Monday, July 25, 2011

Twin Trees 2011

Day 1: Traffic makes the drive a half hour longer than usual, but the last stretch was enhanced by a sign in Wevertown reading "Eggs so fresh you'll want to slap the hen" and a game that involved A laughing so hard that she shrieked, "You're making me drool!" "Piano Man" comes on the radio and Dan complains that radio stations only play three different Billy Joel songs.

Day 2: Overhearing the kids playing Go Fish, Dan and I contemplate pick-up lines following that format. "Do you have a rhinoceros?" is deemed too intimidating. C goes to Raquette Lake with his grandparents before Jeff, Sandy, Robin, and Iain arrive. Our campfire includes Violent Femmes sing-alongs and s'mores, and it is determined that Iain has not inherited his father's enmity toward marshmallows. It is also determined that s'mores made with Rolos are not as awesome as they should be.

Day 3: Dan makes omelets and fresh pesto with basil, parsley, and garlic he grew himself. We get sunburns while visiting Hooper Mine and Thirteenth Lake but blueberries provide adequate compensation. Dan attempts to take pin-up shots of me in my swimsuit but I have a bad attitude. (I then contemplate creating a nude Twin Trees calendar as a fundraiser, but can't think who would buy it.)

The old guests head for home and new ones arrive. Corrina, Donny, Dylan, and Arielle get settled in just in time for thunderstorms to keep us up all night.

Day 4: It's still pouring when we wake up. The kids are cheerfully but noisily playing inside and thus I feel rather sorry for Gene when he arrives for the day, but luckily it clears up enough to go to Thirteenth Lake and Hooper Mine. Yes, again.

And again, old guests leave and new ones replace them: C returns before Steve and Denali arrive. Steve, tasked with sorting peas while we cook dinner, is wholly unimpressed with Dan's methods. We consume a shocking number of desserts, since in addition to our own ice cream, we'd managed to wrangle chocolate zucchini cake, banana cake, lemon pie, and fruit from our previous guests and cookies and watermelon from our current ones. The boys play Settlers.

Day 5: We attempt to hike to Peaked Pond, but the kids’ enthusiasm for exploring and loon-watching kept us from reaching it. We only made it back to the Thirteenth Lake swimming area (yes, again) after I challenged them to walk for an entire ten minutes without stopping to eat. Our guests stay later than planned because C and Denali become immersed in NetHack.

Day 6: I beg for and am granted a day in which we don’t drive anywhere, despite Dan’s itching to find cell service. We walk to the creek across from the fire station and bicker about the safety hazards of throwing rocks. A hummingbird visits each hosta flower in turn. The kids complain about the homemade frozen pizza but acknowledge that it’s better than the pizzeria pizza we so cruelly subject them to on occasion. Everyone but me reads Garfield books that some sadist left behind. While making s’mores around the campfire, C sings along to a repeating song, and I wonder how much of his sing-along hatred comes from not remembering the words.

Day 7: We venture down the hill for the first time since Friday. The grocery store, to our surprise, has both organic yogurt and an aisle labeled “Warehouse Snacks.” We explore gift/ antique/ junk shops and the burnt-out ruins of the transfer station.

The heat causes my blood pressure to plummet. Having finished all of my own books I make selections from the camp bookshelf, and determine that John Grisham is a better choice than James Patterson.

(I cannot complain about the weather, though. This was the only unbearably hot day and other than Day 4, every day was sunny and gorgeous.)

A randomly decides to sleep in a tent by herself and stays there all night despite a noisy rainstorm. Dan however does not sleep at all, worrying about his 6-year-old out there. It was a little jarring to send off a little girl wearing a nightgown that matches her doll’s and carrying four stuffed animals to sleep outside alone.

Day 8: Dan cooks up potatoes and eggs for brunch, with the feeble hope that it’ll keep the kids from being hungry for an entire hour. C hadn’t yet climbed Hooper Mine on this trip, so off we went (yes, again), stopping (yes, again) at the lake to swim on the way home. We lazed around for the rest of the day. I flip open a magazine and read, “It can be tough to decide among bikes priced in the $2100 to $2700 range. Cyclists who find themselves faced with this budgetary limit on their hobby have to carefully evaluate how to get the most value for their money,” and giggle at the arrogance.

Tragedy! The baby zebra from the Go Fish game falls through a crack in the porch floor. A wails because “it will miss its mommy.” Dan is delighted when C volunteers to be the one to go under the porch after it. C find the crawlspace “awesome!” and collects both the zebra and an old used glowstick, which I refuse to let him bring home.

