There’s something about red balloons. A big bouquet of colorful balloons is pretty amazing, especially from the point of view of a toddler. But red, sigh. I’ve noticed that several of Sparkle Girl’s cartoons have episodes that feature red balloons. They carry hapless critters away to magical adventures. The other colors are fun, but red contains all the promise contained in an over active imagination.
I have a clear memory from when I was about my girlie’s age. My parents had gone out and left my sister and me at some sort of organized babysitting event at a child care center. Since we lived on a military base in Japan, it was probably set up for the event. We were given balloons on our way out the door. Mine was red.
When my parents came to pick us up they were with friends of theirs. Somewhere on the way to the car that precious balloon escaped my grasp. I have a very clear mental image of watching that red balloon float up and up, higher into the starry night.
My parents’ friend Jim was (and is) a tall, tall man. I turned and asked him to get it for me. From my 3 year old perspective a man well over 6 feet tall should have easily been able to reach up into the stars and grab that string for me. I found it inconceivable that he couldn’t do it. I remember the adults all chuckling at the request. I think they were even reaching up as if they could get that red balloon. It seemed impossible to me that it was beyond his giant reach.
It was my first realization that adults are fallible. Prior to that I had no idea that there were actually things adults couldn’t do. That they weren’t super-human.
It’s hard to keep this perspective in mind with my own child. She sees her father and me as giant people with amazing strength and the ability to do or fix anything. Same goes for the kids at our Co-Op preschool. When we can’t do something it’s not just an inconvenience for them. They really think we can put the toothpaste back in the tube, fix the most broken of toys, make bananas appear out of thin air, re-inflate a popped balloon. A well stocked diaper bag packed with an adult’s experience and forethought seems much like Mary Poppins’ magic carpet bag. Our inability to satisfy the most extravagant request puts a crack in their world view. They rely on our super-humanness as reassurance that they are safe. That makes it extremely important that we are as kind and patient as possible in these circumstances.
Sparkle Girl and I were at a birthday party this past Saturday. Balloons! Balloons! Epic fun. Although the one she brought home was orange. When I was dropping her off yesterday at the same location as the party she grinned a giant grin and shouted “BAWOONS!” I had to tell her that they were all gone. I’m sure she found that completely impossible.
Gosh, I’m looking at the date on my last post and I can hardly believe it. September? Really? Where have I been? What have I been doing?
Well, soon after that last post we went to Charleston to see my aunt. That was a really fun trip, in spite of Sparkle Girl finding herself on the business end of a couple of yellow jackets. Stings to the head and face aren’t fun but she recovered (thanks to Benedryl). October was just busy with a quick trip to the Coast and so was November. Thanksgiving with the Grandparents. December saw a visit from Sparkle Granny who got to have an exclusive overnight with the girlie while we went to the office party. A fun time at the party and then a romantic dinner at the top of the Space Needle was a much-needed break for the Sparkle Parents. The next morning we returned home to Granny and Sparkle and a fun visit. The Christmas season was a blur–a visit to Santa at the mall, a fun ride on a holiday train, drive through Christmas lights at the PIR, an evening with friends from our co-op preschool to watch the Christmas Ships, and a trip back up to the Grandparents for Christmas festivities. Sparkle Girl discovered Snoopy and it was so fun to see her reciting all the dialog and singing all the songs. January was spent recovering from all the holiday business and I think we had another trip to the Coast somewhere in there too. We ventured down to the Chinese Gardens to welcome in the New Year by rolling oranges and coins across the threshold and watching Lion Dancers.
Now it’s February and she’ll be 3 years old in two weeks. Astonishing. It really does go so very fast. I remember seeing 3 year olds and wondering what my girl would be like at that age. Now I know. She’s funny, emotional, polite, smiley, strong willed and creative.
A polite toddler seems to be an impossibility in our culture. It seems that people go out of their way to excuse really rude and tyrannical behavior from these small humans as par for the course. Sparky and I have worked hard to create a culture of politeness in our home. We say “please,” “thank you”, “bless you,” “excuse me”. We say it to each other and more importantly to our girl. I think too many parents expect their kids to say please and thank you without modeling that behavior. They tell their toddlers to say “thank you” to the lady at the coffee shop when they themselves bark their latte order without using the magic word. Parents order their children do this or that but don’t ask nicely or say thank you. They talk to each other in the same way. But somehow these kids are supposed to figure out how to use this language when they never, ever see it in action. We’ve had a number of strangers comment on the politeness of our daughter. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. Manners are the social lubricant of our society and we intend for this kid to be well-oiled.
