Monday, April 29, 2013

Back To The Ol' Drawing Board

That expression always makes me think of either Marvin the Martian or Wile E. Coyote--two of my all-time favorite cartoon characters.

Thing Two likes routine and a set schedule.  It used to be that the smallest deviation from the norm would really upset him, back in the days when he really didn't understand what we were saying to him.  These days, with his communication skills exponentially improved, it's possible to change things up much more than previously.  However, his preference is still to switch from one routine to another routine whenever possible.  We always have a couple of big changes per year in the after-school schedule when the sports seasons change (fall soccer to basketball in the winter and back to soccer in the spring), but those sports all have set weekly schedules.  We have a week or so of figuring out how we are going to juggle the year-round activities into the schedule for the sport of the season at the beginning, and then we're good to go.

Baseball, on the other hand, has thrown a real spanner into the works!

Thing One played baseball for two years, but stopped when he made his first travel soccer team.  It just wasn't his thing--not enough action--and I remember being happy because the baseball schedule made me nuts anyway.  When Himself told me that Thing Two wanted to give it a try this spring, I was reluctant, to say the least.  He's a natural athlete, and it seemed unfair not to at least give him a go at it in case it does turn out to be the sport he loves, so I gave in, but I am freshly reminded of why baseball makes me crazy.

Thing Two's team is made up of first, second and third graders (it's an age cutoff thing.)  Some weeks they have four practices or games, each lasting a minimum of two hours!  Sometimes these practices are scheduled at the very last minute when a field opens up.  And worst of all, the days on which the practices and games are held vary week to week.

In addition to Thing Two's baseball, all three of my kids are currently playing soccer and all three have taekwondo.  We also have a speech therapy session and a piano lesson each week.  Soccer, speech and piano fall on set days, baseball changes week to week, and thankfully there are TKD classes available every day after school (any of which we can attend as our schedule permits) or we'd be up a creek with that.  As it is, the kids get to all their activities, but the daily schedule changes every single week.  This was sending Thing Two into a complete tizzy.  The activity level doesn't bother him at all, but he craves schedule predictability and was getting none!

Our solution: a big whiteboard.

Every Sunday evening, Himself and I sit down with the calendars after the kids go to bed and figure out what the kids will be doing which day after school the following week.   Soccer, baseball, speech and piano are accounted for, then we figure out which TKD classes the kids can attend that week.  When we have the whole schedule set, we write it on the whiteboard and I prop that on the kitchen counter.  Now, Thing Two can look at the whiteboard any time he has a question.  Since he does a lot better with processing visual information than auditory information anyway, this works for him.  Happier boy, I spend less time repeating things, and it actually helps me keep track of activities too--a win win strategy.

I went into his baseball season selfishly hoping that the experiment wouldn't work out, I must admit.  Not that I was (or am) in any way discouraging to him, but it is a hassle for the rest of us.  Unfortunately for everyone but him, he's turning out to be a natural!  His coach looked at me after Saturday's practice and commented, "This kid has everything I can't teach."  (Referring to hand-eye coordination, speed and determination.)      

No telling at this point how long the kid will stick with baseball.  Hopefully, for as long as it remains fun for him.  But it looks like I should plan on keeping the whiteboard around for a while!


Friday, April 26, 2013

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

(Yes, I prefer to use the Oxford comma.  Sorry if it bothers you.)

Anyway, interesting evening yesterday.  Thing Two had a baseball game and the whole family went to watch.

The Good: Thing Two was awarded a game ball after the game.  Granted, I think mostly because he made an excellent defensive stop in the field with his shin rather than his glove and didn't cry, but he did have a couple of decent hits as well and he's one of the youngest on the team.  We were very proud. The whole team signed his ball and it is now in a place of honor on his bedroom dresser!

