Sunday, February 26, 2012

Five Things I Learned From Spelunking That Also Apply To Bed

Jen and I went spelunking over 7 years ago at Moaning Caverns in Vallecito, CA. While it was not the most spectacular cave, we did have a great time exploring all the nooks and crevices with only a pair of coveralls and a headlamp.

As I was laying awake at 4:30 am this morning with Ellie snacking on oranges and a bottle of water, and Jen and Mason flanking me on either side, this trip to the caverns popped into my head. I realized that there are several things (five actually, if you recall my title) that I learned that day that apply when all four of the Rays are piled into our ever-shrinking queen sized bed:

It's much easier in the summer when the kids are made to sleep out on the cement wall.
When you are several hundred feet underground, the phrase "pitch black" becomes a reality. If you drop your keys in the cave without a light, just forget them... they're gone, man! Likewise, if you drop your bottle of water over the edge of the bed and try to find it in our house on a moonless night, in the words of Ellie, "I cannot even see it at all. It is too dark." A head lamp (and luckily we have at least two in the house) would solve this problem toot sweet.

If your guide tells your to go up "Godzilla's Nostril," go hands first, like the Man-of-Steel. If you are in a bidding war with your wife and kids for prime mattress real estate, get those hands over your head. They will go numb, but so is your spleen due to the foot lodged into your gut.

Caves are damp due to water trickling in from the surface. This coupled by the fact that evaporation doesn't really boogie deep within the Earth. So, you get wet. Just like bringing a water bottle to bed will inevitably end with the phrase, "Mommy, I spilled. Now I all wet. I need to change. Can you get me a dry pants and skirt (we wear skirts 24/7 now... for spinning purposes)." At least she didn't spill on me. Well, maybe she did, but I just couldn't feel it with my numb arms.

Ellie in a skirt... and everything else!
The most treacherous part of the cavern's underground adventure is called "The Meat Grinder." It consists of a series of pointy rocks, craggily boulders, and general mayhem through which one must navigate. Bumps, thumps, and near impalements are all part of the "fun." While getting up with numb arms is hard enough, the several shin-busting stools and food-lacerating Lego constructions littered about the pitch dark house keep you on your toes, literally.

It's funny that I can recall that three hour tour in such vivid detail. There a probably a handful of vivid memories from the past several years that I remember like that. Why does it stick? Was it because of the challenge? The adrenaline? The dopamine? When I hear the thumpity-thump of Mason's feet down the stairs and see him enter my room carrying his little green lantern, what is it that convinces me to abandon comfort and let him take my place in the bed while I am relegated to the piping of the mattress? And even after listening to forty minutes of slurping of juice from an orange and continuous prattling on about doggies or spinning in skirts, why do I cave when Ellie asks me to come and rub her back for awhile in her bed? Perhaps it is that I know the most challenging moments build the strongest memories, and these are memories I want to have for always.

Or maybe the numbing is now moving from my arms into my head...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Life is a Dance...

I was up early this morning, as in about 3 am, and started reading as I drank a glass of water, enjoyed the twinkling lights outside in the tree next door to my parents' dining room, and taking in a bit of solitude and quiet calm.  I had fallen asleep early and therefore was feeling revived at this early hour.  I stumbled upon some interesting reads.  As I read this post I was reminded of a quote I read while sitting at an Education Through Music class a while ago.

"Life is a Dance.  Sometimes you LEAD.  Sometimes you FOLLOW."

I cannot imagine having to always be the leader. It is fun to play that role from time to time, but without stepping out of that role once in a while, how would we grow and find the other pieces of ourselves that are hidden, waiting for the inspirational people we choose to surround ourselves with to uncover and allow them to shine. Children are amazing leaders. Spending time with Mason and Ellie, really spending time with them and allowing them to take the lead opens up new pathways that I may not uncover on my own.  I sometimes hurry to get to the destination rather than realizing that the journey taking us there is a part of the adventure.

As we walked to the park Ellie stopped to discover the little things.  She notices, she is in no rush to arrive somewhere else, she has arrived in the moment and she siezes it. She pauses to "wag, wag, wag" her imaginary dog's tail on the corner of Beverly Glen Drive and Wilshire Blvd.

She finds beauty in a fallen flower.

She discovers her shadow was walking right along with us.

She picks a flower and pretends it is a dandelion seed.

She is full of wonder and I want to drink it in. Let my mind be guided by curiosity and wonder what I may create next.

At the park we played and played and Josh took the items Mason found along the way to build a kite and used all the found objects for the tail.  They are ones to follow.  Inspiration overflows when I am with them.  I want to run toward the wind with them and try to keep up and never tire.

Sometimes we need to stop and wait for ideas to come, for surprises to be carried out (there's a story there, but you'll have to wait), and hang upside down to get a new outlook on things (sticking your tongue out is optional, but recommended).

Just before falling asleep that night at Grandma and Grandpa's house Mason asked me, "What if I wake up in the middle of a really good dream?"  I don't remember my response, but I guess for me I feel like I am living a really good dream. There are lows for sure, but without those how would you notice the highs?

There is a bit of magic when you slow down to take in the moment. The look as Mason falls asleep and is at peace is a look I want to know forever.

I believe it is important to know how to follow. For if you follow the right people, places, gain inspiration, strength and a complete sense of self which allows you to grow and become a leader.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

"Play is not just for Preschool!"

