canoeing past summers Pokemon soccer trips

Blast Off


As we tick down to the autumnal equinox, I am left reflecting on what this most-recent summer has dished up.

For one: hecka lotta togetherness. Mostly, I like it, but I’ll be the bold parent here who admits that I live for the hours without kids. Groom? Now he can always be around. His presence is no work for me; he just busies himself with a crossword, marinates some flank steak, and paints the light post out front. In between activities, he conversates with me and kisses me and laughs in all the right places.

But the kids? They don’t always know when to laugh. And they certainly don’t always know when to hesh up. Yea, yea, yea: I adore them. I like them better than any other kids anywhere. But sometimes I have to admit that I’m a parent who’s really, really cut out for “the school years,” when they will go away for a few hours during the day. We’re still on kindergarten-countdown with the Niblet, though, so daytime hours sans both kids remains but a misty dream. In the meantime, as we count out twelve more months until Girl and Niblet hop onto a bus together in the morning, and I sob uncontrollably over the steering wheel in the mini-van as I follow their bus to the school, well, we will do a lot of science “conspiriments” with Niblet, a four-year-old who maintains that Einstein is clearly the best scientist ever because of his bold hair, but who also gives Galileo some props for a cool name and bringing the telescope into use. Niblet does savor a good telescope.

This week, Groom and Niblet made lenses out of jello jigglers. If you pour and congeal the jello into anything curved, like a ladel, it can be really nifty to look through once it’s sprung free. I know this because I inserted two jello-jiggler lenses into my glasses, and the world is suddenly teeming with magic. I never saw the elves before now. But there they are, dancing around my new navy-blue Born wedge slides.

Last week, the boys made guitars out of shoe boxes and rubber bands (good job putting to rest the notion that hillbilly is limited to the South, fellas).

At any rate, we still have like 11.5 months until kindergarten.

Not that I’m counting.

At least most of the neighborhood kids have been off to school these last couple of weeks…

…speaking of too much togetherness this summer.

Love the neighborhood gang. Love the constant playdates. But, three months into the daily free-for-all of a hoard of kids at loose ends, I’m of the mind that they now should all go away for some hours each day. Indeed, now that it’s September, I am reveling in stepping out the front door without being accosted by Young Master from across the street, he who seemed, all summer, to rely upon our family’s presence, plans, and actions for his sensory input. Young Master’s beleagured father generally followed in his son’s wake, hoping, too, that we could help them find ways to pass the hours.

I’m all for 2nd grade helping Young Master with his need for attention and a daily plan. Don’t miss your bus, Young Master! Chase it! Sprint, lad!

Secondly, this summer offered up some chances for us to bring the world to our kids, a part of parenthood that is most gratifying. A major piece of my personality is run by a manic lady named Hostess; Hostess does so like to bring people together or to match someone with a resource or to lay out a platter of pita chips and hummus. I like to take all those little threads out there in the world and knit a shaggy tam o’ shanter from them.

Taking the kiddles places and exposing them to a variety of realities pleases Hostess Jociepashmina.

To that end, this summer, that meant we had a three-week trip around Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.

I tossed the Little Tugboat into a river in Yellowstone Park. He refused to let me set him on the back of a wild bison for a photo (great shot for the Xmas letter and all!), and a consequence was called for.

Additionally, the kiddles got to work at a farmer’s market, weighing tomatoes, and go to the Minnesota State Fair for the first time.

As they viewed the butterheads there, whole new vistas beckoned. Holy Land O’ Lakes, if sculpting a beauty queen’s likeness out of churned cream is possible, what isn’t?

As well, they ran and kicked balls. Some organized sport or ‘uther.

Even more, Girl experienced for the first time the utter joy of cranking on two wheels–no training wheels!–which, seriously, is life-altering in ways I’d not completely fathomed. Riding a bike independently means that our girl child can now go nearly anywhere in the world and get around. She is not bound by gas or license. I was floored by the unexpected feeling of her having become more of a global citizen, just by mastering this skill.

Of course, as I played around with these profound musings, I was nursing a cocktail we like to call The Humidor, so it’s an eensy bit possible that the shot of rum in it might have lubricated my thrum of harmonic convergence.

Moreover, by dipping canoe and paddles into the water, we showed the kids how easily perspective and rhythm can shift, how the town they are accustomed to seeing from car can appear new again from the water, from an angle out and away. They also noted how the malt shop is still easy to get to by boat.

