Sunday, February 22, 2009

Testing the waters, again

It seems Emily is just wired this way. Wherever the edge, she will find it and explore it - whether the edge consists of rules or limits or spaces. Despite her experience a few weeks ago finding the soft spot in the ice, yesterday we went to Squaw Valley, and again, the ice was seemingly irresistable. This time, too thin for skating, but still tempting to poke at with a toe, trying to see how strong it is, what it would take to break through.
Testing the limits isn't all bad, of course. This is exploration, too - pioneering, if you will. Yesterday I managed to convince Emily to explore with just one foot, but at the same time I couldn't help being proud seeing her lead her sister into the fun. Because Hazel, despite being all into dresses and clothes and all things pretty, is pretty daring herself. They don't get it from me - I nearly always let my fears get the better of me - but perhaps that makes it all the more fun for the girls. I walk safely around the track at the park, observing plants, with their roots holding tightly to a single location. The girls, meanwhile, were looking for adventure, and yesterday they managed to find just the right amount. Each went home with muddy, wet shoes, but dry socks; with dirt on backsides and knees, but warm dry skin underneath. It was a perfect outing.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Girls' basketball, indoors and out

The weather report from Pittsburgh this week has included flurries, rain, sun, mud, and frost. The path from our house to the community center is nearly impassable with mud, and the ice patches are gone. Frankly, I miss the snow, though I'm not sure the girls do, because with it melting, the driveway is clear for dribbling.

The highlight of the week is definitely basketball. Much as I believe in free play, I often see that a particular sport is what draws the kids outside in the first place. This week, nearly every time we went outside to play, a basketball was motivating the action.
Emily's team features a full handful of very skilled girls and two mom-coaches who clearly love the game. Her lack of experience shows compared to many, but she is learning and motivated. Hazel participated in clinics run by the high school girls' team, and ended her season recently with 2 halftime dribbling shows by the Lil' Hoopers. I credit this clinic with convincing Hazel that basketball is centered on dribbling skills, because so far she can't hit the bottom of the net, much less the hoop. Nonetheless, Hazel loves her basketball, and she's gotten noticed for her ferocious drive to dribble around the court during Emily's practices and games.

The most exciting revolution about this for me is that for my daughters, basketball is a girls' sport. They have been to high school games, and a college game, and played their own games, but the only games they've witnessed have been played by women and girls, dribbling, running, shooting, sweating, scuffling, reaching, and fouling each other in their eagerness to get the ball. At Emily's games, players' brothers wait on the sidelines for their turn to shoot a few hoops after each quarter. In my world in Kentucky, it was the girls who went out at the quarters, in cheerleading outfits with pom-poms instead of balls. But here and now, when the ref blows the whistle, it is the girls who run out on the court for the real action.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Snow Retreats

Yesterday, I spent my morning with a group of students on retreat for the weekend out at Chatham's farm. I was invited to give a plant ID walk, and we modified it to a tree ID walk due to my uncertainty about my ability to identify brown seedy stalks reliably. I intended to take the girls, but they have declared themselves tired of snow (despite snow tubing last weekend and Emily being outside with a friend right now, sliding on ice refuges at the pool parking lot). I went alone, driving past muddy hillsides before reaching the farm, 16 miles north of home.
As you can see, I had reason to wish I'd taken my skiis. But it was, in fact, perfect weather for a winter tree ID walk. We found, or at least I *think* we found, all the particular trees on our list: hickory, maple, oak, birch, beech, spruce, hemlock, and poplar. (The one I declared hickory was long-dead, which I pointed out was perfect because it would never again grow leaves to contradict my identification skills.)
And though I'd complained about giving part of my Saturday for this, I was honored to be included. For a moment, I got to join in a moment of running gravity-fed and young down a sunny snow-covered hill. Because they let me.