Saturday, July 31, 2010

Redwood Summer

Yes, I know about the original Redwood Summer and had the most unfortunate experience of living through it (remind me sometime to blog about growing up in Humboldt, willya?), but this time I'm talking about summertime in the redwoods, and a bit further north. Summer in Del Norte is always mild. If we're lucky, the marine layer burns off right around lunchtime, prompting me to shoo the children and Onyx the black lab outside as quickly as possible so they can burn some of the energy that's manifesting in outbursts of fists, tears and itty bitty pieces of paper all over the carpet. If they can get even a few hours of sunshine and physical activity, it makes life much, much easier on their poor parents.

Sporadic sunshine and feral kids aside, this has been one of the most fun summers we've had (pardon me, I just had to investigate suspicious sounds in the back yard, then chew out three little girls for soaking everything with the hose. Fun! Fun, I say!). We spent an epic five days at Disneyland, visited a myriad of relatives in Southern California, some of whom we'd never met before, and came home to a completely empty calendar. I can't say how good that feels after a school year of hourly commitments and constant meetings. The only thing I was sure to schedule was swimming lessons for the kiddos (I'm taking a hiatus on mine for now). They all did so great, and Steven particularly showed amazing progress in getting over his fear of the water, we've decided to do lessons during the school year too so they can keep going without having to re-learn everything each summer.
As much as I grumble about living in the armpit of nowhere, I have to appreciate the novelty of living in a sleepy little cow town like Fort Dick. Summertime here is much like the rest of the year: quiet and sparsely populated, except at 6, 10 and 2 when it's shift change at the prison. In the afternoons, the only sounds you hear outside are chirping birds and kids pretending they're Woody and Buzz Lightyear atop the tree fort in the back yard (and, God help me, the sound of the hose spraying yet again and three little girls expressing shock that they're STILL not allowed to screw around with it).

We're nearing the point of summer where I start exclaiming under my breath how nice it is to have two of them in school, but I'm still enjoying the short people enough to waltz across the lawn with popsicles and provide an enthusiastic audience for various stage shows the girls have thought up, and more than a few game shows the boy has invented - and probably rigged. I'll hold on to that as long as possible, because summer never seems long enough.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Deep thoughts, shallow water

Swimming, like riding a bike, seems to be one of those things the vast majority of people mastered before leaving elementary school. People like me, who never learned, are doomed to poolside reapplications of sunscreen, goggle-fetching and shouts of "Don't splash!" while everyone else flips and dives and has fun.

Like most adults who don't swim, I have had bad experiences with water that evoke a thrill of terror at the idea of submerging myself in liquid. Once I was pushed off a raft while floating on the river with some cousins and went under, the green water eerily silent. Somehow I managed to get my footing and splash my way to shore, where the grinning adults asked how I liked my swim.

During an ill-fated week of swimming lessons at the pool the following summer, I was the oldest in the beginner class by two years. Frustrated with my lack of cooperation, the teenage instructor tossed a kickboard my way and let me happily chug from one side of the shallow end to the other while she worked with the rest of the class on bobbing and floating. On the final day, with our parents peering from the bleachers, the instructor announced we would all be jumping into the deep end and lined us up at the side of the pool. The twelve at the bottom of the pool contorted and danced with the splashing water as, one by one, each of my classmates jumped into the water. Terrified, I sat down and clung to the edge. The annoyed instructor made a half-hearted attempt to reason with me, gave an eye roll and walked away. Thus ended my formal attempt at lessons, sobbing at the side of the pool while the parents on the bleachers murmured and gave me hard, disapproving looks.

But at thirty-three, I find myself doing a reverse Ariel. I'm tired of sitting on the side, dipping my feet in the water if I feel daring. Forget these legs. I want fins. I want to know what it feels like to float and splash and play without a hint of anxiety. I want to dive into that deep and and show that sobbing nine year old that she can do whatever she puts her mind to, at whatever pace she needs, that there's no shame in fear, only in what we allow that fear to do to us.

Armed with that mindset, I showed up at the local pool last night ready to learn, though still harboring some anxiety. An hour later I was goosebumpy (that water is cold!) and waterlogged, but confident that I will push past fear and become at least a passable swimmer, if not a proficient one.

I think Ariel would be proud.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Genealogical hazards

I've been on a genealogy kick for quite a while, and I've managed to find a ton of info on my mother's side of the family. Some of these lines go all the way back to England, well before the pilgrims came to America (and I found a few ancestors who came over on the Mayflower. Coolness!). History junkie that I am, I've taken to this task with understandable enthusiasm. It's fun!

My biological father's family has always been something of a mystery to me. He's, to put it mildly, a bit of an unsavory character and has spent most of his life in prison. I knew next to nothing about his biological parents, as he was adopted by other family members as a child. Weeks of digging and research on yielded some leads, so I followed them, ending up in contact with a few truly delightful blood relatives on this side who are helping me fill in the genealogical gaps.

Yet, I'm finding this branch of the family has more than its fair share of closeted skeletons, things I wasn't prepared to learn about, and I'm sure there's more to come. It makes me wonder how I could descend from people who are capable of the things about which I'm learning. And, quite honestly, it's very depressing. Whether I want to admit it or not, this is where I come from.

So I'm choosing to take an objective approach to the not-so-nice stuff and focus my energies and enthusiasm on the bright spots, like those relatives I've discovered who are as thrilled about a relationship with me as I am about a relationship with them. Thankfully, they're far removed from the unpleasantness I've discovered and would rather focus on the positives as well. After all, you can't choose your ancestors, but you can choose how you allow their stories to affect you.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rain, Rain Go Away

I know, I know. Who in their right mind would live in Del Norte County if they hate rain as much as I do? You'd think a long childhood in Humboldt would have inocculated me against crummy weather, yet here I sit, watching the dreary gray clouds wring themselves out over and over, wishing I were somewhere warm and dry.

Rather than complain, I've been trying to come up with a list of things to do in Del Norte on a rainy day (which pretty much encompasses the time between October and May. It's just one long rainy day. It's not complaining if you're stating facts, right?). So far I've managed to come up with:

1. Cartoons - God bless Charter Communications for the zillion and one kid-friendly episodes of something-or-other that are on at any given time of the day. My family in particular would not have survived the winter without regular doses of Phineas and Ferb and just about anything on Boomerang.

2. Rec League Basketball - Big gym + lots of running = exhausted kids AND content parents. Win-win.

3. School assemblies - My kids' school has weekly assemblies that are open to parents, and I've found it's not only a good way to distract yourself from the depressing meteorographic events outside, but also a really neat way to find out what's going on within the student body and to promote a sense of community in general. Plus, I get to see how my kids behave when they don't think I'm around, which ends up being surprisingly well.

Admittedly, I don't get out much, so the list is pretty short. But I'll do my best to keep adding to it while I'm waiting for June to roll around.
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