Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Favorites

Back with the Friday Favorites! These should be the easiest posts ever, right?

And, well, okay, they are pretty easy. What I want to enthuse on today is January. Right? It's the coldest, darkest, most miserable month of the year, and it doesn't even have any holidays to enliven it. A cold, sober month. And yet I love it so (although I freely admit that if I lived in Toronto, or the Outer Hebrides, I might feel differently). (Wouldn't that be so cool to live in the Outer Hebrides? And probably much more bearable in these days of Netflix and the Internets.)

My favorite things about January:

1. All that busy, hot holiday shtick is DONE. I love Christmas as much as the next person, but man, I am always so glad to see it go.

2. My family's birthday season is over. We begin in August, with Silas, rocket through my nephew, my MIL, Hubs, my dad, my SIL, my sister, my mom, and me, finishing up with Helen just before Christmas. At which point: WHEW. There are a few outliers who require attention and presents at odd times, like May, but for the most part, presents and parties are put aside.

3. Although I am in a low swing in my affection-for-cold cycle, I do like cold weather, at least in theory, and January has plenty of it. I like the frosty hay-colored grass in the morning, I like the plumes of steam sent up by energy plants in the early morning, I like the white tufting on the mountains in the morning (you: uh, Melospiza, I think that's called frost).

4. I like the abstemiousness and frugality of the month, after all the overeating and overspending of December. Again, some years this frugality is more, uh, theoretical than in other years, but still. I likka the idea.

5. The days are getting longer again. Now when I leave the office at five it is still pale dusk when I get to Helen's school, and not pitch black. Oddly, though, the mornings are still very long and dark. I am REAAAALY looking forward to doing my runs in the twilight, instead of the dark. REAAAAAALY.

So! Go forth and prosper! Also, have a good weekend.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What I'm worried about this week

It's been a little light with the posts around here lately, eh? Argh. I'm going to pick my favorite scapegoat and say that I haven't been blogging because I've been fretting about a presentation. Silas's presentation. Which he may or may not give today but I hope he does so that I, for one, can get back to some semblance of a normal life. JEESH. I'd read about this too-much-homework crap, and I'd been warned by other parents, but I think I secretly thought that it wouldn't happen to us.

See, normally Si is Mr Lickety Split with his homework, mostly because he's not allowed to touch the Wii or the computer with a ten-foot-pole until his assignments are complete. We fudge a little on the spelling, and we may or not have several evenings a week that end with dragging him bodily away from Wii Lego Batman and pushing a pencil into his suddenly-paralyzed hand while he weeps and carries on and asks what's more important, him getting his sleep or him doing spelling? That's a post for another day (you: I can HARDLY wait).

No, this post is about book reports, and the worst kind of all, presentation book reports. Si's school prides itself on turning out kids that are comfortable giving in-front-of-the-class talks (me: what? you mean we're going to be fighting about this through the fifth grade?). That's great. I'm sure it will prepare these kids splendidly for a life of presenting reports before the board of directors, blah blah blah. In the meantime, it's misery. Silas-the-Efficient thrives with a certain kind of assignment: the cut-and-dried kind. He loves worksheets, and math problems, and puzzles: anything he can whip through, fill out a couple of items, and get the answer. He's even coming around to doing small writing assignments and the like. But presentations involve CREATIVITY! And AMBIGUITY! And UNCERTAINTY ABOUT OUTCOME! Which meant it was all just too overwhelming to bear--and that I had to break my cardinal rule about homework, and get involved.

UGH. I will spare you the details of the cajoling, cheerleading, browbeating, and nagging that have gone down in the house over the past week. I was sick of myself after about five minutes. And I kept second-guessing myself. Wasn't I weakening his ability to self-motivate and take responsibility? Wasn't I supposed to just let him fail, if he couldn't bring himself to do the report on his own? What was the worst that could happen, anyway? (and oh, I could TOTALLY imagine the worst--standing up blankly before the class? Standing up and blushing? Standing up and crying? LOTS OF WAYS TO BE THE WORST)

God. It was miserable for all concerned. I could totally understand parents that freak out and just take over the damn project themselves, and I might even have been tempted, except it would have been a little hard to sneak into class pretending I was Silas.

