We did a really excellent thing on Friday:
Yep, that is Owen, rock climbing! Luke took the picture and, since Owen isn't quite up to competent camera usage, I have no pics of Luke climbing because you can't belay somebody and take pictures at the same time. (The belayer is the person who's holding the rope that prevents disaster.)
After I learned how to belay, a process which took about an hour and consisted of learning to tie the climber into the rope and learning to take up slack, brake (to stop a fall), and feed the rope as the climber 'spidermans' back down, we went up to the beginner section. It was so cool because the more advanced climbs are all 40 ft high, and they built the beginner section to start upstairs so that our 20 ft climb started halfway up the advanced wall, and the boys felt like they were among the experts.
Not that Luke is a beginner anyway; he climbed a wall a few years ago and surprised the heck out of me by getting all the way to the top. But it seems that he had less fear at seven than he does now, at the ripe old age of nine, because once he got on the wall he was downright nervous about both the climbing and the spidermanning.
Actually, I thought at first that climbing was not going to be either kid's favorite thing. They were both nervous about getting too high and didn't trust that the belay would keep them safe. So long about lunch time I thought, well, at least we tried it, and started getting ready to go. That's when the girl running the place gave Luke a bag full of magic dust - chalk, the climber's handy helper. As much as chalk actually does help in climbing, the coolness factor of carrying gear attached to a carabiner, attached to your harness, is what really helped get them over their fears. Kind of like Dumbo with the feather.
So, once chalk was introduced into the equation, they started climbing in earnest.
Also, they loved the specific language used by climbers. Once all the safety checks have been completed, and the climber is tied in, he says, 'on belay?' and the belayer says 'belay on.' Then, the climber states, 'climbing,' and the belayer says, 'climb on.' Each time we switched kids, or switched paths helpfully charted up the 20-foot wall (with cute names like Red Brick Road or Climb Bling), we tied in, checked ropes, and had that little exchange about the belay.
I had to drag them out of there when the threat of rush hour gearing up outside became too much for me, some four hours later. I think they would have been kicking and screaming - except that, by then, they could barely move their arms with all the climbing they'd done. They slept better that night than they have since we closed the swimming pool back in August!