Thursday, January 31, 2013

Falling Off The High Wire

Yesterday Lady Jennie had a very thought-provoking post up at World Moms Blog, relating to how your own childhood compares to that of your children and what opportunities you wish you had and/or want them to have.  It triggered some very good comments as well.

I mentioned briefly in the comment section there that my own childhood was very peripatetic.  We moved every two or three years, and from when I was two until I left for college, I lived in the US for only a few months total.  We spent almost all of my childhood in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, which was truly fantastic from an opportunity standpoint...we got to see so much of the world and had some fabulous experiences.  Been to the burial chamber in the Great Pyramid and seen the riches in King Tut's tomb.  Been to Bali before going there risked bomb attacks.  Been to the Forbidden City in Beijing and to see the terracotta warriors in Xi'an.  Been on safari in Kenya.  Been to the bubbling mud pools of Rotorua, NZ and Kakadu National Park in Australia.  Kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland and spent one Christmas in Salzburg, Austria.  Rode a camel in Rajasthan, India.  I say all this not to was just a fact of life for us.  I completely took it for granted until I returned to the US, actually; since all the kids I went to school with in every country were serial expats like me, I genuinely hadn't considered that my life experiences were unusual for an American kid until I started talking to college classmates.

By comparison to the international and cross-cultural upbringing I had, my three children are being raised in a small town that is very homogeneous, which is the only thing I don't like about it.  What they do have that I completely lacked, though, is the sense that they belong in a community.  When I was a kid, I distinctly remember telling my dad (probably right after he came home and announced that we were making yet another move) that when I grew up I was going to put down roots to the center of the earth and never move again!!

So now, having essentially done that and feeling guilty because my kids don't have the opportunities I had (we need to travel more!) I try to give them every opportunity to get involved in activities.  Sports.  Music.  Camps.  Academic stuff.  To the point where our after-school schedule is completely insane and we are all relieved to have a break when something gets cancelled!  That's no way to live either.

So, as always, looking for the balance.  And getting right back up on the tightrope to try again when I inevitably fall off!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Feel Like I've Been Whomped With A Stick

My taekwondo belt test was last night, and I passed!  I wasn't perfect by any means, but I didn't blank on anything or really screw anything up--walked out of there feeling like I did the best I could have done on that day and that's all I can ask for.  Especially since the testing instructor assigned to our group was a 24 year-old guy who hasn't yet grasped that not everyone is as fit and flexible as he is!  My entire body hurts today.

My new Senior Green belt!

There were 18 students testing last night.  Of the 18, 14 were under ten years old, and 3 more between the ages of 10 and 18.  I was the only bona fide adult in the group!  Love being the 'old lady' trying to keep up with all the kids...did my best to represent for the old fogies of the world.

(As a side note, shortly before a test I always get a pedicure to match the belt I am testing for's a tradition.  Right now I am walking around with what is essentially a French pedicure in forest green and black...I got a very strange look from the non-English speaking Vietnamese nail lady when I explained what I wanted her to do!  Maybe next time I should bring a picture of the belt so she doesn't think I'm completely cuckoo.)

Thing One also earned his new belt--his is plain green but otherwise looks like mine.  We went out for a celebratory treat after our test...salted caramel ice cream with toasted almonds for me and Oreo ice cream with gummybears for him.  Yum.  And no guilt whatsoever: we earned those fair and square!  :)

Monday, January 28, 2013

For A Change, I Am NOT Behind The Eight-Ball

For any homemakers/primary caregivers/primary cooks out there: is there any daily question you dread more than "What's for dinner?" or is it just me?

Unlike my mother and brother, I am not an inspired cook.  I usually can't just look to see what we have around and come up with something fabulous off the top of my head, as they do.  Trained biologist that I am, though, I am whiz-bang at following a recipe...after all, what is a recipe if not an experimental protocol involving edible reagents??

At any rate, I don't mind the process of cooking, for the most part (and I actively love to bake)--it's the deciding what to make that drives me crazy.  I love getting meal requests, because it makes my job that much easier.  Especially since we have either two or three kid activities every day of the week after school, which means that I am also pressed for time with dinner prep to make it even more fun.

At any rate, last night Himself made three requests for dinner this week: chili, tacos, and a really fabulous Thai peanut chicken and noodles dish that I don't make often enough.  This morning I went to the grocery store and bought everything I need for all three, came home and cooked them!  I'll serve the Thai dish tonight and the others later in the week, because they'll keep.  Add to that the fried rice that I will make from leftover pork tenderloin and the goulash that can be easily produced from the last few slices of last night's pot roast (both quick and easy meals), and I have a full week of dinners on hand as of midday Monday!

Yes, I know that I am pathetically excited about this, but it is what it is.  Anything that makes my life less complicated is a good thing!  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

I Will

Thanks to Lady Jennie, I found a wonderful post today.  The lines copied below are an excerpt: click here to see the post in its entirety.  This is going on the wall above my desk!

I will be me.
I will reach further.
I will strive harder.
I will live every day and do all that I can.
I will be a good mom.
I will love more fiercely and with all my heart.
I will be fearless.
I will not stop until I get it done.
I will say what I feel.
I will have that glass of wine.
I will say yes.
I will say no.
I will throw guilt in the garbage can.
I will leave dirty dishes in the sink. Sometimes.
I will say bad words. SHIT.
I will. I will. I will.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

One Other Thing

OK, I'm quite sure that y'all are completely sick of the sight of the word "basketball" on this blog, and I'm sorry.  I don't blame you.