But then something kind of miraculous happened: he put the pieces together himself, and came up with a halfway decent presentation. After a week of robotic recitations of unconnected facts, followed by gentle prompting from us ("and do you think that will give me a good sense of what the book is about?"), followed by slightly less-gentle hints related to things like transitions, which I called transitions, even though he is in 3rd grade and had NO CLUE what I was talking about--when I got home last night he gave a reasonably spirited, funny, and coherent presentation about the book he'd read ("I didn't really LIKE this book, but if you're in the mood for a longish book with lots of facts, this book would be GREAT for you!")

So, take home lesson: nagging works? Procrastination-followed-by-last-minute-panic works? The jury's still out.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

You Know What I Hate?

Western Days at Helen's preschool. Oh, sure, it sounds so seasonal and festive: the Stock Show's in town! Let's learn about farm animals and wear Western gear and make Western-y things like bandanas stamped with horseshoes! Which is all fine and good until the pony stops, with a short sobbing screech, at the wear Western gear part. Because here's the deal: we don't actually have any Western gear lying around the house, at least not in five-year-old girl size. No little Western vests. No pink Western hats with the curlicues and the bolo-tie straps. And certainly no $30 Western cowboy boots, in pink or any other color. So that Western Days either means a panicked run to Target at 7:30 p.m. on a school night, or 24 hours of sobbing. Guess which one we picked? Kill me.

Helen cried herself to sleep last night on the subject of Why can't we go buy a cowgirl hat? And woke up the morning crying for real about I want some COWGIRL BOOTS. And went to school not crying, but all pink and puffy and tender. In her completely non-Western leggings and striped shirt. Because even though she had a very Western-y jeans and a flowery button-up blouse, these weren't really cowgirl things without the boots and the hat. So why even bother, really?

God. At first I was game. "Oh, you really want to wear Western stuff because your friends are going to be wearing Western stuff," I said. "I really see that. Well, luckily you have some Western stuff. And you can wear Dad's cowboy hat!"

Then I started to get mad. "Western Wear Day is really only for wearing stuff you already have around the house," I said. "Not for going out and buying new special stuff that you're only going to wear once."

And finally I lost my temper. "Because last time we rushed out and bought special shoes for school? You didn't even wear them to the program we bought them for." I held up the white shoes with the rainbow lace-ups, and also the brand-new shoes that we bought two weeks ago and which haven't been worn yet, not even once, and also the sneakers she went and bought with her grandma at the beginning of school and which have been worn maybe once, if that. "We are not buying any more special shoes for special occasions until these shoes have gotten worn, and I mean it!"

Commence the weeping and the sobbing and the guilt. This is my absolutely least favorite thing about parenting--how it ropes me into stupid materialistic dramas that I outgrew or opted out of thirty years ago, and makes me feel like a total asshole for not just going along (how hard is it to rush out and buy $35 of special crap, anyway? yes, it's annoying, but is it going to break the budget for the month? not really, so what's the hold up? why not just buy $35 of felted plastic knickknack and make the girl happy? also, shouldn't we go to the damn Stock Show this weekend like apparently everybody else in town? don't we owe it to our kids, or the moment, or posterity, or something?)

You know what I hate? Social pressure.

Happy Wednesday. With a side of bitter.

Monday, January 18, 2010

January Thaw

For the first time in what seems like MONTHS we had a weekend in which a) almost nothing was scheduled for me personally and b) the weather was pleasant. This delicious combination was further sweetened by Hubs leaving the house at 5:30 am yesterday, both kids in tow, to go ice fishing. Yes, people, I had the house to myself yesterday. I immediately took advantage of this by leaving it to go for a 2 1/2 hour run. I also did some concentrate-y worky stuff, and some lazing about on the floor reading, and some sneaking-of-art-projects-out-of-the-house-into-the-garbage. And then when Hubs came home--without the kids, who were doing a sleepover at their cousin's house--we went out to eat, where we enjoyed being able to talk without having to discuss whose turn it was to use the blue crayon, and came back and watched Julie & Julia, and got halfway through before Silas called from my SIL's house to say, "Helen has a fever. Also, she threw up. A LOT." Sigh. Overall, though, Sunday was a nearly perfect day, and even the barfy end to it had the upside that almost none of the barf in question ended up in my house (my turn next time, SIL! I owe you one!)

Next weekend: looking forward to finishing the movie.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Favorites

It's been a week of crazybusy at work, which kind of sucks, but also provides a kind of chemical high, you know? Only today, for reasons that made sense only back in November when I made the appointment, I am taking Helen in for her annual checkup. So in the midst of busyness I have enforced staying-at-homeness. And--it's kind of nice.