The Bad: The opposing team, whom we'd beaten handily last week, found their hitting form last night and the score was really ugly in their favor for the first few innings.  In the bottom of the last inning, we finally fought our way back with some really good hitting of our own and had the winning run on base, but ultimately had to settle for a tie instead.  (Okay, maybe this is more of a Disappointment than a Bad, but oh well.)

The Ugly: A jackass couple standing near me.  A friend of Thing One's was playing with my dog toward the end of the game, and for some reason these jerks were watching that rather than their nephew's baseball game.  They made a series of rude comments to me about how this child was interacting with the dog.  In an effort (possibly misguided) to get them to be more charitable, I mentioned that the child is autistic, and that if I'd thought there was a problem I would have separated him from the dog.  The woman responded that she teaches autistic children and suspected that to be the issue, but then continued to make inappropriate comments, including one about how the child's mother "never pays enough attention to his behavior."  Given that the child's mother is also a close friend of mine and that I happen to know that she's been to hell and back fighting for this kid over the years (besides which, she was sitting not 20 feet away), I was temporarily speechless.  A profane tirade was the first thing that came to mind, but I managed to bite it back because of the young children present.

God help the poor kids this bitch teaches.  Next time, she gets both barrels.    


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Another Hero

I've mentioned several times before that I have two kick-ass taekwondo instructors whom I really admire: one a tiny Indian woman strong enough to carry large Caucasian me across the room on her back; the other a mightily fierce (and only slightly less tiny) be-hijabed Egyptian Muslim who can drop me like a bad habit.

I admire many of my classmates as well--as a group, they are highly dedicated and proficient.  But my newest classmate is a hero in my eyes simply for showing up to class.

You see, he's a proud Vietnam vet.  He'll tell you all about his service if you ask.  I have no idea how old he is, but if he was 20 in 1970, he'd be 63 now.  My best guess looking at him is that he's older than 63.  The average age in the morning classes is probably 40, and most of these women (it's almost all women) are very physically active in other ways as well.  To put it mildly, he sticks out from the usual class demographic.

He came to his first class probably a month ago.  It was a particularly tough one: he hung in gamely for a good while, but ended up leaving halfway through.  This not being a hobby that the average septuagenarian-ish person takes up for the first time, I never expected to see him again.

Tuesday, he was back.  Apparently whatever had been bothering him physically the first time was feeling better, and he got all the way through class.  Not perfectly by any means, but he hung in there.   And he attended class again today, this time wearing a gi.  That was a big deal.

People are permitted to try the class (in regular exercise clothing) to see if they like it before purchasing the white uniform.  Once they decide to commit, they buy their gi jacket and pants, and the instructor bestows their white belt in a brief ceremony at the beginning of class.  The fact that he had a gi on means that he's officially decided to stick around.

He certainly has some challenges ahead.  Some of the moves will be tough for him.  He'll be hard put to keep up with some of the endurance work.  And he's hard of hearing, which means that the instructors will have to work on projecting their voices more, since the lower belts traditionally stand to the back of the class.

But God bless the man, he's doing his best.  That's all the instructors ask of any of us.  And he's sure got guts--he's facing this challenge head-on.

Joe, my hat's off to you.  Heroes come in all shapes, sizes and ages.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bad Mom Moment

Every Wednesday, Thing One has a piano lesson after school.  I drop him off at his teacher's house and then take the younger two to the county library to keep them occupied until it's time to pick him up again.  Happily, piano lesson time happens to coincide with therapy-dog-at-the-library time (a program wherein kids are encouraged to read to the dogs) so they stop in to visit the dogs, grab some new books quickly, and then we head out.

As it happened, both kids' favorite dogs were there this week.  Thing Two loves a beautiful yellow lab named River, and The Girl a small shaggy brown mutt with a snub nose named Ben.  By this stage of the game, I know all the dogs too and enjoy petting them as much as the kids do!  Unfortunately, I crossed a line with that this evening, giving Jane the librarian a good laugh in the process.

