Seattle Girl

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So, yeah, this happened tonight…

And in spite of me repeatedly – REPEATEDLY!! – telling her she was ONLY getting her ears pierced, I could tell – oh yes, I could tell!! – that the RED-HEART-WITH-BLACK-BAT-WINGS (go ahead, picture it) tattoo flash she saw on the wall is going to show up in her dreams, in her drawings, and probably on her baby brother’s chest more often than I’m comfortable with.

She’s such a Seattle girl.

Ooh boy…

Is it to late to move back to Montana?!

Planning for Paris: Lessons From Iceland (Part 2)

Paisley the Viking at the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavík . Pretty sure the Louvre in Paris doesn't let kids dress up in their exhibits... More's the pity.

The then-9yo, aka Paisley the Viking, having fun (fun, I tell you!) at the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavík. I wonder: do you think the Louvre in Paris will let her play dress-up with their exhibits??

Lesson One: Context is Critical Everything

One of the more important lessons Bill learned about traveling with kids (or at least traveling with our kids, or maybe just traveling with our ONE kid, but it seems like a good lesson for any young person with an attention span that can barely last through an episode of Phineas and Ferb without taking a break to beg for more goldfish crackers, visit the bathroom, or whack a sibling upside the head just to see the reaction): give them as much knowledge, background information and context about what they’re going to see or do BEFORE they actually see or do it – and not DURING and not AFTER.

How did Bill learn such a valuable lesson, you ask? Well, a little backstory first:

As a family, we we have decided that these global escapades of ours, though meant to be fun, are also very much meant to be educational – as compared to, say, our past trips to Hawaii, which were solely dedicated to frivolity and absorbing as much Vitamin D as possible, a vitamin, it turns out, that is quite important for pasty-fleshed Seattleites (okay, I’m only speaking for myself, but seriously, the pasty-tones get BAD come early spring) who can only go so long without sun before turning translucent (like those icky looking fish who dwell in cave lakes – honestly, it’s not a good look for me or anyone), and I therefore whole-heartedly appreciate every trip to a sunny paradise I’ve ever taken (truly!). However, these international trips with the kids are not about devouring as many beach reads as we can stuff in the suitcase and sipping fruity drinks with paper umbrellas in them poolside (though maybe I can work this in during a future trip to say, oh I don’t know, Bali? There has to be some GREAT educational stuff going on in Bali!!). Of course, just being immersed in a new culture is mind-opening and enlightening, but in attempts to ensure the whippersnappers learn something a tad more concrete about the country they are visiting than “Hey! Like, wow! They speak a foreign language in this foreign country!” we decided to ask the kiddos (in this case, just Paisley, since she was the only young‘un going this round) to write a report about something – the culture, the history, the social expectations, etc. – they’d be seeing and encountering while visiting the destination country.

So about two weeks before Bill and Paisley left for Iceland, I asked Bill when he was going to have Paisley do her report on Iceland; wasn’t he running out of time? And he was all, “Huh! I thought we were doing these reports after they got back from the trip…” And I was all, “Huh! I guess that makes sense… Write up what they just learned…” Turns out, I was thinking the report would serve as a way of providing information (you know… that whole context thing?) about what they’d see while they were there, and Bill was thinking the report would serve as a way of synthesizing and summarizing what they learned while they were there, after the fact. (Which really does make sense, but you see where this is going, right?)

Okay, so I agreed that Bill’s plan to wait until after the trip to have Paisley write her report on Iceland had merit, and two weeks later they abandoned me and the boys, and headed off into the great unknown…

Being very conscious of traveling with a young child, and considerate of her feelings and that whole relatively short attention span thing (recall the whole Phineas and Ferb episode above: I wasn’t making that up…), before they left he worked hard (like the good Papa he is) to create an agenda that would be educational, but enjoyable, too. For instance, he planned that they’d spend the first two days in Reykjavík touring the must-see sites like Hallgrímskirkja (a tower-like Lutheran church that is probably the most distinct landmark in the city),

Jet lag? Or just in awe of the grandeur that is Hallgrímskirkja (or Hallgríms Church) in Reykjavík, Iceland?

Jet lag? Or just in awe of the grandeur that is Hallgrímskirkja (or Hallgríms Church) in Reykjavík, Iceland?

Solfar (the Sun Voyager sculpture that sits majestically in the center of Reykjavík, on the waterfront),

Please notice that I'm posting the picture of Solfar with awesome views of Videy Island, Old Harbour, and Snæfellsnes Peninsula (upon which is found Snæfellsjökull, the setting of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth), rather than the photo of my daughter, in typical American fashion, climbing on stuff that they generally shouldn't!

Please notice that I’m posting the picture of Solfar with awesome views of Videy Island, Old Harbour, and Snæfellsnes Peninsula (upon which is found Snæfellsjökull, the setting of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth), rather than the photo of my daughter climbing on it, and – in typical American fashion – generally acting like the world is her playground…

and Tjörnin (called “The Pond,” this lake in the center of the city fronts Reykjavík City Hall),

Visiting the swans and ducks at Tjörnin, enjoying the sunshine, and trying to stay warm (it's August, by the way!), by drinking some hot cocoa...

Visiting the swans and ducks at Tjörnin, enjoying the sunshine, and trying to stay warm (it’s August, by the way!), by drinking some hot cocoa…

but he also planned on them spending several (very happy) hours a day (both morning and evening!) in the more kid-friendly pursuit of swimming and splashing about in several local geothermal pools (Laugardalslaug, the city’s largest hot pot and host to an 86 meter long water slide – 86 meters long!! – was their favorite).

Though Bill and Paisley visited several local hot pots, or geothermally heated swimming pools, they're still talking about Laugardalslaug. Sadly, we have no pictures of the epic slide inside because, as it turns out, it's rather difficult to swim with an iPhone...

Though Bill and Paisley visited several local hot pots, or geothermally heated swimming pools, they’re still talking about Laugardalslaug. Sadly, we have no pictures of the epic slide inside because, as it turns out, you can’t really take your iPhone swimming… Apple really needs to get on that…

And instead of spending all day driving the 190 mile loop that comprises the three different sites of the famous and touristy Golden Circle (Bill didn’t think our 9yo would much appreciate spending that much time in the car), he planned for their third day to visit only one of the sites, Þingvellir (where the continents of North America and Europe actually meet, the first national park in Iceland, and the original location for the founding of the country’s parliament way way way back in 930 AD),

Bill and Paisley - with Paisley's new "friend" and souvenir from her trip, a stuffed puffin (turns out, Iceland is home to one of the largest colonies of puffins in the world, and this makes my daughter very happy, as our kids are rather bird crazy) - enjoying the beautiful views at Þingvellir.

Bill and Paisley – with Paisley’s new “friend” and souvenir from her trip, a stuffed puffin (turns out, Iceland is home to one of the largest colonies of puffins in the world, and this makes my daughter very happy, as our kids are rather bird crazy) – enjoying the beautiful views at Þingvellir.

where they could spend a few quality hours (rather than just the quick, cursory visit most tourists make when trying to see all three sites in one day) exploring the church and the remains of the Assembly (talk about an educational experience!),

This picturesque cluster of buildings located in Þingvellir - also called Thingvellir - National Park is the Þingvallakirkja on the far left, a church built in the 1850s on the site of the original church built there to commemorate the adoption of Christianity in 1000 AD, and the five-gable Thingvallabær farmhouse on the right, now the summer home of Iceland's prime minister (currently Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who is, by the way, the first female prime minister of Iceland AND the first openly lesbian head of state in the world - GO ICELAND!!)

This picturesque cluster of buildings located in Þingvellir – or Thingvellir – National Park is the Þingvallakirkja on the far left, a church built in 1859 on the site of the original church built there to commemorate the adoption of Christianity in 1000 AD, and the five-gable Thingvallabær farmhouse on the right, now the summer home of the country’s sitting prime minister (currently Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who is, by the way, the first female prime minister of Iceland AND the first openly lesbian head of state in the world – GO ICELAND!!)

hiking around,

As seen from the national cemetery  (the final resting place for such country notables as poets Jónas Hallgrímsson and Einar Benediktsson), the Icelandic flag flies over the löberg, or the "law rock" - the long, low-lying rock wall under the cliff face and above the Öxará River and lava field  - where Iceland's parliament, called the Althing, met for six weeks every June and July since it's creation until 1874, when it moved to Reykjavík.

As seen from the national cemetery (the final resting place for such country notables as poets Jónas Hallgrímsson and Einar Benediktsson), the Icelandic flag flies over the löberg, or the “law rock” – the long, low-lying rock wall under the cliff face and above the Öxará River – where Iceland’s parliament, called the Althing, met for six weeks every June and July since it’s creation in 930 until it moved in 1874 to it’s new home in Reykjavík.

and just playing outside at a more leisurely pace – after, of course, spending the morning at a hot pot!