Day 9: I give C the next book in the series he’s reading and this renders him unwilling to go to the river with us. We drag him along anyway and A and he have a fantastic time swimming, collecting rocks, throwing rocks, exploring “Itchy Island,” and watching an osprey. Heidi, Brian, and Guinevere stop by for lunch before we head for home. “Big Shot” comes on the radio and Dan is delighted that it’s not one of the standard three he listed on the ride up. I’ve unpacked and done most of the laundry, but think it’ll take a few more showers before we’ve washed all the lake sand off.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Community activism with young children

My kids are old enough that it’s no longer an imposition to leave them with one parent or a babysitter for dinner and bedtime, which makes it easier to attend meetings and events in the evening. My husband and I also have enough low-stress time together now that it’s less imperative to spend evenings together. But that wasn’t always the case and it was frustrating at times to be unable to participate in activist events or the planning thereof. Other people clearly have the same issue; an unfortunate number of organizations’ memberships consist primarily of students/ twentysomethings and people over 50 whose kids are mostly grown, with a big gap in the middle of families-with-kids.

Organizations can arrange things differently to better attract families, but this makes for difficult scheduling around workdays, and when it comes down to it people with young children usually have less to devote to big projects than other demographics. The limits on what families have to offer given the realities of life with young children can make active participation in traditional organizations less viable even with accommodations. So here are some things we did:

For the record, organizers are often friendly to children; my son attended innumerable meetings and events of Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace. Most children can be trained to play quietly for short periods of time, and he could look at books/ draw/ eat/ play with small toys on the floor in between breaks of actively engaging with a parent outside. As infants, my kids were often more happy being paced around in the backs of meetings than at home. If one parent can bring the baby along with them that leaves the at-home parent with some breathing room.

We formed a Roots & Shoots chapter that enabled us to focus on community projects with our kids and other families. Ours was based at Five Rivers and opted mainly for environment-themed projects but the program is flexible enough to allow for a lot of different activities. This can be done without connection to any organization or through 4-H or Girl Scouts instead, but Roots & Shoots does provide some great activism ideas.

Writing letters and making actual phone calls to politicians can still make a difference. It sometimes felt like a cop-out but my husband and I did quite a bit of that.

Something we didn’t do, but would be a good strategy, would be to work with parent-focused organizations that are more likely to include children. Schools, La Leche League, and religious groups come to mind. Turning your daytime playgroup into a political discussion group or guerrilla gardening troop is also an option.

A lot of our activism became personal. Some people discount home and lifestyle changes as meaningful on a larger scale but I disagree; I think we all should be trying to live the kinds of lives that support our values. Besides reducing our financial support for industries we don’t like, friends have made changes in their lives when they’ve seen things we’ve done. Eating and growing organic food, reducing resource waste, and minimizing exposure to toxins fit into our family lifestyle as well as our personal activism.

And I don’t discount the connections we made with neighbors and other parents as unimportant either. Community resilience is an important focus of mine, and getting to know people around town is an integral part of that. I have a number of people I would feel comfortable relying on in a personal emergency or a community disaster, and they could form the basis of future community collaborations as they become necessary.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

spring at last

I heard a lone peeper on a daytime walk today. I wonder about his strategy. Will he tire himself out before the females wake up for the night? Or get snatched up by a predator? Will his fellow insomniacs be impressed by his derring-do and seek him out while the sun shines?

Near the end of the season there's always one last frog singing his heart out, weeks after the others stop. I wonder if he's wildly optimistic, hoping for his one last chance at true "love," or insanely desperate, begging for just one single shot this season. I pretend he's singing purely with joy so I don't feel as sorry for him.

Do most male peepers lose interest after mating season? Is this one's hibernation cycle or hormone levels out of whack? Ah, variation, the root of both evolution and personal misery.

The trees here are budding but not leafing out yet. The only ones with green are the weeping willows, which are just starting to get some at their tops. Next week, I think, North Street will be arched by spring green branches.

Monday, January 10, 2011

now we are six

Guess which one of our kids has learned to equivocate?

(In the car on 787, following a conversation on what "normal" means regarding both unusual behaviors and antisocial behaviors.)

S: Do you think you're normal?
C: Hmm, yeah, I guess I think I'm pretty normal.
(A is not able to contain a snort.)
S: Do you agree with that, A?
A: Heh. Umm. Hmm.... Look, a train!

The same one who's still very little sometimes

(Several days after she received stickers "from Monkey" because she'd been wondering out loud what her toy monkey would give her for Christmas.)

A: Did you help Monkey write the note on my present?
D: Er, yes, I don't think Monkey can do that on his own.
A: Yes, that is true.

and writes notes like Christopher Robin

Dry erase board on her door:

Not at home. At scool.

and is quite reasonable perturbed by non-phonetic spelling.

A (Pointing at songbook): There should be an E at the end.
S: Huh?
A: There should be an E at the end.
S: Of "Christ"?
A: Yes.
S: Oh, because it's a long I sound?
A: Yes.
S: That would make sense. English words are often spelled in strange and inconsistent ways.