Sunday, September 30, 2012

Not Sure What I Did To Deserve My Mother-In-Law

But I am damned lucky.

Himself runs as part of a team in three big relay races a year. Two of these are out of town, and require him to be gone from Thursday or Friday morning through Sunday night.  The older the kids get and the more weekend activities they have, the harder it becomes for me to get them everywhere they need to go in his absence by myself.  I try really hard not to resent the fact that he has three long weekends a year away from home with his friends (there is another non-running related trip as well) because he spends all his other time either at work or with the kids and has essentially no friend time here, but I am not always successful.  It is a poor reflection on me that I can't just be happy that he is having fun and getting a chance to recharge his batteries with the guys, but I am small and petty sometimes.

At any rate, this was going to be one of those race weekends where I physically could not handle everything on the calendar by myself.  My wonderful MIL volunteered to come from her home an hour away and stay with me to help (my mother lives too far away, or she would have done the same.)  She came up Friday evening.  Early Saturday AM I took Thing One to a soccer tournament while she took the other two to their Rec soccer practices.  That afternoon she took Thing One to one birthday party while I took The Girl to another at the same time.  After Mass today we all went to Thing Two's soccer game, and then she stayed home to watch the younger kids and the dog while I took Thing One to his travel soccer game 60 miles away.  (Which is completely insane, by the way.)  We were gone for five hours.

By the time I got back, Himself was home from his trip and she'd returned to her house.  She had (on her own initiative) cooked dinner and dessert for the family, folded two loads of laundry, and emptied the dishwasher before she left.

When I count my blessings, this woman is high on the list.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lightning Does Sometimes Strike Twice

Last month, I wrote a post about a birthday party I attended with my son that was a fantastic but highly atypical cross-cultural party experience, in addition to the source of some of the best food I've ever eaten.  Today, improbably, it happened again.

This time, it was friends of The Girl's who were celebrating their birthday.  Twin boys, of Italian heritage.  That much was evident from their names, but I didn't realize quite HOW Italian they are until this afternoon.  

The party was at their house.  This one did not have all the immediately visible cultural trappings of the last one (not sure what the Italian equivalent of a mariachi band and pinatas would be, anyway) but I absolutely could not believe the food.  They had the usual kid-friendly fare outside for the children, but there was a whopping spread laid out in the kitchen for the adults: an antipasto platter, eggplant parmigiana, marinated mushrooms, breads, pizzas.  All homemade and utterly amazing.  They told me that the mushrooms were grown in a sister-in-law's garden, as was the eggplant.  The tomato sauce for the eggplant and pizzas was prepared from tomatoes they grew themselves.  Not so unusual around here, but they had imported the tomato seeds from which the plants were grown from Italy.  These people take their food seriously.  I got a ten-minute lecture on the only correct way to prepare eggplant parm: the twins' father (Mario is his name) was quite adamant that the authentic dish should contain homemade soppressata salami, but he didn't have access to any and refused to even consider using the store-bought variety, so he left it out of the version they served today.

But that wasn't even the best part.  When I arrived, Mario immediately offered me a glass of wine.  Homemade red wine that he had pressed and aged himself in his basement, as it turned out.  A very typical suburban often do you see that??  It wasn't half bad wine, either.  It made me think of my Italian great-grandparents, who also made wine in their basement all those years ago, according to family lore.    

And this was another multigenerational extravaganza that looked like it was going to go on for a while, and once again we had to leave before the cake was cut!  This time, to pick up Thing One from another birthday party that he was attending ten miles or so away...his friend's mother was kind enough to give The Girl a piece of the leftover cake from his party when we got there. 

Lesson learned: when invited to birthday parties at someone's home, we will no longer be scheduling anything else for immediately afterward.  When lightning strikes a third time, we'll be ready!

Friday, September 28, 2012

On Not Judging Books By Their Covers, Again

A classmate of Thing One's has a spectacularly beautiful mother.  Her hair, makeup and nails are always perfect, her clothes the latest in fashion (plus some classic pieces from when she worked at Chanel (!) in Paris (!!) back a few years), her body toned and slim.  She is at least five or six years older than I am, but you'd never know it.  Every time I see her, I resolve to do something about my wardrobe, lose ten pounds, and get a better haircut!  She appears so perfect on the outside that she is a difficult person not to hate on principle, but once I got over the social intimidation factor and actually began talking to her, it became clear that she is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.  I consider her a good friend now, as different as we are.  I'll call her Maria.

I was talking to another mother at a baseball game a few years back.  Thing One and Maria's son were on different teams that season, and she happened to be in the stands on the other side of the field from us.  The other mother brought up the subject of Maria, and with more than a touch of envy commented that she would love to trade lives with her.  That comment stopped me in my tracks for a minute.

Maria has two sons.  The elder, the one in Thing One's grade, is autistic.  High-functioning and a wonderful kid, but his medical issues have been a major, serious source of stress and grief and worry for his parents since his diagnosis.  The younger has heart problems, and there have been many trips to emergency rooms and pediatric cardiologists for him.  He may need surgery in the future.  Maria spends many of her days ferrying one son or the other to doctor's appointments all over the state.  I'm pretty sure that she would not wish the stress and fear she faces every day for both of her beloved sons on anyone, no matter how beautiful and materially blessed she might be.

In fairness to the other mother, she may not have known the whole situation.  I'd like to think that she didn't.  I'm not even sure what made me think about Maria today (maybe that I talked to her briefly at Back To School Night earlier this week), but that conversation from the baseball game reminded me that what you see on the surface of another person is not necessarily reflective of the true situation.  As a person prone to making snap judgments, I needed the reminder.

There isn't any such thing as a perfect life, anyway.    

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bullying Begins At Home

Last year, I tossed my name into the ring for our local school board election and won a seat.

Our school district is K-8, so if we stay in this house for the duration, I'll have had at least one kid attending school in this district for 13 consecutive years when all is said and done.  That's certainly long enough for it to matter to me how things are being run overall, but I would be lying if I said that my decision to run wasn't in part because of Thing Two and his special needs.  Not that I am looking out for him as an individual so much, but more for his (very expensive) end of the academic spectrum in this era of budget cuts.  Though from a purely selfish standpoint, I figure that it can't possibly hurt him if the powers that be know that his mother is both a very involved parent and on the school board (i.e., not one likely to sit idly by if he is not getting the therapy and aide attention that his school case manager and doctors have determined that he needs.)  If I have learned anything through this long and involved special education process, I have learned to be the squeaky wheel on behalf of my son.  Although not ordinarily an in-your-face type of person, I have squeaked loud and long out of love for this child.  

One of my big fears is that budget cuts, aide distraction, etc will result in him not getting the help he needs through the school.  The other one, though, the one that keeps me up at night, is the fear that he will be bullied because of his otherness.  The single most important reason that I put my name on the ballot for this job (and it is a tedious and thankless job in many respects, as important as it is) was that I wanted to have a real, meaningful voice in the bullying policy at this school.

Not that the school has any unusual bullying issues, let me say upfront.  Compared to most in the area and certainly in the state, the problem we have with it is relatively minor.  My concern is that if any child ever had a metaphorical sign on him that said "I am a target," it is Thing Two.  I find it highly ironic that so far, Thing One, the golden child, is the only one who has had any trouble with other kids, and that has been dealt with (but this is why the kids and I originally started in the taekwondo program, incidentally.)