But I just have to tell you about something really cool.

A few weeks ago, Thing One's team had a game in our school gym.  He has to be there early to warm up, so while that was happening I was watching the game before his, in which older boys were playing.    Probably middle-school age, I'd guess.  One of the kids on the opposing team that day obviously has Down's Syndrome.

Initially, I was just thinking how cool it was that a kid with a handicap was able to play on the team.  Then I actually started watching more closely and realized that the kid was one of the stars of his team.  No joke.  That kid has a shot you would not believe.

Saw him again today; he was still dropping baskets left and right.  Go rock!

Change Of Plans

Side note: so far, no inundation with spam comments, so until further notice the captcha word verification will remain off.

No company this evening after all, unfortunately.  Thing Two has a cold, and since both daughters of the family that was supposed to be joining us for wine-drinking and general merriment will be trying out for a highly competitive swim team on Tuesday, they are wisely staying away!

As usual, started the day with basketball: the regular practices for the younger two kids and then an unexpected game for Thing One.  The head coach of Thing Two's team almost pulled another fast one on me today, too--as practice was starting, he informed me (in my assistant coach capacity) that his son wasn't feeling too well and that he might be leaving at any time.  You may recall that the last time he did something like this, I had about eight hours to come up with a practice plan--said eight hours extending from midnight to 8AM--this time I would have had no warning at all!  Fortunately for his well-being and my blood pressure, he ended up staying for the full practice.

Thing One's team played Thursday and Friday evenings and is off today, but he stepped up when one of the other teams put out a request for substititute players because they were a couple of boys down.  He played his heart out on that court, bless the child, but they still lost narrowly and he was crushed.  He and the other two boys from his team who subbed in made the difference between a one-point loss and a total blowout, at least.  Not sure what happened with the team divisions this year, but two of the teams at his level are very strong and the third (today's) just isn't, which doesn't seem fair.

Home now, and not leaving again!  The rest of the day will now involve waiting for the furniture delivery, sitting my behind in front of the fireplace, and much cooking, since I'm in the mood.  Right now, the house smells of roasted garlic...I threw a few heads into the oven with olive oil and we will crush the cloves on toasts made from homemade bread leftovers for hors d'oeuvres later.  A beautiful roast, some mashed potatoes too...all comfort foods to stave off the rawness outside.  I'm ready for spring.

But at least the sun is shining.  That covers a multitude of sins!


Friday, January 25, 2013

Trying An Experiment

Me being a scientist and all, it always makes my husband nervous when I tell him that I'm trying an experiment (especially since it is usually in connection with meal preparation!) but this one should hopefully be pretty minor.

Anyone who's ever tried to leave a comment here knows that I've had the captcha word verifier enabled to weed out spam.  I hate that thing, as do many other people (I hear you, NOLA...I always end up having to type the word two or three times to get it right too.)

Anyway, assuming that I did what I intended to do, I've just removed the captcha requirement for comments here.  If I end up with a ton of spam comments, I may have to put it back on, but it's worth a shot.  If somebody could confirm that the captcha is gone for me, it would be much appreciated!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Things Husbands Don't Usually Say To Their Wives, Part 1

"You really need to drink more."

I get this one regularly.  And in complete seriousness, may I just say.

Himself has quite the wine-buying habit.  That and running are his only real hobbies.  And although he tries his damnedest (within reason) he can't keep up with the influx of new bottles by himself!  My contributory glass or two a few nights a week doesn't even come close to making a dent.  We have probably 400 bottles of wine in the basement right now, all racked and spreadsheeted and crossindexed, plus a 60-bottle or so capacity wine fridge in the kitchen.  This man takes his wine seriously.

Although tall, I'm a lightweight (as far as alcohol is concerned, not in general.)  Always have been.  And since I also detest the feeling of being mentally fuzzy and out of control, I don't drink that much.  I've been telling him for years that he should just be thankful that he has a built-in designated driver, and usually he is.  But every time he goes down to unpack new cases of wine into the racks, he comes back upstairs mumbling about the overflow and tells me that we need to have a party!

A few days ago, he was down in the basement again, so I knew what was coming.  Sure enough, we'll be having some close friends over for dinner and wine on Saturday.  There may also be a furniture delivery while they are here, but that's ok...the last time they were over I had no hall floor or hall bathroom and it worked out just fine!

Good friends are an even bigger joy than good wine.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

It's Official...

Failing some unforeseen circumstance, I will be testing for my Senior Green taekwondo belt next Tuesday evening.  That's still a lower-middle level belt in the big picture of the belt hierarchy, but I'm moving in the right direction.  The Senior Green belt is like the plain Green ones except for a horizontal black satin stripe, but it is a full level up from Green.

The picture below is of the ends of my current Green belt.  Each of the stripes (applied with colored electrical tape, dated and initialed by the instructor who awarded it) has a particular significance.  The black stripes are for techniques, self-defenses and forms respectively--two of each, given in that order.  Then the blue one is for board-breaking, the green one for sparring, and the red one indicates that I was tested on all my belt-level material in class and found qualified to test for the next belt up.  Getting a red stripe is a big deal, because it represents the culmination of a TON of effort and learning.  