Much to The Girl's annoyance, Ben has taken a particular shine to me.  Whenever I sit down near him, he climbs immediately into my lap, wriggling with joy all the while.  After a few minutes of this, she asked me plaintively if she could have a turn playing with him too!!

Some Battles Just Aren't Worth Fighting

My daughter came downstairs yesterday morning before school wearing the following:

A long sleeved, hot pink shirt
A hot pink and purple plaid skirt
Pink, orange, yellow and blue flowered tights (large flowers!)
Pink and orange sneakers.

Ye gods.

Now, our usual deal is that she can pick her own clothes, but that I have veto power in the case of either hoochiness (unintentional at this point, thankfully) or seasonal inappropriateness.  I try very hard to keep my mouth shut in the case of crazy combinations of color or pattern that are otherwise okay in terms of skin coverage and weather conditions, but sometimes it's tough.

I could pick outfits for her, but I hate to do it.  And she is aware that sometimes her outfits are crazy, like yesterday's--when she came downstairs, she said, "Mom, I know this doesn't match, but I want to wear it anyway."

Who am I to argue with that??  I hope she always maintains that level of confidence even if she eventually decides to tone down her outfits!

Monday, April 22, 2013

There Is Hope For Humanity Yet

Finally, a news story that made me happy.  Let's hear it for thoughtfulness and pulling together in time of trouble.  And pizza, too.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Now THAT Was An Odd Coincidence

Thing Two and The Girl had a soccer game today.  (They play on the same team.)  After the game, I was casually chatting with one of their assistant coaches, who is a friend of mine.  Out of the blue, she commented that it would really help if parents of special needs kids would talk to their kids' sports coaches upfront about any medical issues the children may have.

After a brief moment of being mightily taken aback (since I wrote a post on that very subject less than a week ago!) I asked if she was having trouble with Thing Two--since she's known him for some time, I didn't specifically talk to her about him at the beginning of this season.  I was thinking that maybe she'd forgotten about his auditory processing problem.  That wasn't it, thankfully.

As it turned out, the child whose on-field behavior was concerning her has been in the same intervention program as Thing Two for years, so I happen to know that he does have medical issues and is almost certainly not trying to drive her nuts, although he has apparently been succeeding.  (If I had to guess, he is high-functioning autistic, but I don't know that for sure.)  She'd been trying to figure out whether he had special needs or just really did not want to be part of the team for some time.

A real-life example: a coach who would have been a lot less frustrated today and other days if this child's parents had communicated with her upfront, and a child who would probably be having a lot more fun if the coaches knew that he has special needs and how to accommodate them.  A lose-lose situation!


This just should not be an issue.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


A friend of mine shared a Facebook post today that was written by someone named Cam Siciliano.  Cam, whomever you may be, I take my hat off to you today.  Here's what he wrote:

"I don't want to know his name. I don't want to see his face. I don't want to know his life's history, his back-story, who his family is, where he went to school, or what he liked to do in his spare time. I don't want to know what "cause", if any, he was fighting for. I don't want to know why he did it, or may have done it, or what possessed him to carry out his actions. I don't want to know. Because that's what he really wants. I'll be damned if I'm going to give him what he wants.

Put him on trial, but don't cover it. Tell me when you decide to jail him for three lifetimes - because that number matters. That's the number of lives he has to now pay for. That's all I want to know about him. Nothing else.

Instead, tell me about the first responders who ran towards the fray, within seconds, fearless. Tell me about the ones wearing the yellow volunteer jacket, or the neon police vest, or even the ones in the regular everyday t-shirt who became a helper. Tell me the story about the first responder who held gauze over a wound until they made it to the hospital. Tell me the story about the volunteer who held the hand of the injured spectator until they got into the ambulance. In six months, tell me the story of those who lost a limb, who beat the odds, pulled through countless surgeries, and are learning to walk again. Tell me the story about the love, the compassion, and the never-ending support of thousands, millions, of people who support the victims here. Tell me their stories. Tell me everything you can, because they are the ones that matter. Tell me of the good that they have done, are doing, and will continue to do, regardless of... No, not regardless of, in spite of. In spite of that someone who would do them harm. Because that's what freedom in this country means. It means coming together in the hardest of times, even in the face of unfathomable adversity, to make life better for all those around us.

