Monday, October 22, 2007

Max, the Lightweight World Champion

Tonight Max will attend his first wrestling class. He is so excited! In my head, I am thinking, he is going to love this sport, and, with the years passing even faster in my head than they do in real life, I imagine him drinking protein shakes and putting on wetsuits and wearing garbage bags and telling me, Bye, Mom, I'm going out for a run! to make weight. I've been blessed with cousins and friends who were great wrestlers to teach me all about that part of the wrestling world. I imagine his wiry little body dressed in a singlet, scurrying around on the mat in the quest for another pin. I see his long dark curls sticking out of his headgear as he gets up and shakes it off, preparing for his next move. I hear myself screaming, Shoot! Shoot! Take him down!

Today, I will just try to worry about how to get him to the gym when I'd secretly rather be tucking him in for bedtime stories and prayers.

Max and I look forward to the community education book that arrives in our mailbox quarterly. I scour the newspaper in search of fun activities to try. Possibilities for this fall were so numerous with many great classes in the arts, math, science, and athletics. I presented him with lots of choices for sports activities: football, floor hockey, ice skating lessons, basketball, soccer, martial arts, and wrestling. Meanwhile, the worried mom in me thought about the potential downfalls of each activity as he would grow up: tackling, body checking, fasting, injuries on the mat.

Tops on his list were wrestling and martial arts, so I signed him up for a six-session wrestling clinic, as well as floor hockey, which was cancelled due to low enrollment, and basketball. This winter I also plan to take him to bowling, swimming lessons, or both. If Max were given his ultimate choice, he might actually choose to stay home all day and play with Legos and experiment with test tubes and chemicals and watch Mythbusters on television. He protested for weeks when I signed him up for baseball two summers ago, until he fell in love with the game after his first practice. I am excited that he is so excited to try something new.

So this evening I am taking camera and my lightweight 53-pounder to his first wrestling class. Shoot the moon, Max!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My Kids Say the Funniest Things

This morning Mitchell woke up dry from a night of sound sleep, as always, and five minutes later, his diaper could hold not one more drop. That's why my sofa slipcover is soaking in the washing machine.

As Mitchell and I do almost every morning, when we are the only two awake in the house, we sat together on the sofa, me laying down and him sitting on my legs, talking about lots of topics. His voice is full of energy and is smile is deeply animated. Lately he loves to talk about his clubs (see so I asked him if he wanted to start a Diaper Club with his friends. He didn't like the idea very much. I'm sure he knew in which direction I would casually steer our conversation.

"You could all bring diapers to your club meetings and trade them," I offered. "You could talk about your favorite brands of diapers."

"No way," he replied immediately.

After a minute or two more of discussion about this non-topic, he said, "I can't think of any friends I have that still wear diapers." So we went through his list of ten or twelve playmates and buddies, and sure enough, he was the only one. And I could tell he was very proud of that.

I have asked the opinions of my friends ("just take away his diapers" or "he'll wear underwear when he's ready") and my pediatrician ("I usually refer parents to a psychologist after their child reaches age three and a half"). I am not bothered or concerned by Mitchell's adamant refusal to wear underwear, ever. I know he is physically ready for the potty. I know he is brilliant. I also know he can be stubborn and he likes to do things in his own unique way. I am very curious to see how long he really will wait to make the switch from Pampers (actually, we've switched to Target brand diapers to make Mitchell a little less Pampered) to little boxer shorts from The Gap. While I wait, I know we will have more cute conversations just like the one we shared this morning. It was the smilingest part of my day.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Homeschool: Field Trip #1

When my oldest son Max was just a baby, we had two sets of next-door neigbhors who homeschooled their children. I couldn't imagine sending my new little one off to school for half of his waking hours. I wanted to spend those precious hours with him, learning and playing and enjoying each other's company. However, I couldn't imagine him missing out on all the school experiences I cherished: bringing birthday treats to school, meeting my favorite teachers, taking field trips, and making friends. As I learned more about homeschooling, I realized he would be able to have all of those experiences as a homeschooler. When Max was just a toddler, I was so excited to learn about a local homeschool co-op, in which homeschooled children take classes together once a week. I also learned that homeschool families organize a variety of field trips for their children.

