Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Nice Boys Don't Kiss Like That"

The first part of one of the better exchanges in cinematic history. 

Completing the Pride and Prejudice trifecta, Himself and I watched Bridget Jones' Diary last night.  The quotation above is from the final scene; fellow fans will be familiar with Mr. Darcy's heartfelt response to this remark of Bridget's.  ;)

This movie is a veritable smorgasbord of awkward moments (not generally my favorite type of entertainment) but the ending is worth it.  And, of course, Colin Firth is one of the stars, so I would watch it just for that!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Daddy Long-Legs

I loved to read as a child.  Still do.  My mother was in the habit of buying me books that she thought I would like whenever opportunities presented themselves; one day when I was in junior high or high school, I came home and this book was on my bed.

Written by Jean Webster in 1912, it is the story of an orphan girl who grows up in a foundling home, and who is subsequently sent to college by one of the home's benefactors.  Much of the story is presented in the format of her letters to her benefactor.  I liked the book very much the first time I read it.  Then I happened to come across a quotation from the book a few weeks ago, which led me to track down an e-copy of the book and read it again.  I also found out that there is a sequel, which is now in the queue for reading as well.
A couple of quotations from the book that I particularly liked:

“It isn't the big troubles in life that require character. Anybody can rise to a crisis and face a crushing tragedy with courage, but to meet the petty hazards of the day with a laugh - I really think that requires spirit.
It's the kind of character that I am going to develop. I am going to pretend that all life is just a game which I must play as skillfully and fairly as I can. If I lose, I am going to shrug my shoulders and laugh - also if I win.” 

(On the subject of a snobby classmate--this is one of my favorite passages!)
“Her mother was a Rutherford. The family came over in the ark, and were connected by marriage with Henry the VIII. On her father's side they date back further than Adam. On the topmost branches of her family tree there's a 
superior breed of monkeys with very fine silky hair and extra long tails.” 

Monday, October 29, 2012

I Need Headphones

My kids have discovered the "Gangnam Style" video, God help us.  It is funny watching all three of them try to dance along, at least the first half a dozen times in a row...

It Flew Through The Air With The Greatest Of Ease

No idea where this came from (probably flashbacks brought on by doing math with Thing One) but for some reason I was thinking about my fifth grade math teacher today.  Specifically, the fact that he took it personally when we didn't pay attention in his class.

Granted, I owed him big...after I bombed the placement test in fourth grade because I was trying to finish first rather than work carefully, he was the one who rescued me from the remedial math class and put me in his advanced class, where I did well.  But as far as I was concerned at that stage of the game, once I got the concept of what he was teaching, I didn't need to keep listening, so I would sit in the corner of the classroom with a regular book hidden behind my math book and read peacefully during class.

One day, he noticed this.  Or more likely, by that particular day he had just had enough of it.  He came up next to me while I wasn't paying attention, grabbed my book, and tossed it the full length of the classroom, banking it perfectly into the trash can on the opposite side of the room.  And since it happened to be James Michener's book 'The Source' (yes, I was a precocious reader), which is the approximate size, shape and weight of a brick, it made a very LOUD thunk when it hit the trash can.  Everyone but me thought it was really funny, but I did actually pay attention in class after that.

In retrospect, it was probably good that I learned that lesson in a situation where the projectile in question was not aimed at me.  One of my more eccentric college Chemistry profs regularly chucked chalk pieces and blackboard erasers at students who tuned out during his classes!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Frankenstorm Cometh

Doesn't look good for the Mid-Atlantic and large chunks of the East Coast area in general.  I have lots of friends and family in Sandy's sights, including my brother, who lives on Long Island Sound.  Would appreciate any good thoughts/prayers/vibes/whatever you feel comfortable with on their behalf going into tomorrow and Tuesday.

A quiet afternoon here.  Dull and gloomy outside, and a mood to match.  I'm going to turn on all the lights and curl up under the blanket my aunt crocheted for me with a good book and a cup of tea.  Bacon-wrapped filet mignon and baked potatoes are on the menu for dinner...that will help too!

UPDATE: Just got word that my brother's family has been evacuated.  :(

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Holy freaking shit.  ND 30, Oklahoma 13.


I Want To Be Elizabeth Bennet Twice Over Now

I have read 'Pride and Prejudice' approximately a hundred times, and can quote large chunks of dialogue verbatim.  The DVDs of the 1995 British TV miniseries starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (swoon) are favorites, too.  So, when I saw that the 2005 movie version--the one starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen--was on TV the other night, I had to at least take a look, although I was prepared to hate Matthew Macfadyen with the fires of a thousand suns for not being Colin Firth.  And I did, at least initially.

But dammit, by the end the man actually had me pulling for him, and I have to admit that I liked the second proposal scene (the one where Elizabeth actually accepts Darcy) even better in this version than the other.  Despite the fact that part of the wording of the proposal here (the bit about being bewitched) is not in the book, and is most un-Austenlike in its sappiness besides.  Guess I'm just a sucker for a good romantic scene!    

Friday, October 26, 2012

So Bad

Himself and I were talking tonight about the couple we had over to dinner a few weeks ago.  The woman of the couple is a newish friend of mine but is rapidly becoming a good friend; the two men had met for the first time that evening, but hit it off unusually well.  Most of the time Himself gets along fine with the husbands of my friends, but he only really clicks with a few of them, and this guy was one of those.  For which reason, as Himself wryly observed just now, this couple was far more likely than average to implode messily!  Not that he would wish that on them, don't get me wrong, but that was what happened to the last two couple-friends of ours where he particularly liked the husband involved.

Most stories have two sides, and in each case, I only heard the wife's side after the fact.  That said, in both of those cases there seemed to be a lot of midlife crisis going on for the husband, complicated by a great deal of childhood baggage and probably some clinical issues as well.  (Blessedly, Himself has no baggage I'm aware of, but after the second couple filed for divorce I told him to buy a sports car if he ever felt the urge since it would be cheaper than a divorce and easier on the kids!)  The really sad thing is that both of these guys did the stereotypical  midlife-crisis woman swap--one his wife for his bimbo secretary, the other for a girl he worked with.  Both much younger.  Actually, in thinking about this, I'm wondering if I should be worried that Himself picked these two guys to particularly like out of all the husbands in our social circle???  If he has anything in common with them, I have a problem, but so far, he has been reassuringly adamant that he thinks both of them went off the deep end too.   In fairness to the guys involved, I also liked them a lot until they suddenly became people that I didn't recognize anymore, who did things that I couldn't believe I was seeing them do.

