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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