Monday, June 27, 2011

Into Summer

It's already the end of June; next weekend is the Fourth of July weekend. Too fast. Last Thursday I took the boys to Natural Bridges State Park and Beach, one of our favorite beaches. You do have to pay to park there; the park prices have gone up to $10 a pop. Considering the dire financial straits of the State of California, the fact that the parks had to raise their prices isn't at all surprising; there were plenty of park closures happening and they get almost no funding anymore from the state despite the fact that they're supposed to be State Parks, available for anyone. If you're too poor to pay, you park outside the park boundaries and hike on in. I paid; I figure if I can contribute in a very small way to keep the parks going, I'll do it.
The boys have gradually entered into an odd in-between age, teetering between wildly varying states of total independence and then demanding attention and reassurance. They want more say in where we go and what we do but then they get stuck in their own tape-loops of stagnation and habit and need to be shaken out of them. It's a struggle, honestly, to get them to agree on a place to go and to get there without major drama struggles between who doesn't feel like going there right at that time. Once we get there, they have a good time and enjoy themselves, but shaking them out of the house can be a major pain the the butt.
Most of the time I just 'Make It So!' and we go and do what we need to (or just Do What I Say) and I brook no arguments (though they still try). I'm having them take on more of the chores as they get older, and more personal responsibility for taking care of their homework and keeping track of where they need to be and when for the various activities. And in what may be a foolish attempt to give them more control and responsibility for what they do with their own lives I'm gradually giving them more of the bigger choices where I can; for what activities they take on, who they want to play with, where they want to go. It makes everything take longer and need much more negotiation to get anywhere. I need so much more patience than I really have. After all, it's not so easy for any of us (even adults) to learn to compromise and go where someone else wants and be a good sport about it. And sometimes when you do get to go exactly where you thought you wanted to it turns out to be disappointing. All part of regular everyday life, of course.
 There's also the fact that the two boys have radically different talents and social interests. Casey's more of an introvert, like Paul and I, whereas Riley is one of the most social people I've ever met and absolutely craves social contact. We wonder how he does that or where he learned that, frankly. Every time we turn around he's off talking to someone else. It's that old phrase, "he's never met a stranger" for Riley. He talks to adults and kids alike as equals. Casey makes less of an immediate impression on people who meet them because not only is he more shy, but he doesn't really care what others think of him and thus feels no need to please or try to impress others. It's an odd trait that I see sometimes in both Paul and myself at different times, but it's disconcerting to see it shown by one of the boys. Seeing these adult sorts of behaviors displayed by either one is a bit of a shock, really. I guess we'll get used to it.
Casey is doing summer gymnastics all day, three days a week, but Riley doesn't have such structured plans, and that means that he's spending more time hanging out with just me, as I try to get work done and take care of all of my usual things- pretty dull for an active 10 year old boy. If I allowed it, I could easily end up spending every moment doing things with him to keep him active and occupied and busy and learning and enriched and fulfilled and... well, you get the idea. He's having to learn a bit this summer about how to entertain himself by himself and he's having a hard time with it, frankly. He's not used to having so much free time apart from Casey, though I think they need more time apart than they used to, since when they're together too much they get on each others' nerves. This way they're more than happy to spend time together after the time apart; they have to catch each other up on all the things that happened while they were apart.
I need to find some summer workbook type things and impose some math and writing and reading stuff so they don't get out of the habit, but all of the local bookstores where I used to easily find such things are gone now. Riley and I have lost one of our favorite activities together: browsing through the bookstore and then having a hot chocolate while reading. Bookstores were always good for sparking interesting things to get Riley interested in reading and researching new things. That lack of bookstores is compounded by the local library having cut back their hours as well, though we'll be going there this summer for sure.
Brown Pelican
So we have plans for any number of summer day trips as well as a vacation-type trip to places this summer. But summer is flying by on me and somehow I suspect that we won't do nearly as many as seemed possible when the whole summer was spread out in front of us like an all-you-can-eat buffet. This odd time compression seems to happen to us every summer.
Hopefully it'll be enough, though. It's hard to predict what will stick with a kid about a summer, or being 10, or what life was like with his folks when he was a kid. We try to do a decent job and give them good memories. But it seems reasonable that a certain amount of boredom and learning to get along with others and their limitations are just a part of the process. How can you ever learn how to entertain yourself and learn things for yourself if you are always catered to, everything is always handed to you in easily digested, fun bits? I suspect both boys would retort that they sure aren't getting everything they want, that's for sure. :P Just wait until I pull out some math pages and make them write an essay or two...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

