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Guess what this weekend was? It was our annual excursion to ….. (drumroll please) ….. Frozen Dead Guy Days!!
This was Kelsea’s and my fourth foray into this festival of the intoxicated macabre. And this year, we took her uber-cool friend Will.
You may not be familiar with this event, which is now in its tenth year, but the legend (or fact, really) that inspired it is far older. Back in 1989, Grandpa Bredo Morstoel passed away in Norway. Instead of going underground as so many do when they pass, Grandpa took to the skies; his corpse, packed in dry ice, was flown across the pond to the US. After seeing California (as so many Norwegians want to do) and becoming cryogenically preserved (not quite as popular a tourist activity), he arrived in Colorado to wait out his fate in the company of his daughter and his grandson in the old mining town of Nederland, Colorado, just outside of Boulder.
Grandpa Bredo was kept quietly in a shed on his daughter’s property for a few years. He was a colorful piece of local lore. I recall hearing about him before he was famous, but no one was sure if the rumors were true. After he’d been resting comfortably for a couple of years, the proverbial S hit the proverbial F. Grandson Trygve found himself deported, and daughter Aud found herself evicted. And Grandpa found himself on his own, which is not a good position for a frozen old Norwegian in a Tuff Shed.
You must understand that the people of Nederland are a people apart. I love it up there. The townsfolk took Grandpa to their collective bosom. People stopped by the Tuff Shed where he was stored to tend to his dry ice needs. And they rallied the town council to – literally – grandfather – Grandpa into the town’s new law that prohibited keeping bodies on private property. I wonder if any other town has that regulation?
Grandpa’s plight garnered quite a bit of publicity on a worldwide scale. He has his own caretaker who, with the help of the ever-loyal townsfolk, keeps his body packed in a sarcophagus surrounded by 1600 pounds of dry ice. He’s been relocated from his original Tuff Shed, due to logistics and safety factors, to a larger unmarked storage facility up the mountain a bit. On occasion, guests can go up and see the shed, but not Grandpa Bredo himself.
Still, his share of fame grows yearly. He’s been the subject of two documentaries by the Beeck Sisters – “Grandpa’s In The Tuff Shed” and “Grandpa’s Still In The Tuff Shed”, and a book written by his caretaker Bo Shaeffer (aka The Iceman) called Colorado’s Iceman and the Story of the Frozen Dead Guy. There’s even a mystery set around the festival, which I have, but haven’t read yet, called One Too Many Frozen Dead Guys by Pamela Stockho. And there’s a song by T.D. Rafferty, most aptly named “The Frozen Dead Guy Song.” Both books and the song are available at trusty www.amazon.com.
Back to the festival! It’s become a packed event, which is good for the town’s small businesses, but it seems that as it grows, it becomes less and less quirky. Sad. However, the two-and-a-half day festival still consists of such unusual activities as:
- Parade of Hearses, which is exactly what it sounds like
- Polar Plunge, where participants in varying stages of costume or undress jump into a hole cut in the frozen lake
- Coffin Races, in which teams of people carry makeshift coffins through an obstacle course in the town playground
- Frozen Salmon Toss, where you see how far you – yes, YOU – can throw a frozen salmon
- Brain Freeze, an ice cream eating contest held in the middle of First Street
- Frozen Turkey Bowling, where you use frozen turkeys to knock down bowling pins (this is also commonly done in supermarkets late at night, and Australians use midgets instead of turkeys)
- Frozen T-Shirt Contest, where you must unfold a frozen T-shirt and put it on
- Rocky Mountain Oyster Eating Contest, in which you consume as many “prairie oysters” as possible
We arrived a tad bit late, just after the start of the parade. The parade is definitely my favorite part of the event. Several dozen hearses, most of them from the ’60s and ’70s, but the occasional entry from the ’40s and one even from prior to the 20th century, turn out to make a circle around the center of the little town.
Ghoulish participants were waving and throwing candy.