Tell me the good stories. That's all I want to hear."

Preach it, brother.

Oh, and while I'm at it, screw the ACLU.

Right about the time Dzhokhar Tsarnaev violently demonstrated his utter disdain for the rights of every single person at the finish line of the Boston marathon, I stopped giving one single solitary shit about his.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Collateral Damage

A good friend of mine ran the Boston marathon this year.  Her husband and four children (ranging in age from 8 months to ten years) were at the finish line to cheer her on, apparently standing very close to what turned out to be the detonation zone.  Luckily for them, my friend finished about half an hour before the explosions, and her family was well out of harm's way by the time they occurred.  So many were not so fortunate.  

I'm glad they got the one miserable cowardly bastard already.  May he rot in hell.  I hope they catch the other one alive, string him up by his genitals, draw and quarter him, and then bury him upside down in pig entrails.  But because of what he himself has done, not because he is Muslim.

When I heard of the attacks, my first guess was that the bombers were Muslim.  But a good part of me hoped that they were not, that this was a domestic act akin to the Oklahoma City bombings.

I've written before about one of my heroes.  She teaches our taekwondo classes on Fridays, and she is a devout, headscarf-wearing Muslim married to the imam of the local mosque and one of the coolest women I know.  She was also as appalled and horrified and devastated by the attacks in Boston as I was.  But unlike me, because some Chechnyan nutjob radicals who happened to be nominally of her faith (extremism being as different from mainstream Islam as it is) decided to make a violent political statement this week, she now has to worry about her own safety and that of her husband and children.      

She has two sons and a daughter.  Her daughter, who is a freshman at the local public high school, wears the hijab (headscarf) as well, and she is one of very few at the school who do.  Talk about having a bulls-eye on her back.  Can you imagine how hard it must have been for that child to walk through the front doors on Tuesday morning?  Or today, God forbid?  How much snide whispering she's hearing?  How many unacceptable comments about her family and her faith?

To say that the terrorists speak for all Muslims would be somewhat equivalent to saying that Sarah Palin speaks for all Americans.  There's a spectrum, and Palin is way the hell off on the looney bin end of it.  Just like these Chechnyans and their other extremist brethren.

Bu that's the point that I'm afraid is going to be lost, and why I hoped this was not another 9/11 situation.  We are capable of making the distinction between individual madness and the viewpoints of the general population when dealing with the familiar, but not so much with the unfamiliar.  And nobody is well served by a witch hunt directed against the unfamiliar, especially the innocents among the unfamiliar.      


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Genepool FAIL

It's official: we need to take Thing One to have him formally evaluated for ADD.

We are now at two out of three.  (Thing Two definitely has ADHD, along with all the other whammies the poor kid got in the genetic lottery.)

Yes, I know it could be a lot worse.  But it still wasn't fun to have to call the neurodevelopmental pediatrician and say, "You know how you already see our one son?  Well, now the other one needs to see you too."


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

This Is What I Told My Children

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in the world."

--Fred Rogers (of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood)

Thought about this today in connection with all the first responders and doctors who stepped up on Monday.  And everyone else who helped when they saw a need. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Special Needs Kids And Youth Sports: A Public Service Announcement

Not sure where this thought came from today, but it's important.  I'm a parent of a special needs kid who plays four sports.  I am also a volunteer coach for one of these sports, and my husband for another, so we have personal experience with both sides of this coin.  In the interests of having the youth sports experience be as good as it can be for everyone involved, and as all-inclusive as it can be, I'd like to offer the following suggestions.

