Wednesday, July 20, 2011

School supplies: they're supposed to be fun

I'm currently obsessed with school supplies.

I've been writing about them all over the place. I mentioned them on my blog for Nashville Parent's website, and I blogged about my fondness for the Trapper Keeper at my writing blog.

The reason for my fixation is that William is starting kindergarten in just a few weeks. And his new school has a very long and, shall we say, detailed list of supplies that each student must bring to school. In fact, the list is rather freakishly specific. He can only bring one particular brand of No. 2 pencil, for example, and he will be turned away at the door if he shows up with anything but the washable Crayola 8-count markers.

Also, he must bring 20 gluesticks of a particular brand and size. That's right: 20 gluesticks. I trust that I'll see some Serious Artwork that utilizes large amounts of glue at the end of the year.

The rather rigid requirements are threatening to take some of the fun out of shopping for shiny new school supplies. There's no room at all for choice or personal preference. But that's okay. It's still fun to look at all the new crisp boxes of markers and crayons and pens, even if I'm not actually going to buy any of them. I still get to peruse the racks of colored pencils and ballpoint pens and pencil boxes and, yes, Trapper Keepers.

And anyway, William doesn't seem to share the same love for school supplies. He's mildly interested in them, yes, but he'd rather scamper off to check out the new Star Wars Lego sets. Or the Hero Factory Lego sets. Or the Toy Store Lego sets. Or the Harry Potter Lego sets. Really, any Lego sets at all. If they made markers or scissors that somehow incorporated Legos, however, he'd be all over them.

So I will dutifully fill my cart with 20 gluesticks, and 24 Ticonderoga No.2 pencils and the "suggested" reams of copy paper and containers of cleaning wipes. But maybe I'll get myself a new box of pens while I'm there. New office supplies, after all, are almost as fun as new school supplies. I'm still enjoying the multicolored paper clips that I bought at Staples last year.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A new kind of camp

Back in February, I blithely registered William for a week of camp at Cheekwood, the local art museum and botanical garden. We go there frequently, and he adores it, so I thought it would be a good summer opportunity for him to go to day camp there. Plus, his friend Leland was attending, too, and they could go together.

A couple of weeks ago, I started having second thoughts. Much to my marker-and-crayon loving dismay, William's not much of an arts-and-crafts person. However, he is very good with his hands. In fact, he has excellent fine motor skills; he can correctly assemble a complicated toy that's designed for children several years older than he is without much trouble. And he's fast, too.

But hand him a paintbrush and watch the exasperation creep across his face. He's the kind of kid who, when asked to draw a picture, tends to scrawl a few lines on the paper and announce, "I'm done" twenty seconds later. If he can't successfully bargain his way out of doing an art project, he'll at least try to get it over with as quickly as possible. He's just not that into it.

So I started talking up all the good parts (read: the non-artsy, non-crafty parts) of the camp to prepare him for what could have been a big disappointment. "You'll get to hang out with Leland," I said. "You might meet some kids who'll be in your kindergarten class this fall. There might be some friends from Encore there, too. And you'll get to see the art museum and the train exhibit." He seemed to be pleased by those aspects.

We arrived for registration this morning and turned in the paperwork and picked up his t-shirt. Then I escorted him to the appropriate studio for his session. The studio was full of children sitting quietly at a large table, all carefully coloring and drawing. Quietly. Did I mention the quietly part? The teacher welcomed William and asked him to have a seat and start to draw. "We're having some time for free drawing, while we wait for everyone else to arrive!" she said enthusiastically.

William flashed me a look of concern. I could almost hear him thinking, "This? Sitting quietly at a table? Drawing? This is camp?" And the previous weeks of church day camp--with the hours of playground time--began to flash before my eyes.

But I guess my pep talks worked. Or else, I underestimated him. To his enormous credit, he nodded confidently, then walked back over to me and kissed me and Andrew goodbye. Then he took his seat at the table and resolutely picked up a marker.

When I picked him up a few hours later, he happily chattered on about making a sketchbook and drawing a picture of a building and a sundial and making something out of clay. And since it was William, he also talked about snack time and what the other kids brought to eat and could he have a fruit bar next time, along with his Goldfish crackers and raisins?

He's a good kid, my older son. You can throw him into almost any situation, and he does okay.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Our fourth anniversary of moving to Nashville

Four years and five days ago, the boys' father and I brought forth on this family a new home, conceived in liberty (from the scorching desert heat), and dedicated to the proposition that all family members were created as Southerners.

Translation: four years and five days ago, we moved to Nashville from Twentynine Palms. We traded in the desert rat lifestyle for a lifestyle drenched in summer humidity, barbecue sauce and sweet tea.