Good information, that.
Of course, we made Girl jump and swim for her malt, if she was so set on having one. Actions prove depth of desire is our household motto.

It’s not really. I made that up. Curses on the truth serum that controls me.

We don’t have a household motto, outside of “Duck! It’s Young Master! He’s trolling! Not a sound, children! Not a damn sound. If you have to sneeze, stick your head in the begonia! But remember: stealth…stealth is the order of the day as we try to get to the car without detection!

At any rate, from ducking and covering, to riding the two wheeler, to not capsizing the boat, the summer saw us engaging and attempting and mastering.
Thirdly, and probably most importantly, this nearly-finished summer reminded us how the kids will bring the world right back to us. Their interests are already leading me to places I had never thought to venture.

I love the fact that all of the intentions and statements and thoughts I had for my kids before I humped them out have dissipated. In many ways, it’s not so much for me to prescribe who they will be but rather to recognize where they’re going and see what I can do to tag along.

Pokemon has pounded this home.

Wholly and entirely, our summer has been about Pokemon.

I hear ya. Your groans are audible, you know.

I didn’t really know what Pokemon was, myself, three months ago. Vaguely, I knew it was something I would never, ever have an interest in, and Manga Forbid my kids would ever take an interest in those little weird Japanese cartoony characters who did dueling or needed training or something. Dumb, dumb, DUM was such stuff.

Then Niblet caught the fever. Girl followed suit, along with all the other kids in the neighborhood.

As it turns out, I really like to talk to Niblet and Girl about what excites them; I like to see how every little thing that catches their fire can expand the family vibe. If they think something is cool, I can suspend my disbelief.

Thus, we have become a happy family of purposeful Geekdom here on the edge of Lake Superior. ‘Cause, honey? My kids currently have three-ring binders full plastic sleeves that organize their constantly-evolving collection of Pokemon cards. They carry these binders everywhere. When their little arms get tired, I help them carry their binders. I would buy them wheelbarrows for their binders.

And I’m a little tempted to get my own binder.

I kind of want to start trading cards and all. What if I could strong-arm the seven-year-old down the street (“Cough it up, or I’ll tell your mother”) to obtain the ultra-rare Flying Pikachu card, after all?

If I could manage such a coup, then the summer would have real meaning for me–it would have been about something lasting, something special.

Otherwise, when all else falls away, and the kids have grown up and come out of the closet and are on their meds and have found good therapists, what will I be left with?

It’ll be just me and Groom and a crossword puzzle and a blunt pencil with no eraser.


So as the summer of 2007 gasps its last, and the Girl heads off to school each day, and Groom and Niblet pass an hour by MacGuyvering an air rocket out of the bicycle pump and a plastic bottle full of water, and my blogging countdown of summers past rounds out,

I realize that I don’t really need anything,

so long as I have my three-ring binder with my Flying Pikachu card

And that’s it and that’s the only thing I need.

I don’t need one single thing else–

except my crocheted poncho
and my floppy hat
and my bus pass
and my half-eaten pack of Wacky Wafers
and my remote control

…and this ashtray and this paddle game. That’s all I need.

All I need are my binder and my card and my poncho and my hat and my bus pass and my Wacky Wafers and my remote control and this ashtray and this paddle game. I don’t need anything else–

except these matches and this chair. But that’s all I need.

Oh, and this lamp. But I don’t need anything else. These are the only things I need, are these.

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houses moving past summers reunions soccer

Eternal Youth


By the summer of 2004, we had sold one of our two houses (no double mortgages), churned out all the kids we intended to (no notion of breeding a full soccer team), and come to acceptance of our family’s quirks (plenty of dysfunction, but no crazy Aunt Millicent tied to a chair in the attic).

Obviously, if everything was going so swimmingly, it was time to create a whole new kind of hassle.

So we moved 100 yards.

Take a moment now, if you would, to look around your house. See that heavy sleeper sofa? See that fragile antique vanity? See those bookshelves weighted with encyclopaedias? See those closets bursting with unused fabric, tchotckes, and bedding?

Now picture picking up each and every one of those things, walking the length of a soccer field (by the way, guess where I’m sitting as I type this?), and then setting it down again.