For parents of a special needs child:

1) Don't assume that your child can't participate.  Set up a time to talk to the program director in advance, so they can plan to give the conversation the attention that it deserves.  Explain the situation, and ask if it's possible for the child to try a class or practice session upfront to see if it is something that they can do safely and enjoy participating in.

2) After you've spoken with the director, it's also really important to tell the coach/instructor/teacher directly (if this is a different person) about any issues that your child has and how best to work with them.  They can usually make accommodations if they understand the situation.  That kid who the coach thinks is just ignoring all the directions?  Maybe she has a language processing problem, and would be doing a lot better if her parents had told the coach ahead of time to make eye contact and keep directions simple.  Maybe she has a hearing problem.  Maybe he has ADHD and comes off his meds on the weekends, making it harder for him to focus and listen at that Sunday afternoon soccer game.  Maybe he's autistic, and that routine the coach finds odd when he's coming up to bat is necessary for his peace of mind.  Whatever it might be.  Explanations go a long way in furthering patience and understanding, which in turn will improve your child's experience.  

3) Ask if you can participate as well.  It's very common for parent helpers to sign up because they want to keep an eye on their child and step in to help where needed.  For very young kids, sometimes it helps to have their parents right next to them on the field or court at practices, for redirection, explanations and demonstrations.  I've seen it happen in soccer, baseball and basketball.  Parents of older special-needs children often serve as assistant coaches, so that they can provide on-the-spot guidance.  The taekwondo program my kids attend allows the parents of special-needs children to take the classes right alongside them; they move through the belt ranks together.  Often there's only one adult in a whole class of kids, and that's okay, because the presence of that parent is what makes his or her child able to participate.

4) If the coach, teacher or director has reservations about your child's participation, please do consider what they are saying, as hard as it can be to be objective in that situation.  If they are *legitimately* concerned about your child's safety or the safety of the other children, it may be that another sport would be better for your child.  

And to balance it out, suggestions for coaches of special-needs children:

1) Ask for help.  Start with the parents: ask them what works and doesn't work with their child and then listen to what they say.  Why reinvent the wheel?

2) Be patient.  (This goes for all kids!)

3) Get the child as involved as they can be.  To the extent that you safely can, play them like you would play any other team member.  And remember that progress for all kids is the difference between where they start the season and where they finish the season, wherever those two endpoints may be!

4) Let their parents be involved, to the extent that you can without it being too disruptive.  If they want to help with practice or serve as an assistant coach, try to be accommodating.  Often parental involvement will be less necessary after an initial transition period, also.

Youth sports should be fun for everyone, and a little understanding and cooperation between coaches and parents goes a long way!

Readers: Any other thoughts or suggestions??

Isn't It Ironic?

The Girl is a notoriously slow eater.  Not so much picky, just slow.  It takes her a good 45 minutes to eat her breakfast of cereal and yogurt.  Luckily for her, this year we don't need to leave to take her to school until a good 20 minutes after the boys' bus comes.  (This will change next year when she starts attending their school, which will be a tough adjustment for us all!)

At any rate, she was slow this morning, as usual.  We left a little later than we should have, as usual.  Our route to her school involves only two roads, both of them two-lane state routes with no real passing zones or side pullouts.  Midway to school, we got caught behind a semi, which was going a whopping 15 miles an hour and already had a line of about 20 cars stuck behind it.  Since I am actively making an effort to keep my blood pressure down these days, I just resigned myself to being late and let it go.  Which good cosmic attitude was rewarded half a mile later by the truck driver pulling over into a pullout on the other side of the road (!) so that we could all get by him.

At least he recognized that his truck was causing a traffic jam and did something about it.  But the ironic part?  When I passed him, I noticed the company name on the side of his semi: "Speed Transportation."  No joke!


Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Ringing Of The Bells

Every week, I take Thing Two and The Girl to the library while Thing One has his piano lesson.  They pick out their books for the week's bedtime reading and love on the therapy dogs that are--happily and coincidentally--at the library every week at the same time, and he has his lesson without sibling distraction, so it works out well for everyone.  The last time we were there, somebody's phone rang very loudly in the stacks, and it reminded me of something that I'd entirely forgotten.

I was generally a good kid in high school.  My friends were as well.  The tradition was that seniors would play some kind of prank, and we absolutely weren't going to miss out on that, but we also wanted to do something that was funny rather than mean or messy.  I don't remember who came up with the idea of pranking the school librarians (who were rather unnecessarily draconian and were really asking for it!) but we soon hatched a plan.

One weekend evening, we stopped by one of the night markets (this was in Hong Kong) on the way back from a movie and purchased ten or so inexpensive battery-powered alarm clocks.  We synchronized them, turned up the alarm volume as high as it would go, and then set the alarms to go off at five-minute intervals.  The next school day, each of us casually wandered into the library sometime during the morning with a set clock or two and hid them.  That afternoon, when the library was packed, we casually wandered back in and sat down at a table to "study" and view the effects of our handiwork.  

The reaction was priceless.  The librarians had a flaming hissy fit, and everyone else in the library thought it was hilarious.  No sooner would they find and deactivate one alarm clock than the next would start ringing.  And I have to say that some of my co-conspirators were really inspired in their clock actually managed to get a clock into the librarians' desk itself, and another (I have no idea how to this day) one into the metal ductwork in the ceiling!!  That particular alarm echoed throughout the whole library...absolutely brilliant work. 

As far as I know, nobody ever connected the group of us to that stunt...this may be the first public admission of guilt.  Fortunately, whatever the statute of limitations might be, I'm sure it is long expired.  But I'll bet Mrs. Newman is still holding a grudge!  



Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Only Thing

--Absolutely the only thing--good about having as much wine as I've had this evening is the fact that we stopped drinking shortly after 8PM because our guest turns into a pumpkin long before midnight!  I have a fighting chance of not being hung over tomorrow morning, but I wouldn't bet on it.

My friend Michelle came over this evening for dinner with our family.  We haven't seen her for a long time, and it was really great to have a chance to catch up.  I'm not much of a drinker, but the combination of Himself's spectacular sangria and the opportunity to have the kind of 'girl talk' guaranteed to embarrass the hell out of my husband (I have to live vicariously through my single girlfriends, right??) is not a good one for this lightweight.

And the best part about it was that I didn't have time today for my usual pre-guest craziness.  I have an unholy pathology (OCD maybe?) about making sure that the house is tidy and clean before people come over, and today it just wasn't possible.  A quick, superficial pass through was all I had time for, and you know what?  It was ok anyway.  We all survived.  We had a good dinner.  And it was fun.

Today was one of those Saturdays.  I went one way with Thing One: a soccer tournament followed by his TKD class.  We left the house at 8AM (ugh).  Himself went another way with Thing Two and The Girl: baseball pictures followed by soccer practice followed by a baseball game.  We met up again at 1:30, traded children and kept going.  I got home about 2:30 and Himself at 3.  And despite the fact that I had to drive almost an hour each way to get Thing One to his soccer tournament, I wouldn't change a thing.

You see, it's hard to talk to the kid--I mean really talk--when his siblings are around.  There is no such thing as a meaningful, serious conversation with him in the presence of the younger two.  But today, the skies opened and he talked.  For the first time, he really wanted a detailed explanation of what Thing Two's issues are.  How exactly he's different, and why.  What purpose our meetings about him at school serve.  Even though he was sitting behind me and I couldn't see his face, I could clearly hear his mental wheels spinning as he processed my answers.  The older he gets, the more I can see that I am going to value the one-on-one time we have in the car...the one good thing about far-flung soccer tournaments, I suppose.      