Thinking about this because a big chunk of Tuesday night's Board of Ed meeting related to our district bullying policy, which is largely mandated by the state.  A child who felt that he was being harassed and bullied actually left the district over the summer and is at a private school this year.  In general, part of the problem with the term "bullying" from an administrative standpoint is that it is defined by the state, and in a lot of instances, what mean kids do to other kids does not rise to the official definition of bullying, so the state-mandated consequences don't come into play.  When that is the case, incidents become simpler (bureaucratically speaking) code of conduct violations and are addressed through the normal disciplinary channels.

What really pisses me off is that the school in many of these cases (this is just my opinion, of course) is being forced to take on the parental role.  It seems insane to me that we as a district would have to be the ones explaining that it is not ok to pick on kids that are different or be rude to teachers or swear in class or write on bathroom walls or push people or take their school supplies.  Where in the hell are their parents??  And then, after the school district gets a report and deals with the situation either through the bullying track or the code of conduct track, why are these parents saying "Not MY little angel..." instead of actually implementing consequences at home for bad conduct at school??  Yes, this is a soapbox of mine, but it makes me nuts.  All the school and state rules in the world aren't going to be worth a damn if parents don't take the time to teach their children not to be mean to other kids and to have empathy for those who are different. And it makes me even more insane that I have taught my children to be kind, so they don't always have the words to deflate bullies when they encounter them.

A friend had the same issue a couple of years ago.  She has daughters the same ages as my sons, and is very much of the same parenting philosophy as mine (i.e., you had better be nice to the other kids at school and behave yourself there because there will be consequences both at school and at home if you don't.)   Her older daughter was being picked on by the mean girls because she refused to join in with them as they were cruel to other girls in the class.  Think about that one for a minute.  To her credit, she stood her ground.

As an adult looking on, it was easy to see the insecurities that were feeding the particular bullies in that case.  If my friend had been willing to teach her daughter to tell the one girl that she was just acting out because she's fat and doesn't like herself and the other that she's mean because her dad has a low-income job and she is self-conscious about it, those girls would have shriveled up and collapsed like day-old balloons.  But is it right to teach your young child how to seek out the weak points of others and use them to be cruel?  My friend didn't think so, and neither do I.  But damned if I don't want to sometimes, just to shut these miserable brats up and give them a taste of their own medicine.

And I want to bitch-slap some of their parents for not giving a damn what their kids do in school, and for not teaching them right from wrong.  I know I sound geriatric, but I don't care.  It's the truth.  Bullying and unkindness in school have their roots at home, with what parents teach their children or don't teach them.  All the state and district laws in the world can't change that, and are essentially a band-aid on a gunshot wound.

It's just time for some parents to sack the hell up and stop expecting the school to parent for them.

*climbs off soapbox*  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yesterday Was A Good Day In The Dojo

Woke up yesterday morning with a nervous stomach.  It was one of those days--I had a to-do list as long as my arm, plus my taekwondo belt test and a school board meeting consecutively in the evening to complicate the logistics.

In our dojo, the belt tests take place in front of the public.  The head instructor calls you up to the middle of the room in small groups to demonstrate your forms, self-defenses and techniques while everyone else watches.  The kicker with the technique part is that you have no idea what you will be asked to do until it is called out.  Thing Two's auditory processing problems did not arise out of the ether--clearly I don't have the problem as badly as he does since I didn't realize I had it until he was diagnosed, but I don't do well with oral directions either--but I actually managed to stay calm and focused all the way through this time.

The last time, I panicked and completely forgot something important, and walked out afterward feeling like a prize idiot even though I had my new belt.  This time, I had the satisfaction of knowing that I'd kept it together.  With my super-mighty industrial strength knee brace and bum knee, there are some things I just can't do on that side as well as I would like to, but I did them the best that I can possibly do them at this point and didn't blank on anything important, which is the best that even this ridiculously type-A overachiever type can ask of herself.  And I managed not to hurt myself further doing it, which is even better.

And the icing on the cake is that I got my new pants.  It sounds silly, but the green belt is somewhat of a divider in the rank system.  Below that, the uniform is white jacket, white pants.  Green and above may wear black pants with their white jackets.  Only black belts can wear the full black gi.  I am a very long way from a black belt, and am taking this one step at a time, but as best as I can figure, the black pants are a sign that you've worked hard enough and learned enough to be officially not a newbie to the game anymore, and I'll be wearing them proudly for that reason alone.  And for purely practical reasons, on those occasions where you have to throw a coat on over the gi and go do something in civilian-land, the black pants stick out a lot less!

But the best part of the day came in class yesterday morning.  The instructor (not the one who tests us) always does a review the day of a test for those who are testing, so it's worth going to the dojo twice.  I was talking to her afterward, and she gave me one of the best compliments I've ever received.  She asked if I would consider helping to teach the junior classes (as an assistant) when I get up another few belts, since it is clear to her that I love to teach and people keep telling her that I'm good at it.  This is a huge honor, and I will absolutely take her up on the offer whenever she decides that I am senior enough in rank.  I walked out of there on a freaking cloud!

Good day in the dojo, indeed.    

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I Think This About Says It All

Earned mine tonight fair and square and am feeling ten feet tall and bulletproof. And since in our particular martial arts system this is the belt level at which you are permitted to wear black pants (graduating up from beginners' white), I will be rocking those at the next class as well!

Monday, September 24, 2012

I Must Be Insane

At least I come by it honestly.  Genetically, in fact.

This is a spectacularly beautiful afternoon.  Clear, sunny, 68 degrees, soft breeze.  Where am I spending it??  In my office, making a poster board of volunteer signup opportunities for Thing One's class because I am his homeroom mom this year and Back To School Night is tonight.  There is definitely something wrong with this picture.  At the very least, I need to move the printer outside!

Himself spends a great deal of time telling me not to agree to do this kind of thing.  I've been informed on more than one occasion (tongue mostly in cheek) that our marriage will be in jeopardy if I take one more big thing on--usually something like organizing the massive PTA auction that benefits the school or some such.   To which "opportunity" I would say hell no anyway, because I do have some's the smaller things that I agree to do precisely because they are smaller and I think I can fit them in that end up biting me in the butt.  See e.g. today.

Himself was raised by parents who are not at all active in their community.  They are wonderful people, but they did not help at their church or volunteer at their kids' schools or coach a sports team or anything else as far as I know.  (They both worked, in fairness, but a lot of the parents who volunteer around here work as well.)  They have their friends, whom they have known since slightly after the earth cooled, and they spend their free time with these friends and doing their sports activities.  That's just how it is with them.  This is the example Himself grew up with.

My parents, on the other hand, are an entirely different sort.  They helped with everything, always.  Class parent, CCD teacher, school board member, parish council treasurer, cupcake baker, school volunteer, Rotary member.  You name it, one or the other of them did it.  Even now that both of us kids are long gone, Dad is a volunteer chaplain at their local hospital and Mom does remedial reading with disadvantaged kids.  That's just who they are, and the example they set for me.