Anyway, this other couple has invited us over to their house for dinner next month.  Before we go, I'm wondering if I need to ask my friend about her husband's family history and mental health status!  This is not an area in which I want to go 3-for-3.

Can I Just Tell You How Wrong This Is?

Six Italian scientists and another official who failed to correctly predict the deadly L'Aquila earthquake were convicted of manslaughter on Monday and sentenced to six years in jail.

I wonder who in the world the Italian authorities think they are going to find to do those jobs now. Since when are earthquakes really predictable?  Imagine being jailed for failing to predict one.  And even if they knew one was coming, how in the world could they have determined when it would happen?

"To predict a large quake on the basis of a relatively commonplace sequence of small earthquakes and to advise the local population to flee" would constitute "both bad science and bad public policy," said David Oglesby, an associate professor in the Earth sciences faculty of the University of California, Riverside.

"It's chilling that people can be jailed for giving a scientific opinion in the line of their work," Roger Musson, the head of seismic hazard and archives at the British Geological Survey, wrote in a comment published on the organization's Twitter feed.
That, too.

 After the hearing, a lawyer for one of the scientists told reporters that scientists may now, effectively, be forced to rethink how they interpret science when citizens are worried. And that, he says, will compromise their authority. “In Italy you will now see many more false alarms in such situations, because experts will choose to cry wolf when in doubt. In the end they will become less and less credible.”

And who, exactly, will that be helping?  I understand that the sentence probably does help to give closure to those who lost loved ones or property in the earthquake, but I don't see how it could do anything but stifle the research that might make the prediction better the next time.  A real shame.   

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Verily, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

So, last Sunday one of the older ladies at Mass asked me if I would bake two cakes; one for the funeral reception of the woman from church who passed away on the 13th, and the other for a fundraiser for our local fire company.  Given that I am an almighty and everlasting sucker (and also that both of these are good causes) I agreed to do it.  Even knowing full well that I would have to bake both of them tonight, since on Thursdays I am home for approximately one hour between 9AM and 6:30PM, and no baking is realistically going to happen during either the pre-school craziness of the morning or between 6:30 and when the kids go to bed.  The cakes have to be in by tomorrow early afternoon. finally out of my hair, I break out my ingredients and start baking.  One chocolate cake, one spice cake.

The cookie sheet on which the foil pan containing the chocolate cake was resting buckled with the heat in the oven.  The raised corner of the pan had approximately no batter in it by the time I noticed, and the opposite corner was overflowing.  Cake totally trashed.

Then I baked the spice cake, using a different cookie sheet under that pan.  It didn't buckle, but for some reason there was a large, obvious bulge of baked cake in the middle of the pan when that one was done baking.  I did cut that off with a bread knife to level it and then frost the top with cream cheese icing to hide the damage, but WHAT THE HELL?   Two for two on pathetic cakes tonight.

As I type, a third cake (another chocolate one) is baking in a silicone bundt pan.  This is IT...whatever it looks like when it's done and glazed, it is going to the firehouse tomorrow.  Enough already!  If something goes wrong this time, I am officially removing myself from further baking duty, social niceties be damned.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Don't Know How Single Parents Do It

When Himself and I were first married, he had a job requiring a lot of travel.  And he was in business school part-time as well, so it was just me and the cat at home many evenings and weekends. Then it was me, the cat and baby Thing One.  He finished the MBA shortly before Thing Two was born, thankfully, but was still on the road a great deal. Those were challenging years, since Thing Two was a handful even as a newborn and the boys are only 25 months apart.  And of course, things became even crazier once The Girl was born.  Not entirely sure how we all got through that phase, actually.

A few years ago, Himself was promoted into a job requiring much less travel.  He likes the actual job less, but he spends much less time in planes now.  I've finally gotten accustomed to having him home every night.  Even after a long day at the office, he's great with the kids...this is a lifesaver since my stores of patience, which are sadly limited anyway, are completely depleted by their bedtime after long days of wrangling and logistics.  He handles the bedtime routine on his own more often than not...I just kiss them all goodnight!

Unfortunately, last week and this week he has had to work late a number of days, getting home well after the kids are in bed.  I'm not used to having to handle the whole show alone anymore.  Trying not to lose my gourd at anyone as the evening witching hour approaches is a real challenge!  I have so much respect for the parents who do this alone all the time...parenthood is the toughest job in the world if you do it right, even for two parents working together.

One Badass Mama

My sparring gear arrived today!

Head protector (essentially a helmet, but made of heavy foam rubber), foot protectors, hand gear (somewhat like boxing gloves, but open at the palms), and shinguards, all in black.  And, of course, a mouth guard--but that's pink.  Because I can still be girly while kicking somebody's butt.  ;)

Green belts and above are required to have this gear.   I've only sparred in (borrowed) gear once before--the rest of this week's classes will be interesting, but at least I am now equipped.  Movin' on up, and looking dangerous while I do it...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

School Board Meeting Tonight

And the hatches are battened.  Maybe I should bring a cask of rum, too, as long as I'm going with nautical metaphors.

Standardized state test results are in, and there are some gaps.  Will be interesting to see which parents show up tonight and what they say.  The teachers end up teaching to the test instead of just teaching...this is just SO not how it should work.  But state funding depends on it, so the game plays on.

The bullying issue is still hanging around, even though not on the agenda.  Changes are being made: good, meaningful changes.  Will be interesting to see if anything about that crops up in the public input session.  Finger-pointing and lawyers and name-calling, oh my.  Not the way you want things to go, from any perspective.  It all comes down to the fact that state and school district rules are not a good substitute for effective parenting.  This is purely my own opinion (and soapbox), of course.  But I heard of a situation from a neighboring school district last week that leads me to believe that we are not alone.

