Fall woods

Fall woods

Friday, March 17, 2017

Where Was I Again?

Oops, blinked and there went another pesky week.  A few highlights...

1) Helping Thing One and a friend make cooking videos for their Spanish class.  Apparently the use of a particular verb form was involved in the narrative.  Bear in mind that both of these boys are the most rudimentary of cooks even in English: one attempted to cook meatballs in Spanish and the other enchiladas and I haven't laughed that hard (in a nice way of course!) in a really long time.  At the end of it all, we'd had a very fun afternoon, we had two reasonably edible dishes, two videos and no injuries, and my kitchen had not been blown up or set on fire.  I consider that a resounding success.  And both boys had picked up a cooking tip or two, as well.  (A side note to anyone--like Thing One's buddy--who needs to put any very hot mixture into a blender and doesn't know: this is why blender lids have that central plug.  Remove it before you turn on the blender and put a dishtowel or something that allows airflow over the opening to keep any mess down instead.  If you leave the central plug in when blending hot liquids they will emerge from the blender like lava from Vesuvius as soon as you remove the lid afterward otherwise.)

2) Followed a day later by driving the child (Thing One again) 200 miles each way for a weekend soccer tournament, all three games of which were played in subfreezing weather and howling wind!  There just isn't enough warm clothing for either players or spectators under those conditions.  All hail snow boots, four layers of clothing, blankets and chemical handwarmers in mittens.  Frigid conditions aside, both of us had a great time, believe it or not.  He really likes his teammates and the other parents are great.  Besides which, how often do I get an opportunity for that much one-on-one time with my teenager?? I'll trade any number of frozen fingers for that.

Followed as soon as we got back by 3) preparations for a blizzard.  Ugh.  In this totally electric-powered house, losing power is a problem.  Stockpile nonperishables and water and batteries, check.  Storm arrives, more sleet than snow at least, but still 6" on the ground when all is said and done.  At least the power stayed on but it knocked out school for two days.  More importantly, it cancelled my parents' flight in from California (along with hundreds of other flights) which led to them having to miss

4) Thing One's Confirmation Mass, which was last night.  Boo.  :(  Beautiful ceremony, presided over by the bishop at the "big" church in our parish, not the little one we usually attend.  Thing Two was asked to be an altar server despite the fact that he has never served at that church or even *seen* a bishop!  When I realized that he had been tasked with holding the crozier (the bishop's staff) during the Mass I was a bit concerned, but to his credit he managed not to drop it on the floor in front of a very large, very full church.  Hallelujah.  I was fascinated by the number of hat changes a bishop makes during a Mass...from the large white mitre to a red skullcap to a bare head and back.  I had to look up the rules when we got home.  Apparently he wears the mitre when teaching, removes it during scripture readings (revealing the skullcap underneath) to demonstrate that even he learns from scripture, and takes off the skullcap as well when consecrating the bread and wine.  Who knew?  I'm sure I was supposed to but I'm not sure I've ever seen a bishop say a Mass either.

Which brings us to 5) St. Patrick's Day.  We aren't having our usual big party this year, since between soccer, visitors and one of Himself's crazy 200 mile relay races we don't have a free weekend for the entire month!  The house doesn't have the usual decorations up and it's quite sad.  :(  Nevertheless I will be making the traditional corned beef and cabbage and soda bread this afternoon.  Slainte!!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I Need To Clone Myself

Two weeks ago Thursday, I was driving Thing Two home from soccer practice when my cell phone started pinging nonstop.  When I was able to check it, I saw that I had about twelve texts in a row from my friend Rose, who was at the kids' school watching the Star Wars tournament in which Thing One's team was playing.  (Don't ask me what it is...I still don't have all the rules straight but it is something like Guard the Castle crossed with dodgeball.)  The tourney was a charity fundraiser organized by the middle school student council and a good dozen or so teams were signed up to play, including one primarily composed of Thing One's posse of 8th grade buddies.

Rose's texts got progressively shorter and more excited as they went along, starting with one asking where I was and moving on to tell me that Thing One's team had made the final and later that he was the last man standing on his team against three opponents.  The last couple of texts informed me that he had gotten the last man out on the other team with three seconds to spare to win the tourney for his team (one text was entirely exclamation points!) and the grand finale was a picture of a dogpile of all seven boys on the team on the gym floor with a note from Rose that Thing One was on the bottom of the pile.  

