Sunday, August 29, 2010

A little different than expected

There were no moose to be seen when Mr W, Sally the dog and I went camping this weekend. It was...OK. I picked a spot online, and made some assumptions that didn't really work to our favor. The site itself was OK, no shade, and I have decided I don't care for sites with no trees. It feels too exposed. The campgrounds were OK. Out of about 40 sites, maybe 7 were occupied. The campground wasn't walking distance from anything, and although we went out and did small hikes a couple of times, we sort of saw what there was to see and spent most of the time hanging out in and around the van.

I set up the new sunshade thing I bought that is made specifically for vanagons. While Mr W and I were setting it up, it got windy, and one of the poles bent and I swore a lot. A lot. It rained off and on and I was happy we weren't in a tent for it.

It's a different thing, camping with one kid and one dog. I did a lot with the kid as far as keeping him entertained, but when I wasn't, he played with his stuff, or on his game player, and ended up spending entirely too much time on the thing. Having the campervan makes it a logistical challenge to "get in the car and go somewhere" once we get to the campsite, because the car IS the camper. It'd be more fun for him if we went with other families with kids. I'm also thinking of bringing our bikes the next time as well.

I was so so-so on the site that I didn't take any pictures of it. Above is a picture of Mr W and Sal at a spot we stopped at on the way home so the dog could go in the river and get cleaned off a bit.

When I was unpacking the van, this Praying Mantis caught my eye. We watched it for about 10 minutes while it climbed from the ground up the side of the house. This is a European Mantid because of the white spot on the inside of each foreleg. I'd never seen a Praying Mantis in my yard, so that was different. We had a good talk about what it would be like to be able to climb like that, and were thankful we wouldn't be on the receiving end of those forelegs.

Here is a grimy, post-camping Mr W with a funny expression for scale.

After the weekend, an expression comes to mind: "live and learn". I was very excited to take the kid and the dog and the van camping. Turns out it was kind of boring for W, and I wish there were more trails and kids for him to play with. I wanted to make reservations so we'd have a confirmed spot, and I don't think that's necessary a lot of the time. Next time I might try to coordinate with another family, or have Mr W bring a friend.

Myself, I liked having time to read and knit, and am getting better at arranging and rearranging things so we can use the inside space of the van efficiently. Having Sally is like having a third person who occupies precious floor space (a.k.a. "the magic square") and having her either outside or up on the bed works well depending on what we're doing. However, I still like the van, and both Mr W and Sal are real troopers when it comes to camping.

Best thing about the trip? While it was in the mid-90's down in town, it was cold enough to wear jackets a lot of the time when we were camping. I'm looking forward to fall.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Escaping the heat

It's still hot here. As much as we'd like to blame it on climate change, it's normal for this time of year. Poor Mr W's been coming home quite wilted at the end of the day, as his school has no A/C. I realized he probably spends more time there than perhaps even his teacher, coming at 8:30 and usually not leaving until close to 6 after attending the after school care that is on site. At least he gets his homework done and hangs with some of his friends.

I'd like to camp with the campervan several more times between now and when the snow flies. So today we're off to a state park called, State Forest State Park. Named by bureaucrats? You decide. Anyway, it's up at around 9,000 - 10,000 feet, which means it will be nice and cool. It's close to where B and I camped, but less remote. I'm just not comfortable doing the 'camp in the middle of nowhere on forest service land' thing with the kid and the dog. Yet. I feel vulnerable. So we'll do the campground thing while Mr W is young.

I ran into a friend the other day. She was a coworker for a year (2 years maybe?) and then took an assignment in Mozambique and I lost track of her. She's back in town and starting a PhD program, and it was so nice to see her. It gave me a sense of satisfaction to give her the 5 minute rundown of what I had been up to for the last year and half. I'm not sure why, but sometimes I lose sight of that fact that life is pretty darn good.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A little thing

I went to the dentist yesterday. Big whoop-dee-do, I know, but I am happy to report that I didn't have any cavities or other dental weirdness going on and that pleased me greatly. It's been this way for the last couple of years, things holding steady, and I must say I could get used to this.