Small children hardly knew what to make of the event.
And really, who can blame them?
After the parade, we headed over to the Polar Plunge, which takes place in a little pond off the creek. Paramedics are handy by the ice hole to help plungers out if they have trouble.
We found a perfect spot on the edge of the ice. Nederland is a very dog-friendly town, and pooches were plentiful among the aspens.
Plungers weren’t as creative in their costumes or their approaches this year, which was a little disappointing. I had tried to talk Kelsea into jumping with me, but she said not until next year, since she’s not a strong swimmer and didn’t want to embarass herself in front of her beloved paramedics. But we had a grand time watching…
until the latecomers started just packing onto the ice in front of us so we couldn’t see anymore. How rude. In fact, my edit function was apparently set pretty low, as I was telling people in no uncertain terms to sit down. And I was wishing all the ice would just collapse, making the whole inconsiderate lot of them into unwilling plungers. The paparazzi really were testing the limits of ice gravity.
It had gotten REALLY chilly, so we headed to the bookstore/coffee shop to warm up. I love this little bookstore – it’s mostly used books, but they also have ice cream, a little clothing, a little jewelry, a Tarot card reader, and of course, chai, cocoa, lattes and etcetera.
And they have creepy stuffed squirrels bolted to their exterior walls.
We got coffee and brownies and found a little table in the children’s book room in the back.
The shop cat immediately came to say hello and Will decided he wanted to marry it.
Man, I don’t know what was in those brownies, considering there’s a “green wellness” clinic on either side of the bookstore, but we spent about two hours in silly hysterics, laughing and snorting and giggling at absolutely nothing. We poked around the bookstore, and fell more in love with the cat, who was now occupying the Tarot card table.
I chatted with a lady who teaches knitting and who had knit some amazing glow-in-the-dark skullcaps. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as glow-in-the-dark yarn.
(And as a lovely reminder of my last lovely weekend, there’s an Alpaca Store in Nederland where she gets her yarn.)
We spent so much time in the warmth and silliness of the bookstore that we missed the coffin races. Kelsea and I had seen them before, so we didn’t mind – the wind had picked up and we were all cold. Heading back into town through the little covered footbridge, we stopped in a couple of shops. Will and Kelsea parked themselves in rockers and pretended to be old people.
I took lots of artsy pictures.
And imagined decorating my new little house.
Emerging again into the chill, we discovered a mechanical bull set up outside the Pioneer Inn bar. Well, in my ongoing quest to try new things, I tried this new thing.
It was a lot harder than it looked and I don’t think I stayed on for 8 seconds. But Kelsea did quite well!
Our time was winding down. We passed the Brain Freeze contest, with very few participants.
And we passed more cute dogs (in trying to type ‘dogs’ just then, I typed ‘gods’ twice).
As our final excursion, we decided to walk out into the half-empty reservoir, something else I’ve always wanted to do. The reservoir is full to the brim in the summer, putting Boulder at risk of the imminent and overdue 100-year flood, which last occured in 1894.
But in the winter, it is a barren plain of rocks and dry earth.
The wind was absolutely vicious; we walked out as far as we could bear, then turned and made a run for the car. A real run, tears streaming down our faces and snot flying in the wind. By the time we got to the car, we sounded like we’d had strokes, we were so cold and our brains so bizarrely impacted by who knows what (wind? brownies? mechanical bulls?) that we could barely form words.
We happied our way down the mountain back to Boulder. That night, my eyes were still hurting from the grit and the wind, and Kelsea and I were exhausted from battling the breeze, the cold and the mud. But we had a wonderful time. Next year, maybe we’ll try tukey bowling and salmon throwing.
I think it’s great that even with dead guys, there’s always next year.
How many of you Moms out there struggle with having a child who refuses to dress appropriately for the weather?
