Time for A Cool Change

just_beyond_the_sunset_by_annmariebone-d5k2jnv

And now that my life is so prearranged
I know that it’s time for a cool change.

– Little River Band

I spent the last week taking H and E to Colonial Williamsburg for the first time. Their teacher, along with some kids from their class, went on a class trip this week, so we decided to take the opportunity (with not much going on at school) to head there ourselves. My aunt lives in Colonial Williamsburg, so we flew into Newport News, VA and stayed with her while we toured the sites around the town. Because she lives there, we were also able to get great discounts on tickets, and the weather was wonderful in April.

It was a fabulous experience. (For those of you who have visited, you will recognize the activities.) The girls rented costumes from the visitors center – white colonial dresses with pink and purple sashes – and we headed into the town itself. When we rented the costumes, the girls were given a type of scavenger hunt to complete in the town: learning colonial manners at the Geddy House, learning how to plant a turnip seed in the community garden, and delivering a letter with a request from the post office to the printing office. Everywhere we went, the actors would stop and talk to H and E, inquiring how they were doing, and giving us information about the period. One kind lady helped us put their bonnets on correctly (since I had no clue how they were supposed to go on.) We took a relaxing carriage ride around town, and walked the evening ghost tour under a beautiful and spooky full moon on a cool night. Every day around 3:30, there was live theater in the streets, which recreated events in the town around the time of the Revolutionary War. The girls were enthralled by the open-air acting; the second day ended with the cannons firing followed by the fife-and-drum march. We learned about the different trades, how things were made, and how everyone dressed (including the wig shop, which was fascinating.)

Looking back on it now, the best thing I did in terms of planning the trip was not to make a plan at all. I would describe touring with gifted, intense kids as a “speed up-slow down” process. I never knew for sure what was going to excite them, but when they were interested in something from an intellectual, emotional, imaginational, or sensory viewpoint, they would stay right there until they were done. In the case of observing and learning about glassblowing, that turned out to be several hours of a morning for E. We woke up one particularly cool morning and decided that would be a good day to see glassblowing; being around the hot ovens is pleasantly warming when it’s cool outside, and, conversely, can be oppressive when it’s hot. Both the girls were transfixed by the process. Then H spent the better part of an afternoon learning about fashion: corsets, stays, dress styles, bonnets, hats for all occasions, wigs, and shoes. There were other things that I thought they would be more interested in, but weren’t. Sometimes this was because they were hungry, or tired, or just mentally worn out. So, we moved along quickly if they weren’t feeling it, and took frequent breaks at my aunt’s house for lunch, snacks, and relaxing/reading time.

The fourth day we were there, we woke up to find it drizzly and cool – not great weather for touring outside. So, we headed to the Yankee Candle store by my aunt’s house (really, it’s more of a mall since it’s one of their flagship stores.) We saw the Christmas store inside with the twinkling lights on the ceiling while it snowed every 4 minutes – seriously! – they made their own candles, smelled every possible scent, and tasted fudge and popcorn. It was an intense kid’s dream. When we finally emerged, the sun was coming out, and we spent some time relaxing on the porch before heading out to Colonial Williamsburg again.

On our first night back home together, we all ate dinner at the table, then sat outside around our firepit, eating s’mores and listening to music, while the kids spun their tales from the week. The full moon rose over the house, and we danced and laughed until late in the evening, with nothing in particular to get up early for the next day.

I returned invigorated for the coming year. I realized that my main source of frustration these days is trying to fit my unscheduled family into a scheduled life. We’re an unscheduled bunch: Dave and I both have flexible jobs with deadlines, but we can move the work around where it makes sense in the day or the week, and ebb and flow somewhat with our energy and interest levels. A pops out of bed at 6 am, ready to go. By 1 pm, he doesn’t want to sit – he wants to go run around. H works best starting mid-morning, with frequent breaks. E works best in the evening, staying up late and sleeping in.

The friction enters the picture when I am trying to fit our unscheduled family life into the school life, which is structured and scheduled. In our house, intensities aren’t on a schedule, and I’ve grown weary of scheduling them when I don’t have any reason to do so. I’m ready for life to speed up and slow down naturally. It’s time for a cool change.

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