Saturday, March 09, 2013

3/9/13 Lucky Ski Day

On ski days I'm most excited to blog, but most tired too! Funny, consider this a placeholder until I can edit and upload photos later.

And really, these posts are becoming downright routine -- our 5th ski trip of the year. This one is a little different since it is "just" a weekend, and is dedicated more to skiing than to hanging-out or playing in the snow.

But what timing....just as I figured I could pull this trip off, Mom Nature rewarded me with actual precipitation. As a result, there was actual snow on the slopes today, instead of that hard shiny slippery stuff that we've skiied so much on.

Since we're so familiar with Sugarbowl and all have scannable cards for lift tickets, we went back there again. I have it down to a science: we arrive in the morning, but not FIRST THING (snoooze....), in time to drop Katrina off at a group lesson. I unload the car, kids and boots at a convenient close place ("The Den"), get Katrina into her lesson, then while the boys are suiting up, I go park my car. Then the boys and I go do our own thing for just under two hours, pick up Katrina, have lunch (which I bring now, it saves a ton of time and money), then we all ski together in the afternoon.

That all sounds well and good, but there are always problems. Today I had to deal with an now-rare Katrina tantrum/fit. She was very irritable after lunch, bursting into tears when I said lightly that we should make up a name for us as a "ski team" since we four fit on a lift chair together. She suggested "unicorns" and her brothers denigrated that immediately, and it all went "downhill" from there. Then she was horribly offended at my suggesting we do "Donner's Way," her first black-diamond two weeks ago, saying it was too BORING and EASY. It took over half an hour to get her out of the fuss, and I was very very very frustrated at the waiting and the misery -- we have such short time to do this together, I didn't want to waste it with a tantrum. In another place, I could just ditch her and say "OK, I'm DONE, bye!" but you just can't abandon your 6-year-old on a ski slope, even though I know many parents wish they could sometimes.

Promising her to try "Vanderbilt," a short but genuine black-diamond on Mt Lincoln got her out of it. My relief was short-lived however, since as soon as we turned to head toward the lift, no Julian. He knew where we were going, so after some searching and waiting, I decided, "that's it, we've lost enough time as it is, we're going." So Gabriel and Katrina and I got on the substantial lift line to go up Mt. Lincoln, though I was distracted and worried.

Then when we were two chairs away from getting on the lift, Gabriel suddenly said, "Look! There's Julian!" He was on his way, but out of earshot. By then we were committed to the lift, so had to get on it. Yelling to him made no difference, but it looked like he was talking to someone in a red jacket...Ski Patrol. Great. Now they're going to chew me out for abandoning my 9-year-old.

So Gabriel and Katrina and I did Mt. Lincoln, where Katrina booked down Vanderbilt, a mogul-y ungroomed black diamond, as though it was nothing. She was so proud of herself, but I was worried about finding Julian to gush with her right away. At the bottom, I asked a lift operator to call Ski Patrol to see if they had him in custody....then Katrina had to go to the bathroom. It's just one thing after another.

Gabriel and Katrina and I took off our skis and walked a fair distance to a (luckily) nearby lodge, and then -- Ski Patrol showed up on a snowmobile with Julian. Thankfully, they'd responded to my telling the lift operator where we were, though oddly calling me on my cell phone never came up...? I thanked them profusely and defensively explained my anti-separation strategies: always know which is the next lift, stop at every sign marking at intersection. They were very understanding. Julian even admitted he'd heard us talk about which run we were going to, but he'd just ... I don't know, he didn't think it applied to him or something. Typical Julian: we all knew we were turning right, but inexplicably, he turned left.

The afternoon wasn't lost though. After reunion, we had just over an hour -- so I decided to go for Mt. Disney with all three. This mountain has a side with only black diamonds -- not Sugarbowl's hardest or longest, but the whole area warns off beginners.

The boys and I had done this many times on our last trip, but this was Katrina's first. And she had no problem with these runs either! The now-good attitude made a huge difference. "See Mom, no falls!" she exclaimed. I told her falling was fine, we all do it, but she still was insistent that she hadn't fallen.

We did "Donald Duck," which is groomed, and then took "Market Street," which isn't groomed but isn't as steep. By the time we got to "Market Street" though, it was getting crusty and icy, and it's a narrower U-shaped run, so Katrina had a harder time on it than she had on the others. But still, she did fantastically.

Gabriel isn't a problem to ski with, despite tendency to cut me off and ski right into my path. He and I did "Carl's Nose" today, a short double-black on Mt Lincoln, that was totally doable thanks to the snowy conditions. I wasn't nervous at all, though I think it was steeper than anything I've done. What a difference snow makes, I had a much much harder time at Squaw on "blue" runs, because it was so icy then.

