Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Discovering the Already Discovered

One of Evie and Lucy's favorite games is a game we call guess-that-animal. One of us thinks of an animal and then can only answer yes or no to questions about the animal. The girls have gotten fairly efficient at guessing--Is it bigger than a cat? Does it live in the ocean? Does it have fur?--and better at thinking of more exotic animals, although Evie, who carries around her Guide to Colorado Birds on every camping trip, is banned from thinking of any birds after stumping us with a double-crested cormorant and marbled godwit.

Noni usually sits and listens to us as we play, but today at lunch she asked me if I wanted to play guess-that-animal with her. Only she had a slightly different take on the game.

Noni: Okay, I'm going to pick an elephant and you guess what animal it is.
Me: ....
Noni: So guess!
Me: An elephant?
Noni: No! You can't guess for it like that!
Me: Okay, a monkey?
Noni (smiling): No
Me: A llama?
Noni: No
Me: An elephant!
Noni: That's right! You got it!

We then took turns "guessing" each other's animal, but always had to let the other person know up front which animal we were thinking about.

As we played, I had to resist the urge to tell Noni that her version didn't make sense. I realized that really it just didn't make sense to me. I thought back to a day at the reservoir a couple of weeks ago. Noni and her friend Ami decided to play hide-and-seek. Ami counted first and I helped Noni to hide under the towel. To her delight, Ami immediately found her. Then it was Noni's turn to count and Ami, of course, hid under the towel again. This went on for several turns until I asked the girls if they wouldn't like to mix it up a bit and hide somewhere different. Noni looked at me like I was crazy and probably would have rolled her eyes if she knew how. Then she and Ami looked at each other and both yelled "No!" at the same time. They were perfectly happy with their own version of the game.

At three, Noni is in discovery mode all day long. Just today, she has asked me why apples have skin, how to get up a really tall mountain, and why she has to wash her hands before lunch. The games she's playing, whether hide-and-seek or guess-that-animal, are new enough to her as it is without needing to add the element of surprise that older children enjoy. And so, without judgement, I'm off to play another game of guess-that-animal with Noni. By the way, I'm thinking of a bear.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Four Hours

Noni goes to preschool for the first time tomorrow. It's a big day for her. It's a big day for me too because, for the first time in almost nine years, I will have two kid-free mornings a week. (There was a brief period, almost four years ago, where Lucy attended school two mornings a week and Noni wasn't born yet, but she was in utero so it didn't somehow quite count as kid-free.) Part of me cannot stand the idea of Noni heading off to school. She is growing up too fast. (And I, having turned thirty-six yesterday, seem to be growing up too fast too.) But part of me is excited about all that I can do with that chunk of newfound free time.

In my four kid-free hours tomorrow, I plan to go for a two hour training run, shower, match all the socks in the laundry basket full of unmatched socks, clean out the girls' closet, scrub all three bathrooms, paint a picture using my new birthday easel, organize our storage (junk) room, see the bottom of the laundry hamper, make photo albums from three years of photos that exist only on flickr, call friends I haven't talked to in too long, write a short story for my writing group, grocery shop, mop and dust the house, finish the edits on my novel, spray paint the rusting outdoor furniture, and weed the yard.

I suppose my list may be a little ambitious. But if I knock the first three items off the list, it will be the most productive morning I've had in a long time.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Old School

On Friday, my friend Sarah called me and told me to check our mailbox. We were at the park and hadn't checked the mail before we left. She explained that her daughter Ada, one of Lucy's best friends, had received a postcard from Mrs. Y. welcoming her to her class this year and she wanted to know if Lucy had received the same card. Lucy couldn't wait to get home. Not only would a postcard mean she and Ada would be in class together, but her 8-year-old friend Sophia had Mrs. Y. in first grade and told Lucy that had to get her, that she is the best teacher and that Mrs. Y. would give her a hug everyday when she left school. When we got home, Lucy ran to the mailbox. She peeked inside and then let out a shout and waved the postcard victoriously over her head yelling, "I'm with Ada! I'm with Ada! And we got the huggy teacher!"

Judging by the crowd at the girls' school when they posted the classroom placement list later that day, classroom placement is important to a lot of families. But after having moved the girls to a different state and, of course, a different school, two years in a row, there was something especially beautiful to me in the joy the girls expressed about being in class with friends. Like Lucy, it turns out that Evie will have some of her best friends in her class. She also got the teacher she had been hoping to get all summer. She too responded by jumping up and down and screaming with delight.

