Big Wild Week

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Week 1 of summer is down, so it’s time to check in on some of those lofty goals I set.  Let’s recap:

Goal #1.  Relish my children, and dedicate special time to them every day.
Success!  I took the kids bowling, biking, hiking, and swimming.  One day Sam was off playing with an old preschool pal, so I surprised Maggie with a visit to that ripoff ceramic painting place she has been begging to visit.  We played with legos, built circuits, and colored whacky pictures.  We let Maggie’s butterflies free.  On Wednesday they had two friends spend the night, and we all stayed up until nearly midnight watching Nanny McPhee.  On Thursday they had one friend stay over, and on a rainy Friday morning we all watched Cheaper by the Dozen.  (For the record:  both are complete tearjerkers!)  The rest of the nights it was just us, so the kids and I closed in on the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  Only 40 pages to go!

I’m not proud to admit it, but we also spent an afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese.  The kids loved every minute, but that place feels like a children’s casino of sin.  When we left I felt an overwhelming urge to cleanse them of the experience, so we stopped by the library and signed up for the summer reading program.  I’m hoping the damage was minimal.

A few random snapshots from our week:

Picnic on the deck

The boy loves to bowl










Goal #2:  Exercise every day
Success!  (Actually, I missed Thursday but did two things today so it’s a wash, right?)  Must admit, this one nearly killed me.  On our first walk Maggie and I ran into this cute little guy:

Snowshoe hare... turning brown!

Now that kind of wildlife I can handle.  But on Wednesday, while the kids were safely at piano lessons, I walked along our mountain road solo.  It was an invigorating and uneventful few miles, but less than an hour later I drove down the hill and encountered this guy:

See him?!?

Okay, an admittedly anti-climactic photo.  But if you look carefully you will see a black bear that had just strolled in front of my car and hopped over the guard rail… at nearly the very spot I had been walking less than an hour before!  (You can just see his back behind the rail and above my mirror.)  That was the last of my outdoor walks for this week.  I profusely apologized for nicknaming our treadmill “The Dreadmill” and hopped back on that beast instead.  And liked it!

Ironically, the day before I had taken the kids to Sportsman’s Warehouse to buy bear bells for their bikes.  Sam lost a tooth while we were there!

Tooth fairy time!

Continuing with the exercise and wildlife theme, today we took a little family bike ride and encountered a bull moose on the trail.  As all good mothers would, I pulled my phone out of my pocket and tried to snap a photo.  I missed the moose, but you can mentally Photoshop him behind Maggie here:

Maggie! Quit looking at the moose or you will ride into the creek!

Goal #3.  Clean something every day.
I have determined that this goal is in direct conflict with Goal #1, but I did my best.

Goal #4.  Prepare healthy meals for my family.
Let’s just say the lettuce isn’t rotting around here lately (thumbs up!) and I tried a new crock pot recipe (thumbs down!).  Its leftovers are still in the fridge, where they will probably remain until trash day on Tuesday.

I must also admit that one night we didn’t call the kids in for dinner until 10 PM.  You have to realize that the long daylight hours mess with us this time of year, and it’s no secret we can all use a little extra Vitamin D.  But the real reason is the amazing neighborhood kids.  They are all running and romping in a pack these days, and it is an absolute joy to watch.  The freedom to run off to someone else’s house is new for our children, and they relish it.  They are too busy riding bikes, kicking balls, swinging, wrestling, and learning new games to bother with food.  The neighbors have taught them all about “cops and robbers” and “toilet tag” (apparently when you are tagged you have to squat with your hand out, until another player comes along and flushes you free).  When we called them in at 10 it was still light out, and their complaints had nothing to do with hunger.  But they did happily gobble down their reheated meals once they were inside…

Two houses down, but we can still spy on them!

Goal #5.  Drink more water and less beer..
Water intake, along with decaf iced tea, definitely increased.  I take the fifth on all other points.

All in all, not bad for Week # 1!  For next week, I’m adding a new goal.  Write more.  From here on out, I vow to quit waiting for something profound to happen.  And I vow to quit spending too much time trying to write profoundly.  Live it, blog it, got it.  Ordinary is okay.  Brevity is good.  It’s time to hit my stride.

You Go Girls: Katniss, Clementine, and Ramona!!

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So the past two nights have basically been spent in tears.  Self-inflicted, and all in the name of recreation thanks to a couple of books that were intended for teenagers rather than blubbering 40-year-olds.

Actually, one of them was intended for 5-year-olds:  Ramona and Beezus.  Who knew I’d need Kleenex for that?!  It wasn’t just the cat’s funeral (although that was brutal) but more so happy tears for a hilariously quirky child who, despite her actions, is celebrated by a genuinely happy family.  Honestly, that stuff doesn’t usually sell tickets these days.

Two of my favorite childhood literary protagonists are Ramona (created by Beverly Cleary) and Clementine (created by Sara Pennypacker).  Both girls are spunky, independent, creative, genuine, and good.  What’s better, Ramona and Clementine are both kept on track by two (yes, two!) parents and a few patient siblings.  Well-intentioned girls with happy families, who frequently experience unintended consequences.  When it comes to role models for our own daughter, they blow every Disney princess out of the castle.