All was going well, everything was going according to plan, and Bill was looking forward to what Paisley would choose to write about in her report, when… on DAY TWO:

Bill, being a history buff as well as a diligent visitor who genuinely wished to know more about the foreign country he was in, naturally took our daughter to the National Museum of Iceland. The museum has an impressive exhibit, with about 2,000 objects and 1,000 photographs dedicated to telling the story of Iceland from the Settlement in the 9th Century to modern day. Bill planned on a lovely morning spent taking it all in… Maybe a couple of hours, say, followed by some lunch and a cup of hot coffee for himself (did I mention that he said the coffee in Iceland was out-of-this-world good?) and some hot cocoa for the kiddo…

Yeah… it took our daughter exactly ten minutes to go through the ENTIRE exhibit, covering approximately 1,100 years of history.

TEN MINUTES.

She even wore the little headphones and followed the special audio guide for children. To give her CONTEXT about what she was learning about… To give her a general awareness of what she was seeing and why it was important…

TEN.

MINUTES.

At which point, Bill started worrying about my upcoming trip to Paris…

He knew for me, who loves art, who studied art history in college, who can’t WAIT to meander, browse, slowly absorb and just BREATHE IN the art and history and culture of all of Paris… Well, yeah, ten minutes wasn’t exactly going to cut it.

He emailed me that night, and reiterated his point when he got back home, saying that, um, yeah, he thought maybe the kids should go ahead and do those reports BEFORE we left for foreign lands… I believe his exact words were: “Make sure she has LOTS of context when you go to Paris; otherwise you will go NUTS!! I really think she was bored today.” And then he recommended I have Paisley read everything she could about everything that was Paris before we left.

Great. So, I had a little less than a year to introduce her to all of art history?!

Yes, yes, I know I’m rather melodramatic (you’re not really surprised, are you?!), but, as you might be aware, the Louvre is just a WEE bit larger than Iceland’s National Museum, and it’ll take more than ten minutes just to GET to the Mona Lisa, let alone spend any time with her small bad self… At least seeing Leonardo’s masterpiece – if you recall – is one of the primary reasons Paisley chose Paris for her second international trip (left to my own devices, I probably would’ve picked somewhere they serve those fruity drinks with paper umbrellas with a healthy dose of Vitamin D on the side, waiting to visit Paris when Paisley had several years of world history under her teen-aged and undoubtedly hipster-styled belt), so I can at least feel confident that she’ll want to GO to the Louvre… But will she want to STAY there long enough to see and learn about (this isn’t supposed to be torture – I want it to be fun! – but it is supposed to be educational…) some of the most significant and iconic art pieces in the world?? (Like, did you know that the Louvre houses not only some of the most impressive works of the Renaissance, but is also home to the Law Code of Hammurabi, an ancient Babylonian stele dating from 1772 BC, one of the earliest known law codes in human history, and the origin of that whole “an eye for eye, a tooth for a tooth” concept?? Yeah, kind of a big dealio…)

And then, of course, there’s still the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée Rodin, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Musée de l’Orangerie… For crying out loud, do you have ANY idea how many of the world’s GREATEST museums there are in PARIS?!?! Well, let’s just say… there are a few

And she might get BORED?! Well! I don’t think so…

So as soon as Paisley returned from Iceland I took Bill’s advice and I brought home approximately 20,000 books from the library (okay, okay, more like 20 books) for her to start reading… and I must confess, my indoctrination plans (pardonnez moi, my plans to gently and supportively create CONTEXT!) for my 10yo are, so far, going quite well… In all seriousness (don’t snort; that’s rude… I can be serious if I really really try!), we have found many delightful books which I think, or at least hope, will help her (or, to tell the truth, help both of us, as I’m learning stuff I never knew about the City of Lights as well…) more thoroughly enjoy our upcoming trip (and avoid that dreadful boredom that comes with being forced to look at art or, are you kidding me?!, another church, that just looks old-fashioned and has no relevance to her modern-day life): books about kids going to Paris (for instance, we both chortled and snickered while reading Eloise in Paris, in which Paisley learned several invaluable French phrases, her absolute favorite being “tout de suite” – meaning “immediately” or “right away” – which she uses quite often here at home, now, with much Eloise-style flair, as in: “Mama, please do have Papa come upstairs and say good-night to me… and make sure you tell him tout de suite!”); books about kids living in Paris (outstanding reads in this category include the impressive and captivating The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a novel worth owning whether you plan on visiting Paris or not… the very enjoyable Madame Pamplemousse and Her Incredible Edibles, though I seriously doubt even this cute book will be enough to encourage Paisley to try either foie gras or paté… and the adorable Adèle & Simon, about a sister who walks her brother – who loses a mitten, a scarf, a crayon and other precious childhood items while visiting the dinosaurs at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, watching a puppet show at the Jardin du Luxembourg, eating sweets at a patisserie and visiting several other essential Paris destinations we’ll be visiting ourselves – home from school… Paisley and I liked the story so much we plotted out Adèle and Simon’s address on the Cour de Rohan on our map of Paris and plan on walking by!); books kids in Paris themselves read and love (the standout in this category is, hands down, the English translations of the wildly popular Astérix comic books, about a village of wily Gauls who fight off Roman occupation, which have also been made into several films starring none other than Gérard Depardieu – though Paisley hasn’t seen the movies yet, she did get an Astérix t-shirt for Christmas, which she plans on proudly sporting on the streets of Paris… unless, because it’s quite a favorite of hers, she wears it out from overuse before we ever leave!); and books about kids meeting artists whose paintings and sculptures are on display in the various museums (MUSEUMS!!) of Paris (there are literally hundreds of kids’ books about famous artists like Degas, Rousseau, Matisse, Monet, Van Gogh, Cézanne and Picasso – some of the better ones are the handful of books by Laurence Anholt, and the Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series by Mike Venezia, the Da Vinci one being a beloved gift to Paisley from her grandmother who visited Paris a few years back and is most likely the reason Paisley knew enough about the Mona Lisa to declare she’d be going to Paris to see said painting for her second big trip abroad). And when we were done with those first 20,000 books, I went and got 20,000 more books… and 20,000 more after that… I will confess: for the most part, I’ve deliberately chosen picture books for her to read – books well below her reading level, I suppose, but books that are fun to read and full of stories about kids just like her and, I think most importantly, books full of colorful pages exhibiting the very paintings and sculptures and cathedrals she’ll get to see (and dare I hope… want to see?) in Paris – art work and buildings that she’ll be able to recognize when we visit all those (hopefully now interesting and not boring) museums and tourist attractions in Paris.

The latest pile o' books from the library...

The latest pile o’ books from the library…

Of course, this “lesson” is currently more of a “theory” at this point… and I have no idea if all this reading will pay off; after all, the museums we visit are still MUSEUMS, and she’s still only ten years old with the attention span of any 10yo: roughly somewhere between ten minutes and the length of that ridiculous episode of Phineas and Ferb (and that’s approximately 22 minutes, for those of you whose children don’t demand a little cartoon action in their day)…  Nor am I sure that having her write a report for me before we go will help, either (though I’m thinking of having her write something about Versailles, as it’s going to be infinitely BORING for her there if she doesn’t understand who the Sun King was and why he was so important, or who Marie Antoinette was and why she got her head cut off for simply offering to feed everybody cake – because, let’s admit it, without a modicum of historical context, any modern-day 10yo in her right mind would throw a parade for someone, anyone!, who offered them CAKE; I mean, it’s CAKE!). But, for me, I think it’s worth trying to follow Bill’s advice to provide as much knowledge, background information and context as I can, in attempts to hold off the boredom as long as possible for that 10-22 minute stretch of time, so that our visit to the Louvre or any given museum in Paris will be educational, but will also be just that much more interesting

And don’t worry! Even with having learned all this “context” BEFORE we go, I know I’m not going to get more than an hour at any given tourist attraction. So what to do with the rest of the 23 hours of the day (well, minus at least eight hours of beauty sleep – we ARE in Paris, after all, and must look our best!)? Well, we might not be able to go splash around in any geothermally heated hot pots (sadly, I don’t think the Seine is very warm, or even very clean, and I’m pretty sure we’d be arrested if we tried taking a swim… and being arrested in a foreign country isn’t exactly the kind of educational experience I was hoping for), but there’s gotta be some serious giggles to be had in counting how many couples we see kissing as we walk along the Seine on our way to the nearest metro station, and some great times to be had while trying desperately not to accidentally order frog legs or snails at the fantastic sidewalk café we just stumbled upon, and, if all else fails, some deliciously smile-inducing moments to be had while devouring all the macaroons and pain au chocolat we can lay our greedy little hands on, right?? Because we WILL have fun… after all, c’mon! As Eloise just might say, c’est impossible – and that means rawther impossible – to NOT have fun when one is on vacation in PARIS.

And if things go really well, and we’re not in a total sugar-induced coma from all those macaroons? I’ll have Paisley send you a postcard telling you all about everything she learned at the museum that day…

***

This blog post is the second in a series. If you missed it, feel free to read the Introduction: Planning For Paris, Lessons From Paris (Part 1)

And still to come (if I could ever stop pinning Paris pictures on Pinterest long enough to write):
Lesson Two: Wherever You Go, There They Are
Lesson Three: Scale Back, Stay Longer
Lesson Four: Make Time for Playtime

Seeing Stars

Like any good parent, I believe my children are exceptional. Sometimes they’re exceptional troublemakers, but for the most part, they blow me away with their never-ending curiosity, their intuitive insights, their quirky senses of humor, their good good hearts. However, it’s not every day – or any Saturday night as the case may be – where your 10yo daughter gets to demonstrate to you, to herself, and to, oh, you know, 7,000 screaming fans just how exceptional she can be…

Two weeks ago, at her weekly roller derby practice, Paisley (aka Lyka Livewire) and her roller derby team (she skates for the youngest division, ages 8-12, of the Seattle Derby Brats, the junior league for the Rat City Rollergirls, the premiere roller derby team here in Seattle) were invited to skate an exhibition bout at the half-time show of the Rat City Rollergirls’ first big event of the 2013 season. Wow – you should’ve heard the screams of excitement! Heck, maybe you did; if your ears started ringing a couple of Friday nights ago, yeah, that was them.