Kelsea is 14. This is the first year since she was able to talk that I have been able to get her to wear a winter coat. In fact, this year, she has TWO! One is an army surplus jacket we got at a vintage store in Cheyenne. The other, which looks almost identical but is warmer, is one that Pat got her for her birthday. He had suggested to me that I find her a winter coat. And I respectfully told him to do it himself. I tried to find a coat she liked last year and nearly had a meltdown after 10 stores and no nods of approval, and I refused to do it again. To my way of thinking, I’d found her the army jacket. If he wanted her to have something else, he could go and find her something else. And damned if he didn’t find something she liked almost immediately.
I’m happy that she looks warm. As she has always told me, she’s a Colorado girl and the cold doesn’t affect her like it does me with my thin Southern blood. There may be some truth in what she says. She gets much hotter than I do in the heat, and stays much warmer than I do in the cold. It was always disturbing to see her going to school in a heavy sweatshirt and jeans and nothing else on a frigid day, but I had come to accept it. Being in the cold doesn’t make you sick; germs make you sick.
Maybe I’m just more aware of it because of the whole Kelsea-coat thing, but it seems like more and more kids are running around in this -9 degree weather inadequately dressed. I saw two boys in SHORTS and sleeveless T-Shirts the other day, and it was all I could do not to yell out the car window “Go put some clothes on!! What are you thinking??” A girl walking to school this morning had on only skinny jeans, Uggs and a skin-tight zip-front hoodie, and the same cry once again nearly crossed my lips. Kelsea’s best friend was supposed to walk to school yesterday, but called and asked me if I could pick her up because she “doesn’t really have any shoes”. It’s true. She only has what I consider slippers.
I want to say “where is the parenting”? But on the flip side, I have fought the losing battle of trying to get my child to dress for the temperature. I know what it’s like. I know how hopeless and frustrating it can be. At least Kelsea does not wear jeans with intentional holes all over them, or burnout T-shirts and push-up bras, so I have a lot to be thankful for on that score. My Mother only used the phrase, “You are not going out of the house dressed like that” to me one time when I was 16. (She was fortunate too.)
But now that I am a mother, I will never be able to see a kid running around in summer clothing in the deadest of winter without cringing and having to turn my edit function wayyy up high. And keep my car windows locked. Or maybe I should just wear a gag.
When Kelsea was little-little, she was afraid of thunderstorms. Many grateful kudos to her Aunt, who finally said something that clicked in her little brain and enabled her to overcome her fear. It hasn’t been a problem since she was small.
But the other night, a huge clap of thunder woke me out of a sound sleep. It had been clear that evening and the rain was unexpected. I lay there, wondering if I should check on Kelsea, just to be sure it hadn’t woken her, but I heard nothing from her room, and so I was drifting off, closer to asleep than awake, when I sensed it. Yes, it was her little spectral presence by my bed. (This is how she wakes me; she just comes and stands silently by my sleeping form until I sense her. It never fails.)
The thunder had indeed woken her, and she asked if she could crawl in with me. Of course, I made room for her. We were snuggled up when a bolt of lightning hit in the field beside the cottage – so close that the flash and the crack of thunder came at exactly the same second, sharp and loud. We both jerked like we’d been shocked. And cuddled closer. I came as close as I ever have to being struck when we were at Topsail this past summer, and so I was having a little PTSD myself. It was nice to have her there.
We lay there, wide awake, waiting for the next shoe to drop, so to speak. A few more flashes, a random rumble, and the storm moved on. I fell asleep again, rolling over to find that Kelsea had gone back to her own bed.
But it was so sweet and comforting – and a bit of a flashback to her toddler-hood – to cuddle the storm away with my teenage daughter.
I had a visit with my landlady this morning. We discussed plans for the garden that the Cottage and the Big House share. Our conversation strayed into positive thinking, diets and the future. We talked about Kelsea and how awesome she is now, at 13. My landlady told me that she felt that way about her own daughter at that age. Then things changed. You never expect it to happen, but one day that girl who you so like, admire, and enjoy hanging out with becomes a completely different, unrecognizable and noxious person. I so want to believe that won’t happen to Kelsea. She and I have talked about it often. I guess the bottom line is to hope for the best and expect the worst. And remember, if it happens, that this too shall pass.