In a very deja vu-like echo of that evening, tonight my phone blew up yet again on my way home from a soccer practice, this time Petunia's.  My friend Susan was breathlessly updating me on the last ten minutes or so of our joint sons' semifinal rec basketball game.  (Thing One again.)  They had come from way behind against arguably a much better opponent to win by 7 and there was absolute pandemonium on the court by the end!  Once again, I was very sad to have missed it, but at least my husband was at both events. Sometimes the logistics of  'divide and conquer' just stink.  

The basketball team's story is a particularly good one.  It's mostly the same group of boys as were on the Star Wars team, not one of them a 'real' basketball player.  There are two very good soccer players and a cross-country runner in the group, but that's about it.  Thing One is the tallest kid on the team at 5'9", too...they aren't exactly a physically imposing group.  Their coach is Susan's older son, a high school senior who can't even officially *be* the coach of a team since he isn't 18 yet!  (The father of one of the other boys attended all the practices and games since the presence of an adult was required by the league, but that dad would be the first one to tell you that he had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual coaching.)  Very special to see this group having so much success even though I couldn't actually see it myself either time. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

We Haven't Come Far Enough, Baby

Had a fun experience (ugh) two nights ago with our home alarm system. Seems that the battery needed to be replaced, so every four hours the alarm would go off, shocking us out of a sound sleep. First thing yesterday morning I disconnected the battery from the system and shut it down, planning to go and buy a new battery ASAP.

Other logistics for the day dictated that I ended up walking into Home Depot on that errand with a geocaching friend, a gray-haired guy 15 years older than me.  Despite the fact that the battery was for *my* house and that *I* was the one who explained what I needed and asked where to find it in the store, both the greeter and the guy in the electronics department spoke exclusively to my friend.  Apparently my lack of a Y chromosome means that you can't have an intelligent conversation with me in a hardware store.  GROWL.

Sunday, March 5, 2017


Himself and I had Thing Two's annual IEP meeting with the relevant school personnel last week.  This is the meeting where we discuss how he's been doing and make plans for the following school year.  Not that we don't touch base informally all along, but this is the formal planning meeting required by law.  The kid will be in middle school next year, God help us.  Thats a whole new can of worms to navigate, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor.

On the bright side, they do some class changing in fifth grade, so that concept shouldn't be new to him next year.  (Back when Thing One went through they spent much more time in their own homerooms than they do now, and I like the new way much better since it is a good segue to the middle school model.)  He's doing very well in science and social studies and not bad at all in math considering that he's trying to do two years in one--he wasn't in high math last year, but is now. The major issue, as always, is language arts with the language processing issues he has.  Right now he has aide support in core subjects, but those are paraprofessionals.  Their main job is to keep him on track and focused.

Starting next year, he will have a certified special Ed teacher in his language arts class with him, to work with him and any other kids who need it, and that person will actually help to teach him (and run interference with the regular classroom teacher for him) as well.  It's a fantastic arrangement and one I had hoped would be an option.  They offered it before I could even ask.  I love this school.  He will still have speech services and the paraprofessional in the other core subjects as well.  Talk about caring about the kid and setting him up to succeed!  I know this is not at all the experience many parents have with the Special Education team at their schools, and I am beyond grateful for our good fortune.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Close Call

I went to lunch with a group of my martial arts girlfriends yesterday.  One, who happens to wear a hijab (she's a Muslim of Egyptian descent) told us a story while we ate.

Seems that she was in the grocery store parking lot recently putting her shopping in the trunk of her car when she looked up to see a woman running at her full tilt, a total stranger.   As she noted, it would have made sense just to get into her car as quickly as she could, but in the moment that didn't even occur to her.  In these days of batshit crazy politicians encouraging anti-Muslim sentiment, she assumed the woman was coming to harm her, and she was standing there mentally going through the moves she's learned in taekwondo and jujitsu (this is NOT a woman you want to attack, for the record...she's a bad mo-fo black belt) and deciding how best to defend herself when she realizes that the woman is smiling at her.

