Two-thousand Miles I Roam

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How was it possible that Marilyn Monroe was satiated for seven years before being incited by that infamous itch? As an adult, two years is the longest I’ve managed to find myself without the nagging need for something new.

New ideas.

New experiences.

New influences.

New views.

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted and, although, it strikes some odd that I turned from writing in these stressful, move-consumed weeks, I found that it coincided nicely with an impassable writer’s block.

After a surprise visit to my hometown in July, I returned to my small Midwest town and found myself distanced from the feelings of quaint easiness that I thought had drawn me there. As it turns out, those feelings and the comfort in simplicity that I had always associated with my time in Wisconsin was, in fact, not confined to the mitten-shaped border of my beloved Badger-land. It was actually, country song cliché be damned, a state of mind that I had grown into.

For the first time in my thirty years, I started considering a move by choice, rather than out of necessity. I did have the two-year restlessness, but in the past my moves have been precipitated by a better job, a shorter commute, cheaper rent. In a matter of weeks, I broke the news, started filling boxes, and relocated my job hunt to the North Oregon Coast.

I’ve always maintained that if I ever moved back to the Pacific Northwest, I would only ever call Astoria home. I spent many spring breaks just 20 miles beyond the cove-d hamlet, but was forever drawn to the jarring colors of the crumbling Victorians and the deep history that could be felt seeping from their weathered siding.

So it happened. I did it. And here I am.

Many applications, a few interviews, but no job yet.

A cozy (double meaning intended: securely comfortable and small in real estate lingo) apartment with a view only possible in one place in the world.

And the knowledge that although it appears that I’m starting over yet again, in reality this life has always been here.

Sitting on the dock, in the rain, waiting for me to call it home.

Keeping it Simple: The Good Ol’ County Fair

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These are my people.

They understand the joy that comes from the simplicity of dirt, animals, crafts and food-on-a stick.

It’s five-dollar fun. Tractor pulls and cows. Sitting on straw bales watching a rough log coerced into a shapely bear by a chainsaw.

Walking through rows in the stables and barns. Just looking at the behooved and be-horned because they are there, not because you have a true appreciation.

It’s unpretentious and smelly.

Collections are assembled and pies are baked. The most watered, most loved vegetables are blue ribbon pinned. You could probably taste the pride, if they let you.

The barkers don’t bark. There is no competition. They just sit and swelter. Waiting for you to decide your life is incomplete without a terminal goldfish or matted stuffed animal.

Alliances are forged in color. You are green. I am red. But we will all come together over their harvested goods. Sit at long tables, family style. Introductions unnecessary.

These are my people.

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KIS9All photos taken at the Stephenson County Fair, Freeport, Illinois.

Harried Poppins: Free Bowling and Racing…Worms?

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Two days of talk about all the details that go along with being the responsible adult.

Now for the good stuff.

If you haven’t heard about www.kidsbowlfree.com, you’ve been ignoring your junk inbox. It looks very spammy, but it’s a legit program that is exactly what it says it is. Kids get 2 FREE games of bowling A DAY for the whole summer. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. We don’t go that much, but we tried it out this week.

It’s an easy sign-up, just a bit of information and then pick your closest participating bowling alley. You’ll receive an e-mail every Sunday for the week.. We go to Ten Pin Alley in Fitchburg, but there’s a large list of centers in Wisconsin (and everywhere else). When you go into bowl, use your smart phone to follow the link in the e-mail and the employee will input the necessary code right on your phone. Adults can sign-up for a separate program, but it costs about $25 and we don’t bowl enough for it to be worth it.

You do have to pay for shoe rental ($2 at Ten Pin), and since I bowled 2 games I also had to pay for those, but for the 5 of us to bowl 2 games, including shoes, it was $14 total compared to the $38.50 we would have paid without signing up.

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One of our first stops after I had picked everyone up was our local library to sign-up for the summer reading program. This summer the theme in our library system, the South Central Library System, is Dig Into Reading. They each received reading logs, where they track their time in 15 minute increments and turn in levels at every 2 hours for great prizes (passes to Cave of the Mounds, the Milwaukee Museum and the Dane County Fair, dinosaur gliders, sticky lizards, etc). This was M’s first year getting to sign-up and she also got her very own library card. A paramount day in any young girl’s life, if you ask me.

In addition to the reading logs, the library hosts the occasional program relating to the theme. We are lucky to be in close proximity to about 8 other library branches, so we take advantage of the free activities when we can. Some of the same programs are featured at different libraries throughout the summer, which is nice because we have more flexibility in our schedule on when and where we can see it.

Later in the week we wound our way to Mt. Horeb for their Zoozorts program. This is the first time we’ve attended an event at the Mt. Horeb library, and as a bit of an unintentional, but overtly sassy library critic, I must say their facility, program, and, most importantly, librarian where impressive. They reserved a big space in the middle of the library for the program. I don’t know the layout of the library, but generally children’s programs are given the unused meeting room or slightly smelly conference area, so it was a nice change. The librarian was enthusiastic, which seems hard to come by in the children’s librarians I’ve encountered lately.

Yeah, I know, completely counter-intuitive, but some are just nasty. Down right Agatha Trunchbull.

