Friday, July 30, 2010

What I learned in 91 days

If you're the observant type, you'll notice that I was quite regular in posting up till Day 8 and now, have magically skipped to Day 91, which was Wednesday. Fear not, I assure you all of the days did, in fact, occur and were filled with play. I learned a lot about myself in that time, namely, I am not equipped to write daily in a blog. I prefer to keep my experiences in my head for the most part so that when the time comes that fingers are at the keyboard and I'm struggling with what to write in my next novel, I will actually have words to write. I have developed a new admiration for people who can write daily blogs and also have a life/work/play. Apparently, I am not in your ranks. I did, however, complete one novel in the past 91 days and have begun another. Onward.

Although the 91 playgrounds concept was to go to a playground everyday with my children, I found that too much of a good thing is exactly that--too much. Children (and grownups) can play in more places than the the past 91 days, we made sandcastles on the beach, swam in the pool, watched free movies at the theater, read books, rode bikes, visited the library, aquarium, children's museum, went to Atlanta, Columbia, Sumter, Kiawah, stayed in hotels, ate in restaurants, saw dinosaur bones, went fishing, had playdates, read some more books, painted pictures, did gymnastics, played t-ball, went to the zoo, celebrated birthdays, had sleepovers on the third floor, and on and on. Okay, perhaps I'm not quite as in shape as I would have liked, but my son has officially grown an inch in the past 5 weeks and my daughter's front tooth is about to fall out. I discovered a hair straightening device that makes me very happy. And a happy mom is a happy family. We have had a wonderful summer together! The kids will be starting school soon and that makes me a little sad.

But here's the biggest thing that happened since I started this blog. 91 days ago, when I decided I wanted to learn how to play with my kids, to be a stick in the mud no longer, and then I really started paying attention and playing, guess what happened? God must have heard the callings of my heart because this fall I'll have about 150 chances each week to play and become child-like again. I believe, as a direct result of my tuning in to my own kids, a new opportunity opened up for me. Many of you know I have a degree in illustration from SCAD and paint the covers of my novels. I have accepted a position with a local school to be an art teacher for next year! I'm even starting to act like an art teacher. I asked the lady at Target for all of her old shoe boxes (not sure what we're going to do with them yet, suggestions welcome), I recycled and washed the nylon top to a beach umbrella someone had thrown away (might paint and turn into giant color wheel!) and when asked to go to Nathalie Dupree's house this week for a luncheon in honor of a local poet, I accepted her challenge of dressing as a poem and came as Carl Sandburg's "Fog".

THE fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on

I cut an apple, carved a paw print out of it, dipped in blue paint, and made little cat prints to put all over my white jacket. Apple prints? Oh yeah, art teacher in the making! I have to say, I'm a little terrified, a little thrilled about the whole thing, but I love a good challenge, and I have to say--I love kids. Kids have it all, imagination, energy, excitement. What a privilege to be able to spend time with mine each day. How much better to be able to spend with 150 each week?

So what can you learn from my 91 playground experiment? I hope that whatever inklings you might have, no matter how crazy they seem (starting a blog and trying to play on 91 playgrounds in 91 days), that you'll at least START something. So what if you don't finish exactly the way you set out to? You might just find that you're supposed to take the first step and God will take over after that and lead you in unimaginable, wonderful new directions you never even knew were in your future.

Just get creative. And take baby steps. And remember not to take yourself too seriously. Oh, and also remember to approach life playfully every day. As a very wise friend of mine once said, if you want to remain young at heart, surround yourself with children.

Amen, Irene. I will.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 8: Visual Playground

Had a busy day today, so I couldn't make time to go out to a playground until after dinner. The kids, I believe, were already "played out" what with gymnastics and hitting balls with Dad. I would have set off on a walk by myself, a little quiet, a little peace amongst nature, but because of my 91 playground commitment, I decided to bring a child along. Daughter wanted to go but had to do homework first. Son wanted to stay home. By the time Daughter was ready, Son wanted to go, too...both on scooters...both attempting to try my patience.

Deeeeep breath.

My son bolted like lightning ahead of us, me just walking, and my daughter broke into tears, calling after him to slow down. Why I kept walking, not sure, but let's just say there was more of this, and more, and then some more, so by the time we reached a playground, neither of them deserved to be rewarded by actually playing on it. Sadly, I walked on by...goodbye swing set, goodbye twisty-climby thing...trying to keep up with the two squabblers who were bound and determined to outrun the other.

Thankfully, I never came undone. I simply pulled up my camera and went on my own little "Visual Playground." Does that count? I decided not to focus on the kid drama but to find that peace I was so looking forward to. Here are some of the lovely things I saw along the way. The kids? They got over it on their own and were friends again by the time we returned, me jogging behind.