And as it happens, we have three red-striped belts in the family right now, which is especially cool.  The Girl is too junior to attend the evening graduation, but she will test for her White belt (the first 'big-kid' belt) in her regular class the first week of February.  Thing One will test for his Green belt on Tuesday night, which will be the first time I've participated in the test/graduation ceremony at the same time as one of my kids.  They call the parent and child up to receive their new belts together at the end of the ceremony, which is a nice touch.  (Thing Two is also in the program, but he's not ready to test this month.)

For all belts below Green, only the black and red stripes are required, so the blue and green stripes were new to me this time around.  The board breaking requirement actually wasn't that hard--it was amazing to me how the pine boards flew into pieces when struck properly.  Made me feel like a ninja in a big way!

The sparring, on the other hand, is tough and draining.  Especially for those without innate skill at it, like yours truly.  For starters, serious gear is required:


This is my headgear and one each of my shin, foot and hand protectors, plus my pink (of course!) mouthguard.  Something girly has to balance out all that badass black.  I should hasten to add that the point of the gear is to keep yourself from getting hurt by a stray kick or punch...the goal of our sparring is to get the technique down and learn to land strikes where you want to put them, not to actually try to fight your opponent full-on.   The first time I ever tried sparring, I was a White belt.  My opponent was a Black belt, which absolutely scared me to death!  In retrospect, it was the best thing that could have happened to me...the higher the belt, the more able the opponent, meaning that she had the skill to keep from hurting me (and keep me from hurting her) as I tried to figure out what the hell I was doing.  Yesterday, I had to spar two higher belts in quick succession with only 30 seconds' rest in between...I earned that &%#$% green stripe!

At any rate, I now have all nine stripes, so I have a few more days to practice and then the big public test.  Wish me luck!!      

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Damn You, Adam Lanza

And every other POS like you who who would even consider killing a bunch of completely innocent little schoolchildren because your life maybe wasn't all you wanted it to be.  Bastard.

School board meeting tonight.  We spent half of it discussing whether we need bulletproof glass and bars on our small local school's doors and windows.  Whether we need an armed police officer on campus at all times.  Whether we need a double entry door with someone checking IDs.  We had already, as it happened, replaced all the classroom doors and locks last summer to make them more intruder-proof. We already have an active shooter drill every month in addition to the regular slate of fire drills.  Are metal detectors and pat-downs for eight year-olds next?

We are turning our schools into fortresses and our teachers and staff into guards.  In some states, armed guards.  Does this make our kids feel safe or threatened?  Hard to tell.  Is it a good educational environment?  Probably not.  Is it freaking ridiculous that we even have to have these conversations? Absolutely.

We need mental health research and destigmatization.  We need better medications with fewer side effects.  And we also need places to safely and humanely sequester people who are a danger to themselves or others.

We don't need mentally ill whack-jobs on the loose with firearms.  Or elementary schools barricaded more securely than Fort Knox.


*climbs off soapbox*

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mirror, Mirror...

Perhaps one day I will finally make peace with what I see in you!

One of my best friends was digging through storage boxes last week and found some old pictures of herself from 20 years or so ago, which was long before I met her.  She showed them to me while we were waiting for our respective kids after school last the pictures she was in a bikini on the beach and looked absolutely amazing.  She would be the first to tell you that she's a bit heavier than would be ideal now (I'm right there with her in that), but as far as I'm concerned she is beautiful inside and out just as she is at this moment.  Period.

Anyway, we were talking about how different we look now from how we used to be.  Just for giggles, when I got home that night, I went to my old photo albums and found some pictures of myself at about the same age she'd been in her bikini pictures.  I hadn't looked at those albums in at least fifteen years, maybe more, and what I saw there stopped me dead in my tracks.  Please don't take this the wrong way, because I don't mean to sound as egotistical as this will doubtless come out, but I was very pretty back then, and in fine shape.  And I had absolutely NO idea of it at the time.  I mean none.

I was a very tubby kid.  Not hugely obese by any means, but heavy enough for long enough to have internalized it as part of who I was.  In high school, I started playing basketball and developed an eating disorder more or less simultaneously, and went way too far in the other direction as a result.  By the time these pictures were taken, things had been back on track for a while and I was healthy again, but clearly what I was seeing in the mirror at this stage in my life was still not what was actually there.   I wonder if my life would have turned out differently if I'd had the confidence that could have gone with the looks I didn't know I had!

I'm very happy where I am now, fortunately, and wouldn't change any of the decisions that got me here if I could.  So it all turned out OK in the end.

But.  This whole train of thought reminded me that whatever I see in the mirror now, it's probably going to be the best I'll ever look again (the aging process being what it is and all.)  So I should probably learn to cut myself some slack!    

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

This morning started out okay, but dropped off a cliff right before lunchtime.