Finally, the featured program was Zoozort. A live, animal education program by Noelle Tarrant. She had an amazing energy that kept the audience enraptured for the full hour. She filled every minute with information on each animal and allowed the opportunity for every child to touch almost all the animals, which included a fennec fox, bearded dragon, giant marine toad, 6-banded armadillo, a wallaby and more. If you get a chance, try to track her down at one of her events throughout Wisconsin.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed them up, but the Oregon Public Library 4th Annual Worm Race is exactly what it sounds like. The boys were paired into teams, each received a worm-petitor to compete for the coveted trophies and, of course, the glory of being a worm race champion. It was a fairly large event and included worm EMT’s (nurses from a local veterinarian clinic) which was a great way to include local businesses.

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Unfortunately, neither of the boy’s teams made it beyond the first round but they received a certificate, a pass for the Dane County Fair, and, a small bag full of their worm’s gummy counterparts.

The initial idea for our “lunch around the world” idea started during the Olympics last year. As with everyone, we spent those few weeks consumed by the events and the culture of the London Olympics, including making a lunch of Shepard’s pie. This year I decided to expand on the idea as a means of introducing practical skills and global thought.

A fantastic(ally) theoretical idea. The kids seem to think because I live in a space without my parents and that I’m big enough to be an adult that it must translate to a natural cooking ability, like their mothers. But in reality, it doesn’t reach much beyond the same pb&j’s they are capable of making.

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So when in our first week, the random selection was Saudi Arabia, I panicked. Middle Eastern cuisine is not one that I’m familiar with, so after I sent the boys to the computer to find recipes, I stealthily pulled out my phone to do some research of my own. In the end, our menu of falafel, pita chips, hummus, and laban (plain yogurt mixed with water and poured over ice) was easy to make, but less so to consume. Of the 4 kids, only A enjoyed the falafel, he was joined by J in the crunchy consumption of pita chips and hummus, but I was the only one who finished their glass of laban.

We started our first week with behavior management contracts and ended with an unpopular meal. A week book ended with low points for the kids, but really an opportunity for a growth in knowledge and experience.

But, as the responsible adult, I have to say that.

Harried Poppins: School’s Out for the Summer…So Sign Here

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Schools out forev…um…77 days.

But before those 11 weeks can be filled with adventures, new experiences, and memories, we have to deal with the nitty-gritty.

This will be my third summer with A, C, and J, but first with Big M. The addition means a new dynamic for our group. That crew mentality is one that I will stress all summer. I am constantly reminding them that if compromises aren’t reached and tolerance gained, this will be a L-O-N-G summer for all of us (and by all of us, I mean me, of course). It also means that not all of our activities will be based around the interests of the boys. An important, but hard lesson.

Being an only child, A, doesn’t have the same patience and ability to ignore the bossy 4-year old as her older brothers do. This summer is a new experience, but he’s starting to realize that similar to large, seemingly vicious beasts in the woods, if you don’t bother them, they generally won’t bother you.

I decided that because of this new dynamic, and the slight maturity gain that the boys seem to have made since last summer, that I would create individual contracts for everyone to sign and follow throughout the summer. Including me. It’s similar to the contracts that classrooms set up in the first week of school to ensure that both the expectations for behavior and the consequences for poor choices are clear.

It’s a way to keep everyone accountable, as well as providing a safety net in behavior management. The “But-I-didn’t-know” whine doesn’t work when their name is on the line.

I had M sign one, as well, as a means of solidarity in the group and as another introduction to the idea of actions and consequences. At 4, there is less expectation that these rules will be remembered, but, as with any knowledge, each time a concept is introduced a little piece sticks. It can do nothing but help.

Each contract had 8 responsibilities that were the same. In talking to their parents and my previous experience with them, I then personalized the final 3 for each child. I then left spaces for them to add their own rules if they choose to. No one did and I’ve half played with the idea of creating some crazy rules and sneaking them in, but the trust I would lose would far outweigh the hilarity of trying to enforce Tiara Tuesday.

There was some hesitancy in signing the contracts when I first mentioned them, as they were convinced I was making them agree to horrid things, like toilet cleaning and tea parties. It’s amazing what a little ice cream can do to grease the pen. Here’s a link to one of the contracts that I used. I keep them in the back of the binder and gave a copy to the parents so that it can be reinforced, if necessary.

Through this whole half-hour process, I’m sure they thought I found this to be the highlight of the summer. They probably swore they heard me cackle, as I rubbed my hands together, and plotted to make this the most responsibility-filled, boring summer yet. If they only knew, I hate this stuff as much as they do! I don’t want to have to say, “You need to say kind things.” or “Critical comments won’t be tolerated.” But unfortunately, I have to.

This sounds like a it-hurts-me-more-than-it-hurts-you statement, that I always called b.s. on as a kid, but, well, it’s kind of what it is.

If I didn’t know that there was a potential for that behavior, it wouldn’t need to be said. It sounds terribly pessimistic, but think the worst sometimes. Don’t voice these thoughts to the children, but keep them in the back of your mind. You’ll be better prepared for a proactive solution when you see it coming than if you naïvely considered it impossible.

So with the contracts signed, any semblance of school is gone.

Except for the required reading…and math…

Only 77 more days until September.