The kids' advancement opens up a huge world to me -- that means I can actually ski with all of them....sort of. Actual ability and level isn't the problem, but things like a 6-year-old tantrum and a 9-year-old ignoring instructions can really dampen the day. What's it like not constantly waiting, shouting instructions, reminding, hurrying them along, re-directing, always having your radar on, and just skiing? I'm sure age will make a big difference -- next ski season they'll be 7, 10 and 12 and that's a whole other world. These past two trips have really drilled in their skill and interest, and next season they'll all be poised for real expertise.

We all ended up having a great day, despite the challenges. That's what being with kids is all about!


Wednesday, March 06, 2013

3/6/13 Dad's 80th

80. Wow.

Today, my Dad would have turned 80 years old. What a milestone that would have been, save for the robbery of Alzheimer's. Oddly enough, thanks to that dreaded disease, I'll never remember him as "old" -- just afflicted. He never had a chance to get old, since it was clear something was sapping his brain from about age 68. Far, far too young.

Julian's school counselor told me that he'd asked Julian how he thought he was similar to each parent. That's a very interesting question. How am I similar to each of my parents? I've always identified far more closely with my mother, partly of course because we're both women, but also much because we're both more literal, scientific, mathematically inclined, driven, compulsive. I never came close to my mother's success, but the inclination was there. Some real differences are there though -- my mother is even-tempered and consistent and controlled, whereas I'm more temperamental, impulsive and volatile. She's wonderful at music, and I'm middling at best. I'm compelled to write, and she is free of that burden.

But as age 50 looms, I realize how much more and more I am like my father. My own children will likely remember me halting all conversation at the sight of a beautiful meadow, or talking ethereally about the power of the mountains. This stuff drove us nuts as kids when my Dad did it, but whaddya know, I do it now too. Heck, they might even find me serenading a squirrel with a pennywhistle one of these days.

My Dad was very social, but deeply valued his privacy and alone-time too. He always built his offices "just so" -- out of plywood, but with all the surfaces, shelves, and cubbies he needed. My nesting instinct is exactly the same, I tend to surround myself with just the right little accoutrements and conveniences and greatly value my little carved-out sanctuaries. Whereas my mother, who has exquisite taste, I believe is much lower-maintenance. We all have our favorite spots of course, but my "way" about mine takes very much after my Dad.

I drove him crazy. He couldn't understand my rapid speech. My energy exhausted him. My readiness to resist and literally argue his carefully thought-through ideas irritated him. My trains of thought took too many twists and turns. He hadn't a prayer in any word game against me. He loved me dearly for these things, as intensely as they annoyed him. No one found more depth in off-the-cuff observations or ideas I had, no one laughed harder at things I'd say.

Though my Dad was raised in a different age in which expectations were different for daughters, and I was born at the tail end of that in 1963, my Dad never doubted me, never treated me like I'd have anything other than a bright, open, complete future. I never experienced sexism growing up, starting with my own father, and that greatly shaped my life and career. (Indeed, in my house growing up, it was always understood that the girls were stronger, smarter, more poor poor brother...! Yet now he's the adored family glue.)

Especially at this time in my life, I miss my Dad more than ever. I really could use his wisdom and philosophical chats, removed from the cares of the day-to-day -- never his forte -- to wrest me out of my emotional mire, to lift me up to see the bigger picture. Just like he did when I was little: he'd prop me up on his shoulders for a better view over the crowd. I so wish he could do that for me now, while on a long hike through the woods in Stephentown.

Today I heard a quote from Winston Churchill: "The secret to success is moving from failure to failure with enthusiasm" -- Dad and I would have mused about that for an hour or two. He'd have pondered the truth to it, roaring with laughter at my biting cynical doubtful remarks.

One of my favorite pictures of us together happened to have been taken in Breckenridge, Colorado -- mountains. I know if anyone would understand my new identification with altitude, it would be my Dad.

(circa 1991, I was 28 or 29)

Eighty would still have been far too young to take him....and though Alzheimer's slowly stole his mind for 10 years before it took his body in 2011, I'm no less lost without him.


Tuesday, March 05, 2013

3/5/13 Lunchtime

About time he made his own lunch! Gabriel is 11 now, and really, he can make most of his own lunch. I just have to insist. Nowadays he's much more agreeable to such requirements, even making it fun by drawing a simple (he says "impossible") circuit on his lunchbag.

Completely unrelated, but I caught this great photo of our most beautiful feline, Zorro. Don't be fooled by his regal looks -- this animal is greatly loved and adored for his "inner self." He has a reputation for being very tolerant, very alert to imminent treats, playful....and just a little bit dopey.

