Thursday, September 30, 2010

Details, Details

Molly, Finny, Lukey and I were on our way to school this morning when a conversation struck up in the backseat of the car.

I believe it started with Molly bragging to the other two that she had less school left in her life than they did. She boasted, "I only have four more years before I'm done...".

I pointed out to her that she really has almost five years of ELEMENTARY school left.

There was silence. Then, "What do you mean?" came quietly out of Molly.

"High go to high school after elementary school."

"Really? Oh, right. That's okay. In high school, all you do is walk around," Molly said.

She went on a class field trip to Magee High School last year. I guess they mostly just "walked around".

"Mumma, didn't you tell me that when you are a big kid in school, you get to pick what you learn?"


"I'll just do that, then," she told me.

Well, alright.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Meet the meet

Finny pictured in fourth, finished the race in second place

Molly and Finny joined Cross Country this year. On Tuesday, they had their first mini-meet. Both were admittedly nervous. I realized the bravery it takes to start a brand new endeavour when Molly asked me that morning if the races were head-to-head. That WOULD be scary. Everyone watching you race a distance you have no idea about against a total stranger...but no, I reassured her it wouldn't be like that at all. 

As an aside, kids are amazing. They gamely try all kind of fresh experiences without a ton of context or concrete information. It makes me think how out of practice we get at that sort of risk taking as adults...

Anyway, I have to admit I was a bit shocked at how many kids were there at the mini-meet. It was five elementary schools with teams of about 75 kids each. Standing with the kids, I remembered how nerve-wracking I used to find Cross Country. I loved it, but I also knew that mid-way through the race there would be pain and mental stress. Knowing that going in isn't easy.

Luckily, the kids didn't have any idea about that part. They had only had two before-school practices that consisted of quick laps around the playground. They were nervous about the logistics, getting lost, looking silly. I don't think they realized how FAR it was.

The group in the picture below is some of the Grade Ones from our school:

This is Maya, Molly and Finny before the race. I can tell it was before the race because their cheeks aren't beet red. Fair children + exertion = rosy, rosy

The picture above here is the group Finny raced in (that sentence ended with a dangling sue me). It was Grade Ones and Twos together. She went out strong and then disappeared around the far side of the park. I couldn't see her, so I sped over to the last corner to wait for her to reappear. I had no idea if I would see her round the corner walking and in tears, or what. So when I saw her sprinting like a maniac in second place, in front of all the other kids except her friend, Delia, I was excited for her.

Molly and Maya were bursting along the last stretch, screaming for Finny to finish strong. She came in second, complete with a red ribbon. She was beyond thrilled. She was also a little shocked at how far it was to run. It didn't take long for her to start talking about the next meet though, wondering how to improve.

First and Second Place
Molly raced next and I think she felt the pressure. She wanted a ribbon, too. Molly, however, has a more cautious personality. She wanted to get a feel for the distance, so she went out a lot softer than her crazy sister. She also kept stopping to keep her best friend company while she retied her shoes. Given the choice between competing and being a great friend, Molly will always come down on the side of friendship.

Molly and her friends Maya and Nathan didn't place in the Top 20, but they made a goal to finish there before the mini-meets were done. I hope they do it.

I was so proud of my girls. They gave it their best. I will be really interested to see how Finny's competitive streak resolves itself next week. And how Molly raises her game.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Life weighs heavily on little minds

Finny is happy enough at school. She has a fantastic teacher. She is making friends. She is a good learner. The one thing that trips her up is the length of the school day. Her constant lament is how long she has to spend away from home.

She and I have a ritual when we are in Point Roberts and I get up early to write in the shed. She sneaks out of the house as soon as she wakes up and she walks across the yard to open the shed door. I take a break and we cuddle on the futon. And we talk.

These are wonderful moments. We talk about things that normally don't get discussed. The days are so busy with all our comings and goings. There are always shoes to be put on, messes to clean up and food to be prepared. Never enough time for heartfelt talks. The kind that takes a few minutes to warm up into.

We lay side by side on the futon and I ask her how things are going. Since school has started, this question is always met with discussion about how long school lasts.

This morning, with tears in her eyes, she informed me that it felt like this was her schedule forever. Well not quite forever...

"It will be like that until I get out of school. Then, I have so many things to worry about. I have to figure out how to pay for a house to live in and I need to find my job. Will I get married...but who? I will have kids to take care of too. It just gets more and more busy...when do I get to be with you?"

Right. That is a tough one to refute. Life is pretty much a bunch of school, then a pile of concerns. And it kinda of broke my heart that she was more or less right. Sure, I told her the regular stuff about how we'd have summers and spring breaks. I even told her that I would help her with all those worrying things like bills and housing issues (?!). But inside, I was sad.

She and I have passed by the long, rambling days of mother and preschool-aged kid. We'll replace it with other gifts that time presents, things like honest conversations and a true relationship with one another, more as equals. But she's right. It isn't quite the same.

So much for "kid" worries. I think she might be more worked up about life concerns than I am...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Upstairs, Downstairs

Ever since the kids have been going to school, when I leave them at the door I put a kiss into their palm. One of my best friends who had a kid in Finny's kindergarten class last year asked me one day why Finny kept her hand in a fist all day. I asked Finny and apparently it was so she could keep a tight hold on my kiss.

Consequently, I modified the kiss in the palm routine. I started giving the girls a countdown until the kiss would stick magically all day. The number they have to count to changes, depending on how much love they need to get through the day.

When I drop the girls at school this year, I walk them to the same staircase. One girl goes up and one goes down. Molly's class is right over top of Finny's.

This morning, as usual, we stood at the staircase and I deposited their kisses. I told them they needed 18 seconds to stick for the day.