My favorite things about staying home on a weekday:

1. It's quiet. The neighbors are all off working, or stashed indoors.

2. It's 9:10, and I'm still in my pajamas. In a little bit I'll go in and have a bath (a bath!)

3. It's bright and sunny.

4. I get to watch what the dog does when we're gone (she sleeps in one spot, then unfolds herself painfully, limps off the couch, and goes and falls asleep in another spot).

5. I don't feel the need to do weekend-y things, like go to the store or clean the bathroom.

Well, that's it. Happy Friday, everyone!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Condo? It was FINE.

After all my fretting and grumpiness, The Condo was just fine. The weather was spectacular; I got to go for two run/ hikes on a well-plowed trail; I got to gawk at some of the fanciest "summer cabins" this side of Aspen, and to top it all off, my head didn't explode from the noisiness.

And, we even walked to breakfast at a funky local breakfast place (and nearly froze Helen to death, at least according to her). So there, Grumpy Side.

The kids spent a lot of time playing outside, running and climbing and sliding and experimenting with snow/ ice dynamics; I got to do a lot of reading; and for once I didn't feel like I was working twice as hard for half the comfort of home. This is what makes me grumpiest about going up there, I think: I spend a weekend away from getting chores done at home, and instead I get to cook, wash dishes, make beds, do laundry, and vacuum up there.

(Of course, if it was a place I wanted to be, I wouldn't mind the extra work so much. This is why I feel like an asshole complaining about The Condo: I don't like it because it isn't the place I would choose. If I happened to find myself teletransported back to the Seventies with five thousand dollars or whatever it cost to buy in, I would have gotten something more remote and nature-y. In my in-laws' defense, back in the Seventies The Condo was located in a fairly out-of-way and nature-y spot. Oh, how the times have changed.)

So. It was fine. All the same, I am SO looking forward to next weekend, and getting to spend it at home.

Monday: it's only five more days until Friday. UGH.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Favorites

Okay: not for the first time I'm going to do a passive aggressive Friday Favorites and list all my favorite things about something which I'm doing this weekend but I DO NOT WANT TO DO.

My favorite things about going to The Condo*:

1. The snow is nice and white up there. And there are big piles of it.

2. There are lots of fun, funky breakfast places up there within walking distance. Not that we ever go to them.

3. It's nice to get out of town for a while. Right? Isn't this always true?

4. Not everyone who goes to The Condo will be at The Condo.

5. Time's up!

Erg. Commence noticing how much of a first world problem this is. (Although really? If we were living in a Peruvian shantytown? At least we could put the kids outside.)

*The Condo is a piece of important family heritage. It's also small, has uncomfortable beds, and is in the middle of the urban mountain corridor, about 20 inches from I-70.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Wait, is it too late to talk about my resolutions?

UGH. I will not totally and entirely blame my attempt to do Sundry's end-of-year meme for my apparent inability to update, but people! That thing is like a grad school application! I can barely even read other people's, let alone do my own (although of course I read yours. I loved yours.).

Anyway, as per Tess's nagging insistence, the digest:

Compared to December 2008, at the end of 2009 I was

1. Happier-ish. More stress and rushing around and sich, but less angst, esp. when doing things like buying groceries.
2. Uh. Not thinner.
3. Richer. What with the job and all.

Well. There. 2009 in sum.

For 2010? Much of the same. I'm happy with my level of exercise, which is fortunate, since it's not like I'm going to be doing any more. Maybe I will be liking to go for the longer runs on Sundays, once it's not so icy and snowpacked. Maybe I will be lifting more of the arm weights. I pretty much always vow to eat more fruits and vegetables and lose my temper less, and hey! maybe this will be the year this actually happens! I can dream, anyway.

Also, my projects. I'm really less of a self-improvement person and more of a "what cool project can I do this year?" This year, my projects:

1. Every month, I'm going to read a novel written in 2009. (Meaning that in December I can do an oh-so-timely "best of 2009" list!)

2. Every month, I'm going to go for a hike. Maybe by 2012 I will have worked my way through Best Easy Hikes Near Denver. At the very least, I will have hiked the same one (1) trail 12 times.

3. In late May I am going to cut into my running schedule to get up early and go birding once a week.

4. I'm going to ride my bike to work AT LEAST ONCE.