Two of the three kids have been struggling with certain difficult behaviors for a while.  One can't seem to stop writing or drawing on walls, and the other has repeatedly had issues with making bad decisions relating to video games.  We have daily limits for game time--each child can choose to use their time on their DS, the Wii, my iPad (if I'm feeling generous) or any combination thereof, but when time's up, it's up.  Due to previous issues with sneaky use of games beyond the allocated game time, this child was already on limited privileges, and totally blew that all to hell today with further sneakiness.

Unfortunately, both kids had already exhausted the more moderate initial sets of consequences without any apparent behavior changes, so we had to go nuclear.  Which we HATE doing.  So now all the first child's beloved art supplies are locked in the parent-only unfinished side of the basement, from which I will extract them on an as-needed-for-school-only basis for a while, and the other child has lost game privileges entirely for a month.

Yes, I know tough love is good.  Yes, I know that both children are old enough to make decisions and deal with the consequences of those decisions.  Yes, I know that this is a good lesson to learn early in life.  But I feel like crap right now, and Himself does too.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Note To Thing Two

No matter WHAT I may ill-advisedly say to myself under my breath while watching Thing One's basketball games with you from the stands, it is to be ignored, not repeated at the top of your lungs!

Yelling "What the heck was that?" at full volume will not make you friends with the players on either team or the refs.  Just sayin.'

Luckily for you, you are young enough to have gotten a pass this time.  Please learn from it...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Passed Along To The Next Generation, Times Two

Himself and I are Type A and Type A-er, you pick 'em.  How we managed to create a Type B child (Thing One) together is unclear, unless there is some two-negatives-equal-a-positive thing in genetics, as in math.  It is what it is, however.  He was blessed with every gift in the world except motivation; I've written about this before.

Thing Two hates to lose.  I mean HATES to lose.  And the kid is stubborn...oh, and how.  And he knows what he wants and goes for it.  This one, we understand.

The jury's been out on The Girl, though.  She's been somewhere between her brothers for a while.  But apparently she is going to skew more Type A as well, judging from a story I heard from her teacher today.

She and her classmates were playing some sort of tag-like game at recess.  Apparently she was bound and determined to tag every one of her classmates, but couldn't catch a few of them because the boots she was wearing made her too slow.  Which made her cry in frustration.  But after she was done crying, she took off her boots and socks and tracked every single one of them down running barefoot.  (This was in the school gym.)  Attagirl...way to work around a problem!

And Good Riddance Too

Last year was the first year that Thing One played travel soccer.  His club had two teams in his age group, between which the best players were divided evenly to keep the teams relatively equal.  This year the team division is different, as it will be going forward.  There is an A team and a development team.

Thing One is on the development team, as he should be.  I am 100% behind that assignment.  He has good skills, but is inconsistent and has some focus issues, and I'm sure that some of it is maturity-related.  His team plays in a different flight from the A team during the season, which keeps the games fair.

On all teams, there are going to be some kids and parents that make you nuts.  The more competitive the team, the more d-bag parents there will be, in particular.  Blessedly, the worst parental offenders all have kids on the A team this year, so we rarely see them.  Some of their kids are real jerks too, but you look at the parents and understand where it comes from.  As an example, one dad (while helping to ref a game last year) deliberately did not blow the whistle to stop play when an opposing player was down because it gave us an advantage.  I heard him say something about it afterward.  When you are talking about elementary school-aged kids, it is especially egregious...what a dick.

Anyway, like I said, I don't miss hanging out with these people, and am very glad I don't have to this year.  We only see them on the odd occasion now, like the extracurricular local tournaments.  The last time we went to one of these, Thing One's team got shellacked....the worst of the other three teams there was his club's A team.  And we had to listen to the A team kids and parents gloating about how much better they were than us.  (Well, duh...that was the idea of the team division, right?)

Anyway, there was supposed to be another one of these tournaments tomorrow evening.  To put it mildly, I was not looking forward to it.  Himself just let me know that it has been cancelled because another team pulled out at the last minute.  Pardon me while I do a quick tap-dance of joy...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In Honor Of The Current Miserable Rotten Flu Season...

A real classic!


"I cannot go to school today,"
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I've counted sixteen chicken pox
And there's one more - that's seventeen,
And don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut, my eyes are blue -
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I'm sure that my left leg is broke -
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button's caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,
My 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb,
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my spine is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is -
what? What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is ... Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!"

--Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Getting My Game On

I'm an assistant coach for both The Girl's and Thing Two's basketball teams.  Hers isn't very serious.  His level is a big step up.

I'm a relatively new coach.  I'm also the only female coach of any team at his level at our school, which doesn't help.  I signed on because the teams are still coed at his level (Thing One, in the next bracket up, plays on an all-boys' team) and dammit, the girls need some role models.  Moms can play some ball too, not just the dads who usually coach these rec league teams.

The biggest problem I've had so far is interacting with the other coaches.  Not that any of them have been jerks to me or anything, but they're guys in a very macho environment, a school gym.  The testosterone is overwhelming and the communication brusque and to the point (not with the kids--with each other and the refs.)  Left to my own devices, my style is warm and fuzzy, but that doesn't work here.  I'm having to adapt, to modify the way I think and talk and make decisions and justify them (or not justify them, as the guys do.)  I doubt they worry for one second about being viewed as hardasses, or about how they are being viewed at all for that matter, but then again, they're the majority and their rules apply.  And I refuse to be relegated to a team mom or helper role simply by virtue of my gender.

