November 27, 2009

"I am thankful for the hike with my Daddy"

"I am thankful for the hike with my Daddy"

This bears repeating, carving in Alex's bed post, or even tattooing on my forearm. I could also have pillows made, a special magnet for my car, or a sticker for the mailbox. But, I fear I digress.

“I am thankful for the hike with my Daddy".

These words actually came out of my sweet daughter’s mouth on Thanksgiving Day. It was part of her thanks, during the sharing, at our Thanksgiving meal. I was thankful we were not eating at the time, as I know I would have spit out my food in shock.

Alex HATES to hike. She hates hiking with such a passion that the mere suggestion sends her screaming to her room. She will make up homework, stomach aches, head aches or any excuse she can to avoid hiking. I have temporarily stopped fighting this battle with her. I have rationalized my stance by using the basketball practice has started excuse. She is exercising almost every day and I have let the hike argument go, at least for the winter.

By way of background, and to help explain Alex’s toast at our Thanksgiving table, the following is pertinent.

Courtney and Tom go to a local private boarding school as day students. Their school, Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS) is providing my kids with opportunities they would never have gotten in IL. Not only are Courtney and Tom receiving an excellent education, they are exposed to many disciplines I never knew existed in a high school. Courtney is an advanced rock climber and has learned how to silversmith, blacksmith and has glass blowing on her radar. Tom is freshman and has only learned about ranch work so far. He will be competing on the snowboard team and is doing dry land training. Sometimes, I just can not believe we live in this piece of heaven.

CRMS attracts students from all over the world, and particularly Asia. As local parents we often volunteer to host students who can not get home for the shorter breaks. This year we have four students for the thanksgiving week: two boys from Korea, one girl from China and one girl from the very far away land of New Jersey (I grew up in NJ, and it does seem very far away to me).

This multi-cultural Thanksgiving holiday has been enlightening and enjoyable for all of us. It has also kept Alex on her best behavior; she always behaves well when others are around. She participates in family activities and wants to be part of the group, this has kept her away from the Disney channel. Best of all, she can not sneak food from the fridge, and we have lots of food in the house. It works well, perhaps I need to adopt a few more children.

Yesterday, as the turkey was cooking, John suggested we go for a hike. Everyone jumped at the chance, except Alex. However, when she realized she was the only one not going she half heartedly agreed. Darn, I thought - we are going to have the usual conversations: "My back hurts", "I am thirsty", "My feet hurt", and on and on. I have learned to use my "mom only hears what she wants to her" strategy when hiking with Alex. Once again I prepared for the hike battles.

There is a local’s spot called Mushroom Rock. To get to this outcropping of rocks it involves 30 minutes of uphill hiking. The view from the top is valley wide, and for such a short jaunt - well worth the effort. We arrived at the trailhead and the kids headed off, Alex did not. This is usually the point were John and I have the same discussion, the “I'll stay" - ""no, I'll stay" conversation. On Thanksgiving, John won the argument - or should I say - I won. Off I went with the kids, thinking I owed John big time, enjoying a beautiful hike with great company.

I called John from the top, very glad it was me enjoying the view, expecting him to be waiting for us at the trailhead. I could tell by the way he answered the phone this was not the case. He and Alex had taken the easier trail but were already a quarter of the way up. We agreed to head down the easier way and meet them, our thought was - meeting the group would keep Alex going.

We reluctantly left our spot at the top of Mushroom Rock and headed down. However, my trail leading skills are a bit rusty and we went the wrong way. I called John from the trailhead, again fearing the worst. Unbelievably, John and Alex had almost reached the top, still looking for us. Even more unbelievable, John held the phone to Alex and she was laughing with glee. I felt like I was living in a parallel universe where my 16 year old daughter with down syndrome liked to hike. I want to live in this universe. I like to hope for the best.

As we sat down to our feasts I asked everyone to share their thanks for the evening. Alex was second. Her thanks were as follows:

I am thankful for the hike with my Daddy.
I am thankful for my Mommy; she is the best mother in the whole world.
I am thankful for our visitors; they are the best visitors ever.
I am thankful for my coaches being here, they are the best coaches in the whole world. (we invited Cammi and Paul her Special Olympics Coaches)
I am thankful for my brother and sister, I love them very much.
I am thankful... (At this point we stopped her. I have learned not to give an aspiring actress the floor for too long)

Thanksgiving 2009 was perfect.

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