Sunday, June 27, 2010

South Meets North, Number 8,867,565

My girls took a three-day refresher swim course this past week at the YMCA.

Initially, my husband and I signed them up and picked their classes based on what we know about their swimming abilities.  They are both strong swimmers but need work on their various strokes.

After the first day in swim camp, both girls were sort of "demoted" and put into classes with much younger kids.

On the third day, both girls were promoted into the higher classes again.  It turns out that the real problem was not ever with their swimming ability but instead, with their understanding of what the various strokes were CALLED.  In the North, what we Southerners call "Freestyle" is called "Front Crawl."  And what we call "Backstroke" is called "Back Crawl."  Once we got the language issue worked out, both girls were fine.  (Jane, 9,  said that her instructor asked her to do a "back float," but Jane heard "back FLIP," so she did one.  The teacher said, "Well, I said, 'back FLOAT,' but that was really impressive!") I think maybe I could have helped facilitate this issue but, as seems to be the case any time anyone is teaching my children anything in New York, parents were not allowed in the lessons.

Until the third day, when we were allowed to come in and watch.  It was at least 800 degrees in that pool area.  (At one point, the woman next to me turned to me and said, "Okay, I have to wash my bra now."  I knew EXACTLY what she meant.) Also in the pool area, this sign was posted:

I hope this is another one of those language things.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Barb Has A Soapbox Moment

I am having a MOMENT.

Well, okay,  I've BEEN having a few moments and now I must express myself and get this off my chest so that I can go back to obsessing over my own failures, which is what I normally spend my time doing.

Here's the thing: the nice weather has arrived and I see more and more kids on the roads on bikes, biking to school or for fun or with friends.

It breaks my heart how few of them are wearing helmets.

I know, I know, a lot of people just hit the delete button but just in case you're still with me, I have to tell you that I worked for four years in my Life Before Children for Goodwill Industries of Central Texas, raising money for people with disabilities.  Many of the people I was trying to help were people with head injuries that caused permanent loss of faculties-- both physical and mental. It changed my life forever.  I just can't see kids riding around without helmets without thinking of the kids I saw who will never ride a bike again.  Who will never take another step unassisted.  Who can't form sentences or grasp a fork.

It's a pretty simple thing, wearing a helmet.  There are agencies that give them away to kids whose parents can't afford them.  Any kind of protection is better than none --even those fairly useless-looking Army helmet things.  Because anything that puts a layer of something between your child's head and the concrete on which he or she is riding will help protect that precious brain.

My own children have to wear helmets any time they ride anything with wheels (and skis, actually) and so well have I indoctrinated them, when they see someone without a helmet, they always say, "That person must not be very smart." We keep extra helmets in case we have visitors who want to go for a ride.  We are SERIOUS about helmets.

I just can't let another day go by watching kids riding their bikes completely unprotected without saying something --y'all, ESPECIALLY given the drivers up here in New York.

I was going to add a YouTube clip here about bike/helmet safety but after watching three or four of them and deeming them too violent and gory, I had to stop searching and go throw up.

Please. No Helmet: No Ride.

What could possibly be more beautiful?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah, Uh Huh, Uh Huh

So, remember THIS?

Feast your eyes on this:

And this:

And, um, THIS:

And, well, this, this and THIS:

(Why, yes, I DID just break into dance in my garden. I have to give the neighbors SOMETHING to talk about!)

Happy Father's Day to all. Coop got a special breakfast and is out fishing with Jane at the moment. A special shout out to my Step-dad, Jerry, who continues to add love and fun to my life. (Two years and counting, Jerry! And they said it wouldn't last!)

Friday, June 18, 2010

I Am Such a Lucky Mom

I spent yesterday scrubbing my house and getting ready for my neighborhood's Civic Association meeting, which I was hosting.  I was expecting between 10-15 people--and who better to talk up my house to everyone they know who is looking than people who already live in the neighborhood?  I prepared as if it was an Open House but with food.  I went grocery shopping and made my own gorgeous antipasti plates, heaped with cheeses and fruits and painstakingly rolled cold cuts and cheeses... I farmed Jane (9) out to a play date (She was blissfully happy but I, naturally, felt very guilty because that's just what I do) and made Ana (12) help me. I cleaned the whole house, did all of the laundry, windexed all surfaces, stashed clutter, etc. When I tell you my Obsessive Compulsiveness was in full bloom, I am, for once, not exaggerating.

My foot was really hurting but I felt like I had to treat this like a marketing event.  We've had no traffic at all since the Open House this past weekend.

Two people showed up. TWO.  One of whom is a neighbor.  The other is the editor of the neighborhood newsletter for which I do the design and layout each month.

We had a good time and I held it together but afterward, when they'd left, I got teary.  All that work, all that expense, all this pain --for nothing. I was embarrassed to have made such a big deal out of something that really wasn't. My husband was so kind to me.  He gave me a big hug and resorted to the Ultimate Measure of Manly Comfort: the fishing metaphor.  "Sometimes you fish all day and never catch anything.  I hope you had at least a little fun fishing."

