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?!

Cuttin’ Loose

The Before Shot: The 10yo doesn't seem too sad about saying good-bye to those long long tresses...

The Before Shot: A certain someone doesn’t seem too sad about saying good-bye to those long long tresses…

My 10yo daughter has been badgering me to let her cut her hair for nearly a year now, and I just kept putting it off… and putting it off… and putting it off…

I don’t know why I kept putting it off… It’s not that I was against her cutting her hair, it’s just that… well… it’s just that I didn’t make it a priority.

For one thing, the first time she told me she wanted a haircut she announced, after school one day, that she wanted a bob, just like two of her friends at school. Now, I have no problems with bobs – I think they’re adorable – but I do have a problem with doing a particular something (any something: cutting your hair, jumping off a bridge, etcetera etcetera etcetera) for no other reason than because your friends are doing that something.

And then there was the fact that, on quite a few occasions, Paisley didn’t seem even remotely interested in parting with her long hair. Take, for instance, the time when I went to pick her up from school and, approximately one minute before the bell rang, she loudly proclaimed “GROUP HUG!” and every single classmate obliged her request, and, turns out, as that little love fest was happening right before my very eyes, a mom standing next to me oh-so-off-handedly mentioned that she had heard there was a lice outbreak in the class. @#&%!! And so began The War of the Lice, Round Three. ROUND THREE!!! I swear it’s like Paisley’s long long long hair begs lice to hop on and come party on top of her head! And do you think my (adorable if overly-affectionate) daughter would take me up on the offer to get that haircut she’d been asking – nay, hounding – me for (even if she still wanted a bob because her friends had one, because at this point I was completely willing to jettison my principals out the bathroom window)?? OF COURSE NOT! And in the midst of trying my best to gently convince her (read: foaming at the mouth, waving my arms up and down in severe agitation while pacing the floor, and basically doing my best impression of Jack Nicholson in The Shining) that cutting her hair right then (I could even do it myself!! What a grand idea!!) would definitely speed up the lice-removal process the next morning at her (apparently regularly scheduled) appointment at the Lice Knowing You Salon (which, with her long hair, would take more than two hours), I was suddenly forced to stop short my own little (and, might I add, really well thrown) pity party when I finally noticed my (completely freaked out) daughter protectively placing her hands on her golden locks, her eyes three sizes larger than normal and welling with tears, rendered completely speechless (do you know how hard it is to render my daughter speechless??) and slowly shaking her head back and forth and back and forth and back and forth in a clear sign that, uh, yeah, maybe she wasn’t quite ready for short hair. (At least not until the next week, when she quite perkily bounced up to me and reported, that, hey!, she was finally ready for that haircut I said she could get! Yeah, not kidding.)

And for another thing, honestly, with our ridiculously hectic schedules, it was just really hard to carve out the time to take Paisley to the hairdresser. I mean, there was no way, and I mean NO WAY, I was going to take her to get her hair done with the two younger siblings in tow (can you imagine?! I have a headache just thinking about the effort it would take to keep the boys from spinning each other on an empty barber chair until they vomited or stabbing each other in the eyes with a pair of untended scissors while we waited for her to be done – excuse me while I go get some Advil), so weekdays after school were OUT. And then our weekends are always full of different sporting events and birthday parties and running errands and staring at our yard pretending that someday we’ll actually cultivate something other than weeds (the poisonous hemlock that keeps sprouting up seems to be doing quite well, so that’s all good, right?!). So I kept putting it off…

And then, a few weeks ago, while cruising on Amazon looking for a short, black wig to complete her Halloween outfit (and no, I’m not nearly as on-top-of-things as this makes me sound; the outfit was originally planned for her end-of-the-season roller derby party, but they’ve since changed the theme from Sci-Fi/Space – for which Paisley had decided to go as one of her favorite graphic novel heroines, Zita the Spacegirl – to Formal Wear, so now the outfit I’d already put together will be used for Halloween), Paisley went gaga for a particularly “animé-looking” wig we saw; it had good reviews and was on sale so I bought it and when it arrived a week or so later, you would’ve thought I’d given her an iPhone (the one she’s been insisting “absolutely everyone has but her,” and, because I have absolutely no problem being “the meanest mom on the planet,” I adamantly refuse to buy her): she insisted I help her put it on right then and there, and she dashed to the bathroom and shrieked – SHRIEKED!! – with pleasure at her transformation. And then informed me that THIS was the haircut she wanted – no, the haircut she HAD TO HAVE.