She’s got an absurdist sense of humor with a penchant for slapstick. She asks for things she knows she can’t have, giggling the whole time. “Have it mouth”–when she asks if she can have my mouth. “Have it cookie”. She’ll do this over and over. Because in toddler-world if something’s funny once, it’s funnier 400 times. She likes getting under a blanket and whispering. She likes to pretend she’s sleeping. She likes to put things on my head and watch them fall off.
She loves crayons, “my draws”, and will spend a fair amount of time sorting them and laying them out and drawing with them. She has started to draw faces and they are hilarious. Very elongated with little scribbles for eyes, ears, nose, mouth, chin all on a linear plane. She often pretends she is drumming. Everything becomes a drumstick and everything is fair game to become a drum. She really enjoys dancing–her favorite is the Duck Polka (otherwise known as the chicken dance). We’ve been taking advantage of the toddler time at the local roller rink. Clomping around in the plastic over the shoe skates is epic fun. She loses her mind when the park mascot, Chipper, makes his appearance. She LOVES Chipper. She would rather “read” me stories than be read to. I smile broadly when she slams the book shut with an emphatic “The End!”.
She’s obsessed with treats like cupcakes, ice cream cones, cake, cookies, lollipops, chocolate… She rarely gets to experience the real thing, but many items become fantasy treats with lots of giggles and pretend slurps. She still grabs her hat and bag on the way out the door and has continued her love affair with anything Hello Kitty.
She’s also exhibiting the typical 3 year old fickleness and resistance to transitions. One of her favorite phrases is “No, I want to stay right here” as she points to her lap. She says she wants one thing and then changes her mind yelling “Don’t want ___.” She won’t wear a coat outside. Luckily we live in a part of the country where it’s in the upper 40’s much of the winter. She’ll eat something one day with a big YUM and then never want to touch it again. She wants to drag everything out–the more pieces the better–and strew it all over the living room. When you live in a condo with less than 850 square feet (including the deck!) this gets crazy really fast. She also couldn’t care less about the potty.
This year for her birthday we’ll do cupcakes and a small get together–probably at the roller rink.
So this is 3. My floppy little new born is now a preschooler with a definite personality and giant smile. I’m loving getting to know this little person that joined our family. She’s awesome and going to achieve amazing things in her life. This is just the beginning.
So many people whine about the “terrible twos” and I’ve got to wonder what’s going on at their house. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had the toddler version of Charlie Sheen level rampages. Let me tell you it was tempting to hide in the bathroom like one of his paramours. But it seems like we saw those more in the first half of the year. The unreasonable cranky moments are interspersed amongst periods of pure awesome.
I wrote the above paragraph a few weeks ago. Today has been one of the more challenging days. Not much sleep for any of us last night resulted in lots of meltdowns and whining today. She has hives and I’m not sure why and they make her very uncomfortable. I needed a reminder of the wonderful things I love about this amazing creature who lives with us. So I’ve revisited this draft to clear my palette of today’s crazy.
I’m starting to build a library of Sparkle Girl-isms: My “thank you” is followed by “A gelkum” . She will repeat “thank you, thank you, thank you” until she hears “your welcome”. If she sees me resting she gets in my face and says “akup mommy”. When she wants me to carry her she asks for a “hug”. When asked if she’s OK she responds with “yes, yes a foin”. She’ll ask for something and when I repeat it back to her to confirm what she wants, she’ll respond with “OK”–in a tone that indicates she thinks I just suggested the best thing ever. If something spills or breaks “oh dear!” or “uh oh!”
She loves The Wiggles (Wiggos) and Kipper (Tipperrr). She talks about the characters up in her crib. “Hellllo Tigah”, “Pig and Anold”. She sings along to the Wiggles songs and dances along with them. But if I sing… “no mama.”