After all these years of marriage, Himself and I are approaching a detente, anyway.  He coaches all three kids' soccer teams, and I am actively trying to cut back on the things I get involved with, because I become a lunatic (even more of a lunatic?) when I say "yes" too often.  I am going to assume that there is a happy medium somewhere between doing so much that you become a nutjob and doing nothing at all.  Maybe we will even find it sometime!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Good Side Of Being In A Rut

We've taken all the kids to church pretty much every Sunday morning since Thing Two was three or so.  The first few months were a retrospect, asking this kid (heck, any kid) to sit still and be quiet for an hour was asking a lot, but at that point his language processing issues hadn't been diagnosed yet or we probably would have held off.  We got into the habit of going directly to Dunkin' Donuts for a treat after services when the kids behaved well (bribe, reward, tomato, tomahto...whatever works); so for years now, we have been showing up at that store like clockwork at 10:45 on a Sunday morning.

Being the sort that believe in good customer service, the mostly-Indian crew that runs this store know that we are coming, know our usual order down to how I take my coffee, and have it bagged and rung up by the time Himself reaches the front of the line.  It actually becomes a problem if we ever want to change our order--we don't want to make them feel bad--but they are clearly trying to be helpful and proactive and this is a good thing.  Considering that I ordered the same pizza every Friday evening for years from our local pizzeria and got a blank look from the owner EVERY SINGLE TIME I went in to pick it up (the other end of the customer service spectrum!) I'll take the Dunkin' Donuts crew being slightly overzealous any day of the week.

Anyway, this summer's promotional item at our DD store was Oreo donuts: white-cream filled donuts with white frosting studded with Oreo bits.  As far as The Girl was concerned, heaven on earth.  She ordered one every week.

Last Sunday, we went in and discovered that the Oreo donuts had left the lineup in favor of the fall promotional items.  We joked with Jay, the cheerful thirtyish manager who greets us every week, that this was going to be a calamity for The Girl.

When we walked into DD this morning, Jay immediately handed her a small bag.  She opened it to find an Oreo donut.  There were still none on the shelves: he had taken the trouble to make a single donut of a kind they don't sell anymore especially for her.

Yes, it's good to take care of regular customers and all, but that was above and beyond.  It completely made her day, and ours.  Kudos to Jay for his can bet we'll be staying in that rut.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I Don't Deserve My Husband

But I am very happy to be married to him anyway.

Found out yesterday that the father of a friend of mine died suddenly on Wednesday.  I gather that he had a massive heart attack.  He was suffering from early-stage Alzheimer's, so the heart attack may turn out to have been a blessing in disguise, but the family is not there yet emotionally and I can't blame them a bit.  The group of us are going over to her house tomorrow night to pay our respects.

Decided to make a pan of white chocolate macaroon brownies to bring along.  Not that it will really help anything, but at least it is a tangible acknowledgement of her loss and sorrow and something that I can do for her.  Because of the weekend logistics, I had to make them tonight--I was at various kid events for most of the day today and will be likewise occupied tomorrow.  Murphy's Law being what it is, I discovered midway through the baking process that I was two eggs short of the number I needed.

Himself immediately volunteered to run to the store for me.  Considering that we are talking about a 15-mile round trip in pouring rain on dark, winding two-lane roads at 8 o'clock on a Saturday night, this is a good man.  The icing on the cake is that he also came back with the popcorn and Pledge that had been on my shopping list, without me even thinking to ask.  Considering that he hates grocery shopping with a passion, this was a true gift of love.

He's a keeper, no doubt about it.  GradyDoctor, the BHE may be in danger of losing his title.              

Friday, September 21, 2012

Reality Check

Grouchy this morning, a little late and rushing to get The Girl to school.  I was driving along a wooded road near our house with my mind on the day's to-do list when a deer suddenly leaped out of the bushes along the road and directly into the car in front of me.  There was absolutely nothing the driver could have done about it; the deer emerged too suddenly from the thickets.  She hit the deer, a young buck, with a sickening thud, and I watched with horror as it flipped multiple times in mid-air and crashed back down onto the roadway.

Fortunately, I managed to swerve around her car, which had stopped abruptly, and then get back out of the other lane before the oncoming SUV hit me.  It's a two-lane road with no margin for error on either side, so we were lucky to avoid becoming collateral damage.  Scared the living hell out of me, though...the difference between the deer hitting her car and hitting mine would literally have been a second or two at most and I came way too close to hitting her car as it was.  My adrenaline was pumping for a good two hours afterward.  If either of us had been speeding, the situation would have been catastrophic.

There are constant arguments in the editorial page of our local paper between PETA types and hunters, particularly around this time of year.  This is a rural and agricultural community where you will occasionally see tractors, combines and hay wagons tooling down the main road, and the farmers don't take too kindly to having their livelihoods munched by the local herbivores.  If you look at the same paper's crime blotter, most of what you see reported there is small-time thefts, DUIs, and vehicle-deer crashes like the one this morning.  I can't even begin to imagine how many accidents there would be if hunting here was entirely banned, as some people are advocating.  Even the animal advocates agree that the deer population in these parts has gotten out of hand.

At any rate, my outlook for the day changed in that instant of shock, and the grouch has been banished.  Nothing like almost being in a serious accident to remind you of the difference between minor inconveniences and real problems.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tried To Fill The Tank Today

Was feeling a little low in the emotional reserves department last night, as I mentioned.  Went out of my way today to build back up, and was actually doing pretty well until the boys came home and completely blew my hard-won mental equilibrium with one thing and another.  Oh well.  In the immortal words of my friend Wile E. Coyote, "Back to the old drawing board."

It's a good thing that all three kids are in school full days, or I would have no down time at all.  I figured out yesterday that between them, we have 16 sessions of extracurricular activities a week, 15 of which are non-overlapping!  As scary as that sounds, it translates to two sports per kid, plus CCD for the older two, piano for Thing One and speech therapy for Thing Two.  God only knows how my friends with four and five kids manage their after-school mayhem, because I am clinging to the ceiling by my fingernails with only (ha!) three.  All my errands and cooking are now being done within school hours.

The really scary part is that, as crazy as the current routine is, it is a routine, and as such, infinitely preferable to the chaos of the summer as far as Thing Two is concerned.   He's doing great with it.  I, on the other hand, am currently sitting here stressing because we have a conflict on Saturday...two of us and three kids means that sometimes some serious juggling and help from friends is needed to get everyone where they need to be.  I'm sure it will work out, but this is so not what I feel like dealing with after a long day.

What I need right now is one of those duplicator machines of Calvin's (probably my favorite comic strip of all time.)  A clone or two of myself would be very handy.

Amazing What A Good Night's Sleep Can Do

Woke up refreshed to an absolutely glorious morning.  Clear and fresh, the air with a sharp bite to it, a few patches of red and orange and yellow now visible on the trees down by the boys' bus stop.  Fall is coming; my favorite time of the year.

Taking a moment to enjoy the view out the back window.  The kids are all off at school, and today the process of getting them ready and out the door went smoothly--even managed to convince both boys to wear collared shirts for their school pictures.  (This is an achievement.)  The dog is just inside the front door, lying in the warm sun spot on the hall rug and enjoying her moment of contentment too.

Off in a few minutes to put on my new super-mighty knee brace and gi (uniform) and head to my taekwondo class.  The goal for today will be to simply enjoy the class rather than worry about the upcoming belt test...I can only do what I can do and life is too short to be stressed out by my hobbies!    


Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Productive day, but one of those where I actually don't want to look at the crossed-off items on the to-do list because there are so many and it makes me tired to think about the schedule.  And that is unusual for me, because I am a list fanatic and I often measure the success of my days by what I manage to knock off whatever list I have going that day.

But on the bright side for today, everything got done.  Errands run and presents wrapped and newspapers dropped off for the friend who runs the dog rescue and kids shuttled from point A to point Z and everywhere in between with some homework thrown in.  As a bonus, we even located the two library books that have been AWOL for a month...sometimes the universe throws you a bone.  Best of all, my dad's surgery went well.

Dinner was a hasty, last-minute affair of spaghetti, salad and bread, and we were late to the last kid event du jour afterward, but sometimes that just happens and life will fricking go on.  Fortunately, nobody called me on being late, or it would have gotten ugly.  

The sad thing is that I really did mean to take Ms. Moon's challenge today and do something for me, even something small, just to feed my heart and soul.  My tank is low and needs filling, and I am ashamed to say that, yet again, I have failed to prioritize filling it.  Maybe I just need to write that on a list so it actually gets done.  

I hereby write it on my list for tomorrow.  As the saying goes, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Not My Tribe

I originally titled this post "I Just Can't Stand Most Of The Women At My Gym," but decided after the fact that this was probably a bit harsh.  It's probably better to say that they are just so unlike me that there is absolutely no common ground as far as I can tell.  I have a tough time with most large groups of women in general, actually.  Just can't take them.  Sorry to say that about my own gender, but it is what it is.  There's only so much superficiality and high-pitched squealing (and cattiness) I can handle.

Tried taking some classes (step, etc) when I first joined the health club about four years ago.  When I noticed that I was the only one in the room not sporting impeccably styled hair, full makeup and fancy workout clothing, it became clear to me that I probably wasn't in the right place.  For the next three years, I cheerfully bypassed the classes and went directly to the gym area downstairs, where I could use the weight machines, treadmill or elliptical in peace, far from the snooty stares of the decorative types on the first floor.

It was only after my sons started taking taekwondo a year ago that I was lured back upstairs.  What they were doing looked like fun, and I'd been told that there were adult classes a couple of mornings a week.  Happily, but probably not surprisingly, I quickly discovered that the kind of women who enjoy kicking and punching the crap out of things for exercise are a totally different breed, and much more my tribe.  In this bunch, hair and makeup aren't nearly as important as proper technique, and camaraderie (in the form of higher belts working with lower belts, and lots of laughs while doing so) is the name of the game.  Got hooked immediately and have never looked back.  A year later, I am getting ready for my third belt test, which should be next week if I don't bang things up too horribly between now and then.

The problem, of course, is my knee.  My proverbial Achilles heel.  Three months post-surgery, it is still not completely right, and may never be.  Kind of hard to do the sort of pivoting and twisting required on a bum knee, and according to the orthopedic surgeon, the only hope for it is to do some serious leg-strengthening exercises.  So I spent part of my morning today on an exercise bike.  While changing in the locker room, I was subjected to a conversation that drove me completely nuts, all delivered in breathy high-pitched tones:

"It's so good to see you!"  **hugs and air kisses**

"You look so good!  Have you lost weight?"

"No, and I can't even fit into any of my regular clothes because I spent too much time partying at the beach this summer, but you are so sweet to say that!  You look so good too.  I love the new highlights in your hair!"

"You have to try so-and-so at BigFancySalon...he just works wonders with my hair.  I don't like the manicurists there, though...they gossip too much.  I get my nails done at OtherFancySalon instead."

And on and on.  I escaped as soon as I could.

Maybe those women have other lives in which they are doctors or lawyers or pharmacists, butchers or bakers or candlestick makers or anything useful to society.  Maybe they are taking a much-needed break from raising their autistic children, or in training for a race that raises funds for cancer research.  Maybe away from the club they sound less airheaded and talk in a normal register, too, but holy cow--I'm probably never going to be able to talk to one (or hell, even stay in the vicinity of one) for long enough to find out.    



The Mother's Curse

"When you grow up, I hope you have a child JUST LIKE YOU!"

How many frustrated mothers have said that?

Mom certainly wished it on both of us kids more than once, but today I've been thinking about my brother for some reason.  He was a holy terror, the stereotypical rotten little brother, for a long time...for years I pretended not to be related to him.  I was very happy that he was enough younger to be in a different school building most of the time.  Boy, is Mom laughing now that he has three kids of his own, at least two of whom have heads as rock-hard as his.  (The jury is out on the third, who is still very small.)

She wouldn't wish all the ER visits on him or his kids, though.  He was on a first-name basis with every doc in the area when younger and is personally responsible for most of her gray hair, to hear her tell it.  His grasp of the connection between cause and effect was shaky...he'd do things like get on a skateboard at the top of a hill without considering how he'd stop the stupid thing at the bottom of the hill (where the cross street with traffic was.)

I remember him nearly breaking an arm when the vine he was swinging on broke.  (Not making that up.)  Mangling a toe in bike spokes.  Cutting a knee open when he fell into an ornamental and rocky backyard water feature (God only knows what he was doing at the time.)  Seriously damaging one retina playing squash and ending up in the hospital for a week.  Various football-related injuries.  Most terrifyingly, crushing a vertebra in his neck diving into too-shallow water.  He had to wear a halo cast for a long time after that (and still has the bolt scars in his head to show for it) but at least came out of that incident unparalyzed.  I'm sure there are more injuries I am forgetting, too--the family joke is that his guardian angel puts in some serious overtime.

Both of his older kids have been to the ER a time or two for various childhood mishaps (as, in fairness, have two of mine) but hopefully they will have more sense growing up than their dad did!  I will say for him that he never picked on smaller or weaker kids...if he took someone on, they were bigger.  Sometimes much bigger.  On one particularly memorable occasion when he was in second grade, the biggest boy in my sixth grade class.  Who was, fortunately for him, a patient soul with a good sense of humor.  

Despite all odds, he did manage to survive his childhood, and outgrew what I used to call his "toad phase" sometime in high school.  As an adult he is intelligent, handsome, and loving, a hard worker in a high-profile profession, and a good father.  Not a bad job, all told.  Thinking about it that way, he could do a lot worse than have his kids turn out like him, and Mom might even have been paying him a compliment way back when.

Even if that's not quite how she meant it at the time.

Monday, September 17, 2012

On Not Judging Books By Their Covers

Ron is the usual usher at our church on Sunday mornings.  He's warm and grandfatherly: the kind of usher who lets all the kids, even the little ones, help bring up the gifts during the service.  (He rubber-bands the lids on the wine and bread vessels closed so that they can't accidentally open in transit up the aisle, to the great relief of all the parents.)  He has a grandson with issues similar to Thing Two's, and has never hesitated to put my son right in there with all the other kids, even back in the days when he was acting up a lot more than he is now.  An ex-Marine pilot, he often wears golf shirts from tournaments supporting military charities or a US flag pin to services.