Paisley's Inspiration Photo: Am I really the only one whose 10yo daughter wants her hair to look like Izaya Orihara, the parkour-hopping, knife-wielding, Russian-speaking, underground informant from the popular Japanese light novel, Durarara!!, which was also made into an animated TV show that, as far as I can tell, is only available to watch online?? (Photo credit: Amazon.com)

Paisley’s Inspiration Photo: At least it’s not Justin Bieber, but am I really the only one whose 10yo daughter wants her hair to look like a young male model dressed up as the manga character Izaya Orihara, the parkour-hopping, knife-wielding, Russian-speaking, underground informant from the popular Japanese light novel, Durarara!!, which was also made into an animated TV show that, as far as I can tell, is only available to watch online and is completely inappropriate for a 10yo to even watch?? (Photo credit: Amazon.com)

But… oh, because, you know… she just so happens to have fine, blonde, wavy hair – and NOT thick, black, straight hair (hey, only an observation!) – yet again, I put off the whole haircut thing…

Until last weekend… when my daughter made it quite clear she was over the whole waiting game thing…

Right, so last Friday, immediately after school, Paisley asked if we could finally go get her hair cut. I stalled (as usual), reminding her, “But you have your last roller derby practice tonight. We don’t have time.” To which she (very) quickly suggested, “How about we go right now?” To which I (not at all) sadly replied, “I’m sorry, but we have to pick up your brother from school in a few minutes; we really don’t have time today.” She thought about that for a moment, shrugged, and declared, “That’s okay. We can do it tomorrow.”

And “tomorrow” came – bringing with it Paisley’s big end-of-the-season junior roller derby bout in the morning, held across town from the 6yo’s baseball game which started at the exact same time as the bout (it’s all about divide-and-conquer these days: Bill took Paisley to her bout and I took Liam, with his almost-3yo brother in tow, to the baseball field), followed immediately by Paisley’s end-of-the-season choir concert (again, held across town, but in the other direction), taking up four hours of the afternoon and early evening (the concert itself lasting 2 ½ hours!!), leaving us with barely enough energy to make pizza and enjoy our family movie night (we finally introduced the youngest member of the family to the joy that is STAR WARS – and now he finally understands why he owns several shirts with Darth Vadar, R2D2 and C3PO emblazoned on the chest and why we have a roughly 1,008 Jedi swords in the house, but I digress…) – and went, another day gone with no visit to the hair salon. As I tucked her in that night, Paisley sat bolt upright in bed, and with utter despair howled, “Mama! We didn’t get my hair cut!!” With more than a bit of exasperation creeping into my voice (I know, bad bad mama!), I reminded her about the bout, the concert, and the family movie night. “There wasn’t time today, honey.” And then… SHE BURST INTO TEARS.

I kinda chalked the tears up to a long, tiring day, but in my heart, I sorta feared we were nearing the point when my daughter was going to COMPLETELY SNAP and would most likely take the scissors to her own head (which really didn’t go over so well when she did it when she was 3yo), and totally knew that I needed to stop trying to delay what was looking inevitable and make that dang hair appointment… But because I had already poured myself a glass of wine and it was waiting for me downstairs I decided to not think about it anymore that night (because, clearly, I have my priorities straight); I’d deal with it tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the week after that…

And so, another day dawned with my daughter’s long tresses still attached to her pretty little head…

The first thing Paisley asked me (very enthusiastically I might add) that Sunday morning, as she pranced downstairs (where DOES she get the energy? Gah, I was still staring blankly at my cup of coffee, wondering how it’d gotten into my hands, but extremely grateful that it had…), is if she could get her haircut THAT VERY DAY.

I rubbed my bleary eyes, blinked a few times, and explained that she had a soccer game that afternoon and Liam had a birthday party to attend (again, both events scheduled at the exact same time, and again, both events across town from each other – truly, my life is crazy); she was going skating with some of her roller derby teammates that night; and somewhere in-between she also needed to finish (and, um, also, to even begin) the school project she had planned for her class’s Market Place that would be held the very next day (she came up with the idea of making paperweights by painting several dozen rocks that she’d collected at the beach the week before, and then, using a paint pen, writing inspirational words – like Laugh and Love and UW Huskies – or drawing cute pictures – like owls and funny faces – on them after the first coat of paint dried, and then, once this second coat of paint was dry, setting the whole thing with a final spray of clear gloss; you know, the kind of project that requires just a wee bit o’ time). To which she responded (again) by BURSTING INTO TEARS.

