Thursday, June 27, 2013

and on the third day...

continuing our journey...

we had originally planned to drive directly from san marcos to williams, arizona, where i booked us a two-night stay at the grand canyon railway hotel so we could take the grand canyon railway up to - you guessed it - the grand canyon - for a day trip.

just days before we left woodland, however, my brother learned he needed to be in our neck of the woods for work, so he was able to come out and meet us for dinner.  we were discussing our plans and he suggested that we take a different route, to come through phoenix instead.  it would not add miles to our drive; in fact, it would be perfect timing for us to come and relax at his place for dinner and avoid the rush hour traffic.  we haven't had much opportunity to spend time with my brother and his wife and their two children, so we quickly accepted his offer.

traveling along interstate 8 we made it pretty close to the border with mexico but never actually crossed it.  perhaps some other time when we weren't facing a deadline.

the scenery changed from lush, deep forest greens to myriad shades of creams and tans and browns.  the mountains were no longer thick with trees but imposing with huge mounds of rock, a zen garden for the gods.

we emerged from those craggy hills to an expansive flatness.  i was grateful for this; having held my breath for nearly the entire time i drove on the winding roads, wondering if we would be pummeled into oblivion by a freak rockslide (not that we'd have to worry about the rented vehicle, as we purchased the bumper-to-bumper insurance), i could relax and settle in to a more relaxed driving posture.  we gazed at the sea of windmills and realized how very much different the landscape looks where there is little water.

we amused ourselves by scouring the land for evidence of the djinn in charge of all deserts.  we saw spontaneous pillars of whirling sand popping up around us; once, we even felt the car shift slightly to the side as the gust traveled across our path.

capturing the djinn on camera is almost as difficult as documenting any other form of paranormal existence. if you squint, though, and let your mind be open to imagination, you can see the sandstorm.

now, none of us are particularly fond of roller coasters.  ander likes mild ones, diana has trouble even watching, steve and i will go on them to join others, but we don't have that thrill-seeking gene that some of my extended family members do.  so the anticipation of 17 miles of little dips in the road through the sonoran desert national monument was perfectly suitable for us.  you could see when the dips were coming, none of them looked threatening, and you knew that, at just the right speed, you could achieve that uneasy feeling in your gut that is simultaneously horrifying and thrilling.  that was enough for us.  the only thing that could have made it perfect would have been a camel sighting, but that was not in the cards for us (because there aren't any camels there, silly.)

every once in a while, margaret the gps would tell us to go one way, when the road very obviously did not exist.  technology is only as good as its updates, i suppose.

no camels, but we were to expect cows, based on these signs.  i think we might have seen one.

when we arrived at my brother's gorgeous home, a little later than expected, we were welcomed in with hugs and a delicious dinner.  the four cousins, despite not having seen each other in some years, easily fell into fun playtime with legos and swimming as their gateways.

i had forgotten to pack the kids' swimsuits for the trip. fortunately, their cousins had some extras to share that fit well enough.

snowball was so happy to be in her cage on solid ground.

diana starts her persuasive effort to get everyone else out of the hot tub and into the cool pool.
i love the expression on my niece's face!

all too soon it was time for us to get back on the road.  with much angst involved, we extracted our children from their aqueous bliss so that we could complete our day's journey.  thank goodness ander was asleep by the time we reached 7000 feet above sea level - his poor little ears did not adjust well to the changes in elevation and, to this day, becomes anxious when approaching mountainous regions.

we were so glad it worked out in our plans to visit with family - an opportunity too good to pass up! 

next stop...the canyon.

mileage via google maps, post-trip:

day 1 - woodland, ca to yosemite bug = 178 miles
day 2 - to san marcos, ca = 390 miles
day 3 - to williams, az = 576 miles
miles traveled after day 3 = 1144 miles

on to the next travel post

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

on cobblers and generals

note: i started this blog entry ages ago.  i recently rediscovered it as i sort through unfinished writing.  seems as good a time as any to get it done.)

chapter 11 of susan cain's book quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking focuses on children.  i have thoroughly enjoyed the entire book, which i completed reading earlier this year, taking turns with diana, but this chapter in particular is a valuable resource to me as i strive to seek out and provide meaningful opportunities for my own children.

i read a lot of books.  i don't write a lot about books, though, and steve wondered aloud why i wanted to acknowledge this one in particular.  after all, i was somewhat knowledgeable already about introversion and extroversion through my educational background and work experience, so this book didn't really present new information to me.  but the author succeeded in connecting what i knew academically to what i was feeling personally.  maybe it's the personal anecdotes; maybe it's her storytelling style (that would not surprise me, given diana's predilection for certain kinds of writing and her avid fascination for this book); maybe it's the way the author effectively conveys that introverts are not inferior or superior to extroverts, just different - worthy of consideration instead of dismissal and appreciation instead of conversion.  she reinforces what diana has come to learn about herself, what i am still discovering about ander, and, now, what i am finding as we transition to a new place and new people.

i think it's a wonderfully illustrative chapter for all adults who have any interaction with children, or those who have opinions in any way, shape, or form regarding children.  whether one is a parent, teacher, caregiver, extended family member, coach, health care provider; whether you self-identify as an introvert or extrovert; this chapter and its reflections and practical suggestions are illuminating and compassionate and spot-on regarding the quiet ones.

some of the gems in "how to cultivate quiet kids in a world that can't hear them" are especially important for people who don't really get introversion or are mistaken about what it is or what they need to do about it.

