Friday, September 30, 2011

in which kickball isn't just kickball

The Peanut's 2nd grade teacher is the same terrific person the Bean had that year. We love this teacher. One of the wonderful things she does is to have the children keep a composition notebook in which they write a letter to their parents, and the parents write back on the next page, back and forth throughout the year. I loved my letters from the Bean. They captured her personality and school day moods differently than any other way we communicated, and gave me an avenue to be playful with her, when so much school day life is sucked up by just telling kids to do things/having grown-ups tell you to do things. I've tried to continue her notebook through 3rd grade (she refused) and 4th (I get an occasional note). Maybe we'll do it in pulses, but it's a line of communication I want to keep open. Sometimes a letter does what conversation cannot.

Anyway, this is today's letter from the Peanut, for those who know her and/or would be amused:
Dear Mommy,

I dissected my paere today and it had 5 seeds inside.

We are going to the book fair next Tusday at nine therty. Thank you! Finaly! Choclit cupcakes! I love you Mommy! OK. Bad news. I got another blister on the monkey bars.
I love you!


They have been spending the week studying "seeds and how they travel"... hence the pear dissection. Walking to school, the Peanut has held a plastic bag at the ready, gathering whatever seed-related items she could find. Garden string bean, pine cone, seed pod from the iris, all went in the bag. She was so focused on seed hunting that she almost stepped in dog shit. I wish the dog owner had been carrying a plastic bag.

Y'know... occasionally, there will be some discussion on the town level about where/when dogs are allowed to be on various town-owned properties. I always feel for the many responsible dog owners who take care that nobody will likely step in their dog's poop. But all it takes is one pile of dog shit on the freakin' sidewalk to harden my heart and ensure my vote against allowing dogs anywhere. Too bad really. If we could trust people not to be assholes, what a better world this would be.

But I digress. Monkey bars! That Peanut has been a monkey bar fiend for a couple of years now. She spends every possible recess period practicing swinging from end to end and back, and frequently comes home with serious blisters on her palms. The kid won't stop until she bleeds. Then she cries, not just because it hurts, but because she has to take some days off. She has got it in her head that recess is boring, and that the only part of the playground that's any good is the monkey bars, and other than that there's just the dumb ol' field, where some kids play kickball. Why don't you play kickball, too? I asked her. She said that no girls play kickball, but she wants to, and on Monday she is going to do it!

This is brave, because earlier this week a boy asked her why she was playing a baseball-like game with the boys in gym instead of hula hooping with the girls, and she came home pretty upset. It had never even occurred to her that she was the only girl in the game, let alone that there was anything peculiar about it. I couldn't help but remember my first day of middle school, when I sat with the boys at lunchtime because that's who my friends were, and I didn't realize until it was too late what a social gaffe I'd made. Painful, painful stuff. I'm trying to remember that she is not me, now is not then, etc., etc., but I can see how she feels different, and hurts, and I understand completely. It is how I know, too, that no matter how awkward it feels not to, she will never pick up a hula hoop and join the girls just because they are girls and she is one too. She'll pick up a hula hoop when and if she feels like freakin' hula hooping and not before, and if what the boys are doing looks more fun then that's where she'll want to be.

Today, while her sister was at soccer, we took a ball of our own and practiced kickball so she will feel ready. She made me pretend all the other players were on the field with us, and shouted out what they were doing and where we had to run, and whose turn it was to kick, and whether we were tagged out or not. Needless to say I was exhausted before the first inning was up, and when older boys in baseball uniforms showed up to use the field for their practice, I was secretly relieved. (One boy threw a ball to another, overshot him by a fair bit, and my Peanut ran and got the ball. She fired it back to the nearer boy, and her throw was perfect. I couldn't believe it. Made a nice smack into the kid's glove when he caught it, too.)

I really hope her entrance onto the 2nd grade kickball scene goes well. In the meantime, I know what to write about in our letter journal this weekend.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September, ur doin it wrong.

Yeah right. Being "present in your present" is all well and good when there's crisp, dry air, and sunshine warm enough to comfort but not so hot you're sweating before you burn your first calorie of the day. Not so easy from beneath a damp sticky air mass that hangs like a mouldering blanket over everything for days on end. Late September, and I am running air conditioners just to prevent me from pulling my remaining hair out. Who wants to buy pumpkins in this weather? I ask you.

Actually, it's getting better. I should quit my whining and focus on the fact that in a mere few months, a run of days like this will be an impossible dream. All too soon, there will be cold and damp to complain about.