And to which I responded (wisely) by retreating posthaste to the kitchen for some more coffee…

… and then mentally tried to rearrange the day in order to free up an hour or so for an impromptu hair appointment. But how?! I couldn’t see it happening…

My daughter, however, is nothing if not stubborn and tenacious (excuse me, laser-focused and persevering), and that afternoon (it was already 2:30!), after her soccer game and as she sat down outside to start painting 30+ rocks that were due the very next day, she asked (or rather, beseeched) me to um, help her with her project? So she could maybe still get to the salon? You know, THAT DAY?? (I swear I am not making this up.) So… I first thought about banging my head against the house; but then I realized that that would HURT. And then I thought about bringing her attention to how late in the day it already was and gently letting her know how I didn’t think getting to the salon that day would be possible; but then I visualized the tsunami-level waterworks that would come my way if I did. And then I thought that, well, if I’d helped Liam with his Amelia Bedelia diorama (because, after all, he’s 6yo – he can barely spell diorama, let alone build one without a parent showing him how), then it only seemed fair I help Paisley at least paint the base coat on her rocks. And so, without further ado, I stopped thinking, grabbed a paint brush, mixed up some colors, and went to work.

(Not that I expected Paisley to actually finish her project with time to make it to the salon, but can I say: painting rocks is so much fun! If you have a chance anytime soon, I highly recommend you paint your own rock paperweights…)

And so it was that, about two hours later and with much paint all over the sidewalk (we’re messy painters, what can I say?), and just as Bill and Liam arrived home from the birthday party, Paisley finished writing/painting on her last paperweight, put the rock down with proud satisfaction, looked up at me with great expectation and demanded, “Can we go now?!” As the boys were happily clutching bags of Dick’s Drive-In burgers and fries in their hands (they clearly agree with Esquire’s assessment that Dick’s is America’s Most Life Changing Burger Joint; not that I would ever let them read that magazine), I realized I didn’t have to make dinner… The rocks still needed to dry before we sprayed on the clear gloss… And, with a shock, it dawned on me that I had run out of reasons to put off the haircut. There was nothing for it but to squeak, “Um… I guess?”

With a whoop and a holler, Paisley rushed me into the car (probably worried I’d change my mind if given half a chance), and less than fifteen minutes later we walked into Rudy’s Barbershop. The salon was PACKED, being a weekend day at the über-trendy Seattle institution that specializes in cheap but quality haircuts and walk-in appointments; there was at least a 45-minute wait. I looked at Paisley… and saw the sheer panic in her eyes. I sighed, put her name on the waiting list, told the (super hip) guy behind the desk we’d be back, and went and made a date of it by going out to dinner.

Paisley and I grabbed a bite to eat (and I grabbed a much-needed beer!) before heading back to the hairdresser.

Paisley and I grabbed a bite to eat (and I grabbed a much-deserved, and much-needed, beer!) before heading back to the hairdresser.

An hour later, and stuffed full of good food, we walked back in for Paisley’s appointment. She was escorted to a chair attended by an ultra-cool and tattooed stylist with purple hair pulled up into a retro boho-chic bouffant and pinned with a bright turquoise bow; Paisley nearly melted in the chair, she was so psyched. Our friendly stylist asked Paisley what kind of haircut she wanted, to which Paisley jauntily replied “Short.” The now-intrigued stylist asked “How short?” and Paisley immediately directed me to pull up the picture from the wig product page on Amazon that she’d made me email to my iPhone right before we left so it was easy to access and refer to when she was asked this very question… I obligingly showed our enquiring stylist the picture of the young man with the thick, black, straight hair, and mentioned that I had, in fact, told Paisley that, because she does NOT have thick, black, straight hair, “Your hair, I’m sorry to say, just won’t look like this.” To which our experienced stylist turned to Paisley and repeated, “Your hair, I’m sorry to say, just won’t look like this.” And to which Paisley nonchalantly repeated back to her (with truly awe-inspiring, and never-wavering, confidence) what she’d been repeating to me for all the weeks since she’d first put on that wig: “Oh, I know. I want that haircut… and my hair will just make it look different.” (Subtext: Like, duh people! It’s all good. Now get to work. *Snaps her fingers.*) And then she flashed us both a beatific smile. I mean, what can you do with that?! I’ll tell you what you do with that: you give her that haircut… And know it’s just going to look different… It’s as simple as that.

