Tag: life with kiddos (Page 1 of 5)

The Ballad of Busy


Somewhere in between the balance of this crazy hustle is a sweet, sweet spot.

My alarm on weekday mornings goes off at 6:40 a.m. — the latest I can sleep in and still have just a few minutes with Kelly, Julia, and Thomas before they hop in the van and go to school. They are often basking in a half-episode of screen time, often the only television they get during the school week, which gives Kel the chance to pack backpacks and find order before departure. Then: kisses and hugs and good wishes and goodbyes.

Annie is still asleep and hopefully will be for another hour. I pull on my sneakers and go downstairs to the elliptical. Someone I do not know figured out I was Mrs. Hogan’s husband recently, and when we bumped into each other downtown last week, told me that his elementary-school aged daughter saw me working out most mornings. (The elliptical is in front of a window in the back of the house, where East Elementary School Road car-rider traffic crawls by.) So I discovered I am the brief entertainment of hundreds of children through the week.

I watch the news while I work out for 25 minutes, then drink a glass of cold water, then feed the bigger dog and scratch her ears for a couple of minutes. Then, time for a shower and shave, time to get dressed (quick check of my calendar for the day to determine if I can get away with a polo shirt; Thursday I could not), time to wake up Annie, who was stirring anyway.

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Put me in, Coach


Coaching varsity track was how I taught students in my English classes the concept of irony. And then came rec league soccer.

Fourteen years ago or so, over a holiday break, my principal called to talk to me about coaching varsity track and field at the high school where I was teaching English. The problems with that idea should have been obvious to me. I didn’t know the first thing about track, after all–I only ran in cases of emergency. I’d never even been to a track meet. My idea of a track coach was the gym teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off who chased kids around in a golf cart.

Life has its way of putting me into odd places, though, and soon that cold February I found myself on a rough asphalt ring behind the gym trying desperately to look like I knew what I was doing. I filled the time with running and sprinting drills–things I felt relatively sure about–but when it came time to fill out my first meet sheet (the roster of which athletes on your team will participate in which events), I remember having a conversation with one of the assistant coaches, Meaghann, in which she discovered I had no clue how it worked. If we’d been coaching football, it would have been as if she realized I didn’t know that you called plays for each down.

In time, we began to earn respectable finishes in our conference meets. We advanced teams to regional track events and even state track meets. I nagged the county athletic director until our school got a new track facility placed on the system’s capital improvements plan.

Occasionally I’d step in something that proved I still had a fragile grasp of how to coach serious sprinters, distance runners, jumpers, and throwers. And now and then a grumpy parent would loudly complain from the stands about what I wasn’t getting right. My gut reaction in those instances was to march into the bleachers, hand said parent my clipboard and stopwatch, and walk away.

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Some things are brilliantly composed



Let’s just start with this: last Friday I came home from work, ate a quick dinner, and mowed the yard. Saturday night it snowed.

That, in a nutshell, is so many things: March in North Carolina. Par for the course. Life right now. Friday I mowed the grass, taking care to bag the clippings and empty them into the heavy-duty trash can I keep for yard waste, taking time to stripe the grass diagonally on the opposite angle from when I did it the weekend before, and there was a chill in the air as the sun set, the kind that felt more like October, like football and bonfires and the awakening of some adolescent excitement than the warmer urges of spring.

Saturday it snowed, a bone-chilling, damp, cured-only-by-hearty-stew cold snow, one that fell remorselessly after a concert we’d put on at the college, one that celebrated the life of a man who directed the community music program until several years ago, one who seemed cut from the cloth of local legends, the kind of fellow who could tell a soprano what to sing and she decided he was right. Anyway we’d sat through two hours of tributary music, really good music at that, a fantastic showing for our post-industrial town of about 35,000, and then it was over, and we threw open the doors to the 110-year old hall, and discovered the mulch beds and tulips and daffodils were filling up with sleet.

The ladies groaned, and the men turned their collars up against the cold, and a lucky few reappeared with umbrellas plucked from some previously hidden place. I went back inside to hob-knob a while longer, thinking maybe what I’d just witnessed outside was a misconception, that if I chatted some more it would simply go away. 

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