And of course, we are heading into budget season...that's always good for some fireworks too.

Could be a late one...wish me luck.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Feeling Ten Feet Tall

Just took one of the evening taekwondo classes at the dojo, which I rarely do because they don't fit the family schedule very well.  Was nervous since tonight's instructor was the dojo head and the theme of this week is sparring, which is never good when you are operating on gimpy knees.

Walked out of there with the first black stripe on my new belt!  The instructor tested me and another guy on every single green belt technique (rolls, breakfalls, and throws included) and a bunch of previous was a tough test and we legitimately earned those stripes.  To get one from this guy is a big deal, and it came when I sorely needed a boost...a great way to end the day!

I Sure Feel Sorry For Noah...

Because his mom did not shut up for one second during yesterday's soccer game.  And she sounded like Wolowitz's mom, for my fellow Big Bang Theory fans.  Annoying, abrasive, LOUD woman.  If I were her son, I would have wanted to crawl into the turf. "Go, Noah!"  "Get the ball, Noah!"  "Faster, Noah!"    Endless yapping.

At least, to the great amusement of our entire sideline and unbeknownst to her, her Noah (one of our opponents) happened to be lined up against our Noah for most of the game, so she was effectively cheering for both. And based on the outcome of the game, it seems that our Noah was paying more attention to her!

Her Noah probably tuned her out long ago.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Magically Disappearing Sunday

Can't figure out where it went.  Took the kids to Mass and then out for the customary good-behavior doughnuts while Himself was running, then the entire afternoon disappeared into the fog of two consecutive away soccer games separated by a few minutes of mad chaos.  At least Thing One's team won this time, and he had an assist. We got home late, then the mad scramble of dinner-bath-bed began and only crumbs of the day were left by the next time I looked at a clock.

But it was a good day--besides the successful race and the soccer win (one out of two games ain't bad) I found a delicious new recipe for spiced pork tenderloin with sautéed apples and served it for dinner with mashed potatoes.  And all three kids ate it cheerfully, which is saying something.

The dishwasher and washing machine are humming, the house is now quiet, and I am sitting peacefully.  A restful end to a busy day, even if a lot of it went by when I wasn't looking.  I need another Sunday to recover from my Sunday before the week starts...this was not even close to a day of rest!


For the non race-obsessed, this translates to an average pace of about 6:51 minutes per mile (!) for 13.1 miles (!!).

Himself may be completely nuts, but he's a darned good runner, and this was a new PR.  Way to go, sweetheart...

Just Remember, This Was A Purely Voluntary Endeavor

Himself got up at 5AM today so that he could be ready to leave the house at 5:45.  He drove to a city more than an hour away, parked, got himself into a starting corral, and is at this approximate moment starting to run a half marathon.  13.1 miles of hills in 40-degree temperatures, yet.  God love the man, but he is out of his mind!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

College Football Is Trying To Kill Me

I don't watch much televised sports.  Where I do have strong opinions about sports teams, they are usually negative--I will cheer for whomever is playing the (NY) Giants, the Yankees, the Miami Hurricanes, or USC, for example.  I can't begin to express how happy I was about the blaze of ignominy in which the Yanks went down last week...I worked in NY for a long time and Yankees fans are profoundly obnoxious.  The fact that I can't name a single player on Detroit's roster did not stop me from wishing them every possible success in the playoffs!

The only games I do watch religiously (pun intended) are Notre Dame's--the entire Irish side of my family has cheered them on in solidarity for at least three generations and I have no intention of being the one to drop the ball on that (unintentional pun.)  This despite the fact that the games have often driven me completely nuts over the years.  Today's nearly gave me a heart attack.  I was seeing visions of BC in '93 all over again for a while there, and it was not pretty!

One Minute Parenting

Side note: It seems very odd to me that tweenage boys' idea of a fun playdate is a beautiful Saturday afternoon spent sitting in the family room, each one staring raptly at his own Kindle Fire.  But they appear to be enjoying themselves and the company (they are chatting while they do it, at least), so clearly I am just getting old.  Sigh.

Anyway, thinking today about positive reinforcement and how it applies to parenting.  Yes, there was a train of thought there--I skipped over quite a few cars.  It started on the soccer field this morning.

A company for which I used to work had what they considered to be a culture of excellence, in the sense that they hired what they considered to be only the best people (don't take that as me blowing my own horn, please), expected them to perform well, and completely took it for granted when they did.  The only real feedback we ever received was negative, since success, good ideas, hard work, perseverance, etc were simply the baseline expectation and anything less was a disappointment to the management.  As it happened, my position was one in transition and I had the right skills to move with it, so I did well there, but that was not the typical experience.  Especially in my department, which was run by a very small man with a very big Napoleon complex who had a regrettable tendency to throw his underlings under the bus.  The fact that I left his department (and the company) still on good terms with him was borderline miraculous.

By contrast, the company for which Himself works takes a totally different approach.  They reward their high achievers with periodic bonuses--cash or stock.  At the end of special projects, or after a particular job well done, he might also receive a small token of appreciation: a gift card to a special area restaurant, for example.  Each of these rewards, large or small, comes with a letter of recognition and commendation.  They have made it abundantly clear that they value his contribution to the company and want him to stay there long-term.

My father worked for a major American company in various international offices (mostly in Asia, Africa and the Middle East) for my entire childhood bar the first few years.  An accountant by training, he was a country manager by the time I was old enough to start scoping out the bookshelves in his home office for reading material.  (I was a precocious reader, and he figured that his business books wouldn't hurt me any.)

At any rate, the message of one of those books has stuck with me through all the (many) intervening years--this must have been the mid-1980s.  The book is called "The One Minute Manager", and it was written by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson (had to go look that part up.)  The recommended system, in a very oversimplified nutshell, is as follows:

1) One Minute Goals
These should fit on one page and be readable within one minute.  The idea is that goals and expectations are spelled out in a clear and simple manner from the outset.

2) One Minute Praisings
This step involves the manager actively catching the employee doing something right and praising them for it immediately.  Think about the difference between this and managers who only give feedback when something is done wrong.  The idea is the the manager is proactive about finding things that have been done right to praise, with the goal of encouraging the employees to continue to do a good job and improve.