And so, Paisley’s long long long hair went back into a ponytail, and the scissors came out. I think both Paisley and I were rather shocked at how quickly her hair was cut off (seriously, after months of badgering and haggling and crying and persuading, it took all of 10 seconds for our very efficient stylist to snip, snip, snip, snip that ponytail right off Paisley’s precious head) and all those sweet ringlets I’ve always loved tugging on were, just like that, GONE! (I’m not going to lie: it made my heart ache a bit).

The lovely stylist showing off the 11"-12" of hair which Paisley proudly donated to Locks of Love, a wonderful charity which makes wigs and other hairpieces for children who have lost their hair from chemotherapy treatments or any other medical malady.

The lovely stylist showing off the 11″-12″ of hair which Paisley proudly donated to Locks of Love, a wonderful charity which makes wigs and other hairpieces for children who have lost their hair from chemotherapy treatments or any other medical malady.

And so, my daughter now has very short hair. Very very short hair. And she loves it. I’m talking, like, loves LOVES LOVES it.

The After Shot: A certain someone is mighty pleased with her new do... and is now about two pounds lighter.

The After Shot: A certain someone is mighty pleased with her new short short hairdo… (and is also approximately two pounds lighter).

And after living with her and her very short hair for a bit over a week now… you know what? I DO TOO. Holy. Wow. What was I thinking, putting this off?! I. Love. It. And not because it’s so adorable (which it is). No, I love it because it now takes her a total of two seconds to shampoo her hair (*fist pump*!!); because, better yet, it now takes approximately ZERO seconds for me to brush the tear-and-tantrum-inducing snarls out of her hair (oh yeah!!); because I now don’t have to relentlessly nag her about pulling her hair back in a ponytail – so she can actually SEE – for soccer and Jiu-Jitsu and swimming practice (wahoo!!); and because, upon returning home yesterday afternoon from the three-day sleep away camp she’s been at with the 4th and 5th graders of her school, if she just so happens to tell me in the next day or two (please please please, no!) that her head is itchy – and yes, while she’s significantly less likely to get lice with short hair, I still don’t put it past my hug-loving and socially gregarious daughter and her friends to braid each other’s hair, trade hats and headbands and brushes, swap sleeping bags and pillows, and generally do whatever it takes to share absolutely everything with each other, secrets, notes and lice included – it now will take all of 10 breezy minutes, instead of the usual 45-60 excruciating minutes, for me to do the subsequent lice check (to which I say: bring it!! Actually, don’t; please don’t bring the lice…).

And perhaps more important than the purely selfish reasons I listed above (though all still very relevant reasons, I would like to say in my defense!), I love my daughter’s short hair because, though it might have taken her eight months or so to get to this point (she is, after all, only 10yo; self-determination takes time, as does – and anybody who has ever gone to a barber and paid good money for a haircut will confirm this – finding “the right” hairstyle) and another month or so to convince her over-scheduled (and okay, sometimes slow-to-catch-on) mother that she was really serious this time, Paisley made this decision all on her own and not because she wanted to be just like her friends, and not because she was bullied into it by her lunatic mama suffering from a (completely understandable?!) lice-induced anxiety attack; and not even because she wanted to look like some formerly unknown manga character to whom she doesn’t even have a passing resemblance.

Ready for her own graphic novel!

Ready for her own graphic novel!

And here’s what I only realized after the hair fell to the salon floor, and what I almost missed because I thought I was too busy to make this a priority: I love that my daughter walked into that salon ready for a big change and with a fierce confidence that never wavered. I love that she was so bold and so fearless. I love that she embraced the uncertainty of the outcome; she knew her hair wasn’t going to look like that picture from the internet, but she had faith that she was going to like it anyway. And I love (and I’m talking, like, love LOVE LOVE) that she was going to like it anyway, because she LIKES HERSELF. For her, her hair is just her hair. It doesn’t define who she is; it’s something fun to play with, another prop in this drama called life. Yes, she is absolutely having a fantastic time surprising her friends and teachers and neighbors with her new look. But she still skated her heart out that night at the skate rink, after everyone remarked on her transformation, and she still completed her paperweight project on time (and which were so popular at Market Place that she sold every single one!) after everyone oohed and aahed at school the next day; for her, she is a skater and a seller of rocks no matter what her hair looks like. And the few times people have told her she looks like a boy? She’s been completely unfazed. This (seemingly) simple haircut (that’s become, for me anyway, something more significant than a simple haircut, and has, rather, marked itself as a milestone moment in my always-amazing daughter’s life) has shown me that her identity, her concept of who she is as a person, is not wrapped up in how long or short her hair is, or how others expect her to act. And as a parent raising a daughter in a culture that puts so much pressure on girls (and the women they grow up to become) to look like this (unattainable) ideal of beauty or that (archaic) concept of femininity, I could not be more proud, or grateful, that my 10yo daughter feels so empowered to take risks with her appearance and experiment with her hairstyle and not at all feel defined by what she looks like to others. As her mother, I hope she always maintains that spirit of independence, that joy in reinvention, and that courage to take risks which she exhibited in that hair salon as she continues to figure out what it means to “be herself.”