Ramona                                             Clementine

I just don’t remember books being so damn sad when I was growing up.  I must have read Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret a million times and I never remember crying.  (I do remember trying the chest-enhancement exercises… the results were delayed a few decades, but I think they did work.)  But other than that, I don’t remember adults paying much attention to titles on school library shelves.

Wow how times have changed.  And I’m not talking Harry Potter change… that’s just when people finally started to notice.  Some of the most thought-provoking, suspenseful, emotional, and enlightening pieces of literature I’ve read in the past decade have actually been written for teenagers.  SpeakHouse of the Scorpion.  Lyrical novels by Karen Hesse.

And of course Hunger Games.  Watching the film adaptation of that book was the other night I spent sobbing this weekend.

I know people who refuse to read any of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy because the premise is too disturbing:  Children slaughtering each other on national television that is mandatory viewing for the entire country?  I must admit, it’s a bit much.  But as with any literature that is truly controversial, it’s so much more when you don’t nit and pick it out of context.  When you soak in the text as a whole, you discover the true themes.  Is it actually a love story?  Or a war story?  Or a why we fall in love and go to war story?  It’s riveting writing paired with concepts that make you ache to talk… to someone!  anyone!  NOW!

This past Monday – our first day back to school after spring break – I had a student come to the library in tears before school.  Amanda had finished Catching Fire, the second in the Hunger Games trilogy, and was absolutely desperate for the last title.  She was trembling as she explained that she begged her mother to buy Mockingjay for her over spring break, but the answer was no.  She had just seen a copy get dropped into our return slot, and she was literally shaking as she asked me if she could have it.  I retrieved the book, scanned the bar code, only to learn the book was on hold for another student.  But how could I say no to Amanda?  I flashed back to my first reading of Catching Fire: I was so engrossed that I stole paragraphs at traffic lights on my drive home.  I overrode the hold and checked it out to Amanda.  She devoured the book within a day and was able to see the movie premier on Friday, content that she had finished reading the series.

Those of us who love the Hunger Games books to the core were pretty vested in the movie.  What if the directors screwed it up?  From the cast to the special effects to the costumes, there was a lot to worry about.

For me, most of the movie was a blur.  I went to a matinee with my book club friends.  The convulsive sobbing began when Katniss stepped up in her sister’s place, and didn’t really end until I was done debriefing the movie over breakfast with my husband the next morning.  (He was thrilled.)

This series is an English teacher’s dream.  It’s a rare combination of great writing that appeals to both genders and crosses all cultural lines.  Not to mention the fact that kids want to read it whether you assign it or not.  But honestly, it’s better if we do assign it.  As riveting as it is to read, it’s even more engaging to discuss.  This book is the classic of our age:  the 1984 of the 2000’s.  Time will tell!

I’m grateful for all the female protagonists out there, from Ramona to Clementine to Katniss.  And even more so, I’m enamored by the authors who brought them to life.  Thank you Beverly Cleary, Sara Pennypacker, and Suzanne Collins!

Ebb and Flow

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Consider this post an open apology to anyone who attended the 11:40 showing of Big Miracle at the Century 16 theater on February 20, 2012, because I am certain you missed half the movie due to our daughter’s sobbing.  I was crying too, but I’m older and have learned to stifle my cries when in public.  Clark was tearing up, but silent.  And Sam… he remained stoic, but did spend the majority of the movie on the edge of his seat.

Damn that movie was a tearjerker.

It’s based on a true story about three whales who were trapped in the sea ice near Barrow, Alaska in 1988.  It had a somewhat happy ending, which probably comes as no surprise since the word “miracle” is in the title.  But when the credits rolled, Maggie was still so devastated that Clark had to carry her out of the theater.  She was crying so hard that she was physically incapable of walking… and I’m not even kidding.

That’s our girl.  Feelings flow in and out and through her as randomly as the ocean’s rhythms… one minute we are running from a tumultuous tsunami, and the next we are joyously jumping the waves.  One minute we are licking salt water from our lips, and the next it is stinging our wounds.  Sometimes the whales are jumping, and next thing you know that poor baby has to die.  Ebb and flow.

Maggie’s emotions are raw… and I love it.  I must admit, it can be a challenge when the “feeling” is just a paper cut and the “emotion” is a 20-minute wail fest.  Once she got a wooden splinter when Clark was out of town.  I like to think of myself as a pretty capable human, but that was a scenario worthy of the national guard.

On the other side of the tide, the girl is overflowing with so much love that she just can’t contain it inside her little body.  She has to let it out by coloring pictures for everyone she has ever met and stuffing them into envelopes the post office cannot legally deliver (even though she frequently puts real stamps on the them anyway).  Or by creeping down the steps at least three times after she is in bed for “one more hug and kiss.”  Or by kicking and screaming with glee when her dad comes home and clears a tickle zone on the living room floor.  My favorite happens every weekend, when she crawls into bed with us and asks for a “little morning snuggle.”  She always folds in so enthusiastically that I find myself wishing there was a pause button for the universe.

That whale movie was sad, but thinking ahead to the days when my girl will be too old for those morning snuggles is just too much to bear right now.  This is my reminder – savor every moment with her – the ebb and the flow!