So...I'm still fine-tuning the game I am playing within the game.  Wish me luck.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Warning: Extreme Cattiness Ahead

Not sure why I thought about this today, but a while back, I learned that that the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) of a nearby school district was being sued by an aggrieved couple.  Who the heck sues a PTA?

The full details have never been made available, so I can't say for sure what brought about the lawsuit.  What I did find very interesting, however, was the list of the PTA's co-defendants (seriously) in this suit.  Schadenfreude is not normally my bag, but this is where the cattiness comes in.

When we first moved here years ago, Thing One was an infant.  I'd gone straight from full-time school to 12-hour workdays before he was born, so staying home with him was a sudden huge psychological adjustment for me.  Plus, I knew nobody in our new area, and it was November and too chilly to go out much with a newborn.  It was a miserable, lonely first few months, with Himself working long hours and traveling a good deal.  I decided that I needed to meet some other moms, and ASAP, so I joined the local chapter of a support group for stay-at-home mothers early the following year.  It worked out well for me, and the next year I volunteered to be the Secretary for the chapter.   I was happy to do it, except inasmuch as I had to deal with the woman who was President that year.

She made my life very difficult, to put it mildly.  She was such a micromanager that she insisted that I send her drafts of the monthly chapter newsletter for her review and approval before I mailed them to the group, and there were always changes to be made.  One one particularly memorable occasion, she actually changed the style of the bullet points I had used in a draft because she didn't like the font.  I am not exaggerating in the slightest.

She was one of the more affluent moms in the group, and a name-dropper who made sure that you knew she had married into an influential family.  I once saw her at our local grocery store in the middle of a weekday afternoon in a floor-length mink coat.  She has two kids, one about Thing One's age, and one a few years older--the year I was Secretary, the older child was attending a private school some distance away.

At any rate, the list of co-defendants in this lawsuit included all of the PTA officers, besides the PTA itself and the school.   The PTA President?  My old "friend," who lives in that district.

I had three thoughts when I heard her name in this context, none of them kind:

1) Given her lack of people skills, whatever interaction she had with this couple in her capacity as PTA President probably didn't help matters.

2) Since when would she deign to send one or both of her kids to the local public school instead of the high-pinky private school her elder child had formerly been attending?  (She had previously been vocal about how she would only ever send her kids to private school.  As a public-school mom--of kids doing very well, mind you--that put my back up more than a bit.)

3) Karma is a bitch.
I'm probably being one too, but oh well.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Eating The Elephant

Talked to my parents tonight.  According to my mother, listening to me describe my family's (very hectic) schedule makes her want to go take a shot of oxygen.  To which my response was that my life often makes me want to take a shot of something, but oxygen is not in the top five on the list!  Gin, possibly; or wine at the very least.  And the good Bombay Sapphire gin at that.

Charles Schulz said it best: "I've developed a new philosophy...I only dread one day at a time."  Baby steps: the only way to avoid becoming a raging lunatic.  Or an alcoholic.  Thinking about a full week all at once is a recipe for disaster.

This reminded me of the whole eating an elephant a bite a time thing.  I'm not sure who I thought originated that quotation, but the Web attributes it to a Creighton Abrams.  Not recognizing the name, and having a few spare minutes, I looked him up.  He's the man for whom the M1 Abrams tank was named: a four-star Army general and two-time DSC winner who died in 1974.  Based on his résumé, he could probably have taken on an elephant.

Me, I'll stick with a more conventional dinner.  And my gin, of course.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ten Things That Are Making Me Happy Today

Not in any particular order after #1--that one is a REALLY big deal.

1) Thing Two's increased capacity for imaginative play.  He literally could not do it at all a few years ago, and recently this has improved radically.  This is such a relief I cannot begin to express it.

2) The presence of Thing Two's head coach at basketball practice this morning (i.e., I did not have to run the practice, on short notice or otherwise.)

3) Thing One's improving basketball skills.  He shot only two baskets in games all year last year, and three in today's game alone (the second of the season.)  His newfound confidence is a joy to see.  We celebrated with ice cream after the game!

4) The New Wave (alt-'80s: yes, I am dating myself) channel on Sirius Radio.

5) Fresh vegetables.

6) Homemade bread.

7) The love of my dog.

8)  Watching my daughter dance along to her Wii game.

9) Coffee from my new coffeepot.

10) My husband, the logistics king, who is able to efficiently plan a weekend day such that all three kids get where they need to be when they need to be there without me having to think about it.  I just go along with the plans he figures out.

Bonus) My husband, for spending his afternoon putting together umpteen-hundred piece Lego sets with the boys while I play on the computer!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Big News In The D Household...

My little girl made a major announcement to me as I was driving her to school today.  Seems that she is engaged to one of the boys in her class!  I gather that he asked her to marry him yesterday, and that she took the evening to consider the proposition before deciding today that she would marry him.  When she grows up, of course.  (All said MOST seriously.)

When I could trust myself not to laugh out loud, I solemnly replied that I was glad that she was waiting until she grows up before getting married.

