Friday, August 31, 2012

One Last Adventure

My brain refuses to accept the fact that summer is over.  How could summer possibly be over?  There are still so many things that I want to do, so many lazy afternoons I want to waste, so much more sunshine I want to savor.  But it's the last day of August and Labor Day weekend.  The boys have gone back to school.  So I guess it's official.  

Summer is over.

It was an awesome summer.  We managed to pack so much in, even though my work schedule of four consecutive weekends on call and two weeks of night shifts did put a damper on our adventures near the end.

But speaking of adventures, we did manage to get one last one in before school started.

Two years ago, we made our way to Maquoketa Cave State Park.  Although we had an absolutely beautiful day there, we were not able to explore the caves themselves, since they were closed due to an outbreak of a disease that was killing off all the bats.  At the beginning of this summer, I heard that the caves were finally reopened.  This excited the boys, and I promised them that visiting the caves would be part of our best summer ever.

We just managed to squeak it in, on my only full  day off in August, the weekend before school started.

We showed up, ready with our I-didn't-really-care-if-they-get-ruined clothes and our flashlights.  The boys listened attentively to the presentation about the white nose syndrome that was killing off the bats and how to prevent its spread.  (Bug was visibly relieved when he found out the disease affected only bats and not people). We got our wristbands and proceeded to the caves.

Bug and Monkey were so excited, they literally hopped down the stairs in anticipation of exploring the caves.

Nothing lights the fires of adventure and imagination in little boys like a cave.

We felt very Fellowship of the Rings in the Mines of Moria, working our way over damp pathways through the dripping, dark turns of the first cave.

After the boys found that they would most likely not being coming face to face with any bats, there was no stopping them. They ran up and down each twisting staircase.

They climbed every rock and ledge that provided them purchase (to many heart stopping moments for this mommy!)

They wriggled their way into each cave they could find, only to come back out when they had either reached water they didn't dare cross or the back wall of the cave.

They made friends with the local creatures.

Mostly, they developed a new sense of bravery.  I watched my two boys, the same ones who get panicky if I forget to turn on the night light, crawl into the black mouths of caves, armed only with a flashlight.  Their faces were alight with wonder and discovery.

This is one of my favorite things about Iowa.  That there are places like this, adventures to be had, hidden away between corn fields.  Places where little boys become brave explorers.

Places, where even just for an afternoon, we can pretend that summer will never end.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Completely 6

Dear Monkey,

After transferring all the photos of today onto the computer, I relabeled the "New Folder" under your name, changing it to 6th Birthday.  I had to pause before I hit enter.  How can you really be six? 

It's not that you aren't acting six.  You certainly are.  What with your requests for a Mario cake and Lego presents, you are all six year old boy.

From your silly faces to your apparent inability to take a "normal" picture, you completely act your age.

From your requests for macaroni and cheese for your birthday dinner to your choice of toy lizards for the gift bags to send to your school friends, there is no one quite as six as you are.

And I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Although it is hard to not be acutely aware of how fast the time is passing.  How you have gone from round cheeked champion drooler to tousled hair champion Angry Bird player in just a a few heart beats.

You, my darling birthday boy, are an adventure.  And so far, six promises to be just as exciting as all the previous years.

Happy Birthday, Monkey.



Friday, August 17, 2012


If you are going to try to make a summer the best summer ever, one of the absolutely essential things that summer must have is swimming.  A lot of swimming.

My original plan had been to enroll the boys in swimming lessons, but due to a lack of planning on my part and the overwhelming popularity of swimming lessons, the lessons were booked by the time I thought to sign them up.

I knew that this summer, Hubster would be home with the boys quite a bit.  I wanted to do everything I could to encourage them to do activities together, and, yes, to swim.  So, for Father's Day, I bought Hubster/all of us a swimming pass to the local pool.

This may have been the best thing I have ever purchased.  Not having to think about paying every time we went swimming, we found ourselves poolside at least every other day nearly all summer.  There were weeks that Hubster took the boys swimming every day.

I watched my boys turn from scared, pale little things, to tan-lined brave fish.  Granted, Monkey still needs arm floats and Bug still hates getting water in his eyes/ears/nose and insists on wearing ear plugs and a full snorkel mask.  But none of us cared. 

Nearly half the days this summer were spent applying sunscreen and then splashing, diving, racing around the pool.

This is definitely how summer should be.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

First and Fifth

Apparently, it's already that time of year, where shopping carts are filled with colored folders and boxes of pencils and the internet is filled with photos of shiny faced children in new clothes and backpacks. School started today.

I'm not the parent who looks forward to the start of school.  I love the slow pace of summer, the inevitable abandonment of a schedule, the seemingly endless amount of time we can spend together as a family. I let the boys ride their bikes up and down the street well into the deepening shades of dusk. Many nights were spent in the backyard with the telescope, examining moon craters and trying to catch just a glimpse of Saturn's iconic shape. Family story time was extended longer and longer, as no one had the heart to stop before the end of the chapter.

But school is back. And along with it, the necessity of a bedtime, the wearing of shoes that require socks, and evenings spent with homework instead of badminton in backyard.

Bug has approached this school year with more anxiety than usual. For weeks, he has commented that he is dreading school. During our conversations about school, he has expressed stress and doubt, emotions that break my heart to see in a 10 year old.

"I'm just so stressed that they'll ask questions I don't know the answer to. And there will be quizzes and tests that I won't do well on.  And there will be so much homework."   I don't know how to calm the anxiety that I see so often in myself.

By now, we have done many, many first days of school.  Sending Monkey to first grade and Bug to fifth grade should be a straight forward routine by now.  Right?

A simple breakfast as a family. Getting dressed. Making sure faces, teeth, and hair are clean and presentable. Checking the bags of school supplies and ensuring that backpacks and pencil boxes are labeled.  The mandatory first day of school pictures.

Then off to school to stand in line and wait for the bell before marching between supply laden parents and occasionally tearful children to the classrooms.

Bug, no surprise, did everything he could to avoid a public display of affection before slipping into his classroom unaccompanied. Hubster and I, however, stayed by Monkey's side until his classroom was found, his backpack was hung on the hook under his name and he was settled at his desk.

At this point, I burst into tears. Let's blame it on pregnancy hormones, working the demanding hours of night shift.  Let's blame that steady stream of tears on anything other than my continued ability to be overwhelmed by how quickly these boys are growing up, at the start of first and fifth.

Still, I can say it was a good first day of school, as the only one who crying was me.