Friday, January 27, 2017

through the eyes of a mother

It happens a lot.  Little Giants catching reflections of themselves in the glass of the coach's office.  The littlest of them almost always smile.  The older girls seem more curious and less sure.  As if they don't quite recognize themselves.

The moment is short. Sometimes so fleeting they don't even realize they are doing it.

Each gaze, smirk, & smile is as unique as their are.
But there is one look they all share: the daughter look. 

Beneath the rips and the bruises.
Under the mat burns and layers of tape.
Below the dust of white chalk they are our daughters.

And when they get sick the daughter look is the only one they wear.

It is instantly recognizable. 
The look that says I am here standing at the gym's front desk not as an athlete but as a child who wants to call their mom and be taken home.

Wednesday at 7:14 PM I looked up from the desk.  The phone pinned between my ear and my shoulder.  Standing before me the ashen face of a child.  She was wearing a coat but the straps of her leotard could still be seen. Her mouth flat and tight; leaving her eyes to do the frowning.

This daughter standing there was mine.
Then again they all are- at least until their own mothers show up
and take them home.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


What else would you want us to know about her and your family, he asks.

There is a pause over the line...

All I can picture is 8:23 PM.  Grainy surveillance footage of Beach and I jumping over clumps of gray snow turning to slush as we enter the 7/11.

I see wet brick-like tiles.
Smell burnt coffee.

Hear the greeting given by one of the many cast of characters behind the counter.  They all call her Little One.  They call all the neighbor kids that because they don't know their names.  They know she is "something", that she does "something" but none of them can remember exactly what.

Why this pops into my head is because of what I told the man on the line next. " We are a west side family, with a west side socioeconomic status. Gymnastics is an elite sport with an elite price tag.  Gymnastics is practically unheard of down here."

Beach slips from this side town to that side.  Unnoticed. Nameless.

We pass the mechanic shop and the abandoned house at the end of our block. Drive over a set of active train tracks that burst out from between the cinder block buildings flanking the street. The crossing is naked; it does not have gates or a signal.

The trains that run that line ride their horn as they approach.  We call it the canal train and try to forget the terrifying shine of its headlight at it rips out for the darkness and across the road.

We pass between the army of semi-trucks getting on & off the 9th west exit.  Driving a stretch of road that seems lawless. No posted speed limit, no rules, and in the ten plus years we have lived here I have yet to see a cop do anything more than speed pass it.

Sometimes I watch the children in our neighborhood as they walk to or from school.  They no longer know "the girl" is here.  The Girl they played with out in the grass.  The one they would shout about, "the girl is better than you" "look what the girl can do" "the girl is winning". They have forgotten about her.

Like the boy in the bubble; I even think she has forgotten about them.

Our closest neighbors seemed mystified by our schedule.  The ones with children around Beach's age think I am some sort of pathological liar for as many times I say, sorry she can't she has gym.

And over there on the east side... she is one of them.  One of them, after she makes the muddy trek out to the chicken coop to gather eggs; after the wood is split and stacked; after she trails behind her mother at the grocery store unit pricing and seeking manager specials; after she brushes saw dust off her jacket and drives the industrial juggle out.

And if out is the goal there is a problem. 

Last month Beach sat on the floor among her mates listening to the college recruiting meeting. The next day she announced she was not interested in doing collegiate gymnastics. I let it settle.  A few days later her reasons slowly slipped out. The price tags on the media and promotion needed scared her. 

While her teammates worried over the warnings of inappropriate social media or following academic guidelines she was doing the real world math.

What would I want a film production crew working on a micro documentary piece featuring my daughter to know?

That no one knows really knows what or who she is. 

That being half blind is the easy part. Being half poor is what really makes it hard for her to see.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

week-ing, a school report

With meet season in full swing and BC back at home things around the farm have been a bit hectic.

First, there are the meet weeks. They tend to shorten the school week (for either travel or competition) and increase the amount of farm & house work needed to be done in a shorter amount of time.

Second, Utah is finally having a good winter. Or we all moved to Alaska... either way there is a ton of snow removal work to be done.  Driving errands are plotted out with military exactness. The skiing is amazingly distracting! The mood rests somewhere between snowed in at the Overlook Hotel and Christmas at Hogwarts.

For BC's part he always adds an exciting twist to life.  This time he has brought home boxes (and boxes) of treasure.  Old coins, strange rings, glasses, crystal laden chandeliers, metal work, lamps, door knockers, whatever he found worth saving from the old mansion in DC he was remodeling.

It's kind of like being in a never ending episode of Antiques Road Show without the grand cash values and the guest don't take their shit home...

If you remember I have spent months, literally months clearing clutter from our house. You might see how perplexing the dusty boxes stacked in all the corners are to me.

Then there was the death of my computer and the period of social-media-rest that followed. Amen. And the dawning of the era of new, unsteady, loveless relationship with my new lap top.

Through all that school has been thriving.

What? Yeah, I was surprised too.

This time of year I usually write up a post titled something like "what about school?" Trying to explain how we are holding on by either doing the bare bones or by altering the whole system to make it fit in the current season. Not this time. School is rocking!

So what are we doing different?

For starters, this year we began schooling at night.

This might sound crazy especially considering Beach gets out of gym at 8PM 4 days a week! But with a little tweak to the family charter clause about "not eating dinner in front of the TV", we can watch history and/or science documentaries at night.  Our favorite current media resources; American Experience, BBC, Frontline, NOVA, Nature, PBS, Radio Lab (NPR), & This American Life (NPR).

On the nights we don't have something educational in mind we read or play math games.

Part of what makes this work is that Beach is willing to stay up later (& sleep in a little longer to make up for it). We have never enforced a bedtime for her. We have left it up to her and she has always chosen to retire early. 

Last year she barely made it through eating dinner on a gym night. A game of UNO or an hour long documentary on the space program would have been impossible.

The other factor making this work is her knowledge base is getting so wide it makes it easy to find topics that engage her.  Yes, even history.

With night school in full swing it takes the pressure off during the day. We meet in the morning (8:00 am) and read together.  Spend 20-30 minutes doing math. Mid morning (10:00) we might work on art or photo editing, tackle a science topic, or do a few pages in the testing book (Complete Curriculum). 

If Beach is busy in her room I might pop in and read to her while she cleans (she loves cleaning her room, it helps her relax).

After making and sitting for a hot lunch together we spend about an hour listening to stories from either Creepy Pasta collections or NPR programs: The Moth, This American Life.

I use this time to pick up the house and get ready for work. Beach to draw/paint, eat a late afternoon snack, and eventually prepare for gym.

Another change working for us is the major decluttering of the house and school.  It has made all the difference!  We have just what we need when we need it.  Loosing all those extra books and projects honestly feels like I turned off a radio that has been loudly blaring away for years!  I never realized how much pressure and distraction the long list of what we should be doing next was for me.

The final key to our success under the fire of meet season & the past holidays is Beach's growing independence with her own studies. Not only can she do more on her own she wants to. And I have acquired a new nickname: Controlling Hands.

She has also found a few new mature passions; photography and autism.  A few weeks ago Beach began researching ways she might find a career working with children who have autism.  It shifted our science studies away from hard sciences and into the softer sciences.

So what about school? School is rocking. Right now it looks & feels like I always dreamed it would. Woven into the fabric of our lives, effortless and engaging. That is how it is until the weather changes....