She enjoys the Richard Scarry books–poring over each page taking in all the little details. There’s also a “Hello Kitty Across America” book that she reads in the car. She enjoys reading coloring books but not actually coloring in them . She loves puzzles, Little People, and coloring. She scribbles a lot. A month or 6 weeks ago she made a scribble, pointed to it and said “hand”. Her first representational drawing–I’m so proud.
When we are out on a walk, she invariably picks up rocks and sticks one or more in each hand. She will carry them home with her if we let her. I know that there are rocks buried in the back seat of the car. The ones that make it home get put in our plants. She likes to tuck things next to her in the car seat–including food. She’ll pull on my pant leg and say “run!” wanting me to run with her. She’ll say “sorry” when she bumps into something inanimate or when I bump into her. She will proudly proclaim “I did it!”–usually when she has dumped her snack cup everywhere, but often when it is really appropriate.
The mirror is one of her favorite toys. She will dance and play in front of the mirror. When she’s crying she’ll go to the mirror and watch herself. When the diaper comes off she runs to go look at her body. Sometimes contorting her legs to check out her parts. It’s hilarious. Boys don’t have to go to these lengths to get to know their bodies. We’ve had a couple of incidents where we picked her up from her nap to find her completely naked–diaper thrown across the room. Once this had disastrous consequences.
She’s starting to play more interactively with other kids–especially at our Co-Op preschool. But she continues to be very content to go off and do her own thing. She likes to line things up in a row. Loves the small stuffed animals–one tucked under each arm. At home it’s the Mousey, Hello Kitty (plaid dress), Hello Kitty (pink fur) trio in her summer purse.
We bought a purple witch’s hat last Halloween. I found it and put it in her dress up box the other day. Adorable to see her putting it on and watching herself in the mirror. She will occasionally put a giant scarf around her neck and call herself “Super Dog”. She pretends to fly sometimes. She likes to pretend that everything is either a phone, ice cream, cake or a cookie. We rarely give her such treats but she is obsessed with them.
We’ve been spending a lot of time in the pool at our condo complex. It has been so much fun to see her go from timidly standing on the stairs to jumping to me and using her hands to hold on to the edge–”walking” back and forth along the wall. Each dip into the water finds her braver and more adventurous. I love that she enjoys this so much since my sister and I spent so much time in the pool when we were kids.
Hide and seek is a favorite game of hers right now. We have removed the barrier in front of the stairs so she is free to go up and down as she likes. I’ll go up to the bathroom and find her in the closet buried in towels. She’s giggling thinking she is fooling me. It just melts my heart. She also likes playing on our bed in the covers. She’ll pretend to go to sleep making the funniest snoring noise ever. She likes putting the blanket over our heads and whispering. She’ll ask by saying “light, light”–I think she uses this word because she likes the way the light looks different through the blanket.
She likes to joke with me by asking for food she knows I’ll say “no” to. For example–in the morning she’ll ask for a popsicle (really frozen Naked or Odwalla juice or yogurt mixed with fruit). She’ll ask with a big smile and I’ll tell her no with a big smile. She’ll keep asking and laughing the whole time and I’ll keep telling her no laughing the whole time. Her sense of humor has traditionally run toward slapstick (laughing her butt off when another kid falls) so it’s funny to see how it is evolving.
Her smile lights up her face, eyes twinkling with a spark that ignites the spirits of all around her. She is my heart. I love watching her navigate her world and explore what her body can do. She is a beautiful and amazing little creature and I’m so awestruck that I get to help her grow into a fun and intelligent child, teenager and woman.
Days like today I need to remember the wonderful things we get to experience every day. Today is a challenge, tomorrow will be a wonder.
In my past two and a half years as a parent there have been a number of “mommy fail” moments. You know those times when you struggle to get her shoes on despite the toddler histrionics only to realize after you get to the car that you put them on the wrong feet. Or forgetting that your baby has learned how to roll over and she falls off the ottoman. Or you are annoyed that she’s being so whiny and acting out only to realize that it’s a good half hour past her dinner time. You know, those moments.
None of them compares to the realization that we lost one of her favorite lovies. She has become attached to a small Hello Kitty that my mom got her at Christmas and a velour Minzie Mouse made by Zutano. Kitty and Mousie are quite the pair and go everywhere together—one tucked in each chubby little arm. Sometimes they are toted in her backpack, sometimes in her cute summer purse. When it’s time to leave the house she runs and grabs them to come along for the ride. They are always with her for naps and bedtime.
