Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pushing Extra-curriculars

My kid likes his routine. He spends his free time in the morning and evening watching TV and playing either on the computer or his DS. He loves playing driving games and games where the good guys shoot the bad robots/tanks/aliens. I adhere to the ratings, so he doesn't shoot people (this may be a rather fine distinction if you are against shooting games...).

My beef (beeves?) with the video games are that they don't require any interaction with other people (at his level, anyway), and that the type of problem solving skills they foster involved force over negotiation. There aren't many good woman/girl role models either.

I want more for him. I want him to develop some other interests, like music, art, or a sport.

The other day a friend posted pictures on Facebook of her son's piano recital. Her son also does karate (or some kind of martial art). Another friend's two kids have done target shooting and swimming (respectively) for years. Yet another friend has a fishy daughter who has taken really well to synchronized swimming. The list goes on and on. Most kids have something they "do" outside of school.

This made me feel like I'm not doing enough for my kid. I sure as hell don't want to push him, or force him to be so driven that he ends up smoking dope in the bathroom at school, but I also want him to know what it's like to do something that requires practice, and that he would get better at over time, AND that he enjoys.

For the time being, I'm trying to introduce him to things, but it's hard. It often requires signing him up for a class. Our city has a great recreation department, and the spring classes open up for registration next week in a huge mad rush with lots of rabid moms vying for spots. Or so it seems to me, anyway. In the meantime, I have signed him up for a "growing stuff" after school thing at our local horticulture gardens that meets every other week for a couple of months.

The plant class is so much me wanting him to like gardening, that I can almost guarantee he'll be lukewarm on it at best.

This brings up a good point - should the thing he "does" come from him, or me (or his dad)? If it were entirely up to him, he'd stick with the program of TV and video games. He doesn't particularly WANT to try new things.

Stay tuned. I'm going to see what the spring offerings are, and go from there.

And don't get me started on how most summer "camps" go from 9am-3pm. What about us working stiffs?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Signs of Spring

Yesterday, I started the process of tidying up my garden for spring. Here's some pictures! This might be the year we do something with the rhubarb. Mr W knows the Rhubarb Song from A Prairie Home Companion, which I didn't realize until this weekend. Part of him must be listening. He likes the sound effects too.

It amazes me how the rhubarb dies to nothing in the winter, then rises up in the spring, like crumpled fists pushing out of the dirt. It's freakishly hardy. I never water it, it's right next to the driveway, and it puts out huge (5' tall) flower spikes along with the huge leaves.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Geez, another parenting lesson

Mr W went on a field trip to our local science museum on Friday. He was really excited about this one toy in the gift shop, and since we were planning on going there Saturday for another event, we arranged for him to do some chores to earn the money to get the toy.

We got to the museum, and bought the toy, and he was so excited. It was a plastic dinosaur that transformed into a robot. Cool idea. The museum had Take Apart Day, where they bring in a bunch of old electronics and give the kids screwdrivers, wire cutters, etc. and let them go. It was really cool, and we took apart an old fax machine. They showed us where the motor was, and we took that out, hooked it up to a battery and made it go.

So Mr W is very happy with his new toy, and we head off to the library. He's pretty easy on his toys, and takes good care of his stuff. All of the sudden, he lets out this cry, and is holding the two pieces of his broken toy in his hands. He was really, really upset, demanding we go back to the museum and get his money back. Just crying with rage. I cycled though trying to be supportive and empathetic and then was sort of, "it's just a replaceable toy". Back and forth.

We finished our day, and of course he mentioned it first thing this morning. And, of course, the museum is closed until Tuesday. I told him we'd have to wait until then to get his money back. I thought that I could just give him the $8, but that it might mean more if we waited? I don't know. So he got out of bed, and I carried him to the living room. I just stood there, holding him for a few minutes, and then I said, "are you ready for me to put you down?" And to my surprise, he says, "yes, I think I'm over the dinosaur toy thing."

Wow, good job, Mr W.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

From a kid's perspective

I've often wondered what my kid and CB's kids think of the new person in their parent's life. Mr W was only 4 when his dad and I split up, so I he's lived with his parents apart for as long as they were together. Since I'm in a long-distance relationship, Mr W usually has me to himself. Also, when CB and I see each other, I usually come down here (I'm in AZ at the moment) because he travels so much.

We picked up CB's kids yesterday for a visit, and were winding down yesterday, when the younger one asks, "Is Linda staying over tonight?" "Yes." "Is she sleeping in your bed?" "Yes." "Why?" "Because she's my girlfriend."

And then the best part, said with incredulity:

"She's not your girlfriend!" "Yes, she is." That took a few moments to sink in and then we talked about something else. It makes me wonder, how do these kids view me? I think that Mr W, being an only child, sees his parents with new partners as ultimately a good thing. He gets more one on one attention when he's at either house, so it's good. I guess CB's kids see me in a pretty neutral way as an occasional visitor.

I think about when I was growing up, and how scandalous (and a thing worthy of judgement) it was when a kid's parents got divorced. Being in Catholic school, it just didn't happen often. Now, it's common enough that other kids know it's not a reason to view a kid with disdain. I'm glad for that.

And, incidentally, Mr W did the same thing as CB's kid the last time CB came to my house. It went something like this: "Is he sleeping over?" "Yes." "Where is he going to sleep?" "In my bed." "Why does he get to sleep in your bed?" And on...

Ultimately, I think kids are pretty accepting of new stuff as long as their needs are met.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Me too, me too

I got into AZ today, and the weather is delightful. Sunny, and about 70 degrees. It's always fun to visit, although CB's working on a cold, and we'll just have to see if I come down with one as well . We've been pretty lucky in that regard so far.

