Tag Archives: walking to school

The Most Elegant Snow


The most elegant snow is falling outside. It’s a gorgeous, fluffy and soft-landing snow.

I just returned from an hour-long outing with the dogs after dropping my youngest at school.

Before we left, the snow began. Ever the opportunist, he offered, “Do you think they will cancel school today?”

I smirked at his smirk and shook my head saying, “No honey. The buses are already on the road. And we will be late if we don’t get a move on.”

Charlie, our puppy, about 15? weeks is doing well. He wears a head collar now, to prevent him from hurting his neck and throat with all his enthusiastic pulling. He leads almost every step with both his feet, bounding from his hind legs. He loathes his head collar, bucking.

My son likes to take a leash to walk the dogs on the way to school. Today, I suggested he take Murphy for he is more stable and older and understands not to pull so hard. Today, Murphy was all over the place. Charlie, on the other hand, was more sedate, submitting to the power of the head collar, the premise of which is based on the way to control a horse with a halter putting pressure on the front muzzle “down” and the back of his head “in” as though his mother were correcting him. It calms him instantly, save for the rearing, tossing of his little body and occasional thrust into the snow or earth to release the collar.

We walked along our path system, the dogs and I, after dropping my son. It’s quiet and bucolic back there. The snow falling creating ever more serene and authentic moments. I watched flakes waft down and opened my mouth, eager to catch a couple on my tongue. I admit I have a very poor average.

I read an article this morning about Alec Baldwin, a rant of his proclaiming his so-called retirement from public life. It’s so sad… we are all screaming, in one fashion or another, for relevance. He just does it in a way that is so conflicted, transparent and complicated. Just say it Alec, “I’m a flawed guy. I reacted primitively. I wish I weren’t so interesting but I yearn to be of interest…” it’s ok. He’s so angry inside.

On the walk, I thought about Alec, knowing he wasn’t thinking about me. I let it go.

I noticed when we were beneath some tall pines, the ones that sky rocket fifty feet into the air, that the snowflakes were less dense. I began to feel sad about that, I feared the snow was ending. But I looked up and realized it was because of the pine needles; they were filtering the flakes, so to speak. Then I thought about how much bigger must those flakes be when they initially fall to be as big as they are when they land here, for surely they have broken off along their descent.

We left the path system to walk along the busy big road dividing our neighborhood. Charlie has not been on that roadside yet and it’s important to show him he can survive walking along such mayhem. The snow, the traffic, the noise, the big dog Murphy insulating him on the left and me on his right, he seemed to strut right along; his ears were pulled back, something I remembered from early training with our first dog, which indicates a lot of mental work is at play: taking it all in, from the sights and the sounds and the smells to the verbal commands from the handler to the energy transmitted through the leash. He did alright. When we returned to the path system, he was visibly relieved as his stride increased and he became playful again.

He is sleeping now on his little bed. Murphy is laying by my feet; they both need to be taxed mentally from time to time and nothing seems to do it as well as a long walk on that roadside.

It’s been snowing about an hour and a half now. The cars are covered, rooftops are blanketed. I swept my walk-up to the house’s front door; it’s covered again. I catch myself wondering now if the evening classes and school programs would be cancelled for today. By the time I finished sweeping, it was almost covered again. I knew it would snow, but I didn’t think it would be quite this much, although I am really enjoying it. They say it will be back tomorrow, “a disturbance” they call it; since when is snow falling in winter a ‘disturbance’? It strikes me as quite normal; the 62˚ and sunshine we had yesterday was a disturbance (a welcome one, but a disturbance nonetheless) if you ask me.

When we returned to the house, I decided to let the dogs loose in the back yard off their leashes. I fumbled for my keys to the back door and opened it up while they played. They heard it swing wide and ran in. They’d had enough. For years I’ve been trying to get the boys to use the back entrance to the house; I grew up in a world where family used the back or side entrance and guests used the front door. I don’t think it’s like that in Virginia. People use the front door; not many rear or side doors are included in the houses around here anyway.

My oldest tried out for the high school soccer team yesterday. It’s a very competitive program. He fell and hurt his left leg in one of the sprinting sessions and complained of cold-air induced asthma; a phenomenon I am quite familiar with; when I try to go running in the winter, it’s very hard on my throat, I can’t handle the cold air so I workout inside. I don’t think he will continue with the tryouts. That’s why I wondered about the after-school programs today and whether he will be coming home on time or later. He is much too hard on himself. I am so proud of him for even trying. I want him to find a passion and stick with it. Let exercise be the passion or something else, but not feel a failure if he doesn’t make this team. He will be starting In Cold Blood soon; I can’t wait. I just started it myself. Capote… what a writer! I find myself reminding myself that it’s nonfiction; that he’s turned a true-crime story into a novel. Amazing.

I have nothing really fantastic to say today. Lots of ideas in my head. I just wanted to chime in; record my thoughts about today. My younger brother’s baby was born about two weeks ago. A boy; their third child, second son. I hope we will see him this weekend.

Our second son has big homework due today. We are letting him ride his own wave this semester after banging our heads against the wall for the first semester. We will see how he does. It’s the hardest thing in the world: hoping they find a passion and letting them figure it out. Letting them fail so they will learn how to succeed. It’s a lot. It’s how I figured it out, honestly. My parents did lots of pushing and steering and nagging. I hated it. “You can’t rush a genius,” as Mom always said, sometimes exasperatedly and sometimes with love.