I went upstairs to bed about 10:00 and could see Ana was still awake in her bed.  I went in to kiss her goodnight, tears fresh in my eyes. I explained that I was disappointed and embarrassed and felt sort of silly and sad.

She got out of bed and hugged me and looked at me with great concern as she walked me to my bedroom.

"Wait," she said.  "Don't go anywhere."

She disappeared into her room and came running back with a fresh, unused notebook and a blue Flair pen (my favorite writing pen at the moment).

"Here, Mom," she said. "Write about it.  That's what I do to feel better when I'm sad."

And the best part?

She said, "I learned that from you."

Sometimes the gentle butterfly wings of grace and generosity in my life beat such a rush of gratitude and love that it literally topples me over.

I'm living in that today--in the gentle grace of the amazing person I am lucky enough to call my daughter.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Well. Huh. Here We Go Again.

I have been scarce.

Coop and I have been wrestling with big decisions lately, borne largely out of our dissatisfaction with the school district the kids are currently attending.  It's a good school district in many ways but it just doesn't compare with the school district we left behind in Texas.  We are concerned that our daughters have lost ground academically and that they are not being challenged anywhere near their potential.  It's a good district but it's just not meeting the needs of our family.  The girls are happy --not bored and dissatisfied --but we don't think this school district is the best preparation for the higher education they will need, since (I believe I have mentioned before) they do not come from family money.

Also, I am still gimpy and increasingly so.  We have what is called (in official Realtor-ese) a Long-ass  Steep Driveway.  This isn't serving our needs very well, especially because it's kind of a crap-shoot as to if the dogs will bring the paper back to the house or get distracted by something shiny. Also?  We miss having a pool.

So, after much deliberation and back and forth, we've decided to put our house on the market.  Given that we bought this house right before the worst economic/housing/lending crisis in our nation's history, it is going to take a while to sell without us losing our shirts.  But without selling it, we can't afford to move to a better school district and we can't afford to send our kids to private school.

For me, I'm not as invested in this house as I was in our house in Austin even though this is the fanciest house I've ever lived in.  I love the lot, though-- and y'all know how I feel about our garden.  I just never had that feeling that we would grow old in this house.

As to where we're going...well, we're refusing to think too much about it.  It's going to take a long time to sell this house given the current economic market and the lack of lenders, etc.  So, I'm not making any plans until we have a contract on the table.  Then we'll look for a better school district or  house with a pool and/or moving sidewalks.  We have a few ideas but we are keeping our options wide open at this point.

Meanwhile, may I just say that, although you would THINK that we would have a leg up on this whole "getting the house ready to go on the market" thing because we just did this two years ago, in fact, we do NOT have a leg up. We have maybe a TOE up. Maybe HALF of a toe.

More about that soon.  I promise.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Brought to You By Bribery

My children (Ana (12) and Jane (9)) are plotting something.  I know this because I have found little clues lying about the house, including a draft of the following letter.

(Click to enlarge if you can't read it.)

(I had to bribe Jane to let me post this letter because she doesn't want anyone thinking that she and Ana are bad kids, plotting to run away from home.)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Playing Fetch

We have two dogs.

Our older dog, Scout, is a Border Collie mix.
Scout is an interesting animal because, although for a long time I complained that he was dumber than dirt, he's really not.  Actually, he's probably too smart.  He's just so fearful and nuerotic that he is his own worst enemy.

Take, for example, the game of Fetch.

Scout really loves the game of Fetch.  I mean, REALLY, REALLY loves it. I used to say he was the best dog I'd ever seen at bringing the ball back.

Then we got the puppy.  (Who, I guess, we will still call "The Puppy" after he is toothless and on a walker.  Really, he's no longer a puppy.  He is 18 months old.  His actual name is Austin.)

Austin just loves to play.  Anything.  Playing = GOOD in Austin's world.  Austin is smart but he is NOT neurotic.  He's a very simple creature and let me just say, the dog is Big "H" Happy.

He LOVES to play fetch.  When my husband is traveling for business and unable to take the dogs running, the way I  exercise the dogs is to use this thing called a "chuk it" to throw the ball to the far ends of our acre lot.  We do this a LOT.  I've gotten really good at throwing the ball.

Which is a good thing because I have to throw it now so that Scout doesn't get it.

I know, it's just...

If the puppy gets the ball he comes running right back to me and drops it at my feet so that I can throw it again.

If SCOUT gets the ball, he brings it back half way.
And then he just stands there, waiting for his engraved invitation to bring the ball all the way back.

No amount of cajoling will make him bring it back.  In fact, what I have to do is get all threatening and call him names.

Sometimes we just give up and go inside until he brings the darn ball back.
The thing that's so frustrating is that Scout really WANTS TO PLAY FETCH.  But he's so afraid that someone else (Austin) will grab the ball OR that maybe Austin will get credit for returning the ball, that his fear, confusion, neuroses stops him from doing the very thing he loves the most.

I feel like I am doing exactly the same thing with living mindfully. I want to be in the present and listen to my body and live healthily and fully. And yet, again and again, I find myself bringing the ball only half way back out of fear and uncertainty and habitual blindness.