The big night finally arrived. As it was a special occasion, we took a little extra time to dress ourselves up (or rather, at least one of us did). The application of make-up took an especially long time, but I think the end result was well worth the work.

Looking fierce. Game face ON!

Looking fierce. Game face ON!

Off we went, face paint on and suitcase full of gear in tow, to the back entrance of Key Arena (yeah, that Key Arena – you know, just the largest entertainment venue in the city of Seattle, the place where acts like, oh, say, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen perform when they’re in town). We dropped off our daughter backstage to stow her gear (in a room aptly titled “Halftime Act”), and then Bill and I headed upstairs to find some good seats. After purchasing a hot dog, a salted pretzel with “cheese” (what is that stuff?! I know it’s not cheese, but it’s so dang good!), and a Panini sandwich for our dinners (the dinner of champions!), Paisley was able to join us to watch the first half of the first bout (The Throttle Rockets vs The Sockit Wenches), declaring her former coach, Luna Negra of the Throttle Rockets, “the best jammer EVER!!” (though the Sockit Wenches would pull off a narrow win, 176-163, Paisley was okay with this since another of her former workshop coaches, Neutrino, is a fantastic jammer for the Sockit Wenches), before taking off yet again with her teammates to lace up their skates and start warming up.

And then, finally, the half-time show started. The Tootsy Rollers took the track!

Paisley’s super-wonderful coach had whispered to me, before the girls headed backstage to warm up, that Lyka (as they call her on the team) would be skating as jammer in the fourth jam… This was VERY exciting, as all last season and most of this season, Lyka adamantly refused to skate jammer at all (the jammer is the skater who makes all the points every time she skates through the pack of other skaters – you can always pick out the jammer, as she’s the one with the stars on her helmet cover), preferring to skate pivot, the lead blocker (the pivot is the one with the stripe on her helmet cover; she and her three blocker teammates create the defensive, and sometimes offensive, part of the team, keeping the other team’s jammer from passing and helping their own jammer get through the pack to make points). With a few nudges from her coach (“a good pivot knows what her jammer needs, and in order to know that, a pivot needs to know what it’s like to be a jammer”), Lyka finally pulled the jammer cover – stars and all – over her helmet about a month or so ago during a practice scrimmage… and she ROCKED IT.

I hurried back to my seat, told Bill about Paisley’s upcoming jam, and we fired up the video apps on our iPhones. This was going to be epic!

The whistles blew and the bout began. I don’t even know what happened during the first jam, I was screaming so loudly for the Orange Crush and the Turquoise Terrors, as they took the track (the Tootsy Rollers are divided into two teams – the Orange Crush and the Turquoise Terrors – more for convenience than for any sense of rivalry; the girls might be separated by the color of their jerseys, but they are all ONE team and support and love each other like sisters). The second jam, featuring two of the Tootsy Rollers’ most talented jammers, was just pure high-octane action. Thrilling! I fiddled with my phone (my battery was dying; I was very worried that I wouldn’t catch this milestone moment!), and looked up and – oh my goodness! – there she was! On the JUMBOTRON!

Lyka Livewire, jersey number 100 Amps, had skated up to the line for the Orange Crush. Her toe stop was down. She crouched, waiting… ready for the whistle… The announcer introduced her. Lyka was jammer during what is called a power jam – the other team’s jammer was in the penalty box – and my little roller derby queen took full advantage of the situation. The whistle blew, and she RAN off that line, her arms pumping, her skates gaining speed, and looked for the line that would take her through the pack… Some jostling… some more jostling… around the corner… on the inside… and she BROKE FREE! SHE WAS LEAD JAMMER!! In the clear… Still focused, she quickly made it around the track once… twice… and came back up on the pack. She didn’t even slow down!! She cut right on through! And then, DOWN SHE WENT. A blocker for the Turquoise Terror did an excellent job of defense, leaning Lyka right off the track. Unfazed, Lyka popped right up and was back on the track before you could say “roller derby rocks!” She saw the opening on the inside and cut right past most of the pack, engaging once again the Turquoise Terror’s tenacious blocker that had brought her down. Lyka skated side to side looking for an opening, nimbly avoiding any more defensive “leaning.” And then, even the announcer went crazy with the skill these young teams possess: one of Lyka’s teammates expertly came in with some crazy good offensive moves, cutting the Turquoise Terror’s blocker off and giving Lyka the room to pass! By this time the other blockers had caught up, and one of her own blockers was in the penalty box; Lyka now faced a veritable wall of backs, and the blocker she’d left behind was BACK, ready for more! But this proved no-big-deal for Lyka, who quickly side-stepped around the other skaters, put on a burst of speed, and zipped on by TO SCORE!!! As she came up on her bench and her coach, her hands went to her hips and flew up in the air in the gesture that calls off the jam. All this in one minute. A mere 60-seconds of adrenaline-spiking, out-of-your-seats-screeching-your-head-off EXCITEMENT!

YES, EXCITEMENT!! All Caps doesn’t even come close to explaining how bubbly and giggly and happy I was feeling for Lyka/Paisley and all of the Tootsy Rollers! Indeed, I was so excited I accidentally posted the above video to Facebook TWICE, totally killing the battery in my phone in the process. I have no idea how many points my daughter scored, or even what was the final score of the short 10-minute exhibition bout. But really, the points scored and who won or lost is completely beside the point – ALL those girls skated their HEARTS AND SOULS out, out there in that big big arena, in front of literally THOUSANDS of screaming fans.

I was – and am – so impressed by how these girls, these amazingly awesome athletes, even as young as they are, handled themselves at this major event: with both intense energy and easy confidence, quietly demanding the respect of everyone who was – and is – lucky enough to watch them. They should all be so very proud of themselves. These girls are just going to keep getting better, too. And one day soon, sooner than I’m ready for I’m sure, these girls will be old enough to skate with the Rat City Rollergirls themselves. And here’s the thing… What happened in that short 10-minute bout will last these girls a lifetime. They might not know it now, of course (to them it was just a blast!), but someday, maybe, they’ll look back and really see, really appreciate, what they demonstrated that one Saturday night…

Indeed, I truly hope that short, one-minute power jam will stay with my daughter forever: I hope she will always face life with the fierce determination she showed when she put her toe to the line; I hope she will always bounce back from a fall as quickly as she did during that bout; I hope she will always surround herself with allies who support her and protect her back, running interference for anyone who gets in her way; I hope she will always step around any obstacle that gets in her way, as deftly as she did the girls blocking her; I hope she will marvel and delight in her strength, resiliency and her persevering spirit whenever she crosses any finish line; and I hope she will always remember that she can – and did – do something (scary, intimidating, and over-whelming) that she didn’t think she could (skating jammer – and even doing so in front of an arena full of complete strangers!), and the satisfaction and self-respect that come with doing so. But mostly, I hope that she (and I wish this for each girl on her team) will know – know deep in the core of her being – that she is, just as her parents have always known, exceptional, whether she wears that jammer helmet cover or not.

(I suspect, however, that after the excitement of this last weekend, she’s going to want to wear those stars on her helmet for many more bouts to come. And I’ll be there rooting her on, every time.)

***

Because I don’t want to step on any toes, I didn’t include any of the professionally shot photographs that were taken during the bout. But if you want to take a look, here are the links to some truly amazing shots. From what I understand, roller derby photography is REALLY tough due to the fast nature of the sport and usually terrible lighting conditions. These guys did a fantastic job of covering the Tootsy Rollers and the first RCRG bout of the season, and I want to thank them for making their photos available for the public to see. Having said that, these are their photos, wholly and completely, and all rights belong to them. Thanks!

Waiting backstage for the bout to begin: think she’s having fun?!
Lyka and her teammates on the bench.
Ready to rumble! On the starting line (check out that focus!!).
And this is what it looks like from the inside of the track. WOW.
Another angle at the start line.
How much do I love the look in her eyes?!
And she’s off!
Lyka Livewire, cutting through the pack.
An AMAZING shot.  She’s flying!
There is no slowing this girl down!
Passing the other team’s blocker.
Around the track.
Looking for a way through as she spots the pack.
And around again!
Love this one: in black and white.
Listening to her coach and calling off the jam.
Calling off the jam: in black and white.
And here’s another video of Lyka’s jam, closer to the track.

Sanity is Totally Overrated

I am not kidding: put me in a straightjacket. This house is now, officially, a loony bin.

Not that you didn’t know already that our family was crazy, but after the decision Bill and I made the other day, it’s clear that I am unequivocally and certifiably CRAZY. Like, straightjacket crazy. I need to be committed.