He also has about the softest fur I've ever felt on a cat. He is dearly loved!

Our evening got off to a late start for the best possible reason: today is Bonne Maman's birthday! Calling her and chatting happily delayed dinner, but I can't imagine a better reason. Happy Birthday Bonne Maman!


Monday, March 04, 2013

3/4/13 Light Reading

Not sure why Gabriel decided to pick up this book ("The Complete Idiot's Guide to Philosophy"), but he was engrossed in it for some time tonight?!

I picked up my old book for a moment myself, and came across a paragraph on "ataraxia" -- the state of being detached from the cares of reality. Uh-huh. No wonder the great philosophers were all men: because their women were dealing with raising children.

Speaking of reality, Julian seemed happy and unhappy at times to be re-united with his siblings tonight. I'm starting to think it's not so much about being around them, but his ongoing frustration at not being able to dominate his older brother. The boys compete fiercely for the attention of Zorro the cat, for instance, and Julian complains to crying that Gabriel "hogs" the hapless feline. Indeed, Gabriel will carry the compliant animal up to his bed and pet him all night long, shooing poor Julian away.

Unfortunately, Mommy-Meow-Stache is no help in resolving this impasse, as she has no interest in the kids' shenanigans. Instead, she follows me around and hides -- even in the bathtub.

She appears quickly when things are quiet, and then is my constant companion.

My tolerance for kids and complaints about cat-hogging was totally curtailed tonight by a brutal migraine. I'm grateful that severe headaches are no longer a day-to-day thing for me, but they're always a threat. This one startled me awake around 3am, and was intense and relentless and kept me miserably awake until I had to get up. I took a huge dose of tylenol with codeine around 9am, which made me really really tired the rest of the day, but did take care of most of the pain, even though I was still nauseous all day. I stuck it out at work, but boy I sure wished I could just have collapsed at home afterward -- only the luxury of the child-free. Maybe it's just as well that I had the kid-distractions, because I had no choice but to dig deep enough to run through the evening...and just enough energy surfaced to write this.

But I've had it now...bedtime!


Sunday, March 03, 2013

3/3/13 "Special Sunday" "Just Julian"

One strategy for dealing with Julian's ongoing behavior issues is to try some additional one-on-one time. I'd long felt he'd benefit from this, but experience has made me very cautious about suggesting any arrangement out of the ordinary. This time, the idea was supported by "multiple sources," which even if didn't include me, I'll take it.

So though technically I didn't have kids tonight, I gladly suggested I take Julian alone tonight when dad suggested some one-on-one time.

Lots can be attributed to beginner's luck, but Julian was all over it today, since he really likes feeling like he's getting special attention.

We talked a lot about his being the middle child, that he feels like Katrina gets a pass for being the youngest, and Gabriel gets extra privileges for being the oldest. Both of which are true, but I didn't get into why or how; I just listened and talked to him how he felt about those things, and how he could feel like he had his own "advantages."

Julian said he felt his anger was "funneled" into his misbehaving, or not concentrating, in class. I'm not sure I believe that exactly, but I totally took it seriously and talked to him a lot about his feelings, without once explaining or justifying grownups' point of view. It was tempting to say "well, when you don't listen, grownups do xyz" -- but I didn't. That wasn't the point at the moment. I listened to how he said he felt, asked him how he could feel better, and how he could remember his good feelings from tonight and apply them to classtime. He said many times how much he liked not having siblings around.

Julian himself came up with a strategy of practicing concentration on a flickering candle -- so I found a candle for him to practice on.

The first thing we did, however, was work on his next school report: a "how-to" report. He'd already chosen a project out of a science book he has, so we set up that experiment (how to make stalactites).

Then, believe it or not, I took him to the YMCA with me. He's been wanting to do this ever since he turned 9, which is the minimum age to enter the adult fitness center. He was all over it!

He even got some special time from a personal trainer, who happened to be a 3rd-grade teacher at another nearby school in our district. Perfect! I was amazed at how relaxed and happy he seemed afterward, gushing about how good he felt -- tired but alive. Exactly how I feel from exercise.

Cap that off with an extra-special yummy Pho dinner from a nearby uber-authentic Vietnamese restaurant (a new favorite of mine but only Julian appreciates it too), and it was a terrific evening.

Who knows if alone-time will help Julian's behavior troubles at school, but as he and I talked a lot tonight, it's a little like building muscle from working out: results are not immediate, but cumulative. So let's hope some more "Special Sundays" "Just Julian" time (from anyone) will help!

Gosh, how I do adore my son. Sometimes there needs to be a better word than just "love."