You Can Do It!
It's PCT- Positive CJ Thoughts time. I know I was absent last week but I had a great reason for it. Read on to find out why.
Three words, 'Just Do It!', became the tagline of iconic 1988 Nike ad campaign. That slogan was everywhere and is still part of the brand to this day. I'm going to use a similar phrase, 'You Can Do It' to spread my message this week. You might want to grab the 'Oh Shit' handle for this one because the ride will be fast and furious. You might need a nap in the middle from exhaustion.
Last week, 'you can do it' came out of my mouth about every five minutes (that and the word 'patience'-- which my wee people were SEVERELY lacking). Once a year we get the kids for what what we affectionately call summer camp. We were blessed to have three of the youngest joys of my life, with us for seven days. It's rare that we have the nine-year- old and the seven- year-old twins with us for more than a day or two. We jam packed everything we could in those precious 168 hours. We had many adventures and loads of fun, while we worked our way through a few things that they truly needed to learn how to do.
Earlier this year, my oldest nephew Richard, learned to ride his bike without training wheels.
Unfortunately, the twins, Addison and Colin, had not. The other issue was that, out of the three, only Addison, our little fish, knew how to swim without any flotation device. We were on a mission to accomplish both of these important rights of passage, in the seven days they would be with us.
The first day, the twins were terrified of their bikes. The training wheels were on, but they were so uncomfortable on them that it was difficult to even get them on the bikes. Thankfully Richard was a great example and tried to show the others what they would be able to accomplish. Little by little we coaxed them onto the seats and held on as they peddled.
Colin is our dare devil. He walked very early in life and we've been pulling him off of and out of things ever since then. He does have his reservations but we knew that it was likely, we would get him riding sooner than Addison. She is a child well beyond her years in intelligence and attitude, but she quickly reverts to a small child when it's something she fears. Her bike was actually smaller than what she really needs, but her fear would never have let her get on one any taller-for the time being. Aunt Darla tried to show the kids how she could ride but those training wheels got the best of her.
I did some research and finally decided to take off both the training wheels and the pedals. This would allow them to 'glide' and find their center of balance while their feet were able to firmly touch the ground.
It wasn't long before Colin was pushing along and finding his balance. Addison, was having a much harder time and the tears were flowing. We moved on to other projects while working toward success.
The first day, we played on the bikes, and made a piñata for Richards upcoming birthday party.
Darla had practiced last week to make sure it would work and we all ended up with bits of newspaper and a water/flour mixture all over us. Poor Richard got it in his arm hair and it proved to be rather stubborn to get off. The piñata was left to dry so that we could paint it later.
I decided the kids needed to learn a little about the area flora. I gathered up several leaves and snips of pine.
I led the kids through drawing each example, finding it on the internet and identifying what each sample was. I taught them the difference between 'broad leaf' and conifers. They weren’t too excited the first day about this, but it played into something I had planned later in the week.
The last activity of day one, was making tie-dye shirts that we would wear on several of our planned outings.
The kids were never informed of what we would be doing each day which led to a lot of questions about what are we doing next. This is where the word 'patience' began to become a regular part of our vocabulary. We did more 'gliding' practice that evening before we all retired for the evening.
Day two was an offsite adventure. We dressed in our freshly washed blue and yellow t-shirts and piled into the FourRunner. After several round of the animal game, "does it have four legs, does it have sharp teeth, does it live on a farm" questions, we arrived at one of West Virginia's most beautiful natural attractions, Blackwater Falls.
It's a trek down the wooden steps to the viewing area, but the kids made their way, answering my questions about leaves as we went. This was when I determined that Colin, who didn't appear to listen much yesterday, proved me wrong as he correctly identified what was a conifer and what was not. After the obligatory group picture, we walked back up and took them to the boulder park. These are the man made type with the hand holds so that you can practice climbing.
Richard and I have tried the rock wall at Carnegie Science Center, but he's never been able to make it up as his fear prevented him from going to high.
Colin, our little adventurer, had little trouble following me up the rock wall and onto the top. He was nervous when he got up there but he loved it. Peer pressure is a powerful tool and Richard would not be outdone by his younger cousin. He carefully climbed up the rock to triumph beside Colin as we raised our arms as conquerors.