Okay, so… School started about two weeks ago. This year, Bill and I decided (for various reasons which are rather complicated and not very amusing, so I won’t bore you with the details) that the 9yo and the 6yo should attend public school rather than returning to their beloved Montessori school, where we’ve been attending for the past seven years. Obviously, this was a huge decision, and very emotional, as we adore the community of parents and children and teachers at our old school; but, it’s a decision that we feel needed to be made, and we are at peace with the decision, and everyone, quite shockingly, seems to be quite content with the whole thing…

Crazy is as crazy does?

First day of school, first day of school! (Please notice: my kids do crazy WAY better than I do…)

Except for maybe me…

It’s not that I don’t love the new schools – I do; everyone is so nice, and the teachers are fantastic, and I love that the schools are so close to our house that we can and do walk back and forth (well, until the rains start again – I might like living in wet Seattle, but I’m not that hardcore). And it’s not that the kids are having any difficulty adjusting to their new environment or classmates or homework schedules (okay, well, nobody likes homework, but the grumbling is to be expected and hasn’t reached nuclear meltdown stages… yet… so I’ll take what I can get); heck, both kids still run – RUN!! – into school every morning, and not because they’re late (who knew this much excitement about school was even possible?!).

No, it’s the fact that there are schools involved – schools with an s, plural schools, as in more than one. And schools, plural, is, well, crazy-making, at least for me. And here’s why: because the 4th grader goes to school (a 15-minute walk south) from 8:30am-2:35pm, and the 1st grader goes to school (a 10-minute walk west) from 9:30am-3:35pm. Okay, I know that’s a lot of numbers, but did you catch that? That’s two different drop-off times, and two different pick-up times; each drop-off and pick-up time AN HOUR APART. Let that sink in… Now, you might think, if you have to do two different schools (and I don’t, but more on that in a moment), then having the exact same drop-off and pick-up times would be infinitely harder, as being in the same place at the same time is, to say the least, rather challenging (okay, fine, have it your way: impossible); which is true. So I’m glad we don’t have the exact same drop-off and pick-up times. But… an hour difference?! On each side?! I did the math (and double checked it with a calculator, so you could feel confident in my reporting, here, because I’ve been more than honest in past posts about how rocky my math skills are…), and I effectively lose TWO HOURS of my day with this new schedule (being the parent primarily responsible for getting the kids to and from school, as I’m the parent who works from home). And in case you were wondering, I don’t HAVE TWO HOURS to lose (you know, because of that aforementioned job thing, which, it turns out, takes TIME; go figure…).

“But, Jill,” you’re thinking to yourself (because talking out loud to your computer screen might make the folks around you suspect you’re the one in need of the straightjacket), “Why not just have your kids go to the same school?” Well, I would say, you are VERY SMART. And that’s why I like you… But… that’s why I am need-to-be-committed crazy…

Mm-kay… Are you ready for this?

Earlier this week my cellphone buzzed (it was on vibrate – it’s always on vibrate: I have a toddler who naps; I miss a lot of calls this way, but naps are sacred in my world – and it’s surprising I even answered the phone). It was Seattle Public Schools telling me that my son had been bumped up the waitlist for the school where my daughter attended, and that there was now an opening for him in one of the 1st grade classrooms (some quick background: though both are public schools, Liam is currently at the K-5 school we are assigned to because it’s the closest school to our home, Paisley is at the just-slightly farther away “alternative” K-8 option school that families can apply to and where we ultimately want both kids to go, mostly because it’s K-8 rather than K-5; Paisley was on the waitlist until the first day of summer vacation, when she finally got in, but Liam was so low on the waitlist that we never thought we had a chance this year). The woman on the phone asked: did I want to accept?

And you, oh wise reader, know that I of course would say, or even perhaps shout with glee, “YES! YES! A THOUSAND TIMES YES!!” because it would be crazy, unequivocally and certifiably CRAZY, to say NO to getting my kids in the same school, to say NO to getting my kids in the same school that we wanted them to be at, to say NO to getting my kids in the same school that we wanted them to be at and on the exact same schedule with only one pick-up time and one drop-off time a day

It would be like, STRAIGHTJACKET CRAZY to say NO to making my life SO MUCH EASIER.

Which, of course, means that we said no (I know!! I know…). We decided to keep Liam in the 1st grade class that he started in two weeks ago. We are not moving him to the school where we ultimately want him. We are not making my life easier. Because, as it turns out, I AM straightjacket crazy.

Your stomach just turned, didn’t it? You feel a little sick about this decision, on my behalf? That’s very kind of you; I, too, felt sick to my stomach all that day, as the deadline I was given loomed for me to decide yay or nay. Or, perhaps you just called the good folks at the closest insane asylum to come catch this lunatic mama (who so obviously needs her head examined) with their butterfly nets? Don’t worry, I’m sure the few parents who I ran into after receiving the phone call, who saw me pulling my hair out and hyperventilating over this decision – all of whom looked at me with great pity, patted me gently on the head, and said in their kindest talking-to-someone-with-half-a-brain voice: but sweetie, that’s such an easy choice; of course you’ll change schools!! – already called the keepers of the local funny farm. They should be here any moment…

And I KNOW it’s crazy. I really do. And I worry about myself; this choice does not feel sane. But here’s the thing… my gut, my Mama Instinct, just feels so so so strongly that Liam is where he’s supposed to be this year. I can’t explain why, really… Okay, so his teacher is ah-may-zing, and is always smiling and laughing, and we’ve been told she’s the best 1st grade teacher at his school if not THE best teacher, and she just won a huge teaching award and because of it was honored at the Seattle Seahawks game this last weekend (Go Hawks!); but maybe the teachers at the other school are really great, too. And okay, he has three friends in his new class that he actually knew before school even started, and this is a big deal because two days before school started he had a 45 minute crying jag while sitting on my lap, his arms wrapped tightly around my neck like he’d never let go, sobbing uncontrollably about how he didn’t want to go to a new school and how he just wanted to be in a class with his two best friends who were still at his old Montessori school (never mind that his two best friends aren’t in the same class this year, either); but, he’s a nice kid, and I know he could and would easily make new friends at the other school. I know he’d be fine. He would be FINE. But the class he’s in now is just a really good fit. And he’s happy – and I really wasn’t sure that was possible so early in the year after changing schools, or that he’d handle the change as well as he has; I just really don’t want to jeopardize that happiness. And he’s learning so much; it’s already so obvious, and that’s exciting. And I know it could be like this at the other school, too… but what if it wasn’t?

Going to a New School, First Grade

The 6yo, actually SMILING at the orientation for his new school, held the last week of summer break. I took this photo because I was sure he would NOT be smiling on his first day of school. And yeah, it’s kinda nice that he’s STILL smiling, three weeks later…

So I know, in my (wildly irrational) heart if not in my (rarely rational) brain, that we made the right decision. An unequivocally and certifiably CRAZY decision, but the right decision. However… I will confess: I still can’t believe I voluntarily chose to make my life more challenging…

I must really love that kid.

Well, I guess there’s nothing to do now but to say adieu to sanity (who needs it anyway?!), learn to work more efficiently with the time I have (I could work nights after tucking the kids into bed, but that time is usually reserved for my Pinterest addiction), remember to put all those upcoming PTA meetings on the calendar (wow, that’s a lot of meetings…), hug my kids tight when I drop them off at their two different schools at two different times (at least when I can catch them before they run – RUN!! – into their classrooms), hope and hope and hope some more to win the waiting list lottery again next year (preferably before the start of school)…

… and, honestly, figure out how to do crazy as well as my kids (please reference Image 1, above). Well, minus the fingers in my mouth or eyes rolled back in my head; I confess, that’s not a good look for me…

Hmm… You know, I’m thinking this straightjacket just needs a few accessories… A scarf? Some ballet flats? A butterfly net? It might be a crazy year (or two… or three…), but I’m going to do right by my kids…

… and make crazy look goooood.

They Left on a Jet Plane…

And they took my heart with them.

Actually, they took two pieces of my heart with them… Two important pieces. And they actually smiled while doing so…

Bill and Paisley leave for Iceland

Bill and Paisley at the airport. Today. On their way to ICELAND. 3,610 miles away from ME. Could their smiles be any bigger?!

That’s right. My amazing hubby and my adorable 9yo daughter are off on their Big Adventure: they are Iceland Bound. Right. This. Minute.

