Sunday, November 25, 2012


Here's what we did on Thanksgiving:

Then we took the bus to the ski area and messed around on the carpet of snow they had laid down at great expense to themselves and the environment. You'll note the sum total of the natural snow in the Winter Park region there in the photo behind Helen:

Then we came back to the rented condo and had Target's Thanksgiving in a box. This is much better than it sounds and we just had the last of the turkey leftovers last night, in soup.

We added a new twist to our three-year-old tradition this year, in that we invited some of the relatives we started the tradition to get away from. One of the many things I am thankful for this year is that it was fine. We completely avoided any discussion of politics, healthcare, child rearing - or, well, anything else. Things got a little testy in the kitchen, but that was mostly due to the lack of elbow room. I stayed gracious (no, really!) and M. only had to do that "calm it down" hand motion at me once during the whole three days.

It was good, and I really am thankful for so much. I'd list it all except that I have limited gigabytes and also I am a little superstitious about laying out all my goods online for the fates to take.

Completely throwaway side note: I found one of our photo albums face down in Si's "man cave" in the basement, and when I went to pick it up, tsking to myself, I noticed that it just happened to be open to a page with a photo of two friends of mine from a visit to a natural hot springs many years ago. Many, many years ago, back in the days when young women went au naturel in this situation. I did a few rapid calculations - man cave; recent playdate with a new friend from middle school; rather eye-popping photo - and made the very prudent decision to remove it. Then I reconsidered: I like having this photo scattered in among all our sober wedding photos and random "watch me stand on one foot beside the pickup" photos. Once we, too, were careless and carefree and wild and fun and this is what we did.

However, after sleeping on it, I decided that my first impulse was the correct one.

I also am a little nervous, because that photo - of two women I've completely lost touch with and am unlikely to ever see again - had a companion photo, one that features a person that Si and his friend might recognize even though it was taken 20 years ago. And I have NO idea where that photo has got to.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Wind sprints

These two photos

I've been going along with Si to do his wind sprints (which reminds me: Si has started working on track stuff again, in response to parental pressure to DO SOME KIND OF EXERCISE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD) and whatever we are doing must be working, because my legs are SORE. And I say this as a lifetime runner. A lifetime slow runner, but still. The two of us are improving.

pretty much sum him up right now. Especially if one involved guns and/or gaming.
It's been making me think about one of our perennial frets about Si - that he doesn't work at things - and trying to reconcile it with this idea that kids know how they themselves learn best and will show you (by learning that way) if you are willing to watch.

It's an idea about which I'm skeptical but which I can't seem to put down, especially since it hits a harmonic resonance in my own personal philosophy, which is that a kid's job is to grow up and a parent's job is to help them do that - to help them become the person they're supposed to be. Which, since none of us can see the future, involves a lot of observation. The watching, in this philosophy, is more critical than the shaping or correcting.

So when he wakes up at 7 a.m. and immediately, before breakfast, starts pinging around on his iphone game collection, is his future self crying out for discipline and correction, or should I observe this learning style objectively and let it go unremarked?

[Note: it did not go unremarked. I told him to turn the phone off. "No faaaair!"]

When I see on the class calendar that there's an algebra test coming up next week, should I say something, such as, for example, "Yes to the playdate but only after you've done some problem practice for your test," - or is that just indoctrinating him in the test-based education model, which will teach him to be helpless in the face of his learning needs unless he is preparing for a test?

[Note: I told him to practice for his algebra test. He doesn't have a study worksheet, so he went online and found practice problems in the subject area. Not a bad use of initiative and problem-solving skills, even if it is in service of doing really well on tests.]

It's a dilemma. He's smart. He's conscientious. He loves to be seen as smart and successful and wants, like most kids, to be rich (riiiiich!) And nine times out of ten he will shrug and give up when faced with a task requiring complex effort. He's designed to fall for get-rich-quick schemes, I sometimes think, and it seems criminal of me as a parent not to counteract this tendency - by proselytizing for the good old Protestant work ethic, by inculcating good study/ life habits, by limiting noneducational monitor time, by saying, as our personal daily mantra, "not until you've finished ___."