The kids are in bed now, and I guarantee they'll sleep hard tonight. Then again, maybe I will too. Strangely, the only one disappointed in not actually playing on the playground today was me. I think the ground is shifting. I'm already thinking of where we could go tomorrow. I'm just raring to PLAY.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 7: How to Get Unstuck

Yesterday rained, so today was Day 7 for playground-hopping. My son wanted to take me on a bike ride wherein he leads and I follow...wherever he goes. We got a nice ride in for about 20 minutes and then found our way to the Scramble in I'on. This playground was the inspiration for the one in my second novel, Trouble the Water, the one where Honor sits and watches the nannies and their kids, the place where she stands in the middle of  an overgrown circle of bamboo.
There were no nannies and the circle of bamboo has all been cut back.

We climbed up (using a rope) into this playground contraption, sort of a boat with slides, etc. Easy peasy. Next, son went around back to the tall climbing wall. Again there's a rope. I had no qualms about this at all. Having mastered the climbing wall at BigToy playground last week, I wasn't afraid. At all. There's a slight problem with this. Apparently, sometimes fear is good.

You see, I was able to climb UP to the top no problem, very quickly, I might add. The problem was in the completion of said climb. There's a tall (4 or 5 feet, is that tall?) jump down to the flooring of the equipment, but I got one leg over the wall, clutched on for dear life, and could not pass. My son is coaching me, saying, "go back down", but I teetered and tottered--I couldn't go back down. I couldn't move. The hard wood was hurting in all sorts of places, inner thigh and more intimate ones, and I was S-T-U-C-K. My sunglasses began to fall. I mean this when I say I almost started crying. Can you believe that? How can they have this for kids? Ahem, well, my son had no trouble getting over, he just jumped. Perhaps he had no fear. Perhaps my fear is what stopped me at the top? Still pondering this. How could I be scared over a little climbing wall on a kids' playground? But I was. You betcha. The only way down was to continue to excruciating slide down the 5 foot fall. I know what pain is. I work hard to avoid it.

My inner thigh will be bruised and unforgiving for a while, but I made it. Thank the Lord.

Really, anything we did after that was a cakewalk. Toe taps and step ups on mushrooms, push ups on picnic table, even the tire swing did not make me queasy today. Real progress. My son ran an obstacle course in and out of the circle of bamboo and I followed. We did "Swing Jump Ups" where your hands are on the swing and you jump. Up. Son likes to jump a lot. After having two children, jumping is usually last on my love-to-do list, but I did them anyway. He's my coach.

A successful bike ride home and 45 minutes of very active time for Mommy and child. I loved it. To top it all off, Son said as we pulled into the garage, "This was your Mother's Day surprise." I told him it was perfect, and I hope we can do it again tomorrow...because these trysts leave me feeling very un-stuck.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Day 6: The Exercise Teacher

I think we've made a breakthrough. Whatever we went through yesterday was erased, and my son and I have reached an understanding. I think.

After school today, I suggested we go to the playground over at the Mount Pleasant Rec soccer fields by Patriots Point. Some men were mowing the grounds and such, so we grabbed hands and ran along the outside to get to the playground. Running while holding hands is a cool thing to do.

Today, Son was all into me playing with him. I think he gets it now. We did monkey bars, two sets (one twirly bars, which I could not do, and one regular, which I was thrilled to complete)! Then we went down slides and walked back up again, slid down poles and twisted around corkscrews, and climbed back up. Then my son got the hang of it. He announced we were going to do some exercises and that he was now my "Exercise Teacher."

We stepped up and down on a step. We did bench walking complete with foot kicks too the back of the bench, and foot taps and step ups on the arm of the bench. We heard an airplane overhead, so we put our arms out and did "Airplanes" around and around in a circle. By this point, I am loving my five-year-old's brain! He's great at this! We run a lap around the whole playground, balance on the border around it, then skip around a sign while saying the alphabet. I am digging this, AND breaking a sweat. And better yet, we have the whole playground to ourselves so neither one of us are self-conscious.

We played a full, and I mean FULL thirty minutes (until a bug stung his cheek), but his piece de la resistance was the "Spiderman". Perhaps you've never heard of this move. Well, simply put, there is a ladder that curves over to get you up into the larger of the two playground sets. Climbing up is easy, but oh, if you climb up backwards, on the back side, you will now be hanging upside down, a la Spiderman. My son even hooked his legs through, hung upside down, hooked his fingers on the underside of the play equipment and did five pull ups. Me? Not so much. The bar hurts the back of the knees and I was scared to fall on my head. It's a start though.

Learned a couple things today:

1. My fear is subsiding. I still have fear for some things, but on the playground, I'm trying them all. The thing that separates the Old Me from the New Playing Me six days later? My level of fear. It's much lower. My confidence lets me go faster and play harder.

2. My son is an awesome personal trainer. Today, we played well together. He's already planning tomorrow's "exercises" for me. I am loving this.