He pointed out what by now has made the rounds so much that I won't link to it: the call-on-the-carpet of Jim Cramer by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show. We watched it twice today, and I have to say how impressed I am that Stewart gave voice to what so many of us are thinking these days. He took all of CNBC to task on this; Cramer was only the poster child.

I think Stewart's point was that CNBC is all about showmanship and tricks and gadgets, such that they weren't serving the regular investors out there whose 401Ks funded the unsustainable returns touted by some of these schemes. At any rate, Stewart got his points across with passion and he was articulate and just did a great job.

I have been trying to make sense of the economy these days by following Planet Money. It's a blog and podcast on NPR and recommend it very highly to anyone who wants to know how things could go so terribly wrong and shat can be done about it. Lots of good analyses with the lingo parts explained.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's worth doing right

My friend D, who is the person responsible for getting me started in knitting things other than scarves, and I are doing our own little KAL. That stands for Knit Along (in knitspeak anyway) and we are each making the same sweater. I'm a Ravelry addict, as are thousands of knitters who keep track of their projects using the site and share their substantial knowledge of the craft. More than 4000 Ravelers have made this sweater, which is a good sign that it's a well-written pattern.

Of course, money is tight, as it always is, and yarn is expensive. Well, the good stuff can be, anyway. It's really easy to spend upwards of $80-$90 for yarn for a sweater. Not to mention often having to buy a couple of new sets of needles, adding another $15-20 to the project. In trying to find a way around this, I have bought a couple of thrift store sweaters that I am in the process of unraveling (frogging, it's called) but I don't feel skilled enough to recycle this yarn into a sweater just yet.

I ended up going to the craft store and getting a cheap, mostly acrylic (which is the really poor cousin of wool yarn) blend at $2.30 a ball. Yup, $14 for all the yarn I'd need. And the color was OK, cranberry.

OK, all set to cast on. I start knitting, and the whole time I'm thinking, "this isn't so bad, hey it's kind of scratchy, it's only my dry hands, I don't like the way this feels, I wonder how this will feel against my skin" You get the picture. It was yarn-buyer's remorse.

And then I thought, you know, I'm going to spend probably 40-50 hours (or more?) on this project, and it's something that, if I do a pretty good job on it, I'll be able to have it for years. Don't I want to love the yarn throughout the project?

So, here's where I'm going with this. I like this and this. Both are from Knitpicks, and will cost me about $50 for all the yarn I'll need. It's terribly cliche to say it, but life is too short to spend creating things with bogus materials. I don't need the $15 a ball cashmere blend (although that would be nice) but if I'm going to commit the time to the project, I should use decent materials.

I'll be placing my order today or tomorrow.

Image from Knitpicks

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Mr W and I were getting ready for the day on Tuesday, and he said, "I don't want to go to school, school's dumb." Somewhere back in my mind I remember hearing something about this. When a parent hears this, they are supposed to poke around a bit to see if the kid is having any trouble with class, teachers, friends, etc.

So I start asking questions about these things, and it's so amazing to me that this technique actually works. He starts in on how all of his friends are, "running away when they see me". Uh-oh. We talk about why this might be and he says they always want to play Star Wars, and wants to play Bionicle, and they are being mean, etc.

We talk about ways he can deal with this. I like to entertain all options, including the absurd and the unrealistic, just to show him that he's not locked into having to have a situation continue as it is. I basically say that friends take turns deciding what they play, and maybe they can talk about it.

We get to school in plenty of time, so I'm at the swings with him until the playground person comes out. Here comes his friend, and he comes right over to us. I keep myself from saying, "See? He's not running away." Mr W says, "we always play Star Wars, I want to play something else." Pause. "OK. You want to play Bionicles, don't you? I want to be Gresh (who is the coolest one)." This is debated, and off they go to do little boy stuff, conflict resolved.

I guess what impresses me is how he 'got it'. It was really cool to see Mr W expressing himself and asking for what he wanted in a calm way. Life is complicated. The sooner he learns to take turns and express himself clearly, the better.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Must have been the extra sleep

Has this ever happened to you? You go along in life, doing the things you are supposed to be doing, meeting your obligations, and although you do all the required stuff you usually do, it just seems hard to get things done, and things aren't as fun as they usually are? OK, that's probably not a sentence, but hopefully you can follow.

More to the point, I feel better the last few days than I have felt for a while. As if I've left a burden behind, or am moving away from something. I think I placed a lot of significance in the anniversary of my sister's death, and was dreading the lead-up to it. Now that it's past, and I've talked to most of my family about it, it seems appropriate to start looking ahead again, instead of back.

I hate how the process made me feel like everything was off kilter at times. And it is a process. Losing a close sibling is a big hit, and there will always be a hole there. It coincided with some doctor stuff I was tending to (check ups, and everything's fine) and my mortality seemed to loom large over everything. I don't want to be the next one in my family who dies young. But that one doesn't haunt me often, thankfully.

Anyway, so I gave the talk at work, and a couple of people's comments reminded me how much I like teaching, and I start to wonder about what I should be doing with my life professionally. And then, I got a good night's sleep.

I think I get just enough sleep to not be tired during the day, and not get sick very often. I usually get between 6-7 hours, and that seems to work. I'm tired at the end of the day (like now) and get up early enough to give myself some knitting or blog or Facebook time before I start my day.

Well, I was going to get up at 6 yesterday and head off to work, but fell back asleep for two more hours. It was afterwards that I got the idea that maybe I could teach one community college course in the summer or fall and see if I like it.

It is rest that begets these crazy ideas. I didn't feel any more energized, just more optimistic. It's funny how that works. I don't know if I'll do it, but I am going to think about it. I have a contact person at our local community college, and was set to teach a couple of courses there when the divorce stuff started a few years ago.

So on that note, I'm off to load the coffee pot for tomorrow and head off to bed.