3) One Minute Reprimands
These are given as soon as something is done wrong.  They make clear what was done wrong and  how the manager feels about it, and are followed by an affirmation of the employee himself (i.e., the critique is of the work, not the worker.)  And once it's over, it's over.

My husband's company (unlike my former one) has a corporate culture of actively seeking people who have done something right and praising them.  Wonder if somebody there read this book.

This philosophy also makes a lot of sense from a parenting perspective.  (I just did a quick Google search, and it seems that Dr. Johnson has adapted these principles to parenting already, so this little epiphany of mine was about 30 years late in coming.  But at least I got there!)

Having not (yet) read that book, I would adapt the rules to parenting in the following way:

1) Set clear goals and expectations with (as opposed to for) your child.

2) Actively seek to catch your child doing something right (i.e., acting in accordance with the joint goals and expectations) and praise them for those specific behaviors or achievements when you do see them.

3) Be consistent, immediate and fair with reprimands for behavior that is not consistent with the joint goals and expectations.  And once the reprimand conversation is over, it's over and must be let go unless the problem recurs.

As a parent, I could do better on all of these.  I especially need to work on number two...positive reinforcement works really well on influencing behavior in my house.  It just requires that I pay more attention to good behavior and take the time to compliment the kids on it when I see it (instead of just getting on their cases when they misbehave as I so often do.)  Maybe I should buy the One Minute Mother book, now I know that it exists.

And I guess I owe my dad another thank-you for not objecting to the raids on his library way back when.  


Friday, October 19, 2012

A Kitchen Kind Of Day

When the weather gets cool (particularly if it is also rainy) and the Japanese maple trees in my neighborhood start looking like this:

I cook.

This afternoon, I made meatballs, soft pumpkin spice cookies, and two big jars of pickled jalapenos.  And then, later, two pizzas for dinner.  The house is full of light and warmth and good smells, my bulwark against the chill and dampness and mustiness of the descending autumn outside.    

I need to pick apples at the orchard, pounds and pounds of them.  It is time to fire up the food mill and the canning kettle for cinnamon applesauce and sweet apple butter.  To chop yet more apples for pie filling and chutneys.   To buy a big pumpkin,  let the kids turn it into a jack o'lantern, and then roast the seeds with spices.  The last of the summer's garden is gone: withered black casualties of the first hard frost a few days ago.  Time to embrace fall and its blessings and begin hunkering down for the winter to come.

“Of course, fall isn't just about preparing for winter. It's also about sitting on the patio in a worn wool sweater and warming your hands over the swirl of steam rising from a coffee cup. It's about walking across a darkened yard and seeing a flight of geese cross the face of a full moon. It's about settling in, relishing sights and sensations of a world slowing down.” 
--Brent Olson

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mailbox Moves

Had to take Thing Two to the dentist this morning for some sealing work.  Since what he needed done is effectively the fixing of a cavity without a cavity actually being present (drill and Novocain included), he was not very happy about it.  And the dentist really pissed me off by informing me crabbily after the fact that he was upset during the procedure.  No shit, Sherlock.  You expected hearts and flowers and joy, for crying out loud?  He let you do your job.  Take your sanctimonious attitude and shove it.  In her defense, she's usually very good with him, and he's usually very good with procedures--maybe this was just a bad day.

At any rate, he went cheerfully to school afterward, and I went home and did some outdoor painting to blow off steam.  The doors and trim on the big shed are now flawlessly white, as is the mailbox post.  And thanks to Phil the handyman, I did not have to take my life into my hands to paint the post this time around.

We live on a rural county highway.  Unfortunately, the mailbox is on the opposite side of the road from the house.  Do builders actually have to consult the post office to see which side of the road to put mailboxes on?   Anyway, to add insult to injury, the mailbox was originally located so close to the road that the snowplows or passing trucks clobbered it once or twice a year.  I took to buying replacement mailboxes and installation plates two at a time at Home Depot, to make it easier to replace the damn thing post-impact--at least there would always be a spare in the basement.  But having to stand in the middle of the road to fix it every time was annoying, not to mention seriously hazardous to my health.

So, when the post rotted out and fell over last spring, I had Phil put the new post two feet further back.  Yes, it took me six months to get around to painting it.  It happens.  But at least I was safe this time when I did it.

And the next time a truck or snowplow veers too close to the edge of the road, it will take out my next-door neighbor's mailbox first, since his is now the furthest forward.  Serves him right for letting his dogs run loose.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Great Relief

Parent-teacher conferences for both boys tonight.  Three in a row--both homeroom teachers and Thing One's math teacher.  Thing One is having some trouble organizing and focusing himself this year, and he is in a brand-new accelerated math class due to his test scores, so we thought it might be a good idea to touch base with that teacher as well.  The good news is that both of his teachers understand what type of kid he is and are (cheerfully and willingly) working with him to get him where he needs to be from a logistical standpoint.  We figure that this is going to be a transition year for him, big-time.  I'm not so much worried about grades, but him learning to be organized and efficient with his time, to bring the right books and papers home, and to pay attention in class are going to be the key things for the year.  So far, so good.

Thing One settled, we then went downstairs to see Thing Two's teacher.  His conferences have often been difficult in the past, to say the least--not because of any issues with the teachers, but simply because of his issues: academic, social or otherwise.  Tonight's was good.  He's doing well in math, tested significantly above grade level in reading, and most importantly as far as I'm concerned, is behaving himself in class and interacting well with his peers.  We have goals for him too, but so many times I've walked out of his conferences ready to cry, and tonight I was positively chipper.  Progress...        

The Living Embodiment Of Murphy's Law

I have a very close friend for whom things often go wrong, sometimes comically so.  Fortunately, she has a very good sense of humor as well, so she was laughing yesterday when she called to pass along her latest gem.