Yes, today is THE day. THE day that Paisley has been counting down toward for the last, I believe, 68 days, when she made her own little calendar and drew a large X through each day every night before bedtime – well, until she lost the calendar, which I honestly think the dogs ate. THE day they – well, really we, because it was exciting for all of us (and why yes, I am feeling rather bah humbug; my heart is in tatters here!) – have been talking about almost incessantly for the last four months when Bill came up with the brilliant (and now bittersweet) idea that, okay, it might be rather (or really insanely) cost-prohibitive to travel with all five of us to the distant corners of the planet (heck, it’s expensive to even travel to the next state over), and okay, taking a 2yo toddler on an airplane for much longer than an hour is our idea of war-criminal-worthy torture (and even an hour can feel like twelve when trying to keep the cross between a wiggle-worm and a butterball that I call my youngest offspring from slipping out of my headlock – I mean warm embrace – to run pell-mell and shrieking with glee up and down the aisles; or, once back in my vice-like grip – I mean loving arms – to toss  with amazing accuracy his half-eaten Goldfish crackers into the hair of the elderly woman sitting in front of us who clearly doesn’t have grandchildren of her own – or if she does, she really doesn’t like them; or, when done with that delightful activity, to springboard himself from my lap in shockingly successful attempts to body-slam his finally-content older siblings who are simply trying to quietly watch another Pixar film he’s not yet old enough to appreciate; and don’t even get me started on trying to change diapers in those tiny nooks they call a lavatory…), but travelling one-parent-one-child might, just might, make our dreams of international globetrotting a more affordable and realistic possibility.

So, one week later (and in hindsight, what possessed us to move so quickly?? Were we really in such a hurry to rip my heart apart?!), two tickets were purchased for Iceland. And now those tickets have just been redeemed.

Yes, four months later, and I dropped off two necessary-for-my-life pieces of my heart at the airport (two REALLY excited and near-giggly pieces of my heart, by the way), to fly from our home in Seattle to Reykjavik, the farthest-northern capital city of the world. I dropped them off, hugged them tightly, forced them to take some pictures (okay some more pictures), hugged them tightly again, and watched them walk into the airport. Without me.

Father and Daughter

My two devastatingly cute, and now missing, pieces of my heart. Taken right before driving to the airport. Where they continued smiling, together, all the way into the terminal…

I got back in the car and cried.

Of course, I cry at Kleenex commercials, but still… this temporary departure of two of my most favorite people, two souls who are so profoundly important to my life, is shockingly hard on me. What was I thinking??!! This isn’t a good idea!! This is a BAD idea!! This is two precious pieces of my heart flying further and further away from me every single minute for the next seven hours and fifteen minutes! And then STAYING away from me for SEVEN whole days! And six nights!

How do I live that long without the one piece of my heart that keeps me grounded and sane when I start spinning with all the craziness in my life (like RIGHT NOW?!), the piece of my heart that knows laughter is the secret to enjoying life, the louder and more heartfelt the better (and who will tell me the inappropriate jokes that I shouldn’t find funny?!)? How do I live that long without the other piece of my heart that motivates me always to fully revel and delight in the moment, this very moment, (rather than mope in the sadness of goodbyes), the piece of my heart that knows no bounds to the joy her body can hold or her voice can express (and who will spontaneously hug me so tightly my ribs hurt when I clearly just need a hug to get out of the doldrums?!)?

For the record, I’m thinking all this one-parent-one-child adventure mumbo-jumbo can take a flying leap. Who needs airplanes? Who needs foreign travel? All that soul-enriching, horizon-expanding, relationship-strengthening, character-building NONSENSE can just take a backseat to my need to be complete. My need to be WHOLE.

Because I won’t be WHOLE again until all the pieces of my heart are back together. Back talking and giggling and exchanging pleasantries and news about the day TOGETHER.

All that to say, if I don’t get a Skype call from the devilishly handsome piece of my heart with the wicked sense of humor, and the adorably precocious piece of my heart with the grin that can turn a frown upside down in 0.23 seconds flat, within exactly two minutes and twenty-eight seconds of him being able to check into their rental apartment (hey, I’m being more than generous here – how long can it really take for them to log in to the wifi?!), I will either bite my lip off, melt into a puddle of worry and tears, or simply take matters into my own hands and contact the Icelandic Coast Guard (all four ships, one survey boat, three helicopters, one plane, and all 165 officers and crew of it).

Wait. Reykjavik is seven hours ahead of Seattle… And Bill and Paisley can check in to their flat at 1pm their time… which means, plus the two minutes and twenty-eight seconds I’m allotting for wifi-login-time… that’d be 6:02:28 in the morning my time.

Huh.

I think my heart can stay incomplete until at least 7am.

But rest-assured. The countdown? It’s ON.

And after our little Skype chat? I’m going to draw up a paper calendar and mark an X through each day until my heart is TRULY whole again (because a phone call, even a free video phone call from overseas*) just isn’t enough.

Six nights and counting… (and the dang dogs better not eat MY calendar!)

 

*Okay, I do have to take a quick minute out of my self-absorbed whining to fully admire how far technology has come. I mean really, it was only 18 years ago that I was on the CUTTING EDGE when I could email – ooh! email! – my then almost-new boyfriend from my university in England, and the one hour-long phone call we made to each other cost more than $100 (!!). Now? Now we can just Skype – for FREE – between our cell phones (or computers, but really, I love my phone), and I can actually SEE as well as HEAR all about what’s happening, clear on the other side of the PLANET. Okay, whining over. Life is cool.

Self Portrait with Daughter

I couldn’t resist adding this photo, it’s so sweet – I took it right after the first heading-to-the-airport photo shoot. I expect – I BETTER – see lots of these types of photos from their travels in Iceland on Facebook in the next few days. Luckily, Bill is MASTER of the self-portrait.

A Year of Dates #3: Playing Tourist in Our Own Town

I realize I’ve been rather remiss in updating the blog posts about the Best Gift Ever (from the Best Mom Ever – that’d be mine): a Year of Dates for my husband and me to enjoy, once a month for twelve (really fantastic) months. With my wedding anniversary coming up, I thought I’d spend a few writing sessions re-living some of the fun Bill and I have had so far…

January was a late (and surprisingly delicious) breakfast, followed by some serious bowling action (as fun as this was, I’m not sure I want to go back to the scene of MY victory, as Bill is still grumbling about a rematch, and I’m pretty sure I’d never win again!).

February was a return to one of favorite dates when we had way more time on our hands (pre-children, obviously): lunch (a date isn’t a date without food…) and a visit to a bookstore for some serious browsing. (Can you hear my sigh of contentment? I can seriously spend hours looking at books…)

March was… oh yeah, March was a date at the HOSPITAL with the toddler to learn that he had Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. Hot date, right?! Actually, the third of our year of dates was supposed to be the day after Broder’s diagnosis, but since my mom would be babysitting (this is a major part of her gift to us, which is really a double gift: no babysitting expenses AND my kids get to spend quality-time with one of their favorite people on the planet, their grandma; have I mentioned that this is the Best Gift EVER??), and since Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is highly contagious, and since Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease can still afflict adults (though it usually hits kids under the age of five), and since Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease can be quite painful… the gift-giver was more than happy to give us a rain check  on date number three.

Which brings us to our April date… playing tourist in our home town.

Driving Home from our Date

A major advantage when playing tourist in your own town? No need for a car rental! Wahoo! (And don’t worry; we were stopped at a light!! I’m all about safety, remember??)

I’m always surprised how little I know the town, state, and even the country in which I live…

For example, when my best friend from high school and I moved to England for four months during our junior year of college (we were supposed to be there for the year, but the University I attended, turns out, decided to up and DROP the program I crossed a continent and ocean to study at, and turns out, didn’t bother telling me until I showed up on the first day of school… Nice, eh? At least I managed to cobble together a semester’s worth of courses so I could justify my stay…), we took the train and/or bus to a different city EVERY WEEKEND. By the end of our 16-week stay, I knew England better than I knew my home state of MONTANA, let alone the good ol’ U. S. of A.

So, Bill and I have been back in Seattle now for 11 YEARS… plenty of time to get to know our “home” city, right?! Yeah… No.

In all fairness, I’m quite familiar with our little neighborhood of Ballard (for those who don’t know Seattle, our city is a bit like New York City – though on a MUCH smaller scale – in that it’s comprised of multiple burrough-like nieghborhoods that were once their own municipalities (with their own mayors and everything!) before being annexed into the city; this means that each neighborhood has a very distinct history and sense of identity that makes visiting each neighborhood a bit like visiting a different town altogether: Ballard was originally settled by Scandinavian immigrants, and is still an active fishing port; Fremont, down the way from us, is the eclectic, artistic neighborhood, and the self-billed “Center of the Universe”; Capitol Hill still embraces the edgy vibe that gave birth to grunge music; Downtown is home to Nordstrom (yes, fine, it’s also home to the iconic Pike Place Market… but, really, it’s all about Nordstrom’s shoe department); the University District is, well, duh, where the college kids hang out; and so on and so forth…). But, though I’ve necessarily visited and driven through various neighborhoods, and can find stores (read: Nordstrom) and street fairs (yep, I’ve seen the naked bike riders at Fremont’s Solstice Parade) and coffee shops (one requires much caffeine to survive the drizzly and dreary Seattle weather) just a bit further out than the 10 mile radius I tend to limit myself to, there are pockets of Seattle that I just haven’t explored and would love to know better.

Like, the International District… We’ve taken the kids to the (have-to-go-at-least-once-but-should-be-more-like-annually) Lunar New Year parade, and I, of course, have been told a thousand times that I HAVE to go to Uwajimaya, the huge Asian specialty supermarket (and someday I’ll get there, but honestly, just going 15 minutes to the local Fred Meyer seems a colossal effort most weeks; I just can’t summon the energy to battle the traffic and drive 30-45 minutes each way, no matter how awesome the selection of bok choy or hoisin sauce), but for the most part, Bill and I haven’t spent much time in this part of Seattle – located just a touch south of Downtown and a bit east of Pioneer Square (where you’ll find a lovely selection of art galleries, and the comical-but-historic Underground Tour – I’ve been to that neighborhood, yay!).