 Well, okay, fine, if you put it like that. However, other times I think what I'm really doing is wanting him to be a different sort of person: a quester and a researcher, a searcher after truth. I don't want him to just study for the test: I want him to ruminate on the meaning of the problems, and why we do math, and what is life all about, anyway? But he's really more of a life is good, let's finish this up and break out the beer kind of a guy. An efficient worker, one who, like myself, prizes his downtime, his home life, his quality of life (and thus the quality of his monitor graphics). He likes to bake, read quality escapist lit, pit his wits against the computer game and curl up by the fire: he's a hobbit, not a wizard. Is that so wrong?

No, of course not. Not wrong at all. Just...

...and here's where I start to see a problem in my approach. I've never been particularly interested in parenting books, but I'm suddenly checking them out in stacks, hoping to come up with a useful set of standardized rules that I can quick substitute in when my aspirational parent starts to say, well, shouldn't he be....?

Because the answer is no. He shouldn't be. He is who he is. And thank the stars above for my sweet, prickly, stubborn mid-size guy who only occasionally points his nerf gun at me and pretends to fire.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday favorites

1. Favorite month. November marks the start of real fall: no more silly warm days, brilliantine skies and frivolous scarlet leaves. Time to think about mortality and the ultimate random nature of all things: my favorite month. At least while I am in it. Plus there is the little reprieve at the end that reminds us that molecular disassociation aside, the real purpose of life is a full turkey dinner eaten after a long day of skiing in the company of family and friends (even if not all the family and all the friends.) That reminds me: it's time to book a condo for Thanksgiving.

2. Favorite holiday. Er, not Halloween. I am intrigued by the Day of the Dead (more on this here), but it is not really mine to celebrate.

Aside: Pros and cons of instituting new holidays/ traditions

Pros: Step outside your comfort zone
         Find rituals that address needs not covered in current holiday plan
         Feel pioneering and multicultural
         The creation of new traditions is a beautiful thing (according to parenting magazines, anyway)

Cons: The artificial quality emphasizes the absurdity of all holidays
          Feel like a dork
          Feel like an impostor
          The kids keep asking why are we doing this?
          So do I.

3. Favorite meal this week: the delicious pork and pepper stew my Mom made when Si and I flew out to visit them last weekend, or possibly the accompaniment, pasta and mushrooms made with the succulent fresh oyster mushrooms they picked on the walk we took. Man, oyster mushrooms are good. They make me revise my previous stance on mushrooms as food (which, succinctly: eh). On the same walk we stepped down to the muddy shore of a pond where there were hundreds - well, scores - of dime-sized froggies.

Second aside: I have mentioned before that there is a woeful lack of frogs in the lives of my kids. The frogs probably don't mind this, but it makes me ache a little that we don't live in a place where the perennial absurdity that is a frog can be a common experience. It's partly a climate thing: the high plains is not kind to amphibians. But it's more a situational state: it's because we live in the suburbs, near a creek and a marsh. Our waterways are frogless. And, possibly not coincidentally, largely kidless as well.

4. Favorite book I'm reading this week: The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Short, clever, damning yet generous and manages to open a drafty window on a different world before it slams shut at the end. Close runnerup: A Visit from the Goon Squad. I'm often leery of obvious experimentation - okay, we get it, you're brilliant - but here it is funny and it works.

5. Favorite powerpoint. The one in A Visit from the Goon Squad. Obviously. When else is a powerpoint presentation even going to be mentioned, actually. Which makes me wonder about the realism of using powerpoint for personal expression the way she does here - unless you think of it as a revived technology, some remnant from the past dragged up and put to new and vastly better use. That does happen.

8. Favorite work thing: that niggling nervous tummy feeling of always being late and behind the ball. Oh, wait. Different list.