Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It's time we say so long, for now...

Can you believe that Boy Wonder’s kindergarten adventure is over ?

It seems like last week when we were dropping him off at school and sending him into the wide, unknown world of school. My "baby" left for Texas last weekend, so I’m starting to feel a little like Demeter, who had to send her child into the bowels of hell once a year. (No, seriously, I can relate.)

So in honor of one adventure ending, and his annual adventure beginning, I’d like to share

“Kindergarten: A Scrap-blog.”

First day.
As much as I wished he’d cry and beg me not to go, he actually looked a little embarrassed that I was hanging out in the hallway with all the other parents. He knew two kids in his class from church and the local playground, so as far as he was concerned, he had a lunch and he had some friends—he was good to go. I was bummed out on the ride into work that day, thinking this was the beginning of the end. My little boy was a “real boy” now in that Pinnochio sort of way…the strings would be harder to pull as he became his own little person.

Taking the Show on the Road

My fears that he didn’t need me anymore were for nothing. I met him and his class at the fine arts center downtown and he couldn’t wait to introduce me to everyone he saw. (It’s sort of his thing. He likes to make connections between people and he wants his enthusiasm to be YOUR enthusiasm). We sat in the darkened theater with about a million other kids from across the school district and I decided right then and there that I really loved elementary school and that I should never have been so impatient to leave.

Watch this, Kobe!
Can you believe I coached kiddie basketball? Me? The girl who can’t hit the rim to save her life? Lisa Leslie I am not, but I still managed to get six kids through 18 games with minimal tears and hurt feelings. We even got a few baskets, and though we weren’t officially scoring, I’m pretty sure we won most of our matches. Just sayin’. Dominic wasn’t much of a shooter. Or a dribbler. But the man could rebound like the scrappiest alley cat and he lived for snack breaks and Capri Suns. He was the one who came up with our team name “The Rhinos” (along with his little buddies). They learned sportsmanship, teamwork, and how to have fun. I learned that I’m not the biggest fan of most other parents in the sports world. True story. P had to teach Boy Wonder what to do when people crowded your space. My suggestion to poke their eyes out obviously wasn’t going to work…

Trick or Treatin'.
No, it wasn’t his first Halloween, but it was his first Halloween CARNIVAL at his official school. We packed up the family, dressed the kids as a shadow ninja and a lion and hit the town. Boy Wonder and P braved the haunted maze and came out with relatively few wounds to show for it. Maybe a couple of fake webs stuck to them, but no worse for the wear.

Winning the school art contest
Did you know our little man could draw? Sure enough. In the fall, his school held a contest for all the students to design a bookmark for the city library. And our man Boy Wonder beat out the ENTIRE school. He got a T-shirt with his design on it, a chance to bask in the spotlight at the front of a school assembly and one proud mama in the audience. He also won first place in the food art sculpture contest with a huge clay chocolate chip cookie that we cut a big bite out of. We skipped the science fair out of sheer protest—I was annoyed that fizzy volcanoes had to include some sort of hypothesis to test. I’ve got one for you: Fizzy volcanoes are COOL. Test that one…

Yellow Days are Sad Days
As the year got rolling, Boy Wonder began to learn about consequences. His teacher had a rating system for their days and every afternoon, he’d have a colored stamp on his folder letting us know how it went. Green was good, Blue was fantastic. Yellow was not so good. Red was principal’s office-material. We did our best to let the first few yellows slide, but when they started showing up a little more frequently, he started seeing his after-school cartoon watching disappear. I hate being the bad guy with him, because honestly, he’s probably one of the sweetest humans on the planet (he and his brother are), but that’s the whole parent thing in a nutshell, isn’t it? It was a crash course in actions and consequences for the child and his parents alike.

“Can Sam come over and play?”
He started (somewhat) talking to his friends on the phone this year. It was mostly “Dude….dude….DUDE! Wanna come to my house, dude? Awesome!” But still, there he was, asking to call his buddy Sam. With it came the failed attempt at a sleep over I wrote about a few months back, but mostly it was afternoons at a buddy’s house (or ours) with snacks, the WII, and a mountain of legos.

I Double-Dog Dare You
It wouldn’t be a complete scrap-blog without mentioning the ol’ Flick incident, would it? Inspired by the 24 hours of “A Christmas Story” on TBS, Boy Wonder stuck his tongue to a pole on the frozen playground and hilarity ensued. I saw a mom at the last field trip and somehow that came up. She said her kindergartner came home and told the family all about it. Boy Wonder is famous!

Kindergarten winds down
This past month has been a whirlwind of moving across town (way way way across town), field trips to the zoo with Team Wolverine, Field Day to celebrate the end of school, and preparing for the long journey to Texas. As Boy Wonder said his good byes on that last day, he was mobbed by his classmates and I was quick-thinking enough to keep my camera handy. I can’t explain the genuineness of this age—they really are that sad to see a buddy go. Boy Wonder posed with his teacher and it hit me. As bummed as I was that he’d grown up enough to enter kindergarten, I was having trouble fighting back the tears now that he’d OUTGROWN it and was leaving it behind.

But that’s how it goes isn’t it? I sat back and watched Boy Wonder win his sack race and remembered the day my best friend in 4th grade and I won the three-legged race at our own field day. I remember the epic catch I made in sixth grade to win our class the kickball game. Time is our biggest enemy and our greatest ally. Without it, I’d never get the chance to be the proud mama bear of one Boy Wonder and I’d forever be stuck in that awkward, bony-kneed, mullet-wearing phase I was so fond of in the late 80s. (I’ve still never forgiven you for those god-awful haircuts the first 11 years of my life, Mom. Just so you know!)

