Monday, March 12, 2012


Yesterday was a beautiful spring day that absolutely could not be spent indoors.  Also, being the day after our all-day mac and cheese feast (aka Mac-stravaganza), we could not let inertia get the best of us, for fear that all those cheesy calories would take up residence in our pants.  My husband and I decided to take the girls geocaching at a local park near the Potomac.

What is geocaching, you ask?  I could spend hours of your time explaining this wonderful outdoor game, but in a nutshell, it's treasure hunting.  All around the world, people have hidden little treasure boxes for others to find.  The GPS coordinates of the boxes are posted online along with a few topographical clues.  You download this info and you have yourself a treasure hunt!   Are you going to end up with gold doubloons at the end of your trip?  I never have but I guess some idiot out there might leave something valuable in one of these caches.   The boxes are usually cleverly disguised waterproof containers that have a logbook, which you sign when you locate the cache, and some swag.  This swag-- or treasure, as my kids call it-- is very much like the treasure I mentioned in an earlier post about my Birdie's room.  You find a range of items, such as ancient Happy Meal toys, buttons, pins, magnets, business cards, costume jewelry, foreign coins, belly button lint.  It's all pretty much junk, but to Birdie and Princess it is worth hours of trekking around the forest (which makes this junk very valuable to me.)

My Birdie, the self-proclaimed non-athlete-- "I'm more of a bookworm than an athlete, ya know"-- is absolutely uninterested in exercise.  If there is a chance she might sweat, Birdie begins to whine and complain in anticipation of her elevated heart rate and perspiration.  (Her poor P.E. teacher...)  Before I started working on a regular basis, I would walk the girls to school every day.  This 0.33mi walk would elicit moans and complaints worthy of much more strenuous activity, like-- oh, I don't know, digging a ditch all the way to school.  "Mom, you have a perfectly good car sitting at home!  You are being wasteful by leaving it parked in the garage!  I might be dying over here-- is it possible for a 7 year-old to have a heart attack?!"  Good grief!  Talk about drama!

Now take the same kid, tell her we are going into the woods to look for treasure and we are going to take a picnic or snack, and that kid will walk dang-near all day.  Yesterday she hiked close to four hours and covered over 3.5mi in exchange for a tiny plastic horse, a bouncy ball, and two other unidentifiable pieces of plastic crap, one of which looked suspiciously like a chewed up bottle cap.  Well who wouldn't be motivated by that?!  I mean-- according to her definition-- it really is treasure.

My Princess's attitude toward physical activity is very different from her sister's.  Although both girls' are equally goofy-footed and uncoordinated, Princess really, REALLY wants to be an athletic person.  She enjoys physical activity, especially those activities that let her feel a rush of adrenaline and endorphins without stressing her out by being too complicated or too noisy.  She is torn in P.E. class on many occasions because she wants to play and be involved with the rest of the class.  The problem arises when the games get too loud or become complicated by the need to be paired with an unfamiliar classmate.  Even more stressful for her are the activities that have lots of steps or require physical contact or a lot of motor planning.  Let her run or ride a scooter or jump rope by herself and she is a happy camper, willing to give it her all.  Tell her to play tag, learn a new multi-step dance or jump rope with a group and you'll probably just get tears.

When we take Princess geocaching, she transforms in a beautiful way.  Most of her tentativeness melts away.  I get to see the potential in her to be a fearless leader, an example to her peers, an I-can version of a child that usually sees herself as an I-can't in the physical movement department.  At school she is painfully aware of her limitations, constantly measuring herself against her peers in P.E. and recess, and often not making the grade in her eyes. In the woods, though, she is in her element and she knows little timidness (except for briars) and will try most anything to reach her destination.  I witness her confidence swell with every step and it makes me so happy for her.  Most of her classmates don't even know what geocaching is, so this is an activity that she can be the best at and that motivates her.  Well, that and the treasure.  You can't forget the treasure.  Princess acquired a "new" Ice Age 2 Happy Meal toy (circa 2006), a Canadian penny, a mouse-shaped sillyband, and an orange triangle of plastic with a hole in it for her efforts yesterday.  AND she got the satisfaction of leading our geocaching team all the way to the Potomac river!  The most surprising part of all is that she would have been happy to keep looking for more treasure, even after 4 hours!

After a lovely afternoon hiking and successfully locating six caches, we rode home to enjoy a dinner of popcorn and chocolate milk, accompanied by the ever-entertaining show Wipeout.  Princess was very relaxed and much more easy-going than usual, as she always is at the end of these trips.  Birdie, though a little whiny because she realized we had just exercised a lot, was basking in her newfound trophies and trinkets.  You can feel their collective feelings of accomplishment and it's nice.

Now if I could just figure out how to fit treasure-hunting into the elementary school P.E. curriculum...hmmm.  Maybe then Birdie and Princess's PhysEd teacher would get to see them smile because they enjoy class rather than because they are relieved it's over.

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