Monday, June 27, 2005

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

It's always a mixed package, summer, I love the weather and not having to make eleven daily trips to the school (and at 15 minutes each way that adds up) but having four children suddenly left without the structure of a school day can be the equivalent of Chinese water torture, each day drip drip drip dripping along, hitting you squarely between the eyes until you want to crawl into the fetal position, praying for fall.

But the good news is that that first week did in fact end (though the daylight doesn't) and I soon snapped out of my coma to remember all the fun things we did last summer and soon we were off and running. For starters I took the kids to the Music in the Park concert series sponsored by the Anchorage Downtown Partnership each summer because A) it was fabulous weather and B) it was BAGPIPE day. Yes, the Highland Games bagpipe competition. Even my boys could get excited about that because HEY! It's bagpipes! I mean who doesn't get excited about that? Noisey, loud and very cool even to a nine year-old. And they loved it. We took a rather ratty orange blanket and plenty of sandwiches and staked out a good seat (you have to get there a few minutes early, as it's plenty popular) and sat back and enjoyed the music. They had a great time, I mean when else is it acceptable to clap and cheer for men in skirts? Excuse me, kilts.

The only downside was the amazing aroma from the hot dog vendors stationed at intervals around the perimeter leaving my children with the distinct impression that the stuff in their lunchbags was definitely inferior to what they COULD be eating. And if you've never had one of those reindeer dogs (an oxymoron?) you're missing out. I especially like them with the onions carmelized in coke. Excuse me, I'm drooling again.

So now that I'm getting serious about enjoying the summer I'm hoping the kids will find better ways for their creative energy. Early in the week I needed to run an errand down the street and I left Grace in charge for the 15 minutes I was gone. I had given strict instructions, giving the usual lists of "don'ts" i.e. don't use superglue on skin, don't touch the powertools, don't flush Legos down the toilet, don't store worms in the fridge . . . and I thought I'd covered all the major legal points but sure enough when I returned I found a two-foot wet spot at the foot of the stairs leading to the garage where the carpet was soaked through. Not just damp, mind you, SOAKED. I discovered that they had raided my plastic lunchbags and had made homemade waterballoons (I think Molotov cocktails were invented along the same lines of ingenuity and resourcefulness) which they had then lugged through the house, storing them in five gallon buckets in the garage. Now, as an example of their lack of foresight, as soon as they had seen me upon my return they had greeted me with a proud display of their arsenal, expecting congratulations I suppose about their ability to twist the law until they'd squeezed out a loophole. They were strangely surprised and shocked at my response.

I demanded to know WHO had allowed the water balloons and WHO had brought them through the house and WHO had spilled the water all over the carpet. The boys were quick with pointing to Grace on each item--"HER!"--passing the buck with a speed and agility that would make a blackjack dealer envious. And in principle I couldn't deny that as management, technically everything that happens on her watch is ultimately her fault. But none of them would admit to spilling the water. I quizzed and cross-examined and probed back and forth, over and under but couldn't to my satisfaction explain the puddle and I finished off the tirade with a good lecture on telling the truth. After giving up in exasperation I set to pulling up carpet and drying it out with blowers (yea, it was that wet) but I did know one thing: THIS time they couldn't blame it on three year-old Lillian, as she was with me the whole time. So much for their usual scapegoat. Sure, blame the one with limited speech and reasoning ability.

But to finish off our week's adventures, Andrew decided it was time now that the weather was cooperating to reinstate his Early Morning Jewel Lake Fishing Trips with the kids. On Saturdays throughout the summer he pulls a different kid out of bed early and heads to Jewel Lake by way of the bakery for the traditional chocolate chip muffin and chocolate milk "breakfast" (and I use the word breakfast loosely, don't let the word "muffin" fool you, it's just glorified cake) something only their father would allow.

This time it was David's turn. They took the inflatable canoe that we won by slightly unethical means at the family Christmas party Chinese auction a year ago (so much for the spirit of the season) and caught five little rainbow trout. On David's last trip to Jewel Lake they got skunked and it wasn't until the next day when Andrew was talking to a friend about the experience that he was allowed to know the Secret of the Fly. Evidently there is this fly that Andrew's friend ties himself that is absolutely "foolproof." Guaranteed to reel 'em in or your money back and boy does it work.

Every time they've gone and used this particular fly and have caught a bunch. I think that five sounds rather puny after past numbers, but then they went a little later in the day this time. David loved it where he could just dangle the fly over the water and bounce it along (he hasn't quite got the 10 o'clock-2 o'clock-10 o'clock fly casting thing down yet, but he is still young in the ways of the force) and the rainbows would even jump up and out to catch it. Very thrilling to a six year-old. I sometimes take for granted that I live in a place where I can drive ten minutes and catch rainbows in the middle of a city of a quarter million people. Assuming I actually got out of bed that early on a Saturday to go fishing. But it's great knowing I could . . . if that strange urge ever struck me.

Oh, and speaking of water, water everywhere. Remember that elusive puddle on my carpet? Turns out our boiler had been leaking and seeped out under the carpet. Kind of strange to actually have my kids turn out to be innocent in the whole affair. Hey, stranger things have happened. But not often.


mcewen said...

Aha! The power to navigate!

I'm still hoping that in the next year water balloons will be a possibility - assuming they haven't perished after so many years of hatred.

They look so little in the photos!
Best wishes as always