Thursday, February 28, 2013

Crazy Day Crockpot Soup

I may have mentioned once or twice (ha) that I hate Thursdays with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.  The schedule is crazy from start to finish, including three consecutive after-school activities for one kid or another.  Figuring out what to cook for dinner is even more of a struggle than usual because of the time crunch: I managed to make a quick batch of sloppy joes for the kids and Himself early in the afternoon and stick it in the fridge for later, but that didn't sound good to me today.  So, in the five minutes I had before I walked out the door to pick The Girl up from school, I threw some of my go-to ingredients into the crockpot.

Five hours later, after the afternoon's frantic runs from hither to yon and back again, gym games and soccer and basketball behind me, I walked through the door to a delicious smell and even more delicious soup.  And it is so blessedly easy: only four ingredients!

Rinse a 1-lb bag of dried legumes of some kind.  I usually use green or yellow split peas or lentils. Put them in the crockpot with water to cover them by three inches or so, and season the water to taste with dry ham-flavored bouillon.  Throw in some chopped onions (or dried shallots) and chopped garlic (or my current favorite, flakes of dried roasted garlic), turn the crockpot on High, and there you have it.  Simple, nutritious, and shorter prep time than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

Good Riddance

Would that you were taking the rest of the enablers and deceivers with you.  Would that you had had the courage to root out, defrock and prosecute the child abusers instead of hiding and transferring them and condoning the actions of others who did the same.

Words without action mean nothing.  You failed to act.

May your successor do better.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Other Side Of The Story

This evening, I came across a HuffPost article by Leslie Rasmussen entitled "Short Women In A Tall World."  Apparently she is about five feet tall, and this article details many of the things she finds frustrating about it, like having to have all new pants hemmed and not being able to reach things on high shelves and not being taken seriously.

I'm here to tell you that the other end of the spectrum is no picnic either.  I am about 5'10," so I feel qualified to speak for the long tall Sallys among us.  I'm not freakishly tall or anything, but certainly well above average.

If you're tall, good luck finding pants that fit.  Same problem as our shorter colleagues, except that for us the pants are always too short.  No tailor can fix that: at least pants that are too long can be hemmed.  And good luck finding cute shoes in bigger sizes that don't have 4" heels.  What dim-bulb designer thinks that people who tower over average women to begin with (i.e.  the ones likely to be wearing larger sizes) want to be three or four inches taller than they already are??

I can reach things on high shelves, I grant you.  And I have no problem with people taking me seriously.  I look the average man square in the eyeball in flat shoes, so I'm hard to dismiss.  Even those who love me most wouldn't call me 'cute'...the term just doesn't apply.  And I'm ok with that, believe me.  I'm good at basketball, I can put my own suitcase into the overhead compartment on airplanes, and my taekwondo kicks are very powerful simply because my legs are so long.


I've been this height since I was 12.  In my entire sixth grade class, only two boys were taller than me, and we were seniors before any significant percentage of them had caught up.  (Living in Asia did not help matters either.)  Recipe for self-worth if there ever was one.  Back in the day, I got all kinds of comments about my height.  And I still do, charmingly enough: it has actually become a running joke with friends in my taekwondo class that my instructor (who is ten inches shorter than me) feels compelled to remark on it during every.single.freaking.class.  Dammit.

I'm sure everyone has something they wish they could change about themselves.  Mine would be my height.  But since giving somebody a few extra of my inches isn't really an option, I'll make all you shorter people a deal instead: you don't comment on my height, and I won't casually rest my elbow on the top of your head!

114 Pounds Of Candy

And 24 prizes.  That was my shopping haul for the morning.

I am the poor benighted soul in charge of running my town's annual Easter egg hunt, and today I bought the candy and all the remaining prizes for it (I picked up 6 yesterday as well.)  This event is attended by hundreds of children, all of whom would actually like to find a few eggs, so these quantities are very reasonable.  But every year, some damn fool busybody feels compelled to say something stupid about my sugar-filled cart at Costco or Target.  Usually something about how my children will need a trip to the dentist after Easter or some such.  This morning, unfortunately, was no exception.

Uhhh, yeah.  Like I would buy a hundred-plus pounds of candy just for my own children.  Or even my whole neighborhood!  Dumbasses.

It's a lot of work to organize this event: buying the candy and prizes, getting the egg bins out of storage, organizing the group that fills the eggs, getting the filled eggs onto the fields, and supervising the hunt itself.  This will hopefully be my last year of doing it, although I do really enjoy watching the kids hunt for the eggs and get their prizes on the day.

The lady behind me in the checkout line at Target (seeing my stacks and piles of goodies and having overheard my conversation with the cashier about the Easter egg hunt) asked if I was a teacher.  I replied, "No, just a masochist."


