Took kids to Bobcats matinee game, then Aria (Calamari rocks, kids who like Calamari and ask for more? Nice...) Now home. They all swore they were going to stay up 'till midnight - whoosh, they're asleep. Now I'm just watching football and drinking champagne. Fucking awesome year. I'm lucky to be alive. Luckier still to have so many dreams alive for 2011. Cheers!
Stand up paddling off the coast of Pawleys Island, testing a new GoPro HD camera mounted on the front of my board. This camera now sits on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, undamaged since it's waterproof. One day it will wash up on the shore of some far away country and whoever retrieves it will have a lovely 16 GB flash card with all sorts of paddling videos on it.
The fierce winds and crashing waves settled down a bit yesterday. Alex joined me in the afternoon and we surfed together on the big board. It was truly a one-of-a-kind experience. His face totally lit up when we caught a good ride and any fear he had melted away. I thought I was capturing it all on video too!
Then he looks at the back of the board and says, "Uh, Dad, where's your camera?"
Scratch one Go Pro. Ah well . . . the camera I will replace, but the images are forever lost.
Isabel is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed bundle of happy energy and delightful wonder. She is doing well in school, is a perfectionist like her big sister, plays soccer with fearless vigor, loves Star Wars like her brother, is listed under the dictionary under the word 'pink,' is mischevious, and has a laugh that makes me feel wonderfully alive.
Iz loves to draw, her imagination is vivid, and her hand is steady. She works at her own pace, and can focus for long periods of time on anything artistic. However if you are asking her to put on socks, you might have to repeat the suggestion seven times before she goes, "Oh yeah," and disappears into her room for half an hour. Afterward she will come downstairs, still sockless. If one dares ask why, you will get a creative explanation of how there are no socks to be found.
She loves to play with her brother, her best friend next door, and tag along whenever her big sister has friends over. She digs mud pies, and has a keen interest in rocks and small animals. She wants to play baseball as well as soccer next year, and is looking forward to building sandcastles on the beach and going to the mountains to play in the stream. In other words, she is very well-rounded.
She's sharp and sassy when being told to do something by anyone besides me. Her room is a whirlwind disaster of dolls and stuffed animals and clothes and books, somehow eclipsing the sheer chaotic entropy of her brother's room. She is at times sneaky and devious, having learned the loopholes in the system (third child) but she comes clean with easy grace, and nods at me with those big blue eyes and promises to be good. And I believe her every time.
I think she's the happiest creature on the planet at any given moment - unless I'm making her learn her spelling words. But now it's summer, and she is working on a fiction project with me, and there is nothing but limitless days ahead.
Kelly had a remarkable first year at Davidson International Baccalaureate Middle School. Like her brother, she completed the year with straight A's in all courses, including some subjects she'd never taken before, like Spanish and Keyboarding. She is one of three students who were 'A Honor Roll' for the entire grade level. She competed in the Science Olympiad and played Classic soccer for the full year. Her reports were sharp and well-written, her artwork was beautiful, and her work ethic was first rate. The homework load was steep—we knew that going in—but Kelly handled every assignment without my assistance, and still managed three soccer training sessions a week, plus helped me coach her little sister's team. That meant soccer five days a week for her, plus games, plus all the extracurriculars that go with having an artist dad: journaling, sketchbooks, time in the studio, and tons of extra reading.
I don't always know how to congratulate her for her continued and persistent excellence. On the one hand, I don't want to gush all the time—and quite frankly, I am blown away more often than not, so I fear that I default to the 'quietly appreciative' with knowing pats, and nods of 'well done.' On the other hand, I know a thing or two about performing at a high level without being appreciated—and I remember that feeling that getting good grades was just expected, and no longer noteworthy.
So I have tried to forge a new dynamic: quietly appreciating Kelly's hard-working approach without making too much of a fuss over every little thing, but then sprinkling in positive feedback in short intense moments where I ask her to look at me, focus on what I'm saying and then verbally acknowledge how proud I am of her on a day to day basis, whether it be remarking on a good report, or hard work at soccer, or for taking the time to really help one of her siblings with their homework. And then on a broader level, taking her aside to tell her how much I appreciate her hard work on a monthly level. And then something more elaborate on a quarter level, after report cards: a big dinner, a day out on the lake, etc. And then a year-end celebration and reward of technology, this year an iPhone, because it really is quite remarkable that she made it through this rigorous program without getting any B's. A good deal of her very smart and very competitive friends got tripped up by a stern keyboarding teacher, or an equally strict foreign language instructor.
I hope she looks back at her remarkable childhood one day and reads this blog, and all these posts, and can then grasp just how phenomenally proud I am of her.
Philip Williams is the author of The Griffin. He is also a sculptor, a painter, and the father of three amazing beasties.
Enjoy simple pleasures. Push the envelope. Love what you do. Take nothing for granted.
Never let go of hope. One day you will see that it all has finally come together. What you have always wished for has finally come to be. You will look back and laugh at what has passed and you will ask yourself, 'How did I get through all of that?'