Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Sweet Spot

School started last week.  Bob started a new job 2 weeks ago.  PTA stuff started 3 weeks ago. Soccer is back.  Aerial dance has started up again.  Rock climbing is in the mix too.  Yes the Leeks have a lot going on.  Wednesdays are particularly busy with Aerial dance, 2 soccer practices and rock climbing.  Yes, today is our busiest day of the week.

With Bob's new job he is able to be here in the morning.  It's so great.  He's a morning person so it's nice to have him here helping the kids ready for their day.  They are handling most of their stuff (getting dressed, making lunch, determining a mode of transportation) on their own but they often need to be reminded to "stay on task." Reading, building Legos, checking out a comic book... those are all secondary to the morning task of eating breakfast and making a lunch.   I know it's early in the year but Sophia has been setting her alarm and getting up every day.  They boys are easy to get up too.  As the days get shorter and the mornings darker, I'm sure it will get harder to get going in the morning but for now it's great.

While things are rolling downstairs I am able to move a bit slower than in past years.  I check my email and get ready for the day.  I am loving that part.

This morning I got up, got dressed and came downstairs at about 7:45.  I asked Bob what his day looked like.  He said he was going to take the kids to school and then go in for a meeting at 9.  I said, "Why don't you ride your bike?"  He's been talking about doing that since he got his new job.  His work is about 20 minutes from here door to door on a bike.  I timed it yesterday.  He said he couldn't get there in time after dropping off the kids.  I asked Sophia if she could get everyone off and she said, "Yes!" So now it is 8:05 and there are no excuses.  Bob agrees to ride.

We got out our bikes, put his stuff in panniers and took off.  It was a nice ride and it's almost all down hill on the way there.  It was a bit humid so Bob was pretty sweaty when we got to his office 20 minutes later.  Poor guy, I hope he cooled down.

I headed home up the hill. Yes, it is almost all uphill on the way home. Once again, this is confirmed.  As I rode I was noting what a sweet spot we are in.  We have nice kids who are pretty responsible.  Their "responsibleness" has allowed Bob and I to go out on dates and leave them home alone.  And today it allowed us to leave them home and for them to take them selves to school.  I was confident that they could do it and be on time.

We have good kids.  I am told fairly often how nice my kids are, how personable they are and that they are kind.  It is a huge compliment and I choose to believe people when they tell me these things.  If they were rude or unpleasant I don't think people would say anything.  No one is forcing anyone to say anything yet I hear the same compliments very often.  I am grateful.  And, I will take some credit along with Bob.  We have worked hard to instill good values and manners in them.  They are over privileged and indulged just like most kids are in our neighborhood but they also know how to work.  They do laundry, clean their rooms, are learning to cook, they make their lunches, balance their own finances, vacuum, sweep and pick up dog poop.  They have also been taught to carry a conversation.  That is big with adults.  My kids ask questions and engage.  Heck, Coulter is great at a party because by the end he knows everyone and can tell you something about them.

We (mostly) enjoy being with our kids.  Last Sunday the weather was perfect!  We were all up and at 'em by 9.  I noted that there was nothing on our calendar and decided we needed a family adventure day. We have been in Portland for 14 years and have NEVER been to the Vista House. That's ridiculous.  It's 20 minutes from our house and it is stunning.   That's where our day began.  We did a bit of hiking, viewing, skateboarding (the boys), fish viewing and dam touring.  It was such fun.  Again, it's part of the sweet spot.  Sophia wasn't so keen at first but once we were on the road she was happy.  Everyone was happy.  We enjoyed the weather, the experiences and each other.  Perhaps soon the sweet spot will change and the kids won't want to spend time with us but for now they do and I am going to enjoy the heck out of it.

Bob and I decided that there would be no screen this month.  It's not hard core but there is no gaming and no TV shows.  The rules have been broken a couple times; once for a sleep over and once for a daddy and Kees night.  So now we have more of the sweet spot.  More games, more family time, less arguing and less whinny kids.  I am loving this.