So on a sunny (who knew?!) day in April (which is usually one of the rainiest months in Seattle, and this last spring was particularly and brutally rainy, so the sun was SO appreciated), we headed off to play tourist. Bill had suggested two vegetarian-friendly restaurants (I’m the vegetarian, which sometimes makes finding places to eat just a wee bit challenging – I know, I’m such a pain!), a Thai place and a Vietnamese place. Both sounded great, but as we neared our destination, I just couldn’t bear the thought of going indoors when the sun was shining so brightly! We needed a patio… So, I pulled up the Yelp app on the iPhone (how did we survive before smartphones and apps??) and searched for outdoor dining in the International District, and surprise surprise!, the Vietnamese restaurant Bill had found – the Tamarind Tree – had a patio! In the sun! I could pig out on yummy, Jill-friendly food AND soak up some much-needed Vitamin D. Seattle was turning out to be such an awesome town to visit!

Outdoor Patio Dining in Seattle!

Enjoying lunch on that patio… Proof that there IS sun in Seattle! (If you look closely, you can even see me!! Wearing sunglasses!! Because it’s sunny!!)

After we could no longer justify taking up space on the toasty warm deck (there were other sun-deprived individuals waiting patiently and not-so-patiently in the shadows), Bill and I slowly strolled down the hill a few blocks to visit what would be the highlight of our day’s tourist agenda: the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience (tourist tip: general admission is free on the first Thursday and third Saturday of every month; how awesome is that?!). Though a bit hesitant to go indoors (it was sunny!!), the museum is light-filled and, really, a very beautiful and inviting space. The museum is dedicated to telling the (important and emotionally-touching) stories and sharing the cultural artifacts of the Asian/Pacific immigrants and citizens who have, since the very beginning, helped build Seattle into the vibrant community it is today. The museum is a wonderful resource and community center; after the couple of hours we spent wandering through the different exhibits (and I must confess, my favorite part was the pop-culture exhibit with the vintage Pac-Man arcade game visitors could play for free (!!); I just kept circling around the exhibit waiting for “the other tourists” to get out of my way – um, I mean, move on – so I could play another round!), Bill and I agreed we couldn’t wait to bring the kids for a visit.

Playing Pac-Man

My dear hubby, kicking my dot-and-ghost-eating butt while playing doubles on the vintage Pac-Man arcade game. I’m just a bit out of practice, that’s all!

With the kids on our mind, we took a quick tour of the gift shop, but (rather quickly, too) decided that this was one “vacation” (or “staycation” if you’d rather) that didn’t require us to bring home souvenirs for the children.

After all, we’d definitely be back. Maybe even on another date… Though perhaps after touring some other parts of our “home town” that we don’t know as well as our own backyard… Like the Museum of History and Industry at Lake Union Park (haven’t been there), or the Experience Music Project at Seattle Center (haven’t been there, either, other than for a cocktail about a decade ago), or catching an outdoor summer concert at Marymoor Park (haven’t done that – crazy, right?!), or taking a ride on the SLUT (again, haven’t done that; and for you dirty-minded readers, get your head out of the gutter – I’m referring to the very tastefully named South Lake Union Trolley, a fairly new streetcar connecting various neighborhoods of Seattle!), or even… well, you get the point. There is so much to see and do… just in our own town!

And the best part (well, other than not having to buy a plane ticket or hassle with TSA)? After playing tourist all day, it’s really nice to go home… and be home…

Together.

Dates with My Daughter (and My Son and My Son)

Mama Daughter Date Night

In the words of the very wise Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

With three kids to shuttle to various activities (or, in the toddler’s case, to shuttle home for much needed and much appreciated nap times), two dogs who need long walks (our motto: a tired puppy is a good puppy), one cat who needs prescription medicine (note to self: call vet for refill), one cat who needs to be on a diet (but I gave up that one a long time ago), a house that could be significantly cleaner than it is (if you see Mary Poppins gallivanting around town, could you send her my way? Please?), an endless supply of laundry (add to that a month of laundry duty for the 5yo’s kindergarten class), groceries (read: wine) to buy, meals to make (or pizza to order, let’s be honest), a mud pit for a backyard that desperately needs attention (I have a plan! I do! I just need time. Like maybe five years…), and two jobs between us (okay, mine is part-time, but I work hard in those hours), carving out date times for me and my husband is rather tough. Carving out date times for me and one of my children? Well, that’s nearly impossible.

For one thing, it’s not like I never see my kids. I work part-time FROM HOME. I am here whenever they are here. I take them to school and I pick them up. I tend to stay with them at most of their activities, and I attend almost every scheduled game or bout (and if I’m not there, Bill is, and he texts me play-by-play commentary so I know everything that’s going on). I take my kids to the park (where they can run around like hooligans and occasionally get into fights with each other), and to the Zoo (where they can run around like hooligans and occasionally see a cool animal or two). I play games with them (I kicked the 5yo’s butt in chess the other morning, and then felt bad about taking his king with a pawn in less than five moves – luckily he’s a better sport than I am and happily continued the game on his own, returning his king to the board in some elaborate and illegal maneuver and then, playing my pieces as well as his own, rapidly taking out my king in a vicious attack by his beloved rook), and read books to them every night (I admit, I love this part of the day – I love that they love to read, too). But almost all of this is done in conjunction with at least one sibling and a furry family member or four. One-on-one parent-child time is fairly rare these days.

So, on Friday, when Bill texted me from the 9yo’s roller derby practice – while I put the boys to bed and counted down the minutes until I could pour a glass of wine – that I should take Paisley to the Rat City Rollergirl’s Championship bout at Key Arena the next night, I thought: that’d be a blast! It’d be great to have a Mama-Daughter Date! And then I quickly forgot about it as I had to put the phone down in order to catch the naked and wet toddler who was streaking and shrieking down the hall after his bath…

…until the next afternoon when Bill reminded me about the big bout that night as he and Paisley headed out the door, this time for a joint birthday party for two of her friends and derby teammates at the local skating rink (the weekend was full of skate dates!). With Broder down for a nap and Liam busy playing himself in chess (see above), I went to the computer to see if I could even buy day-of tickets online. It took all of two minutes before I texted Bill to tell Paisley that we were going on a date that night!

Paisley was SO thrilled. She held my hand (she held my hand!!) as we walked up to the security guy who inspected my purse for illegal contraband, bubbling over with excitement as she animatedly explained to him, speaking as fast as she could (noticing the line forming behind us), that we were going to see the Rat City Rollergirls, and that she also skated roller derby, that her derby name was Lyka Livewire, and that her coach, Coach Luna, was on the Rat City Rollergirls (we had to start walking away at this time, but she kept talking, just louder, to the now smiling security guard), and Coach Luna skated for the Throttle Rockets, and WE WERE GOING TO ROOT FOR HER–

And then we were inside the building and she had to stop talking – or at least, stop talking to the security guard. She kept up a steady stream of chatter as she held my hand (she held my hand!!) and we looked for our seats – I’d gone all out for our date and bought General Admission “VIP” seats for the two of us. I didn’t quite know what General Admission “VIP” meant, but I figured I am too dang old (well, I am!) for nosebleed seats, and gosh darn it, my daughter and I are on a date and we deserve the finer things in life! So I broke the bank and spent the extra (wait for it…) $13 for the good seats. (Right?! It was a no-brainer!)

And the good seats were worth every one of those extra 13 dollars. General Admission “VIP” seats apparently meant that all the seats in the first 15 rows in the two reserved sections along the straight sides of the oval track were available on a first-come-first-served basis. So, betraying every inherited, ingrained and borderline-pathological Scandinavian-Lutheran instinct I’ve been born and raised with that adamantly insists, in any and every assembly of people EVER (school classrooms and workshops, weddings, wherever one is allowed to pick one’s own seat), that I sit in the farthest back row possible (I’m always in AWE of those people who boldly sit smack-dab in front of a teacher or lecturer), I led Paisley (who was still holding my hand!!) down to the VERY FRONT ROW, where we boldly (so boldly!) stepped (we didn’t mean to) on the feet of the two (grouchy) people sitting on the aisle (note to attendees of any event where SEATS are involved: if you don’t like having to stand up for people to pass you when they need to get in and out, DON’T SIT ON THE AISLE – just a thought), and found two seats as close to the track as could be possible without actually being on one of the roller derby teams.

Because the teams were LITERALLY right in front of us. It was SO crazy fun.

The best seats to watch the Rat City Rollergirls!

The best seats in the house! It’s like we were ON the track.

The first bout – the Sockit Wenches versus the Derby Liberation Front – was a blast to watch; especially because one of Paisley’s coaches from last summer’s New Skater Camp (Clobberin’ Mame) is an amazing blocker for the Sockit Wenches. Paisley kept asking me if she could say hello to “Coach Mame” – she (not very patiently, but understanding that she shouldn’t take a skater’s attention away from the bout) managed to wait until half-time, when she finally had the chance to wave and say hi, and beamed in turn when Mame smiled and waved back. Paisley was only disappointed by the Sockit Wenches’ loss, the Derby Liberation Front winning the bout 168-114.

