Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day!

Off they go!  Super excited and a little nervous.  Just like my sisters and I when we started, many years ago.  Funny that my kids are going to our old school and some of the same teachers are still here, must be interesting to deal with people as students and then parents!

Ira and Av started kindergarten today, and Eli, the second grade.  (WHAT is in his mouth here?  Gum?  Great.  Hope it didn't end up under his chair.)  It was a tough decision to choose to re-do the second grade, but his birthday is the day before school starts, so he went into first grade pretty early.  If I HAD put him in the third grade, he'd have been the youngest by far since it's a combined 3rd/4th/5th grade.  Seemed a bit heavy for a kid coming out of a private school that's academically a year or two behind public curriculum anyway.   Plus he's the same age as the other second graders and has lots of friends in that class already (including some transfers from his old school with the same issues as us and needing to catch up) so I figured, why push it?  We talked it over a lot this summer and he decided he was OK with it.  Eli is one smart cookie, absolutely brilliant in a million ways, but was always the youngest in his class.  Competing with the older kids tended to make him feel intimidated and then he puts on this cool-guy "so what?" attitude and stops trying.  He was afraid to fail.  I can already see him feeling more secure among his own age group.  Not to mention, it'll give me one more year to save for college.  Ha.

His friend Parker (who is Eli's twin, personality-wise) immediately took him under his wing and found them some seats together, where they were soon joined by a couple more friends including my sister Jen's little neighbor, Shannon, who idolizes Eli, much to his dismay (and secret pride) and another boy from t-ball.  They were all busily sharpening their brand new pencils when I left.  The second grade teacher was my sister Myra's teacher when we first started public school after being home schooled.  (I've also got a soft spot for her because she takes my dance class!) I've known her for twenty years, and she is very keen on children's emotional well being.  I'm relieved to know that Eli is in her hands this year, and it's a great group of kids in that class.  Only 11 or 12 of them, all sweethearts.

Ira was instantly flanked by Av and his good buddy Ellis upon arriving in kindergarten.  The teacher is the father of high school friends of ours.  A big, bald teddy bear of a guy, constantly clowning and making the kids laugh.  Av is an old hand at school, since she went to preschool last year, and they found they already knew several of their other classmates.  Jen and I hung around for the first 15 or 20 minutes, not because the kids needed us, but because it was awful hard to tear ourselves away from watching.  Our babies in school!?!  How can it be?  I have spent months worrying about silly things like: how do tiny five year olds balance those cafeteria trays?  What if they lock themselves in the bathroom?  Ira and I have had hours worth of hygiene, stranger, and safety talks.  And I've made several calls to the school secretary to ask these same ridiculous questions.  The great thing is, they have a response to all my concerns, and so far, I've been very impressed with how terrific I've felt all their answers.  I love that the school is small, smaller even than the private school Eli attended in the past, and well organized.  And I'm in raptures over the idea of Hot Lunch.  With my meager income, we qualify for free hot lunch, and what a difference that will make in both my budget and our mornings.  I can now spend the time helping the kids get ready rather than just repeating, "Please, please, PLEASE!  Get out of bed!  We'll be late!" in a harassed voice from the kitchen while I make sandwiches and cut up cheese and veggies to pack in lunch boxes that you can never quite wash that stale food smell out of.

Now I'm home alone on a Monday morning for probably the first time in eight years.  This is unheard of!  I'm almost lost!  When I gather my wits, I'm going to take this rare opportunity to clean the apartment from top to bottom without interruption, and then I can't wait to pick up the kids and hear all about it.  By next week, I'll be busy working during many of the school hours, but at the moment I just can't even think of what to do with myself!  I've literally looked at the clock a dozen times with it barely moving.  And I'm thinking myself through the kid's day...OK, Ira's in gym snack time...   Writing this post has gotten me through nearly to lunch, now to clean and then I'll be the first one in the parking lot to retrieve my big, big kids after their first day of school.  Sniff.  

The Incredible Journey

There have been times, this last year, when I have thought of basically eliminating the Internet from my life.  Because it's been the source of hurt, and gossip, and untruths, and I've had to force myself at points to ignore things that are almost impossible to ignore.  Today, I changed my mind and decided that sometimes facebook DOES use it's power for good, not evil, and I won't ever delete my account, come what may.

Mom and Dad were dog sitting last night and they went for a ride up to my sister's house, taking our Captain Burdock with them.  He was outside playing with Myra and Jim's dog, Tilly, but when it came time to leave he couldn't be found.  They searched for him to no avail and finally had to head home, dogless.  He's never run away before, but then, he's never really been away from us before either.

Early this morning, when he still hadn't turned up, I called the Town Clerk, dog catcher, vet's office and I posted his picture on facebook and asked folks to share.  Immediately, Captain's photo was spread far and wide.

When the kids and I went hunting for him, most of the people I spoke to had already heard he was missing...perfect strangers were out looking alongside of people I went to high school with.  I was astounded when some random lady in a gas station was already on the lookout.  We found lots of clues, he'd been spotted down on RT 14, miles away, and headed toward Bethel.  He'd been seen at Lucky's Trailers, almost caught outside Eaton's Sugarhouse, was running down Russ Hill.  We asked everywhere, called everywhere, drove up and down every road in the area, calling.  It's not like Captain to just head out on his own, but when he's looking for his boys, there's no stopping him, he's jumped through high windows lately, knocking the screen out, just to get to them.