So I, we, all of us are in this great sweet spot right now.  I am aware that it will change.  The kids and our priorities will be different and the sweet spot will look differently.  But for now fun family time is in our sweet spot.  Allowing the kids freedom to go to and from school alone is in the sweet spot.  And being able to go out to dinner alone with Bob and without hiring a babysitter is in our sweet spot.  All of these freedoms and all of these experiences are sweet and I am savoring the right now.  I appreciate all the hard work it took to get here and I know that it was totally worth it.  And knowing that makes all the hard work to come more acceptable and tolerable.  We will keep working with our kids and giving them the skills to become responsible, friendly, honest, hard working and capable people.  Those life skills will give us more sweet spots in time and hopefully, the ultimate sweet spot in the future where we can watch our great kids become great adults who create their sweet spot of a future.   But for now I am going to totally absorb this sweet spot and take in every positive aspect of the NOW!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

ATDC the 2nd Generation

When Sophia was little she went to a day camp called Apple Tree Day Camp.  It was run by 3 teenage girls; Clara, Mackenzie and Alice.  It was very cute and they really did an excellent job.  They started it when they were 12 and did their last camp at 21.  That's 10 years!  All my kids attended this camp at one time or another and many of their friends attended too.  It was fantastic.

Clara and Mackenzie have been babysitters for our kids for about 10 years.  Just this summer Mackenzie stayed with my kids when Bob and I were out of town.  Both girls have travelled with us extensively and even went to the Bahamas with us.  Clara's parents have become good friends with Bob and I as well.  It's been a great experience witnessing the growth of these girls and their journey to becoming adults.  They are lovely adults.

Fast forward to today.  Mackenzie and Clara bequeathed all of their "stuff" from the camp to Sophia.  I look around my house and I think, "What do I need?" and the answer is not more stuff.  But this stuff is the stuff of love, of sweat and of tears.  The stuff the original 3 girls collected and boxed for use in the future.   In this case Sophia's future.  Sophia has been talking about taking over ATDC since she first went to the camp.

Sophia talked to a couple of her friends about a month ago and they decided they would do it.  Grace was the first one to meet with Sophia.  Grace went to ATDC and she and Sophia have been friends since Sophia was 3.  They spent about 6 hours working on plans.  Next her friend Ella joined in.  Sophia and Ella have been friends since birth.  Unfortunately, Grace's grandmother fell ill and she had to leave town.  Ella and Sophia spent the next week, almost 9 days working diligently.  They put in about 40 hours each working hard and very well together.  They worked the neighborhood getting kids to sign up, they arranged before and aftercare, put together projects, made schedules, considered what snacks to have and did most of the planning on their own.

The way the camp was run in the past they knew they would need 3 people to do the same kind of thing.  They hired Sophia's friend Reese.  They have been friends for a long time and his personality was such that he would fit in nicely.  He was out of town the 5 or so days before camp so he was hired as an employee.  As it turns out, Grace's grandmother got better and she came home just in time for camp to start.  She couldn't help that her grandma got sick.  So she was hired as an employee too.

The first day of camp the kids (the councilors) were so excited.  They were driving me NUTS!  But, the camp looked great.  They had a welcome sign, a sign in sheet, their projects were all tidy and in boxes ready to go, they had their song lists and all was in order.  They even made chalk art welcoming the families.  It was very cute.

The kids arrived and there was singing, chanting and lots of excitement.  There was also lots of chaos!  The councilors were talking over each other, changing direction, disagreeing and the like.  As a former boss it was torture not to step in.  I tried my best but eventually I had to step in and assist Sophia and Ella.  I tried to guide them.  My friend Nolee, Ella's mom, was here too.  She too jumped in.  We both agreed that something had to change.  Nolee was more hands on for the projects and the day to day schedule.  I won't get too into it but the week before school starts is not a lot of fun for the PTA President, i.e. me.