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Good Dose Of Perspective

Very grumpy tonight by the time I finally sat down with the computer.  We seem to be raising a liar (or at least one who hides things to avoid consequences even though the discovery of the hidden is inevitable) and this is disturbing.  Feeling our way through this, parentally speaking.  And the *very* long day preceding the discovery didn't help anything.

But then, in the course of my evening wanderings of the Web, I came across the Scary Mommy site, particularly the Confessions section.  The idea is that here, you can post an anonymous Twitter-style confession or secret for venting purposes.  (Much like PostSecret, another of my favorite websites, but without the associated art and creativity.)

Looking at the first page or two of confessions, it seems like most of the people (presumably women) posting here are tremendously unhappy with their marriages, finances, children and in some cases, their lives in general.  Compared to this, I am so blessed in the grand scheme of things.  Yes, there are things with which we need to deal, and nobody has a perfect life.  But overall, I have so little to complain about.  A reality check, indeed!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Does Anyone Else Use Dog Commands On Their Children?!?

Shortly after our bouncing bundle of puppy energy came to live with us, I signed her up for obedience training.  Just the basics: I wasn't looking to turn her into a therapy (ha) or show dog, just a well-behaved family pet.  The trainer taught us a dozen or so commands in the first series of classes, all of which are brief and to the point (one or two words) and simple for the dog to understand and follow.

As it turns out, they are also simple for my children to follow.  Not that I deliberately use dog commands on my children, I swear--they pop out of my mouth unbidden in moments of frustration; I'm on autopilot after months of training the dog--but they work!  Cases in point from the last 24 hours:

Sit: Directed to Thing One as he was wandering around the kitchen this morning with his breakfast toast, scattering crumbs hither and yon.

Out: To Thing Two, as he laid waste to the inside of the refrigerator while trying to find a snack.

Leave it: To Thing Two, as he messed around with Thing One's saxophone case.

Off: To The Girl, who was sitting cross-legged on the coffee table while watching television.

They do say that keeping directions short and simple works for getting kids to listen and follow directions.  Not exactly breaking news, especially for kids with language processing issues.  But even so, I may still be inadvertently crossing a line here!  :)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ye Gods And Little Chickens, What A Morning

Spent more than four hours at the boys' school this morning.  I am officially basketballed out for the week.

I've mentioned before that I am an assistant coach for two of my kids' teams, The Girl's and Thing Two's.  Their practices are consecutive on Saturday mornings.  As it happened, the head coaches for both teams were absent today; one sick and the other at a business meeting.  The Girl's practice went okay, a little more chaotic than usual, but manageable.  The second practice, on the other hand, had the proverbial five fingers.

Of the kids on this team, four are still trying to figure out the basics of the sport, three play very well, one cannot either sit still or stop talking, one plainly doesn't want to be there and whines for the entire time, every time, one plays defense so intensely that he has been known to slide tackle opponents on the court, two have some kind of learning disability, and two descend into anarchy immediately if not widely separated.  (There is some overlap here.)  A daunting bunch to handle as a solo coach, to say the least, but none of the team parents who occasionally help out were there today!  I ended up, in desperation, drafting a friend off the bleachers, who most graciously saved my bacon despite the fact that he

a) knew very well what he was getting into,
b) had to leave his visiting parents alone in the seats to do so, and
c) ended up coaching against his own daughter during the scrimmage.

That would be the definition of true friendship.

Then both of us moved to the other gym to watch our elder children play a tough game.  (His son and Thing One are on the same team.)  Those boys absolutely couldn't buy a basket today to save their collective lives--maybe 10% of their shots dropped, but they still won.  On one particularly memorable trip down the court, all five members of Thing One's team on the court at the time took a shot, and all five missed!  (It is a testament to their defensive skills that they got the four offensive rebounds in a row, however--probably how they ended up winning in the end.)  

Now I am home.  I am not going anywhere or doing anything more complicated or stressful than laundry, dishes and cooking for the rest of the day.  The morning was enough!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Rambling

Just found out that I'm head-coaching basketball again tomorrow morning.  Oh well.  At least I found out before midnight this time, and I still have my practice plan from the last time this happened.  And now we are scrimmaging at the end of practice, which makes my job easier because there is less time I have to fill.  This is all good, because no way in hell do I have the energy right now to go make up a new plan from scratch.

Himself said I was talking in my sleep last night (actually, his exact words were that I appeared to be addressing a stadium without a microphone, which I take to mean that I was speaking loudly.)  Oh well again.  I'm tired, and I talk in my sleep more often when I'm really tired.  My college roommate told me that I spoke Chinese in my sleep back then...don't think I do that anymore.  I asked Himself what I was saying last night, but he doesn't remember, more's the pity.  I'd be interested in the insight into my subconscious.

