Saturday, April 16, 2011

4/16/2011 Pre-pre soccer game

Amidst the mad preparations for our trip, I still attended Gabriel's soccer game this afternoon. My plan was to drop him off and come back, but it was just too fun and I ended up staying for the whole thing

It's fun despite the fact that it's not altogether a competitive game. My Las Madres friend who coaches the team we played last week was there again, and she confirmed for me that a few outstanding players can totally change the game, and that our coach's son is really really good. He belongs in a competitive league really, it's almost silly for him, and everyone else, for him to be playing at this level.

But even when #8 isn't in the game, or is goalkeeper, a few other really good teammates blow away the competition, and that's kind of a shame.

Gabriel is seriously outclassed in terms of skill and ball manipulation compared to his teammates, he doesn't understand the rules of the game (offsides, anyone?), he's by far the smallest, and for once, he's not the fastest. But being as objective as I can be, he is among the most tenacious and confident relative to his lack of experience. I was really, really proud to see how hard he worked, how he was always in the action, how he always called to get the ball passed to him, even if he didn't entirely know what to do when he got it.

I know that watching soccer video is pretty dull to others, but being there and watching was really fun and exciting -- so much action, so much change, so much physicality. (Are girls like this in soccer too?!)

A long rally in which Gabriel (#2) is right in there, the ball goes back and forth. I love the moment when #8 trips, but gets the ball free by kicking it behind him. You can hear Gabriel's coach (who pronounces Gabriel's name "Gah-bri-elle") calling "SKILLS!".

Eventually the inevitable breakaway happens and #8 makes a run on the goal, handily evading his opponents. This time, the poor purple team's goalie stopped it, and we all cheered. (Gabriel's team is in light blue.)

A short clip in which Gabriel and Ivan (awesome #8) are swarmed by the opposing team, and some of their teammates are just walking! Eventually a purple opponent kicks it clear of the traffic.

It got so that our coach told his son to quit scoring -- if the game is too skewed, the refs stop it. His son, despite being such a good player, is still just a little boys, and started to cry in frustration. He sat out the second half, sulking, until the second-best player got hurt (nothing serious but he couldn't play anymore) and #8 was back in, still with orders not to score. "Why can't I SCOOORE?!!!" he wailed. He walked around hanging his head at first, but he couldn't resist joining the game.

The opposing team played hard, then scored a goal. So #8 Ivan (pronounced Ee-VOHN, Serbian parents) was told, OK, you can score now. Within 5 minutes, he scored 3 times.

I'm torn between totally enjoying watching Gabriel's terrific teammates, and wondering if this is really Gabriel's best intro to soccer. He needs to learn a little about losing!! Then again, it's probably good for him to be surrounded by much better players, to keep his lofty ego in check and force him to play at a much higher level.

This soccer-mom thing is a blast! But now it's time to go be camping Mom. See you next week!


Friday, April 15, 2011

4/15/2011 Camping to-do list

Set up my new tent and confirm it all works
Shop for perishable foods and ice
Get self-lighting charcoal
Pack clothes, including swimsuits and hats
Make cookies
Finish packing cooking equipment and food
Get the boys haircuts
Gabriel has to work on his book report
Gabriel has a soccer game at 12:00
Julian has Kung Fu at 1:00
If time, sign up for summer camps
Send note to manager that I'm meeting with HR next week
Finish Dad's tax stuff
Put away ski stuff.

....huh, oh, ummmm -- where are we? Oops, this is my blog, not tomorrow's to-do list. Well, I guess it is now. 'Scuse me.

Can you believe it -- I was skiing just a few days ago. And now I have to dig up shorts and hats and swimstuff to go do summer camping. Arguably Dad's taxes are more urgent than lovingly cradling my ski boots and lying them down tenderly for a long summer's nap, but even if neither of those get done, we're going.

Tomorrow late afternoon, the boys and I will drive away with a car loaded with camping equipment and spirits loaded with excitement about our next outdoor adventure together!

It's unfortunate that it has to start in Bakersfield, but such is the reality of going to one of the hottest places on the planet: many of the more direct routes are still closed due to snow. I've been to Death Valley once, about 15 years ago, and it's WELL past time to go again. I'm so excited to show my boys what an amazing place we live in.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

4/14/2011 Open House

Our school had a classroom "open house" tonight. Good thing Julian brought home an invitation, or I'd never have known about it. Gabriel didn't tell me anything about it.

Gabriel's class was showing videos of their poetry reports. Gabriel's teacher told me that he was robbed, because somehow the video recording of his "How To" report, about making a battery from lemons, was lost, and she said that was much better, though he did get some good laughs during his poetry presentation too.

Gripe as they do, I think this early emphasis on presentation is really good.