Her 93 year-old grandmother had a date in traffic court yesterday morning.  My friend is an attorney, although she was just accompanying her grandmother to court for moral support.  Her grandmother's original explanation for her ticket was that she had pulled into a parking lot the wrong way.  Turned out that she had driven across a curbed median (!) and into lanes of oncoming traffic on a major highway (!!) trying to get to the parking lot, as my friend discovered in the car on the way to court.  (I gather that the judge did not have jurisdiction to confiscate her drivers' license, although that is a crying shame.  My friend has been urging her father to take away his mother's keys for the past 24 hours straight.)

But the funny part is that my friend was pulled over for speeding on the way to the courthouse.  Seems that she and her grandmother got into an argument in the car about the grandmother's continued ability to drive once the ticket situation became clear, so my friend was not paying quite as much attention to the speed limit signs as she might have otherwise.  And the icing on the cake was that the policeman who pulled her over happened to be on his way to the same traffic court, where, as the ticketing officer, he was scheduled to testify against her grandmother for the original moving violation!  As she discovered when he walked into the courtroom a few minutes after she did.  I don't know what the odds are of having the same policeman pull both of them over on different days in a highly populated area with lots of policemen, but I'd play the lottery if I had that kind of luck.

Ticket or no ticket, I was just glad to hear that she was the one driving to and from the courthouse, and not her grandmother!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Got A Darwin Award Candidate For You...

For anyone who may not have heard of these, they are (very tongue-in-cheek, and typically posthumous) 'honors' awarded to people who have done the human genepool a service by removing themselves from it, usually by doing something colossally stupid!  This website lists hundreds of Darwin Awards stories, if you have some time on your hands.

Came across a real contender for one of these awards myself tonight: a man on a bicycle with no helmet or reflective gear other than a few stripes on the ankles of his pants, riding on a narrow two-lane road with no streetlights or real shoulder in rush hour traffic!  In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, "What a maroon."


Monday, October 15, 2012

Rainy Days and Halloween Humor

Rotten weather here today.  I have to agree with whomever said that mutts are generally smarter than purebreds: our dog categorically refuses to go out to do her business in the rain except in cases of dire emergency.  She takes a few steps out the door, looks at me as if to say, "Are you kidding me?  It's wet out there!" and scurries back inside.  When she absolutely can't wait any longer, she runs to the nearest patch of grass and then immediately returns to shelter.   I can relate to this: I don't much like rain either.  And gloomy cloudiness sends me to the nearest bright light source for solace.  I will never move to Seattle!

Making plans for Halloween today.  We will be attending a party at a friend's house and then going trick-or-treating in her neighborhood, which celebrates this holiday in style and with great attention to detail.  To the extent that there are some houses even Thing One--the oldest child in the bunch--refuses to approach because their decorations completely freak him out!  (I have to admit that the one with the shrouded 'body' hanging off the balcony, the dry ice clouds in the yard veiling the faceless druid-type figures moving silently through the bushes and the open hearse in the driveway creeped me the heck out last year too.)

Which reminds me of a favorite story: the year Thing One was two, we went trick-or-treating in a different neighborhood with a couple of my girlfriends and their daughters, who were also both two at the time.  We'd been coaching the three of them for the whole afternoon on the process, since they were all essentially new to celebrating Halloween at that point: i.e., you knock, they open the door, you say "Trick or Treat," they give you candy, you say "thank you," etc.  We thought they all had it down.

Then we got to the first house.  They knocked, but completely froze when the stranger inside opened the door and looked down at them.  From the steps, one friend prompted them: "What do you say?"  To which all three replied, in unison, "Please?"

At least their collective early training in manners held up under stressful conditions!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Just Call Me Oscar

Well, we only had to drive 80 miles round trip to watch Thing One's soccer team lose today--better than the 120 miles two weeks ago, anyway.  This just seems completely insane to me.  It is called "travel soccer" for a reason, but it seems that there would have to be opponents who live closer than the ones we've been facing recently.  My weekends in spring and fall are a never-ending series of soccer practices and games taking place from hither to yon and all points in between; despite this fact, I still don't recognize offsides when I see it.  Not sure I ever will.

Very grouchy right now; sorry.  We had a truly wonderful time with the friends who came over last night, but got to bed too late and up too early and have been going like hell all day.  We also found out this morning that a friend passed away last night.  It wasn't unexpected (she was elderly and had been seriously ill for some weeks), but it was a very sad event.  Her husband of 50+ years and family were at church this morning and it was actually painful to look at the new widower...his grief and shock and despair were so palpable.  And when he thanked the congregation for their thoughts and prayers, there were very few dry eyes in the room.

With that as a frame of reference, the small annoyances of the day should have been recognizable for the trifles they were, but somehow I just couldn't make that leap today.  Idiot drivers and bureaucratic nuisances and parking travails all took on much greater significance than they deserve on any day, let alone on one in which such a dose of perspective was administered.  Doesn't reflect well on me.

Time to go make a big cup of tea and drink it.  After which I will pull on my big-girl pants and stop being so damned crabby, or at least go to bed so that nobody has to deal with me till tomorrow!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

All Hail Himself...

My savior: restorer of the internet connection (without which I am legendarily cranky.)  Apparently the problem was a cable inside the house as opposed to the actual internet service, which I would most likely not have figured out without great effort.  When we agreed on the division of labor very early on in the relationship, he got everything involving electronics for good reason.  (He also has two Engineering degrees, which helps.)

Have been cooking all day and the house smells amazing: herbed pot roast simmering in red wine in the crockpot, mashed potatoes, green beans with bacon, fresh bread.  My friend is bringing dessert. Unfortunately, I ended up doing all my usual pre-visitor cleaning as well...I think I need professional help.  I just don't like having people over when things aren't tidy, which is pathetic but it is what it is.  I guess if nothing else, having people over periodically makes me deal with our disaster areas (primarily flat surfaces in the kitchen and family room!) before they get completely out of control.  

Although it would make me feel a lot better if things actually stayed clean afterward for more than ten minutes, I think that's a hopeless cause.  Even St. Jude wouldn't be up to that task.  

Anyway, looking forward to a fun afternoon and evening with our friends and hopefully a good dinner!  My reward for the morning's toil.

Unfortunately, I Am Not The Queen

I have no Internet access right now on anything other than my phone.  Am in serious withdrawal. I gather that the cable company is having trouble in my area right now.