Another sparring week over at the gym.  No major injury and some improvement in technique, for both of which I am grateful.  A couple of long days in a row capping off the week, too; all craziness with kid schedules and logistics.  I've earned my wine, and plan to enjoy it this evening!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Gumption: Found

Thing One's basketball team had a close call at a game a couple of weeks ago.  After a full season of relatively easy wins, that day's opposing team put up a real fight and nearly won.  Unfortunately, my son had a hard time with the challenge: I could see on his face that he was shutting down and giving up in the face of this unexpected adversity.  I was on my feet on the sideline in a heartbeat, yelling for him to snap out of it--to his credit, he did sack up and get his head back into the game.  I could care less if they lose, but Mama D ain't raising no stinkin' quitters.

Thought about that experience as I read the stream of texts Himself was sending me from the stands at tonight's game.  (I was home with the younger two.)  The boys were losing badly the first half.  Most of the team was visibly upset.  They only scored 9 points in the entire half.  But 8 of those 9 were by my son, who has never made four baskets in a game in his life.  He is usually a supporting player, a bread-and-butter defender and rebounder who scores a few points here and there.  Tonight, he carried his team for the whole first half.

The second half, his teammates snapped back.  Thing One didn't make any other baskets, but he kept up his defensive pressure and even turned it up a notch.  The texts showed a score that was getting closer and closer and closer...our point guards were finally finding paths to the hoop.  And when the final buzzer sounded, our boys had won by one point.

I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of that kid tonight.  He didn't give up.  He did the best he could--the best he's ever done--even when they were getting shellacked.  And he stepped up to lead when a leader was needed.  The win was just icing on the cake.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I Opened My Mouth...

Saw this image the other day on a friend's Facebook page, smiled in rueful acknowledgement, and moved on.

That happens regularly, enough so to be old news.  I've long since become used to hearing her words (flashbacks from my childhood) coming out of my mouth of their own volition as I parent my own children.

What I don't do often, however, is channel my father, and that happened this morning as I was driving to the gym after dropping The Girl off at school.  Flipping around the radio stations that are preset in my car, I paused on Thing One's preferred station just long enough to register screeching electropop music before saying (out loud, to myself) "What the hell kind of noise is that???" and flipping the channel.  And then I immediately smacked myself on the forehead, because that is PRECISELY the reaction my father had while I was growing up--and still has, for the record--to any song involving an electric guitar, on any radio channel.  I'm turning into a crotchety old curmudgeon like my father.  (Hi, Dad!)  

Himself is a little older than me, but his parents are a few years younger than mine.  He was raised on the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and classic rock; I, on Helen Reddy, the Carpenters, Barry Manilow, John Denver, and Kenny Rogers.  I lived in an elevator (for all musical intents and purposes) for the first 18 years of my this day, I am probably the only person in the continental US under the age of 40 who knows all the words--still--to every song these people ever recorded.  My father and I even danced together at my wedding to a Kenny Rogers song, as I recall, because I love him dearly even if his musical preferences haven't changed much since sometime in the 1960s!

Himself's car has satellite radio, but not mine.  Through his daily 2+-hour (miserable commute) exposure to the bazillion channels available there, he has become a fan of alt-rock, which is now our family's collective favorite musical genre (Mumford & Sons, the Killers, Arcade Fire, Cage the Elephant, 30 Seconds to Mars, etc.)  Since I lived in a British colony during the late '80s, my formative musical years, when driving his car I also often listen to the New Wave channel, the British 1980s equivalent of alt-rock.  Thing One actually requests this channel--he likes it too.  

Which is a good thing, if my history with my dad is any indicator, since he will probably be listening to it until he turns 18!   


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thing Two Is On A Roll

Thing Two, my hardheaded, auditory processing-challenged son who finally made his first real friend, is the Star Student of the week in his homeroom class, which involves him having to make a poster about himself and present it to the class.  (All the kids have a turn at this eventually.)  His poster was due in today, and I asked him if he'd like me to just drop it off or stay and watch the presentation.  He told me that none of the other parents have stayed so far (with their kids who were previous Star Students) and that he wanted me to just drop off his poster and go.

This was HUGE.

First, he actually noticed the social norm: parents don't stay for these talks.

Then, he made a conscious decision to conform to the social norm: other kids don't have their parents stay, and I want to be like them.  He used very similar words to this, actually.  

This child has been largely oblivious to social and behavioral subtleties for most of his life--when you have to struggle mightily just to understand the language going on around you, all else becomes  secondary by necessity.  It is a measure of how far he's come that he is starting to pay attention to what others do, and to what they think of him.  (He was not happy about having to wear his basketball shoes to school until one of his classmates told him that they looked cool, and then he was fine with it.)

