week. In addition to presenting at a session and connecting with my clients, I was also the official event photographer (which was wicked fun, by the way). On Thursday, though, I walked out of the cool, dim & artistically decorated rooms and crossed high bridges between crane-risen buildings back to the parking lot, to head home for a rite of passage. Preschool graduation.

Stoneham YMCA Preschool Class of 2014
Stoneham YMCA Preschool Class of 2014

Now, much fun has been made of the proliferation of graduations. I confess to a bit of mirth on my part at the banner strung between the sensory table and block area proudly pronouncing the “Class of 2014”. But when those small, bright faces in pint-sized blue robes came walking through the room to find their chairs, my heart swelled with the pride of the mother of a graduate. The celebration was short. There were readings by two of the emergent readers (including my sweet Thane). The classes sang the songs with Music Jill that I’ve been hearing so much of lately. They called forth the graduates and presented them with both diplomas and “superlatives”. Thane was “Most Likely to be a Scientist” – a role I was heartily glad to hear for him! (I was betting on “Most Likely to be a Pokemon Trainer”)

Thane delivers the keynote
Thane delivers the keynote

I glanced around the room at the kids I knew from playdates and birthday parties. At the parents who shared the 5:59 pickup time with me, and the ones I’d never seen before. We had been together a long time, those of us in that room. Thane has attended the Stoneham YMCA since he was just over a year old, and many of the kids had been in those infant rooms with him. Now they scatter – some to other school districts, some to other elementaries. A handful will find themselves the smallest members of South School in the Fall.

A rare picture of all four Flynns
A rare picture of all four Flynns

Thane is ready for it. He hasn’t napped in like 3 years, so giving up the enforced nap time will be great for him. He has started to read everything around him. Curious and literal-minded, he asks again and again for definitions he knows, trying to ensure he has them just right. His reading is ready. His math is ready. I think – I fear to say it – but his behavior is ready too. He has become amazing amounts more helpful and cooperative over the last year.

He’ll have two more days in the Orange Room, with the beloved Miss Laureen and Miss Jenn. And on Wednesday, when I drop him off at the Y, it will be downstairs at Summer Camp instead of upstairs. A swimsuit will replace the blanket. He’ll be ready for new adventures. And ready he is.

He's ready.
He’s ready.

For more graduation pictures and videos of the kids singing, you can check out the album!

Preschool Graduation

I remember this time last year, when Grey’s then-relatively-new preschool was holding its preschool graduation. I saw the note and thought. Ppfft. Preschool graduation. Call me when we get to a real milestone.

Ah, hubris.

The young graduate, a member of the class of 2011
The young graduate, a member of the class of 2011

I was, shall we say, rather less sanguine when the note arrived in my son’s papers this spring. He was graduating, a proud member of the (I kid you not) Class of 2011. For weeks heading into the event, we began hearing about the big surprise waiting for us. Grey starting singing a new song I hadn’t heard before with a chorus guaranteed to make moms cry. “Seasons come and seasons go. To you it’s fast but to me it’s slow. You’ve helped me learn and you’ve helped me to grow, but now I’m moving on.”

Keynote speech
Keynote speech

Apparently, they practiced their graduation ceremony rigorously, several times over several days leading up to the parental version. Finally, the big day came. The weather was iffy, so we were inside. The room was packed with proud parents – familiar after a year of shared pickups and dropoffs. After a wait, Music Jill began playing ‘Tis a Gift to Be Simple (I was personally extremely grateful it wasn’t Pomp and Circumstance, which I personally loathe after, uh, 7 years in the band that had to play it). The four and five year olds began filing in.

The graduating class making their parents sniffly
The graduating class making their parents sniffly

It was a quick ceremony. The center director said a few words. Grey was nominated to read a selection from “Oh the Places You’ll Go” which he did very well if you could actually hear what he said. They presented flowers to their teachers. Their names were called, and their diplomas presented. Then, they sang their two musical numbers. And with that, it was over. My son was a preschool graduate. He was headed to the grown-up world of summer camp, where there is no nap time, leaving behind the ladies who had taught him for over a year.

