Saturday, May 30, 2009

Treehouse Party

All last week we were psyching ourselves up for Silas's treehouse-building party, one of those things that seemed like a good idea back in April when we first thought of it but as it approached started to seem more and more like a calamitous malady visited upon us by Fate. Friday night I sent out a wail: "Have 16 8-year old boys coming tomorrow for a treehouse party. Somebody hold me."

After all that, though, it was fine. Here's the treehouse just before the party started:

and here's the treehouse after. See if you can find the six tiny differences. Key at the bottom. The boys with machine guns don't count.

So, the secret to a successful treehouse-building party: build the treehouse before the party. That way the 16 boys can run around like demons shooting each other with water guns and water balloons, and no one gets in the way of actual work.

It was a success, though. No one died, got mouthy, or had to go to the hospital. One boy lost a tooth, but he claimed it was loose before the party. There was one (1) pornography incident, when Silas showed the party the naughty page from Peter Spiers' People. I'm not sure exactly which page it was, but apparently it involved a woman wearing no shirt. (Greaaaat).

So, we survived. I always dread parties, since I failed Party Planning 101, or forgot to take it, I'm not sure which, but then when they happen, it usually goes fine. And this one went fine--also, I'm going to brag a little here, but it DID make me feel like we were parents of the year. Not so much for the treehouse, which is totally fantastic and I can say this because I had absolutely nothing to do with its design or construction except for holding pieces of wood while Mike ran the power saw, or even for the party, per se. But just: Si seemed deliriously happy, to be surrounded by all of his new friends, shooting them wantonly with sprays of water. When I compare how sad and shy and withdrawn he was last summer after we moved here--I mean, it feels like we're doing something right. For once.

Just so I don't get too proud of myself, though, I have to admit that I maybe rubbed the whole party and treehouse in a few too many times. As in, "NO, I can't make you a dessert right now! Can't you see how busy dad and I are MAKING YOUR TREEHOUSE and GETTING READY FOR YOUR PARTY!?" Or, "NO, I can't help you clean the living room! I'm getting ready for your PARTY!"

* There aren't six differences, just one. Mike nailed a panel of wood on the bottom before totally giving up. The one kid who was here first got to help a little, though.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Back from Trinidad

It's been a busy few weeks--work, then a weekend conference, then more work, with a nail-bitingly tight deadline. The deadline was met and immediately after I started feeling drowsy and unmotivated, which is a great feeling until it starts lasting indefinitely. Then I think about researching non-work career choices, like being a princess, except that all that research seems like too much work.

The weekend conference was the Colorado Art Ranch, a group I love, and it was in Trinidad. Trinidad, Colorado--the little mining and ranching town that also happens to be the sex-change capital of the world, or used to be, until other hospitals started doing the procedure. Just so you know, if I ever run away, you can come looking for me in Trinidad. Try one of the crumbling old Victorians on the hill above town--one of the ones with a sun-filled yard and a view that extends for a thousand miles, all around. And which is still in walking distance of downtown. That's where I'll be, drinking a beer on the front porch and watching the sun sink behind the mesas west of town. I might not be happy to see you, either. I won't want to go back.

It was a good conference: writers, artists, rogue philosophers. Not a boring presentation in the bunch; I think my favorite was Mark Newport, the guy who knits himself superhero costumes (Sweaterman!). He also makes self-portraits: himself as a Kiss-style rock n roll star, taking a break from the electric bass to work on his knitting (I spent an unseemly amount of time trying in VAIN to find a photo of this on the internet.) I like the Colorado Art Ranch because it's small, and if I show up, I'll inevitably get to sit next to the big-ticket names at lunch, even if I won't be able to think of a single thing to say. Also, I'll spend way too much time during the conference trying to think of ways to get more people to attend. It seems like the kind of thing that is SO AWESOME that I can't understand WHY there aren't more people. Of course, if the events were packed, it would less enjoyable to attend.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mother's Day: The List

1. The only thing I've really ever liked about Mother's Day were the brunches.

2. Once I actually became a mom, brunches were out (long waits + small kids = no thanks).

3. So when Hubs asks, "What should we do on Sunday?" I say, "How about a hike?"

4. Silas: "Oh, no, not a hike."

5. Helen: "We hate hikes! Don't we, Silas?"

6. So probably no hike.

7. What about a brunch?

8. See #2.

9. Ugh. This is why I hate Mother's Day.

10. At least I hopefully won't get a $40 (40! $!) whirligig flamingo lawn ornament thing this year.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Spring Cleaning Take 2

When I was a kid, I wondered why people had spring cleaning. It seemed much more logical to have a fall cleaning, right before you go hunker down in your cabin for six months.