And the icing on the cake was that he knocked his poster presentation out of the park.  Bless his teacher, I didn't even ask her for feedback, but she emailed me the following this afternoon:

"He did an awesome job presenting his poster! He was confident, proud and very happy. He also did an excellent job answering his classmates' questions.  He is really flourishing this year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I think I might cry.  It's been a long tunnel, but I see light. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Peace In Our Time

A quiet Monday because of the holiday.  It actually felt like a Sunday, or at least how a Sunday would feel without all the stuff our family normally jams into it: church and soccer and shopping and lunch-packing for Monday and birthday parties and laundry and cleaning etc etc etc.

The boys had soccer from 9-12, one of the clinics their club runs to give active youngsters an opportunity to blow off some steam on long weekends.  My daughter being younger, her clinic was only an hour, from 5-6.  I, not being the parent responsible for soccer in this house (I have basketball detail) stayed home except for a brief trip to the grocery store, which was beyond lovely since I so rarely get to just stay home and chill!  I spent a good chunk of the afternoon on the computer working on my genealogy project, and made some headway.  But I really do want to know: how is it possible that no death records appear to exist for some people who died in the early 20th century in well-established and civilized states???  If we were talking about the Arizona Territory in the 1860s, for example, I could see it.  Or even the Northeastern states in the 1700s and 1800s (although you'd be surprised how much information you can sometimes find.)  But New York and Pennsylvania circa 1910?  Oh well.  I will figure one particular branch of the family out if I have to take myself in person all the way to a particular cemetery in the boonies of upstate New York to do it.  It is now a mission.

Himself finds it amusing to listen to me grumbling at the computer when I can't find records that I'm looking for.  He does have a point, I suppose...given that all three of my hobbies (genealogy, taekwondo and Angry Birds) regularly frustrate the crap out of me, I should probably think about taking up something more soothing instead!  Like knitting or yoga or deep meditative breathing, maybe.  Even my hobbies are type A...

We've recently started having a somewhat more formal Sunday dinner.  Just the five of us, but in the dining room, with the nice plates and a focus on good table manners and real conversation.  Some hits, some misses, but in general the project is going pretty well.  Tonight (last night just didn't work out logistically) was a great success except for one cup of juice that ended up all over the tablecloth!  Some training in deep Zen breathing might have come in handy...grateful that my husband had the sense not to give any of the kids red beverages in the dining room, at least.

Peace out...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

It Finally Happened

Thing Two has a friend.  A real friend, a quiet boy from his class and his soccer team who can apparently overlook his social idiosyncrasies.  I watched the two of them interacting at a birthday party today: navigating the crowd together at the arcade where the party was held, taking turns with the games and gleefully collecting and comparing numbers of those tickets that can be exchanged later for small trinkets.  I just about cried.  It wasn't my birthday, but I got the best present of all...the opportunity to see my son playing with his friend.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Me And My Girl

If Thing Two had been a girl, I doubt that we'd have had three children, me not having the right sort of temperament (or sufficient patience) for a houseful of kids.  But I really did want a girl, and so we decided to try one last time when Thing Two was a toddler.  Whatever we got, we'd be paraphrase Bill Cosby, we have three children because we did not want four.

That last pregnancy was different from the others almost from the outset.  I had no morning sickness with either boy.  Zip.  Zero.  Easiest pregnancies ever.  The third time around, I was queasy all day except from about 10AM to 4PM.  I looked at Himself one day early on and said "This one's my girl.  No doubt."  Himself, who would have been perfectly happy with three boys (not for any misogynistic reason, merely because he is the ultimate in protective fathers) was in the deepest of denial until the 20-week ultrasound, which confirmed my suspicions.  He has been more or less panicked about her safety, well-being and interactions with boys ever since.  He was not at all amused by her recent 'engagement.'

And because God has a sense of humor, she is her father's clone, too, in appearance and disposition and habits.  She has his foot speed and soccer skill and facial expressions and practical intelligence and puzzle solving ability, and also his tendency to sing the same snatch of song over and over and over and OVER until the rest of us are ready to scream.  They are so much alike that they will doubtless butt heads constantly when she gets to high school, if my own father and brother (likewise clones) are anything to go by.

But no matter how much she may be like her father, she is still my girl.  She wants to keep me company and do what I do and sit on my lap for hugs and help me whenever she can.  I was thinking about this today as I was starting preparations for tonight's dinner.  I was in the kitchen getting the beef stew ingredients ready to go into the crockpot: chopping vegetables, browning beef chunks, making the gravy.  All with her cheerfully perched on a chair beside me, watching what I was doing, asking questions and doing whatever she was able to do to help.  She's too young to be let loose with knife or stovetop yet, but she mixes and pours and stirs things and fetches ingredients and puts dirty utensils into the sink.  After the stew was put on to cook, she painted the garlic butter onto the sliced loaf of bread, now ready for the oven.  I am under orders not to prepare the salad or the brie in pastry for the hors d'oeuvres until she gets back from soccer practice around lunchtime, because she wants to help with those too.