Then, as soon as she was safely delivered to school, I immediately called my husband to share the news.  This being his only daughter and precious little girl and all that, he was not amused.  He informed me that he was withholding his approval for the match until the little boy in question came and asked his permission properly!  ;)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I've Come A Long Way, One Tiny Step At A Time

There were two female beginners in my taekwondo class this morning, both so new that they don't have their gis (white uniforms) yet.  I remember being in that stage so clearly: I spent most of it staring at the instructor and trying to figure out what the hell she'd just done and how to get my body to copy it.  These ladies did well with the kicks and hand strikes she asked them to do, but when we got to the rolls and breakfalls, you could clearly see them both having second thoughts about pursuing the martial arts.

These latter two are not skills that most newbies master quickly.  They are difficult and unfamiliar and carry the real potential for injury; the only way to learn them is to start small (typically from a kneeling position) and keep practicing until muscle memory takes over.  The instructors usually have us work on them for a few minutes every class.  It takes guts to even try them as a newcomer in a room full of more experienced students.

I've been taking these classes for about a year and a half now.  I am far from graceful, and not even especially coordinated, but my skills are a lot better than they used to be.  For example, I may not always come up on the correct foot, but if someone ever shoves me from behind while I'm walking, I'll be able to dive into a forward roll without getting hurt, and come back up ready to fight.  I'll take it. 

Taekwondo is a journey, not a destination. Everyone has physical limitations, and my best definitely is not as good as what some others can manage, even without the bum knee.  But my yardstick is my own performance, not anyone else's, and fortunately, that's how the instructors view it as well.  I'll stick with it as long as I keep getting better, even if only a tiny bit at a time--I was reminded this morning that baby steps really do add up.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Streak Is Broken

For as many years as the boys have been at our local school, I have successfully managed to avoid taking them out to their school bus stop in my pajamas.  Sadly, as of today, I can no longer make that claim.

Mornings at our house are pretty crazy in general.  I've cut it close more than a few times, sprinting upstairs to get dressed as the kids are finishing their breakfasts and putting on their backpacks and shoes.  Our bus stop is at the end of our driveway, 100 yards or so from the house, and we live on a main road.  People drive by at 50-60MPH, so there's no way my elementary schoolers will be out there alone.

Thing Two has had a cough for a week or so.  Nothing out of the ordinary for him--every &%#$ respiratory bug he gets goes directly to his chest.  As long as he is acting and eating normally and has no symptoms other than the cough, I send him to school...otherwise he'd be home half the winter.  Last night, I noticed that the cough seemed worse, so I made an appointment for him with the pediatrician for this morning.

At 4:35AM, I was awakened by the sound of Thing Two vomiting (blessedly, in the bathroom and not all over his bed.)  He was coughing so hard that it had triggered a gag reflex.  Nothing the kid tried to eat or drink for breakfast when he got up again later stayed in, so I had a LOT of cleaning to do.  Of course, while also trying to make sure the other two were up, dressed, fed and ready to go and keeping the dog out of the way!  I was very happy that Thing One actually made it to the bus stop on time, and the world will just have to deal with the view it got of my blue fleece snowflake PJ bottoms.  I was deeply grateful that the stylish seventh-grade girl next door was not at our communal bus stop today, however...a small blessing.

After dropping The Girl off at her school, we went to see the pediatrician, who confirmed that the poor kid has bronchitis.  He was as cooperative as he could have been for her, and even managed to puke neatly into gallon Ziploc bags in both the car and the pharmacy while we were waiting for his antibiotics.  (In a fit of unusual foresight, I had grabbed a handful of bags, a box of wipes, and a full change of clothing for him on the way out the door, which proved to have been a good call even though he managed to avoid needing the spare clothes.)  The second we got home, I gave him the first dose of meds, parked him in a kitchen chair with his DS, and told him to sit still because I wanted him not to cough so the meds would stay inside him where they belonged!

That one dose of Zithromax worked wonders: two hours later the coughing had lessened significantly, and an hour after that he was hounding me for food, all of which stayed in for a pleasant change.  Lunch, snack, dinner, no problem.  He's supposed to be able to go back to school tomorrow after the next antibiotic dose--we'll play that by ear.  

But all in all, not a day I have any interest in repeating.  And the fashion faux pas was the least of it!


Pathetic and Frightening

The first, that I was so excited about the arrival of my new Dyson vacuum cleaner yesterday (thank you, AMEX points) even though I did have to figure out how to put it together before I could use it and the directions are heavy on pictures and light on explanation.

The second, what came out of my carpets!  Ye gods and little fishes.  I did actually use the old vacuum regularly, I swear; it was clearly nowhere near as good as this one.  But based on this experience, I will be switching to wood floors ASAP...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dear Mouse

Yesterday was my aunt's 78th birthday.  My mother's eldest sister, she is also my godmother.  Growing up as I did in the far corners of the globe, distant from all family, it was to my grandmother's house (in the same town as this aunt's) that my mother and brother and I repaired every summer during the school break, while Dad was working wherever we were living at the time.  Because of this, I have always been very close to my aunt and her husband and two sons.  My cousins are nine and seven years older than I, a big gap at that time, but nothing now.  For reasons I've forgotten, probably relating to her small stature and quiet speech, they always called their mother "Mouse," making her "Aunt Mouse" to me.

