August 28th, 2011

Small Boy scored his first goal in a proper hockey tournament today; he tipped in a nice rebound after the opposing goalie deflected a shot (though Small Boy’s team still lost the game and ended up third out of four teams in the tournament). The tournament was fun, and gave me an opportunity to continue this strange new friend-making adventure I seem to be embarking upon, but my favorite part (aside from the Small Boy’s goal, of course) was this:

The parents were only allowed to help kids tie their skates. Everything else, the players had to do themselves. This is already strongly encouraged at training, but something about it being Game Day made the kids take it more seriously. I hung out in a corner of the locker room until it was time to lace up Small Boy’s skates, then went out into the hallway. Shortly before the trainers closed the door to the locker room, I went to take a peek to see what jersey number Small Boy was wearing (they don’t have numbers at practice but rather train in practice jerseys) and the kids were just putting on their jerseys. It can be tricky for a little kid to pull a jersey on over their shoulder pads, and then the jerseys often cling to the velcro straps on the elbow pads (and sometimes pull them open again), and I usually help Small Boy with this. How was he going to do this, I wondered, and then saw that kids had buddied up and were helping each other with their jerseys. Small Boy was straightening the jersey of Pro Defenseman’s Kid, so I turned and went back into the hall. They clearly had it covered.

They know what they’re doing, these coaches. They’re developing the whole player, not just the bits on the ice. Evidence that it’s working: after we got clobbered 18-2 in the first game, the team surrounded the goalie and everybody patted him on the head, the shoulder, encouraging taps to the shin pads with their sticks, and they all lined up together to shake hands with the winning team. Then they huddled around the coach and got ready for the next game.

First grade, first day

August 15th, 2011

Small Boy started first grade today, excited and nervous and unsure about leaving behind the free-for-all play of Kindergarten for the more serious business of learning. It will be a transition, certainly; he told me tonight that it had gone well but that “there’s a lot more sitting still than in Kindy.” He had Sport (what we’d call gym class) today, but he only has it three days a week and I think that’s going to be rough for the new first graders – they’re used to blowing off a lot of steam in Kindergarten. But the day went well. It certainly helps that he’s moved on to first grade with almost all the 6 year olds from his kindergarten class.

The whole school welcomed the new “Sch├╝lerInnen” – school kids – on their first day. Before, they were Kindergarteners. Now, they’re school kids. The incoming first grade class gathered at the bottom of the walk leading up to the school together with the parents and the two first grade teachers. Then the second-graders, dressed as ladybugs (the ladybug is a good luck symbol in Switzerland) and rattling noise-makers, came to get them. Each second grader took one or two first graders by ┬áthe hand and led them up the walk to the school where the rest of the students waited, lining both sides of the walk and the hallway and the stairs leading up to the first grade classrooms. They sung, the whole school, a song of welcome for the new class and some of the kids even clapped a little as the first graders came through.

And though I know all schools have politics and cliques and bullies and all manner of first grade heartbreak, I felt like I was sending him off to a safe and welcoming place, to a school where the underlying ethos is one of community. I feel like he’ll be okay there, my big-small boy who talks a good game but whose heart breaks pretty easily actually. It was a good start into school.

New poem

August 9th, 2011

My poem “Mother and Son at Hockey Practice” is up at Literary Mama, my favorite place for the literature of motherhood. Enjoy, and check out all the great writing while you’re there.


August 5th, 2011

A walk in the woods with the boys. Going “off-road.” Finding snail shells, part of a bird’s egg, and the first falling acorns. The boys fjording the creek in their rubber boots, the slurp-suck of the mud. This:

An interesting thing happened on the way to the stadium

August 4th, 2011

So an interesting thing is happening at hockey practice: I’m becoming friendly with several of the parents. There’s Nice Woman Who Helped Small Boy With His Bag and Trainer’s Wife and the mother and father of The Boy With the Beautiful Hair and Awkward Swimming Pool Moment Guy. There is Fellow Hockey School Trainer1 and Fellow Hockey School Trainer2 and Lady I Can’t Quite Figure Out Yet. I’m friendly with these people. I use friendly advisedly – we chat at practice, but with the possible exception of the mother of The Boy With the Beautiful Hair we probably won’t have a relationship outside the hockey rink. I’m reserved, Swiss people are reserved, and the parents of hockey players are busy, heavily scheduled people: the cards are stacked against it.

But that’s okay. I’ve never been great at making friends – I can never quite figure out the way in – and this being friendly and chatting thing, this being part of a group by default, is new and fun. I can walk into practice knowing that I’ll know people, that I’ll be known, that words can be exchanged, that I belong. I wrote in a recent post about the Small Boy knowing his way around Hockey World, being at home there. Turns out I am, too.

A language lightbulb moment

August 3rd, 2011

I was writing a poem this morning and I wanted to use the Swiss word for swing in it. Even when they’re speaking English with me, the boys tend to suddenly use the Swiss noun for the swings, so I’ve been using this word for the better part of four years now and have never really thought about it. It’s an odd word, I always think, for a swing and it doesn’t quite intuitively compute for me but I’ve learned it because the boys use it.

Then this morning, for the first time, I wrote it (as best as I could figure, since the spelling rules for Swiss are pretty much: eh, write it how it sounds) and it all made perfect sense to me. Ritigumpfi. Of course. Riti must be derived from reiten, to ride. Gump is jump. Ritigumpfi: ride-jump. What a perfect name for a swing.