Because these two have had a lot of adventures (and more than a few spills onto the asphalt) Kitty usually looks really filthy, you know she’s a white cat after all. Mousie got pretty filthy herself too. She wears a green and white striped jumpsuit. When I went to wash her and peeled off her outfit she had a “farmer’s tan” of filth. She washed up perfectly, Kitty still has a residual aura of dirt though.
One Sunday we decided to have a picnic in the park. We grabbed our food from the grocery and headed to a beautiful park where we could sit and watch the Sparkle Girl run around on the playground. I carried the picnic basket and Sparky and the Sparkle Girl trailed behind. We had a lovely time and when it was time to pack up I noticed something that made my heart stop. The cute summer purse only had one occupant. Mousie was missing! Oh no. To say that I freaked out is a major understatement. I grabbed the car keys and headed back the way we came.
No sign of Mousie anywhere. Not in or under the car. Not next to the car. Not on the ground anywhere between the road and the playground. It wasn’t on or under the play structure. I may or may not have
completely melted down expressed my concern. The details are a little fuzzy (OK, I made a scene and it was unpleasant for my husband and anyone around us). Ugh. She must have fallen out and someone must have picked her up.
Let me take a moment to rant here: Who finds a stuffed animal that is obviously very much loved and takes it? Why not leave it right where it is–or if it is in the bushes or is otherwise hidden place it in plain site? What is wrong with people?!
So we go home and swing by the grocery where one of H’s babysitters is now a sacker to see if she fell out there. Babysitter said she’d keep an eye out. I start furiously looking online. The only place I saw her listed didn’t actually have them. None on e-bay, none, nada, zero, not happening. So I take a chance and post a note on Zutano’s Facebook page asking if there’s a chance to find a Minzie Mouse knowing that it had been discontinued. It was a long shot and I was desperate. I finally go to bed with a heavy heart.
Next morning a little voice called out while searching her bed: “Mousie, where are you? Mousie? Mousie?” I felt sick. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her it was over. I gently said “I don’t know where Mousie is, let’s go downstairs.”
That day someone at Zutano responded to my post. They asked me to email them with the color and they’d see what they could find, but that she hadn’t been produced for over 5 years. Such incredible sweetness, but I didn’t have high hopes. I mean, 5 years! I also knew that a fire burned their warehouse to the ground last year too. So I continued to check places like Lostmylovey.com, Babycenter, Twitter spreading my hopes around as far as possible. I went back to the grocery and to the park. Nothing. I also started checking with the consignment shops. Nothing. I got lots of great support from other moms, which was very much needed and appreciated.
The next morning, again “Mousie, Mousie, where are you?” I had to tell her “Mousie’s gone honey.” I wanted to throw up. Seeing Kitty all by herself in the summer purse just looked wrong. It all felt wrong. I was distraught. I think that this episode brought up some of my own stuff. That’s one of the hazards of parenthood, all the crap that has lain dormant from your own childhood comes raging back at particularly inopportune times. My sister left her bear in Virginia when we were kids and it was never seen again. She forbade my nephew to let his panda (that I brought him from China) out of the house. Panda had his own adventure when he was left in a hotel during a move out of state. Luckily he was express shipped to their new address and was waiting for them when they arrived. When we moved after my dad retired from the Navy I was ten. The A list toys were unpacked but the rest remained boxed forever (along with a lot of our clothes and other important items). I was moving beyond dolls and toys, but wasn’t quite there yet. It was kind of forced on me. I keep hoping to run across a box of toys from 1978 when I go to my mom’s house. I think there was a low-grade sense of loss over that, which had remained unaddressed for years and years. We call those dormant explosive issues “sea monsters”–they rise up from the depths when least expected.
In true toddler resilience she had started to move on. A teddy bear my aunt sent at Christmas was showing signs of becoming the replacement, but not with a lot of enthusiasm. I had mixed feelings about it. Glad to see her resilience but still stinging from the loss myself.
Cut to that Wednesday, I heard from Zutano: “I have found what may be the last Aqua Minzie Mouse on earth :-) Please send me your mailing address (usps) and I’ll pop it in priority for you.”