The end of the school year crept up on me, though I have been looking forward to it with both relief and dread. The past couple of weeks were filled with end-of-school activities and performances.
Casey plays piano accompaniment for the fourth graders in the school-wide talent show.
Paul has been teaching music to the 4th graders at the boys' school all year; he's taught their classes music for the last 3 years now, I think. He went in every Tuesday morning and they sang songs, played music, even tried writing their own songs. And so for the end of the year Talent Show he had them work up 2 songs to sing a s a big group, with individual solo singers as well. Casey ended up being the piano accompanist for Neal Young's song 'After the Gold Rush', with the lyrics slightly modified for 4th graders. :) I don't have a recording of their performance, though Paul does, but he'll never get around to transferring it to a form I can use (old video camera) and anyway Dolly and Emmylou and Linda do a better performance of it anyway, though maybe I'm not supposed to admit that as a parent:

So that piano part you hear was pretty much what Casey played, though he played through the entire song (and played it over and over and over when they rehearsed; he was thoroughly sick of it before the actual performance).
The other song the 4th graders chose, 'Little Fuzzy Animals', by Frank Hayes, was a crowd favorite, with Riley doing a drum roll at the end.
Little Fuzzy Animals, with Riley on snare.
So they survived fourth grade, despite everything. Both made the Gold Honor Roll again, completing the year with Honor Rolls for each semester. The schoolwork wasn't hard enough for them, in my opinion; they weren't really challenged in the weekly work, but their social challenges were harder. Working out all those shifting social dynamics are hard things to navigate, no matter what age you are, but 4th grade seems to be a big year of change for a lot of kids, and social roles seem to start cementing amongst their groups. Figuring out what sort of kids they wanted to hang around with and who they wanted to be were big parts of this past year. And luckily, they seem to have come through it all right, though there were certainly painful parts along the way, and I know that process just keeps going. I'm sad that their school principal is leaving, since she was fair and in tune with the kids and knew my guys quite well; she knew she could trust them to tell the truth about things that happened, and she ran a tight ship. Whomever replaces her has some tough shoes to fill. You will be greatly missed, Mrs. Parker.
Casey's piano recital.
As part of the end of the school year festivities, Casey also had a piano recital, where all of Brenda's piano students played a piece in front of friends and family. Good practice for performing, of course. Casey seems pretty free of nerves at such things; he's a cool customer. He went up, calmly introduced himself and his piece and went on to perform without music from memory and was quite nonchalant about the whole thing. He was really looking forward to Brenda's famous cookies when it was all over.

As for me, I'm relieved that all the crazy running around during the school year is over for a while, though some of that is still happening; Casey has gymnastics three days a week from 9 to 3 and I'll be doing various other things with the boys on other days. Keeping them from getting bored may end up being a challenge, but I know they were both really looking forward to some of what Riley calls 'lousing around'. So they'll get some downtime, but I plan to keep them busy with projects and trips to places.

After all, it's the Bay Area and there's tons of cool things to do around here. We're lucky that way. And if they start getting uppity or arguing with me or each other there's always chores waiting to be done...

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Sex Ed from NPR.

See, that got your attention. I just had to repost this from Janelle, who got it from Minnesota NPR. It's brilliant and funny and oh so true.

I want to preface this just a bit. Debbie Ohi got me started on this blog- she persists in calling it a "Mommy Blog" and telling me that Mommy Blogs are a powerhouse in the world of blogs, with lots of clout. She kept telling me that since I was a mom, I could totally do a Mommy Blog and I'd have tons of material. And she was right about having tons of material,though I lack the time to talk about all of it. I admit that the term Mommy Blog just makes me cringe and that hasn't gotten better. I'm so much more than just a Mommy, I tell myself. But there is a point where I recognize that Mommy-ness really does fill up the majority of my life these days. There are a lot of tough things parents have to deal with, and humor really does help.

And this subject of sex and how it works is just part of being a mom or dad, so here it is. Enjoy.;)

And just so you all know, we had 'the talk' with the boys. We happened to be driving in the car (and it went much the same as Julia Sweeney's version, but Paul was in the car and so there was a whole lot more scientific anatomical discussion as per Paul's Scientific Approach to Tough Subjects in Parenting 101).  When the boys realized how things worked, there was a stunned silence of about 2 minutes in the back seat, and then a revolted chorus of "EEEEEWWWWWWW!!!!!" from the back seat. I resolutely kept knitting.

I'm sure there will be more discussions to follow, some time in the future. I hope I can figure out what to say by then.