Monday, January 31, 2011

Change of Plans

There's a moment at 4:18 in the morning--when you enter your son's room after being woken by cries of "Mommy" to hear him say he feels like he's going to throw-up--when you face a choice: internally bemoan your exhausted state and clamber for some shred of control, or surrender.

I'm learning to surrender.

We walk to the bathroom together--my eyes barely open, his eyes showing the signs of discomfort and exhaustion--and I sit on the edge of the tub while he kneels in front of the toilet.  We wait there together in shared misery.  And wait.  After a few minutes, when it doesn't come, we return to bed, but we both know it's a temporary reprieve.  Once you've been woken at that time by a sick child, the chance of returning to sleep uninterrupted are slim to nil, and as anticipated, he calls just before five, having done the real thing.

The rest of the morning flashes before my eyes.  What was supposed to be a quiet, productive morning of research and writing followed by reading time at the kids' school gives way to the new reality: last-minute carpool arrangements and canceling plans and bathroom runs and Gatorade.

But there's no use fighting it.  Stomach bugs trump everything.  First and foremost, I am wife and mommy.  Everything else is secondary.  Rather than try to maintain any of my original agenda for the morning while he recovers on the couch, I give up my to-do list.  We take Abby to school, carefully navigating the icy roads, and Ben and I return home to snuggle up and watch a movie, together.  The time is quiet, sweet, and I receive this change of plans as a gift of alone time he and I rarely get these days.

Now he's napping, for the first time in months and months.  Abby, too, slumbers upstairs.  Outside, the snow that came down as an icy mist this morning is now fluffy and falling fast, covering our little corner of the world in tranquil, white frosting.

It is not the day I anticipated.  It's better.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Defying Inertia

Last night, I felt an overwhelming desire to get the kids out today.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.  Depending on the weather.  I hadn't come to any conclusions about what our big outing would be.  I just knew I wanted one.

This morning, though, the kids woke up and played and played and played while I handled the morning chores of breakfast and getting Merlot fed and walked and responding to various emails that needed attention.  The kids were so happy playing in their pajamas, in fact, that I was tempted to scrap the whole plan to leave the house and just enjoy a mellow morning in, together.

But something nudged me to find an activity and go, and so I threw the idea of an outing into the realm of possibilities for our day, and the kids latched on.  The mere mention of an adventure was enough to send them scrambling upstairs to dress themselves, and we made it out the door in less than the usual eternity it takes us to complete the steps of putting on coats and shoes and buckling into the car.

I settled on the Colorado Railroad Museum because it was close (and we needed to get Abby home for an early nap so she'd be up in time for her afternoon dance class), it was indoor with an outdoor option (so we could handle whatever the weather presented), and it's hard to pass up giant-machines-that-go when small children are involved (vehicles of any kind hold universal appeal for small people).

The museum was a hit.  They pushed trains over bridges and into the roundhouse on the train table set up in the lobby; they were enthralled by the huge model train set that ran through tiny mountain towns and tunnels and trestles downstairs; and they never ran out of enthusiasm for the offerings of the outside yard full of actual, retired trains that they could climb in and on.  Our morning at the museum was so delightful, they begged to stay longer when I said it was time to go.

Looking back at our time, I can't believe I considered not going.  I was tempted to abandon my plan this morning when the kids were playing so nicely, tempted to stay put and take the path of least resistance: leave the kids in their pajamas to play puppies and dinosaurs and whatever else their imaginations manufactured--and just hang out.  There's nothing wrong with this method of passing time--it's great, in fact--except that it is my regular default, and I probably succumb to the ease of that plan too readily.  This morning, however, I made a conscious decision to step forward, defying inertia, to create new and different memories with my cuties.  And the shifting of momentum to get us moving was absolutely worth it.

As we drove home, Ben, unprompted, thanked me for taking them to the museum.  "What made you decide to take us there?" he asked between bites of his lunch in the car.

"I thought it would be fun for us to have an adventure together," I told him--and he half-giggled to himself, pleased with my answer.

Later in the drive, he announced he wants to be a conductor when he grows up.  I could see the visions of maneuvering those mighty machines with their solid levers and mysterious switches dancing through his head.

There's nothing wrong with surrendering to the call of a mellow day at home, but it also pays to act with intention, to make a plan and stick with it.  I know this mellow mama will be looking for more opportunities to do so in the future.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wait for It

Since we live in the mecca of snow-centered diversion, it is considered a given that our children will learn how to ski.  "Have they learned how to ski?" is as commonly asked as "Where do they go to school?"  And since the slopes are so close and the resort passes for children so cheap--sometimes even free in faith they're cultivating a life-long, eventually-paying enthusiast--many children learn young.  Several of our friends' children began at two or three-years-old; some of Ben's friends are on racing teams this year.