If I were queen, I'd make them fix that immediately too.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Go Ahead, Hit Me Right Between The Eyes

A Facebook friend recently shared an article called "10 Great Ways To Be An Unhappy Mom." A couple of these really hit home for me, especially number 3:

"Base your contentment on the state of your house. I like a tidy house. I feel more on top of my game, at ease and productive once it is relatively “clean.” But I would have gone insane (and taken everyone with me) if I held onto the idea that I could only be content once everything was “in its place.” Kids exist to dispel this notion. Likewise, feeling the need to apologize for the state of things upon welcoming unannounced visitors is like saying, “I’m sorry you have to see that we live in this house.”  The notion that homes must look like display windows before they are presentable to guests is a crying shame in a culture so starved for community."

Guilty as charged, unfortunately.  I'm the crazy woman who cleans the house before anyone comes over, including my best friends, babysitters, and the cleaning lady (back when we had one.)  No joke.  Even in the absence of visitors, I can only take so much disorder before I go ballistic and start ordering all of my minions (aka Himself and the kids) to start tidying up their crap before it all gets tossed.

I am descended from a long line of Italian neat freaks.  My grandmother raked her shag carpets multiple times a day, for crying out loud.  It's in my genes to prefer order, but that just isn't realistic in a house with three kids and a dog and a crazy schedule.  Piles of paper accumulate on flat surfaces, and dust bunnies that are 90% dog hair in corners, and spiderwebs on the ceiling, and this is the way it is.  Eventually I will give in and accept that I am doing my best with the time and energy that I have and that my best is not going to involve a perfectly clean house at any point in the foreseeable future.  I hope I will, anyway.

Thinking about this because a new friend and her family are coming over for dinner on Saturday.  I've never seen her house, and so have no idea how ours compares.  My goal for the evening is to spend more time enjoying my friends and less time worrying about the house looks.  I'll let you know how well I succeed with that.

Wish me luck!

I Love My Son. A Lot.

Thinking about Halloween costumes again today.  For some reason, I was reminded of the year Thing One was three, which was the last time I made a costume for him rather than buying one.

At that point in his life, he was going through a huge "space" phase.  Some little boys like dinosaurs or robots or superheroes or firemen or whatever--his thing was the solar system and he knew it in frightening detail.  At any rate, that year he wanted to be the planet Saturn (!) for Halloween.

Now, I can only imagine that this is not exactly a common request.  There is (or at least was way back then) no such thing as a planet costume, toddler-sized or otherwise, available commercially.  Not even the sun or moon!  So, being the lunatic that I am, I decided to make him one.  It took me several weeks, on and off.  I rigged what was essentially a fabric covered planet-shaped sandwich board (back and front) that hooked over his shoulders and around his waist, with horizontal 'rings' made of striped fabric that attached to the shoulder straps by fishing line.  Getting the rings to work gave me fits...I asked several times if he would consider being Earth or any other non-ringed planet, but no dice.

He wore black sweats under this and looked adorable.  His preschool teacher laughed out loud when she saw him in costume at their Halloween parade.  He got some double-takes and odd looks while out trick or treating, but he was a very happy little Saturn and that's what mattered.

And that costume is still in my basement...after all that work, there's no way I was tossing it!  Anyone know a space-obsessed preschooler who wants to be Saturn for Halloween?  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Real Accomplishment

It occurred to me the other day that I really needed to get the pile of mulch off my driveway before it starts to snow, since it would block the snowplow's way and result in Himself not being able to get to work, which would not go over well.  (Not that it is going to snow in October, but who wants to work outside when winter actually sets in?)  Of course, the mulch has been there since sometime in May, covered with a ratty green tarp for maximum scenic effect--we used about two thirds of the massive pile we started with on that day when my husband showed me how much he loves me, but the rest has been sitting in the same place since then, quietly mocking me.

Today I took stock of the outside of our house, realized that I could not take the disaster area that it had become for one more second, and broke out the wheelbarrow. Two hours later, the pile is gone, the flowerbeds look much better, and my back is dead.  But it's worth it...the yard no longer looks like the Beverly Hillbillies live here.

Watch it not snow till January now!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I'm Square And I Know It

Went to the local Halloween costume popup store earlier in the week.  I'm fortunate this year in that The Girl already has her costume (a hand-me down from a friend) and that Thing One is making a costume out of stuff he already has.  That left me just Thing Two to cover, but apparently every mother in the area thought to go costume shopping before I did, and most of the bigger-kid costumes were already sold out.  The only one I could find in his size was a Captain Jack Sparrow outfit, and he has no idea who that is.  Had to go home and order him a costume online, which is what I should have done in the first place to save myself the aggravation.

The costume store was something else, anyway.   Seems like Halloween is basically dress-like-a-skank night.  For adults, I could care less...their choice.  Could not believe the little-girl costumes, though.  Hoochie mama Minnie Mouse, anyone?  Bet Mickey would love him some of that, but not on my kid!  I'll make her a costume first.  Would rather she not look like she belongs on a street corner somewhere, and if that makes me a PITA mom, so be it.

I'll need lots of practice before she gets to high school.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sometimes I Forget How Far We've Come

Day-to-day, it is hard for me to see Thing Two's progress, for it is slow and often subtle and I am sadly distracted by the circus that is our life.  But then something hits me in the face, and I marvel.  Tonight, it was watching him earn the red stripe for his belt through the window of the dojo.

In our martial arts system, progress through the skills required for a particular belt level is demarcated in stripes (applied by an instructor using electrical tape) around one end of the belt.  Mastery of specific items is required for each of the six black stripes.  The seventh and final stripe is red, and its presence on a belt signifies that a senior instructor has examined the wearer on all belt-level skills and that the wearer is ready to test--in public--for the next belt up.

I've mentioned before that we got into the whole martial arts thing only because Thing One was having trouble with a bully at school.  Observing that there was a class immediately before his for kids of Thing Two's age, I approached the program head, explained his auditory processing difficulties, and asked if it would be permitted for him to try the class and see if he could handle it (bearing in mind that 45 straight minutes of direction-following is a hell of a big deal for anyone who needs extra language help, let alone a kid.)  To his credit, the program head agreed immediately, and Thing Two proved up to the task.  He is a very gifted athlete, which helped, and he has worked hard.