What brought tonight’s post to the forefront, aside from this morning’s conversation, was a small thing that happened this afternoon. Kelsea had a friend over to visit. The three of us ran around doing errands for a couple of hours and then the two of them had an hour to pass until it was time for her friend to go home. They played with the Poppy, the Big House pug, for a long while, and hung out on the grass talking. Then they asked if they could go over to the church side of the fence and visit the playground.
After about fifteen minutes, I looked out to check on them. They were soaring high in the sky in their respective swings and the sun was heading down below the trees, casting a soft, hazy light on the scene. I felt like I was looking at two little girls – two little girls who were fading into the sunset. The innocence and small joys of being young were being swallowed by the emotions, hormones and pressures of adolescence, just as the sun was being swallowed by the horizon. But for just that moment, all that mattered was laughing, and swinging as high as they could go.
I wished for a minute (or more) that they didn’t have to lose that, to let it go, to focus on the challenges of growing up. But you always want your child to grow up – the alternative is unthinkable. And in my mind, there is a comfort: that when Kelsea becomes a mom, she will regain and relive all that joy and childlike wonder through the eyes and smiles of her own child.
I’ve been putting off writing this post — just kidding.
How many of us are lifelong procrastinators? It starts with delaying brushing your teeth when you’re five, progresses to waiting until the hour before it’s due to type your term paper, matures to waiting until the last possible day to pay your bills, and concludes with the ultimate procrastinatory act — hanging onto a last thread of life when you should have died weeks ago.
I am guilty. Yes, I am. Have I passed this gene onto my daughter, or is it just something that comes naturally to her? Or just something that comes naturally to teenagers, as a way of expressing their independence?
She has become a “just a sec” person. You ask her to do something and it’s “hold on”, “just a sec” or “in a minute”. What to do with this behavior? Yelling seems pointless. Punishment doesn’t work. I am on the fence about it because I KNOW it’s one of the few ways she has to express that she guides her own life at this age. And because I spent so many years not saying “how high?” when my ex said “jump.”
She had a project due today. She’d had it for a month – read a book, do something creative to show the content, and answer eight questions. She started one book, and switched to a different one midstream – I can understand that – it happens. Especially when the first book is “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. But I told her last week that I did not want her finishing this at midnight on Tuesday night. She’s had plenty of time. So what did she do? She finished it at 11:00 last night. Perhaps I was not specific enough?
I told her yesterday that for the next project, things were going to be different. I don’ t know HOW things are going to be different, just that I need to do something to try to drill some conscientious homework discipline into her.
And then I ask myself why I feel the need to be drill-sargeant in this area. Do I have any right to, since I was the one who stayed up all night typing term papers until the ten-minute mark to class? Am I trying to keep her from the discomfort of my own experience? Am I trying to help her succeed? She’s had straight A’s for years. And some people do their best work under pressure – I’m one of them (at times) – perhaps she is as well.
I’m not a control freak Mom – in fact, I’m about the farthest thing from it. I’ve got more of the hippie approach – live and let live, make your own mistakes, etc. And I don’ t really feel that putting me off with “just a sec” is disrespectful (although her dad does.) Maybe it’s that I want her to understand that some things, like your work, deserve a certain level of importance and attention. She’ll find other things in life that do too, things that should not be treated with the same cavalier attitude, the attitude which implies that something else matters more than the task that duty requires. Being a bit verbose, aren’t I? I guess I’m trying to work this out in my own head.
It may tie to my pet peeve of taking responsibility for your own actions, your own things. It may be one of those lessons she’ll have to learn on her own when it backfires on her and she DOESN’T get the grades she so prides herself on. Either way, I suppose I need to let her own the problem (as my buddy says), but that’s not what Moms do – though maybe it’s what they need to do.
