Friday, November 25, 2011

Ski town, USA

Toothy Mctootherson heading up for the day.

This is our Thanksgiving tradition (circa 2010): we haul the family up to Winter Park and in exchange for copious time at the condo pool we train them in the arts of rushing downhill really fast, in the hopes that someday they will be in it for the skiing and not the excessively chlorinated pool. This is what M. hopes, anyway. I mostly hope that nobody ends the day in the ski patrol clinic.

I look rather severe. Perhaps I am instructing Helen in a matter of lift-riding etiquette.

Luckily (for my anxiety level), the kids have inherited my cautious DNA. Every so often I'll see some lavender- or olive-drab-wearing mite zip down the slopes with aplomb and style; after a brief moment of proud disbelief I'll realize that it's not actually my own offspring and that my child, in fact, is the one oozing downhill in a sensible snowplow formation. Nevertheless, M. has high hopes that someday we'll all be ski crazy.

(That will be great, I think. I'll watch you all lovingly from the lodge, where I'll be reading a good book.)

(I kid. I like skiing fine. All except for the impact-and-injury part.)

(You know what I like? The run I took this morning, alone, along the snowcovered bike trail, past the black ice-lined water, under the spruce and almost out of earshot of the highway.)

Welcome to my mountain.
Silas is actually getting rather skillful, in a slow and sensible way. I think technically we share the same ski ability, he and I, much as we share the same boot size, snowpant and helmet.

Actually, I think his boots are too big for me now.

"That's a pretty good view," said Silas. "Better take a picture for Sue."
When we're packing to leave the house, I'm always in a mood--do we have to go? For all those days? And then we get here; the house and all its chores seems pleasantly distant and so long as I have my books and a decent amount of time in which to enjoy the condo in solitude, I am content.

And here we are. The cares of the world feel very far away, and for a little while I am content.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunny & cold with a chance of fantasticness

The Melospiza family made a trip to the Big City over the weekend (yes, that big city. The one we LIVE in. Why?)

Helen terrorizing the natives. Silas is sussing the newness of the situation.

Si felt pensive.

Ultimately, they decided they were pro arts.
They raised a little ruckus.
It was a good day.
We went to see a show: Tom Sawyer--I feel a little about this the way I feel about watching the movie after the book (especially since this is my third play in a row that was an adaptation of a book--three for three) (that's actually kind of weird. Resolved: the next play I see will *not* be as seen in the best-selling book)--like, won't this just be basically an illustration of the story I just read?

Nevertheless, it would be hard to overestimate how delighted I was by the whole thing (except the price, which was RIDIC.) It's partly that the last 18 events we've attended as a family downtown have been sporting--not that I am opposed to sporting events, per se, and I view it as one of my personal strengths that I have come to an appreciation of public athletic events to the point where I can actually think of going to a baseball game at Coors Field without falling to the ground in desperate boredom, but there are other family delights hanging on the tree of the city, and I have long wanted to pick these, too. It's partly that one of the things I remember most fondly from growing up was all the local theater productions we attended. It's also that what we have in Denver is, in fact, quite a whole lot better than local theater production and I've yet to walk out of the Denver Performing Arts Center without my lips smacking in delighted appreciation. It's been something I've been wanting to do since we moved here, in other words, and Lo, we have finally done it, and it was cultural and enriching and etc.

We aren't, as a family, all that arty, which is somewhat boggling to me and is what my high school self would have found most disappointing/ shocking about my life now. Although I don't know if a yearly trip to the theatah is going to make us more...arty. I'm not sure what would do that...actual artists in the house, perhaps? Besides our enthusiastic 6-year-old artist, that is. I imagine something like the creatively couch-slumming creatures in the Moomintroll books (and then I imagine trying to play Moominmama, taking care of all those needy creative souls, probably while trying to make sure homework gets done and maintaining an actual paying thanks. Alas. Perhaps it's just as well we're more sportif.)

Mom starts chemo today. I leave tomorrow to go visit. I am both eager with anticipation and sort of dreading it, dreading everything to come in this next phase.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Middle Earth

We've moved into November, real fall, the kind with long brown days and freezing nights and sodden clumps of mush where we didn't manage to rake all the leaves before the snow fell. The kids have had the barfing sickness, mostly in our bedroom, which means that our once new rug is no longer safe to do pushups on. The mountains are brilliant white and, thanks to the advent of Daylight Spending Time, my morning run happens at sunrise, which is a beautiful thing. We are as crazy as elves (and not because we're planning ahead for the buying season. As IF.) 

The news from home is bad, and I have been exerting a lot of mental energy to reset my expectations re my mother and the future. Some days I am a mess, but mostly I am melancholy but serene, even happy. The kids and their day-to-day emergencies keep me constantly in the present; the mostly up tenor of their days makes mine up, too. One of my holds at the library comes in, or I get a new idea about a story that I'm s-l-l-l-o-w-l-y working on, or the kids have a good day at school, or my morning run is white and pink and beautiful, and I feel happy, like the world is going well, more or less. Then I remember: no, it is so, so not.

