Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cutting out flash cards

So far, the girls' school is really working well for them.  The preschool is really phenomenal, and the teachers there did so much for the Bug - and are doing so much now for the little Bunny - we have absolutely no complaints. We lucked out with the new (to us) kindergarten teacher.  She's a gem, and the kids leave school every day with grins from ear to ear.  Plus, they're actually learning how to read.  And do math.

It's not without its issues, though.  Since it's a charter school, it relies heavily on parental contributions.  The money part is easy enough - they have fundraisers all the freaking time!  It's the volunteer work - a hefty 60 hours per year per family (or an average of over two hours per week during the school year) - that is a bit burdensome.  Plus, with all the time parents are in the classroom, I hear way more inappropriate gossip about students than I'm comfortable with.  But that's another subject altogether.

Anyway, with my extra free time lately I've been trying to volunteer in the classroom at least every couple of weeks.  Mostly, this means cutting out flash cards.  Or sorting them, alphebetizing them or pasting them together.  I've also quizzed some kids on the numbers from 11-20, and helped others make "k"s and "d"s.  Frankly, I'm much more comfortable in the non-student-contact-y roles.  Something about a whole bunch of goobery 5-year-olds puts me on edge. 

And right now, to really buck the comfort zone, I am in charge of the Valentine's Day party.

My hopes were that the teacher would have a couple of tried and true activities.  I'd decorate something red and pink, ask the other parents to bring in punch or cookies or candy hearts or whatever.  Easy peasy.  But my only guidance is that the crafts should take about 15 minutes.  Which pretty much means gobble-de-gook to me.  Suggestions are welcome.  The Google gives me way too many ideas.  Maybe I'll just let the Bug pick.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Boots and chaps and cowboys hats

Last night, we were treated to excellent tickets to the rodeo at the National Western Stock Show in Denver.  This is kind of a big deal; we rarely go out during the week, virtually never all the way down the hill.  But after school, we loaded up the Bug and the Bunny and met up with Aunt Jessie and Andy, cowgirl hats and all.

The kids were really excited, and actually remembered some of it from our visit one afternoon last year.  We walked through the exhibits, including one where some rescue birds (bald eagle, peregrine falcon, owl) showed off their stuff.  We had milk, juice and beers.  And then we went into the rodeo.

I was surprised by how much both of the girls enjoyed it.  They watched the formation riders at the beginning and clapped their little fannies off.  They watched the bronco riding and the calf roping, enjoyed some hot dogs and potato chips and played with my phone for a while, and returned their attention to the ring when the barrel racing began. 

Yeah, they were up way past their bedtimes, but sometimes that just has to happen.  The rodeo is pretty cool, it's a very out-west-y thing to do and I think it's a great experience for them to have. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

All the King's Men

The Pulitzer-prize winning All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren is billed as one of the best political novels of all time.  It is supposed to track the rise and fall of a politician who closely resembles the real-life Huey "Kingfish" Long of Louisiana.  The protagonist, Willie Stark, rides a wave of populist support to his first elective office, a real man of the people.  It being the 1930s, though, corruption and worse proves his downfall.

There are a few things I wish I'd better understood before starting this novel.  In particular, that the story is at least as much about the narrator, Jack Burden, as it is about Stark.  Burden's enters into the scene as a journalist covering the still-unknown Stark, a student of history trying to make a living.  Before long, Burden is part of Stark's inner circle, doing unspecified tasks for The Boss.  There is a long and seemingly distracting back-story, where we not only delve into Burden's college career, but get into a detailed retelling of his dissertation subject, one Cass Mastern.

Had I known that the true story was that of Burden, this would have felt like less of a diversion.  The Mastern story is a parallel for Burden's, and there is actually quite a lot to gleam.  If you know what you're looking for.  A little research has suggested that Warren intended the Mastern story to be told in a more parallel manner; the editors felt it needed to be isolated.  So, having read the edited version, I can only imagine the original to be better in this regard.

The Mastern chapter is near the beginning.  This meant a delay to my immersion in the story - I honestly wondered what the fuss was about - but 400+ pages of thorough literature enjoyment.  In my opinion, the political scene and the story of Willie Stark provides a dazzling backdrop for a novel about a search for redemption.  And one of limited results, at that.  For my money, that is a story worth telling, and one worth reading.  I think the novel earns its esteem, but not for the reasons I'd expected.

Next up: Santa gave me Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman - a brilliant young adult and graphic novelist who I didn't even know wrote books for grown-ups.  I cannot wait!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Taking down Christmas

We had a pretty great Christmas season... Four days on the snow, gatherings of family overload fun, Saint Nick's generosity (and that of the rest of the fam), lots of laughs with good friends.  And today, I'm finally getting around to the part I hate.  Un-decorating.

Putting up Christmas is fun - I love every ornament (with the possible exception of my old E.T. globe, of which Joker is particularly fond), especially those we've bought on vacations near and far.  I love breaking out the Christmas music.  I love hanging the stockings.  I love the decorations that have been passed down to us over the years, and those that were more recent gifts.

But packing that stuff up?  Ugh.  I'm certainly not listening to any of that music for quite some time.  I always have miscellaneous junk that somehow doesn't fit into the boxes.  I really, really hate unstringing all those damn lights.  I get bummed taking down all the photo cards.  It's got to be one of the lamest days of the year. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Snow fun at Steamboat + Winter Park

Happy 2013!  Somehow that happened...

Our holidays were jam packed with family gatherings, and, for the first time in years, with some skiing.  We left the kids with Mima and Boppie for a couple of days at Winter Park with my sister, brother and his wife.  We were dumped on the first day, and we had a fantastic time.  Even though we got ourselves stranded on some highly craptastic catwalks, we all left excited to explore it further.  It looks like we will be having much fun on that mountain this year!

After that, we retrieved the girlies and headed up with another family (who we owe big time - thanks Gomezes!) to Steamboat.  And WOW!  What a mountain that is.  We had a fantastic time, and never even made it into town. 

We put the Bug in full day lessons - her third and fourth for the year.  By day two, she and her buddy were skiing blues!  This from a virtual standing start this year.  Also notable - she LOVES it.  Seriously.  On the second morning, she leaped out of bed and put on her thermals, practically in one continuous move.  No joke, she'll be better on skis than me by March.

The Bunny also took lessons, but for her age Steamboat offers essentially a daycare deal with a 1.5-hour lesson in the middle.  And she also loved it, and apparently is already using her edges.  Which is a good thing, so I'm told.

And the adults got two nice, full days on the lovely Steamboat "champagne powder."  The mountain is stunning, the sun truly made the snow sparkle, they've been dumped on so we could find powder all over the place... It's a winter paradise.  And every day we returned from apres completely exhausted.  I didn't even make it to midnight on New Years.  Not by a long shot.

Our passes have another four days at Steamboat remaining this season.  I really, really hope to use them all!