Thursday, March 24, 2011


Last week my workplace moved, and this week marks the first regular work week in the new place. For most of the people I work with it's a bad change: we're 20 miles away from our old building, so people's commutes have doubled or even tripled. There is a lot of grousing and many people have suspiciously puffy eyes when they come in every morning, as if they maybe spent some of the drive in tears. Some people have gone from corner offices with wall-to-wall windows and close views of the nearby rocky ridge to windowless caves. Other people have had their job duties completely upturned and their daily work routines disrupted--"I feel like I've taken a totally new job," said one of my coworkers. "Everything is new." I try to keep pretty quiet. I think I technically live the closest to the new office (five and a half miles away, but still: the closest). I also have a bigger, brighter, newer office with new furniture, and what's more, the move was an excuse to toss out all my predecessor's files and books and knickknacks. So I am unobtrusively thanking my lucky stars/ office politics/ the powers that be for my situation. Nevertheless, it has been an adjustment. I find myself thinking idly of the walk I will take at lunch--and then remembering, with a small pang, that no, that walk is 20 miles away. People I used to see every day are located in offices I can't always reliably find. Everyone in my department has their own office, now, so that instead of being grouped in out former cozy circle we are spread along a wall--the casual interactions we used to have don't work anymore. It isn't bad. It isn't something that we won't all get used to and find the new benefits in. I, for one, am already right now reaping the benefits of having 30 to 40 minutes less commute time every single day. But the adjustment is still surprisingly difficult and it reminds me of how much of our internal equilibrium is based on external cues we're almost unaware of--like geography. Like circadian rhythms, which are going to change based on which way our offices face and whether we have access to circadian cues. this possible?...external vegetation. Our new office is located out in the midst of warehouses and rugged old ranchland. There's very little out here in the way of plant life except knapweed, scattered weedy cottonwoods and siberian elms, and occasional strips of bluegrass and landscaping trees. There are no houses and the offices tend toward the utilitarian. There isn't much in this landscape that is thought out, or that reflects attention to place. Or interest in place. I go for my lunchtime walk and it's beyond barren: it's desolate, windswept, neither human nor nature but some drosscape in between. I catch sight of my office building at the top of the hill and I have a little lurch of affection for it, like I'm sighting my covered wagon after foraging for buffalo chips. Aw, we're pioneers, I think, even though we're literally sitting between two demographically identical office buildings. It's interesting to think about the animal basis of all this, how some animals are so sensitive to changes in light, termperature, or smell that they'll up and leave a place if it changes too much. And even if humans are more akin to noise-and-change-loving house sparrows and racoons, we still get all discombobulated and grumpy when it's suddenly brighter or our room faces north instead of west. One problem with noticing the animal basis of my response to changing geographical location, though, is I start noticing the animal wrongness of my daily routine. Driving! Desk sitting! Working away from my family! It makes me want to up and leave, some days, and go in search of a daily routine that feels biologically better suited.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Life with a Fourth Grader

Saying goodbye to his best friend: “See you Monday! Unless my house gets hit by a giant meteor!”

Friend: “Or someone drops a nuclear bomb on you!”

Silas: “Or World War Three starts!”


At bedtime: he sets up his big fluffy white bear next to him in the bed, the self-holding ammo nerf dart gun propped in its paws. “To protect me from monsters,” he explains, matter-of-factly.


Skiing: proceeding down the mountain at what could generously be called a conservative pace, he notes how much faster he is, now that dad’s taught him “that thing with the turn.”


When he gets mad at us, he storms into his room and turns up the volume on the only CD he owns: Beethoven’s greatest hits. Heh.


When problems arise, he takes matters into his own hands and often prevails. Except when he spectacularly doesn’t. See: attempt to remove superglue from beautiful new dining room table.


He can be stunningly responsible, like when he packed school lunch for himself and Helen the morning I was out of town and M was still in bed. He included fruit! And carrots and snap peas!


He comes into my new office/ hotel room/ etc. and within two minutes has discovered two drawers I never noticed, found the keys, locked them and unlocked them, and set the TV to some channel I'm not interested in. "Aigh! Don't MESS with everything!" I say, but don't press it, because, really, he's fine. Moving a million miles and hour and getting into everything, but fine.

Sometimes, raising him, I feel like I don’t really have a plan—like I’m not trying to shape him and guide him the way I ought to be, that I harp too much on low-consequence stuff, like video game time and the ratio of carrots to goldfish in his diet and not enough on helping him improve his friendship abilities or his staying power or his internal motivation. Other times I think I have too many goals for him, that I don’t listen hard enough to what he’s trying to be.

Other times, I think: he's fine. Just keep on going, and things will be fine.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Taking a break from researching TurboTax write a blog post for March. Good grief. March 11, already, and still I feel like my feet have barely touched the ground. Big work meeting, big work move (that will cut 20 miles from my daily commute--yay), complete halt of house progress, deadlines flying at me from every direction...and the start of baseball season. Taxes.

Sometimes I feel like I'm just holding onto the Red Queen as hard as I can, running breathlessly to stay in one place. Other times I'm pretty sure I'm the White Queen, shrieking about pinpricks that haven't happened yet.

Today I went in and volunteered in Helen's kindergarten class and it was one of the best things I've done in weeks. I helped them navigate a drawing program on their fancy little kid laptops ("Why isn't is making yellow?" "What do I do next?" "Why isn't it erasing?" "Isn't this drawing cool?")

I look forward to very little these's less of a constant dread situation, though, and more of a not even having time to think about lunch thing. We haven't had dinner with friends or family in weeks (unless you count lunch at Red Robin between baseball games last Saturday...which, why shouldn't we? Those families are friends, too). I read to the kids almost every night--I do look forward to that. It's my way of being a mother cat to them still, licking them to sleep with words every night. It almost doesn't matter what the book is (Oliver Twist for Silas, which I think he is tolerating out of enjoyment for the word-licking than actually enjoying, and Farmer Boy for Helen).

It's a life, though, isn't it? Crammed so full to bursting I can't even tell what shape it is, most days, and I can't stand back from it enough to tell if I like it. I suspect that I do, though, and in three years, when the boy is almost a teenager and the girl has embarked on the perils of girl power plays, I know I will back on these times with a fond and aching heart.

And, lest I forget--I meant to update weeks ago--my February New Years' landmarks:

Moon watching--I watched the February full moon rise, slightly dimmed, through office buildings. This month I intend to find a better watching spot, if weather permits.

Books--No progress on the TBR pile. I can't hold myself back at the library, and end up with a side table sagging under the weight of library books with urgent renewal dates.

Wild eating--none in Feb. It's the Hunger Moon, after all, which for us in 21st century suburbia means Chilean produce and New Zealand meat, with a side of processed treats.