Now came the hard part-getting back down. Richards fear almost crippled him as I helped him over the edge to where Darla was waiting to help him down. Going over the edge unharnessed is a pretty scary thing and the tears were threatening. He made it down and took a walk out of sight to collect himself. Addison wanted to do it too, but her fear of heights is even greater than her fear of her bike.
Colin made it down and back up a few more times as did Richard when he finally convinced himself that he could do it. Addison made it a few handholds, but wouldn't go more than a few feet off the ground. A fear yet to be conquered. The boys were happy that they were able to do what they thought they couldn't. I was so proud and you could see them beaming at their accomplishments. From there, we all hit the swings as we waited for the gift shop to open. Purchases made, we headed to face the next challenge- time to learn to swim.
A friend had offered their pool and we gladly took them up on the opportunity. Our little fish, Addison, had no trouble getting in and swimming all over. The boys needed some flotation devices initially but by the end of the day, all were swimming without, including jumping in and going under water.
Addison, walked out to the end of the diving board, cannon-balled in and swam to the edge, over and over.
It was her first time and she took the challenge head on. Another fear faced, another accomplishment made. She and Darla worked at going under water without holding her nose, underwater handstands and tea parties. All three had major accomplishments with things they hadn't done or felt they couldn't do.
The end of day 2 found us worn out when we got home but there was a piñata yet to be painted for Wednesday's birthday party. After a slight issue with the 'earth' falling out of orbit, a bright blue sphere with green (slightly out of position) continents, had been created.
Tomorrow was fast approaching and sleep would come quickly. The day's repeated phrases were-"I did it!", followed by, "You did it!" We let each and every one of them know how proud we were of every fear they conquered and each accomplishment they made. Positive reinforcement never hurt anyone's confidence.
Day three was all about the birthday party. Richards actual birthday was the previous weekend, but being able to have his party during summer camp was right up his alley. He is fascinated with all things space. Thus, his space themed birthday party was a hit.
The globe piñata finally gave up the candy after several good whacks. We were afraid there would be a major failure if the supporting tennis ball, baler twine, and duct tape repair didn't last, but fortunately, it did as the kids scrambled for the toys and candy inside.
Richard is a sponge when it comes to something he's interested in. I love to listen to him spout off facts about space, black holes and all things planetary.
We did a bit more bike riding practice and I put Colin's pedals back on. I was pretty sure he was ready as he was gliding for long periods of time without tipping over. It took a good bit of me running behind him and pushing him until his feet found the pedals and off he went.
The smile on his face followed by the shouts of "I'm doing it!" were worth every crouched step I took. Our little fish was still extremely intimidated by her bike. I decided it was time to figure out a way to push her and help her hold her balance. That evening I went on the hunt and found the 'T' handle to our lawnmower lift and prayed that I could figure out how to attach it to her bike the next day.
Thursday, day 4, was all about the water park. This place is a fantastic playground with all things pool related. There is a lazy river you can ride around on inner tubes all day, along with several different pools with a floating crab and crocodile.
There are also two large tube slides that you have to climb a tower to slide down. There are also several smaller slides. The kids couldn't wait to get there, but we had a bit of work to do for the farm. Produce delivery came first while the kids continually asked if we were there yet. I asked them about the 'p' word and they could tell you I meant patience, of which they had NONE of. We finally made it into the water park. Addison and Colin were all about getting in and going down the slides. Unfortunately, Richard had previously had a bad experience with one of the large tube slides when he was younger. He now refused to go down any slide. You could tell he badly wanted to, but just couldn't get past the fear. We had a brief forced intermission as they had to 'disinfect' the pool for reasons too gross to mention. Sometime later, we were given the all clear to reenter the well chlorinated pool. We worked hard to convince Richard to go down one of the smaller slides that landed in a fairly shallow pool. I told him I would be right there to help him. A strong desire to do what his cousins were doing, made him find the courage to climb the steps on the yellow slide and make his first trip down. I was so proud of him.
Once again, he overcame his fears to enjoy the simple pleasure of sliding down into a cool pool. He later gathered enough courage to go down a green slide that was a little higher. It wasn't long before he and his cousins made numerous trips down both. He was still too timid to try the really big slides and was content to revel in his accomplishments.
The temptation was too great and Addison asked Darla to go with her and then Colin drug me with him to the big slides. Another big step accomplished.
We spent the afternoon sliding and swimming above and below the water for the next five hours until we took three famished kids to the Chinese buffet. With full bellies, they passed out in the vehicle until we got home. Another stellar day of summer camp in the books.
