Archives for September 2014

For Love of Granola Bars

We woke up from camping this morning, had breakfast, then packed everything back into the car. The plan was to go on a 4-mile round-trip hike to go see a waterfall. Both of you whined a bit, but you, Lucas, took it to an art-form. You would sit down in the middle of the gravel road in protest, and we would just keep walking. Before we got out of site, you got up and ran towards us, screaming all the way. At one point, you managed to walk off the gravel road and apparently came into contact with some nettles, then started screaming in agony. We told you what it was, but that didn’t matter. You were hurting, my love, and started asking “WHY DID GOD MAKE SUCH A TERRIBLE PLANT!”

Needless to say, that incident did not help your cheerful disposition about going on the hike. It helped when we got to see some wildlife. We saw a squirrel, a garter snake, and finally a newt. The Newt let us pick it up, and you both wanted it on your hand/arm. Other than that, it was mostly a slog getting you to go, until you learned that when we got to the waterfall, we would have granola bars. When we finally got to where the falls were supposed to be, it turned out to be a very steep downhills scramble over loose dirt, using roots for hand and footholds. At first, we were not even sure we were going to go down at all it was so steep. But I went down, and assessed that you would be OK with close spotting.

Lucas, you went down first, and were definitely a bit nervous. I had to help you out with hand and foot-holds, but for the most part, you were able to manage yourself well. I sat you down at the bottom then went back up for Anna, who was considerably more anxious. Anna, the hard part for you was keeping yourself facing the hillside. You kept wanting to turn sideways, or to face downhill, despite my insistence that you were more stable the other way. We stopped a couple times half way down, and I asked if you wanted to stop, or to turn around and go back up. You were quite insistent that even though you were scared, you still wanted to go down rather than back up again. At a couple points, you were literally trembling you were so scared, but refused to stop. So I carried you over a few minor patches, and we all met at the bottom for those famed granola bars.

It took me all of 5 minutes to go down and then back up again. Getting you two down took us nearly 45 minutes, but there was no complaining about wanting to go home for a moment of it. Going back up, however, I put you on my back, had you hold on tightly and wrap your legs around my waist, and I carried you up. Lucas, on the other hand, you were close behind me, scrambling up like a monkey with Mom right below you for safety.

When we got up top, I took each of you one at a time and let you know how proud I was of you. Not for having made the journey down or back up, but because there was something that you were scared of, and that you kept going anyway, not letting the fear get the best of you. I was proud for the journey too, but mostly in who you both are, in the choices you made, and in the persistence that you showed, and in the opportunity you took that will build your own self-confidence in the face of future obstacles that you think you cannot do.

Learning to Fly (Again)

I’ve got probably 600 flights or more under my wing as a solo paraglider pilot.  I’ve reached a level of unconscious competence that’s nice to be able to draw upon when I need it.  But having just started learning to fly a tandem wing, with a passenger, I find myself very much a beginner all over again.

Yes, I know the basics of how to control a wing, to launch, to land, thermal, and all.  But there is enough different in the world of tandem that I find it takes far more concentration than I would have expected.

When one moves from, say, an economy car to a sports-sedan, all the skills from one car apply to the other – just be mindful that the car is bigger, and you need more space.  But I find the switch from solo to tandem wing more akin to switching from a car to a boat.  Sure, there’s still the notion of steering and navigation, but the dynamics are all different.

On my 2nd tandem flight, Maikel was chatting to me about something and I had to tell him “umm….  I don’t actually have the capacity to carry on a conversation right now.”  And I didn’t!  Literally, doing an activity I had done over 600 times was inadequate preparation for the level of focus and attention that flying a new wing required.  I knew that “talking” was dangerous because it could put me over the edge and have me lose focus.

At one point, we were circling in light lift, and in my solo wing I would have easily done a complete 360 degree turn towards the mountain to stay in the lift.  But in this new wing, which was not even mine, and with another life literally “on the lines” at the end of the wing, I was not willing to make the turn.  Maikel could tell the calculations I was making based on how I was leaning, and even said “go for it,” but I chose not to…. not now.  Not with so little mental capacity to spare should I need to make quick adjustments.

On the next flight, done by tow over water, he asked me “If the tow line broke right now, where would you land?”  Oh yeah… that’s important!  Always have an LZ in mind, if not on glide.  The moment he spoke it, it was obvious I needed to do that, but in truth, it was the farthest thing from my mind.  And when on approach for landing later in the flight, I was more focused on a nice pattern, leaving out our ground-track.   These are obvious things to pay attention to!

So what I’m learning in this new developmental path is that I get to be a beginner all over again, even in an activity where I have already acquired some level of expertise.  I have not lost that expertise, but until I develop my skills again as a tandem pilot, I simply cannot rely upon them being readily available for a while.  Essentially, I’m learning to fly all over again.

Whistling & Reading

Anna, you whistled for the first time today. We were in the car, going to daycare when it happened. I don’t even think you were trying, but it was just a noise you made, then you did it again and proudly exclamined “I WHISTLED!!” Then you could not stop for the rest of the drive in.

Lucas, you were a bit anoyed, either that you could not do it yet, or that Anna would not stop. But then Anna tried to help you by saying what it took for her to do it. “You put your tongue here, on your bottom teeth…”

Anna, I was so glad to see that your response was to try to help him rather than to gloat, and also that it was something you were working at for quite some time.

Another milestone over the past few weeks has been that you’re both starting to read by sounding out words on your own. It’s not something we’re pushing you to do, but you both have the excitement of learning to decode the written messages all over our world, focusing especially on cereal boxes.

One night last week, Anna, I told you how proud I am of you, not for being “smart” but for your continued effort trying to learn this new skill. You may have taken it too far, because you wanted to stay awake all night practicing. You said “I want to learn how to read every word in the WHOLE WORLD! TONIGHT!” I told you that learning makes your brain grow, and that for your brain to grow best, you also need to sleep. You begrudgingly relented and let me turn the lights down.

Anti-Branding

When my brother and I were little, we LOVED McDonnalds.  We got those calendars with new coupons each month that brought us back, and it was the ultimate reward for us.  Mom also described it as a “training ground” restaurant.

With you two, my beloved, you have yet to set foot into that pit of gastrointestinal oppression, and from a very early age, any time we even passed the Golden Arches, we made a point of saying “That’s the place that serves greasy food.”  And when you saw the ball-pits through the windows, we made sure to let you know that little kids play in there and throw up on the balls, making it an utterly disgusting place to play.  But there is one thing that we let you know McD’s is good for… they have spotless bathrooms.  If every you need a quick place to go pee, that’s the place to go.  And that’s why the arches are yellow, I told you.

It’s worked so far… sooner or later you’re going to find yourself inside one of those diabolical denizens of duodenal destruction, and then we’ll have to explain why that poison actually tastes so good… because they want you coming back for more icky stuff that your tummy loves, but your body hates.  It’s a branding war…. the millions and millions of dollars of McD’s advertising, against our ability to indoctrinate you from an early age of the real dangers of fast food.