It’s still snowing. I am really glad of it, frankly. People complain of it, “It makes me late for work…” and “We’ve had enough…” I dunno. Why fight with Nature? I love how it all settles after it falls, so quietly, gently and kindly. Firmly encouraging us to slow down and relax.

downy snow.

downy snow.

Thank you.

Parents, Protect Your Children and My Letter to the School.


Here is a letter I wrote to our school today…

I stopped in at the school office this morning after I trailed behind a little girl named “Gertrude Von Hildenberg*” who’s in first grade to make sure she got to school safely.

It seems I do this at least once a semester for someone. I don’t mind it, truly, but it does bother me that these wee children are left to walk to school alone.

I know where Gertrude Von Hildenberg lives and her brother is on my son’s soccer team and her mom and I are “path friendlies” meaning that’s how I mostly know her. Gertrude Von Hildenberg ‘s brother Hans* was in Mrs. Flapdoodle’s* class with my son last year as well, so there’s that awareness as well but it’s very high level and mostly casual.

So around 8:42-ish this morning as I was walking my way back home, I saw Gertrude Von Hildenberg on her way. Another woman, in her 60s, was walking her dog and I thought Gertrude was with her. She wasn’t. So the woman and I chatted a moment about Gertrude being alone and I decided I would “shadow” her up to the school entrance.

When we got to the foot of the hill, a neighborhood maintenance worker was approaching the trash bin at the bottom of the hill near the first bridge. It all was fine, no weirdness there at all, but the fact remains that this child walked to school ostensibly alone for about five minutes (little legs and the wandering first-grader’s eye and thoughts make for a meandering mosey to school, not a walk).

This is the path to school… about 2/3 of the way there and where I encountered Gertrude. That child is not Gertrude. It is Hans. No… it’s not. This pic is about seven years old, but nothing has changed.

Gertrude got to the school courtyard and the doors were shut and locked. She paused at the entry, outside the garden courtyard and audibly said, “OH NO, the DOORS are LOCKED. What will I DO?” and she started TO HEAD HOME. I sensed this and I said, “Gertrude Von Hildenberg? You’re Hans’s sister, right?” (I’m about 6′ away from her.) She said, “Yes.” Without blinking an eye, totally trusting me and not questioning anything about my sort of sudden appearance… I said, “Don’t go home, honey. I’ll go ahead and push the button and you can walk right in…” So she followed me.

Your blinds were drawn as were the assistant principal’s (probably from the night cleaning crew) so even if you were in your office, you wouldn’t have been able to see anything. The cafeteria crew was in the café with the people who were doing the eye exams so there were people milling about inside, but they’re all busy and doing their things.

Gertrude went in and headed to her classroom. I talked to the front office staff about the situation and they said they’d chat with you about it. The lunch lady and I exchanged waves on my way out of the school courtyard.

Here’s where I’m going: she was all alone. Her name was sewn on her backpack. She let me lead her somewhere. No one saw me help her.

Crazy, bad stuff happens all over this county all the time to our schoolchildren — mostly older kids, like what’s going on over at a nearby high school. Sadly, most of it is not “isolated” in that known people are hurting the kids, but on the off chance that some random weird person is lurking in the woods outside our school, waiting for a kiddo to be late… I don’t need to finish that >gulp< sentence.

What’s my takeaway?: please remind parents to protect their children. Suggest they not personalize the backpacks and the lunch bags.

Remind them to chat with their children and to impress upon them that no strange adult needs the help from a child EVER and that no known adult needs the help of a child out of view of others.

I’m going to write a blog post about this experience… but I hope you’ll send out a note too.

Take care,  Molly


Thank you.

*duh, fake names.

ps – please share / reblog this post if you feel it’s appropriate. this message is so important. all children need advocates.

Update – I just spoke with Frau Von Hildenberg and she explained that this situation was a perfect storm of Herr Von Hildenberg being out of town, the younger liebschöen Von Hildenberg being unwell and that Gertrude left the house accompanied by friends but apparently they separated. Gertrude’s trip to school is less than 1/4 mile all on the same side of the road as the school, so there’s no danger about crossing streets but as you can see from the picture above, it’s densely forested in some parts. The thing is though, she did get separated and she did trust a stranger. Frau Von Hildenberg expressed her surprise at Gertrude’s solitude but wasn’t surprised that her daughter was so trusting. I extended my phone numbers to her in hopes that I can be of assistance in the future.

What’s the takeaway from this?: It does take a village. Get to know your neighbors, ask for help if you’re overwhelmed and really, don’t assume your kiddo’s gonna do what you tell him to, especially when it comes to getting to school.

10/24/12 UPDATE:

update re the post i wrote about the lone child on the path to school! the principal sent out a great message today and it’s great to see this stuff start to unfold for the benefit of the kids:


We are very proud of our safety record as it relates to students at our school, and because the safety of our students is always a priority we ask that parents join us in keeping all students safe. Please remind students to travel always with a buddy when walking to and from school. Make sure they travel during the times patrols, parents and school employees are posted on duty and on the paths. In the event students are late an adult should escort them to school. Parents are asked to notify the Main Office as well as classroom teacher regarding changes in the way your child needs to travel (i.e. Kiss and Ride student needs to walk home or bus student needs to be picked up at Kiss and Ride). Please review the safety rules with your children routinely to make sure they know exactly what to do in any situation. Make sure your child does not interact with strangers. We appreciate all of those parents who walk along the paths, stand at the bus stops and report potentially unsafe conditions to the school. The partnership we have benefits all students.

we are working on creating student safety assemblies and other types of grass-rootsy activism which is always best when it begins with the children.

thank you to everyone who shared that post.