When I was a little girl, I learned to cook the same way: on a chair next to my mother (and sometimes my grandmother as well.)  Love is a language often transmitted in food in my family...all the special family recipes and even the day-to-day ones.  The link is the time spent together with loved ones in the kitchen.  As I looked at my daughter's little face beside me this morning, my view shifted to myself learning at the side of my own mother, as I did so many times as a child.

I love my sons dearly.  I wouldn't trade either of them for their weight in diamonds or gold, and they are beyond precious to me.  But deep in my heart, where the quiet wishes and prayers live, I wish for my daughter to have a little girl of her own someday, one just like her.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

I Love Freecycle

Tonight, three large garbage bags of outgrown toys left my house, picked up by a woman who lives up the street for her grandchildren to play with at her house.  Win-win...those kids have new toys, and my basement playroom is less of a disaster area than it was previously!  We are having company tomorrow night: friends with children the same ages as Thing One and Thing Two, plus a toddler.  One of my rules is that the basement needs to be cleaned up before my kids have friends over, so while they cleaned this afternoon, I sorted.

I feel like I live my life in a constant battle against disorder.  Toys, papers, clothes, books...there is not a clear flat surface to be found in my home, ever.  It makes me insane.  I'm fighting a losing battle, of me and four of them (untidy beings all, my immediate family members) makes for a most unfavorable ratio of cleaners to messer-uppers.

The other day, I saw an article about giving up clutter for Lent.  The idea is to de-clutter an area of your home every day for the 40 days of Lent and fill up 40 bags to remove from the house.  Not sure I would be able to stick to that schedule (though God knows I have 40 bags' worth that could go!) but it's definitely a good idea.  And a hell of a lot more productive in the long run than a lot of things that people do for Lent.  At least tonight was a good start!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Valentine

I'm a Valentine's Day hater.

Have always felt that today is a Hallmark holiday: the card and jewelery and flower and restaurant industries conspiring to make a major commercial event out of a day on the calendar previously associated primarily with a beheaded saint!  I'm generally of the opinion that a bouquet of wildflowers picked from the side of the road on an random day for no reason is a much more genuine expression of love than dozens of roses given on the day that social conventions dictate that roses should be given.

Himself is not a mushy or demonstrative kind of guy.  Never has been.  But there is no question in my mind that the man loves me.  For example:

When he goes to bed first in winter, he lies on my side to warm it up for me before I come to bed.  And he leaves a light on in the room so that I can see when I come in, no matter how many times I tell him to turn it off so he can sleep better.

He knows how much I hate being without an Internet connection, and always fixes the modem (or whatever) ASAP when the connection acts up.

He sends me a text to say 'good morning' every day from work without fail.  (He leaves before I get up.)  And later, he checks to see how my day is going.

If he sees a basket of clean laundry that isn't folded yet, he folds it without being asked.

He puts the kids to bed almost every night by himself, since by that time of day I've generally had enough!  All I have to do is kiss them goodnight.

He takes the dog out whenever it rains or snows so I don't have to.

Those kinds of things will never be on any Hallmark card, more's the pity.  But they should be.  Happy Valentine's Day to my real-life valentine...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ain't This The Truth...

Thing Two has had word problems in his math homework every day this week: an uphill battle for the two of us to get through, to say the least.  This cartoon made me laugh right out loud when I saw it today!

It also reminded me of this one:

I'm a biologist.  Biology is a discipline more geared toward those good with words than those good with numbers, unlike (e.g.) chemistry and physics.  I don't even want to discuss how many math, chemistry and physics classes I was required to take as a Biology major, though!  Ugh.  I got through calculus I and II entirely through the good graces of my college roommate, who was able to translate math into English for me.

And speaking of math atheism, one more...

Yes, I'm a dork.  But we already knew that.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Confirmed By Evite

We have a big St. Patrick's Day party every year.  I usually send out the invitations via evite because it is simple and efficient.  This year's invitation went out four or five days ago.

It's a big party: I think 33 couples were on the list this year.  Obviously, we're closer to some of these people than others.  There is one couple in particular whom we get along with fine, but who can be a bit elitist and socially judgmental sometimes.  Their son is a nice kid (despite this) and a good friend of Thing One's, so we end up being socially closer to their family than we might have been otherwise.