I got completely emotional. Teary-eyed relief flooded through me. Mousie was on her way home! What incredible customer service!! Can you believe that they did this?! Words cannot convey the appreciation I have for Betzi and Zutano. You would never, never have this experience with a large corporation. If you got a response at all it would be to steer you to buy one of their newer products. I can’t imagine what lengths Betzi went to in order to find Mousie. Did she have to beg an employee to turn over their stash? Did she steal the last sample in the archives?
Friday I received the package and cried. Sparky made me wait until he came home from work to reveal it, which nearly killed me. In retrospect we should have waited until Saturday morning since this ended up being right before bedtime. We propped it up on the ottoman when Sparkle Girl’s back was turned. When she saw it she ran to it with a GIANT smile. Mousie was grabbed up in her chubby little hands. She grabbed Kitty and had them talking to each other in moments. When we put her up in her crib we could hear her chattering like a spider monkey on crack for a good couple of hours. Apparently everyone had a lot of catching up to do.
Saturday morning we headed out with Mousie and Kitty in the summer purse and a smiling toddler. At one point she said “Mousie where are you?” Then held up the bag and said “There you are!” Love just flooded out of my heart. For her and for Zutano. I have been telling everyone I know. Now I’m telling you. That teddy bear hasn’t been picked up since. Her heart always belonged to Mousie.
My “mommy fail” moment was converted into a “mommy is a hero!” moment. You can be absolutely certain that we will be extra-cautious with Mousie 2.0. This was a redemption miracle and it’s not likely to happen again. She’s staying in the car from now on. I’m sure it will result in a much cleaner mouse now too~
(This is one of Mousie’s near misses earlier this summer at the zoo.)
PS–this post was edited slightly so I could do the Mama Kat’s Losin’ It writing prompt link-up for this week.
Robert Louis Stevenson
How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside–
Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown–
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!
The Sparkle Girl loves swings. She loves, loves, loves swings.
When she was a tiny baby she spent hours sleeping in her swing. Sometimes bundled up tight with the noise machine tucked in next to her. LOVED IT. I was usually laying next to it on the couch in a haggard crispy mess. Popping awake only long enough to stuff the pacifier back in her mouth. Good times.
I used to love swings too (now they make me sea sick). I remember this poem and how it ignited my imagination of going up sooooooo high in the swing and all the amazing things you could see from such a height. I would imagine the vast fields and pretty rooftops. The tops of the trees full of birds’ nests.
We used to lean back as far as we could. I would watch enviously as my friends with long hair could lean back far enough for it to drag on the ground. Even after we learned to pump with our legs we begged adults to push us higher and higher. Underdogs were best (running under the swing as they pushed). Occasionally our fingers would get pinched in the chain links or our hair would get caught. A small price to pay for that exquisite pleasure.
There was the myth of the older kid at another school who swung so high he went over the top. We all tried to do it well after we knew it was only a legend. Sometimes at a friend’s house we could swing so fast that it would lift a leg of the structure–a feeling that was scary and thrilling all at once. Some daring kids would jump out of the swing while it was still flying high. Usually they were OK but there were the occasional mishaps.
In college I worked at a YMCA day camp. Two summers in a row the same kid broke his arm in the same spot while playing on the swings. My sister was unfortunate enough to be riding a tire swing at our friend’s house when the rope broke sending her sailing. I think her pride was hurt more than anything else.
As we got older we began to do “dangerous” things in swings. Twisting them tight and then spinning furiously after we let go. Delirious as it re-twisted the other way from the momentum. We would play bumper swings. A fun game that involved grabbing the big leg of the structure and letting go, bashing into the person next to us. An activity that I’m sure would be actively discouraged on today’s elementary school playgrounds (if they even still had swings).
When we go to the park the Sparkle Girl makes a bee line right to the swings yelling “SWING SWING SWING” at the top of her voice. When I think she is getting tired of it I ask her if she’s done. Usually she shakes her head and says “more swing”. She loves the wind in her face, the fast motion, being way up high. And who can blame her, really?
