Rolling Down the Snow

So, last night, the car started acting funny. Actually, there was nothing funny about it. The car was packed to the gills with small, wiggling children, seven tons of groceries and many hard won trophies from the hunt at Target. We had been out since eleven that morning and, naps be damned, we had stayed out until close to three thirty! Sometimes in the effort to have some semblance of a normal life, not to mention trying to actually accomplish goals you set for your self (such as having food to eat) you need to forgo the normal routine that ostensibly keeps your children sane but keeps you anchored to your house. This is exactly what we had done and we had the station wagon full of booty and crazed children to prove it.

The excursion had all in all, gone well. Neither Short Stack nor Lulu Belle had inflicted an emotional meltdown on us and both seemed happy for the chance to do something interesting. The rainy, cold weather had prompted me to do something! By ten that morning, I was looking down the barrel of hours and hours of hanging out in the living room with the kids, slowly going insane to the pitter patter of raindrops. Normally, I’d have jumped into a project, but with both kids home, that was decidedly NOT going to be a possibility. Plus, I didn’t want to.

By the time we were pointed homeward, the sky was looking brighter, the February rain had stopped and Short Stack at least, had managed to nod off for a few precious minutes. We were wrapping up a good afternoon outing. We drove back to the boat terminal and were the first car in line to board the ferry for the trip back to our island home. When the boat was ready, we drove on, parked and shut off the car.

Bad move.

Some time later as the ferry pulled up to the dock, we got the kids back in their seats and turned the key.

“Raur… raur…. raur.”

“Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me!”

My wife, Action Girl, was driving at the time and she was looking at the dashboard with a mixture of disbelief and hate-lasers. If any mortal being had been given that look, they would have had to shield their eyes or burst into a torrent of flame. The car, on the other hand, didn’t seem to care.

“Raur… raur… raur…”

There was obviously no way it was going to crank fast enough to catch. Having to make the other cars behind us wait while the crew went to get the onboard jumper pack was bad enough, but remember, Action Girl is a captain here. This is her turf and she knows every one and they know her. Plus, she HATES to be embarrassed. Needless to say, I wouldn’t want to be the car right now.

So, with a jump, we got home with our cargo. It just about died when we pulled into the yard and after going for a quick spin to charge up the battery, I’m pretty sure it’s the distributor or possibly, the alternator. Either way, it’s not reliable and is scheduled to go in to the garage later this week. Should be a fun drive to get it there.

This morning we all got up early enough to have a leisurely breakfast before heading in our various directions. Action Girl is working an AM shift and needed to be gone on an early boat and Short Stack needed to get to pre-school. Lulu Belle and I were the only ones loafing at home today. Not trusting the car to behave was no problem for Action Girl. She didn’t need it to get to the ferry landing and thus, to work. The question was, how to get my son where he needed to be. His pre-school is on the island and not a very hard walk at all, but as anyone who has gone for a stroll with a nearly-three year old can attest, the power of the “distraction” factor is with out equal. Everything is worth inspecting with deep interest and care when you’re that age. To make matters more patience grinding, Short Stack is in the full blown “why” phase of life.

“What is that, Dad?”

“It’s a parked car.”

“Why is it parked there?”

“Because, the people who own it must have left it there.”

“But why did they leave it there?”

A quick intake of breath as I see the conversational precipice loom before me. “Well, maybe they live in the house next to where the car’s parked.”

“Why do they live there?”

“Everyone has to live somewhere.”

“Why does everyone have to live somewhere?”

I rub my brow in an effort to smooth out some of the rapidly deepening wrinkles. “We all need a place to be, I guess. Look Short Stack! Is that a robin?”

He’ll easily blow past my pathetic attempt to redirect the conversation and pulls things back to the confounding persistence of the car to remain parked there as well as the philosophical need to belong to a place. All this time, we will have moved, oh… two and a half feet if I’m lucky. I try really, REALLY hard to answer each and every question he has, but if we are attempting to actually get someplace, it would have been faster to box the two of us up and mail us than let us walk.

No. Walking there was out of the question. Plus, yesterday’s rain had turned into last night’s snow and a couple of inches of the fluffy stuff covered everything. Remember, two inches to an adult equals at least five to a three year old. If we walked, the tulips would be in bloom by the time we arrived.

Action Girl actually came up with the solution. The roads were still covered and perfect for the sled. When breakfasts were finished and snow suits donned, I packed Lulu Belle into the kid carrier backpack, hoisted her up and strapped her in. Then, we dusted off the sled. Short Stack needed little encouragement to hop in and was beaming from under his knit hat as he hugged his school bag.

“Ready, buddy?”

“YAH!”

The orange plastic sled easily scooted along and as I trudged along, we left a trail of compressed snow, happy laughter and exclamations of glee. This was the best way to go to school ever! The trip took marginally longer than it would have with the car and was defiantly more appreciated. The sun was bright, the wind low and the world sparkled with its clean, while mantle. We arrived without incident and once he was pealed out of his layers of winter clothing, he happily joined the table of other children covered in paste and construction paper. I had to actually ask for a hug and kiss goodbye.

As Lulu Belle and I tromped home, sled tucked under my arm, I looked down at the trail we had only just made. It was still flat and unblemished by footprints. The crisp outline of the track stood out strongly on the smooth snow and it made me think of times long past. Days when the roads were rolled after a snowstorm to pack it down for the horses and sleighs. When children going to school by sled was probably anything but odd and looked forward to as part and parcel of the winter season.

rolling2

It’s days like this that I really love where I live. Being in northern New England provides us with the “Currier and Ives” old world of barns and colonial era houses that I enjoy so much and island living means that traffic is thin at worst and non-existent at best. It also makes the sledding all the more satisfying.