"One of the best things you can do for an introverted child is to work with him on his reaction to novelty.  Remember that introverts react not only to new people, but also to new places and events.  So don't mistake your child's caution in new situations for an inability to relate to others...Introverts are just as likely as the next kid to seek others' company, though often in smaller doses."
"The key is to expose your child gradually to new situations and people - taking care to respect his limits, even when they seem extreme.  This produces more-confident kids than either overprotection or pushing too hard."
"If you want your child to learn these skills, don't let her hear you call her 'shy': she'll believe the label and experience her nervousness as a fixed trait rather than an emotion she can control.  She also knows full well that 'shy' is a negative word in our society.  Above all, do not shame her for her shyness."
"If your child prefers to work autonomously and socialize one-on-one, there's nothing wrong with her; she just happens not to fit the prevailing model.  The purpose of school should be to prepare kids for the rest of their lives, but too often what kids need to be prepared for is surviving the school day itself."

"Don't think of introversion as something that needs to be cured...We think about introverted kids as having a different learning style."

"Introverts often have one or two deep interests that are not necessarily shared by their peers.  Sometimes they are made to feel freaky for the force of these passions, when in fact studies show that this sort of intensity is a prerequisite to talent development."

"Some collaborative work is fine for introverts, even beneficial.  But it should take place in small groups - pairs or threesomes - and carefully structured so that each child knows her role."
"...try not to worry if all signs suggest that your introverted child is not the most popular kid at school.  It's critically important for his emotional and social development that he have one or two solid friendships, child development experts tell us, but being popular isn't necessary.  Many introverted kids grow up to have excellent social skills, although they tend to join groups in their own way - waiting a while before they plunge in, or participating only for short periods.  That's OK."

"...introverts often stick with their enthusiasms.  This gives them a major advantage as they grow, because true self-esteem comes from competence, not the other way around...Well-developed talents and interests can be a great source of confidence for your child, no matter how different he might feel from his peers."

"...let your child take the lead in picking the activities he likes best.  He may not like any team sports, and that's OK.  Help him look for activities where he'll meet other kids, but also have plenty of his own space.  Cultivate the strengths of his disposition.  If his passions seem too solitary for your taste, remember that even solo activities like painting, engineering, or creative writing can lead to communities of fellow enthusiasts."
in rereading the selections i pulled out, it strikes me that a lot of these suggestions/recommendations apply not just to introverted individuals, but also to those who are identified as gifted, exceptional, or having other special needs.  such children are not broken or destined for failure because they don't fit a general model.  they are atypical, out of the ordinary, unexpected.  all kids have needs; i believe it is our responsibility, as their guiding and nurturing adults and as fellow human beings, to help them identify those needs and discover - or create - experiences to address those needs.

so how do i (try to) do this for me and mine?  this requires daily practice of a particular mindfulness, almost like dealing with a life-affecting condition.  among other things, be prepared.  be patient.  take little steps.  introduce novelty within the context of the known and the security of the predictable.  recognize and celebrate the effort it takes to achieve successes that others may not see.  build time into the day, week, month, year for doing our own thing, whatever that thing may be.  appreciate growth when and where it happens.  offer solace instead of shaming.  ask for, rather than assume, preferences.  be open to, but not dependent upon, change.  say yes more often than no.  view our choices as doing what works for us.  learn and appreciate and live our stories of who and what we are.

note: in our emailed introductions to various groups here, especially homeschooling ones, i identified our family as "introverts with varying levels of social competence and comfort."  some people might not believe that about me, as i have tried very hard - and apparently have been successful at - projecting confidence when interacting with others.  please understand, my new acquaintances, that, no, i am not always chipper and talkative, but i play a person like that on tv. ;)

Monday, June 24, 2013

over the (potomac) river and through the woods (or mountain range)

we went to visit lots of grandparents this weekend.

saturday we headed out for another beautiful drive down towards the blue ridge mountains to see gigi (steve's grandmother).  the kids especially love to see and hang out with her.

ok, this was from the week before, but you get the idea
there's always a treat on the way back home; after about an hour, we reach the moo-thru, where ander gets a scoop of chocolate on a cone, diana gets an upside down cookie dough, and i get a waffle cone of whatever tickles my fancy that day.  yesterday it was mint chocolate chip.  it should be called mint chocolate chunk, because there were generous helpings of the brown stuff in amongst the green.

ooh, i remember this one - snickers & peanut butter chocolate!

it's important to visit the happy cow
today we anticipated rain, but the skies were clear for our whole day to see grandma and grandpa (steve's folks) in the alleghany mountains in maryland.

papasan chair! it's a nest!

we had just enough time to take in a bit of the chesapeake & ohio canal national historic park visitor center.  as per usual, i got excited and bought books and a magnet and postcards and grabbed some maps for later perusal.  diana would have loved to investigate all the curious aspects of the museum, but ander was itching to see the trains we had promised.

the steam engine had already left the station for the day, but the caboose was open, and an obliging docent gave us a fantastic tour and thorough description of the parts and purposes of the caboose and its inhabitants.

chillin' in the cupola

"all looks good here"

our family is exceedingly fond of ice cream.  so we ended our excursion with a walk to the queen city creamery

i'm hoping to indulge in the cuisine at the crabby pig, if only because the name makes me giggle out loud.

i had to stop on the way back at an antique shop in the village of lucketts, va because of, well...



ander: "look - busts!"
it's crucial to have a well-lubricated rooster

sadly, the store was closed (understandable for late on a sunday evening), but we are definitely coming back to get something for the yard.  i just have to make sure it fits in the back of the minivan.

Friday, June 21, 2013

the longest and laziest of days

another year, another trip around the sun, another summer solstice to celebrate.

the weather is quite obliging.  cool enough this morning to keep our windows open, sunny enough to warm us while we splashed in the pool this afternoon.

our craft to appreciate the sun was a first for us.  it's not an original idea, but it was the right time for us to do it.




 ah, sweet summertime!