Friday, September 9, 2011

Hanging at the Gym

When you work out at a gym and attend classes frequently enough, you get to know all the “regulars” at the gym and maybe if you are dedicated enough, become one yourself. I’ve been making a real effort to get to the gym during lunchtime lately and have started to notice the regular cast of characters that seem to be on the same rotation as me. Thought I’d share my observations with you all.
• The athletic brunette in the front of the total body conditioning class. I hope she appreciates that fantastic body because the rest of the class certainly does and hates her for it. It won’t last, honey, so enjoy it while you can. No really, nice job.
• The chic with the toe-shoes in the middle of the class. We all now know that you are a belly dancer on the side. Quit shaking your butt during class, this ain’t a dance class. And those shoes are ugly.
• The blond chic that keeps pretending not to know how to do the exercise to get the instructor’s attention. Quit hogging the hot instructor, why do you think the rest of us come to the class?
• The backbenchers. Quit showing up for class early and taking up all the back space. You aren’t leaving any room for me.
• The older lady who insists on walking around the locker-room naked. Yes, you look great for your age. But please, for the love of God, put some underwear on. If I have to see you bend over one more time, I may need to poke my eyes out.
• The Russian girl who insists on wearing bright colored underwear under white clothes. You are taking “If you’ve got it, flaunt it” to a whole new low.
• The older gentleman who always sings during spinning class. You rock.
• The guy with BO in spinning class. There is a thing called deodorant. Use it
• Finally, the conditional class instructor. You are one fine specimen with a cult following, and you know it. That’s ok. You can yell at me all you want.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mosquitoes v. the World

It started innocently enough, as it always does on the chat list. A friend and neighbor asked if anyone had ever used a service by Mosquito Squad to spray and reduce mosquitoes in their backyard. As an aside, Carderock appears to be where all the mosquitoes like to hang in Bethesda -- something about all the trees, natural landscaping, and nearby creeks, makes it a natural breeding ground. And these vampire mosquitoes are early risers, sucking blood 24-7, whether you are going for a jog at 6 am or enjoying an evening walk as the sun sets. So back to the question at hand.

A few neighbors posted sympathetic responses about the mosquito woes and asked to be included in the group request for a discount. Then..... the naturalists emerged and joined the chat, a breed perhaps even more dominant than the mosquitoes in our 'hood. You know, the ones that have more than one type of compost pile, use a hand-pushed mower, and recycle like its a religion. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

50 emails or more later, the debate had been crystallized. Either you are a selfish mosquito-hater who chooses personal comfort over saving mother earth or you are a good neighbor, declining to spray pyrethoids (or something like that) in order to save all the crickets, butterflies, the Chesapeake bay, and let's face it, the world.

Some helpful suggestions for alternatives were thrown out along the way. My favorite was installing a bat house in your backyard. Apparently bats eat up to 600 bugs an hour. Great, I thought, although there is no way my kids would go in the backyard with bats flying all around them, no matter how great a reduction in the mosquitoes. Seriously, bat bite vs. mosquito bite? Not even a choice.

But the bigger question raised by this debate is when is my bizness my neighbor's bizness? The original poster did not ask to survey everyone's opinions on the safety of the service, just whether it worked or not. But the neighborhood treated it like it was up for a democratic vote, and the OP's choice could be vetoed by the naysayers. At least this time the tone of the discussion stayed somewhat friendly. But remember village, if you wouldn't feel comfortable walking over and talking to your neighbor directly about their bizness, doing it by email doesn't make it any better. At least, that's my opinion.

Now I am going to go kill me some mosquitoes the old fashioned way -- one slap at a time.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ode to the Douchebags

I had the pleasure of driving home from Atlantic City on Sunday after a very relaxing weekend with my hubbie at the Water Club. Dave usually drives but I was driving home solo since he was taking the train to NYC. Maybe our lack of success at the tables colored my drive but I penned the following ode to the douchebag fellow drivers on the road, while powering home.