We attended both sessions of the co-op last year, and Max took classes in physical education, Spanish, art, music, science, and public speaking. Our field trip club went to the Science Museum, the Post Bulletin newspaper facilities, the fire station, and Godfather's Pizza. We also went Christmas Caroling at an assisted living facility, enjoyed a gingerbreaad house-making party, and Max played the part of a composer in a musical about Mozart with kindergarten through third graders.
This overcast, chilly morning (50is degrees, with light drizzle) we enjoyed our first field trip of the school year with our homeschool field trip club, which is organized through the homeschool co-op at Christ Community Church here in Rochester. Participation is open to homeschooling families in the area, and the twenty spots in Max's second and third grade class filled quickly. We didn't get our spot in the co-op this fall, but we were able to join the field trip club as alternate members to fill vacant spots on field trips as needed. Most families' schedules are so busy during the week that not everyone can attend every field trip. Fifteen kids, one bundled baby, and a handful of moms and dads met at Apple Ridge Orchard near Mazeppa, just north of Rochester.

Our tour began inside the store, as the owner showed us the kinds of apples they sell, explained the importance of honeybees to apple orchards, and talked about how apples grow through the year. He showed us a bee veil, and a bee smoker, which looks like a metal watering can. The beekeeper puts a small piece of burning burlap inside the smoker and pumps smoke near the beehive to calm the bees while collecting honey. We learned that bees need about forty pounds of honey inside their hive to survive the winter, and that each bee travels 55,000 miles to produce one pound of honey. Amazing!!!

Many pairs of eyes lit up with excitement as the owner opened the door to the adjacent room where apples are washed and sorted. We were going backstage at the apple orchard. He turned on the washing and sorting machine for us, and Max said it was just like a car wash for apples. After being washed, apples are sorted into two groups: medium/large and small. The smaller apples fall off the spinning part of the machine first, and they go onto a separate conveyer belt. Workers then sort each group of apples according to grade: first quality, second quality, and cider apples. The apples that are not suitable for consumption are used for fertilizer for the orchards.

He also showed us an apple-picking bag, made of sturdy canvas, and demonstrated the gentle technique which pickers must use while harvesting apples so the produce is not damaged as it is placed into the bag or the wooden crate. Workers strap the bag onto their body, enabling their hands to work freely, and when they are ready to empty the bag into a wooden crate, they unfasten a metal hook at the bottom of their bag.

Mitchell began to cry when we were inside the small room where apple cider is made. The owner warned us that the grinder and shredder would be loud, and he only turned it on for a second, but it was long enough to send Mitchie into tears. The machine crushes the entire apple-- skins, seeds, and pulp -- and a pan catches the juice. The juice goes into a dairy bulk tank and is dispensed into jugs with another machine. Leftover hard pieces and pulp are used for fertilizer. The best kept marketing secret at the orchard was our last stop on the formal part of the tour. The owner opened a thick, oversized wooden door, and we were greeted with the delicious scent of hundreds of freshly picked apples. We were offered a peek inside the cold storage room, where dozens of worn crates were stacked on top of one another. "I wish our whole house smelled like this," Max commented longingly.

After our tour inside the building, we took a wagon ride up a hill to the orchard. Apple Ridge Orchard has 5,000 apple trees and their varieties include the popular Honeycrisp, Haralson, Fireside, Zestar, Goldcrisp, and others. They also grow pumpkins and grapes. The kids enjoyed the children's size corn maze, which is supposed to take about eight minutes to explore, and the regular-sized corn maze, which is supposed to take twenty to thirty minutes to navigate successfully. Max and his friends Fiona and Nic completed the maze in less than ten minutes with the other kids, and we joked among ourselves that our kids completed the challenge so quickly because they were homeschooled. As the drizzle continued to fall, each child chose a mini-size pumpkin to take home in their own bag. While we waited for the tractor and wagon to pick us up again, we checked out the goats, bunnies, sheep, and alpaca on the farm.

At the end of our tour, each child received their choice of a small Honeycrisp apple to take home. Mitchell ate his entire apple in the car on the way back to Rochester. We paid for our field trip tickets ($3.50 for each child, which included the tour, corn maze, wagon ride, mini pumpkin, and apple) and bought a half bushel of Fireside seconds, a container of fat free caramel dip (I had to try it, since the regular version is a new favorite of mine, at a whopping 140 calories and 6 grams of fat for each two-tablespoon serving), two kinds of squash I have never tried, a caramel-dipped apple for the boys to share with their lunch, and a pint of apple cider for the ride home. Our locally-grown goods cost just over $25. Max said his favorite part of the field trip was the corn maze and the wagon ride. Mitchell loved best his "free apple" and the wagon ride. I loved sitting next to my boys on the wagon, each of us with damp curls, seeing their eyes sparkle as they spotted ripe apples that had fallen to the ground, as the clouds hung lightly over the hillside. We were reminded again this morning to appreciate the farmers who spend many hours growing the foods we enjoy each day.