In any case, those who have never hosted an event on evite may not be aware that the host can see who has viewed the invitation and on what date(s).  In checking back periodically to see who has viewed the invitation (mainly to be sure that I have the correct emails for everyone and that the invitation has gotten through to all the intended recipients) I've noticed that the woman of this couple has checked the invitation every day.  I can only imagine that she is checking to see who has RSVP'd so far, so that they can use this information to decide whether or not they will be attending.

I'm honestly not trying to be uncharitable...if anyone can think of any other reason for her to do this, I'd love to hear it.  But I did find it socially interesting, and a likely confirmation of my previous take on her!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Best Compliment EVER

From the older Russian lady behind the counter at the deli:

"I always remember your kids--they are the ones with such beautiful manners who say 'please' and 'thank you' every time they order from me."

We've tried so very hard over the years to teach our little ruffians to speak politely, and that was an accolade from a completely unexpected source!!  Made my whole day...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Groundhog Day

A friend of mine from high school is a professional musician, a percussionist.  You could tell that he was going to be something special even back then...I remember hearing him play "The Star Spangled Banner" on a snare drum in band class and being absolutely blown away.  The fact that the song was recognizable at all was amazing enough given that he only had the one drum to work with, and he just killed it. 

This is a snare drum.  One drumhead, two sticks...simple enough.

He went on to one of the major music-program universities after high school, and has been a touring musician with all kinds of huge, famous acts for years now.  He's currently several hundred shows into a major world tour.  As I looked at his latest Facebook update a day or two ago, the thought crossed my mind that I wouldn't want to play the same show hundreds of times in a row.  I think I'd start dialing it in after a while, which is totally against the spirit of the thing.  I've actually had the same thought in the past about professional cooks...not the big-name chefs who can change their menus on a whim, but the line cooks who make the same meals at the same station every night.  Not sure I could do that either.  I used to work with a woman who had no ambition at all beyond the position that both of us held at the time, and I just didn't understand that at all.  I can't wrap my head around the idea that anyone could be happy doing the same thing over and over forever.  Or that anyone would even consider it.    

All deeply ironic, of course, because as a stay-at-home mother, I do the same damn things over and over every day of my life!  Cooking, laundry, dishes, cleaning (is there any more pointless activity than cleaning something that will immediately be dirtied again??)  Taking kids to school and from school, to activities and from activities.  Going to the grocery store, the dry cleaner, the department store, the drugstore, the gym.  There's nothing exciting about my day-to-day life: it is routine if ever there was routine.  

And the number of times I have to say the same things over and over to my kids???  I'm sick of hearing them...can't imagine that they aren't!
I'm fortunate that I don't have to work.  I know this.  I've thought about going back to work a million times, just to have something outside this house in which to be involved beyond my volunteer stuff (and face it, it would be nice to get paid for something that I do!), but then I'd be responsible for the house and kids AND a job, which isn't appealing either.  And then there were all those years where Thing Two needed every second of time and ounce of energy I could spare anyway, back in the dark days.   

I've come to terms with the day-to-day sameness, mostly.  It's my life right now, and that's ok.  It won't be my life forever--the kids are getting older, and I am clawing back some independence and free time.  Soon enough I will be able to find something else to do, hopefully something that keeps me learning and growing.

After all, "the only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions!"    

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Good Day

It snowed here overnight, enough to make things pretty but not enough to cause a real problem.  Glad I don't live in New England, anyway--their big nor'easter dropped close to three feet of snow on a college friend who lives in Connecticut.  (By the way, does anyone else think that Nemo is an unlikely name for a massive blizzard?  I keep envisioning the clownfish of the movie...not typically something I would associate with snow.)

Took the kids sledding this afternoon.  It was cold, clear and sunny.  The younger two had never been on sleds before, but I shouldn't have worried--both are good athletes and completely fearless!  We met up with half a dozen other families at the school hill, all of whom have boys Thing One's age, and the whole crew of kids hurled themselves downhill repeatedly on various plastic contraptions at the highest possible speeds.  Oh, to be a kid again...I SO wanted to join in.

When the wind picked up and they all started to stagger with exhaustion, we headed home for hot cocoa and popcorn in front of the fire.  Thing One was so fried and crabby that I banished him to his room (where he promptly fell asleep), but the other two helped me with laundry and vacuuming and even dinner prep!  Chicken and dumplings...delicious.  And they all ate it without complaining, which is a wonder in itself: we're still paying the price for letting them get away with eating hot dogs and chicken nuggets for too many years.

So, to recap: snow, sun, friends, sledding, warm fire, cooperative kids, good food.  I'll take it.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Big Bad Tattooed Mama

Temporarily, anyway.