-- to the guy who had to swerve onto the left shoulder to avoid rear-ending me when we hit a pocket of traffic. Newsflash, if you have to drive off the road to avoid hitting me, you are a douchebag.
-- to the girl who sat in the left hand "pass lane" and matched the speed of the car in the lane next to her. Just like any escalator in the DC metro area, you stand on the right, and pass on the left. Memorize, repeat. Get out of my way, douchebag.
-- to the BMW model 335i manufacturers, who manufacturied a crappy fuel pump, so that the "engine malfunction" light popped on as I was crossing the span bridge to Philly. As I get older, my vertigo is getting more intense and I feel like I am going to drive off the bridge. The fact that the light came on as I was crossing the bridge? Thanks, douchebags.
--To the Ford Escape who sped up to block me from merging onto the highway, thanks douchebag. I really hope Ford has improved the safety records of their cars, no really.
-- to Apple for making my iPhone and giving me the option of putting my entire itunes library on shuffle so I could play "guess the artist" on the drive home, you guys are NOT douchebags.
-- to the car with the guys sticking their feet out of every window as they drove home from the beach. I am REALLY happy that you had such a relaxing weekend. That is awesome. Please, spread the love and get OUT of the FAST lane.
-- to the lady manning the toll both who rocked along to my itunes as I paid my tenth toll of the day. Rock on sister, you are NOT a douchebag.
-- to the guy in front of me who hit his brakes, causing me to swear and also avoid a speeding ticket. I love you, you are not a douchebag.

Conclusion: I could not believe how many douchebags were on the highway during my drive home from Atlantic City. Luckily, and obviously, I was not one of them.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Best Imitation of Myself

A comment by a neighbor at the pool got me thinking about this topic the other day. Earlier that day, I had posted about my triumphant return to spinning class on Facebook, and she commented to me that she didn't know how I could be so "active" and do all the things I post about on Facebook, or here on my sporadically updated blog. I responded oh, it has been forever since I went to spinning class, and shrugged embarrassed, thinking to myself heh, she has no idea what a slug I am.

Later that week, I was flipping through the photos I had posted on Facebook and it struck me. If you took these snapshots and my status updates as the sole representation of my life, you would come to the following conclusions: I am an avid skier and love to go snow tubing, we spend every weekend outside doing sporty activities, I work out every day, my children and husband are perfect, I frequently adopt dogs, and I never ever have any problems at work.

The reality is: those two sets of photos of me skiing are the only two times I have been skiing in the last ten years, ok we spend a lot of time on the weekend taking the kids to sporty activities but we are couch potatoes who like to watch a lot of TV, the times I have posted that I worked out are pretty much the ONLY times I have worked out, my children and my husband are, OMG, not perfect, and I try not to post about my job, at all, ever, regardless of whether it is a good or bad day.

The time that Alex screamed that she hated me and slammed the door in my face, didn't post about it. The time that Jack spent all day saying "whatever Lady," when I asked him to do something, and no, he was no longer trying to be funny, didn't post about that one either. The fact that I have signed up for two triathlons and failed to do them both times, yeah, somehow that didn't make it into a Facebook post.

I suppose there is no big mystery as to why that is. Consciously or unconsciously, we use Facebook (or twitter) to project a "version" of ourselves -- without all the blemishes, bruises or warts. You know, the "reunion" you, the shiny, hair blown-out, nails done, new outfit sporting you that has the best career, the best spouse, the best kids, and the best life. I don't feel like broadcasting, nor do you really want to read about the fact that I fed pizza to the kids for the second night in a row, am typing this blog rather than writing a memo I should be writing this evening, had to clean up dog pee from the carpet twice tonight, and I let the kids go to bed without washing their hair because I just didn't feel like dealing.