So now it’s time for Boy Wonder to go and soak up some summer sun. He’ll come back a little taller, a little tanner and his mama’s very own first grader.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Team Wolverine and the Alaska Zoo

(Note: I have acutal, real, live pictures of "Team Wolverine" and our adventures and will upload them tonight. Promise!)

This week I had the privilege to trek through the Alaska zoo with a crew of five kindergarten boys. Yes, that’s right, FIVE of them.

Talk about ants-in-the-pants, HEY YOU STOP RUNNINGANDGETOFFATHATFENCE nonstop action. It was a trip. And a treasure.

Boy Wonder was so proud that I was chaperoning, that he had to introduce me to every single kindergartner he could see. And some of the first graders, too. Not to mention, he tried to introduce me to some kids that didn’t even go to his school. Talk about a social kid. (I wonder if he’s going to be that excited when P and I show up to chaperone his first middle school dance? Hahahaha!)

There was no way in Hades I was going to be able to bark out commands to each antsy, fidgety boy in my group fast enough to keep them from being eaten by the grizzly bears or pecked to death by the horned owl, so before we set out, I named them “Team Penguin”—only to have the lame group next to us call themselves penguins. Lame! We ran through a list that included Team Duck, Team Dinosaur, Team Lemon (seriously, who’s kid was that??), and even Team Elephant, which I flatly REFUSED to entertain for one MOMENT, and finally “Team Wolverine.” (There was also a Team Polar Bear and the copycats, Team Penguin. A couple groups of girls didn’t get into the naming thing, and preferred to be the Princess Squad. Ha!)

Our first area was the “rescue” area, full of ravens (yay!) and owls (yay! yay!) some eagles (golden and red), a raccoon, some foxes (arctic and red) and finally a skunk. (Really? A skunk?) I was provided with an information sheet for each animal, and the only thing the kids wanted to know was where the animals were born. Which mostly wasn’t provided (except for the raccoon, who was born in El Paso, Texas. Same as Boy Wonder. Who thinks they might have been born at the same hospital, and now wants me to look and see if, in fact, they were both born at Las Palmas.) I doubt it , Boy Wonder, but I can look into it if it’s that important to you.

We wandered down to the tiger enclosure and found the tiger brothers both asleep. Same with the grizzly bears. One boy, Caleb, thought they looked “hung over.” I asked how he’d know what that looks like and he told me he heard it on Cartoon Network once. (I hate you, Cartoon Network.)
We heard an incessant yapping and I thought maybe the old neighbor lady’s dog had followed me somehow to Anchorage, but finally saw the coyote being a real whiner in the center of his cage. Boy Wonder’s best buddy, Sam, told me that it was “probably just pissed off.”
“He’s what?” I asked, needing clarification. That wasn’t what I thought it was, was it?
“Pissed off, Megan. He’s pissed off.”

“Oh, right Sam. Might not want to offer that explanation to Mrs. Ives, though. Could land you a yellow day, buddy.”

By the tenth animal cage we passed, we decided that Tuesdays were really “Nap Day” at the Alaska Zoo. Even the Dall Sheep were sleeping, and those things never sleep. Sleeping river otters, sleeping moose, sleeping caribou, sleeping camels, sleeping Tibetan yaks. My wolverines were getting impatient.

To keep Team Wolverine awake, we tromped across the bridge as loud as we could to scare up the troll from the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” (a story they’d read the week before and we’d just seen sleeping “Billy Goats”). I got dirty looks from the other chaperones, but I aimed my troll gun at them and pulled the trigger—the universal “Scarface” warning to “mind yer own biziness, eh?”

Our tromping then turned into “Troll Hunting” with a few snipers, some gunners in the rear, and a team scout. (Not to worry, I rotated our leader/scout after each animal exhibit, so the whole troop got to lead the men to troll battle.)

The big hit was the “water” exhibits. We saw seals peeing in the water (true, and gross, story), otters sleeping (surprise, surprise!) and Polar Bears chewing on tires and a white bucket. The water exhibits had upstairs and downstairs (underwater) views and by the time I got through lifting five boys multiple times from each vantage point, I felt buff like Jillian Michaels.

Hidden in the back, behind the polar bears and beside the sleeping lynx, was our buddy, the Wolverine. Not only was our namesake awake, he was OCD. That little animal ran the same lap circuit around his cage the entire 20 minutes we stood there admiring him. Every once in a while, he’d change his course and run next to the bars in front of us to give us a better view, but the guy never quit running. It was impressive, almost as impressive as the boys’ favorite wolverine fact: an adult wolverine is strong enough (and mean enough!) to take down a full-grown moose.
Was the moose placed across the trail from the wolverine on purpose, then? Is that sort of like sticking a mirror in front of a fighting fish’s bowl and letting it charge itself?

The finale was worth the 2+ hours of pulling boys off exhibits and out of trash cans. The wolf exhibit had a sibling set of six wolves (three brothers and three sisters) that romped and “wrassled” in front of us. As we were turning to leave, the pack gathered about four feet from Team Wolverine and began howling as loud as they could. I’ve never seen something so amazing in my life and I doubt I ever will again. It gave me chills. To show solidarity, my own wolverine pack joined in the chorus and I snapped away with my camera like a fiend. Moments like that don’t repeat themselves and I’ll carry the image of “my” boys singing with the wolf brothers as long as I live.

So there it is. Kindergarten comes to a close in a few weeks and I got to top it off with the “trip” of a lifetime. Here’s hoping you find your own “wolfsong” moment this week.