There was a time, from childhood up through my 30's that there always seemed to be something wrong with my teeth. The culprit was too much sugar and not enough brushing (so simple, in retrospect). Not as many troubles as some people, but enough to invoke plenty of dental anxiety just walking into the office for a cleaning.

I reached some kind of turning point regarding how big of a deal the dentist was for me a couple of years ago (when things were improved anyway, I guess). I needed to go back for the good Dr. R. to file off some high points of a filling that she had replaced a week or two before. For that initial work, she had prescribed me some Valium, and I took the bus to the office, and had my neighbor pick me up. When it was time to go back and get the thing tweaked, I decided I simply didn't have the time to take the Valium and make arrangements for a ride and it was time to suck it up and just do it. It turned out fine, and the tooth hasn't bothered me since.

And since then, going to the dentist has involved more chatting about our kids than making treatment plans. I do the brushing/flossing thing and it seems to be working. It's a little thing, but it's nice to not have that anxiety anymore. No doubt there will be fillings to replace in the future, but after a break of not having to get any work done for a while I feel more ready when that time comes.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sharing wisdom

Sometimes, what we need is to view ourselves a little differently. To that end, I present to you the Captain Underpants Name Generator. You may thank me for leaving a comment telling me your new name. Thanks to Bellona of Avalon's blog for this nugget. :-).

Zippy Bubbleshorts

Friday, August 20, 2010

Here's your book back

I told the community college about a month ago that I wouldn't be able to teach again in this time around. It's with mixed feelings, as I really liked it. And while the money wasn't great by any means, the extra dough made it so I didn't have to watch each dollar as closely as I do now. I need to bring one of the text books back today, as well as the disks that go with the book. It's the least I can do.

It has me thinking, though, about this balance between work and life and what it is that makes us content. It's been a busy week, and for a lot of the summer, it seems like there's always something non-work related to get done during the day or after work. Something to have to squeeze in. Mr W started school this week, and aside from making sure he gets his homework done at the after-school care he goes to, his routine of when to get up and when to go to bed won't change too much.

But, as I was doing the dishes last night, I did have the happy thought that there weren't papers to grade, and I could sit down and knit for a bit with a glass of wine before I went to bed, and that made me smile. It feels good to be out from under the pressure of having a second job that has to be worked on in the evening.

The funny thing is, the whole situation is like a pendulum. If past events are any indication, I will do this for a bit, and then, feeling like something's missing - actually, I think it's because I'll feel like I'm not doing enough - I'll start something new. Then that will run its course and I'll swing back to wanting to not do anything extra.

My city has an outstanding recreation department, and there of course are several health clubs in town. I've been thinking, especially as the dog gets older and doesn't need hard running exercise at the dog park every day, that I should do some kind of group exercise a couple of times a week. Like a spin class or something. So that will probably be the next thing, although I do like this feeling of not being obligated for a little bit. But it won't last, and that's OK.

Edit: I should mention part of my being OK with backing off from teaching is that I'm having fun being with B. It's good to not have to work around a second job to find the time to be together. It's hard enough trying to coordinate the schedules of everyone involved sometimes...

Monday, August 16, 2010

You're supposed to goof up the first time

This weekend marked my first foray into the world of canning. It turned out pretty good. I had to switch horses midstream so to speak, because the recipe I got off the web ( I know, I know) didn't have consistent proportions of things throughout. I ended up using the recipe from the pectin box, and the jelly seems a little on the thick side, but the lids are solid, and it tastes good. I'll have to see what the texture is like in one of these jars, but it was a little gritty when I tasted what was on the funnel afterwards.

I was a little tense while doing this, and Mr W wandered in and said something like, "It's the first time, you're supposed to goof things up the first time". Wise one, that kid.

I also varied the sugar a bit between the two sets of four jars. 25% less sugar in the second batch. We'll see how that tastes.