Friday was a full day of bicycle practice. I put Addison's pedals back on and we tested my handle idea. There were lots of pep talks, Fred Flintstone brakes, me running up and down the driveway and several bouts of spontaneous tears.
She was getting there, but wasn't quite comfortable enough to try it on her own yet. This one fear was stopping her from something that made me so independent as a child. The ability to ride my bike anywhere in my neighborhood, gave me freedom like I'd never know and my first taste of independence. I knew what pride she would feel if we could just get her over the hump.
The day was broken up with a leaf identification challenge. I had different examples of the leaves the kids had learned the names of earlier in the week. It was their job to go find the tree and bring me a leaf or cutting just like it and tell me what it was.
The kids passed with flying colors and were all given a wooden dinosaur or insect puzzle to put together. Later we shucked corn for dinner and fed the scraps to the cows.
Finally, we brought them all to our house for lap time on the Big Wheel track, rocket launching, a camp fire and the gooey chocolate marshmallow delight of smores. Another busy day of summer camp.
Saturday started with a waffle and bacon breakfast followed by a trip to the grandparent's camp where Colin and Addison's Mom was waiting to visit. The kids spent the day showing her how they could swim in the "big river"and their bike riding skills. Colin proudly peddled his bike up and down the road. Addison wanted so badly to show her mom that she could ride. She still couldn’t do it by herself so…time for Aunt Cindy to run again. Now you need to understand this important fact…I DON’T RUN, not for exercise or fun. Unless something big enough to eat me is bearing down on me…I don't run…For the love of my niece, I ran up and down the road. Numerous times I ran with my hand lightly on the handle giving her support until I was running beside her, my hands in the air. The look on her face when she realized she was doing it all by herself was worth the shin splints and my still-aching back. She was yelling…"I'm doing it!"
My heart and spirit were soaring! Six days we'd been trying and she was finally experiencing that feeling of overcoming her greatest nemesis.
The final morning of summer camp found us enjoying church as a family and a few more hours of time together before we would be wrapping it up. Darla and I had a few things at the church that had to be done and by the time we got back to the kids, Addison had asked her grandpa to take off the handle because she was ready to do it all by herself. There was some frustration and a few 'whoops' as she ended up in places she really didn't want to be. Over and over, we watched as she positioned her pedals and I encouraged her to push and look up. Before I knew it, she was headed down the driveway pedaling her heart out. She was doing it without assistance, and accomplishing something that she was terrified of six days ago. Colin was growing more confident in his riding ability all the time.
We wrapped the week up with a trip to Dairy Queen before the twins headed home.
All three of them faced and overcame numerous fears and hesitant moments. They had taken to heart the words of encouragement as we told them over and over… 'you can do it'. We watched them face those fears and overcome the challenges before them. We smiled with pride as they shouted…'I did it, I'm doing it'. We witnessed the change in them as their confidence grew with every forward stride-. I won't tell you that we weren't exhausted at the end of the week, we were. I can also tell you that we miss them terribly and have already started planning summer camp 2019. Who knows what adventures we'll have or what mountain we'll climb. I just hope it doesn't involve running…ever again.
Every day we are faced with things that our internal skeptic says…I can't do that. We need to reach back into our childhood as we sat on our bicycles for the first time without our training wheels. If you were like me, you took a few spills. Determination made you pick that bike back up and climb back on. Think back to that feeling of accomplishment as you rode away yelling…'I'm doing it!'
Find that strength again and push ahead until you conquer whatever it is. Quiet that skeptic and find the optimist. I promise, the rewards are well worth the effort.
I'm taking a page from my wee ones and facing my fear of being a one book writer. I'm so happy to say my editor has sent back my first set of corrections. She was pleased with the story and had encouraging things to say that made me very happy. I sent the corrections back to her and I await her next set. The Bucket List is well on its way to being my second published novel. While I wait, I'm going to continue to write the first of what I hope, will become a series based on the many fire service experiences I've had and the many situations my wife handled as a Emergency Manager and 911 Director. I've heard many times that women in uniform are a popular subject for lesbian literature. I can only hope that idea will hold true for Sheriff Chance Fitzsimmons and the many situations I plan to have her and her K-9 dog, Zeus, handle.
Until then, enjoy my Goldie Award winning debut novel, 'frame by frame', available at your favorite retail outlet.