At our preschool co-op there are kids that spend much of their time on the playground on the swings. Our arms get tired pushing these kids higher and higher–up with the birds and clouds and airplanes. They love it and only reluctantly give up their coveted spot to another toddler. We have to invoke the ABC method— singing a round of the ABCs, when the song is over it’s time to switch. Amazingly it works every single time.
Swings are one of those sweet pieces of childhood. And have been so for hundreds of years. For much of that time it was the only way to safely leave the earth and sail in the air. Ever since someone first tied a rope to a tree branch kids and grownups alike have felt the peacefulness and excitement of “going up in the air and down”.
I’m loving this Twitter theme #seniorhottie, dream child of Liz a.k.a. A Belle, A Bean & A Chicago Dog. Post pics of yourself at your glorious Senior Hottie best–brilliant.
Originally I was bummed because most of my high school
evidence photos and whatnot are buried somewhere in the depths of our storage unit. Tonight I realized that procrastination has paid off yet again and that I had photos I brought back from my sister’s to scan. Voila! Senior Hottie goodness.
I lived in a
godforsaken remote town in the heart of the Ozarks, Ozark County in fact. 700 people might seem like a lot at a party, but when it is your reality it means that everyone every where knows everything about you. We moved there when I was ten when my father retired from the military. I went from attending a school that looked like the UN–my three best friends were LaTonya (black), Gene Rose (Filipina) and Stacy (white)–to Oz. My school not only had no brown people (except for a couple of really tan folks) but everyone was related in some way and most people’s grandparents had known each other as children. We were, as the local folk say, “from off.” Meaning: not one of us–”you’uns ain’t never gonna be us so don’t even try.” Culture shock is a vast understatement.
Flash forward to Senior Year. Time to get the heck out of Dodge and flee to the Big City. By that time I had weathered all the humiliating drama of junior high and early high school. I had evolved from “what the heck just happened?” to “to hell with this”. This was 1986–what was then called a “bi-level” hairdo had not yet been demoted to the “mullet”, we were glimpsing all those big bangs and metal hair just a few years off.
Living in a hillbilly town I aspired to preppy. I loved Adam Ant when everyone around me rocked to Dokken and two-stepped to Bocephus. I was going to college and some of my friends were already married and/or pregnant; by junior year one was already divorced and the mother of toddler. I like to tell people that my home town is a robust mixture of “Footloose” crossed with “The Dukes of Hazzard” with a splash of “Deliverance”. The first high school dance in the school’s history was held my freshman year in our cafeteria as was our prom.
Here I am in all my Senior Hottie glory:
This was the beginning of senior year. My hair was shorter and curly-ish. I look pretty happy for a girl with a raging bad attitude. (Note the pearls–A gift from my Grandmother at 16, they were a gift from her father at 16 too. It was kind of my signature look, you know being preppy and all.)
This is another one that captured my “playful side”–the popped collar was a staple of 1986.
We hated the ones that were taken at school and regrettably ended up in the yearbook. These were taken at the local newspaper. You can do things like that in a small town.
This photo was taken not long after graduation. My hair had grown out and was permed. That was mandatory in 1986. One girl in my class was permed on a strict 8 week schedule. Those reading this from the Class of ‘86 won’t need a name to identify her. Many of us permed the back but not the bangs so they would feather correctly. In college we had learned the benefits of the spiral perm and our lives would never be the same. Cute and Sexy Full of Tricks, We’re the Class of 86 was our informal yet catchy class motto. Our real motto was “We Came, We Saw, We Conquered”–a classic since ancient times. I was a proponent of “This Ain’t No Party, This Ain’t No Disco, This Ain’t No Foolin’ Around”–clearly I was not among my people. Plus, the only thing most of us conquered in our short lives was figuring out how to get older people to buy us wine coolers and Boone’s Farm Tickle Pink.
I’m on the left. Pearls have been replaced with a shell necklace I bought on our Senior Trip to Florida. I wish that the 17 year old me could look at these pictures with my 40-something eyes. See how bright and fun she is, how NOT FAT she is, how much wonderful stuff is ahead but also how much wonderful stuff was happening right there where she is at that time. How many people were there waiting to be friends if she could put down her snotty attitude for just a minute. How things didn’t have to be as hard as she made them. (I’m sure the 60 year old me will look at pictures from 2011 and tell that woman the same exact thing!) I confess: I was a Senior Hottie!