It's good to get past the initial trepidation of canning and fears about food safety and that kind of thing. Now I feel confident to preserve some diced tomatoes, and perhaps do more jelly. The world is a bit more open for canning now. It takes a lot of time, but I do like the idea of saving food for later.

Here's the other thing I've been working on. My Passiflora vest. It's a slow go, but still enjoyable, and I'm resisting the urge to work on the pair of socks I've got on the needles so I can finish this. Probably another three weeks left on this one. I'm glad I went with the smaller size. I had originally knit about 2" of the next larger size, but realized at that point I had twisted the piece, so had to frog it, and off the needles, that size would have been too big. Phew! These things take up way too much time not to fit in the end.

I'm home this morning with Mr W, who starts school tomorrow, and had no day care today, so his dad and I are splitting the day. I've got work to do from here, and wistfully think how cool it would be to work from home... My boss says it's OK occasionally, so I might keep that in mind.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Go go go

Runners, take your marks. It's Saturday here in Colorado, and it looks like we'll get a little break from the heat for a few days. I am thankful. Heck, I'm going to leave the windows open ALL DAY.

I often get ambitious on the weekends, over-ambitious sometimes. There ends up being a long list of things I'd like to get done, and sometimes I forget I need to also be a parent, lest Mr W watches TV and plays on the computer all day.

Today includes trips to the store to get shoes for Mr W (the ones I ordered don't fit right), the farmers market to get peaches for my first foray into the world of jelly making, yard work, the usual house work, picking out frames and ordering new glasses for me (since that sweet spot where I can read things is getting harder to find on my current glasses), playdate for Mr W in there somewhere, a trip or two to the dog park, maybe see a movie, you get the idea.

I'm again at a point where I feel like I don't have enough time to get things done, and am looking for ways to find time for the things I want to do. Note that's it's different than just finding more time. I want to try to make jelly, but I don't want to feel guilty about taking the time to do it. Mr W starts school next week and there's always the flux of getting that new schedule down. I want to volunteer in his classroom once a week, in an attempt to get him a little more jazzed about school than he was last year. Busywork gets him down, and I can't say as I blame him sometimes.

This post is a bit of a rambler, and this is what happens when everything else is going just fine in my life. We're starting to think about holiday travel plans, my brothers and I, and we can hopefully coordinate our schedules.

*** Update
Here's my done list for the day:
Farmer's Market to get peaches for jelly - have to wait until they ripen more - jelly making postponed until Tuesday
Got Mr W new shoes
Picked out frames for glasses
Put together my Spin Bin composter
Transferred compost
Gathered stuff to donate to church rummage sale
Changed the sheets on my bed
Repotted the plant on the porch
Cut back rogue leaves from pumpkin plant

Not bad.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

(Please don't) cue that Elton John song

It's that circle of life thing going again. A couple of events that haven't directly affected me, but in reading up on Facebook the last couple of days, there's been the joyous occasion of a birth, and the sad occurrence of a death.

A friend of my family, who herself was the last of seven and born when her dear mom was 42, has had her first child. I had to look just now - she's 41. In my mind she stays a teenager. Little Corrine is absolutely gorgeous. OK, most babies are, but she's very cute.

And another person I know through my friend D is grieving the death of her dad. It looks like they knew it was coming, but that doesn't make the loss any easier to process. Grief is a wacky thing. You go on automatic pilot for the first couple of weeks. It's busy because there are arrangements to make, lots of people to interact with, people bring food - it's its own whirlwind routine for a bit. Then everyone goes home. Then, it creeps up on you and you weep in the produce section of the grocery store for a little bit, and then are OK.

When my sister died, I was practically begging death to come, she was suffering so much. We were all there when she died, and after she passed, I stayed for the wake, but fled home before the funeral. Looking back, I made the excuse that I had been traveling for a couple of weeks (which I had) and needed to get back home. I just had to leave, and still feel guilty about that.

