Friday, August 21, 2009

Tour de France, Here He Comes

I'll just come right out and admit that I didn't learn how to ride a bike until I was about seven, so I'm not one to judge here. I was perfectly happy with my Dukes of Hazzard Big Wheel, thankyouverymuch. Jackson made a brief attempt at learning to ride last summer, culminating in him riding a good twenty feet on his own before declaring that he was done, that he would NEVER be able to ride a bike, that it was too hard. I tried using an analogy, that learning to ride a bike is like climbing a mountain, and he was just on the verge of reaching that summit before things got easier on the descent. I gave him the standard parent lecture about how learning new things is not always easy, that everyone goes through this, that once you learn you will never forget how to do it, blah blah don't you want to feel the wind in your hair blah blah. Then winter came and we figured by the time summer 2009 rolled around, he'd be itchin' to get back on the bike and show it who's boss.

Jackson started first grade on Monday, so I guess summer is over, and no progress was made on the bike front. I know Jackson well enough to not push things if he's not interested. So I used Mom Tactic #217 (make an activity seem top-secret, like a spy mission, and they will automatically want to be involved) and casually but conspiratorily mentioned to Jackson this morning that since he only has a half day of school on Fridays, I thought maybe it would be fun to pick him up with his bike in the car and head straight to this great park where there was a hill famous for teaching kids to ride--gentle slope for momentum's sake, wide grassy expanse for knees' and elbows' sake...and that we would just keep this to ourselves and practice until we ready for the big unveiling to Daddy. Did that sound cool?

This afternoon, we headed to Congress Park, I popped a helmet on his head, and off he went.
Run #1: ten feet, and then a mildly painful fall. No big deal...
Run #2: fifteen feet, and then a mildly painful fall. Um, he's starting to look discouraged.
Run #3: fifteen feet, and a hard fall with some bike part leaving a 6" nasty scrape on his inner thigh. He's done, he says...he'll never learn how to ride, it's too hard. I swiftly break out seldom-used Mom Tactic #422. I don't use this one very often because I don't want it expected, but it has its purposes. "Jackson, we've done 3 runs. If you give me 20 runs, we're going out for ice cream." He eyed me warily, squinting. "When?" "Today, before picking up your brothers. Just you and me." Aha...a glimmer in his eye.

Runs 4-5 make progress, and Run 6 is stellar, going down the hill and a good distance into the soccer field. I tell him he has made it to the top of the mountain and is starting to jog down the other side. Runs 7-19 go smoothly, with no major scrapes and some good skill building with steering and braking. I tell him that Run #20 should be on the sidewalk, and he says he's not ready. Run #20 is done and he is telling me that he thinks mint chocolate chip sounds good. I can't resist, and dangle one last carrot--"Hey, if you go on the sidewalk for Bonus Run #21, I'll let you have sprinkles on your ice cream." That was easy, and he did great.

We drove a few short blocks to Lik's, and bubble gum ice cream with chocolate sprinkles was the well-deserved reward.

This evening, Jackson felt confident enough to surprise his dad with his newfound skills.

In light of this and the two top teeth he is currently missing, I am doing my best to sloooowwww down time. Universe, help me out here, because for some reason my kids are growing up way too fast. It would be a great help if I didn't have to do things like work, or stain kitchen door trim. Let me savor this time while my boys are young.

The Bassmaster

We've taken Jackson and Alex fishing a few times, but up until this summer they had never even got so much as a nibble. I've already posted about our Maine trip, but I felt the fishing experience deserved a separate post.

At times, and like many 6-year old boys I'd imagine, Jackson can have grandiose expectations but lacks the patience or willingness to put forth the effort to achieve something. We headed out to the docks the first morning after we arrived in Maine, bathed liberally in mosquito repellent but thankful for the slight breeze which kept the swarms at bay. Jackson had no interest in having me actually show him how to use this particular rod, and thus was having a difficult time. About 37 seconds into the experience, he decided he was done and ran off to watch his older cousin Dylan fish and hear stories about catching a 'big bass'. Alex patiently casted and sat happily, daydreaming. He is an accomplished daydreamer and can turn on a daydream at a moment's notice, usually a moment after I have asked him to put on his shoes, or get undressed for a bath, or wash his hands for dinner, or clean up an activity, or....I digress. Back to the docks--Alex promptly caught a couple of sunfish and had a ball doing it.