And I hope that next time she has to badger me into taking her to the hair salon (because, c’mon, I’m still not going to take her when the boys are around, and it’s not like our lives are getting any less busy!), she still wants me to stay by her side, sitting in the empty chair next to her. And I hope I remember how privileged I am to witness her awe-inspiring development into the phenomenal young person she’s becoming, no matter what hairstyle she comes up with next. And I hope that I will never forget, no matter how busy life gets or how many trips to the salon we make, to take every opportunity to let her know as often as possible that she’s beautiful, both inside and out…

…no matter what her hair looks like.

Because for me? Well, now… that’s a priority.

(Though here’s to no one showing her a picture of Mr. T anytime soon… because, seriously, because, seriously, I am SO not ready for a Mohawk!)

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

Cooking Lessons

Back in December, the week before winter break, the 10yo decided to start cooking the family dinners. I know! My eyes totally bugged out of my head, too!!

Intriguingly, she came up with the idea all on her own, completely out of the blue, and (rather shockingly, as it had been on my mind for a while) not as a creative consequence I’d (brilliantly) concocted to illustrate for her how insanely maddening (and infuriating, provoking, exasperating, harpy-shriek-inducing… well, you get the idea…) it is to spend a considerable amount of thought in planning, and time cooking, wholesome (and delicious, dang it!) meals for the family, only for the kids to whine about and bemoan whatever (okay, vegetable-laden – five servings a day, people!) dish was put on the table (you’d think I was serving poisoned frog livers and botulism-infused cat tongues if you ever witnessed the melodramatics my kids perform in my dining room at least several nights a week; we’re talking Academy Award winning theatrics here…) and refuse to eat – or even try – a single bite of that evening’s dinner (which, I swear, has never involved frog livers or cat tongues; not even on Halloween).

No, one Friday morning she woke up cheerful as can be (such lovely mornings, when the kids wake up happy… and so rare…) and informed me over her bowl of cereal that she would be cooking dinner that night. I sipped my coffee and waited for her to blurt out, “Just kidding!! Hahahaha! Was that a good joke or what?!” but, no, she was serious. As I already had three more nights of meals planned (and the corresponding groceries purchased, which I didn’t want to go bad), I convinced her to wait until the following Monday, when I would return to the grocery store and could buy the ingredients she would need. Also, I convinced her to cook for only three nights the following week, rather than all seven as she was adamantly planning, as we were leaving for my mom’s house for the Christmas holidays on Thursday and I thought she might not want to delay our trip to Grandma’s just so she could cook four extra meals; she graciously agreed, but explained that she would be taking over the cooking duties upon our return home post-holidays. Hmm… I doubted she’d even remember her resolution over the weekend…

But, sure enough, on Monday morning, as I was writing out the grocery list before taking the kiddos to school, she ticked off on her fingers the three meals she was planning and the ingredients she would need. I listened to her… Nodded… Pursed my lips together tightly so as not to say anything… Nodded some more… and quickly texted Bill to make sure he ate a big lunch. With meat. And vegetables. Because he SO wouldn’t be getting those at home. No, according to my daughter, veggies are an obvious threat to humankind and a thoroughly non-essential food group; her plan: carbs, carbs and nothing but carbs, baby!

Day 1: Bean and Cheese Quesadillas. Does taco sauce count as a veggie?!

Day 1: Bean and Cheese Quesadillas. Does taco sauce count as a veggie?!

Day 2: Blueberry Pancakes (from scratch!). For the record, these were AMAZING. We need to triple the recipe next time...

Day 2: Blueberry Pancakes (from scratch!). For the record, these were AMAZING. We need to triple the recipe next time…

Day 3 of 3 nights the 10yo cooked dinner for the family: her homemade "Marvelous Mac n Cheese." Her choice. I sneaked in Beecher's Cheese. But she said NO when I suggested peas! Veggies are highly overrated anyway, right?!

