Saturday, May 17, 2014


My kids' elementary school has a longstanding tradition of staging an annual Westward, Ho! field trip. During this journey, the entire 5th grade class treks 6 miles--across meadows full of waist-high grass, along rustic wooded paths, and through bubbling streams--to simulate the early United States' expansion from its eastern settlements toward the unknown frontier...on a sort of mini-scale, of course. And let me tell you, it is a HUGE deal. The students get assigned "families" with whom they'll collaborate to try and ensure a successful...migration. They toil together to "build" their wagons. (Team WestEnders donated our solid Little Tykes vehicle to the cause...and it will be proudly making its second excursion, having survived Derek's trip of 3 years ago...) There is teamwork for cooking of authentic-ish 19th century foodstuffs. And, there is the bane of all 10 and 11 year olds' existence: the dreaded...square-dancing.

But the preparations didn't just happen during school hours. Oh, no--we had to sign up to provide supplies and tools, when lists came home detailing what the family needed to complete their tasks. Even more...demanding...and potentially difficult: the intrepid adventurers were supposed to outfit themselves as realistically as possible--to truly look the part, if you will. That's just fine and dandy...except that my child loathes wearing jeans...and thus doesn't own a pair. I was at a loss for how to solve this dilemma, until a fellow bus-stop-mom suggested the thrift store in town. (Duh!) Soft, broken-in denim, size 14 (gulp!) for (ready?) One. Dollar. Score one for...Little House on the Prairie Mom! Add a plain tee (which I also had to purchase...Men's Small...since when did my baby turn into a...small man? So very, very not okay...) a button-down shirt from his closet, and hiking boots, and we're done. Whew!

So, everything was in order for the Great Wagon Train of 2014...except someone forgot to order good weather. The night before the planned sendoff, it poured. Buckets. I mean, torrential amounts of water dumping down from the sky. Obviously, this would make the trails a muddy mess. But even more importantly, the sweet little creeks--which the kids would be wading into and then working cooperatively to lift their wagons across without losing any critical supplies (read: LUNCH)--would be much deeper than usual, and behaving more like raging rivers. Now, I'm sure the actual hearty westward-marchers scoffed at the danger--they probably just gritted their teeth, tightened their belts, and dealt with the hardships in the tough American pioneer way. But the modern school system tends to frown upon subjecting youngsters to, oh, conditions ripe for one of the citizens being swept away and possibly drowned.

Therefore, to everyone's great disappointment, the leaders were forced to implement Plan B. First, the brave explorers would get to experience...crafts...indoors while the rain finished doing its last little spiteful dribbling. Then (after the clouds cleared and the brilliant sunshine took over, wouldn't ya know it...) they would enjoy their noon meal, picnic style, outside. Finally, they would finish Part 1 by dazzling the parents with the aforementioned square-dancing demonstration. Part 2, on Monday, involves an abbreviated hike during the school day. Thus, Husband rearranged his meetings and such at work, so he could still go on the "cross country" portion. And I got to do the "eating and entertainment" activities. (Boy, did I luck out, right? All fun, no work: yay, me!)

When I arrived, Riley's teacher welcomed me to the festivities and informed me that there was even a separate pot of vegetarian stew--those are some progressive pioneers, yeah? So I got a lovely bowl of chili, a tasty biscuit, some delightful applesauce, and a positively yummy oatmeal cookie...all lovingly created by the 5th grade chefs. (Um, with tons of adult supervision, I'm sure...) And for the Grand Finale...I had the unique opportunity to see my son swinging and do-si-do-ing and promenading and alemand-ing with his classmates...some of which of course were GIRLS. Seriously, it was absolutely adorable. (And no one really looked too traumatized...even when I was videotaping...but I must say they did all look utterly exhausted when it was all over, as though the very idea of frolicking with the opposite front of their parents, no less...took it all out of them.)

Fortunately, they all survived these preliminaries, and now have all weekend to rest up for the Main Event...which will go forth as scheduled....good Lord willing and the creeks don't rise...(LITERALLY--ha!)

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