We have now lived in Nashville for four days longer than we lived in Twentynine Palms. When we lived there, I used to think we were never going to get to leave. And now we've been gone longer than we stayed there. Amazing.

Here's the house we lived in, the weekend we had a freak snowstorm:

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That was a giant palm tree in the front yard. It was weighed down with snow. The only thing weirder than seeing a palm tree with snow on it was seeing a cactus with snow on it.

And here's one of the oases located in Joshua Tree National Park, not far from our house. (I was about seven months pregnant with William in this picture.)

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Thinking about that aspect (the being pregnant with William) makes me realize how long ago it really was.

David mentioned that we should really take William to see where he was born one day. I said, "Why?" He said that he thinks everyone should know where they come from. And yes, he's probably right. One day when Andrew's a little bit older, we'll take the boys to San Diego and we'll drive up to Palm Springs for part of the trip. And then David can take William up to Twentynine Palms and show him where we was born.

(I think I'll stay down in Palm Springs, find myself a nice place to relax and have a drink by a pool or something, maybe visit with some of my old coworkers, if any of them still live there by then. I figure, I saw enough of Twentynine Palms while we lived there, and I can't imagine it will have changed very much by the time William is eight or nine years old.)

Also, William was indeed born in California, but I don't think of him as really being from California. He doesn't remember it. He didn't even live there as long as David and I did. All he knows is what we've told him about it. His home is here. He is a Nashvillian, as much as David and Andrew, who were born in the same hospital 36 years apart, are.

But as much as I love to rag on Twentynine Palms, we did meet some very good people there. And we did come away from there with a lovely baby who's growing up to be a very nice little boy.

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His little brother's turning out pretty well, too. He can now "brush" his own teeth:

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Monday, July 04, 2011

Sand, shrimp and miniature golf

Once upon a time, a little family went to the beach....

Actually, let's start over with the real beginning to this tale. The day prior to our beach trip, my washing machine broke. No amount of cajoling, threatening, crying or manual-reading could bring it back to life.

But by a great stroke of luck, a repairman was found and managed to fix the thing that afternoon. And while we were waiting, my mother-in-law washed several loads of pre-trip laundry for me.

Thank GOD. Who wants to go on a vacation with dirty clothes, right? Especially when you have two messy kids. And you're headed to a beach house with a coin-operated washer in the basement of the building.

At any rate, we had no more mishaps along the way to Pensacola Beach, and we actually arrived in good spirits. As we coasted over the bridge to the island, we all gazed at beautiful white sand and turquoise water. And I sighed happily, since I remember a similar sight from all the years that I spent going to Florida beaches as a kid. Don't we all love the places where we spent our childhoods the most? And the beaches in this part of Florida really are gorgeous; the only beaches I've visited that are more beautiful are in Maui.

But mindful of Murphy's Law, I couldn't quite relax at first. I told myself that even though we had weathered the great washing machine debacle, there were still plenty of things that could go wrong. And sure enough, we ventured out to the sand on Sunday hear that jellyfish had been spotted in the water and on shore. Lovely. I was just waiting for my husband to shake his head sadly and note that he'd never once encountered a jellyfish on his favorite beach.

Then there was the wildfire. Apparently, a fire started in the state park in Gulf Shores to our west, and when the wind shifted, we got a steady breeze of smoke-scented air.

It was quite the trifecta of bad things happening. Dirty clothes, jellyfish and smoky air. All we needed was a hurricane or at least a solid tropical storm, and we'd probably never return to a Florida beach again.

Luckily, the wind shifted, and the smoke went away. And the jellyfish slithered back into the deep. The rest of the trip was blissfully uneventful. Uneventful in a good way, that is. The weather was gorgeous. We enjoyed being with our good friends, the Tarkingtons. William jumped waves and built sand castles and played with his friend Sammy. Andrew wasn't so much a fan of the beach, but then we discovered that he loved the swimming pool, so we spent a lot of time there. William developed enough confidence to swim by himself in the pool, with the aid of his inflatable Spider-Man vest. We even drove over to Destin one morning, while I reminisced along the way about all the various places I'd stayed, growing up. We (David, William and I) got to eat lots of shrimp.

And by the end of the week, Andrew was even enjoying the beach, too.

Oh yes, and we finally got to play some miniature golf. In typical fashion, William objected when we announced the first annual David Wyckoff Memorial tournament would be played. Having never played putt putt, he assumed he'd be bad at it, and he doesn't like to do anything if he's not pretty sure he'll be good at it.

Well, it wasn't so much that he was good at putt putt, but he got hooked anyway after the first hole. He put on his game face and enthusiastically plowed through the remaining 17 holes.

And what's a rousing tournament of no-score putt putt without a ceremonial picture atop the giant fake crocodile?

And we returned safely home, where I'm unpacking and doing laundry in our fully-functioning washing machine. Success.