Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I Flunked Kindergarten

I flunked Kindergarten, so they are making me repeat it.

There goes my perfectionist nature again. I didn't flunk. In fact, on every report card, I received a "Needs Improvement" mark, which is not actually failing. But here I am, four years later, trying to improve.

What moms may not realize before their kids go to school is that when your kids go to school, so do you.

And when my first daughter went to Kindergarten, I did not do very well. On all three of her report cards, she received "Outstanding" marks in all areas but one: turning her paperwork/homework in on time. And as I was the one who devised the system of keeping her homework in the pretty oilcloth folders I made myself and kept on the kitchen shelf, but often forgot to get it back in her backpack even though she completed it on the first day it came home, the "Needs Improvement" grade was really for me.

I misplace things all the time. My own things, and the kids'. If I told you how many times I've had to ask the pediatrician for a new immunization card (and I would if I could remember), you would feel a lot better about yourself. So I wonder how in the world I can teach organization to my precious babies.

Sophia seems to have come by it genetically, from her father's side. He was voted "Most Organized" by his senior class in high school. If it were up to my genes, the kids would be in trouble; my dad loses his keys on average once a year. Once AAA came out and found them in the ignition. The next time, they found them in the front door.

But against all odds and genetic predisposition, I'm doing my best to get a higher mark in Kindergarten this time around with Olivia.  Her reading log is in a secure place on the fridge and her homework folder had gone back and forth to school four times already.

Meanwhile, my "most organized" eight year old is harassing me about getting all her paperwork filled out and sent back in a timely manner. Last week she didn't just hand me the Thursday Folder, a weekly manilla missive filled with permission slips and PTA flyers and trust me to do what had to be done. She read all of them and tried to explain them to me. Perhaps she is still upset about those "Needs Improvements" on her record. And when she had a question about when the folder was supposed to be brought back to school, she wouldn't trust my answer, and called her third grade "homework buddy." She was thwarted by the buddy's answering machine and confused by our call waiting beep at the same time, so she never got through.

Ha, I win! I may lose paperwork, but I can operate the phone. And I was right about what day to return the Thursday Folder (it was Friday). "Outstanding" mark for Mommy!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

To Pack for Camping...

This morning I opened my dryer and a redwood cone fell out. 

I thought that was awesome.

We returned last night from our annual week in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Campground, and first order of business is to wash at least eight loads of laundry, all of which is very dusty and smells of woodsmoke. Last night, I killed two spiders that came crawling out of our clothes. I can only imagine how many more were drowned in my front-load washer. 

I love this time my family spends together at the end of the summer, just the four of us, in the redwood forest of the Central Coast. It changes our whole year. It changes our family. For months I look forward to the moment when my husband has blown up my rubber raft, and I have dragged it out to the shallow river where I lay in dappled sunshine and just float, sometimes with a book and a beer, sometimes just looking up at the trees.

And it was yet again a success. I always come back wanting to hold on to the simplicity and connection to nature. Our cell phones have little reception in the canyon, and on day three our batteries gave out, so we were totally unplugged. After the initial panic, it was bliss. I want you all to try it.

Which is why I am on my computer first thing in the morning, so I can tell all my online friends what to pack for a good camp-out before I forget. 

Here's what to bring: 

a rubber raft or two
a Coleman stove-top percolator to make "camping coffee"
cash for when the grounds in the camping coffee give you indigestion, so you can drive to the lodge and buy "real" coffee
hiking boots and warm socks
water shoes
citronella candles
brie or syrah-soaked cheese from Trader Joe's, and crackers
lots of fresh fruit
beer and cold white wine (if you can find a bottle of Happy Camper California Chardonnay, that's especially appropriate)
a novel that you have read already and love. Something that makes you see nature and the world a little differently is preferable (I chose The Secret Life of Bees).
a piece of thought-provoking nonfiction so you have something stimulating to discuss with your spouse around the campfire every night (I chose The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World by Gabe Lyons)
a camera
anti-gravity folding chairs, plus extra smaller camping chairs for friends you meet in the campground
classic s'more ingredients, plus Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Kit Kats to change things up when you get bored

And then, here's what to bring home: 
river rocks
pine cones
a tan
chapped lips
new souvenier patches for your camoflouge camping jacket (if you happen to have one, as I do)
used books bought at thrift stores on the way home
a central coast Chardonnay to replenish the ones you drank on the trip
a new disdain for spending evenings in front of the television
a new lease on life

More thoughts inspired while drifting on the rive soon to follow.