The main event – the Championship Bout between the Throttle Rockets and the returning champs, Grave Danger – was INTENSE. Paisley’s roller derby team, The Orange Crush, is coached by the Throttle Rocket’s extremely talented jammer, Luna Negra. We were, therefore and of course, rooting for the Throttle Rockets. Paisley managed to say hi and wave to “Coach Luna” before the bout this time, so was quite happy to sit back and watch the action. And eat some cotton candy, of course.

Eating Cotton Candy

The skating was so insanely intense and thrilling that the 9yo even forgot to eat her cotton candy!

The Throttle Rockets were up at halftime, 72-50, and stayed in the lead until about the last ten minutes, when the two teams began trading the lead back-and-forth every single jam for the rest of the bout. I felt like I was watching North Carolina play Duke during the NCAA championships, I was so tense (I’m a Tar Heel; I know tense)!! The bout came down to the last jam; the Throttle Rockets were at a distinct disadvantage with two blockers in the penalty box, and as incredibly talented as their jammer, Missile America, is (“Coach Luna” had skated jammer in the previous round, having miraculously pulled off lead jammer with some ridiculously good skating and putting the Throttle Rockets up again), with only two other teammates on the track, she just couldn’t get through the solid wall of four Grave Danger blockers, and in attempting to do so, managed to end up in the penalty box herself. Missile America would end up MVP of the bout (and deservedly so), but the Throttle Rockets lost 171-165…

… and Paisley started crying!

It was so sweet. She was so disappointed for her coach and for the Throttle Rockets. I put my arm around her and while other folks started packing up and walking out we talked about how each player had skated their very best, and in spite of the loss should be very proud of themselves for their herculean efforts, sheer determination, and admirable dedication to their sport and teammates. She noticed that Missile America had left the track for the penalty box with tears in her eyes – and was quite worried that she “was ashamed” of herself. Oh no, I said. She was disappointed by the loss, and probably would worry that she could’ve done something different to change the final result, but she won MVP and would know, or should know, that she skated her heart out and should be very proud of herself.

And Paisley wiped her eyes with the sleeves of her Orange Crush hoodie, nodded her head in understanding, stuffed the remains of our greasy pizza slices and drinks into the empty cotton candy bag (!!) to deposit in the nearest garbage can (yes, I actually had to pinch myself), and…

Grabbed my hand. And held it all the way back to the car.

I’m not sure our Mama-Daughter dates will always serve as such wonderful life lessons and be quite so exciting as a championship sporting event at Key Arena, but the evening made me realize that one-on-one time with my children is priceless, invaluable, to be cherished, and to be given more of a priority in my crazy busy life. I loved having the opportunity, for just a moment, to appreciate and celebrate my daughter’s empathy for her coaches, her passion for derby, her pride in her own team when she talks with the people sitting next to us, the ushers, and random security guards. I shouldn’t have needed Bill to remind me TWICE to take my daughter to this event. Next time, the laundry can wrinkle in the dryer, the dogs can chase each other in the backyard and drive the neighbors mad with their barking, the toddler can run around naked while chasing the fat cat (she needs the exercise, anyway, right?) as long as he wants (well, maybe with a diaper on…), and I’ll remember that going out to ice cream for dinner is a brilliant idea. Hey – maybe that can be my next one-on-one date with the 5yo? After all, he’s an ice cream junkie…

You know, I don’t think I need to be asked twice – I know a good idea when I read one… Salted caramel ice cream in a waffle cone, here we come!!

And maybe, just maybe, he’ll hold my hand the whole time we’re out, too.

To learn more about Paisley’s (aka Lyka Livewire’s) love affair with roller derby, you can always read My Roller Derby Queen: Seeing Life Through Orange-Colored Glasses.

Keeping on the Sunny Side of Life

Worshiping the Sun

That’s me: worshiping the sun.

I very rarely let myself sit down during the day – even for lunch. I find that once I sit, any and all forward momentum I actually might have mustered during the preceding hours comes to a grinding halt and it’s nearly impossible for me to get up and go do all those millions of things on my insanely long to-do list, which, for some reason, no longer seem all that pressing – or rather, I know all those millions of things on my insanely long to-do list are still pressing, but I just can’t seem to find the energy to care that they’re pressing…

And that’s why I don’t let myself sit down during the day – even for lunch – because I should care. Today, however, ended up being one of those very rare days…

Today was absolutely beautiful: deep blue skies, no clouds in sight, the spring green leaves on the trees fluttering in the slight breeze, and the smell of blooming lilacs everywhere. Today was supposed to be the nicest day of the week – perhaps the nicest day of the year, so far – with temperatures in the high 70s and, according to my weather app, abundant sunshine. How I absolutely adore that phrase: abundant sunshine... (Can you hear my sigh of contentment?) After the long, rather dreary, and VERY wet spring we’ve had, abundant sunshine is more than welcome. It’s downright delightful. And, as it turns out, delightfully dangerous…

…To sit down in.

Which I did. Sit down in. That’s right, I did. I sat down in the sun. For lunch. And it was good. It was delightful. It was dangerously delightful…

Because I did not get back up.

No, I did not get back up. The sun just sucked up all that forward momentum I’d been able to muster to that point (I confess, it wasn’t a lot of momentum, but at least I was moving!) and I really didn’t care even a little bit about that pesky to-do list (note to self: it turns out I am NOT solar-powered; indeed, the sun, it seems, actually renders me powerless). All I wanted to do was eat my cold pizza (leftover from my Mama’s Day dinner – I personally believe pizza delivery to be one of the best inventions of the modern world), drink my cold Sprite (I agree, cold beer would’ve been better, but it wasn’t even noon at the time and I have my standards – Hey! Don’t laugh! That’s rude! Okay, fine, so the beer wasn’t cold yet… Satisfied??), and read my book (I’m in a Neil Gaiman phase at the moment – American Gods – quite enjoyable). And never, ever, get back up.

I knew I should get up. I knew I should go back inside. But the sun was so warm. And the day was so beautiful. It was like I was having an internal debate between my sun-worshipping slacker self and my need-to-be-responsible mama self: Responsible Mama: I need to do the laundry. Slacker Girl: the kids don’t really need clean clothes – the 9yo prefers her jeans dirty, anyway. Responsible Mama: I need to pick up some essentials at the grocery store. Slacker Girl: Essentials, eh? Well, there’s enough wine to get us through the night, there are spare diapers in the diaper bag in the car, and breakfast for dinner is always popular (the kids will love you if you serve pancakes tonight – you know it’s true). Responsible Mama: Emails? Slacker Girl: Everybody else in Seattle is also enjoying the sun; no one will read your emails. Responsible Mama: This book needs to be returned to the library; it’s overdue! Slacker Girl: Overdue fees at the library are really more like a donation to a great non-profit, don’t you think? As I see it, you’re doing your civic duty by returning your books late. Responsible Mama: Well, I really should- Slacker Girl: Oh, please, you weren’t going to dust, anyway!

Turns out, my inner Slacker Girl is VERY persuasive.

So I sat outside. In the sun. Eating my cold pizza and drinking my cold pop and reading my good book. And having a delightful time.

And then the baby woke up and it was time to pick up the kids from school; Responsible Mama won that debate (and I’m happy to report, she won fairly quickly), and I finally finally finally got up off the chair.

The whole forward momentum never did really progress beyond a slow plod, though. The laundry is still waiting. The emails are unanswered. The dusting will never get done (but we all knew that). Dinner was served later than usual, though at least I served leftover spaghetti rather than bowls of cereal. Bill’s finally thrown the kids into the bath, and as I type this I’m noticing that the sun is still out (ah, longer days, how delightful you can sometimes be). It’s enough to get a (slacker) girl thinking: I bet that beer I put in the fridge earlier is plenty cold by now. And I never did manage to return my book to the library…

Maybe I’ll just go sit (and sip and read) outside in the sun for just a little while longer?

I hear the sun will be out tomorrow, too…

You know, I’m starting to think that to-do lists are highly overrated.

The Constant Process of Learning to Let Go

Paisley off to camp.

Paisley (9yo) was up at 6am (!!) this morning, bags packed, and ready to go off to sleep-away camp with her elementary class. Think she’s excited??

About a month before my first child was born (almost a decade ago!!!), one of my co-workers, when I asked her (an experienced mom of two boys) what I absolutely had to know about being a parent (I may or may not have been nervous about what I’d gotten myself into…), gave me the very best piece of advice I have ever received about parenting: “Being a parent is a constant process of learning to let go.” And after dropping that bombshell, she left me to sip at my decaf (I was pregnant, remember?) Americano and wonder what on Earth she meant. Letting go of what?!