We non-volunteer parents rarely get a chance to really look at the classroom and their work posted to the wall, so this was a nice opportunity. The class had done paintings of flowers in an oil pastel, for example -- I had no idea Gabriel had ever done that. Gabriel's teacher told me that he resists anything the art teacher asks the class to do, but he will do art projects she asks for. Gabriel's desk also had a stack of his stories and compositions to show parents, that was interesting.

I took the boys alone while Dave had a nice quiet dinner alone with Chatty-Katty, so I had to boogie between the 3rd-grade and 1st-grade classrooms during the short 1/2-hour open-house.

Julian's classroom had a Rain Forest theme, and this was really impressive. Every art project, composition, story, in-class book report, and task that the 1st-graders have done for the past 3 months were related to Rain Forests, and were posted to the walls. Julian was excited to show me his craft project of a red frog, a coloring of a Toucan, a Tiger stripe collage, his report about gorillas, a story about saving the rain forest, and many other things I can't remember. I think this would make the granola "whole-learning" crowd pretty happy -- this was great!

I was struck immediately by the drastic difference in social scenes between Gabriel and Julian's classrooms. Gabriel has a very familiar and comfortable rapport with his longtime pal Parth, a super-nice kid I adore too. They were in kindergartenn together and really do know each other well, and are very relaxed together.

Julian, on the other hand, was approached by kid after kid after kid: "HI JULIAN!!" Kids ran up to him to tell him something, to say hi, to pull his Rain Forest hat off, to kid around. Julian's teacher told me that he's extremely well-liked, and this contributes to his problems concentrating. He's very very social and easily distracted.

Though our evenings rarely have room for diversions like this, it was really worthwhile and fun. I had a rare good day at work today (Mr. Horrible was out of sight all day), so I wasn't as tense and snappy to deal with the boys. It really was nice to see the classrooms, chat with other parents and their teachers. Someday maybe our discussions will entirely exclude behavior discussions. Someday maybe my work will be the same!!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

4/12/2011 The Site is Now on Fire

Jack Prelutzky has been quite the influence around here.

I bought two of his children's poem's books. One with a collection of his poems (minus his most-favorite "When Fred Gets Out of Bed," and one book that talks about experiences in his childhood and adult life that led to the poems. The boys have been reading these books a lot, and Julian has also branced to Shel Silverstein books that he finds at the CDC.

This trickles down to Katrina, somehow. Tonight she asked for a pen and pencil, to write "a poem." And that she did, making the classic preschooler's mistake: no spaces between words.

No title
The site is now on fire!
Well that's not a good thing
The site is on fire!
the site is not on fire.
Yes it is.
All right.
The end!
Definitely for mother's eyes, but these mother's eyes are proud. Her willingness to write this (no help!), both mechanically and creatively, shows the same penchant toward creative writing that I did as a kid. Hmm, on the other hand...poor kid!


Monday, April 11, 2011

4/11/11 Ski bum day

I went skiing today!!!!!!

I was on the bus at 4:15am, and after two stops, at Sierra-at-Tahoe by about 9:00. It was warm but not super warm -- cooler than the last time I'd been there, with everyone last January.

One thing that was different was a lot more snow. A deck shot of Lake Tahoe at the top of the Grandview lift in January.

(January 2011)

Same place today (notice the sign in the corner to identify snowfall).

(April 2011)

I had enough time for a run or two before a 10:15am lesson, and immediately tackled my former nemesis slope Lower Main. Piece'a'pie! The conditions were better than last time we were here (none of that crusty stuff Californians whine about as "ice"), but our recent 3 days at Sugarbowl (and 3 great lessons for me) really played in too. Lower Main is officially mine.

Lesson time -- lucky me, my favorite instructor from our January trip to Sierra-at-Tahoe remembered me, and made sure to teach my "group." Which turned out to be a group of 1, since I was the only one at my level.

My instructor was quite the cut-up with his raunchy jokes, but I really liked his technical instruction and exercises and making me do the exercises for an extended time. He was great at judging when I needed to just ski and stop thinking, and when I had to think! I like the thinking part, I really need to be told exactly what to do, and was concentrating to hard on what to do that I wouldn't notice that I was on a slope I'd normally shift into survival mode. Though for some reason skiing appeals to the bottom of my heart, I'm no natural. Whatever few talents in life I was granted, skiing wasn't among them. I'd happily trade spelling for skiing.

I also think my instructor liked my happy demeanor. I once heard a woman greeting her instructor with, "I don't like skiing -- I'm only doing this because my husband wants me to." That can't be fun to teach to! I tell instructors no, I can't do that; no, never done that, well, sorta, but it could use a lot more work -- BUT -- lemme at it, take me to the trees or terrain park or black diamons and tell me what to do, please!!

After a lot of exercises, my instructor took me on some cut-up mogul-y stuff under a lift (parallel to slope "Clipper," under the lift "West Bowl Express") twice. This time wasn't flailing for my life, though it wasn't pretty. I actually sort of knew what to do and wasn't terrified, though my trip down was hardly elegant.

