Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Mission, a Treasure and some Kung-fu Panda

The Seattle Public School system recognizes the major public holidays and also a number of "in-service" days where teachers do professional development activities. As a public school parent, all you need to know about these days is that The Kids Are Not In School.

Today was one of those days.

Frost had a couple of friends over. From a kid's perspective, they are fun times because many working parents are scrambling for play-dates for their kids and it is an opportunity to catch up with friends from other schools. Frost played with Isaac and Matthew, both boys he would be proud to count among his "best friends". The cool thing about these boys is that they all have fervent imaginations and love dramatic play and action role-playing.

Thus it was that I headed off on a walk to the donut shop with four boys carrying swords, wearing headbands and a few scooters too. The dialogue among them was something like this:

"Wren is the king... we are the armed guard."
"No, he is the prince."
"Ok, the prince."
"Wait a minute I have to fetch something." [boy exits screen left to house, returning with an imitation machine gun.]
"Frost, didn't you say that the Mission to Save the Pickle was in the middle ages?"
"Oooooh. Wait, wait." [Another boy rushes off to find a staff instead of the machine gun]
etc etc until we are all equipped.

We depart.

"I hear a noise. Hush!"
"What is it?"
"Hear that jingling? [nods as we hear wind chimes in the distance] That is the sound of goblins saddling their horses."
Wren [anxiously] "There are no goblins?"
"YES, there are GOBLINS! We will defend the king!"
"Argh argh, cha cha" [they all attack a bush]
"Wait Wait"
Wren scoots up and flings himself into a violent attack on the bush.
"Wait, wait! I hear the enemy's spies. The crows are the spies!"
"OUR spies are blue jays."
"Anyone hear a blue jay?"
Me: "I throw the old bits of pizza in the road for the carrion fowl."
"Carrion fowl. Carrion is dead meat and that's what I call the crows on a battlefield."
"Oh, the CARRION FOWL. Argh cha cha."
They swipe at the crows which are hopping along the road.
"See, they warn about us!"
"What is it? [Wren, worried] THERE ARE NO GOBLINS."
"I hear the dwarves ahead."
[I hear a circular saw cutting lumber.]
"It is the dwarf mine."

We reach the Ravenna Rock and attack it because it is now a goblin fortress. Unfortunately, during the attack Isaac is wounded by a poisoned arrow. The goblins use serpent blood on it and he starts to die, falling down. Matthew tries to heal him but Wren rubs a dandelion on him and he recovers a bit but has some kind of brain damage and can only slurr. Also, his skin is green. Matthew has 5 arrows embedded in his shield (he is carrying a wooden shield). Frost flings himself at the rock a few times and the boys all leave a piece of camourflage fabric on a rope to show they have defeated the goblins.

As we walk along we pick up treasures and secrets left by others. We find a pink sock (aka, the pink mushroom), a small stone elephant (a kings treasure), a broken drill bit (a goblin arrow), dandelions (healing potion, ultimately restoring Isaac's speech), a secret message tucked behind a stone (a clue for a treasure hunt which cryptically directs us to the library bike rack for clue #6, we track it down but find nothing), a single leather glove (Matthew calls the Glove of Durin which empowers the user to craft a weapon that cannot be destroyed) and finally, magically, $13 lying in the street.

The boys tussle over the money (which I see first) and I give them each $1 (not Wren) and spend the $10 on juice and donuts at Top Pot. On the way home Frost asks me repeatedly "If I had seen the $10 first would I have kept it?" "YEEES. His friends chorus again and again".

They boys believe that Top Pot is an Inn and they become slightly drunk on the beers they drink there but thankfully Matthew remains alert for danger as we make the trip home. Somewhere past the library the weariness sets in and they give up on the alternative world and want to rush home to relax and play ipod games and drink water.

The walk was wonderful for all of us, most particularly for Wren. He has a hard time with play-dates of big boys. He wants to play but much of the time he is in the way with an uncanny sense for the most desired object. He fights to capture it and then cries with exuberant betrayal when the elder boys' good nature gives way under the force of their own game. They tell Wren to go away or bribe him out of the gun/guy/toy/hat/ipod/controller that he has commandeered and he collapses in gulping misery.

I also struggle with some play-dates. I am not sure whether this is a symptom of social anxiety or being a crowd-pleaser, but I feel a personal pressure that the kids enjoy themselves here. I dread the moment when they say "I'm bored, there's NOTHING TO DO HERE." Or worse, "I'm bored and the ONLY THING TO DO HERE IS PLAY THIS [TEEN-RATED SHOOTER GAME]" and then look at me as if I am the dullest parent ever. At this point Frost comes out as the emissary of good times and asks belligerently why I won't let his friends play this blood-and-gutsy game that their parents would surely forbid if they even guessed it was in the house. Hhe has to be ballsy and a bit tough with me to show his friends its not his fault that they can't have a good time here.

At some point in every play-date I have a strong urge to offer the children money or sugar to just Be Happy Now! I wonder what is the Most Fun Thing for them that is not M rated.

Thankfully, today I could offer them donuts and money (thanks to the luck of our walk) and I even gave the lactose intolerant kid pizza because he said please and he didn't mind getting a rash. See? He had a good time, really!!!

This evening we watched some Kung Fu Panda with Wren. It is his favorite movie and I recommend it (along with the Moisture Festival which we saw last night). At one point the master says to his student -

"The past is a memory, the future is uncertain but this moment is gift. That is why they call it The Present."

I really liked that.

Late last night I received an email posted to a support group by a woman who offered me a lot of email support when we were considering Wren's surgical options. Her son had TOF, repaired as a child, and was 16 years old. He died suddenly on the playground outside church of v-tach (heart attack). His mother and an EMT were there and did CPR immediately but he died. He had had arrhythmias but wasn't symptomatic.

I know that heart defects are varied and nothing is certain, but you do all you can with appointments and monitoring changes and hoping that everything is STABLE and can be HANDLED - there is a lot of life you can't control. You have to just take the present and make up your story in the steps you take as you go along.

I have been making up animals out of felt - a late joiner of the needle-felting craze that has swept my friends over the last year. I have made a bunny, a starfish, a bat and a chickadee. It is quite magical and fun. I shall post pictures later (on this post or the next).

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