So I'll admit to feeling a little pressure to get our kids out there and on their way to a winter full of downhill adventure.  But that pressure has always been tempered by an awareness that Ben, our prudent, cautious, calculating little man, would need introduction to this sport at the right time: start too soon or too fast, and we may kill any chance of getting him back on skis before his tenth birthday.

We contemplated starting him last year, but the logistics of getting him up with Abby still so small were prohibitive.  So we determined we'd start them both this year, figuring our fearless three-year-old would probably be happy to try anything big brother was doing and hoping the company of little sister would give Ben the added bit of comfort he might need to jump into something new and unfamiliar.   We rented gear for both of them for the season and decided that as soon as there was enough snow, we'd start practicing in the driveway as a warm-up to the big-leagues on the resort runs.

The kids couldn't wait to try their skis.  They'd put them on in the house with their ski pants and helmets and goggles and gloves and try sliding on the carpet, talking about how excited they were to learn.  We all talked about the fun we'd have when it snowed.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans, and we didn't get our first real snow dump until this last weekend, when normally we would have had half a dozen major storms by now.

We saw the weather report Friday and told the kids we'd be able to try skiing Sunday.  When we went to church Saturday night, Abby told everyone she was going skiing the next day.  I prayed the storm would work its magic so as not to disappoint.

The snow indeed began falling overnight Saturday, but it came down slowly, gently, accumulating barely an inch or two by morning.  The kids have no real sense of quantity, so as soon as they finished breakfast, they asked if they could ski.  We told them we'd need to wait a few more hours, hoping enough snow would accumulate to make it even remotely feasible.  The kids busied themselves with puzzles and games but continued asking when they could go it.  Around 10:30 that morning, we decided there was enough snow on the grass to at least get them up on their skis and begin learning some basics, even though our driveway, the perfect bunny hill, still didn't have enough coverage.

Their excitement was palpable as we bundled them up to head out.  With their ski boots on, they tromped like seasoned professionals out of the garage and into the yard.  Josh grabbed their skis, and we all stood at the top of our yard anticipating the maiden voyage.

I was nervous, I'll confess, not sure what to expect from the kids as they experienced the sensation of gliding downhill for the first time.  Would they be okay with falling?  We'd tried to explain how fun it is to fall in the soft, pillowy snow.  Would they mind gathering momentum before knowing how to stop?  We'd assured them they could always fall over if they felt they were going too fast.

Josh helped Ben, then Abby, step into their skis, and they practiced falling over sideways.  He taught them to scoot their bottoms right next to the skis before pushing up with their arms in order to stand back up.  He instructed Ben on how to step widely with his skis to point himself downhill.   Then he let Ben grab his arm with both hands, and they began: slowly, almost having to propel themselves at first, and then sliding freely as the slope increased.  Ben smiled.  He fell over near the bottom of the yard.  And he said, "I want to do it again."  Success.

Abby's start was more eventful.  We think her boots must have been too tight at first, because after one run, she wanted to be done, claiming her legs were too tired.  After we helped her out of her skis, she fell like a tree into the snow, laying there until I came to help her up.

But after loosening her boots and getting her back up again, she made another attempt and then asked for more.

We spent the next forty-five minutes pushing the kids back up the hill so they could slide down again.  After just a few "runs," Ben wanted no assistance other than to help him back to the top, where he could turn himself around, get going, and stay balanced as he slid down.  He even managed to make his "pizza wedge" and stop himself on a handful of occasions.  Throughout our time, he'd say, "This is fun!  Skiing is fun!" through big smiles of pride and accomplishment and delight.

Though Abby's three-year-old coordination left her more dependent on us, she smiled and smiled, letting go of Josh to slide to me for the last few feet of her course each time down.  I'd catch her under her arms and she'd lean back, looking up into my face with a huge grin.  I'd kiss her cheek, turn her around, and push her up once again.  Several runs in, she said, "I like skiing!"

When we depleted the supply of snow in our yard and came back in the house to warm up, Josh and I exhaled a collective sigh of relief.  Our first session went about as well as we could have hoped.  Ben clearly has the coordination and motivation to pick up this new skill and excel.  He absorbed every instruction Josh gave him, learned and executed the skills quickly, and enjoyed the process.  When he begins his official lessons next month, we have no doubt he'll be ready.

And watching Abby's process confirmed that we're right to wait another season before officially putting her in lessons.  She's enjoying a taste of it, but she's not quite ready for the full experience yet.

There are times I second-guess our decisions to wait or slow down on introducing the kids to experiences.  But our morning in the yard confirmed we are wise to listen to our gut.  We really know our kids best, even if it means they're a little behind some of their peers.  Ben's ready, really ready, and he'll probably catch up quickly--quicker, I imagine, than if we'd pushed him into learning too soon.  

When the timing's right, it's clear.  And it's worth waiting for.
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