We got more and more worried as the day passed and Eli was a mess.  This was HIS dog.  The dog that sleeps with him every night and never leaves his side all day long.  Now Captain isn't the smartest dog on the planet.  When Jen is putting Ruby through her paces of sit, lie down, stay, fetch, roll over, speak, jump, etc, etc, Captain just yawns.  People would say "Oh, he'll find his way back to Myra's" but I certainly had my doubts.  Captain can't find his way out of a sheet when the kids throw one over his head.  For real.  No, he's not the keenest dog around, but there's one thing he's got going on above almost any dog I've ever seen.  Loyalty and doggielove.  He loves those kids so hard it's not even funny.  He is heartbroken when he can't be with his boys.  He literally puts his paws around them when they sleep and when Eli has been having one of his bad days, Captain is the one who comes running to press against him.  He hugs us all, like a person, and snuggles his head up on your shoulder.  He will never understand that he's just slightly too big to be a lap dog.  He's been depressed that the kids have been playing a lot lately in my Dad's sailboat, up on it's trailer and he can't get up, so he just lays down underneath waiting for them to come down.  Captain ranks number one in the love department.  He'd win any dog show if that was one of the categories.

So, needless to say, Eli, was a mess, especially after we'd shouted ourselves hoarse, driving 10 miles an hour all over Royalton and Bethel.

Coming home for lunch, I was disheartened to find no messages on the answering machine, though heartened to see, online, that word about Captain had spread even more.  But still no Captain.  Ira and Avry started to eat, but Eli couldn't.  He went out to the sailboat and cried.  Avry and Ira eventually went out too, and then the phone rang.

Back in Tunbridge, nearly 14 miles from where he was last seen, a friend of ours had noticed the facebook post about Captain and had just spotted a dog fitting his description running near her farm.  Getting pretty close to us, but on the wrong back road.  She caught him, called us, we rushed over and there he was!  With sore little paws, it was our Captain Burdock!

Home, after lots of food and water, Eli curled up with him on the sofa and let loose.  His first happy cry ever, I think.  It hasn't been a happy cry kinda year.  I bawled pretty hard when we saw it was actually our dog, safe and sound.  Now the kids want to hold and pet him nonstop, but poor Captain just wants to sleep.  How on earth could a small, (rather dumb) dog make it 14 miles in a couple of hours?  And from an unfamiliar place?  I'm so relieved.  Sunday is the kid's birthday and what a miserable one it would have been without their best friend.  I wish he could talk.  What was he thinking?  Where did he spend the night?  How did those swollen feet find their way nearly home again?

I owe facebook some credit for making sure little dogs and little boys don't lose each other.  And all the good people around here who understand that dogs are pretty special things.   I am grateful that way down in Bethel, some woman I'd never seen before asked me if I was "Captain's Mom" and had he been found yet?  Everyone in the surrounding communities was watching for him, it's such a wonderful place we live in, and Captain's Mom is very thankful for that.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Polar Caves

 We've gone on quite a few fun, little outings this summer, but this weekend's trip to The Polar Caves in Rumney NH was, by far, the most exciting.  Looking online, we were originally thinking of going to Ruggle's Mine, but it was SO expensive.  The Polar Caves were not nearly as pricey, and now that we've been, I would have paid twice the admission they charged because it was THAT cool.  My pictures don't do it justice.  One of the most beautiful places ever.  Even without the caves, the park itself is incredible.  I'd go again in a heartbeat.  I don't remember how many caves there were, maybe eight?  Some were very cold and deep, some had daylight shining in through crevices.  The stairs were mostly these amazing, wooden creations that were fit around the rocks perfectly.

  Along one of the boardwalks in the park, next to a jumble of car-sized granite chunks, with chilly air pouring out, we came across the general manager who was "building a new cave" as he put it.  He finds a cave (there are hundreds of them in this hillside, created by a glacier) makes sure there is an entrance, an exit,  and a bypass around.  He tests the cave for safety, then he begins making the stairs and walkways through it.  He's worked there his whole life and has built the only new caves in the park since 1920, three of them.  It can take many years, he said, to complete one.  He seemed very proud when Eli said he loved King Tut's Tomb, as it was the last one he'd worked on.  Fascinating to peer into the opening and see the new steps, each one hand-shaped to hug the stones, disappearing down into the earth.  The man had a rather sizable mid-section, so if he fits through his caves, others would too, he reasoned!  (Although I highly doubt this gentleman went through one feature we found called: the "Lemon Squeezer", the kids made it just fine, I was too chicken, and Jen had a quick moment of panic before she got out of the tight, drag-yourself-along-on-your-belly tunnel.) The whole place was just a wonderful experience.  A petting zoo of exotic, rainbow colored pheasants, and fallow deer with velvety horns and silky, spotted fur.  A rock garden maze with amazing granite boulders almost smothered in lush ferns and moss.  A pond with a covered bridge, paths and steps, steps, steps!  Hand-carved signs depicting, in wooden relief, all the trees and plants and animals along the way.  A sugarhouse museum.  A breathtaking view from the mountain on top of all the caves. (87 steps up!)  Anyway, it ranks number one on our list of favorite trips this summer.  If you've never been, we highly recommend you check out this New England attraction.  Completely clean and beautiful and (mostly) not claustrophobic (every cave has a bypass so you can pick and choose if you don't want to go underground), adventure enough for the most daring, and safe enough for the biggest chicken, has a long and interesting history, is highly educational (but not even close to boring!) won't break the bank and worth every penny.