Ah, once again I am amazed.  I am inspired. I am feeling empowered.  There was a quote a while ago on Kelle Hampton's blog that read, "Pay attention. Be amazed. Tell about it." Well here I am.  I have been paying attention, amazement abounds, and I've been gearing up to tell about it.  Last night we attended the monthly parent meeting at the preschool.  Each month as the meeting draws near I am filled with mixed feelings. There is the anticipation of what we will learn, the joy of seeing warm, welcoming people, the mini-date with my husband in the middle of the week, combined with the exhaustion of the long day that will take us late into the night. The meeting ends at 10pm, but by then my mind is wired, filled with hope and wonder for the children.  Filled with a reflective look at myself and what I do in my own life and classroom to make these hopes become reality.

Last night we listened to the presentation from "The Big School". I remember the first year I attended the February meeting.  The words touched me deep and as I raised my hand to speak I was struck by how I unexpectedly began to cry as I shared. I am not sure I can find the words to share this enlightenment, but for me it was a definite point in my life where I began to take a harder look at myself and what I could be doing better.  It all comes back to...


Today Mason had his preschool Valentine Party and he has been prepared for this day for a couple of weeks now.  He told me two weekends ago how he needed to start his Valentines because last year it took a long time to draw them all out.  The boy insisted on drawing a monkey on each one and addressing them to each classmate. The teachers wanted them to simply sign their name, but that didn't make any sense to Mason.  How impersonal!  So this year he would start early.  He worked for hours that Saturday and drew different pictures for everyone.

Valentine Party here I come, magician hat and all!

Today he woke and was ready for the fun.  He "dressed up" and could hardly wait to go.  I was heartbroken when he asked who was going with him and we said we had to go to work.  He said, "But it is my last Valentine Party at Preschool."  (My breaking heart!)  I am sad when I think of this being his last year there.  He has grown SO much in that magical place.

"Play is not just for Preschool!"

"The opposite of play is not work, it is depression."

It is our job to make sure that we don't lose sight of the power of play.  It is critical to our survival.  In my last post I shared some glimpses of our Superheroes. Mason, Ellie, and I fell in love with play that day.  We created so much, not so much "stuff", but SO many memories.  As things were winding down Mason said, "Mommy, I just have so many ideas coming into my brain today.  They just keep coming."  A few minutes later he was making paper giraffes for Ellie.  "Ellie, do you want another giraffe?"

"Yes," she replied.

"Because when you love someone you just keep making things for them," he responded as he handed her the baby giraffe that would complete the paper family.

This little superhero project has sparked such energy that it has spun just about out of control. And I mean that in the best sense possible.  I took this project to my classroom and connected it to writing narratives. Some of my most reluctant writers have asked to write for homework.  They ask to take their things home because they don't want to stop working.  Today one boy asked me if he could bring in the Lego superhero he made at his house that is an exact replica (without a cape) of the one he built and drew in class. He wants to bring it in to have all 3 types when he shares his book with the class.

Today I stretched my sanity to the edge of the cliff and hung on for dear life as my 1 to 34 ratio put me to the test.  Wait, I did have 2 students absent, but I was still significantly outnumbered. They are publishing their stories and it is fantastic.  We are practicing real life in this experience. The art of patience.  Time management, "What will you work on while you wait for me to edit?" Did I mention I need a team of editors!

Three students did something funky and lost all that they had typed, ugh! We ran out of cut cardboard to create our hardcover books, so my hands got a workout trying to cut more without the ease of the box cutter. It is a complete balancing act.  How do you keep the momentum without spinning out of control?  How do you work one-on-one while many are wanting their turn with you? Somehow we kept afloat and tomorrow I am excited to see the finished products.

To find the joy you have to dig in and get your hands dirty.

This work is messy.  It is tricky. Exhausting. Yet it is what they will remember. It is what I will remember. If only we could bring a bit of play to all the "work" we must do.  Without play, it is so easy to see the negatives.  The lost student work, the restarts, the running out of cardboard, the interruptions, the girl that looked for her cover for a half hour and was on the verge of restarting...

...but then she found it. She was back on track.  She typed her story and she saw it through.  The boy who created his entire story in text boxes so he could create a comic book and add in a secret compartment with the safe that the evil villain tries to steal from the bank, and a pouch for his superhero to rest in when he is not flying through our classroom. The girl who typed hers at home has spent her class time cutting and pasting her text onto pages and waited, oh so patiently, to figure out how she might bind them into her book because she had a different approach.  As she waited she kept adding.  She was like Mason, the ideas kept filling up her brain and her book.  She created a map to line the inside cover. An envelope that houses "Top Secret" information and is nestled into the end of the book, a dedication page, an author's purpose page, a summary on the back.  This work doesn't happen with simply filling in worksheets and bubbling in tests. This work doesn't happen when we must all be on the same page.

I am paying attention, I am amazed, I am telling about it.
Pass it on.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Super Powers!

The other day I was home with the kids and we decided to see what was in our craft baskets.  One thing led to the next and suddenly we had a collection of superheroes.  This led to much fun playing superheroes throughout the house.  Mason said to me that day, "Mommy, I have so many ideas today.  They just keep coming into my brain."  

 I can SO relate to this lately.  I have so many stories I wish to write and share here, but they are swirling around amidst the busy of things.  I somehow have found this quiet moment and am hurrying to type a few words to bring a bit calm to it all, but I know I don't have the time to really sort it all out.

Soon the day will be flying around me.  A happy, fun-filled day, swirling of smiles and sparkling moments, so the stories shall wait.

Wait yes, but be forgotten or dare I say left behind?  No, I will grab hold and sort it all out.  But for now my brain is a bit like this...

An organized mess of potential and I shall sort it out, get it in line, and hopefully use it to inspire.

Happy Weekend!