So next time I post about my wonderful day and that awesome work out, remember, I do the best imitation of myself.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Float Night

So last Saturday night started the summer tradition of "float" night at our neighborhood pool. No, this does not refer to finding a floater in the pool, something that is likely to shut the pool down for the night. Rather, our float night draws everyone to the pool, that special night once a week when the ban on pool flotation devices is lifted and the kids can pile into the pool in a sea of plastic and neon colors. I really need to take a photo of this to capture the event, but imagine giant ducks, whales, and the more boring blow-up beds bobbing amongst a froth of arms, legs, and writhe childish bodies, clambering to pile on to these floats as dusk settles in the air.

You'd think this would be the kids' favorite night, and it is, but really I think the adults look forward to it more. Without much prior planning, we all arrive at the pool, octopuses strapped to the top of the car, and drag our coolers of beer, bbq chicken, and various salads up to the picnic area, ready to settle in for a long night of chatting, knowing that we won't be bothered by the kids (at least those 6+ in age) for several hours in a row. A good time to catch up on the busy week we had and talk about our plans for the rest of the summer. It feels, at least to me, that the parents of the rising third graders (egad) have co-opted float night, taking the last row of picnic benches hostage, but maybe every other group feels the same way about their own set of friends.

So last night was one of our more mellow float nights. Many of the group were off stuffing themselves with pasta to prepare for this morning's sprint triathlon, while the rest of us honored their quest by drinking summer ales, wine, and talking about how crazy they all are. (You go girls). I'm sure as the summer wears on, the float nights will pick up speed, until we reach that epic float night -- when the night never seems to end, it gets so dark that you can't find your wet towels or your kids, and the children collapse in a pile on the pool chairs, having given up begging their parents to go home. Inevitably, at least one parent (you know who you are) will decide after one-too many beers that diving off the boards is a good idea, and the teenage lifeguards will look on in horror as belly flops and volcanic cannon balls ensue.

Last night wasn't it, but you could feel the buzz in the air, the anticipation of many summer nights at the pool to come. And when that endless float night arrives, we will know it, and it will be epic.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Top ten signs you are an overcommitted parent:

It's been a while since I've managed to write anything so I thought this would be an appropriate topic to blog about. Drum roll please, here are the top ten signs you are an overcommitted parent:

10. You have not posted anything on your blog for over a month.
9. You have a blog.
8. You find yourself making a fruit salad at midnight for your kid's school birthday celebration the next day.
7. You stop taking showers on the weekends because that saves you 15 mins right there.
6. You look forward to going back to work on Mondays because it is a vacation from your weekends.
5. You get your elementary school children to bed at ten pm on a school night and that feels like an accomplishment.
4. The cupboards in the house are so bare that putting "coffeemate" in your morning cup of tea seems like a reasonable option.
3. You email your mother-in-law the kids' schedule for the weekend that you and your spouse are away and she seriously reconsiders coming.
2. You have communicated with your husband more in text than in person.
1. Your color-coordinated Outlook calendar looks like someone threw up on it in technicolor.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Just got the email from our swim team coordinator reminding us that sign-up for the swim team/dive ‎team is around the corner. 6 weeks when you spend what feels like every waking moment at the ‎pool cheering your kid and the entire rest of the ‘hood kids on at weekend meets. ‎

When we lived in DC, I had no idea that there was this secret Bethesda world of neighborhood pools, ‎or that there were over 10 swim teams in Bethesda alone. We sadly shuffled our way over to the ‎public pool on Little Falls Pkwy or braved one of the bigger DC pools, somehow sensing we were ‎missing out on something but not being able to put our finger on it. We naively put our name on the ‎waitlist for Palisades pool and were fortunate to get off the list, five years later, just as we were ‎moving to Carderock Springs.‎

Lo and behold, when our kids joined the Carderock dive/swim team a few years back, I learned that ‎almost every neighborhood in Bethesda has a community pool, open only to residents of the ‎surrounding neighborhood, and almost every one of those pools has a swim team. Each weekend, a ‎hoard of cars rolls into our club’s parking lot, and big and little swimmers alike tumble out, their ‎swimsuits festooned with the enemy team’s logo. If your kid belongs to one of these swim teams, ‎you are required to slap one of the team’s circular magnets on your car. I am pretty sure it is a stated ‎requirement in the parent swim team handbook, if the compliance rate on all the cars is anything to go ‎by.‎

