Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Field Trip

Dear Laney,

In the last weeks of second grade, your class went on a field trip to PEAS Farm, a local agricultural learning center that sends a farmer to your classroom throughout the year to talk about planting and harvesting and then invites you to tour the farm at the end of the year. This is a more hippie-dippie vegetarian version of that field trip you went on last year where we learned about putting cattle down with a bolt gun and then I couldn't sleep for a week. I chaperoned this one, too, and you still seem to be excited about having me along, though your enthusiasm is waning. It happens.

A few months before this, your class had a field trip to the Wildlife Film Festival. You begged me to meet you there, but once we were seated in the university theatre, you decided to upgrade and moved up to sit with your friends. I sat alone at the back of the theatre for about ten minutes before I realized I didn't HAVE to sit and watch a long, meandering documentary about the effects of low oxygen on the hummingbirds of Peru. Because I'm a grown up! With a car! And a license! Woo hoo! FREEDOM. I waved goodbye on that one and met you at home later.

But again this June, you asked me to go to the end of year trip to the farm and I signed up. The teacher said "We'll give you an easy group - all girls." That woman played a low-down dirty trick on me, because while boys may push and shove, girls SHRIEK FOR NO REASON. Walking around with eleven second grade girls was like being trapped in a bubble of high-pitched cacophony. I heard all the girls hit a decibel that could shatter glass and when I went running over to see what the fuss was, certain that Justin Bieber had joined our group, I discovered them pointing at A CHICKEN. 


Being Missoula, everyone we know has a chicken in their backyard, but this one was worth squealing over and petting. 

And some of those girls were downright mean - "I'm not holding your hand because I'm HER friend today." It was like a little window into your teen years and I was terrified. 

I rode the bus to this one, so I was stuck with y'all. And the chicken. 

Call me next year if your class goes to the Museum of Sign Language and Margaritas. 


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

On Belay

Dear Laney, 

Some time last year, you developed an interest in rock climbing.  You and your dad would go to the climbing gym together and he would coach you and it was this great little thing y'all did together. In his absence, I've tried to keep that rock rolling because we want to encourage all your active, outdoorsy hobbies. 

I know squat about rock climbing, but I continued taking you to the climbing gym because I wanted to teach you that there's no shame in trying and falling/failing. I know, because I've seen me do it about a million times in front of the man-bun zero-body-fat crowd of hipsters at that gym. I'm still struggling on beginner routes and sometimes I decide I don't have the strength left to climb down, so I'll just let go and fall because how bad could it hurt, really?

We have that talk a lot: that if you're not falling, you're not learning. And every time you fall, you know something new that you didn't know before, even if that thing is that your foot doesn't fit on that rock. 

Still, sometimes, we have a sinking spell.

Hagen comes along sometimes to be "supportive."

He would probably be into rock climbing, too, if he weren't so busy doing...uh...other stuff.

I signed you up for the kids' rock climbing class at the Y, and you learned how to do all kinds of stuff with the ropes, like tie belay knots and rappel. You took the whole thing very seriously - as you should! - and it was such a kick to watch a group of elementary schoolers in harnesses shout "On belay!" to each other.

You came home after these classes and wanted to do knot-tying demonstrations, like this one, for how to tie a figure eight. The funny thing here is that I'd assigned each of you jobs around the house, and one of Hagen's jobs is to let Ella in and out. The dog can never make up her dang mind and frankly, letting her in and out was exhausting me, so I turfed it to Hagen. For this demonstration, you're standing in front of the back door, impeding her exit and stressing her out:

At the culmination of the class, you and your friend Amya got to do a big outdoor climb on the rocky crags near Alberton. 

You were amazing. Cooler and more confident at 7 than I am at 40.

I couldn't be prouder.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Easter 2017 (I Know. Work With Me.)

Hey, y'all -

I know right now my mama is about to have a conniption because we spent a month in the South this summer and took all kinds of pictures at Disney with Peg Peg and Tex and I haven't posted any of them, and now I'm backtracking to April. We'll get there.

So - Easter!