About six months into being a new mom, I realized that she meant letting go of EVER SLEEPING AGAIN. Honestly. I remember all these (stupid) strangers looking at my bleary-eyed self trying to navigate the grocery store aisles while carting around a baby who kept throwing her pacifier on the floor, and (mean-spiritedly) telling me, “Don’t worry. It’ll get better!” Liars. Dirty rotten liars!! It did not get better! Getting better meant the baby wouldn’t need me to rock her to sleep for an hour and a half before I could put her down. Getting better meant that she wouldn’t wake up every two hours all night long. Getting better meant that I wouldn’t need to drive her around town for her to take an afternoon nap. Getting better meant that 5:30am would never be an acceptable wake-up time, EVER. But then it struck me, one middle-of-the-night rocking-back-to-sleep session when I was praying to every deity I could think of to let me and my child sleep, that I was never never never going to sleep like I did before I had children. I intellectually knew, of course, that the baby would learn to sleep through the night. But she’d still have nightmares, or get sick, or just need a glass of water or a snuggle that would require my middle-of-the-night assistance, even when she was 2 or 5 or 9… And even when she’s 18, I’ll probably stay up at night worrying about whether she passed that crucial college exam or whether she remembered to lock her windows as well as her doors or whether she was eating enough vegetables. And once I learned to let go of the desire to sleep like I once did (once upon a time, in a land far far away, I slept for nine hours every night… I call this my princess phase), I was able to accept that I would be sleep deprived for a long time, and adapted to the situation; the sleep thing didn’t get “better” like the liars at the grocery store said it would, but it did get “easier.” And that was almost as good.

Of course, sleep isn’t the only thing I’ve had to learn to let go of in the years since I became a parent – it’s just the first time I truly GOT that my co-worker was soul-shatteringly RIGHT, and that I’ll probably need to constantly remind myself to “let go” as I watch my children grow: let go of their hands as they learn to toddle, walk, and then run on their own; let go of my (intense) fear of watching them lay backwards and hang off the merry-go-round at the park as it spins at 386rpm (I distinctly remember watching Paisley, then 4yo, letting her long hair drag on the ground as she went round and round and round, cackling in delight the whole time – I literally had to turn around to keep myself from throwing up); let go of my desire to walk right into class with them, on that first day of school and every day after; let go of my expectations that they should be happily eating (as in: “This is delicious! Wow! You’re the best mama ever!”) whatever I put in front of them on the dinner table, even if there are vegetables involved – and there are always vegetables involved (I’m still working on this one; really, what’s so wrong with butternut squash and kale?!).

Today, I am yet again reminded that parenthood is a constant process of learning to let go. And for the record: it SUCKS.

This morning, Paisley (now 9yo) merrily (and with barely a good-bye) left for sleep-away camp with her entire class. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an AWESOME experience: three days and two nights on gorgeous Vashon Island, hikes and campfires and story-telling, seeing weeks and weeks of preparation (the students themselves are responsible for planning meals, grocery lists, itineraries, and who will lead hikes and take on various duties – this year, for instance, Paisley is in the First Aid group, and as I’ve written about before, she’s very good at applying antibiotic ointments and band aids) pay off in the smooth execution of a successful, and fun, trip… The benefits from these annual excursions for the elementary kids are countless: exploring nature, expanding horizons, developing an appreciation for the larger world and community, and so many other fundamental character building experiences. Plus, it’s a slumber party, there will be pancakes, and the ferry ride to Vashon rocks. Every year, the kids (at least my kid) can’t wait to go…

Which is why it SUCKS. Why does my kid WANT to leave me?? Why can’t I go (and some parents DO go as chaperones; it’s just that Paisley insisted that Bill and I NOT sign up to volunteer – sheesh! What am I supposed to do with that?!)? I don’t WANT to say good-bye! I don’t WANT to LET GO…

The house is too quiet without her. Her 5yo brother will cry tonight, when he realizes he has to sleep in their room alone. And I miss her. Already.

Crap, here I go crying again! I’m so emotional these days…

Okay, fine. I’m letting go. It’s not like I have a choice, but I’m working on it… I know it’s important that I learn to let go. My daughter needs these life lessons, which are so critical for her developing into the independent, confident, open-minded, and socially aware woman her father and I hope she’ll become. My boys will need these same kinds of life lessons, too, so I’m staring at a long future of years and years and years of letting my (precious, little, breakable) children go out into that big crazy world, of letting them explore and learn and get hurt and be scared and persevere and grow and grow and grow.

So, I guess I better stop crying, and just keep working on learning to let them go…

(Long, fairly loud, SIGH….)

Just as long as they always know that they can come back. Whenever they want.

(Sniffle sniffle sniff…)

A Year of Dates #2: Lunch & Literature

Bill and His New Book

I think Bill was still a little sore about the beat down I delivered at the bowling alley during a Year of Dates #1...

Perhaps one of the best parts about my mom’s BEST GIFT EVER to me and my fantastic and devilishly handsome husband (for our Christmas present, she’s giving us a Year of Dates – one a month for twelve months – isn’t that absolutely the best gift ever??) is that it forces us to do something together, just the two of us, no kids. Just the two of us.

No. Kids.

The thing is, we really like doing things as a family. It turns out (I know it’s crazy, but), we actually like being with our kids. Even when they’re doing something that drives me totally nutso crazy – like kicking each other over and over and over again at the park while I yell at them to stop from the other side of the playground (totally impressing all the other parents at the park – we are such a model family),* or looking at me with total innocence (a look that I know means they’re as guilty as sin) while I say “No, you can’t do that” and then doing *that* (whatever *that* may be, usually something I consider dangerous or rude or both) anyway – even then, I still want to be with my kids; I just want them to use better manners (and really, am I asking too much with the whole good manners thing??).

So, given that we like taking our kids with us on our adventures, it’s been a bit challenging to decide on what to do on any one of our twelve dates. For instance: Me (all excited because I think I’ve finally come up with a good idea): Hey, want to go to a Rat City Rollergirls bout?! Him: Well, yeah, but don’t you think that’s something we should do with the kids, or at least with Paisley, since she’s in roller derby now?** Me (after a loud sigh): Well, what the heck (I used a different word, but I’m trying hard to keep this blog family-friendly) did we do before we had kids??

Which brings us to February’s Date #2: Lunch and Literature.

Way back when we first started dating (you’d think I was referring to the dinosaur age with the way I talk, but it does feel like a long time ago), and even after we were married but before we had children, Bill and I used to while away whole afternoons or evenings just browsing through bookstores (rarely buying, because for most of that time we were broke college students or broke bottom-of-the-ladder employees – browsing bookstores was such a cheap date… and, uh, I mean that in the best way possible!). New bookstores, used bookstores, small bookstores, big chain bookstores, specialty bookstores, it didn’t matter… we were (and still are) equal opportunity bookstore junkies.

But browsing bookstores requires time to browse; and with three kids who come with their own busy schedules of feedings and naps and play dates and numerous extracurricular activities and more feedings, there’s not a lot of time to browse in our lives anymore. Also, I have found that the few times I’ve taken my kids to the bookstore (usually under extreme duress, to find a last-minute gift or a book that I needed to read for book club by the next day), they don’t really have the patience for browsing, at least not for more than one minute and forty-two and a half seconds (and I can tell you, it feels like the longest 102 ½ seconds ever). Nor, it seems, do they care for any section of the bookstore other than the comic book section, of which they inevitably gravitate toward the definitely-not-G-rated-if-they-rated-these-things comics/graphic novels (it’s truly uncanny how they find the most inappropriate item in any store we ever enter). So, yeah, I’ve learned that the online bookstore is now my bookstore of choice. And online browsing just isn’t the same…

So, decision made, off we happily went to feed our souls (thanks, Mom!): lunch at our favorite little neighborhood Indian restaurant (delicious!), then off to the bookstore to browse (to browse!) through an abundance of literary marvels and even spend the gift cards we’d accumulated from various birthdays and holidays, but had yet to find the time to use. It was so fun to just stand next to each other, while leafing through books in the humor section, trying to be quiet (see, kids: good manners – they’re important!) while we laughed out loud at this humorist’s essays (Samantha Bee kills me) or at that comic book’s pages (Calvin & Hobbes – the best). We meandered (meandered!) through the aisles, each heading off to our own favorite sections (me to gardening and home design and cooking, him to sports and non-fiction and travel), to meet up again a short time later to show each other what we’d found. For instance: Me (drooling at the pretty picture): Look, I mean look, at this landscape. Do you think we could do this with our backyard? Him (probably hoping I’d snap out of it and remember we live in rainy Seattle and not on the sunny shores of Lake Como in Italy): Sure, babe. Sure. (He’s so good to me.)

Yes, we really did have a wonderful time together. Just the two of us. No kids.

No. Kids.

Books for the Kids

Broder (22mo) adores reading The Napping House by two of my all-time favorite children's book authors/illustrators, Audrey & Don Wood; Liam (5yo) is, naturally, loving the Magic Tree House books (these two are about dragons and ninjas - very popular these days with the 5yo crowd); and I stole Neil Gaiman's book, The Graveyard Book, from Paisley (9yo) so I could read it. Is that wrong? I didn't lose her place...

We even managed to spend our gift cards! I bought four books. Of course… they’re all kids books. For the kids…

Okay okay okay, so it’s taking me a while to get used to this whole dating thing again! But, seriously, the books are really good…

What?!

 

 

* Of course it happened: Daylight Savings Time to the Rescue??

** Yes, roller derby has completely taken over our family: My Roller Derby Queen: Seeing Life Through Orange-Colored Glasses.