I was going to say that I trust that she’ll figure out what’s most important, and I was thinking that means work and duty and conforming to the requirements of society and adulthood. Huh. To that, I say “Bah!” and perhaps “Pah!”. She’s already got her priorities straight. Do your best, love the people around you, make time for nature and friends and follow your own star. Isn’t that exactly what I’m fighting to do now that I am breaking out of the corporate coffin? And isn’t that what we want our kids to do? I don’t want her to be CEO of Nestle (though that would imply all the chocolate I want). I just want her to be happy and independent and comfortable in every sense of the word. I want her to be able to toss her hat up in the air, having made it on her own.
Just the things I have been procrastinating about for the last fifteen years. Go figure.
Perhaps this is more of a Mom-Rant…I don’t know. I only know that I have some rants (or peeves) and it’s high time to express them. So, let’s start with the pick-up/drop-off lanes at Kelsea’s school.
Why, why, WHY is this such a cluster **** every morning???
The horseshoe-shaped drop-off zone has “Hug and Go” signs from one end of the horseshoe to the other. The door to the school is in the middle of the horseshoe, about 20 yards from the curb. The first car that enters the horseshoe should pull up to the far end, keep the motor running, give their child a kiss, let him or her open the door, get his or her backpack, close the door, and then the parent should drive away. Sounds so simple. (See the picture of the horseshoe drive below? This is Kelsea’s actual school.)
BUT…and this is a big but…
That’s not what happens. Parents drive up to the exact center of the horseshoe so that their child will not have to walk any more than the absolute shortest distance to the school door. And then they obviously discuss in-depth philosophical issues with said child for about 5 minutes prior to child exiting the vehicle, which in itself requires that the child open all car doors AND that the parent shut the car off and exit the vehicle to assist the child, OR (as occurred this morning) to CARRY the child’s backpack into the school WITH the child. Additional discussions between parent and child once both parties have exited the vehicle are also required.
Once the child has turned towards the school door, the parent (if not physically accompanying the child into the school) MUST re-enter the vehicle, watch the child until he or she enters the school and the door closes firmly behind him/her, then check their cellphone, put on make-up and deodorant, shave, adjust mirrors, start the car, wait for it to warm up, and then immediately pull back out into the horseshoe without looking to see if any cars are in the (theoretical) driving lane of the horseshoe.
Other parents are behind, jockeying for the next closest post position, or just sitting, waiting until it is their turn to pull up to the primo spot and perform the aforementioned ritual.
I seem to have some time warp issues with getting Kelsea to school on time. We’ve discussed it. We’ve tried all kinds of things to resolve it – leaving earlier, getting up earlier, packing up the night before, you name it. It’s just a maternal failing that I freely own up to. So we usually pull up to the horseshoe with minutes (or seconds) to spare before she’s tardy. I’m sure the front office can tell when she’s staying with me vs. her Dad, just like her friends can tell based on the quality of her packed lunches. (They take pity on her and share their lunches when she’s been with me.)
The dialogue (or soliloquy) in our car in the morning goes something like this from the time we approach the turning into the school parking lot:
Me: Why are you going so slow? WHY are you going 5 miles an hour? This is a 20 mile per hour zone. And it’s NOT a four-way stop. Don’t be so polite! Quit waving everyone else in! Maybe YOU don’t have to be someplace else but I do! ****** idiots! GO! GO! MOOOOOVE!!!
Kelsea: It’s okay, Mom, I’m already late.
Me: It’s not okay! Why do these Rock Creek moms have to be such idiots? This is stupid! It’s not that complicated! You just puuuulllll up, there you go, allllll the way up, there, see? This guy knows what he’s doing! He’s doing it right. Now see, I’ll just pull up behind him. Look, what a good drop-off parent – wait, oh no, no, he’s getting out of the car – what? He’s going into the school – he’s just LEAVING the car there! Now I’m blocked in. **** him!! ******* dumb-ass!! I’m going to ….