I daresay that my instructor expressed some respect in how willing I was to try things so far beyond my ability. Instructors really like it when ski students are willing and have a great time, even when they're scared and stink at something. That's me! Scared and stink!

"Are you up for an adventure?" he asked. Like you have to ask! Of course! OK, so, here's the adventure.

This was great -- lots of slipping and sliding to tack across a wooded area to get to "Avalanche Bowl", another cut-up area with short but very steep chewed-up spots. Still, "short" is relative -- 10 feet of impossible "short" is still "impossible." "Com-MIT!" he'd call to me to persuade me to turn decisively and aggressively. This was no place to think about it -- make a plan, fast, and stick to it. (Another basic principle that carries over from dirt riding.) I had no choice except to humiliate myself by calling for ski patrol, and besides, I wanted to try the precipices.

This photo is cruel in its inaccuracy -- realy, Avalanche Bowl is for real, and well above anything I've done before! And SOOOOOOO fun.

After my most awesome private lesson, I thanked my instructo profusely, then took a lunch break. I was still tired, but wasn't going to lose one scrap of a second of skiing time before I had to get on the bus.

I stuck to the West Bowl area, and did Clipper (the main black diamond in the area) numerous times, especially since the afternoon sun was bringing out the worst in spring skiing: the sudden slowdown. It's freaky -- you're zipping along in the shade and then all of a sudden it's like someone hits the brakes in the sunny snow. With trees casting long shadows across the slopes, this makes for a very unpredictable stop-start sort of feeling. The steeper slopes are actually easier to ski in those conditions. Blacks turn to blues in spring; I'm under no illusion that I could zip down Clipper in January!

A kind man took some video for me. Only the first 10 seconds worth it. I didn't have a groove on here, but it probably wouldn't show up anyway.

I went on a blue run (Dogwood) that I'd done in January, and couldn't resist a tempting grove of trees next to it. How lost could I get?

Well, pretty lost. You might basically know where to go (downhill), but it's not at all clear how to get out. I thought I was taking a little detour off of Dogwood and would get right back on it, but instead I dropped into another bowl and was well below where I'd dropped in, and had no choice but to head away from where I'd planned to return to. The snow was really soft here, and with all the trees, I wasn't really "skiing,", though I did a lot of slipping sideways. I was pretty sure if I kept going in one direction I'd reach Clipper again, but I had a few moments of not being so sure about that, and wondering how good the cell service was!

Moments after taking this photo, I found the way out and stuck to the trails after that. This was no time to get lost or more likely, stuck -- I had a bus to catch!

I topped off the day with Lower Main one last time, skiing it as well as I've skiied anything, especially considering how tired I was by then. For the first time, I felt like I was really skiing. Still shaky, still inconsistent, still lots of rookie mistakes, but starting to solidify base-level competence and fill in some gaps. That's why I was here today. A perfect way to finish off the season for good!!

The bus ride home was fun too. I chatted with a few young guys, all snowboarders, including a really interesting one from Sweden who lives in Norway. His Norwegian ID wasn't accepted at Safeway, so I bought his six of beer for him. Now that's the way to make friends with a bunch of ridin' dudes! Mostly I was in sharp observation mode: it won't be long before my sons will be their age. One young man told me his mom never took him camping or skiiing or airshows, and he said in it a way that I self-servingly take to mean that this means something to little boys. I hope so. It sure means the world to me.

The ski bus has its problems -- I got lucky and my bus wasn't packed, so I was able to sleep a little. It's hard to sleep even with two seats. But I loved, LOVED feeling taken-care-of! No driving, navigation, scheduling dilemmas, packing and especially, no caring for kids. I'm truly psyched to ski with the boys when Julian is ready, and when Gabriel can carry his owns skis.

What a phenomenal day! I'm exhausted, but SO psyched! That was total fun!! I can't believe I have to wait until November to do it again!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

4/10/2011 Trip prep

What an amazing place California is.

I spent the day getting ready for a camping trip next weekend, leaving next Saturday afternoon after Gabriel's soccer game. I'm taking the boys to Death Valley, on the first day of "off-peak" summer season. Peak season in Death Valley is in winter months, when it isn't deathly hot, and when desert wildflowers are blooming. We'll miss the wildflowers, but I'm hoping we'll sneak in before the triple-digit temperatures start.

So while I'm thinking about a hot camping trip, I'm also getting ready to go skiing!

I'm boarding a ski bus tomorrow at 4:15am and we should arrive at Sierra-at-Tahoe right as the lifts open. It's spring skiing season -- not the best snow conditions, but despite a great ski year we managed to hit two very strange weekends for conditions anyway. It doesn't matter, it'll be a great day for me anyway.

I SO need to remove myself from a ridiculous work situation and refocus my energy and attention on what's really important. Like skiing and camping in the same week!