So, remember Mr. Sandyshoes and I got to spend a few days in Maine at the beginning of the summer? And remember I'd said I was going to plug our hotel, etc.? Of course you don't. But we did that, and I said that. Accordingly:

We stayed at the lovely Blue Nose Inn, a pleasant stroll from central Bar Harbor, with great views of Frenchman Bay. The hotel is attractive and comfortable. There's a hot tub, steam room, and pool, which we used, and exercise equipment, which we didn't. There's a bar and a pianist playing nightly in the "Great Room," which made for an enjoyable nightcap (and when did I become someone who enjoys a "nightcap"? Is this not something one's parents used to do? Sigh.) One evening there was a wine-and-cheese reception hosted by the manager. It was interesting talking with him about the similarities and differences between the tourist-dependent, seasonal economies of Bar Harbor and Cape Cod. Don't ask me why it was interesting, because I can't remember a thing we said; I was on vacation. But I know I enjoyed the conversation, which I could not have had it been dull.

What else? We loved dinner at Cafe This Way. It's a cool setting... tables set up in a converted-garage (though it isn't, I asked) feeling space, full of books and original artwork. Hard to describe. Check their website for pictures (caution:  the font is damn near unreadable. Why do people do that?). The food was so good that we went back the next morning for an equally terrific breakfast, and will make a point to revisit it if we're ever in Bar Harbor again.  

The day before, we'd had an (eventually) delightful breakfast on the porch at the Two Cats Cafe, though it took a while to get seated, and after that a bizarrely long while before anyone took our order. We waited and waited. I was this close to leaving, but it turned out fine. I guess they were having a tough morning. A lady at the table next to us sent back her coffee because it was too hot, and her pancakes because she thought they were mushy (maybe they were, who knows. Ours were fine). Sent back coffee because it was too hot, though! Can you imagine? Steven Wright had a joke: "This pizza's too hot. I think we should send it back." Restaurant people must just shake their heads sometimes.

Something that amused us in Acadia National Park: We were parked at one of its famous natural features... Thunder Hole, I think, though the tide wasn't right for making the thundering sound it's named for... and, after climbing around on the rocks a bit, came back to the car, ready to move on.  A small group of people were gathered behind the car next to ours, pointing at something, and saying things like "ooh! Look! Right in the parking lot!" and we looked in the direction they were pointing, and there was nothing there. Unless... wait, they couldn't mean... that seagull? Ayuh, they did. A whole family of tourists was beside themselves at this incredible wildlife sighting. They all looked sane, but what the? I took a peek at their license plate: Indiana. So I assume this was the morning of the very first day of their very first Maine vacation, and that they'd arrived in darkness the night before... and that they don't have landfills where they come from.

Naturally we had way too much fun pointing out those wily, elusive seagulls to one another on the rest of the trip.  I'm told we have them here at home, too. If it's not too humid tomorrow I might try to find one.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Well shoot -- happy equinox!

I appear to have taken the summer off from blogging.  Go figure. Blogging's hard to get to with the family around all. the. time.  But now that we have settled into something of a regular schedule again (also, frankly, now that Facebook sort of sucks), I hope to be writing here a bit more.  We shall see.

So, what's been happening?  Summer happened, and I can hardly remember it already. The girls are back at school... 4th and 2nd grade are proceeding apace, and they both seem to be enjoying it.  Classmates are good, teachers are terrific, all is well. 

The Peanut did have a moment of shock and dismay this morning. She froze in the middle of clearing her breakfast dishes, and turned to me in sudden horror. "Mommy? Is childhood... is being a child just to get you to be a grownup? Because I don't want to be a grownup, ever!" Her wide blue eyes filled with tears, and she couldn't speak further. When she'd swallowed the lump in her throat she managed to get out that she never wants to have a job and have to get up in the morning and leave her home every day! So I tried to come up with a thousand cool jobs she could have. Peanut! You could have a job designing and building playgrounds! You could work at a toy company, testing toys with groups of kids! You could have a career designing dress-up costumes! You could be a singer, have concerts at night and get up late every day! You could have a job traveling to different places and writing about them! You could collect rocks and dinosaur bones! You could be an actress and pretend all the time! Jobs don't all suck. Lots of people love their jobs (humor her. Heck, humor me. I hope to love paid work someday myself. I'd say "again," but I never loved the kind I did. I really, really hope the Peanut has better luck.).

In the meantime, the Bean was rattling off a thousand reasons why she thinks being a grown-up is going to be the best thing ever.  You can drive! You can eat all the treats you want and nobody can tell you you can't! You can go wherever you want! You can read anything! You can decide everything for yourself!  And I had to agree... being a grown-up is pretty damn cool, and like her, I was eager for it even as a little girl. Maybe it's a first child thing.

One daughter can't wait for adulthood, eager for everything she'll gain; one cries at the thought of it, sad for everything she'll lose.

So, as the balance on this half of our ceaselessly spinning planet tips once again toward shorter days and longer nights, I wish for my children not to urge it on too fast, nor to mourn its progress too bitterly.  I wish it for myself as well, and for you. Be present in your present.

Happy, peaceful Autumn, everyone.