It was a beautiful moment. The girls waved to each other. One headed upstairs, the other downstairs. Their identical backpacks were bobbing up and down with each step, while they counted in unison. "One, two, three...".

We share this intimate ritual between the three of us. They can literally count on my love.

Monday, September 20, 2010

E- Playland

The upside of promising to take Finny to Playland for her birthday was that she got to look forward to it all summer.....the downside was having to answer "when are we going to Playland Daddy?" about 25 times over the last couple of months.  Saturday was finally the day and the weather cooperated nicely. 

Finny is at the perfect age for fact we might have been in trouble if we came on her real birthday 3 months ago because she is now just barely tall enough to go on all the 48" rides.  Fin was also the perfect cross-over kid, young enough to go on every kid ride but adventurous enough to do all the big rides too.  She was happy to go round and round on Dumbo and then willingly convinced that she really would like the Hellevator...I have to admit that I was a bit surprised to win this argument.  Kiddie train...then the corkscrew...ride a bunny carousel...then the big wooden coaster.  Finny was a great companion and never minded that I didn't want to fold my legs into cramped kiddie ride or really "encouraged" her to try every ride at least once.  Thanks for a great day Fin..

E- the mud bowl

It's that time of year again....where its either raining, just about to rain or just finished raining. Today was the latter kind, and the field was soaked to the point where water flowed into the tongue of my shoe with every step. This didn't stop the little boys from wanting to play soccer in the mud or Luke from downing a slurpee.
Seeing his mud stained shorts brought back lots of flashbacks to my elementary school days and glimpses of Luke's experiences to come.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Camp it up...

Ah, the last gasp of summer. In a vain effort to squeeze the last drops of summer sweat out of 2010, we headed into Eastern Washington. Eric was convinced that by driving inland, we would find dry heat. He was right. It was hot and sunny.

Our first stop was Leavenworth. It is a tiny scrap of Bavaria in Washington. In fact, the lesson I learned this long weekend was that secret of tourist success in small-town America is themes. The two most prosperous looking towns we visited were mini-Bavaria (Leavenworth) and faux-old-west (Winthrop). If I were running for mayor in an under 10,000 person town, I would pick a theme...maybe Provence, or Paris...then I would create an urban revitalization plan with cafes and village squares. I would win the election, open the most attractive retail store, cash my huge checks and watch the town rake in the cash. The townspeople would put up a statue of me in their main square and I would tip my beret in humble thanks.

But I digress...

Leavenworth has the lovely Wenachee river running through it and we noticed a few people on tubes heading down stream. We investigated further and found there was some serious enthusiasm in our under 5' family members for the idea of tubing. I think our river rafting adventure earlier in the summer whet their appetites for white water. They talked us into it.

Before heading out on the tubes, we had to listen to a "safety chat". The kids were really adamant that we listen closely. I watched Molly's face go from super-excited to down right terrified. There was a lot of talk about obstacles and strong currents. When the guy started talking, Molly was about fifteen feet away. As he talked, she came closer and closer to me. By the end, she was hugging my leg. After the unnecessarily alarming safety talk, we headed into the van to take us to the drop-off point.

On the van, I asked Finny to give me her best "scared face".

I gave Lukey the same instruction. 

Then I explained to Lukey that I wanted scared...not scary. Yeah, he misunderstood.

After I took the picture below, Molly asked me why I didn't ask her to do a scared face. I told her that I didn't have to...she was doing it without any prompting. She looks a little anxious.

Eric is petrified.

The best thing was that Molly managed to fall off the tube within about 45 seconds of getting on. Once we got that out of the way, she was really into it. She got very brave.Oh, plus you can see from the picture below that the river wasn't exactly rough. That helped too.

Lukey was very pleased to have a tube to himself. He felt very autonomous and in control (while keeping a steely grip on the tube handles). 

The kids had a great time, making us think about a more ambitious tubing trip in the future.

Heck, it was peaceful enough that Eric and I enjoyed a beer mid-float.

We pulled up on a little island in the middle of the river for a half an hour of playing in the sand. Eric laid still for too long, making him an easy target for a child-labour sand spa treatment.

He was exfoliated.

Raft parking lot. 

Back to the river.

A long day on the river calls for more beer and burgers on a warm patio. The day was near perfect.

...except that we needed taffy. So we got some. Who looks the happiest...?

A Bavarian princess...

We headed over to Wenachee. We had breakfast in a park on the Columbia river. 

Then on to Lake Chelan. We got a great campsite in a campground overlooking the lake. I had to laugh, because as we were pulling in with our VW pop-up van, the guy ahead of me in line was inquiring about what HDTV channels he could get in his massive motor home. It occurred to me (perhaps unkindly) that maybe if his HDTV was so important, he might have wanted to stay home. 

We went down to the beach and while the kids (and Eric) played on the beach, I knitted and listened to podcasts. It was bliss.

Lukey entertained me with his beach treasures. 

The sun danced on the water and as a result, everything sparkled. 

Hours were spend on beach creations.

Here is the masterpiece:

Back to the van...home sweet home.This was the crew after a good night's sleep, peeking down from the pop-top. Weirdly, I can barely tell the girls apart when they are upside down.

The Groovy Girls made the trip. Finny's had her own car seat, tent and sleeping bag. To be honest, that Groovy Girl was way better prepared than we were. 

Yeah, we forgot towels. The lining on the Groovy Girl's sleeping bag matches her shoes. And I forgot towels. Look how cold the kids are.  

The girls were forced to bundle up and share a blanket. They didn't seem to mind.

We stopped at a fruit stand between Chelan and Winthrop.

Orchards make for nice pictures. Good for back to school.

Last stop: Winthrop. We walked around town before heading back to the van and the long ride home. We got back to Point Roberts after 11 and put both the kids and Summer 2010 to bed.