I learned this past weekend that Ron grew up playing soccer, and that a soccer scholarship was his ticket to college.  His dad drove a bus in the Bronx--there was just no extra money for anything beyond the basics.  This actually reminded me a lot of my father-in-law's story: his dad died young, and his mom worked as a cleaning lady and cook to support the family after he died.  With five kids, her salary didn't go too far.  Of those five, my father-in-law is the only one with a college education, and that only happened because he earned a track scholarship.  His four siblings all went into the Army straight out of high school.

Anyway, the reason Ron's story took me a little aback is that he's clearly very well-to-do now.  Drives a nice car, owns car dealerships or something, lives on a big, beautiful horse farm.  Not somebody I would have pictured growing up poor in the Bronx, if I'd ever stopped to think about it.  Clearly, he pulled himself up a long way, with some help from soccer and the Marines.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.  That's the best part of the story.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Life Lessons Writ in Sugar

Found myself on a train of thought today that started with the soda I was drinking at a soccer game and ended with apple-sized jawbreakers and gummy rats.

For two summers while I was in college, I worked at a soda fountain/candy store in the small West Coast town where my parents lived at the time.  The summer after freshman year, there wasn't much else available for me to do because I wasn't experienced enough for internships yet.  After senior year, I knew exactly what I was getting into with grad school and wanted one more low-stress summer at home before heading to the gulag in the fall.  So I weighed candy and scooped ice cream and turned out waffle cones for tourists again.

Figured out a couple of things on that job.

1) People who said that they were trying to lose weight often ordered the biggest sundae on the menu and a diet soda.  The filter between my brain and my mouth got a real workout sometimes.

2) It is actually possible (as unlikely as it sounds) to get so sick of sweets that you stop eating them even when you are surrounded with sugary deliciousness of every possible description all day long.  

3) Nothing good happens when you eat a quarter-pound of dark chocolate-covered coffee beans in one sitting.  Trust me on this.  On the subject of personal health, it is also a profoundly bad idea to try to scoop ice cream from a canister that one has only recently retrieved from the blast freezer: concrete is softer and wrists pay the price.

4) I was lucky to have had the opportunity to go to college.  Most of the people I worked with had not, and some were decades older than me and still hourly employees.

That last one was the big lesson.  At the end of the summer, I started grad school and never looked back.  And all these years later, I still don't miss the gummy rats.


Found this today on Facebook:

“I don't care if you're black, white, straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian, short, tall, fat, skinny, rich or poor. If you're nice to me, I'll be nice to you. Simple as that.” 

Simple as that indeed.

Another good one from him:

“You have enemies? Good, that means you stood up for something.” 

Food for thought on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Another Important Day In History

Today in 1949, the first Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner episode aired.

This was one of my absolute favorite cartoons as a kid.

Ok, ok...who am I kidding?  Still one of my favorite cartoons.

Not that I have a mightily juvenile sense of humor or anything.

No, definitely not.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"Shut Your Furry Lips!"

Just yelled by The Girl at her elder brother, overheard very clearly a floor up with the connecting door closed.  That's a new one on me.   

Earned this today.  For the thousandth time, fell into the trap of parenting a type B child through a very Type A lens.  Standardized test results came home.  Math and Language Arts.  Math absolutely blown out of the water--it would be almost impossible (quite literally) for the kid to have done better.  He was at the very top of the top of the chart.  This is his major area of academic giftedness, so not really a shock, but still a very pleasant surprise nonetheless.  

LA, not so much.  Above the state average and a pass, but that's it.  Actually closer to a non-pass than a high pass.  Now, I know that most people are better at one area than the other--Himself is a math whiz and words are more my thing--but if Himself and I had not spent the entire damned year last year working with the kid on LA, we would have been less frustrated today.  We both focused more on the disappointing LA score than the rocking math score, which makes us sad and pathetic tiger parents (and we aren't even remotely Asian.)  I swear to you, if I thought the kid was actually doing his best I would absolutely get off his is the contrast between potential and results that is going to eventually drive both Himself and me to drink.  Unless we learn to chill first.  At some point wanting the best for the kid because we love him is going to have to morph into letting him do his own thing and having the chips fall wherever they fall as a result, but that is so very hard to watch (because the motivation just isn't in him, at least not now) and we will somehow have to find it in ourselves to do it anyway.  

More things they don't warn you about in the parenting manuals.  Makes diapers and teething and colic seem trivial. I need to post this sign over my desk as a reminder. 



Friday, September 14, 2012


Mom and Dad left for the airport about 24 hours ago, so this is really the beginning of the new routine for the year--no longer do I have two extra pairs of hands around the house and an extra car for child-juggling purposes!  Had a few moments of mad panic this morning when I woke up late (still sleeping off the bug...) and had to get everyone dressed, fed and out the door in 45 minutes, but even managed it without having to wear my pjs to the bus stop, which is always appreciated by the boys.  Not to mention the older neighbor girl.

So far today have attended two consecutive meetings at the boys' school and have a third in about an hour.  So much for spending my first solo full school day of the year home in peace!  Beats yesterday, though--one of the first things I did after getting the kids off and attending my martial arts class was to get a flu shot.  My arm is not happy right now, but hopefully it will be pain-free in a day or two.  The thought of being down with the flu and still having to take care of all three rugrats is too scary to contemplate, had to be done.  (And at least their pediatrician gives them the nasal vaccine, so four of the five of us are now set and only I had to get a shot.  Himself can get vaccinated or not as he only stipulation is that he is not allowed to whine and moan in my direction if he does not get the vaccination and subsequently gets the flu.)  

Just made myself a delicious bacon and tomato sandwich for lunch and dug out the Halloween decoration box from the basement.  A few days ago I bought a new decoration that made me laugh.  It is something like this (the "In" sign can be flipped to read "Out."):

Since everyone in my life knows that I need this warning sign sometimes, I had to put it up immediately...maybe it should go on the front door year-round??  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

No-Mercy Mercy Rules

24 hour tummy bug yesterday, which was a really crazy day in the kids' schedule.  Made it through--I am a conscientious mom, dammit--but I'm glad it's over.  That sucked rocks.

On a slightly more cheerful note, thinking today about mercy rules in kids' sports.

Last weekend, Thing One's travel soccer team played in a tournament.  These typically involve four games, two each on Saturday and Sunday.  This time around, all of the first three were good, well-fought, evenly-matched games, one of which his team lost.  For various reasons, I was only able to make the fourth game, which was absolutely awful for everyone involved.

In the tournaments, the teams assigned to play each other are not always in the same flight (approximate level of ability), and in this particular game, our kids just outmatched the opposing team.  We were up 5-0 in the first fifteen minutes, at which point the coaches started rearranging our players so that nobody was playing in their usual position, just to make it a bit more fair.  At halftime, it was still 5-0.

The entire second half was effectively a giant game of keep-away.  Because the rules of the tournament strongly discourage running up the score (defined as score differentials of more than 5) our boys were not permitted to shoot at the opposing goal.  They spent the entire second half dribbling and passing around the field (mind you, the other team was still trying to score on them while this was going on, but didn't manage it.)  It got so bad that our goalie was playing halfway up the field and calling for the ball to be passed to him too, since it wasn't going anywhere near his position and he was bored.  

I understand what the coaches were trying to do--if our boys played normally it would have been a ridiculous final score--but it seems to me that playing keep-away and not actually taking any shots on goal isn't much better for the morale of the other team.  I think everyone left that field bummed--it was no fun for anybody.