Kelsea: Bye, Mom, I love you!
Me: Bye, honey, have a great day.
So by the time I do get out of there, my blood pressure has soared, steam is coming out of my ears, and (depending on the day) I’m close to tears. I will say it distracts Kelsea from her customary morning grumpiness, so that’s a minor blessing.
And we just have to look for the little blessings in all of those things we can’t change, now don’t we?
Well, another Christmas come and gone. Overall, it was quite pleasant. Mr. GF and I had an early Christmas morning opening presents, after which I went over to Pat’s to do Christmas with Kelsea and the clan. Pat made enough good food to feed twelve people, and I stayed for about 4 hours. I love being with Kelsea, but I missed Mr. GF and didn’t like leaving him sitting in my house alone, although as he told me, he’s a grown-up and can take care of himself. Of course he can, but I want to be with my family at Christmas and he is rapidly becoming part of my family (and Kelsea’s – they seem to be getting a bit more accustomed to each other.)
Trying to balance my new life with my old life sometimes makes me break out in guilt pimples. Or even extreme raging guilt acne.
I adore spending time with Kelsea. And I adore spending time with Mr. GF. But as you might imagine, sometimes the two don’t mix, especially in the early stages of a relationship. He and I need our time alone, and he and she need time to get accustomed to each other. Due to schedules, logistics, work, etc., he and I don’t get to spend as much time together as we’d like. And sharing Kelsea with Pat, I don’t get to spend as much time with her as I’d like. The nice thing is that Mr. GF appreciates that she is a priority in my life, just as he is.
So let’s assume that Mr. GF and I are together next Christmas. How can I manage it? He can’t very well go to Pat’s house for the festivities. What if he and I want to go away? I can’t take Kelsea away from her dad and her cousins at Christmas. Perhaps it will be one Christmas with Pat and the next with me, wherever I am. I guess it’s too soon to bother thinking about such things. A lot can change in a year, as we well know. People do this all the time with kids. If anyone can do it, I can. I love her that much. And I love Mr. GF and I love my own new life. The power of positive thinking… I can do anything, I can make anything work.
Love gives you strength.
When driving Kelsea to school today, we were talking about this and that, and the subject of her dad came up. She started listing all of his wonderful qualities, and I am very glad she loves him so. But… she said how proud she is of his being an inventor and how hard he’s worked to get his product going. And that was too much for me.
I told her in no uncertain terms that Dad hadn’t been working for almost ten years. That I’ve worked two and three jobs and supported our family on my own for a decade. That we might even still be married if he’d listened to me and taken action when I tearfully told him (on several occasions) that I was literally working myself to death and needed him to take some of the burden off my shoulders.
Then I felt bad. I told her that I shouldn’t have said that, and that I don’t want to bad-mouth her Dad. I’ve never bad-mouthed him to her. I told her that she was entitled to her own feelings, opinions and relationship with him, and that a marriage relationship is nothing like a father/daughter relationship. She told me that I was entitled to my opinion, and that she wants to hear my opinions, but they won’t change how she feels about her Dad. She said she was proud of him for pursuing his dreams. I refrained from saying that I had never had a chance to pursue mine because of my marriage, but I hope she knows that I have dreams too.
I still don’t think it’s right for me to voice my opinions and feelings around the injustice in my marriage to our daughter. She and I are good friends in addition to being mother/daughter, and sometimes I let my boundaries slip. I was thinking last night, as we were putting up our little Christmas tree, that she and I are doing things that usually two parents do for kids. And since I’ve always had Pat to direct the tree erection, this was a learning experience for both me and Kelsea. More like two roommates trying to figure it out.