Another good thing--this one about good friends--is that you can serve them 'experimental' (i.e., new-recipe) dinners without fear.  I first met Michelle when I was pregnant with Thing Two, lo these many years ago--we've been through a lot together, including her divorce a few years ago.  With that as a frame of reference, if dinner had crashed and burned, we would have cheerfully ordered a pizza and life would have gone on!  But because there was no pressure, it came out great: roasted pork tenderloin with apples and onions, garlic mashed potatoes, salad and rolls.  And she brought over a lemon angel-food cake that was completely out of this world.

So, overall...a good day.  A happy day.  And even a sunny one.  Measuring success today in things done, friends caught up with and sangria consumed!      

Friday, April 12, 2013

Coordination Fail

Courtesy of these, I now have a big honking bruise on one elbow and blood on my gi!  (Got the side of my hand pinched in the chain at class tonight while working on wrist rolls.)   I still need more practice, but I'm getting a lot better with my nunchaku.

And when I finally get this down, I will definitely be keeping my chuks upstairs at my house.  Can't you just imagine the reaction an intruder might have to seeing me at the top of the stairs swinging these at him??

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Himself is firmly of the opinion that, if I am going to insist on spending 5+ hours a week in taekwondo class, I need to take yoga as well to improve my strength and flexibility so I have less chance of getting hurt while doing TKD.

And he does have a point (says the woman with the dicey knee and shoulder.)  Since we do a fair amount of stretching in TKD class itself, in the last year and a half I have progressed from being approximately as flexible as a brick (really) to a slightly more bendy state, but I have a long way to go yet.  So I've been trying to get to a beginners' yoga class once a week.

Yesterday, the instructor actually had us do the "om..." chant at the beginning of class, which was new for me.  The idea is that you clear your mind of everything other than your breathing while doing so, to get yourself into the correct frame of mind to start the class.

I saw the following image on Facebook yesterday, and laughed out loud because it is the absolute truth.

I find it very difficult to ever completely shut my brain off (probably another good reason to practice yoga.)  So, while the instructor was omm-ing, I went off on a mental tangent about the om sound itself instead of blanking out my extraneous thoughts like I was supposed to.

Some of the people in the class seemed to be a little off the instructor's hum in pitch, which made the sound of the group meditating as a whole almost unpleasant for me.  Pathetic, but true.  I played in bands of one sort or another for about fifteen consecutive years growing up, so noticing whether a group is in tune or not is well and truly automatic at this point, for good or bad.  

The odd thing, and the next thing that registered in my pea brain, was the fact that the instructor was omm-ing a concert B-flat note!  While I don't have perfect pitch like Thing One, my relative pitch is pretty decent, and that particular note would be seared into my brain regardless because it is the one to which a band collectively tunes itself before a performance.  One instrument (usually a clarinet) or a mechanical tuner will play that note, and everyone else will play whatever note on their particular instrument makes the same sound and then make any necessary adjustments so that their note no longer sounds flat or sharp (low or high) relative to the reference note.  If everyone is in tune, the whole group sounds a lot better.

Now, I have no idea whether yoga instructors all consciously choose that particular pitch to om or whether this was a total coincidence, but it struck me as funny that she was effectively tuning the group before our yoga performance.

And I really need to work on my mental focus, too!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Because I saw one of these

yesterday, on something like this

my thoughts immediately went here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


This morning, Himself and I attended the first of the two end-of year IEP meetings at school required for Thing Two.  (IEP stands for Individualized Education Program: these are put in place for children who have been determined to have some kind of disability per specific federal regulations.)  The point of this particular meeting was to formally update us on his progress and to jointly determine whether or not any further testing should be done before the end of the year.

First, Thing Two is doing very well.  He has challenges and deficits, no doubt, but both his homeroom teacher and school speech therapist were very positive about the progress he has made this year.  And second, they are not recommending any further testing for him at this point, which is HUGE.