In our local Rec soccer league, if one team gets too far ahead, that team has to bench their best player.  If they go up another goal, they bench their second-best player as well.  In some games last year 8 of our kids were playing only 4 or 5 opponents (it was a tough year), but at least it was reasonably balanced play at that point!   This is another way to keep games even, but not exactly good for the morale of the losing team either.

Believe me, I'm not one of those "everyone is a winner" kind of parents, and I think that kids do need to learn to lose with grace, but I haven't yet seen a good way to keep things balanced on a soccer field that isn't just as humiliating for the losing team as a massively lopsided score.  The question is whether the occasional blowout is a useful reality check and life lesson or something that drives kids out of sports.  Thoughts??      

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Eleven Years Ago Today

That morning, I was sitting in my office in Tarrytown, NY, in Westchester County just north of Manhattan.  Someone ran in to tell me to check the news.  We had no idea what was really going on at first--we hoped it was some kind of terrible accident.  Once it became clear that was not the case, everyone frantically started making phone calls to loved ones in the city.  

My brother was working on Wall Street at the time.  My sister-in-law (then his fiancee) worked at Cantor Fitzgerald.  I couldn't get hold of either one of them and was terrified.  All the circuits were overloaded or damaged and calls just weren't going through.  After long hours, I finally got a call from my parents on the West brother had managed to get through somehow and the two of them were okay.  I did get home to northern NJ, where I was living at the time, only because the bridges north of NYC weren't closed.  Many of my colleagues spent the night in their offices or in nearby corporate housing because the city was sealed and they couldn't get in.      

My brother's wedding was scheduled for the following month, in western Ireland.  Not much short of my only sibling's wedding would have gotten me on a plane in October of 2001, but I went.  The bride was about an hour late to her own wedding and nobody said a word.  Why?

This woman is late to absolutely everything, and on 9/11 it saved her life.  She stopped to change shoes and buy a pastry and missed her usual train, emerging at the WTC station as the plane hit her office.  The people at the meeting she was supposed to be attending were all killed.  My brother's office was unaffected, but he, thinking that she was at work already, tried desperately to get INTO the tower to get to her and was turned away forcibly by firefighters.  A terrible day. They moved to England shortly thereafter to get away from the physical reminders.

Thinking today about the senseless loss of life and innocence and the devastation of that day--death out of a clear and beautiful early September sky.  Attacking civilians out of the blue is the absolute worst kind of cowardice, and I hope the bastards who organized that operation are all rotting in hell while their 72 virgins laugh at their distress.  Yes, I am bitter.

My thoughts and prayers are with all those who lost a loved one that day.  May time bring them peace.


Murphy's Other 15 Laws

Too funny...had to share.  #6 is my favorite!

1. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
2. He, who laughs last, thinks slowest.
3. A day without sunshine is like, well, night.
4. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
5. Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.
6. Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.
7. The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90%probability you'll get it wrong.
8. It is said that if you line up all cars in the word end-to-ends someone from California would be stupid enough to try to pass them.
9. If the shoe fits, get another just like it.
10. The things that come to those who wait, may be the things left by those who got there first.
11. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and will sit in a boat all day drinking beer.
12. Flashlight: A case for holding dead batteries.
13. God gave you toes as a device for finding furniture in the dark.
14. When you go into court, you are putting yourself in the hands of twelve people who were not smart enough to get out of jury duty.
15. When you find you cannot do anything and have failed at even doing nothing......Run for a Congress seat.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Much Too Young To Feel This Damn Old

Love LOVE me some Garth.  Heard this song on the radio today and sang along full volume...I can only listen to country when I am alone in the car since the rest of the family hates it.  More fools they.

Feeling old and worn-out and crotchety this evening.  Out of patience, too.  Still adjusting to the change from summer to the school-year schedule, and Mondays are going to suck rocks for a while.  Sadly stereotypical, but true.  Definitely a crockpot day for me, or Himself won't be getting dinner.  It's always a challenge to keep extracurriculars from taking over all available after-school hours...for three kids, they add up fast.  In the summer I long for the routine of fall, but sometimes the routine gets overwhelming when it arrives!

Oh well.  Another beautiful day is forecast for tomorrow, which will undoubtedly put a smile on my face in the AM.  And for good measure, I think I will start my day by playing "Friends In Low Places" very loudly, whatever my family may think!  I defy anyone to remain in a bad mood for that whole song, particularly the live version.

Garth fan, over and out for today...

Oh, What A Beautiful Morning...

No, I am not going to launch into song, but it is spectacularly gorgeous here today.  Woke up to 58 degrees, bright sunshine, soft breeze.  The leaves haven't really begun to turn yet, and it will still be a few weeks before we see true fall weather, but this is a nice foretaste of it.

It makes me want to go pick apples and make a pie.  Maybe I'll do that later in the week.  Now, with the kids all at school and peace temporarily reigning in my house, I am going to finish my coffee and take The Hound for a walk so that she can enjoy the freshness of the morning too.

And happy birthday, NOLA. ;)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

An Open Letter To Dollar Rent A Car

Dear Dollar Rent A Car,

You lost a customer today.  You most likely also lost a lot of other customers, since we'll be sharing this story.  Your customer service (if you can call it that) leaves a great deal to be desired.

My parents, who are in their mid-sixties, are visiting from out of town.  They rented a car from you at the closest airport (~75 min away) and have been using it while they are here.  Yesterday, they drove it to visit my brother, who lives two hours away.  While they were at a restaurant with him, the car went dead.  The valet parking guys managed to jump it, but it died again at my brother's house.  Since no help whatsoever was available from Dollar that day, my parents called AAA, who jumped the car yet again.  The AAA guy warned that it could stop running at any time, but they did manage to get it back to my house (two hours' drive in pouring rain on the interstate.)

It went dead again in my driveway.

This morning, they called again to request a replacement car.  They were told that someone from Dollar could come out to jump the current car for a third time, but that my dad would have to drive it the 75 min back to the airport to exchange it for a replacement in person (and then drive it back here, of course.)  Never mind that common sense would tell you that the person coming all the way here from the airport to jump it could come out in a replacement car and drive the dysfunctioning one back themselves if they were so cavalier about the safety issues with it, but no.  That would actually be reasonable.

My father then said that they could just come and get the car; he didn't want a replacement car or anything else to do with Dollar and was not about to drive 2.5-3 hours himself round trip to replace their defective car.  Their response?
"You will have to pay the towing fee, then."

Hell will freeze over before I ever rent a car from these people.  My parents will never rent from them again.  I hope that some of you will consider using a different company as well, because this has been a completely unacceptable series of events.  And on the off chance that anyone from Dollar actually reads this and would like to weigh in, feel free to comment below.  I would love to hear how you can possibly rationalize having these as your customer service policies.

Best regards,
Mama D


Just for giggles, after I posted this, I put a link to it in a complaint form on Dollar's customer service website.  Figured it couldn't hurt.   Just received an automated e-mail back.  Check this out.

In part, it reads: "Your comments will be reviewed by one of our representatives and you can expect a response within the next 5 to 8 business days." (emphasis mine.)

Well, thank heavens for that tremendously rapid response time.  (Yes, I am being sarcastic.)  Digging yourselves a bigger and bigger hole, Dollar...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Today By The Numbers

7 loads of laundry (!)