At the end of the camp day Nolee and I told the kids that they needed to have the kids singing songs.  That no matter how the day went, if the parents saw their kids organized and singing songs the perception of success would be inevitable.  BINGO!  Every parent that walked in sighed and commented on how cute the camp was.  The kids had done 2 art projects to take home so those were all set up on the table.
The parents were very impressed.  Each kid got to take home a decorated can (a can with a face, then filled with dirt and seeds so that it would grow "hair" and a paper flower.  They were simple projects but they were cute and done!

After camp the councilors had a meeting.  They started out with, "Let's all say what went right." and then said one right thing and the rest was bashing each other.  Let's keep in mind there were 3, 12 year olds and an 11 year old.  After about a half hour of heated talk I went in and tried to coach them.  Grace and Reese complained that Sophia and Ella were acting like the bosses and telling them what to do. "Do this, do that, go get....etc."  I reminded Reese and Grace that Sophia and Ella had put in a lot of time and they kind of were the bosses.  With that said, I reminded Sophia and Ella that there are ways to ask people that don't seem as pushy.  They all agreed to all of that.  Then they agreed that they would have a code.  If anyone said, "Snakes on a Plane" to you then you were being annoying and getting on their nerves.  They all thought that made sense.  Snakes on a Plane would make anyone uncomfortable.   Great.  A few more back and forth and then they needed to work on the next day.  I did have to pull Sophia aside.  Since it was our house and I was right there it was easier to fall back on mom.  She needed a little mommy pep talk.  It worked. 

Day 2 went smoother and day 3 smoother yet....until....  When the day was over and Reese and Grace had gone I decided to pull Ella and Sophia in for a financial talk.  We went over the numbers.  I explained how a profit and loss statement works and that their P&L was looking more L than P.  They looked concerned.  They hadn't planned on 4 people working.  This was an issue.  Their expenses were higher than either thought.  In the past moms had always picked up the tab.  And they didn't have as many kids as they originally thought they would.  All of that lead to the fact that they were going to make hard decisions.  Either they would get virtually nothing or they had to change things up.  They eventually decided that they would have to approach Grace and Reese and explain the situation.  

Grace and Reese had one of two choices.  They could stay on for the remainder of the camp and make only $3.00 +/- an hour for the whole of the camp or take their $5.00 to date and be off Thursday and Friday.  Grace took the $5.00 and Reese took the $3.00.  While that may not seem like much it was very stressful for Sophia.  She was the one who had to deliver the news.  Her first employee individual meetings.  The decisions made then were the ones that would either make a little money for Sophia and Ella or not.  It was very hard.   

Wed had been water day and their largest group of the week.  They had 10 kids and they did before and after care for a few of the kids. It was huge!  Water day was a great success.  Balloon tosses, guessing games, play in the fountain and so on.  It was great and I think all the kids had fun.  That evening was the kindergarten and 1st grade welcome back to school picnic.  There were 3 sets of camp parents there and all of them gushed about how great it was.  A couple parents even said it was the best camp of the summer for their kids.  WOW!  What a compliment!  I was so proud.  I had other parents come up and ask me about the camp and how they could get in the next year.  I think the kids were one to something here.  

On the last day of camp Mackenzie came over and brought cup cakes decorated like apples.  Clara came over too.  It was fun to see the first generation with the second.  Clara and Mackenzie were very complimentary of the kids and their work.  I know it felt good to hear that from the big girls, the really big grownup girls.   

I have heard something positive each day about ATDC from someone in the neighborhood.  I could not be prouder of my daughter and her pals.  They did an excellent job.  When Sophia first committed to this I told her that if she was going to do this, she had to do it right.  "When you do something you not only represent yourself but you represent me and our family and I will not watch you fail, you will properly prepare."  And she heard me.  I know my friend Nolee well enough to know she felt the same.  

So next year there will most likely be more ATDC.  It may involve the same players and it may not.  I know Reese and Ella play club soccer and Grace plays softball.  It's hard to work around everyone's schedule but I know they want to.  I am bursting with pride for my little entrepreneur.  She is a chip off the old block and an improved version if I do say so myself.  Keep it up little lady!