For the past several years, our family has thrown an Easter party the weekend before Easter for all the kids to come over and have an egg hunt. I went back and forth this year on whether or not to host the annual Burbach party because I wasn't sure I could pull it off with your dad gone. Then I remembered I have the ability to write checks, so I outsourced all the cooking to Cracker Barrel and forged ahead. Did you know if you order an obscene amount of food from Cracker Barrel, they'll pack it up for you in a five foot box? When I die, you can bury me in one of these because nothing would tickle me more than to head off to The Great Beyond smelling like hashbrown casserole.

Our friend group has children in three age ranges, so in the past I've hidden different colored eggs for each group. Last year, we had a few big-time fifth graders in the bunch, so I devised a high-tech scavenger hunt for those two, with a clue in one egg leading to the next egg with riddles to solve and codes to scan and websites to consult. It was such a huge hit that Laney and HER friends wanted the same thing this year, so I ended up creating two levels of scavenger hunt clues. You know there's such a thing in the reality TV business as a Challenge Producer who dreams up all those "Road Blocks" on Amazing Race or "Immunity Challenges" on Survivor. Next year, I'm going to fly one of those yahoos in because it would have to be easier.

I was devious, y'all. I even weighed down an egg in a bag of rocks and put it at the bottom of the hot tub so someone would have to get in and get it. Laney's group had to perform dance numbers if they wanted to receive their next egg/clue.

The boys, on the other hand, just wanted to run around and pick up candy. No plot required.

You can't really tell from this picture Miss Jess took (I took no pictures all day, because I was busy), but I set up a tripod on the deck and we Skyped your dad in Afghanistan, and he got to be the one who did the "Ten...nine...eight..." countdown to kick off the hunt. Tradition!

We dyed eggs and played more games, and a truly disgusting number of children ended up in our hot tub (which I drained the next day because there is not enough chlorine in the world, y'all.)

I had prints made of all the pictures I'd taken of everyone's young'uns in the past year and used them to decorate the deck, so at the end of the party everyone got to take their pictures home as a parting gift. Yes, it's dark out. Yes, the party started at 10:00am. The snow had just melted and it wasn't raining and the kids were having fun and expectations were low and a tremendous amount of fun was had. 

The only thing missing was your dad. 

The following weekend, our friends the Lindauers invited us to a far more respectable Easter gathering.

Laney made a beautiful Easter-inspired cake which was actually delicious. Hagen made friends with a puppy. At the end of the holiday, we'd managed to hand on to all of usual traditions with your dad halfway around the world. Here's hoping we never have to do it again. 


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Most Important Part: Each Other

Hey, y'all - 

If there's one thing I can say with certainty and with all the love in my heart, you have definitely kept me entertained with your dad gone.

Sometimes, Hagen comes to the breakfast table as a raccoon and tells me raccoons are supposed to eat out of the trash can, but he'll eat this waffle at the table just this one time. Or he'll get tired after playing at the park for five whole minutes and need to lie down. 

Laney is still down to try whatever adventure life throws at her, while Hagen would rather sit out the adventures but wear the helmet, just in case.

Laney is teaching herself to ride a skateboard, and is my official yoga coach / photobomber. 

Sometimes Hagen goes to school as Aqua Boy, and sometimes - fresh from his manicure - he'll volunteer to help me mow the lawn.

Speaking of which, here are some of the things I have learned to do since your dad left:

Shovel snow, jump start the car, jump start the truck, operate a power sander, load paddleboards into the truck, change a flat tire with an allen wrench (do not recommend), cut Ella's fingernails (definitely do not recommend), mow the grass, assemble and use a new weed whacker, and start the propane grill with the broken ignition without losing my eyebrows. When Jill Biden started working on the "Joining Forces" campaign, she was quoted as saying something like "Yellow ribbon stickers on your car are great, but what's better is to find a deployed family and mow their grass." It's a great idea that doesn't really happen when only 0.4% of Americans are currently serving and we're mostly invisible. But enough of that pity party, I guess.

Back to the love:

We got lice - again - because there's some super-strain in Missoula and everyone in Laney's elementary school is passing it around. Laney handled it like a champ, and Hagen reminded us that the trick to avoiding lice is to keep your hair short and flat. Don't know why we didn't think of that. 

I live for little moments like when Laney went to a big-kid birthday party and gave hagen the last cupcake, or when we walked past the duck pond and Laney immediately went and got her brother so he could also see the ducklings. 

Y'all definitely keep life sweet. 


P.S. Honorable mention goes out to Ella, who is usually the only other grown-up in the house.