Last week, Evie and a friend giggled and chatted in the back of the car as I drove them to go hiking. Then her friend told Evie that she is feeling sad because she just found out she'll be moving to a different school this year. Evie, instantly serious, turned to her and said, "I know exactly how you feel. That is really, really hard." As a parent, I will never forget Evie coming home from school in Los Angeles and telling me that no one noticed her at recess. And I'll never forget walking home last year, teary and worried at the thought of her experiencing that once again.

On Monday, the girls will enter their classrooms to be greeted by hugs from their friends. And I will walk home from dropping them off, thinking about Lucy waving her postcard in the air.

Lucy and Ada camping this summer

Monday, August 9, 2010

Glue-sticking Days

As Toby headed out the door this morning, he turned to Evie and said, "Have a good day!" She responded, "That won't be hard to do." I love the power of now in an eight-year-old's brain. She was in the living room building a plastic cup and cardboard box tower with her sisters and it was hard for her to imagine how a day that started off so well could be anything but fabulous.

Sometimes, as an adult, it's challenging to have that much confidence that everything is and will be good, but for kids it happens naturally. Of course, it cuts both ways when you're eight. If Toby had talked to her about her day ten minutes later, when the glue wasn't sticking and Noni was scribbling all over one of the boxes, she probably would have responded that she was bound to have a terrible, no good, very bad day.

When you're an entrepreneur, or married to one, you tend to have some days when the glue won't stick and when other people are scribbling all over your boxes. Toby and I, recognizing that we chose this lifestyle, try to view those days as part of the adventure. Those are the days when we grow as individuals and our marriage strengthens as we support each other. It's good to have days like that from time to time, even though it doesn't usually feel like it in the moment. But? I'll be the first to admit that the days when the glue is sticking are more easily enjoyed.

The past few days have been glue-sticking days. On Thursday, Toby presented Kapost at the TechStars conference. I know I'm slightly biased, but I think he, Mike and Nader put together a knock-it-out-of-the-ballpark presentation. That evening, my friend Brenda took the three girls (Noni's first sleepover!) so that Toby and I could go out to celebrate. For us, celebrating success in Toby's work is also a celebration of our ability to stay living in Boulder, a town we have quickly grown to love. Then, in the serendipitous way that things sometimes happen, we had plans for camping on a lake with friends this weekend. It seemed the perfect way to celebrate, even though we made the reservations when there was still snow on the ground, long before I'd even heard of TechStars. I'll let the pictures below describe the weekend.

Eckhart Tolle teaches that we should "realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life." Words to live by at all times of course. But over these last few days, it's been easier than ever to think, "that won't be hard to do."

Toby jumping into the clouds. Well, actually the lake.

Evie and I head out on the canoe

Noni, campfire cook

Lu & friends

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Family Friendly Camping

Last week, a friend told me that she had just read about a cave that was recently opened to the public. Every evening, thousands of bats fly out of the cave at the same time. I thought it sounded amazing and wanted to take the girls so we agreed that we'd go together next week with the kids and camp near the cave.

When I looked at the website she sent, I was even more excited about our trip. The Orient Land Trust, where the cave is located, is 22 miles from the nearest gas station, over 30 miles from the nearest supermarket, and full of hot springs. Plus, there is supposed to be a meteor shower on the night we were planning on going. I could only imagine the night sky from such a remote campground.

So I called up to make a reservation.

Reservation guy: Orient Land Trust.

Me: Hi, I'm interested in making a reservation for me and my friend and our kids.

Him: Great. Before you do, I just want to make sure you're aware that the campgrounds are clothing optional.


Him: Hello?

Me: Yes, um, so when you say "clothing optional", you mean like in the hot springs? Because I'm fine with naked people in the hot springs.

Him: Yes, there are naked people in the hot springs. Also, people are naked camping.

Me: Naked camping?

Him: Yes.

Me: Hmm, so I am not sure how to say this. I guess, well, is the campsite family friendly?

Him: I'd say it's naked family friendly.

Me:... (Unable to help considering the word naked family friendly and what that would mean for society. Cinderella no longer needing a gown for the ball, Little Red Riding Hood having to scrap her name...)

Him: Should we make that reservation?

Me: No thanks, I think we're good.