1 trip to the grocery store for bacon

2 soccer tournament victories

goal for Thing One 

tournament afterparty

1 meltdown

3 seriously nasty bands of thunderstorms

0 power outages (astoundingly)

jumps required for one car

4 houseguests

2 boys in the basement in sleeping bags (the aunts have their beds tonight)

1 girl who chose to sleep in her own bed instead of joining her brothers

2 men watching football

1 phallic lawn ornament

4 women who love each other dearly talking and laughing in the kitchen till bedtime

1 good night.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Oh, This Is So True...

Not One Of My Shining Moments

A young friend of The Girl's called my attention to her skinned elbow this morning.   I asked her how she hurt herself.

With a completely straight face, the friend told me that she fell off the wagon.  Unfortunately, I responded by bursting into laughter.

Not at all appropriate, but her choice of words was priceless.  Fortunately, her mother was laughing as hard as I was, or we could have had an incident!

I Love Bill Cosby

One of my favorite comedians, hands down.  I was reminded yesterday of one of his best lines:

"The truth is that parents are not really interested in justice.  They just want quiet!"

Not entirely true, of course, but in cases of less than dire emergency, how much parental energy goes into getting low-level whining/bickering etc to stop??  Lots, at least here.  

Reflecting on this today as I sit in a blessedly quiet house after a morning of craziness. The Hound is my only companion at the moment, and she is sacked out on her bed in puppy dreamland.  I can actually feel my nerves unjangling and untangling--they have been so tightly wound for so long that I hardly remember how it feels to simply be still.

The phone just rang, and I am ignoring it.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Three Of A Kind

My mother's two older sisters arrived yesterday for a four-day visit.  They are sleeping at a hotel down the road because all the beds here are full, but are with us except at night.  For a first week of school that has involved four visitors, two of whom (my aunts) are largely unfamiliar to the kids, they are knocking it out of the park so far!  Another good day of school for everyone.  Officially confirmed for Thing Two by his school case manager, I might add...she says he's doing great.  Whew.  Also, I found out today who the aide in his class is, and I'm thrilled: besides being a special needs parent herself, this lady puts up with absolutely no crap and nobody will be messing with my son on her watch.   Important since one of the other kids in the class attempted to strangle him from behind last year, unprovoked and in front of my horrified eyes.  This mama bear is not one to be messed with when her cubs are involved...that kid darned well better not try to hurt my boy again.  But I digress.

Mom's sisters are seven and ten years older, and were very involved in raising her.  The three of them are so similar in personality that it's a lot like having three mothers (good thing that I like them all.)  The younger aunt and Mom even look alike physically as well.  It's almost spooky.  My aunts are both widowed now, and spend a lot of time together.  They bicker constantly (in a friendly way) like an old married couple...I have taken to calling them Aunt Fric and Aunt Frac.  

The four of us (the aunts, Mom and I) had a great time shopping at an outdoor mall full of girly stores today after we got the kids off to school.  Dad had the good sense to stay home because that place would have made him completely crazy.  He and Himself also went out for dinner by themselves to escape the houseful of estrogen...we've been joking that my husband is a brave man to come home to three of his mother-in-law every night!

I'm just glad for the time with my extended family, even if it is a crazy week.  Losing my uncle this spring was a painful reminder that we need to make the effort to get together in happy times, because reunions taking place on the occasion of somebody's memorial service are a lot less fun.  We've had a great time so far, and I'm even enjoying listening to the running commentary between Aunt Fric and Aunt Frac.  ;)

Don't Let The Bastards Get You Down

My dad's father grew up in western Pennsylvania (he and my Nana were married in Punxsutawney, home of the famous groundhog.)  Back then, and probably still now as well, a lot of the roads in that area were two-lane and winding and full of no-passing zones.  This was well before the era of the interstate highway.  Grandpa was a big raw-boned Irishman and a fun-loving and easygoing kind of guy, but getting caught behind a slow-moving big truck on one of those winding roads where he couldn't pass (which happened often) frustrated the ever-loving dickens out of him.  His epithet of choice for the trucks was "Bastards!"

Yesterday, after we got all the kids off to school and ran a couple of errands, Mom and I had a few free minutes before we had to start cleaning and cooking for the aunts' arrival.  We decided to celebrate the start of the school year with pedicures.  The salon is only about five miles from my house, but it is five miles of winding and narrow two lane roads, much like the ones that tormented my grandfather.  We were stuck behind a car with out-of-state plates that was doing 30 in a 45 zone for almost the entire way home.

My go-to vocabulary is different from Grandpa's, but the thought that I was channeling him at that moment made me smile.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Very Good First Day

So very happy tonight.  Yesterday's angst appears to have been for naught, but they do say that an optimist can never be pleasantly surprised...    

Last year Thing One got off the bus after school on the first day with a scowl on his face because of something a miserable rotten little twerp of a classmate had done to him at lunchtime.  Today he was all smiles, and he told me that this same twerp (once again in his class, sadly) may have turned over a new leaf since he was actually friendly.  May this continue.  He thinks that this will be his best year of school ever.  The Girl is at a new school, but walked in like she owned the place in her silver sparkly skirt and sequined sneakers and had no trouble at all.  She charmed the socks off her teacher and came out of school bubbling about her class.  And Thing Two was happy about his first day as well.  He wasn't even too burned out when he got home, which was completely amazing.  

My parents are still here, and today my mother's two older sisters arrived for a visit.  They will be staying down the road at a hotel at night but with us during the day.  Despite this additional departure from the usual routine on the first day of school for the kids, they took the whole afternoon completely in stride.  I was so very proud of them.

The icing on the cake?  The boys had CCD class this evening--not ideal on the first day of school (to put it mildly) but the schedule is what the schedule is and the coordinator has clearly never had children or she would know better.  I sat in on Thing Two's class since I had absolutely no idea how that was going to go at the end of a long and stimulating day.

He was SO GOOD.  And the lady leading his class missed her calling as a Special Ed teacher, bless her a thousand times.  From the back of the room, I could see him engaging with her and responding appropriately to her teaching style.  I choked up and am not afraid to admit it.  I so hoped that he would be ok in that class, and I think he will be.

Then I came home and ate a piece of spectacular chocolate pie, made by Mom to my Nana's passed-down recipe.  A sweet end to an unexpectedly sweet day.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Final Countdown

School starts tomorrow morning.

All three kids were completely out of control today.  Wild, emotional, exhausted.  Wondering how tomorrow will go, especially since the powers that be decided that the boys will have one of their regular after-school activities starting tomorrow.  I ask you: who in the hell schedules something in the evening for younger kids the very day that school starts?  Someone clueless who has never had children, that's who.

At least they all went down hard tonight.  Hopefully they will sleep well and get up cheerful and be enthusiastic about the new school year in the morning.  Hopefully it will also not rain like it did today, as waiting for the school bus in a downpour is no fun.  Will be on edge all day waiting to hear how things went, particularly for Thing Two.

But for the moment we are as ready as we are going to get.  Backpacks are organized and lunches are packed and all the kids are clean and shiny and sleeping.  Time to take a break and a deep breath and remember my mantra and blog namesake:

I have done what I can to prepare and tomorrow will be what tomorrow will be.  I cannot control the tides or much of anything else.  Not good at the whole serenity thing either, but working on it.