The woman gets to her, gives her a huge hug and says, "I'm so sorry our president is such an ignorant asshole!  We all support you."  And walks away.

I love the sentiment.  I love that this happened in my white-bread small town.  And most of all, I love the fact that my friend would have absolutely beaten the shit out of that woman if she'd come looking for a fight instead of in friendship and solidarity.  She is physically small but she takes no crap whatsoever and I think its awesome that she was ready to take on a bigot had push come to shove.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

And While On The Subject Of The Weirdness Of English...

...try reading this poem out loud!!  Insanity, thy name is my mother tongue.

The Chaos (by G. Nolst Trenité, a.k.a. "Charivarius"; 1870 - 1946)

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse
I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye your dress you'll tear,
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer,
Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, beard and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written).
Made has not the sound of bade,
Say said, pay-paid, laid, but plaid.
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say break, steak, but bleak and streak.
Previous, precious, fuchsia, via,
Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir,
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles.
Exiles, similes, reviles.
Wholly, holly, signal, signing.
Thames, examining, combining
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war, and far.
From "desire": desirable--admirable from "admire."
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier.
Chatham, brougham, renown, but known.
Knowledge, done, but gone and tone,
One, anemone. Balmoral.
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel,
Gertrude, German, wind, and mind.
Scene, Melpomene, mankind,
Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.
Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet;
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rime with "darky."
Viscous, Viscount, load, and broad.
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's O.K.,
When you say correctly: croquet.
Rounded, wounded, grieve, and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive, and live,
Liberty, library, heave, and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven,
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover,
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police, and lice.
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label,
Petal, penal, and canal,
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal.
Suit, suite, ruin, circuit, conduit,
Rime with "shirk it" and "beyond it."
But it is not hard to tell,
Why it's pall, mall, but Pall Mall.
Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, and chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor,
Ivy, privy, famous, clamour
And enamour rime with hammer.
Pussy, hussy, and possess,
Desert, but dessert, address.
Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants.
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rime with anger.
Neither does devour with clangour.
Soul, but foul and gaunt but aunt.
Font, front, won't, want, grand, and grant.
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger.
And then: singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.
Query does not rime with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post; and doth, cloth, loth;
Job, Job; blossom, bosom, oath.
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual.
Seat, sweat; chaste, caste.; Leigh, eight, height;
Put, nut; granite, and unite.
Reefer does not rime with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
Hint, pint, Senate, but sedate.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific,
Tour, but our and succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria,
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay.
Say aver, but ever, fever.
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.
Never guess--it is not safe:
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralph.
Heron, granary, canary,
Crevice and device, and eyrie,
Face but preface, but efface,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust, and scour, but scourging,
Ear but earn, and wear and bear
Do not rime with here, but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, clerk, and jerk,
Asp, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation--think of psyche--!
Is a paling, stout and spikey,
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing "groats" and saying "grits"?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel,
Strewn with stones, like rowlock, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict, and indict!
Don't you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
Finally: which rimes with "enough"
Though, through, plough, cough, hough, or tough?
Hiccough has the sound of "cup."
My advice is--give it up!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Who Knew??

Found recently in an article about the wonderful weirdness of the English language: the rules governing the order of multiple adjectives preceding a noun.  "The WHAT?" you say?  "There are rules for that?"  Yes, really.  And if you're a native English speaker, they doubtless come so naturally to you that you don't even think about them unless someone else messes them up.

Chart copied from here.

I bet this sentence sounds perfectly normal to you: "The beautiful, large, round, orange plastic pumpkin sat by the front steps."

I bet this one does not: "The plastic, large, orange, round, beautiful pumpkin sat by the front steps."

We talk about an "old blue metal" wheelbarrow, not a "blue metal old" wheelbarrow.  A "lovely young dark-haired girl," not a "dark-haired young lovely girl."  It's a "long, narrow, wooden" cane, not a "narrow, wooden, long" cane.
Then there's the "thin blue" line, and "Big Red" gum!  Even those follow the rules.  Who knew.  I'm so glad English is my first language...for this and many other reasons it must be absolutely infuriating to learn English as a secondary language.