At our pool, we even have a little pre-team, the “mini-cudas”, made up of kids who can barely hold ‎their heads above the water, who are taught how to swim by the much bigger ‘Cudas. There is ‎something very sweet in watching the older teenagers teach the next generation of little swimmers ‎how to blow bubbles and maybe, in a few years, join the team and swim a lap of the pool to the ‎reward of a bright-colored ribbon. Go CUDAS!‎

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3

The other day the school sent home a form we had to fill out for both kids as part of the Second Grade ‎MCPS “Gifted and Talented” Screening process. It was an odd collection of questions, and you had to ‎rate your child based on how often you had observed a particular behavior or trait (i.e. gets very ‎focused on one particular activity – frequently, often, never, etc.). It seemed hard to believe that this ‎form had much to do with anything so I stuck it in the mail basket of doom for a while and tried to ‎ignore it, but ultimately forced myself to fill it out the day before the deadline. Ranking your kids on ‎anything is NOT fun, but try ranking twins side by side on a bizarre set of questions and you’ll get some ‎real mother-guilt heartburn. I ended up filling it out at midnight, in a locked bathroom, while ‎obsessively checking that the kids were asleep. I know, I need some professional help.‎

Then there is the label for the program that is the reason for the form in the first place – “Gifted and ‎Talented.” Seriously, who came up with that one? I had to laugh out loud because it reflects a real ‎schizophrenia within the school system, and maybe educators in general, as to how and/or when kids ‎should be “labeled” and what to label them. On the one hand, MCPS conducts this stealth math (and ‎sometimes reading) tracking system, beginning as early as Kindergarten, where they start grouping ‎the kids by their supposed ability – first within the classroom and then ultimately by reshuffling the ‎kids for those particular subjects. But they don’t really want the parents to know that they are doing ‎this, and they REALLY don’t want the kids to figure it out. In fact, we were expressly instructed by the ‎teachers NOT to discuss it. So if your kid asks you why they go to “so and so” for math, and their friend ‎doesn’t (or vice-versa), you end up doing this whole dance and shuffle while attempting to avoid the ‎very question your kid is asking you. ‎

But come the end of second grade, and suddenly there is this test, and if your kid aces this test then ‎they are TA DAH, Gifted and Talented, Capital G, Capital T. And, of course, this is Montgomery County ‎so we all secretly or not so secretly think our kids are G&T, right?, and heaven forbid the test proves us ‎wrong. (Although of course, there is the fallback, well my kid is not a good test-taker). And what is ‎the grand prize for beings so fahbulous? Why, you get to go to a “special” school with all the other G&T ‎kids where you will be more “challenged” and you don’t have to keep slumming with the “regular” ‎kids. ‎

But how do you reconcile the G&T moniker with the bunches of studies that show that praising an ‎innate character -- such as smartness or goodness – in a kid, rather than effort, is self-defeating? ‎These studies concluded that children who are constantly praised as being “smart,” or I would imagine, ‎‎“gifted and talented,” have less self-esteem and, in fact, start to be afraid to take risks for fear that it ‎will prove that they are not as smart as everyone else thinks they are. Whereas encouraging hard ‎work and effort prompts more of the same. (Here is a link to a good article summarizing these studies =

The kids took the TerraNova standardized test a week or 2 ago. The first day, as I was ushering them ‎out the door and giving a kiss goodbye, I encouraged them to have fun and to "do your best." I ‎decided I didn't like that so the next day, I bid them goodbye with a "try your hardest" and both kids ‎responded much better to that, coming home excited to report how the test had gone. Words carry a ‎lot of power, especially coming from parents.‎

So for now at least, phrases that are banned in our house include "you are so smart" or "you are a ‎good kid." Phrases that are encouraged in our house - you worked really hard on that; you gave that ‎your best effort and you got to the right answer. But I also think that no matter how hard I try to ‎navigate a good path on one thing, I am just going to screw something else up with my kids. It is ‎always easy to blame parents for everything, right? Wait, never mind, don’t answer that. ‎