Day 3: Her homemade (and self-titled) “World Famous” Mac And Cheese. I sneaked in Beecher’s Flagship Cheese (yum!), but she said no when I suggested adding peas. Ah, well… It was worth a try!

Here’s the thing: each meal she made was delicious. And fun. And she was clearly so proud of herself that, once we did get home from Grandma’s house, I let her keep cooking. No, I didn’t let her take over all the cooking duties, as she’d earlier insisted (though it was really tempting!! But really… how many nights in a row can a family survive on blueberry pancakes for dinner?), and I did insist that her meals needed to start incorporating vegetables (she rolled her eyes, and begrudgingly agreed), but she thought that cooking once a week would be okay. For now. Her 6yo brother, Liam, had very thoughtfully given her a kid-friendly cookbook for a Christmas present (and wow! – even from one of my favorite cookbook authors! what a smart kid!! – okay, okay… so I was more than a little involved in picking out the present, but I really didn’t think she’d appreciate the Lego set he picked out for her nearly as much as he would appreciate it…), and she pours over that every week when I ask what’s on the menu. For the last two months, she’s been wowing us with her culinary talents, and cooking up a storm for us.

The 10yo made mini-pizzas for dinner! The college menu planning is now complete - eight years early!

Mini-Pizza Night! They took TWO HOURS to make, but hey, they were good and her brothers were VERY happy.

And every once in a while she makes a meal with vegetables in it – though not always on purpose! The look of surprise on her face when I started pulling out onions and celery and carrots and zucchini for her Macaroni Minestrone recipe (she reads recipes a bit more closely these days!) was truly priceless. But the best part of that night (and perhaps it’s unkind of me, but there you have it): when Paisley served Liam his soup he stuck out his tongue in protest… and she almost slugged him! I couldn’t help myself. I snickered. I did! I snickered (but behind my hand), and gently pointed out how, um, yeah, it’s kind of frustrating, isn’t it, when someone insults your cooking without even trying it? She didn’t reply; she just stared at me (rather coldly – I think she could tell I was gloating, even if I was trying to hide that fact) while she (rather defiantly) chewed a mouthful of vegetables (rather unhappily). But she did it! She ate some veggies. And she didn’t DIE a slow and tragic and painful death.

She still prefers carb-happy meals (and really, who doesn’t?) with no veggies in sight; her “world famous” mac and cheese has made a second and third appearance (I’ve started sautéing spinach with garlic as a quick green side for mac n’ cheese night – not that any of the kids eat spinach), her brothers were quite ecstatic about mini-pizza night with homemade crusts (the only green in sight: the bell pepper slices I put on my pizza; and technically, bell pepper is a fruit), and a couple of weeks ago she made a very tasty cheese lasagna with one of her school friends (again, sans veggies; unlike Congress, I don’t count tomato sauce as a vegetable). But she’s made the veggie-heavy Macaroni Minestrone twice now (it really is good…), and I think everyone enjoyed the night she made vegetarian fried rice with carrots, broccoli, peas, and even water chestnuts (!!), and just last week she asked to make one of her favorite recipes from my own repertoire, Strawberry Asparagus Pasta, which was so good that there were no leftovers (well, except for all the asparagus left on her plate that she refused to eat… them being veggies and all). And, okay, she doesn’t always eat the veggies on her plate, but at least she cooked with veggies… so we’re making some kind of progress, right?!

So, yeah, I might have to spend twice as long cooking a meal with my daughter as it would take on my own – while I show her how to knead pizza dough without dropping it on the floor or wait for her to (slowly, slowly, oh my good gracious, painstakingly slowly) peel a carrot or two – but she’s getting the hang of food preparation, and in a couple of years, honestly, she should have enough experience to whip up her favorite Greek Pasta Salad without me around (and without cutting off a finger – perhaps the only real goal I have in these early cooking lessons at the moment). And I’m looking forward to teaching her brothers how to cook, too, when they hit age 10. Can you imagine? Three nights a week where, once I teach the kids the basics, I don’t have to cook?? Maybe I can actually get to all those projects that are piling up around the house (oh you know, like finally completing any of the children’s baby books or framing that poster in the dining room that’s been sitting on the buffet table for the last six years and counting), or – better yet! – just sit around reading a book (how decadent!), while they serve up some delicious, healthy meal for everyone?! Whoa… I am loving this plan… Heck, why do I even care if my daughter cooks with veggies?? Just so long as she cooks… am I right, or am I RIGHT?! Now that I think about it, I could totally survive off blueberry pancakes every night!

Now, if only I can convince her to stick around for the cleaning up part…

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.