I suppose one of the reasons the conversation turned as it did on the ride to school this morning was because I was thinking about how Pat is moving on. He’s not moving on by dating someone, but by a more active pursuit of his business dreams. It doesn’t bother me (other than the nagging notion that he just wanted me for convenience and now he’s using the money I worked for to live off). I really do want him to be happy. I really do wish him well. I am moving on myself, with Mr. GF, with plans for my own future.
So why do I still feel so resentful, so cheated?
Guess it’s going to take some more time.
- This blog just had its first birthday! Even though I started it in January 2008, I didn’t get serious about it until early December of last year. It is interesting for me to see how my life has evolved, as reflected in my posts. In my studies of becoming a published writer, I read one suggestion that said (essentially) “Comb through your blog postings – you probably have a good start on a book.” When contract work is up, that’s what I plan to do. Perhaps the book will reveal itself – or maybe more than one will.
- It’s currently 12 degrees outside. Practically balmy. My boots were frozen to the floor on the inside foyer this morning when I got up. I think I need a draft stopper or whatever those things are called. And my automatic door unlocker thingy on the truck was frozen too. Let’s see how many days in a row I can complain about the cold. The interesting thing is that just around this time last year, it was -18. And we’ve all forgotten about that. It must be like childbirth – your mind somehow makes you forget the pain, so you can endure it again.
- Christmas cookies are so good. I wish people wouldn’t bring them to work. It takes so much willpower to resist, especially when it’s cold. If I’m not careful, my hat won’t be the only thing that makes me look like Santa.
- I’ve had serious trouble getting in the Christmas spirit this year. I guess that’s not surprising, but it’s sad. I usually love Christmas. Perhaps it will be better after Saturday – the 3rd anniversary of my Mother’s death.
- One of our other contractor’s last days is today. I like her a lot – it’s unusual for me, especially at this age, to make a new woman friend. I think she could be one, so I want to stay in touch with her.
- I am always in the mood to write in the morning. And I find it helps if I am out of the house. I get so many good ideas while I’m driving. I need to find some way of writing them down without causing death and destruction on the roadways. I’ve been thinking that when I start writing from home full-time, I will need to go out every morning to someplace – a coffee shop, library, bookstore – and write for the morning, then go home to take care of the business side of business in the afternoon. That actually sounds really good, especially since I know I run the risk of becoming a perpetual bedbug. Discipline, girl, discipline!
- To buy a house? Or not to buy a house? There’s an adorable place in Longmont that is still available. Do I really want to live in Longmont? It’s so far from Kelsea. Maybe Erie? Maybe Four-Mile? Maybe go in with niece on something?
- We are to go and buy our respective Christmas trees tonight. As Mr. GF put it, “Another happy family evening,” even after last night’s way-too-late-in-coming epiphany, which will be discussed at a later date, once it has settled in my feeble brain. At least we can do this for Kelsea. We’re probably setting a better example of how parents can get along now than we did when we were married. Still, I need to model for her a good, healthy, loving relationship with someone. Perhaps I can do that with Mr. GF someday?
- Today is the birthday of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. – he always looked like such an incredibly charming man. Loved, loved, loved him in Sinbad the Sailor.
- Today is also the birthday of Ashleigh Brilliant, hippie poet/writer and creator of PotShots postcards and calendars back in the late 1970s. I loved collecting them – I still have some of them somewhere.
Stay warm out there, people…
I’ve watched Kelsea’s education with an interested, inquisitive and critical eye for almost ten years now. It continues to be a journey, one that has brought up many memories of my own education. As a parent, you find yourself having to help with homework, and trying to remember things that you learned 35 years ago, and have now forgotten. Thank the Gods for Google – it’s a great mind-refresher.
The questions that Kelsea keeps justifiably raising are, “Why do I need to learn this? When am I ever going to use this?” Well, I provide the standard maternal responses – “We all have to pay our dues.” “You never know what you’re going to wind up doing with your life.” But inside, I’m saying, “She’s right! When is she EVER going to have to know about Elodea leaves and what happens to their cells when you put them in salt water?? And when is she ever going to have to use negative numbers? This person wants to be a paramedic. She wants to work in a bookstore in Hay-on-Wye in Wales.”
