Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Paradise City Dance Party

When Dylan and Grady announced that Etna Elementary was holding its first-ever Valentine's Day Dance, I feared it was going to be like the last school dance I attended.  I had visions of low lights, bathroom vomit, spinning disco balls, and awkwardly trying to dance to the slow-fast song, "Paradise City."  Thankfully, the reality was pretty much the opposite.

For starters, this was most likely the first "real" dance any of these kids had ever attended.  No one had any idea what was supposed to happen, which made it great.  It started as all dances do: with no one dancing.  But there were snacks, I know because I was generously offered cups of pretzels by the snack patrol boys at least seventy-five times.  The girls mostly huddled in little groups and the sweaty boys chucked bouncy balls at each other.  A couple of the bold parents herded a few kids into small dance circles and pretty soon those circles got larger and larger and the boys who weren't playing on the climbing wall joined in and then, BAM, a conga line formed and it was on like Donkey Kong.

Kids bounced around, parents worked out old moves and the cafeteria suddenly transformed into Soul Train.  I was even asked to dance!  Does it count that it was Grady who asked me?  It does.  Dylan and I danced to Bob Marley (of all things) and Grady and Regina squeezed in until the four of us swayed and sang, "This is my message to you-oo-oo."

Since the lights were already fully on, and the DJ was just a boom box playing Pandora, no one knew when to quit.  We finally checked our watches and realized maybe the best thing about an elementary school dance on a Tuesday afternoon was that last-dance came early.  There were no weird slow songs to wind this sucker down, just some pop candy song from the radio and a time to clean up announcement.  What a perfect ending.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Dylan and the Impossible Load or Grady and the Overdue Transformers

I have packed, on my back, mule deer across the Colorado wilderness; I have carried a very solid Grady, on my shoulders, into and out of mountain lakes; I can toss heavy bales of alfalfa hay and I can lift Lardo the giant St. Bernard into the bed of my truck, but what I cannot do is carry Dylan's backpack.  It's ridiculously heavy.  When I looked inside, I found books.  Books!  Who reads physical books these days?  Apparently she does, despite also having a Kindle.  I curse JK Rowling, Percy Jackson, and every new volume of Lumberjanes for their weighty tomes.  If you lifted her backpack, you'd swear she was smuggling ... what?  Bars of gold?  Dumbbells?  A fine hammer collection?  The Washington Monument?  They test the tinsel strength of LL Bean's stitching, but, thankfully, so far, nothing's burst.

Who wants to see photos of kids reading?  No one.
Here's a couple of them playing in the snow.
You're welcome.
Last I checked, Dylan was reading 6 books at the same time.  Six.  I get confused when ESPN runs a ticker tape while sportscasters are talking, but somehow she's able to keep Ron Weasley's love life, Ghosts major plot points, and Queen Elizabeth's suitors all straight and in order without confusing Henry VIII as a quidditch player and Hermione Granger as a spirit.

My Virgo-ness (read: OCD) tendencies finally got the best of me and I snapped.  Actually, I thought my vertebrae snapped when I tried to pick up Dylan's pack to put in her home lunch, and I knew this had to end.  Actually, my first thought was that I'd take her on my next hunting trip and let her pack out a deer.  It certainly would be a breeze compared to the library she's been packing around.  Regina was more practical (ug, Virgos, amiright?.  Oh wait, that's me too).  She came up with the 2 book rule.  Yeah, I know, we have to punish our kid for reading too much.  The horror.  But at this point, we're just trying to save her posture.

Grady's love of books runs just as strong and he is like Dylan, who reads then re-reads everything.  Grady is on a Star Wars, Transformers, Batman book loop at the school library.  We get overdue notices every other week and I swear I've returned whatever book they're asking for.  Yeah, I returned it, but he's checked it out eleven times since then.  At least the rotating loop keeps his backpack at a manageable weight.

So Grady can keep stashing library books underneath his pillow and Dylan confessed tonight that she's reading 3 books right now.  I can live with that, as long as she does the heavy lifting.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Juddy, Don't Take Your Guns To Town

The thing about military checkpoints in Mexico is that they don't spook me.  They shouldn't, of course.  I'm not smuggling illegals in my chassis or heroin in my spare tire.  They sometimes lead to fun surprises, like the time Regina and I stopped and one and inadvertently agreed to give an entire platoon a ride in the back of my truck.  But, they're also manned by boys with automatic rifles who look like they're learning to shave and frequently feature a guy in a sandbagged bunker with a .50 caliber trained at passersby.  So, yeah, they can be a little intimidating.

Checkpoints work like this:  The non-smiling military man in full camo and a shemagh around his neck leans into your window and says something unintelligible in Spanish.  I look blankly, then turn to Regina for support.  Then, in English, the non-smiling man asks, "Where are you going?"  I tell him, and usually because I know we'll repeat the blank stare game for at least another round, preempt any further awkwardness by asking if we can get out of the truck.  We enjoy the break, generally.  Regina and I stretch, the kids play, and the military check out our beat up camping gear before they send us on our merry way.  But when the non-smiling man takes something from your console and gives you a look of both fear and WTF, then you know you've really f'ed up.  The thing?  A single bullet, forgotten from a hunt three months prior.  The look on his face told me they were going to tear the Titan apart, piece by piece until they found the rifle that accompanied the bullet.  I told him he could keep it, which was dumb.  Regina, suddenly fluent and chatty, told them I was the greatest American hunter who ever lived and I was taking a break from a grueling season to visit their beautiful country.  Or, she said, "My husband's an okay hunter and a bit of an idiot.  Have mercy on him."  Either way, it worked and so began our Christmas in Baja.

The rest of the vacation was all shrimp tacos and cold beer.  We met great people who invited us into their home for Christmas and fed us pie; we smirked at the young studious kids getting off the giant "research vessel" parked out in the bay until we realized it was the Sea Shepherd and they were probably spending their holidays hosing down whale poachers; we ate fresh sea bass that Regina caught; we visited great-great-grandfathers grave; and we drank wine on the beach while the kids build sand castles.  I could have stayed another month (and when we returned home to -10 degree weather, I wish we would have).

Our trip home took us from the Sea of Cortez to the Pacific ocean, and over a snow covered mountain range (something I'd never seen in Baja, but impressed just one person: Me.).  My Spanish is just bad enough to misinterpret most things I hear or read (See: checkpoint anecdote above), so I passed the long hours of driving by interpreting the road signs for Regina.  Some read, I think: Don't Drive Like a Jerkwad, Your Family Waits For You.  I like that someone in the roadsigns division decided to make that one personal.  You!  Yeah, you, Carlos.  Slow 'er down, buddy.  Usually, a few kilometers past the first one would be be another, less stern warning that, Drinking and Driving, You Know, Might be Bad.  Mr. Roadsign maker must've had a few Coronas when he came up with that one.  And my favorite sign, but definitely the most lazy, just read: Obey the Signs.  Okie dokie.  Thanks.

So, we obeyed the signs, drove up through Baja's wine country, which we thought would be like driving through Alabama's wine country, and we were a little more than surprised at the great wines we tried.  Granted, we had to use 4-wheel drive just to get to some of the vineyards, but they were Napa-gorgeous when we finally rolled in.  We sampled and bought more than a few bottles to take home.  So when we passed through our last military checkpoint -- the border -- with waaaaay more than our allowed 2 measly liters of wine limit, I didn't bat an eye when the guy in aviator glasses asked if I had anything to declare.  Nope, I said and smiled as I drove on.