The following day, Jackson had a larger capacity for patience and he had a near miss with something big--the line snapped as he was reeling a fish in, but that was enough to get him hooked. Later, Jackson went back to the docks with Sam, Uncle Bodi, and his cousin Holden, where the following ensued...

The week turned into one of those programs that you see on a B-grade sports channel on Sunday afternoons--fishing, fishing, and more fishing. We all had a blast, though, and kept our eye out for one of a few massive snapping turtles that hang around the docks. Alex had his own patented method for snapping turtle repellent:

There was a fishing derby that weekend for kids aged 5-13. Jackson ended up rallying against the older kids and won third prize for biggest fish! His prize was a new lure, and his grin was fantastic.

The last night in Maine, Jackson and I headed to the docks for one last dose of fishing for the summer, this time with his newly-won lure. With three children, it is always a special treat to spend one-on-one time with any of them, and as I watched Jackson that night I tried to etch that image in my mind, of his 6-year old self. He caught another good-sized fish, which we took home with us. Papa cleaned it, and Nana cooked it the next day and put it in a fish sandwich for lunch. I have never seen Jackson so excited to eat a fish sandwich.

Alex will be old enough for the fishing derby next year, so Jackson will have some stiff competition...

Monday, August 10, 2009


Seven years. First house (in the 'hood). One dog. First son. One law degree. Second son. Loss of one parent. Second house. Loss of one dog. Third son. Three-quarters of a renovated kitchen (more on that in another post). There have been many numbers in our first seven years of marriage, interspersed with love, laughter, tears, and so, so much joy. I never fathomed life could be so rich and full, yet I find myself here, living this life, and I feel so lucky to be where I'm at.

This year, we didn't hire a babysitter to go out and catch a small glimpse of life before kids. Instead, Sam and I celebrated the close of our seventh year of marriage over a lovely sushi dinner with the three people that mean everything to us--Jackson, Alex, and Kenyon (and it wasn't because we couldn't find a babysitter, I swear!). While we held the kids captive in the car on the way to the restaurant, we told them story of the day we got married.

Jackson is our sushi pro, boldly eating piece upon piece of nigiri sushi. We started him young--as a baby he'd go out with us for sushi, get some miso soup in a sippy cup and a bowl of steamed rice and he'd be good to go. When he started talking, we'd ask him what his favorite dinner was and he'd say, "Misosoupsushirice". Alex goes for the seaweed salad, miso soup, and rice but doesn't partake in actual sushi ingestion. Kenyon stuck with the miso soup and rice, and as always, just liked being included in whatever was going on.

Here's to many more years just like these, Sam. We make a good team, and I'm glad we're in this together.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Aaahhhh, Maine

Jackson and Alex during last year's Maine vacation
As a child, I spent many summers at my grandparents' house in Maine--swimming in Moose Pond, catching bass, perch, and sunfish with my grandfather on his boat (he would lean over and mark the water with an X when we found a good spot, to save it for next time), eating my grandmother's half moon cookies, catching frogs, jumping off the dock. This house itself holds a special place in my heart; I have so many fond memories of sleeping in the bunk bed room with my brother, playing with the night lights built into the wall by the beds long after our bedtimes. We would roll the orange vinyl hassocks in a race across the room, banging into the walls decorated with my great-grandfather's artistic renderings of a tree and the Hebrew word for 'shalom' made with beans and my uncle's 1960's string art.

My grandparents are no longer with us, but thankfully the house remains in our family. My parents, brother's family, and I go up once a year in the summertime, and to see my children engage in the exact same activities my brother and I did as a kid means so much to me. Sadly, the orange vinyl hassocks are no longer around (but the bean art and the string art are!). The bed sheets for the bunk bed room are also original--loud floral prints in oranges and browns, the same ones I fell asleep in after long days at the lake.

look closely--bean art seen in the background above Alex's head!
The first couple of days we had 14 people in the modest house--8 of them children under the age of 9. Jackson spends the entire year looking forward to seeing my cousin's son Dylan (3 years older), so it is always heartwarming to see them together. The kids all got along wonderfully, and I was sad to see them go. This year, Sam's brother and family rented a house right down the street, and it was great to have both sides of the family come together for a vacation.

Jackson fishing with Uncle Matt and cousins Ty and Lexie

Kenyon at Moose Pond

early morning reading with Lexie, Kenyon, Madison, and Ty

son showing a frog he caught, with cousin Ty

I look forward to many summers here, enjoying another generation of traditions. I think I'll find Nan's recipe for half moon cookies to make for next summer.