The cross-cultural element of my taekwondo class is one of my favorite things about it.  Our usual Friday instructor is a funny and fierce headscarf-wearing devout Muslim, and her Tuesday and Thursday counterpart is a tiny woman of Indian heritage who, as she puts it, "was on track to be an Olympic gymnast until I grew boobs."  She is now a second-degree black belt and entirely capable of folding, spindling and mutilating me even though I am ten inches taller and probably at least 60 pounds heavier than she is.  Both of these women are forces of nature, albeit in entirely different ways, and both of them rock.

At any rate, the Indian instructor showed up to class today (she often does even when she's not teaching) with henna tattoos all over her hands and feet.  Apparently her aikido class last night was cancelled, and home with nothing else to do, she decided to experiment with a tube of henna paste.  I've gotten henna tattoos before, but only as a child--it's been years since I've even seen the stuff.  It comes in something like a toothpaste tube with a more conical end and a smaller opening.  She brought it to class to show us, and before we knew it, two of us had our own tattoos!  The picture above is of mine, drawn freehand in about two minutes by this multi-talented woman.

The best part was Thing One's reaction.  He, being unaware that henna tattoos wear off in a week or two and that the paste (still on in the picture) is much darker that the final tattoo, was more than a little taken aback and asked my husband what in the world I'd been thinking and if I was going to get in trouble!  I gather from talking to my friend--who also now has a neck tattoo--that her children had a similar reaction.  We decided that it was a shame that we'd explained.  :)


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Today Felt So Easy

And I still had to pick The Girl up early from her school, collect the boys from their school after the final bell (no time for the bus home on Thursdays) and take all three directly to Thing Two's speech therapy lesson, followed by a quick run home for the boys to change clothes and then an hour of soccer for both.

Sadly, all of this is status quo for Thursdays during the winter and I have the routine down by now.  The difference today was that Thing One did not have basketball practice tonight (thank the court gods) so I did not have to have him change into basketball gear in the soccer locker room and eat a sack dinner on the way to practice, which starts 30 minutes after soccer ends in a town 15 minutes away.  Going directly home from soccer and staying there felt positively civilized!  And not having to pack bags of dinner and basketball gear and bring them to soccer made my afternoon a lot less complicated, too.

Himself has gotten into the habit over the years of calling me when he is about ten minutes away from home on his return trip from work.  That way I can have his dinner ready when he gets here, and he can eat quickly and then spend the maximum possible time with the kids before their bedtime.  When that call came in tonight, I actually stopped for a second and looked at the's been so long since I was home when he got home that I actually can't remember when it last happened.  Sometime before basketball started in December, for sure.  That's what three kids' worth of after school activities and parental juggling will do to a schedule!  (This is also why we make a point of eating together on weekends.)

It's a sad state of affairs when "only" two consecutive after-school activities feels like a walk in the park, though.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


That's what hit the fan today.  Or more accurately, a good percentage of the floor surface of my house.

Immediately after school, Thing Two did his homework and then read me his assigned book on the sofa.  As time was getting short before we had to leave for Thing One's piano lesson, I asked Thing One to take the dog outside and then put her in her crate upstairs while we finished up.  He did so, but as we were all subsequently getting ready to leave, I noticed a odd smell in the mudroom and something brown on the floor.

Yes, you guessed it.  My brainiac eldest had stepped in dog poop outside (actually, based on the bottoms of his shoes, it looked more like he ice-skated in it!) and then obliviously walked from the back door through my kitchen and front hall and UP MY LIGHT-CARPETED STAIRS to the crate before retracing his steps.  There was shit everywhere.  Literally.  And my brainiac eldest didn't notice anything at all until I called his attention to the marks in a rather frantic and agitated manner.  Which marks we of course had to leave where they were for the time being to add insult to injury, since we were already late.

But I did tell Thing One that he was cleaning the carpet by himself when we got home, and to his credit, he did a great job.  Although he made such a mess of himself in the process of cleaning his shoes on the driveway afterward that I made him strip down to his skivvies in the mud room, drop all of his clothes directly into the washing machine and then take a hot shower before he could come to the dinner table!

A nicer mother probably wouldn't have told this story.  But since I was the one who had to clean the kitchen and hall floors while he was scrubbing the carpet, he's out of luck...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Monday Is My New Saturday

Back when I worked full time, pre-kids, I loved weekends.  I knew that if I could just get through the week, I'd be able to chill and recharge my batteries for those couple of days before Monday rolled around again.  Sure, there was still stuff I needed to get done on my days off, and I'd do it, but there was some legitimate downtime too.  

Came to the realization recently that weekends are actually busier for me now (in my Mom/housekeeper/cook/etc capacity) than weekdays.  Everyone is home much more than they are during the week, so the mess is continual and everlasting, someone is always hungry, and someone always needs to be somewhere.  The expectations of weekend downtime are still built in from my past life, but I never seem to have any these days.  This leaves me really cranky by Sunday evening, when I start the buildup to the week again.