When I was driving around with the Sparkle Girl the other day a childhood memory came flashing back. One I hadn’t thought about in years and years, but it made me smile and I thought about Lenore Skenazy’s campaign to bring back formerly normal pursuits for children. This is a totally Free Range Childhood memory and I’m not sure it could happen today.
We lived on a military base outside of Memphis, TN. NAS Memphis was a Naval air station that has since been decommissioned. We lived in the Hospital Quarters near the bright shiny new hospital and a few blocks away from my elementary school, Millington East. We walked to school every day, without my mother or any other adult. Usually we walked with another child from the neighborhood through the chain link fence topped with razor wire, across a busy street where the cross guard would call me “Elly”, then on to school. We rode our bikes around the neighborhood and played outside all the time.
My sister and I bickered incessantly, which I’m certain contributed to my mother’s desire to get us the hell out of the house. Often we played with the neighbor kids and sometimes by ourselves. We rode bikes all over. We sometimes walked down to the pool in summer, but usually we spent the day unaccompanied at the Officer’s Club pool. If my mom was with us, she certainly wasn’t hovering over us reapplying SPF 10,000 sunscreen, feeding us healthy organic snacks, reminding us to play nice with the other kids and making sure we didn’t drown. We played “Man from Atlantis” and mermaid, tried to see how long we could hold our breath under water, jumped off the high dive and ate popsicles from the snack stand. We had dance classes and Girl Scouts and day camp but these activities didn’t consume our lives. We had plenty of breathing room.
The particular memory that came to me the other day involved a time that I went out exploring on my own, if my sister was with me I don’t recall it. There were some barracks that had been demolished but the debris had not been cleaned up. There was a whole area with rows of stoops leading to rubble. I climbed all over it and made an excellent discovery. Telephone wire! Lots and lots of colorful telephone wire. For those of you unfamiliar with this wonderful stuff it is thin plastic coated wire. The plastic is all kinds of amazing colors, some of it striped like candy canes. I hauled this stuff home and showed it to my mom, who is the craftiest woman I know. We turned this “trash” into so many treasures. We twisted it into bracelets and necklaces and all kinds of shapes. Endless fun. I have a vague feeling I might have skinned my knee or cut myself on the debris, but the memory of the adventure and the discovery is so much more potent!!!
These days I don’t think I would be allowed out on my own like that. I certainly wouldn’t have access to a giant pile of housing rubble since it would be surrounded by plastic orange fencing to keep out little explorers like myself. Cool stuff like telephone wire would be removed for recycling or reuse (which really is a good thing). This magic discovery just wouldn’t be possible today and that makes me a little sad. So many kids will never know what it is like to just wander around on their own time and under their own direction. Today’s kids are so scheduled with activities or so sedated with video games that there is no opportunity to get out alone much less be allowed to do it. Even kids that get to pursue their own personal world without adults live in a much more sanitized environment. Sure we feel “safer”, but I’m not so certain that is true. It’s an illusion of safety. It seems that we’ve traded “danger” for self imprisonment and that makes me feel clausterphobic.
I fully intend that my daughter will have opportunities for such self-directed adventure. That I can provide opportunities for her to spend time exactly like she wants and in the process learn self-reliance, build confidence and exercise her imagination.
Free Range Kids from about 1975
We’ve had a crazy couple of months. Pretty busy and not much time to blog lately.
On the knitting front, it’s been almost all booties. New nephew (need to actually mail those before he outgrows them), two friends having baby girls. I found out I had a $25 credit at Twisted! That was awesome…and I got to spend it at their Spring Cleaning sale. Very fun. But I’ve also started organizing my stash to make it easier to pick up the next projects—adding to the instant project bag. Last night I went through the stash to weigh it all so that I really know how much of each item that I’ve got. I had totally forgotten all the juicy stuff just waiting to become something beautiful. There were also some things that I marked for trade or sale. Definitely time to let go of yarn that is special but that I haven’t made plans for. Need to do that with my books and needles too. I’m on a lace kick these days and have been wearing the heck out of my orangy-greeny bamboo-silk and LOVE it~
On the Sparkle-Girl front– she’s such a wonderful 2 year old. She’s been playing “house” in her Little People doll house rather than just shoving the toys in and out of it. She’s still into puzzles, still into paper and markers. With good weather comes bubble time. Favorite words: “what happened?” “Open Open” (meaning do something with this) “Nernie, Melmo” of Sesame Street fame. Hello Kitty still reigns supreme and she has added to her collection. It’s so funny to see her little arms full of so many different sizes of Kitties. I’ve decided that a grouping is a Glitter of Hello Kitties. I know most parents look at their children and marvel at the amazing creature that chose to join their family—and we do this every single day. Her smile just melts my heart.
