Sunday, June 21, 2009

Learning to See (Again)

I recently had my annual eye exam and was confronted with another reminder that I am in my mid-life years: it's time for bifocals. Oh my!

I wanted to get the contact lenses with the bifocal built in--"baby bifocals," my doctor called them--but they don't have my prescription in that model. So I am resigned to being able to see really well long-distance with my contacts in but needing to use a pair of those dime-store readers when I do things like read or knit something I need to pay attention to. (I had the option of getting the baby bifocals in a weaker prescription, but it turned out that I couldn't really see a person across a big room clearly, and I'm sure that's going to mess me up when I'm back in the classroom in the fall...) So I'm using readers on occasion, and feeling a little self-conscious about sending a clear signal to others that I am officially Middle Aged.

This experience brought back memories of when I got my first glasses--and, more pointedly, when it was discovered that I needed them. Badly.

I was in third grade, and we were all lined up across from the principal's office, each one taking our turn in the little room where a nice lady had set up her machine. We had to look inside the scope and tell her which way the Es were pointing. I remember being one of the kids not to say "up" or "down" or "left" or "right," but rather point with my fingers--THREE fingers held out just like an E--and contort myself so that they'd be pointing the same direction as the E.

(The one on the right is the one we saw through the scope!)
But I had a problem. I couldn't see which way the Es were pointing on the line she wanted me to read. So she asked me which line I'd rather read--which one was not fuzzy. "All of them are fuzzy," I said, suddenly knowing Something was Very Wrong, and crying. "Even the one at the top?" Yes. She shut the door to the little room so that I could have some privacy and collect myself.

Within days (?), I was taken to an eye doctor, who told my mother I was "legally blind," but luckily it was correctable. I didn't know what that meant, but I knew I wasn't blind. I just couldn't see the board at all. Anyhow, shortly thereafter I got my first pair of glasses: beautiful pearlized grey cat's-eye frames that I thought were the most stylin' thing to hit St. Jerome's school that year. I could definitely see better with them.

I experienced one of the biggest shocks of my life when we left the doctor's office and stepped outside. (I remember this moment like it was yesterday, not almost 4 decades ago!) I looked up at the trees, and I could SEE them--not just see that there were trees there, a hazy idea of what trees were up in the sky, but I could actually SEE the branches and leaves. I could see individual branches and leaves!! And I thought to myself: is this what everyone else sees? You mean THIS is what it's like to be able to see? It was a whole 'nother world...

Lately, when I put on my new contact lenses and look for the tops of the trees, I remember the absolute awe of that moment, the almost-not-believing-it feel of it. And when I need to use the readers because I can't see clearly close up (an unfamiliar phenomenon to me!), I think that I'm learning about a new stage of being a person who needs glasses. Will this new inability to see bring me insight, as it does to so many literary characters? Hmmm...

I hope you see something you find compelling today!

(P.S. I edited my post to add a graphic of the eye chart...)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Interesting observation

A couple Fridays ago, Dexter's school had their annual play day down at the middle school field (Super Games day). All the kids in the city elementaries have their turn for half a day. This year there were more inflatables than I remember in the past. Anyhoo, I went down there to watch for a little bit, and ended up staying the whole morning. I'll share some photos (of just a small portion of the activities), then my interesting observation...

I wish I'd been able to get a photo of the AIR Dexter was catching when he bounced at the top of this slide!

Here's one showing some impressive jumps by Dexter's classmates; gravity-free zone!

But, speaking of impressive jumps, here's one of Dexter at my FAVORITE station:
The kids would grab a horse and run around the track as fast as they could while still making the jumps--four of them!--and then pass the horse to the next runner. There were lots of rails down, and some of the horses had their riders tumble on top of them, but it was great fun. I laughed the whole time. :)

Here's another favorite event. Who wouldn't love something that involved hoppity-hops?
The kids had to travel to their partner but stay on their side of the white line; when they both got there, they would pass a golf ball (carried in the yellow cup) to the other person. The kids figured out pretty quickly it was fun to see how high they could hop. :)
There were some crashes here, too, as you can see in the background--that's Dexter flopped on the ground, having gotten back to base, passing the hoppity hop off to the next person.

This event looked more comfortable for the smaller kids who were there that day:
Each team of three had to pull one person down & back over the course, then they'd switch and another person would have a turn riding, and do that a third time so everyone got a chance to ride. It was pretty bumpy, which made it funny to watch. I couldn't get over how LONG Dexter's legs look on this little cart. :)

The last events of the morning involved water play, which the kids had been looking forward to--it was a HOT morning. In this one, water-soaked balls are being flung across a field using a giant (6 feet tall) slingshot to a crowd of kids with nets. As they catch the balls, they get sprayed!

And in this one they had to pass water from the trash cans to each person's bowl and into a big bowl down at the end of the line. Within a few seconds, water was flying everywhere but the bowls! It was a squishy walk back to school...

So, here's what was interesting to me, and quite frankly, inspiring... There were at least a dozen stations that each class would spend a few minutes on, some of them merely entertaining (like the bouncy slide) and some of them with a bit more competitive goal (like the hoppity hop race or the horsey fences, and some others I didn't get photos of). It was a HOT and humid morning, but the kids approached each task with eagerness and tried their best. They ran, they threw, they jumped, they steered--they tried their best to achieve the goal at hand, whatever it was. After only half the events were finished, they were hot and sweaty and tired, but they kept going, kept giving it serious effort.

After a while, I realized that they were doing this WITHOUT ANY PRIZES BEING OFFERED. There was no reward for doing something the best or coming in first or jumping the highest or hitting the ball the furthest except for the satisfaction that they'd done it. Wow.

I think the future is going to be just fine.

I hope you have some fun today trying your best at something!