So, I'm trying an experiment: I'm officially giving up on the whole weekend-downtime thing and just acknowledging that Saturday and Sunday will be crazy and entirely unrelaxing.  And because of this, I'm also giving myself permission to take a weekday off to make up for it!  As it happens, Monday is a good candidate (nothing official on the schedule while the kids are at school except for the odd appointment) so that will now be "my" time.  

Whatever works.  Better to schedule free time during the week than not to have any at all!  After all, if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sunday Soundbites

Introduced my children to Nutella today.  There was much bitterness that I have been holding out on them: I anticipate that they will be eating it with spoons straight from the jar as soon as I turn my back.

Is there anything better than watching a child blossom?  A very shy little boy on The Girl's basketball team (there is a wide age range) has needed to have one of his parents standing by him at practice all season.  Yesterday, he got through a whole practice all by himself--his dad was sitting on the bleachers--and did a fantastic job.  I'm in no way taking all the credit for it, believe me, but this kind of thing is what really makes coaching worthwhile.  He rocked that practice and I could not have been prouder of him if he was my own kid.

Chilly, miserable day here and I have had it up to my eyebrows with this cold!  Virus, virus, go away.  Made both split pea soup and goulash and loaded up the latter with hot paprika to firebomb my sinuses.  If that doesn't work, it will be back to the Thai place for some serious chiles.  Or I'll just drown the little buggers in wine if all else fails!


Saturday, February 2, 2013

In Which The Author Is Reminded That She Does Not Entirely Belong Here

For three years, I was a member of our town's Preserved Farmland Commission, the goal of which is to work with state and county funding agencies to purchase and preserve farmland in the area so that it will not be developed and the rural character of the area will accordingly be maintained.  Leaving aside the heretical notion (to them, if not to me) that some development is actually good for the tax base and for school funding, I was not an ideal member of that commission, and for a very simple reason: I only moved here about ten years ago.

The chairman would invariably introduce a new property for consideration by name: for example, "the old Wilson farm."  And the other members of the group, all of whose families have been here for forty-two generations (I exaggerate, but only slightly) would all nod in acknowledgement.  And then I would invariably have to ask the location of the property in question, since I knew of neither the Wilsons nor their farm.  The initial answer would always be something like "down the road from where the old schoolhouse used to be," which of course didn't help me either.  It got to the point where the chairman just started bringing the town's tax map to meetings and preemptively pointing to the piece of property in question on the map.  

I was reminded of that whole situation the other day when I stopped into the feed store up the street to buy The Hound a peanut butter bone.  (Ye gods: how my life has changed in the last ten years!)  While waiting in line, I was casually perusing a line of shampoo and conditioner bottles on the shelf behind me, and the customer ahead of me, noticing this, commented that they are very good.  I, thinking back to the Mane and Tail product craze of a few years ago (horse grooming products that crossed over to human use), assumed that she meant that she used them herself.  She looked at me as if I were utterly insane and then told me that I should try them on my horses.   

Bearing in mind that one 50-lb dog and the (marauding and thoroughly unwelcome) herds of deer that wander through my backyard together constitute the entire livestock population of my property, guess I won't be buying any of that stuff anytime soon.  I can't even begin to envision a scenario in which I would be washing any part of a horse.  You can take the kid out of the city, but there's only so much city you can take out of the kid!       


Friday, February 1, 2013

A Sad Commentary Twice Over

So, I was standing in line at my sons' school yesterday afternoon waiting to pick them up.  A close friend of mine (I'll call her B) was a few people ahead of me in line, and we were chatting as we waited.

B told me a story she'd just heard from a friend of hers, whose kids attend a different area school.  The friend had been in the front hall of that school with her middle-school aged son, who did something boneheaded and exasperating, as boys often do in my experience.  In response, she bonked him on the head.  With an empty paper folder.  (Note that this made the kid laugh.)

Somebody at the school called Child Protective Services.  They showed up at her house that night and gave her the third degree.  That boggled my mind.

But here's the best (or worst) part.  Standing between me and B in that parent pickup line was one of our local policemen, whose daughter is in Thing One's class.  Great guy, salt of the earth.  We hadn't realized that he was listening in until he piped up, and rather bitterly--very out of character for him.

His comment?  "Your friend didn't have to worry.  CPS wasn't going to take her kids.  They don't want to.  When we really want the kids removed from a home, 95% of the time they won't take them.  We ask them all the time why they even bother to show up."

Remember, that was a cop speaking.  That boggled my mind again.

CPS shows up when a mom bonks her kid on the head with, again, an empty paper folder--but won't take kids out of their homes when policemen--policemen!!--are all but begging them to do so.

Insane.  Just insane.

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...