I almost decided to keep walking when we reached our front yard but Lulu Belle was starting to flag and her crib was calling to her. It was, after all, time for the morning nap. I walked up the steps and looked back at our trail, now starting to melt in the morning sun. By the time I need to go collect Short Stack this afternoon the snow would likely be gone or at least, un-sledable. Looks like we’ll be walking after all.

I’ll be sure to pack provisions for the trek. We might be gone for a while and have to make camp.

“But why do we need to make camp, dad?”

“AAAAAAAAAAAA!”

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Walk to School or Carry your Lunch?

It’s dark out side this morning and the rain is falling in uneven bunches across the front yard. Fog still clings doggedly to the tree tops and refuses to give up the fight and simply fade away. The sun will finish it off when it makes it’s appearance later on. Action Girl is already off to work, doing noisy things with sea going vessels and carrying people and cargo to the surrounding islands. As I sit alone on the couch, typing and drinking my quickly cooling coffee, all is quiet in the house. A novelty brought on only by the merciful sleeping of our two kids. Naturally, this won’t last. It never does for long.

Today though, is a special day, though Short Stack might not remember that it is. Lulu Belle most assuredly doesn’t. Today marks the beginning of our son’s ordered life. Today… he starts pre-school. Well, not pre-school exactly. He is, after all, only two and a half but he will be going some place very, very special later this morning and barring catastrophe and calamity, he will be attending three times a week, all day, for the rest of the school year. I, for one, am pensive.

Prior to this, we have always had babysitters watching the kids. Action Girl’s and my work schedules are off set enough that we ever really needed a lot of child care. One of us could be home with the kids much of the time and though it means that I don’t get to see a whole heck of a lot of my wife, it has sure saved us a bundle of money. The times that we couldn’t be home were filled with college girls looking to make a few extra bucks or local moms with broods of their own who somehow manage to keep their sanity when you double their work load by leaving your own kids with them. Weekends have fallen heavily on Grandma and Grandpa, giving me time to attempt work on the pile of construction materials that I’ve been cunningly arranging into the vague shape of a house.

Today is different, however. On our island there is a place build for the kids of the community. A place that is not quite a day care and not quite a pre-school. It’s a fun little hybrid and you need to be at least two and a half to be admitted. Guess who just turned two and a half? Short Stack has been there many times before and likes it. Action Girl is a volunteer on the board and both Short Stack and Lulu Belle have accompanied her there for meetings and functions. Happily, he won’t feel like he’s someplace scary. To make the transition that much easier (we hope), I shall be accompanying him today and stay the whole morning. It might be a bit of a zoo, but Dad will be there for reassurance.

Boy, do I hope this works.

The one thing that Short Stack hasn’t had a lot of experience with is big groups mad up of his peers. He’s become completely comfortable wandering through a forrest of adult legs or spending time happily pushing toy trains around and lost in his own imagination. He has a few friends his age who he enjoys playing NEAR but not usually WITH. This will be an eye opening day for him. He will be part of a class. One in the group. Another fuzzy head amongst all the other short folk.

The reason I’m a little worried is because I know my self pretty well. I’m a loner and always have been. That’s not to say that I’m stand-offish. I’m not! I’ve just never been a schmoozer and tend to drift off and away from the party. Action Girl is the same way and actually, it’s how we met in the first place. Both of us drifting on the periphery of a big group, noisily having fun. I guess wall flowers can spot each other a mile away. Unfortunately, Short Stack had inherited that gene. I say that it’s unfortunate because it can make life a little more difficult at times. I can vividly remember my first day at pre-school. It was only one of two that I ever spent there. I wasn’t bad or difficult. I didn’t cause trouble or upset the other kids. I was quiet and essentially, made the teachers sad. While the other kids played their games and did their activities, I had quietly sat in the back and simply observed. When the others all funneled outside to play on the swing sets and slides, I had asked if I could just stay in and color. I don’t know how the conversation between the pre-school and my parents went, but the upshot was that two days into it, my folks found a different place for me to go where I would be watched by a new mom and her kids. Essentially, people who didn’t mind the quiet kid, coloring in the corner.

Actually, I really enjoyed where I went after my two days in self imposed confinement. The little boy whose home I went to became a good friend and I had a blast. The difference was that it was just a little boy and his sister who I had to deal with. No rowdy group or established cliques. I liked the smaller groups much better, and so does Short Stack.

The difference, I’m hoping, will be that he knows a lot of these kids already. Where we live has a pretty tight knit community and the young families tend to seek each other out. The faces with be ones that he has seen before, many of whom he’s played with one-on-one with not very long ago. Here’s hoping that will help things along.

In the mean time, I need to pack up a miniature lunchbox and get an extra set of clothes ready for him. The activities they have planned for the day can get messy and fun and the food requirements are pretty darned strict. No juice boxes, no candy, no pre-packaged food of any kind. I’ll go cut up some fruit and other good to eat stuff and hopefully have it all done before he’s up. I can hear him coughing, so I doubt I’ll succeed, but that’s okay. It’s a big day, after all and I’m happy to have him give me his version of “help” to get us both prepared for this next step in our lives.

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