Sparky and I have paid our taxes and started laying the groundwork for moving out of the condo. I’ve been sending out requests for the universe to show us the path towards the next phase of our lives. Lo and behold… things started moving. The right conversations with the right people happened at the right times for us to have a much clearer idea of where we need to put our energy. One component of this path involves me joining our condo board. Oh Lord save me!
I used to think the gods of timing hated me… it certainly felt like the right opportunities happened at the wrong times. Jobs that I could have landed came open 6 months after I moved out of state more than once. Relationships were doomed because of issues with timing. Etc. etc. etc. But now I know that my timing was exquisite…it was my patience that was all wrong. Since joining forces with my husband our timing is always perfect. We get to the restaurant right before they get swamped and it’s that way with so many things in our lives. It’s hard to have faith in our timing and be patient when we see so clearly what we want to happen. But I know that even though opportunities look good now there is absolutely a better one that will come at the perfect time.
The sun has finally started shining, at least for today. That means time spent at the park and yelling “whee” on the swings. Watching the plants grow more and more lush each day. Farmer’s markets to get sweet berries and kettle corn. Trips to the wine country for the best Pinot Noir anywhere. Meandering along the walking path next to the river picking up sticks and stones and whatever else catches the toddler’s attention.
This is the Feather Lace Shawl by Gardiner Yarn Works. It worked up pretty quickly and easily. I had a couple of issues but they were user errors. After frogging it a couple of times I got the hang of the structure of the lace pattern and it went just fine. The yarn is Gingko by ArtFibers. It’s mostly bamboo with a thread of silk wrapped around it. I love the colors and it is super-soft.
This picture is what it looks like straight off the needles–nice but kind of floppy and there is no definition to the lace. Next photo is after I pinned it out for blocking. You’ll notice that there is a lot more definition and there’s a crispness to it. What’s wonderful is that after it dries, it will stay that way. Nothing short of miraculous~ Sorry about the color variations. I just didn’t have the patience to fiddle with it anymore. The first one is probably closest to what it looks like in real life.
OK, so I’m closer. The pieces of the sweater have been blocked and I’m ready to take a big deep breath and start sewing it all together. Once again, let me reiterate, not my favorite part.
So blocking this was a quite an undertaking. The big round piece is REALLY big. I blocked it once and didn’t have enough pins. The nature of ribbing is that it wants to shrink up like an accordian. Think of the ribbing on your sweaters at the cuff and waist. Chances are pretty good that it contains the same number of stitches as the sleeve or body of the sweater. But notice how much narrower it is. That’s just what ribbing wants to do. That’s its nature. What is amazing is that blocking can make ribbing overcome its nature.
When you block something you give it a bath and lay it out flat. You should do this when you hand wash your sweaters and scarves. Either pin it or lay out it per the appropriate measurements. Sometimes you have to convince it to stretch or shrink to the right shape and measurements. The first time I didn’t have enough pins and the fabric between the pins contracted in. This left big points where the pins were. I wish I would have photographed it for you. Alas. So I re-wet it and pinned it out. This took 3 boxes of pins. Sorry for the bad picture but it was laying right under a bright light and I didn’t want to deal with moving it.
Here is what it looks like after it has dried and been unpinned. Notice that the sleeves are shorter and wider. This is due to the fact that the pattern measurements were significantly shorter than what I ended up with. Notice that the big circle is much wider.
Someone wanted to get in on the action (short sleeves and bare feet in January–quite a warm day).
Slowly, we’re getting there. My hope is that you will see a picture of me wearing it before next week.
Plus, I’ve started another project–made from the silk/bamboo yarn I purchased at Art Fibers when I was in San Francisco 2 1/2 years ago. Pictures forthcoming.