But still--tonight, I watched with my heart in my throat as this same wonderful program head tested him in the front of the dojo.  All the techniques.  All the self-defenses.  The form.  Not some watered-down version, no accommodation for the special-ed kid, but the real red stripe test.  With purely oral directions.  And he freaking NAILED it.  I was jumping up and down like a crazy lady and totally soggy-eyed in the hallway by the time that last stripe went on.      

His formal belt test is at the end of the month, and you can bet that I will be in that dojo cheering him on.    But as far as I'm concerned, he's already earned his new belt, and I am so proud of him that I could pop.  Thinking tonight of the three year-old who didn't understand a word anyone said to him and how he metamorphosed--one tiny, tiny step at a time--into the child who stood proud in the dojo tonight.  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Very Nice Surprise

Look at what showed up at my house this afternoon!

In case it is hard to tell from the picture, this is a full bushel basket of corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.  A girlfriend of mine is married to one of the big farmers in these parts.  I did a small favor for her a few weeks back (nothing any real friend wouldn't do in a heartbeat, I should say) and she brought this over today as a thank-you.  Over-the-top generous, no doubt, and I told her that, but she is married to one of those guys who hates to feel beholden to anyone, and giving out produce from his farm makes him feel better.  

A welcome reminder of summer for me on this blustery fall day!

50 Degrees And Raining

How glad am I that our big Town Day event at the park was yesterday and not today??

One of the boys' two soccer games scheduled for this afternoon was cancelled: fortunately for me, the one I was supposed to be attending.  While Himself and Thing One slog through the muck at the field, I sit cheerfully in my warm kitchen, all snuggled up in fleece and drinking hot tea.  A loaf of bread is rising and homemade soup is on the stove, so at least my gallant warriors will return to a cozy house smelling deliciously of homemade goodness.

When the days get raw like this, all I want to do is hibernate at home.  Perhaps I can even persuade Himself to build a fire later.

Happy Sunday...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I Am Wiped Out

But oh, what a good day we had.

Our annual Town Day was today.  It's no exaggeration to say that we (the local Recreation committee of which I am currently the chair) have been working on this for nine months.  It is the biggest event on our calendar, and to make things even more complicated, we added half a dozen new components to the event this year just to shake it up a little.  Getting this event right involves coordinating food vendors, exhibitors, lighting, sound, bleachers, stages, rides, permits, antique cars, the baked goods competition, bands, hot air balloons, parking, pony rides, emergency providers (fire, police, rescue, etc) and probably other things I'm forgetting right now.  And of course, all of this is at the mercy of the weather, so sometimes we have to cancel it at the last minute after all this work.

When I went to bed last night, the forecast for this afternoon was a 40% chance of showers.  When I woke up, it had dropped to 20%.  The day was overcast, cool and breezy, but the rain never came.  Absolutely everything went off without a hitch except that it was too windy for the hot air balloons to safely lift off, so that part of the day had to be scrubbed.  A full day of setting up, running around and making sure things were going smoothly ended at sunset with a glass of wine and a fantastic band down at the park.  A perfect way to close down.

Wiped out but riding high on adrenaline and success.  A good trade overall.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bad (Pink) Mom Moment Du Jour

Had one of those days where I was running flat out from 7AM onward, between last minute logistics for the big community event that we are putting on tomorrow and all the usual juggling relating to having three kids with activities and only one of me with one car.  I wasn't actually late to anything, but it was very close on several different occasions and I hate that.  It's a pet peeve of mine.  By the end of The Girl's taekwondo class this evening (in which she kicked butt, I do have to say) all I wanted to do was make the necessary quick run to the grocery store and go home.

We were in our final aisle when The Girl looked up and noticed a preteen boy wearing what looked like pink soccer socks with the breast cancer ribbon logo on them.  It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, after big deal.  Except to The Girl, of course, who had to ask me (in a voice loud enough to carry to the boy and his mother and the rest of the aisle, because Murphy's Law is my everloving shadow) why that boy was wearing pink socks because pink is usually for girls.  And the mother, who apparently had had the same kind of day as I, looked at me and said snippily, "Well, why aren't you explaining it to her?"

OK.  Let's start with the fact that she is young enough that she doesn't really understand what cancer is, breast or otherwise, and has no idea that a pink ribbon or the color pink in general are associated with this particular disease.  This being the case, I was having a hard time finding the correct words for an age-appropriate and quick explanation for the socks in a crowded supermarket aisle, hence the momentary hesitation.  Oh well.

Ironically, my doctoral thesis research was breast cancer-related.  I know so much about this miserable disease that words fail me when I need to explain it to a child.        

Thursday, October 4, 2012

An Eye-Opening Experience

I went to a new eye doctor for a checkup today.  It was an interesting experience, but fortunately not nearly as bad as Ms. Moon's last trip to her mother's eye doctor.

For one thing, the prescription-determining machine showed that, although both have decent absolute vision, my right eye focuses better on things that are far away and my left eye on things that are close to me.  I gather that this is very unusual: essentially, I have built-in bifocals!  As the tech said, at least I'll never need Lasik.  I don't need glasses at this point--hopefully my eyes will continue to work together in peace and harmony.

For another thing, this doctor is apparently a recent convert to the joys of omega-fatty acids and touts them--at great length--as a cure or preventative for everything from eye dryness and infection to heart disease and arthritis.  Yes, I understand that there is a lot of supporting scientific evidence for this, but the enthusiasm level left me wondering if he is paid to pitch this stuff.  I get the feeling that every patient of his probably walks out the door with a sample pack of fish oil capsules, no matter why they came in.

Then, he asked about my eye history.  I mentioned that I had originally come in (to a different doctor in the practice two years ago) because I was having what turned out to be optical migraines and wanted to know what the hell was up with the occasional shimmering lights in my field of vision.  Note to anyone who is also clueless about this: it is entirely possible to have the classical migraine aura without the subsequent pain that would be the big clue for the migraine diagnosis.  Also, one grandmother had a genetic condition that affected her retinas, leaving her mostly blind.  Apparently there is a new DNA test for this, that will tell you what your risk level is of developing the disease.  He was really pushing me to have this test done.