Our academic system – the whole “no child left behind” and C-SAP testing – may (and I say MAY) support children who are at a disadvantage in one way or another, but for the majority of children, it doesn’t seem to teach them anything useful, anything that will actually help them develop their identity and the skills they will need for whatever profession they choose, unless that profession is academics. A friend told me that all of the things they are teaching her really boil down to teaching her different ways to think. I support THAT, if that is so.
But even if that is indeed the case, why is it not possible to make the entire academic experience more engaging? It feels as if we are training our children that they must get up at a certain time and go do something that bores them until they are “freed”. Sounds like a lot of our jobs, doesn’t it? Are we just conditioning them into the same monotonous, choice-free way of life that the majority of us now experience? Why is it not possible to foster a culture of free-thinking entrepreneurs among our youth?
I understand and appreciate that there are academic standards that need to be met — that all students need to be measured by some bar that indicates their level of competency. What I don’ t understand is why it has to be so dry. There are teachers out there who have very creative and engaging ways of educating, but who are stifled by the regimentation of the system. Typically, those teachers are beloved and remembered by students, not because their classes were slack, but because their classes were inspiring and fun, and subsequently, their subject matter is remembered. But these are the same teachers who are challenged and reprimanded by principals and school boards (and by parents who fear non-conformity.)
When children are in the lower grades, creativity and fun are emphasized in the learning process. Make the child love school. Why do we abandon that at the higher grade levels, when children are once again changing, and need to be helped to love school again? Kelsea used to cry when she was unable to go to school because she was sick. Now, it’s like pulling teeth to get her enthused – and she’s smart, social and has good grades. Imagine if she were none of those things. The challenge for both her and us would be magnified to the nth degree. (To her credit, when Pat and I both wanted her to take a mental health day not so long ago, she employed her own ethics and decided it wasn’t the right thing for her to do – even though she had begged us to not make her go to school on previous days. I was proud of her.)
Yes, it might take a little more work to come up with interactive and interesting ways of getting core information across. But wouldn’t it be more interesting, rewarding and challenging for the teachers and the students?
While I have been evolving this opinion over a number of years now, what really heightened my awareness was my introduction to the grammar texts of Karen Elizabeth Gordon: The Deluxe Transitive Vampire and The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed. Both books teach all the core concepts of grammar and punctuation, as well as some valuable nuances, using examples that are entertaining and memorable. Since the English language can be a toy, of course it’s easier to make English textbooks fun than to make an Algebra textbook fun, but by gum, I’m certain it can be done, and there are no doubt geeks or academics who would be more than willing to take on the challenge.
And about school start times….physiologically, kids in the teen years don’t have their melatonin levels raise until late in the evening. They’re not ready to go to bed early and they’re not ready to get up early. Everyone’s lives would be more pleasant and productive if school didn’t start until 9:30 or 10:00, and get out at 4:00 or 5:00. What’s the rationale? An 8:40 start time does not allow parents to get to work at 8:00, and a 3:30 release time does not allow them to work until 5:00. (Not that I am in agreement with an 8:00 to 5:00 workday either.)
Who among us adults, even now in our 40′s, does not have those dreams of going to a class and realizing you’ve missed the entire semester and are now here for the final? Or of not being able to find the classroom for the entire year? Why do we still have nightmares about school when we are well-established professionals? I think it speaks to the angst and trauma that the current academic system instills in us on a level of which we are unaware — unaware because we are following a formula that is incompatible with our core.
Make classes have a more global focus. Make them more interactive. Make them fun. Make school a comfortable and welcoming place to go. Respect our children’s native intelligence. And our children will learn and be hungry to learn more. It’s that simple. Then perhaps our children will not be subject to our nightmares later on.