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Get Outraged

I’m off to the PTA meeting tonight where the principal of the school is going to discuss the County’s budget crisis, the upcoming budget cuts, and how this will affect class size and staffing for next year. I have been all in a tizzy about the MCPS budget cuts, spending more time than I would care to admit researching what the class size “guidelines” are (don’t make the mistake of calling them “limits” or “maximums” because they ain’t). For all the free flow of information on the internet, it took me hours (and several emails to the superintendent’s office) to actually get a link to an actual document, and the news was not great. Unlike other states where the class size is built into teacher contracts, in Montgomery County they are merely part of the budget, another number to play with to try and cut down on costs while not paying the teachers any more money for taking on these huge class sizes.

There has been a lot of email chatter on blogs and chat lists about the impending increase in class sizes and what effect that will have on Montgomery county’s public school system. On the one hand, we consider ourselves very lucky to be in such a fantastic school system with such talented and dedicated teachers, but you can only ride those coattails so long. Put 30+ nine-year olds in a single classroom, throw a bunch of boring worksheets at them, and you better step back because no matter how good the teacher is, you are asking for trouble. Not to mention you can say goodbye to any extra resources for music, arts, etc. Suddenly, that private school option, the one with the horrifying sticker-shock price, is looking like something you might want to reevaluate.

So I was getting ready to go to this meeting, guns ablazing with my list of questions about how this affects “me” and “my kids”, and then I went to a lunch presentation at work today about charter schools in DC. Representatives from a charter school in SE came to talk to us about an elementary school they have been trying to “turn around” this past year. Before they got involved, the kids’ reading levels were at 13% of the national standard, and the math levels were at 8%. This was a school everyone had given up on – certainly, no one was complaining about class sizes, and no one was acting like they believed the kids could or should do better. The executive director asked us, if we took one thing away from this lunch, that we be “outraged” that any child would be subjected to this pathetic excuse of a public school.

So I am distressed that class sizes in our school are likely going up, and very unthrilled that staffing is likely to go down. But I’m going to save my outrage for something more meaningful.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The March to Madness

Spring is in the air, the cherry blossom trees are coming to life, and the daffodils and forsythia are bursting out in bright flashes of yellow.   This should be a relaxing time to stop and smell the flowers, so to speak.  But with spring comes March madness.  No, not the sitting around watching college hoops kind of madness.  A different march of madness – more like a mad dash really – from the soccer fields to the baseball fields to ice hockey to tennis to ballet to choir to  horseback riding to the …. You get the idea.

Every spring I declare I am going to stop this insanity and sign up for one sport per kid per season.  Every spring, I immediately break this rule and sign them up for even more stuff.    What is wrong with me, I ask myself, as I obsessively check the carpool schedule for Jack’s soccer practices, hustle across town to get Alexandra to her soccer games and ice-skating lessons, and try to figure out how Jack is going to make it to his soccer game and his baseball practice at the same time.   (Answer: unless I bend time and space to my personal desires, which I’ve tried without much success, he is not).

There is a lot of discussion about how overscheduled kids are nowadays, and I agree, my kids are overscheduled, and I have no one to blame but myself.  But for reasons that I clearly need to spend more time introspectively pondering (if I had the time, that is), I am unable to say “no,” and to make them choose which of the myriad activities they want to do.  My internal thinking seems to be along the lines of “I don’t want them to miss out on an opportunity,” as if not being on THAT soccer team is somehow going to make the difference between becoming the next Beckham and playing on a JV soccer team their senior year of high school, if at all (the horrors). 