Other times, I will even be sanguine about the so-not-ness. My mom feels fine, after all. I could pick up the phone and call her right now, except that she'd probably be out for a walk with my dad. Things are at-this-moment okay, and new therapies offer so much promise. You hear all the time about remissions that last for decades--maybe it will in this case. Why not?

And then I lie down at the end of the day, and I do that calming thing where I spread my mind over all the people in my life and mentally tuck them in and smooth their foreheads, make sure they're okay--all my chickens under one roof, even if that roof is the wide-open sky of the Midwest--and my hand catches: no. Not everyone is okay. Not at all.

Or I will be fine until I come across a calendar, and my mind is forced into dangerous places, like This Time Next Year. Or the work meeting I go to this spring in Minnesota--how will things be then? Or the baseball meet Si has in June--what will conditions be at that time? Or the 2013 work meeting. Or--and then I shut it down, quick. Because I can't imagine that. No. Better to think about the end of the month, the plans we have to ski in a couple of weeks, the benefits form that has to be turned in next week, the fish I need to remember to pick up for dinner, the email I have to write.

And then I turn to the nearest kid and hug them hard, until they can squirm away.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pumpkins and more

Just looking at this picture makes me want to wash my hands.
The weekend before Halloween was pleasant(ish) and warm. Then it snowed. That, plus random stretches of drought, is local weather in a nutshell. The kids carved our hand-grown pumpkins and courteously kept the gloop in piles on the porch. I am normally not a squeamish person and I will gladly catch the bird/ wasp/ moth/ snake/ spider that may infest your office, but I kind of dread the annual Carving of the Pumpkin due to the touching of the gloop.

An interesting comparison photo from the archives. Silas approaches pumpkin carving as he approaches particularly juicy math problems: with seriousness and the directorial instincts of a third-world dictator. Also as an opportunity to assert his rights of primogeniture (note that he has the largest pumpkin in both pictures).
The cuts must be made just so.

She used to dislike gloop, too.
These were found growing in the gloop. Note the shininess of her hands. Gloop.


Halloween night was cool and windy; I began the night with Helen and her friends, a small but enthusiastic group, and ended it in the company of about 6 parents I didn't know watching my proto teen engage in barely-organized wilding (focused on candy and directed only toward each other, I hasten to add; it's not like we were overseeing the TPing of trees and the egging of mailboxes, or anything) as part of a swarm of other proto teens. I much preferred the former but the latter still beat sitting at home with the doorbell and the bowl of candy. What is it about handing out candy that panics me so? Is it the constant summons to the door? Is it the awkward exchange of mumbled trick or treats to rote compliments on costumes? Is the way I close up the door, my relief marred by second guessing my attempts to parse costume choices? Or is it just that sitting at home alone while the party rages outside feels a like hangover from high school?

Ugh. I don't know. But I do have an educational and non-holiday-themed story.

The story begins in the emergency room with a sore knee (Si's, for the record). Number one: we shouldn't have been in the emergency room. That become abundantly clear during the hour and a half we spent on the premises (in my written complaint later on, I called this time "waiting." Apparently it was not waiting. Waiting only occurs between the time you against your better judgement admit that you're willing to be admitted and your first visit from a medical professional. Four minutes, in our case, as the lady who called me to do damage control stated.) The knee was not that sore. No major damage had been sustained. No medications needed to be applied. We did get an ice pack, which we got to keep. Yay, yay and yay. I was still disgruntled that I didn't just go to a damn urgent care but hey, with no medications and no real medical attention--he did get an x ray, and let me tell you, my friends, do NOT do this--how bad could it be? Really?

$1,971.72 worth of bad, is what it could be. Which our insurance company knocked down to the still astronomical $1037.72. For a sprained knee.

This caused me to break one of my cardinal rules of conduct: I protested my grade. In phone and in writing and, wow, hey. I did not know this, but apparently medical billing operates on the same general premises that Craigslist haggling does. My mild and gentle protests (although I did say things like "this is what's wrong with medical care today" and "this is ridiculous" and "highway robbery" etc.) got the price lowered to $732. When another damage control agent connected with M, the price dropped to $384. Still ridiculous, but within the realm of you're-too-stupid-to-go-to-urgent-care-so-maybe-you-deserve-it.

Lesson # 1: Urgent care.
Lesson #2: Argue the bill. OMG.
Lesson #3: Urgent care. Also, no fifth grader who has visited a bouncy castle between the time of injury and the time of complaint, esp. if that complaint happens to occur on a weekday morning just before school, needs to go to the damn doctor. Jeesh.