Congrats, kiddo.

We're proud of you.
We're proud of you.

See all the pictures, plus three videos: one of Grey reading the poem and two of the kids singing, here:

My coming of age

A friend was recently talking about their graduation from college and how it had been a difficult and uprooting experience for them. That got me thinking about MY graduation from college. In retrospect, my graduation actually was a coming of age and a sweet memory to boot.

Let me set the stage. Four years prior, my father, brother and I had driven from Washington to Connecticut. (In four days. Another story for another time.) My mother had flown out to Connecticut to join us. They were dropping me off at Connecticut College, 3000 miles from home, where I knew no one. This graduation ceremony was the next time they came out. They brought with them my recently widower grandfather — the first time he’d flown since the 50s — and my godfather (he of the had-quintuple-bypass-surgery-yesterday fame).

I was 21. I had been engaged for just over a year and was going to get married in August. I had lined up a “real job” which I had already begun working at as a programmer.

The graduation ceremony itself was typical. Hot. Long speeches. Parents hearing for the first and last times the full names they had graced upon their children on their birth certificates. My litany read “Major in English (distinction) and Medieval Studies (honors and distinction), Cum Laude”. Not the most fantastic of bylines, but respectable. I was and am proud of it. My godfather bought me this truly remarkable frame for my diploma.

The coming of age, though, begins the next day. We had rented a van with room for my grandfather’s scooter, but no room for my fiancee. We started early in the morning. I remember as we pulled out onto Mohegan Drive, I had just gotten my thesis back and was digesting the comments thereon — my last college paper. (I was affronted to have gotten an A-. If he’d told me what he wanted earlier, I could’ve gotten a A. Pbbblft.)

We drove through the Connecticut countryside towards Worcester, where we had breakfast.

It’s funny, but there are moments where you transition. That breakfast was a great breakfast. We sat at a big table and ate eggs and bacon and talked. I recall that we got into a heated discussion on when gunpowder had been widely used in Europe. Then I sneaked away from the table. For my entire life, these people had taken care of me. They had fed me, housed me, clothed me, transported me. (Including my godfather.) I went to see the waitress, to pay the bill for my family’s breakfast. It was my way of saying, “Look at me. I’m a grownup too!” It had the desired satisfying outcome of amazing the assembled, and causing them to pause for a moment to think, “Why yes, she is a grownup.”

In an aside, while I was waiting to pay, a woman came up to me and asked if we were part of some history club. No. We’re just family. But man, I love that about my family.

After our desultory and educational meal, we went up 495 to Lowell and Lawrence. We went on a tour of the historic mills, saving up facts for future breakfast arguments. We stood in the bright May sun in the brick alleyways. I think of that part often. I now work in one of those old mill buildings like those we toured. The floorboards below my desk are nailed down with handmade nails and have captured, between the cracks, hundreds of tiny shoe-nails.

Thus educated, we wended our way up to St. Johnsbury Vermont where we stayed at a terrible dive of a motel. We didn’t always stay at terrible dives of motels growing up. No, sometimes, well often, we decided that it was too much work and just kept driving.

Starting the next morning in the Northwest corner of New England, we proceeded to drive through every New England state. We drove backroads across Vermont and New Hampshire up to Portland Maine, and then 95 down to Burlington MA where we had dinner with my beau. After dinner, we continued down 95 through Rhode Island, and I was deposited back in Connecticut.

There were some other moments — my grandfather slipping off a bar stool at Rosie’s in Groton and nearly killing himself, my parents taking me shopping for my graduation-present bicycle. But soon they left. I had a month or two of in-between time, after graduation and before my wedding. But it was on that trip with the folks who raised me that I stepped forward out of dependency and into full adulthood.

It was also the moment when my grandfather realized that 86 was too young to be bounded by two oceans. He started laying plans immediately, which culminated with him and my godfather going to Scotland for a month, where he wrecked a van, broke his leg, reconnected with long-lost relatives and generally had the time of his life. I was so glad that he had these opportunities, and so impressed at his willingness to take big risks in order to live out his life to the fullest.