Obviously, I am very type A++++.  I know this about myself and I work on it, I promise I do.  But I somewhat blame this sports-overload on the various sporting leagues that run organized sports in Montgomery County too.   Why, MSI Soccer, do you make it so impossible to only have a fall team and then take a break for the spring?  Both their website and their emails constantly remind you that if you don’t register for the next season, you are going to lose your spot on your team AND THEN WHERE WILL YOU BE?  If you don’t get a spot on the BCC baseball team in Kindergarten, well you can forget your kid playing on the school team with his friends until fourth or fifth grade when most of the roster (and really more their parents) are forced to admit that watching their elementary school kids play baseball is worse, way worse, than watching paint dry.   White paint.  Matte, with no gloss.

Then you’ve got the debate of whether it is better to diversify and try lots of different sports (what most of us were forced to do growing up), or OH MY GOD, your kid is in second grade and you haven’t picked what sport he or she is going to “major” in yet?  The various travel clubs add to this debate by basically insisting that your kid commit to only playing that sport if they join the club, because you know, all of that time they spent getting your 8-yr old to learn to do that fake-out scissor kick move is a big, big INVESTMENT that needs to be protected.  Heaven forbid your soccer-playing future phenom break his arm playing ice hockey for MYHA, that would be a truly selfish act and would let down your kid’s travel team and then they might not make it to that championship game or whatever it is you are supposed to care about if your kid plays some club sport.   (And don’t even get me started on the god-awful ice rink times you are subjected to if you stupidly let your kid “try” ice hockey). 

This sports-centric MoCo world is all new to me.   You should know that I was no athlete in school – my “team” in high school was the debate team, and let’s just say Dave learned a lot of Latin in high school.  I’m sure a psychotherapist could have a field day with that confession.   But I do know that I somehow need to take a deep breath and find a better way to not get sucked into this insanity.   

The other day I was watching Alex’s ice-skating class at Cabin John when loud, fast-paced music came blasting across the speakers behind me.  A column of girls started dancing across the ice in a synchronized pattern, swooping and turning in time to the music.  I inquired what was going on and found out that a synchronized skating team (DC Edge) was practicing.  I chatted with the coach and found myself picking up an informational sheet from her table, learning that they practice twice a week and get to travel as far as Boston to compete.  I was intrigued, picturing how much Alex would love it, especially the fancy costumes, and was about to put the flyer into my purse when a voice in my head spoke up.  Lisa, put down the flyer and step away, step away from the table.   I slowly set the sign-up sheet down and took a few steps backwards, turned and then fled.  Baby steps, baby steps. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Important Newsflash from CSES Second Grade

This just in from the Second Grade teachers and Principal:

Dear Parents,

There have issues recently in regards to pencil grips in the classroom.  The second grade teachers, along with Mr. Palmisano, have discussed the concerns and have come up with what we feel is an equitable solution.  We are sending all pencil grips home today with students. Two pencil grips with the student's initials written on it in permanent ink may be returned to class on Monday. . . Thank you for your help and cooperation in this matter."

Allow me to translate this into non-school speak.

Dear Parents.

We have about had it with your second grade kids.  We can't believe how late spring break is this year.  Although we are complaining about the pencil grips, we are really more pissed about the fact that your kids keeping teepeing the bathrooms and writing in poop on the walls.  We deeply regret ever suggesting that a ".6" teacher is the equivalent of a full-time third teacher, at least when it comes to your kids.  We are planning to sell our souls and do whatever it takes to get a third teacher next year for this rowdy bunch, because otherwise the third-grade teachers are all going to quit.  We are even considering putting all 60 kindergarteners into one class size of 60 and borrow those teachers, because we are pretty confident that the kindergarteners will still behave better.

Now we are all going to go drink a bottle of scotch."

The second grade teachers.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

In the last couple of weeks there have been several posts on the neighborhood chat that have really made me think about what makes a “good” neighbor.  First, we got into a flame war about a gang of teenagers roaming the neighborhood playing an air gun rifle equivalent of paint ball.  Although the discussion quickly devolved into a debate about whether air rifles where legal or not (there being way too many lawyers involved in any debate in DC), the central question was really something different:  how do neighbors resolve their differences? Do you pick up the phone and call the police, or do you step outside and talk to the teenagers, reach out the parents and attempt to resolve the dispute in the neighborhood?   Surprisingly, this was not an easy question for the neighborhood to answer.