I Beg Of You

If there are any parents of autistic children in your life, or parents of any children who are "different" in any way, please read this post.  The author has the gift of putting into words what so many special needs parents feel but could never hope to articulate with such grace and clarity.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Monday Night

iPad in hand in the hours of darkness.  Clearly I did not learn anything from last night--here we go again.  Fool that I am.

Spent the evening assembling school supplies and sorting them into backpacks.  School starts Wednesday and I wanted to get things organized in case I needed to make a last-minute trip for a missing item or two tomorrow.  Fortunately, we seem to be in pretty good shape.

I love those commercials for back-to-school supplies with "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" as the theme song.  That is exactly how I feel right now.

The kids are ready to go back to school. They have been for a while now.  They need the structure and the direction and the release from each other's constant companionship.  Three really is a crowd and somebody is always left out of the playing pairs.  And don't tell me to have a fourth child, since I already have one more kid than hands and further down that path lies lunacy!  At least for me.

Part of me feels guilty that I am not one of the many moms on Facebook currently lamenting the end of summer vacation.  Maybe that's just the good moms.  Or at least the moms of lower-maintenance kids.  At this stage of the parenting game, I am "on" from the minute I get up to the minute they go to bed, and that is a LOT of driving and cooking and cleaning and playing and reasoning and working on speech therapy activities and refereeing (so much refereeing!!!) and I am just tired, bless it all.  If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy, and that is the truth.  Mama is ready for a break.

Mama still has a crazy schedule during the school year--three kids' worth of activities means that we have one or more things every day after school plus homework--but I can sit and read a book for an hour or walk the dog or get my nails done or heaven forbid go to the doctor without three kids tagging along and those things will be manna for my soul.  And because I do sincerely and deeply love my kids I will be a homeroom mom and class reader and party organizer and computer lab helper and school board member and all that at their school for them.  But I will finally have a few minutes' peace every so often and that will be good too.

Two days and counting.

I Need To Put The IPad Down

It is a real mistake to bring it upstairs with me at night.  Last night I was up until 2AM reading blogs. Part of the problem is that I enjoy checking out the blogrolls of people whose blogs I read--I figure that if I like what they write, I will probably like the blogs they read too.  But when I find a new blog I like, I usually read it back all the way to the beginning.  Does anyone else do this or is it just me??  Some of these people started posting a bazillion years ago and have thousands of back posts.  Damn you all for writing so much stuff that I want to read!  This lifelong addict of the written word is finding it impossible to keep up with the bounty that is the blogosphere...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

How I Met Your Father

This is another one of those posts that I hope Himself never reads because it will embarrass him.  So far, he seems completely uninterested in looking over my ramblings, which is doubtless a good thing, since I don't want any editorial comments from the peanut gallery anyway.  This is my space, dammit.

Both of my parents went to Catholic school straight through till university.  Raised on horror stories of plaid uniforms and nuns with rulers, I told them for years that I would never go to one myself.  Which of course made them laugh when I later chose a Catholic university with no prompting from them at all.  God has a magnificent sense of humor.

Many of my classmates emerged engaged four years later.  I was not one of them--I broke an ill-advised engagement and did also have a serious relationship with someone who turned out to be geographically incompatible in there as well, but that was it.  I told Mom that if I couldn't find a good Catholic guy to marry in four years at a university with a student body that was 92% Catholic and predominantly male, I should be allowed off the hook.  (I was joking with her...this was not really the goal of my college years!) Then I cheerfully moved to a traditionally Southern Baptist part of the country for grad school and dated an atheist for three and a half years.

Shortly before I finished grad school, I signed up for an internship in patent law that was offered through the school and promptly met a handsome Irish Catholic lawyer with the most beautiful green eyes I'd ever seen.  His office was a few doors down the hall from mine.  My secretary suggested that I ask him about something organic chemistry-related (his area of expertise) I needed to understand for a patent application I was drafting; a few days later he was in my office doorway asking questions about parts of DNA that regulate how genes are turned on and off (more my scientific area) in connection with something he was working on.  We got to be friends, and eventually more.

We met 14 years ago this week.   Amazing what you sometimes find in very unlikely places when you aren't looking for it.    


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Another One Of Life's Great Mysteries Solved

I've mentioned before that my mother's family was Italian.  My great-grandparents immigrated from Italy in the late 1800s; my grandmother was born here.  My great-grandfather did eventually learn to speak English, but not my great-grandmother, so Italian was the language of my grandmother's childhood home (although she did speak English at school.)  She never saw Italian written, however--she learned it phonetically from listening to her parents speak.

My grandfather had also grown up in an Italian-speaking home.  He and my grandmother spoke Italian together when they did not want their daughters to understand them, but it was very important to them that their daughters be American and speak English like Americans (this was at a time when assimilation was important)--so their daughters never learned Italian.  Some Italian phrases were incorporated into their everyday English conversation, however.

This morning, I was preparing cucumbers to take to my in-laws' house for the Oktoberfest party gurkensalat.  Thing Two was swiping them out of the bowl and eating them as fast as I could cut them.  In my mother's family, this sort of foodnapping has always been called "pitzking", and the person who does this is a "pitzkaral."  Bear in mind that in keeping with the family tradition, I had never seen these words written either--we were all going on what we thought my great-grandmother had been saying.  The words in quotation marks here are my best approximation of the way we have all been pronouncing them.

It occurred to me this morning, since my mother happened to be sitting in my kitchen while the cucumber-stealing was going on and I was telling Thing Two not to pitzk, to ask her exactly what that word meant in Italian and how to spell it.  She had no idea.  Ten minutes on Google Translate later, we were stymied: none of the words we could think of (picking, stealing, robbing, grabbing, etc) translated into Italian looked anything at all like what we have been so blithely saying for so many years.

I was racking my brain fiercely when it finally hit me: the word we were looking for was pescatore.  Fisherman.  Pesca.  Fishing.  Fishing a tomato out of the salad bowl.   No pesca.  Don't fish.

Essentially, we have been playing a multigenerational and multilingual game of Telephone, and have lost things in the translation as a result.  But it gave me a real sense of accomplishment to figure that out.

Day Of Good Beer

I'm mostly a wine and gin kind of girl (not together, please...) but there are two days of the year for beer drinking: St. Patrick's Day and whatever day my in-laws hold their annual Oktoberfest party.  This year, today is that day.  And yes, this is not October, but the Labor Day weekend works better for everyone's schedules and flexibility is a fine thing.

Both of my in-laws were civilians who worked all or most of their careers for the Army.  (They are retired now.)   They were stationed in Germany on two different extended occasions, including the period when Himself attended high school.  Their Christmas decorations are almost exclusively German, they have an unrivaled collection of oompah music, and my mother-in-law makes the best potato salad and sauerkraut in three states.  Their Oktoberfest party is an excuse to drink good beer, eat fantastic food, and hang out with friends and extended family--it is a bonus this year that my parents will be there too.

Oh, and of course the Notre Dame football game will be on...this is an Irish Catholic family and a Saturday during football season we are talking about, after all.

Time In A Bottle

Okay, time can slow down now, please. When I was a kid, I remember my mother saying that the days were long but the years were short.  I d...