The kids’ playhouse moved better with wheels under it…

Yea, we humped our masses of possessions all of 300 feet…in July, of course. This assured that every piece of furniture would be coated with sweat during the short trip, thus affording our friends and moving helpers a much-needed challenge. Many of them would be missing their daily workouts, what with devoting hours to our cause; thus, we felt, somehow, that we were aiding their fitness efforts by making sure the move was a hot and strenuous one.

Okay, the backstory. A year and a half earlier, we had met some neighbors—a lovely young couple who would have assisted each other easily to goal after goal on the soccer field, had they, you know, played soccer–and scored an invitation to dinner at their house. That evening, when we showed up for dinner and walked through the front door, I exclaimed, with my usual reserve, “I love, luv, luff your house! If you ever decide to move, you’ll let us have it, right?” Artificial laughter sprinkled all around, and that was the end of it.

…until the phone rang a year and a half later. It was Lady Neighbor, and she queried, “So. When you said you’d love to have our house, were you serious?”

Good question. Of course I hadn’t been, but when presented with the option of buying their house, since they had decided to seek out greener hillsides in the Pacific Northwest, I realized I could learn to be serious about getting the four of us out of our 960 square feet and into something more than twice the size.

Discussion ensued. Deliberations deliberated. Beers were drunk. Offsides were called.

Then we went over and walked through the possible house. And we swooned a little at the Arts & Crafts touches, looking past the orange shag carpet, the dark wooden paneling, the frosted windows. We walked the circle of the main floor; we admired the large bedrooms. We sighed. We ran our fingers along the woodwork.

In short order, we made an offer, contingent (never again would we pay two mortgages and raise children on The Scurvy Diet!) on selling our current house. These very fine people didn’t even counter but rather accepted our first offer.

The wait began. Could our realtor manage to convince some young guileless couple that 960 feet was just the right footage in which to start their own soccer team?

To distract ourselves from the tension of keeping a house “showable” with two small kids around (“No, Girl, you may not play dollies. Sit quietly in the corner with your toy sponge and practice that mopping technique Mommy showed you. No, Wee Niblet, you may not throw your toys and food out of the high chair, as potential buyers could be peeking in the windows. Use your chubby toddler paws and hang onto the broom Mommy has inserted into them. Make yourself useful, Lug”), we went to the playground a lot. And we attended my college reunion.

How on earth it had been fifteen years since I had graduated from college was a mystery to me because, surely, clearly, I wasn’t a day over twenty-four.

But as long as I’d been invited to a weekend of revelry, I was game for going along with the pretense that I was thirty-seven.

What was gorgeous about that reunion was how the comfort and history and familiarity of the place and people grounded me at the time when, in daily life, I didn’t know what was coming next (a soccer ball to the skull, for all I knew). We all lapsed into the roles, speech patterns, and ways of conversing that had become habit half a lifetime before.

Yup. That’s me there, ya eagle eye!

In the midst of that easy companionship, reaching back to some of the most invigorating years of my life, I didn’t care where I’d live the next month or if my kids ever got their own rooms (picture it if we didn’t move: Brother and Sister Share a Room: The Teen Years: “Mommy, why does Girl put that strappy thing over her chest every morning before she puts on her shirt?” or “Mommy, why do you change Niblet’s sheets every morning after he spends some special quiet time laying in the bed?”).

Nope. I didn’t care ’bout nuthin’. I just loved my friends and drinking and dancing and rocking out and the feeling of my feet on hallowed ground. I regressed even further and was 18 again.

This dude, one Martin Zellar, wrote and sang the soundtrack to my 1985-1989. He is my second husband. Don’t tell anyone. Especially him. Or his first wife. But I’m sure he loves me.

Naturally, once Reunion was over, Monday rolled around again, and with it, real life; back at home, I fretted over selling our small house so that we could move over one street—the 100 yards to bliss. As well, acting 18 again during the light of day quickly got embarrassing, especially when I kept insisting the clerks check my ID at the liquor store when no one–I mean no one–was asking.

Still aglow from reunionizing, and finally starting to detoxify, I had occasion to shine my face up to the sun and thank the gods of Home Upgrade (a bellicose crew, the triad of Scrape, Sand, and Varnish) for their blessings. Our damn house sold, to a young couple, looking to create their own wee Beckham.

Shortly thereafter, we moved the 100 yards. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL!

Here, now, 100 yards away from our previous house, life is lovely. Gracious. A place that will–knock U-Haul–witness my first grey hairs.

Not that I have any.

Nor will I for some time yet.

After all, I’m only 24.

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