Just when that debate had cooled off, another one flamed up.  Turns out someone in the ‘hood called the Montgomery County Environmental Division to complain about a neighbor’s landscape contractor dumping their yard garbage (limbs, woodchips, etc) on their lawn.   Supposedly, the complainant never talked to their neighbor, otherwise they would have learned that this had been a hard year, in which one member of the family had been hit by a serious illness and they were struggling to keep their heads above water.  A visit from the County’s environmental division was probably the last thing they needed.

                I am sure most of us were forced to analyze Robert Frost’s “mending walls” poem in high school, and we remember the line “good fences make good neighbors.”  Tortured English paper essays aside, it is too easy to forget that this poem is not about erecting barriers between each other.  Rather, the neighbors work together to build the stone wall, talking to each other and working together to find mutually-respectable boundaries.   Sounds like maybe we all need to read this poem again.  It is too easy, in this day and age, to sit behind our computers and hide behind our cell phones and avoid the difficult conversations, not going outside to mend the walls together.

 Just a year after we moved into the house, we got fed up with weeding the natural “grove” in the front of our yard, and asked our landscaper to put some wood chips down.  The next day, I awoke to orange day-glo cheap chips scattered around the front yard, crossing over into my neighbor’s au natural section of the yard.   Our neighbor could have been furious; instead, he knocked on my door and explained to me that he and his wife had gotten married in the grove, showing me the very spot where they got married and pointing to where the deer liked to congregate.   Since then, we have worked together to plan out the grove, discussing the removal of dead trees and coming up with a plan to replace them with new trees.   Each spring, we got outside to mend the “stone wall” together.

So, next time you are tempted to take the easy, anonymous way out and call the “authorities,” rather than having that difficult conversation with a neighbor, ask yourself, what would a good neighbor do? I think the answer is self-evident.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Won’t you be my neighbor?

We quickly outgrew our house in AU Park when the twins were born.  That small third bedroom went in one fell swoop from the “tomorrow “ room to a room stuffed full with two cribs, a rocking chair, a changing table and no room for much else.  We started looking for a bigger house, our search expanding in concentric circles, like sonar radar, as we realized our budget was not going to get us the space we wanted or needed.

We briefly considered moving to Virginia but that Maryland aversion to crossing a bridge had already set in.   We told our patient realtor, no matter what we are not going outside the beltway, as if that were the magical line between a reasonable and nightmarish commute.  (Turns out the line is MUCH closer in).  Tulip Hill, Bannockburn, Bradley Hills, Kenmore,  too expensive, too small, too old, too boring, too much work.

Finally, we found ourselves one weekend crossing that dreaded Beltway, passing over a stalled river of cars,  taking a left and then a right and then turning into a neighborhood we had never seen or heard of before.  Carderock Springs.   Gone were the red-brick colonials with white
picket fences.  In their place, 1960s styled modern houses, with more windows than walls, surrounded by towering trees, natural landscaping and not a power line in sight. 

One step into the open house and we knew we were home.  (The other family who bid on the house had to be persuaded but ultimately saw it our way).   The raised ceilings, open floor plans, with the
light pouring in from all the windows.   A gate in the backyard fence that opened to the elementary school  field!  Brick colonials were forever ruined for us.   A few months later, we moved in.

We thought we were buying our dream house, but what we didn’t realize at the time was that we were buying our dream neighborhood.   Where neighbors are your neighbors in that 1950s/60s old-fashioned sense of the word – lending cups of sugar, looking out for your kids, stopping by to help when they hear you are sick, chatting at the school bus stop when you should be hightailing it to
work, hanging out at the neighborhood pool until it is so dark you can’t see your toes, let alone where your kids are. 


At a time in our lives when supposedly it is harder to make and keep new friends, we have made close friendships with so many Carderock families, ever expanding that circle of people that we consider an essential part of our “village.”  Over here in Carderock Springs, we are rockin the suburbs.  Wanna be our neighbor?