Small and quiet she may be, but this is not a woman to mess with...she has a core of steel and an independent spirit that has served her well through the years.  After putting herself through nursing school, she joined the Air Force (this was way back when the best careers available to women were nursing and teaching.)  The Air Force sent her to a base in Mountain Home, Idaho, where she met the man who would eventually become my uncle, an Air Force dentist with a hard head and good taste in women.  Eventually both left the service, but my aunt continued to work as a surgical nurse until only a few years ago.

My grandmother worked a great deal while Mom was growing up.  Aunt Mouse, who is ten years older than Mom, had a lot to do with raising her.  The two are so alike that they finish each other's sentences and unwittingly buy the same articles of clothing in different states! The third sister and Mom are much more alike physically, but Mom and Aunt Mouse are personality clones.  It is much like having two (and sometimes three) mothers, which in this case is a good thing.  Although possibly not quite so much for Himself, who back in September had the equivalent of three mothers-in-law staying in his house all at once!

Love you, Mousie...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Second Great Mystery Solved

Click here to read about the first one.

I've mentioned before that I am a bit of a genealogy buff in all my spare time (ha!).  I recently got back on after a five-year hiatus and man--the stuff you can find there is just seriously cool.  Of course, assuming you are into family history.  Way back when, I did some digging on both sides of my family, and discovered that part of my paternal grandmother's family arrived in the Massachusetts Colony from England in the 1630s.  Not the Mayflower by any means, but pretty darn soon afterward.  If I wanted to join the DAR, I'd have ample qualification!

At any rate, while working on a related family branch, I had previously run into a roadblock.  One particular woman seemed to have one of two different birth dates and one of two different death dates (in various combinations) and several different sets of husbands and children, depending on where you looked.  It was making me nuts.  I finally figured out yesterday that I was looking at a wife and a sister-in-law, who were born and died within a year or two of each other in the same area.  Both were named Eunice, of all things (yes, this was a long time ago; apparently this was a common name back then from what I'm seeing) and the one's married name was the same as the other's maiden name.  Since some genealogy sites use a woman's maiden name and some her married surname, I can easily see how the two sets of records got muddled on the genealogy websites, especially since we are talking about transcriptions of handwritten records from the mid-18th century.

Anyway, that was my achievement for the weekend (besides running a basketball practice with much less prep time than would have been ideal.)  Not meaningful to anyone but myself, most likely, but it was very cool to have finally figured out the puzzle!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Not Much Of A Warning

I was already out of sorts when I went to bed around midnight last night.  Just before I turned out the light, I got an e-mail from the head coach of Thing Two's basketball team, letting me know that he would not be able to come to practice today because his son was ill (meaning that I, as the assistant coach, would have to run the practice.)

This practice starts at 9:20.  I am also an assistant coach for The Girl's team, which practices from 8:15-9:15 in the same gym.  Since we leave the house at 8, this did not leave a lot of time for figuring out a plan for Thing Two's team practice.  And as a newer coach, I don't have much experience from which to draw, so I spent the better part of 45 minutes looking at sample practice plans on the Web starting at 3AM when I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep!    

Practice ended up going fine, but that's just not a good way to start a Saturday morning.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Mental Health Day

Realized this morning that the only reason I needed to leave my house during school hours was to go to my taekwondo class (the boys take a school bus and a friend brought The Girl to school today.)  Since I was the stupid ass who wore a different knee brace to class yesterday after two weeks off and tweaked my knee, I decided to just stay home.  I'll give my knee another day to feel better before I have to coach basketball on it for three hours tomorrow morning, and I am in desperate need of a day off anyway.

No errands or running around (at least until the kids get home.)  Some laundry, maybe some putting-away of Christmas decorations.  But then I am going to sit down and figure out the Family Tree Maker genealogy program I got for Christmas, since I am the only one of my generation on either side who gives a crap about family history and I like it a lot.  For me, this is fun.

Putting myself first today, which doesn't often happen.  I finally remembered to start a medication that should help my perpetually clogged sinuses.  I made a doc appt for next week, so I can figure out once and for all what the hell I did to my right shoulder while I was learning how to do forward rolls and came down on it wrong the one time months ago.  Just stuff that I hadn't quite gotten around to, that I finally made a point of doing this morning.

Selfish, maybe.  But if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  And that's the truth.  Mama's filling her tank today.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Crazy Mother

I've often wondered if an unusual number of mothers are completely batshit crazy, or if it's just that people who do have crazy mothers choose me as a friend disproportionately for some reason.  (And if the latter, God only knows what that says about me.)  I've heard some wild stories.  Got another one this morning...a gym friend regaled me with horror stories from the holiday visit from hell with her parents.  Her dad is apparently reasonably normal, but an enabler.  To me, it sounds like her mother is totally cuckoo for cocoa puffs...a narcissistic, drama queeny, attention-seeker to the nth degree with a potty mouth, a foul disposition and a total lack of social awareness and appropriate behavior around small children!  Ye gods.

And my friend is not like that at all.  She is mildly high-maintenance, but a genuinely good human being.  She told me today that her mom was like that the whole time she was growing up--not sure how she managed to avoid massive therapy and dependence on psychiatric meds.  Apparently she was an anxiety-ridden mess by the time she finished high school, anyway.  Makes sense that she married the ultimate in laid-back California guys and got the hell out!

