Monday, February 27, 2012

My Husband is Mad as a Hatter

Durango's Snowdown, our annual winter festival, made Outside Magazine's top four best winter carnivals in North America. ha! It's a lot of fun, but to be ranked up there with Le Carnaval de Quebec is pretty funny - and inaccurate, but we don't mind.

There are events throughout the week (135 of them this year) - mostly silliness like racing mountain bikes down snowy slopes, contests to see how many people you can stuff into an outhouse and Polar Beer Plunges. The girls and I even watched a SPAM carving contest. Classy stuff. There were two women in their 70s who were just giggling and having the best time cutting away their lump of unidentifiable meat, and whenever the sides of "Mesa Verde" fell down, the lady building it would eat a piece she no longer needed. I had to have a subtle chat with Acacia who was visibly gagging every time it happened. She didn't know SPAM was food.

My neighbor Petra and I started off our Snowdown at the Fashion Do's & Don'ts, a show in which "models" dress up in creative variations of the year's theme (or not) and act like a bunch of teenagers. Par for the Snowdown course.

For example, to the left here we have the Kartrashian Sisters, dressed in haute-couture garbage bags. Perfect. And timely as the latest drama here in town is talk of banning all plastic bags. Below left is one of many Mad Hatters in town; the theme was Fairy Tales this year.... And did I mention the audience was dressed up too? There's a reason Durango was voted the Worst Dressed Town in America. We wear it like a badge of honour.

Petra, Uwe, Ilona and Michel came over for a cocktail and tortilla soup before the Parade on Friday night which the kids loved, and after getting our butts kicked in the Snowdown Broomball Tournament on Saturday, Nick and I went to The Follies with Jen & Courtney Heinicke. Scoring tickets to that is a big deal because although they are cheap, they're hard to get. If your name doesn't get picked in the lottery a month in advance, you end up downtown at 6am one cold January morning, listening to the radio for clues and running around with a thousand other crazy people. It's fun actually, but this year I got lucky in the lottery, which is even better!

So...... we went to The Follies, a show of acts put on by locals for locals. It's rude, crude and socially unacceptable - thus the mad rush to get tickets. Nick and I went dressed as Red Riding Hood and the Mad Hatter (from Alice in Wonderland) and our dates were a Fairy and Pinocchio. Those of you who know my husband, know he normally doesn't dress up. But you probably also know he doesn't do things halfway, either... so he moved his eye over to look madder.

I guess if you're going to do something, might as well do it right, right?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


The last time I was a true celebrator of Valentine's Day was in elementary school, when we received a pile of little cards (only from kids who wanted to send one; not from the whole class), and we woke up to find a piece of chocolate on our plates as my Mom prepared a special breakfast. As an adult I pretty much ignored it until we had our own children to make it special for. But when I found out Acacia's class was not having a party because "not everyone celebrates the holiday," it got my hackles up. Or perhaps I should say, it offended me. Valentine's is not a holiday, nor something to "believe in," but just a fun thing that people enjoy if they want to. Every other class in the school is having a party, but Acacia said there's a new student in her class whose family doesn't celebrate anything traditional, Hallmark-y, patriotic (no pledge, etc.) or religious.

That's fine. But having the entire class forfeit their celebration in order not to "offend" one child (and really, the kid would probably love to participate...) is teaching this child the world revolves around him, and everyone else should stop what they're doing to make sure they're not stepping on his little toes. So this sweet innocent kid, who could have been picked up a half hour before the end of school today, is probably going to grow up to be an egocentric, spoiled jerk. And all because of some social experiment his parents are conducting. (Yes, the claws are out.)

I've never been a fan of political correctness; I find it boring, unimaginative and creatively restrictive. It runs against the flow of language's natural evolution, and is creating a society of celebrated mediocrity. But this is going too far. I think I'll suggest that I don't believe in Mondays, and because it would be offensive to me to have my kids go to school on such a day, thereby recognising  its existence, everyone in our school should stay home. Especially if there's fresh powder at the mountain. Ski day everyone!