This is one lucky mom. Getting stronger.

Day 5: QUEEN of the Twisty-climby Thing-a-ma-bob

Sunday -
Okay, not only did we go to the closest neighborhood playground today, but we went to a party at Frankie's Fun Park, too. After the party at Doty Park yesterday, I'm thinking we might be overdoing it. Here are some general observations:

1. Mommy guilt might be a good thing. What I mean by this is, when you don't let your kids do what they want to all the time, you begin to feel guilty about it. It wears on you. So when you finally do let them do whatever it is they've been begging for, you have this sense of relief, of doing something great for them. You're so happy to see their little faces as they play on said playground.

2. Letting your kids go to the playground every day may spoil them. I'm not hip on spoiled kids. After days of letting my son do what he wants and picking which playgrounds to go to, etc., PLUS having two kid parties in two days, son is beginning to lose that initial deep appreciation he had for said playgrounds and is no longer listening to Mommy. Mommy feels no more guilt, and therefore, patience for said "unappreciation" is wearing thin.

However, I am still committed to this experiment. Here are some more observations:

1. Personally, I'm no longer daunted by the fact that there are strange twisty, twirly, tall, small, swingy, dingy things I can play on at these playgrounds. Bring it on! I'm not afraid anymore.

2. The soreness in my arms and back are no longer annoying, but proof that something is happening here physically.

We'll work out the kinks with the kids...somehow. Step one was letting them stay up a little late to watch Extreme Home Makeover so they could see the sweet family with adopted kids, amputee kids, nonetheless. These girls were radiant, the same age as mine, smiles as big as heaven, and didn't complain or whine about any difficulties their disabilities present them. Hubby and I gently pointed out the fact that we are blessed to have our legs and arms and be able to play. There's no room for whining when we don't get our way.

I paid attention to this last lesson, myself.

Oh, did I mention we went to another playground today? I jogged while the kids rode these Razor scooters to the CLOSEST playground, literally down the street. Just long enough to feel it in my lungs. We played on this twisty climby thing, I believe I called myself the QUEEN of the Twisty-climby Thing-a-ma-bob, and then got down. It wasn't hard. Maybe I'm getting stronger?

Next, the dreaded swings. I talked to myself the whole time, trying to tell my brain that it doesn't need to make my stomach feel queasy. It doesn't. I still got queasy, but brainwashed myself into thinking it was no big deal. I feel I'm getting closer... Asked both kids if I could push a scooter home. Both rejected said plea. I jogged home.

Did I mention we went to Frankie's Fun Park in North Charleston later? Oh yes. My son and husband rode the Go-carts and did the batting cages. Son and daughter both did the Fun Slide three times each and inside played games for tickets to turn in for worthless trinkets that gave the kids much joy. I didn't play at all, yet watched them do it.

Sometimes it's exhausting having so much fun. At this point, Mommy wants to press cold cucumber slices on  her eyes, lie down in a quiet room, and well, just be quiet.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Day 4: Doty Park

We went to my niece's birthday party in Doty Park in Summerville today. Clouds threatened rain, but it never did. A Beatiful day. Got to spend some good time with family and friends and yet, I needed to play! I'm committed to this. You should have seen my daughter's face when I followed her and my son onto this twisty, climby thing. We both got to the top and she was scared, wanted to get down. It was very cool for me to coax her over to the other side and then have her do the same for me. She seemed to love that Mom was playing too.

Next we climbed up this spider web rope contraption. Pretty easy compared to the other. By this time, family and friends were looking at me like I was pretty strange. I came down and chilled a while.

Many games and pizza slices later, the kids were out on a field, occupied, so I stole away some moments to work out my arms. Did push ups on the picnic table, dips and quazi-dips for my triceps (I think that's the one on the back of my arms). I'm starting to be sore from the upper body work. Let's me know it's working!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 3: Memorial Waterfront Park

Decided to wait to go to playground after I'd picked up my daughter today. Problem was, the kids couldn't decide which playground to go to. Sort of takes the fun out of it when there's arguing going on. I let my daughter choose since I've been out with Son the last two days.

We go to the new Memorial Waterfront park by the bridge. Love this place. Fifty cents to park for an hour. My brother calls right as I pull in the parking lot, and it's the kind of call that lasts an hour. I can't let it go, we don't catch each other often. I haven't talked with him in a while, so I let the kids play together without me.

I step up on my bench a few times and that's it. The kids play a while then run across the field and pick flowers for me. Caught some Kodak moments and beautiful scenery. Don't have any new moves to share and feel a bit like I failed...didn't exercise today. But we did go to a playground, and the kids had fun. Catching up with my brother was a good thing, too. All in all, I can't complain. A pretty good trip.

Tomorrow we have a birthday party at yet another playground. I'll see what kind of play I can get into there!