At any rate, every time I run into one of these stories, I call my own mother and thank her for being normal!  Guess I owe her a phone call.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Those Little Wenches Had Better Not Break My Son's Heart

It's finally happened.

My first baby, my socially late-blooming older son, came home from school today talking about girls. Girls!  He never has before, at least not in this context.  I know it's about time...I distinctly remember having my first crush when I was right around his age, way back before the Earth cooled, but I'm just not ready to deal with boy-girl stuff with my kids yet.  Ugh.

The only redeeming feature is that, when I casually asked if there were any young ladies of particular interest, he mentioned two names that would suggest that he has good taste, at least--both are smart, beautiful and athletic, and one (the daughter of a very dear friend) is also as kind and thoughtful as they come.  I don't know the other as well.  My friend has two girls the same ages as my boys, and we've been joking for years that we don't care who marries whom as long as we end up in-laws when all is said and done!  Fortunately, we've had the sense to not mention that within earshot of the four of them, or innate perversity would dictate that they would choose ANYONE else.

Whomever he picks had damned well better be nice to him, and that's all I have to say.  Mama Bear has spoken.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Tradition! Tradition!

"Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as... as a fiddler on the roof!"

New Year's Eve marks a peaceful end to the craziness of the holiday season in our home.  Himself and I have not gone out to celebrate since the year Thing One was born, when we moved to our current house in the sticks...the roads are dark and winding and full of deer and being out on them after midnight with a bunch of drunk yahoos is asking for trouble!

The replacement tradition began simply: every year, we made a special dinner for two.  When the children were really tiny, we would have to wait to begin cooking until they were in bed, since they were such a handful.  When they got a bit older, we could cook and eat with them awake, but we would feed them their kid-friendly dinner first and then attempt to eat our special one with chaos swirling around us...crawling babies, boys pushing toy trucks around the table, and always, always, somebody wanting to sit on Mommy's lap.  An inevitable stage in the process, and one I was thinking about last night as I looked around the dinner table.  We had cooked only one meal--filets mignon, mashed potatoes, and sauteed green beans--and we were all eating it together.  With the good china and fancy wineglasses for the adults and real conversation and I was so proud, so proud of these little people who are so rapidly becoming big.

Somewhere, back in the dinner-for-two-only early years, my in-laws gave my husband a Bill Cosby DVD for Christmas.  "Himself" (how appropriate), one of the funniest monologues I've ever seen.  A huge chunk of it is about parenting and children, and it has some really good lines.

"Parents are not interested in justice, they're interested in peace and quiet!"

"It was because of my father that from the ages of seven to fifteen, I thought that my name was Jesus Christ and my brother, Russell, thought that his name was Dammit. "Dammit, will you stop all that noise?" And, "Jesus Christ, sit down!" One day, I'm out playing in the rain, and my father yelled, "Dammit, will you get back in here!" I said, "Dad, I'm Jesus Christ!"   

"I am not the boss of my house. I don't know how I lost it. I don't know where I lost it. I don't think I ever had it. But I've seen the boss's job... and I don't want it."

"My wife and I were intellectuals before we had children. We were very, very bright people. My wife graduated from the University of Maryland, child psychology major with a B-plus average, which means that if you ask her a question about a child's behavior, she will give you at least an 85 answer. I, from Temple University, physical education major with a child psychology minor, which means that if you ask me a question about a child's behavior, I will tell you to tell the child to take a lap."

"[Talking about his first child] My mother looked at it and said, "Oh, how precious." I don't know why she said it. Well, I didn't know then. I know now, because my mother put a curse on me. A long time ago, I remember when I was a child what she said, and I later found out that mothers, all mothers, put a curse on their children. They say, "I hope, when you get married, you have some children who act exactly the same way that you act." And this curse works! I mean, it started with that child! My wife and I have not been intellectuals since."

When we first started watching it, the kids were so small that we didn't fully appreciate the truth behind the humor--the older they've gotten, the more we relate.  That year he received it, we threw it into the DVD player on a whim after we had finished our New Year's Eve dinner and put the kids to bed, laughed like a pair of fools through the whole thing, and a new NYE tradition was born.

The next year, as we were sitting on the sofa next to the Christmas tree and watching that DVD, it occurred to me that it might be a good time to take down the tree...the kids were still so small that they couldn't be trusted around loose ornaments or hooks, so it had to be an adult-only activity.  And another tradition was added...a special dinner, the movie, and then taking down the Christmas tree became the order of the night.  Even now that the kids are old enough to help, or at least not actively hinder.   And throughout, we sip good champagne from the flutes we used at our wedding--no point in those gathering dust.        

After the movie, we switch to network TV and watch the bands play and the ball drop, toast the New Year, and go to bed.  Not fancy or loud or over-the-top, but it works for us; it is enough of a ritual that it officially marks the end of one year and the beginning of the next.

Welcome, 2013.        


Welcome To 2013, Calvin-Style

I love Calvin and Hobbes.

Even if the kid is wise beyond his years.

Here's to a future that IS better...

Preview, Part 2

(Or maybe this should have been part 1 since it will happen first.) We dropped Thing One off at his first sleepaway soccer camp on Saturda...