So I guess the point is that it is important to bear witness. To take the long view and acknowledge that these major changes occur to all of us. I'm of the opinion that these events have a similar effect on us. Meaning, we all share some common ground in how we feel when someone dies. Or when there is a wanted child welcomed into the world.

Life IS short. There's a song by John Hiatt called Slow Turning (the link is to a live performance on the Letterman show). There's a line that goes

"Time is short and here's the damn thing about it,
you're gonna die, gonna die for sure.
You can learn to live with love or without it, but there ain't no cure."

I think paying a little attention to the passings of the people around us helps to ground our own experience. And before I wax too weird and philosophical, I will end this post.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What summer's all about

B and I went tent camping this weekend somewhere around here, on the other side of Cameron Pass. Since he's got a four wheel drive SUV, we were able to go off and find a site outside of the regular campgrounds and in the Routte National Forest. I dubbed it Camp Fungus, as they've had a lot of rain lately and there were mushrooms popping up all over the place. I had meant to take some pictures of them but forgot. The above picture is a cool fallen tree we saw while hiking. I took the color out and think it looks cool.

And the flowers! I hardly ever forget to take pictures of flowers. The diversity was amazing, and we wrong-turned through a fen that was this cool grass and sedge and flower wetland. It looked like a very lightly used area, and it's always fun to feel like you're the first one in a while to see it.

We stayed for two nights at the campsite, and then broke camp and headed over to some state forest land to hike to Lake Agnes. The above picture is the mountain range that is close by, called the Crags (for obvious reasons). It's funny, x and I hiked this years ago, and I remembered it as a couple of miles in, and pretty steep. I had the last part right, but it's only 0.8 miles. I'm in better shape than I was then, but it's still hiking above 10,000' and I got winded often.

And finally, one picture of my camping companions. Sal's got her stylish yet functional Buzz Off kerchief. Not sure if it helped against the moderately active mosquitoes, but she sure looked cute in it. This was the first time that she camped and didn't have to be tethered. She was a dog gone wild the first night, ducking into camp, running off to the nearest stream, coming back to check on us, back to a muddy puddle. When we hiked Saturday, I only leashed her up when we saw a moose, which happened twice. Sunday, she didn't quite get why she had to be on the leash, but we worked it out. She's passed out from exhaustion as I write this - my job is done. The other one mugging for the camera is B, who cooked just about everything, and did the dishes as well. How cool is that? I had a good time.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I think I'm going to make it

As of today, I have officially made it to the same age my sister was when she died in 2008. She was 45 years and a little over a month when she passed away from colon cancer that went undetected (maybe for years) until it was stage IV or D and not much could be done about it. You just don't look for colon cancer in people so young. It spread to her liver and she died of liver failure. It was a horrible way to go.

Since my mom died young (age 56) I come and go on worrying about whether I'll be the next one to die young in my family. Almost all of the time, I can bring my thinking around to the idea that I watch what I eat, I'm moderately active and am doing most of what I can to control my end of it. I got a colonoscopy (not too bad, I don't remember it), and get my annual pelvic exam, cholesterol test and mammogram. I'm happy to report that I don't take any medications besides the occasional Ambien to make sure I get a good night's rest before something important.

But I think of what was lost here. Both my sister and mom were nurses. My sister was on the verge of moving forward with her career and was in school when she died. They awarded her BSN (Bachelor's of Science in Nursing) posthumously. They were both good at what they did. I don't feel compelled to become a nurse (not really, but I have thought about it) for them, but I do feel like I've been given more time and should therefore not squander it.

To that end, I'm trying to appreciate all the things that are going well right now. My job looks like it is secure for another year. I don't make a ton of money, but I make enough. My son is healthy and curious and I can actually see that my parenting efforts are paying off. I have my own home, and my health is good. I like how things are going with B, and am looking forward to seeing how that plays out. Even my dog is doing well at the moment.

So, I want to send a humble thank you to the universe for feeling as close to content as I have for a long time.