If you’ve never had the pleasure of participating in the classic elementary school Flat Stanley project, you are missing out. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown is the story of a young boy named Stanley who is flattened by a bulletin board. He’s ok, just…flat.
He wants to visit a friend in California, but because his parents don’t have enough money for a train or plane ticket, they fold him up and mail him in an envelope. That’s the beauty of Flat Stanley: he can go anywhere. And for this school project, he does!
We had the pleasure of spending our mid-winter break with Flat Stanley. He’s an adventurous soul who was not content to sit on the couch playing Wii Mario Brothers all weekend (although he did do that for one day), nor was he content to simply watch the Winter Olympics on TV. No, Flat Stanley wanted to be in the Winter Olympics!
OUR FIRST EVENT: ICE SKATING (FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER)
After being mesmerized by the figure skating events, my boys were ready to do jumps and spins and triple salchows on the ice. “Ice skating is hard,” I warned them, remembering the one time I tried ice skating and had to clutch the edge of the wall with a death grip just to get around the rink one time. As it turned out, ice skating is hard…literally. My middle son wound up with three bruises on one knee and my youngest son learned the hard way that the best way to catch yourself when you fall is with your hands, not your upper lip. All visions of triple salchows vanished and the goal became to make it around the rink alive.
My middle son skated for approximately six minutes before bowing out for the warmth of the lobby, but my other two sons battled through and ended the day with the ability to make it around the rink without holding on to the side and with a desire to try it again: success!
OUR SECOND EVENT: CURLING (FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER)
There is a curling center not far from us that was hosting an open house over mid-winter break, meaning people who were curious about curling could come in for a lesson. Flat Stanley couldn’t wait to go, but my boys were considerably less enthused. There was a lot of talking in the beginning (“Don’t touch the ice! Ever! It will melt!”), and I think we all got a bit bored, but then it came time to climb into the hack and throw a rock.
On TV, it looks like the easiest thing in the world, but there is a lot that goes into throwing a rock, like coordination, strength of the push off, and balance. Aiming wasn’t even on our radar. But it was fun! We gradually got the hang of it and then graduated to sweeping, which is a serious workout. The key is to sweep vigorously directly in front of the path of the rock without touching it in order to melt the ice so the rock keeps gliding forward. (My youngest was a valiant sweeper, but always seemed to be sweeping behind the rock, which really doesn’t help.)
By the end of the lesson, our instructors (who were fabulous) had us trying to hit other rocks (in a modified bocce ball contest) and try our best to throw a rock all the way to the other end like the Olympic curlers do, which is nearly impossible. We all have a new found respect for curlers.
If you happened to catch King 5 news on Saturday evening, they did a bit on curling. If you look very closely, you can see my middle son throwing a rock in the background!
OUR THIRD AND FINAL EVENT (FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER): SNOWBOARDING
Before you gasp in shock that I, as a bonafide Seattleite, had yet to take my boys skiing or snowboarding ever, please know that I was born and raised in southern California. I did not learn to ski until after I could vote, and by then it was too late. I am not good on the slopes, nor am I confidant. The idea of carting three young boys with their hats, mittens, snow pants, jackets, skiis, and poles into the bitter cold to do a dangerous sport that I could barely do myself seemed ridiculous.
But the boys are older now, and we’re in the full throes of Olympic fever, and Flat Stanley was clamoring for something to do, so we finally hit the slopes. They wanted to try snowboarding, so I (wisely) put them in a lesson and took off on my own to see if I could remember how to ski on a pair of skiis that are older than…well, they’re really old.
It could not have been a more perfect day to ski: it was sunny at times, lightly snowing at others, and not too cold. The snow was fresh and easy to ski on, and I had an enjoyable time on the green circle runs before I challenged myself on the blue squares: so much fun!
At the end of my boys’ lesson, the instructor suggested they not go on the chair lift yet. Another instructor said that beginning snowboarders usually attend 3-4 lessons before they attempt the chair lift. Hmm…
After a delicious lunch and some more practice, I made an executive decision: after coming all this way and with my boys doing as well as they were, we were going on that chair lift. I am so glad we did. The kids did great! They had much more fun snowboarding on a bit of elevation and really put their new skills to use.
Of all our Winter Olympic events, snowboarding is the one they are dying to do again. My youngest has already penciled it in our calendar. Thank you, Flat Stanley, for introducing us to a sport that is here to stay!