I think I have the answer: it's because after sitting around in the same sticky, grungy, dog-hair-laden digs for the longest months of the year, you will do ANYTHING, including scrub the kitchen floor with a toothbrush, to get rid of the GUNK.

Yep. I said scrub the kitchen floor with a toothbrush. I can't believe I did that, either. I was just washing up some dishes while I waited for Helen to be ready to host her dog party ("It's not just dogs, mom. It's kitties, too. And camels and zebras. But that's it.") One sink full of soapy water led to another, though, and pretty soon I was getting out the toothbrush.

The pathetic part is (or a pathetic part. I realize there might be more than one) that it actually doesn't look significantly different. A couple of corners are no longer coated in dog hair and dust, but the space below the stove is as frightening as ever. And then there's the big ragged gap where we tore out some crappy cabinets to make room for a fridge after the one that came with the house died. That still looks like crap.

I also vacuumed our bedroom, maybe the second time since we moved back in after the fall's reconstruction. Now, that space does look better. It looks like I feel after I take a shower after coming back from a week of camping. Like: whew.

Mindful, though, of Swistle's comment that it's harder to bear dirt once you've cleaned the house, I stopped at those two rooms. So now when I want a respite from the clutter and kidmania of the rest of the house, I can come back here, to the bedroom, and think ahhh. It's almost as good as cracking open a beer.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The secret to sons

The secret to sons: it's something I haven't learned yet. Or perhaps there isn't one, anymore than there's some mysterious secret to raising daughters, or chickens. Everyone is just muddling along like I am, frustrated and delighted in equal measure.

I come from a long line of daughters. I have one sibling, a sister. My dad's only sibling was a sister; so was my mom's. My mom's sister never married, and my other aunt married someone we will generously call "unsuitable" and who left the family before I turned eight. My best friend from preschool through high school had one sibling, a sister (friends with my sister! Couple-friends lottery! For my parents, that is). My best friend from third grade through high school had two siblings, both sisters. My life experience was girls girls girls, is what I am saying, and although I had a healthy appreciation for boys, especially after I turned fifteen or so, I don't have much first hand experience about what they're like in childhood.

Now it sounds like I'm going into some long tirade about how boys are alien species and I Just Don't Understand and Girls Are So Much Easier and PLEASE. Girls are kids, boys are kids, basically they have similar dreams and motivations ("It snowed so much the schools closed? But Ch^ck E Ch@@se didn't? So we got to go to Ch^ck E Ch@@se ALL DAY?"). Plus I'm not sure how much I ought to rely on my own experience of childhood when trying to parent my kids; this gets dangerously close to trying to somehow parent myself, instead of paying attention to the kids who actually exist in front of me right now.

However, when Helen comes to me crying, I find that I often instinctively know what her problem is. She's lonely! Her feelings are hurt! She got caught up in imagining the terrible things that could happen to her and the people she loves and she's scared! Likewise, and more usefully, when she's acting bratty or mean I can also more or less picture what's going through her head, and speak to that.

When Silas comes to me crying--or, since he doesn't cry much anymore, when he is droopy and dispirited--sometimes I have NO CLUE. And since kids are kids, and don't often articulate their griefs very well, he has NO CLUE either, and we sit there, head to head, at an impasse. Until his droopiness turns into irritability, he starts acting like Bratty Mcbratterson, and I lose my temper. Right there is the behavioral equation that wrecks our relationship eighty percent of the time.

I'm trying to do better, though. For starters: I'm trying to appreciate my son for who he IS, not what I want him to be (or what I'm desperately hoping he's not going to be, which is a related but separate problem).