I don't want to, for a couple of reasons.  Unless there is something I can do about it (other than wear sunglasses, which I do anyway), why have that knowledge hanging over my head??  Also, I don't want it to be an insurance issue somewhere down the line, when somebody's server gets hacked and secure medical info inevitably becomes insecure.  No, thanks very much for the offer.

But the icing on the cake was when he (having gleaned from our conversation that I am a biologist) asked if I was teaching it somewhere.  I told him that I've been working for patent lawyers since I earned my Ph.D., at which point he told me about three of the ideas for new inventions he's had recently and asked me to meet him for coffee sometime so we could discuss having me do patentability analyses for him.  Not making that up.  I'm going to assume that this was not a pickup line, although it will count as the first and only time that I have been asked out for coffee by a doctor at the end of an exam!  (As it happened, I was not wearing my wedding rings, only because last week was sparring week at the dojo and I jammed the knuckle on my wedding ring finger in a big way blocking a kick--a week later I still can't physically get my rings on.)  I politely declined the offer.      

At least I don't need another exam for a year.    

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Love This

Saw this bumper sticker today and it made me laugh.  It's one of my favorites.  And yes, I know that this is a paraphrase of Tolkien's "Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle, and quick to anger," but I like the dragon version better. 

It was particularly appropriate, too, since I spent a good chunk of my day on fire-related matters.  Not that anything has burned, thankfully--just trying to organize an inspection by the state fire marshal for an event this weekend that I had no idea required fire inspection till this morning.  Nothing like short notice to get the ol' adrenaline flowing.  Because I am insane and have nothing else going on (ha), I am the chair of the committee that puts on all the fun events for my town, and the biggest one of the year is this Saturday.  If I survive until Sunday, it will be a major achievement, and will involve much wine.

One of these years, I will actually learn to use the word 'no!'

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Latest Sign That The Apocalypse Is Nigh

When I opened The Girl's backpack folder this afternoon, there was a class trip form in it.  The ones that parents have to fill in before their little darlings can leave the school grounds for educational expeditions...formal permission, insurance and allergy info, emergency contact numbers, liability release, etc.  I've filled in dozens of these things by now.

But this is the first one from The Girl's new school, which clearly does things a little differently.  Believe it or not, I am required to get this signed permission form NOTARIZED before I can return it.  I actually called another mother to see if they were serious.  Apparently this requirement is because some hospitals require a notarized signature in the event that medical treatment must be provided for the child while they are on the trip, if the parents are not immediately available, but I'm not aware of any other schools in the area that take this approach to the forms and it seems like legal overkill to the nth degree.

So...before my child can go on a two-hour school trip to a local farm for apple picking or pumpkin picking or some such wholesome fun, I have to go find a notary public.  Does anyone else think that this is completely ridiculous, or is it just me??

Monday, October 1, 2012

If I Had Not Been Up So Late Last Night Watching Football, This Post Would Be Much Less Rambling

Random thought for the day: if orthopedic surgeons are going to recommend that their knee patients ride a stationary bike for extended periods to improve their quadriceps muscle strength, they should really invent one that does not have quite such an uncomfortable and butt-numbing seat.  Ouch.

I was thinking more about my Maria post over the past weekend because of a couple of conversations I had at soccer fields.  (One good thing about all the soccer my kids play is that I do get the chance to catch up with many of my friends while watching games or practices from the sidelines.)    

One mother was telling me that her son is severely dyslexic and also on medication for ADHD.  I've known her and her son for a long time, and never had any idea.  That came as a real surprise to me.  Then, in a separate conversation at another field, I was speaking with two other mothers, one of whom has a son with social issues and ADHD (also on meds) and the other whose son is really struggling with language arts and receiving special help.  Again, I had no idea.  And I don't say that because it is any of my business to know these things--clearly it isn't, and if the moms hadn't volunteered the info in the course of casual conversations, I still wouldn't know.  What struck me is that in all three cases, if I had taken any time at all to think about it, I would have assumed from the outward appearances that all three were completely "normal" kids (however that might be defined.)

Sometimes I feel very isolated in being the parent of a special needs child.  It is both good and bad that there happen to be an unusual number of special needs kids in Thing Two's grade at our school, but in general, I've often felt like we have an extra level of challenge in our daily life that a lot of other families we know just don't have to deal with.  In thinking about these conversations and a few others, I'm coming to the realization that more parents than not probably do have something that they worry about for one or more of their kids.  It's just that some of the kids' issues are milder or easier to miss from an outsider's perspective than others, and also that some parents talk about their concerns less frequently than others.  I've always been very open about Thing Two, partially because it helps others to understand where he's coming from and partly because it's therapeutic for me to talk about it, but that doesn't mean that the parents who are quieter necessarily have any less to worry about or deal with.

Going back to the Maria post, it's that whole judging books by their covers thing again.  Seems to be a big problem of mine.  It does make me feel better to know that we are not quite as isolated as I had thought, though, although God knows I would not wish any behavioral or learning-related issues on any other child.

On a much lighter note, fall has officially arrived.  The air was positively chilly this morning, and against today's crisp blue sky, the oranges and pinks of the clusters of fall leaves are standing out in almost gaudy relief.  I took The Hound to the dog park this morning after my penitential session on the stationary bike, and she galloped and ran and wrestled joyfully in the falling leaves with another dog who was there.  The icing on the cake was that this dog turned out to be another rescue from the same rescue organization The Hound came from, which is run by a good friend of mine.  I asked the other owner for her permission to take a picture of her dog and send it to my friend, who always loves to hear how her rescues are doing at their new homes.  This one was the picture of canine health and happiness and sweetness, and I know that it will make her day to see him all grown up and loved.

Looking back on this post, I don't have the foggiest idea how to tie all these unconnected thoughts together with a coherent title.  If I can't think of one soon, I will blame my wandering mind on Sunday Night Football!



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...