So yeah, Valentine's Day. It's something I've never paid much mind to. But it is now a date that actually has meaning in our family. It's hard to believe, but a year ago today Nick fell out of the sky. His hand has only just recently begun to look normal, he's taken to living with one eye without any apparent period of adjustment, the bones have all healed, the stitches left only barely visible scars if anything, the most damaged of his teeth have been repaired, and he's flying nearly every day. 

Everything has returned to normal, and yet nothing has remained the same. Life just feels different now. More fragile, more vulnerable, and more appreciated.

As I cooked heart-shaped pancakes for the girls' breakfast this morning, I thought about what Jeanette mentioned last night: that we're not celebrating the anniversary of the crash, but rather Nick's survival. Then I noticed a card by the stove. "Kimber." And part of what he said in it was the only thing he wanted to think about or remember today was his love for me and his family.

So apparently we won't be renaming today Father's Day or anything (the thought did cross my mind...). Instead we'll focus on the good things in life and on all the love surrounding us.

I guess we'll just start celebrating Valentine's Day.

Wishing you all a happy one! ♥


Thursday, February 2, 2012

I child-proofed the house, but they keep getting back in

Acacia begged to get a violin. Secretly I was hoping she'd get over it so I wouldn't have to live through the nails-on-a-chalkboard screeching of a rookie violinist... but she persisted, as she does, for at least a year. I am all for the girls learning instruments; it develops a different part of the brain which aids in other parts of life as they grow up - according to an article I read on facebook, anyway.

"How about the guitar? It's stringed too, but more campfire-friendly..."

"How about the piano? It's got strings!"

I tried. But when the new 4th graders had to choose between choir and orchestra, I lost. We are now a family with a violin.

And every day, I have to beg Acacia to practice it. When begging doesn't work, I get angry with myself for even stooping to it, then flip out and threaten all kinds of unenforceable acts like, "You will never get something you beg for again," and "If I don't hear that violin in the the next five seconds you'll be practicing it outside. In the snow." Or something equally stupid. (A more effective action would be to make her read The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, which is something I've already mentioned to the girls and am seriously considering. That book would make her life seem sweet as honey.)

When the impossible threats don't work, I start removing things from her room - junky clutter I've wanted to get rid of anyway (might as well multi-task) - and then she flips out and thinks I'm the worst mother ever. "You are so mean!" That's the thanks I get after wasting an hour of my life trying to get my child to pick up the violin for a 30 minute practice. A violin she desperately had to have. That I don't even like. Secretly.

(For the record, I very much like violins, just not as a choice for a child's instrument, because unless they grow up to become maestros, it's the kind of thing they'll never pick up again. If you only know a bit of guitar, you can always pitch in when someone has one around a campfire; and if you walk past a piano, you can sit down and play a diddy. Violins don't do diddies. Neither do trumpets, which is what I took up as a kid. What a nightmare that must have been for the family!)

So who would have thought I'd be begging to hear those chalkboard nails? That the moan of a sick cat would be a welcome sound after the nightmare of getting her to create it?

And lest your mind's eye is picturing Cayenne sitting with a halo floating above her head, correct the image to add, let's see, her sister's brand new pen in her hands, completely dismantled, stretching out the inner spring; or with a pair of my earrings, squishing the hooks flat; or with Nick's stapler, painting it with liquid paper. So quietly naughty.


No wonder I have so little hair left. The only thing that should be begged around here is the question of how the human race has lasted this long...

And as soon as that thought occurs to me, I hear a tiny voice behind me, "Mama?"

She climbs into my lap and nestles her warm head under my chin, curling up until her ear can feel my heartbeat.

"I love you, Mama."

And just like that, in her Pre-Preteen way, she reminds me that children need to push the limits to become adults who have boundaries; and in order to learn the right way to assert themselves, someone needs to be on the receiving end of their crude attempts at it; and for humans to learn how to love and forgive, they need to be shown it.

These two precious little people are learning how to be good bigger people, and the teaching job that it takes is mine, by choice. I really wanted it. And just like Acacia's violin playing, it will sometimes hit sour notes, but pushing through those screechy times will produce something far more beautiful, polished and confident.

(I, on the other hand, will emerge on the other side of all this a haggard, bald and wrinkled mess. Small price to pay though, right? Please pass the tequila.)