Now, this whole paragraph is a guess on my part: I admit it freely.  But here's what I think is happening.  They want to continue providing services to him.  They see that he is responding to the help he's currently receiving, and understand that he really needs that help.  And they are concerned that if they test, he may not do badly enough (because he is very bright under all the crossed wires in his brain--and also because the performance level that justifies receipt of services in this state is unbelievably, scandalously low!) to qualify for the language help that every professional who has ever worked with him says that he needs to keep him moving in the right direction.

But, regardless of whether my guess is right or wrong, the net result of today is that they are leaving his status as is, and next month, we will meet again to decide exactly what will be in his IEP for next year.

I've heard a lot of Child Study Team and IEP horror stories, and am beyond grateful that Thing Two's case manager has gone to bat for him repeatedly ever since he was classified.  It is a blessing beyond compare to have our meetings be cordial and cooperative, as they are, and not confrontational, ugly and lawyer-filled!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Ain't That Just A Kick In The Pants?

Himself and I were talking again last night--I don't remember why--about the fact that The Girl is his little clone.  Looks, facial expressions, personality, idiosyncratic quirks, you name it.  I commented that it must be a little odd to see a mini-you walking around, to which he replied that I needed to take a good look in the mirror and then at Thing One sometime.

Thing One looks the most like me of the three, no doubt.  It's more from my dad's side of the family than me specifically: he's a dead ringer for my father, brother and grandfather.  He has their big eyes, long lashes, rangy build, athletic gait: even the shape of his head and fingernails is the same.  Total strangers who know my brother have asked me if we're related, so there is a resemblance, but Thing One really looks more like them than me.  He does share my tendency to go off into deep thought at inopportune moments, unfortunately--which oblivious state Himself refers to as "Ph.D.-land"--but in personality he is otherwise somewhat of a hybrid between me and Himself.

This train of thought led me to Thing Two, in many ways the odd man out here, as is so often the case.  He is not clearly like either me or Himself in appearance or personality, and he is totally unlike his siblings in personality as well.  They are both generally easygoing and agreeable, and he is Mr.-My-Way-Or-The-Highway if there ever was one.  Good God, that child has a hard head!  Unfortunately, whomever he may end up resembling physically, the issues that bedevil him and label him for the outside world (ADHD and whatever expressive and receptive language issue he has) clearly come from my side, which is a source of endless guilt.

It positively boggles my mind that I never figured out that I had a problem processing verbal information until he was diagnosed and I started doing speech therapy with him at home.  I was the high school valedictorian, got through college cum laude and a doctoral program in Molecular Biology with very respectable grades--you'd think that somewhere in there, the amount of verbal information being thrown at me would have tripped me up, given that to this day I can't remember a damned thing I hear.  If directions require more than two steps--no joke--I have to write them down.

Which is how I survived school, actually.  Somewhere along the line, I figured out--and not consciously--that I needed to write down everything that the teacher said immediately as I heard it and then study from those notes.   I was one of those people who would come out of a 45-minute class with twelve pages of notes written in four colors--a survival mechanism because my auditory memory is total crap.  (Visual memory is a different story and my salvation, though: I can picture where words are on a page and in some cases, 'read' them from the mental image.)

At any rate, this poor kid clearly got his two biggest whammies from my side in the genetic lottery (I am not hyperactive myself, but close relatives are.)  So, no matter what he looks like on the outside, he may be the child fundamentally most like me after all, and that's a hell of a thought.  Not that I don't love him dearly just the way he is, because I do, but of all the things I brought to the genetic table, those are very high on the list of the ones I would least have wished on my child!  



Sunday, April 7, 2013

For Which I Am Profoundly Grateful

Thanks to time, fresh air and the kindness of Joan, who passed along some remedies from the internet, my house no longer smells of scorched food!  I felt like I was being physically assailed with the reek of it every time I entered the house for a few days there.  To the extent that I wasn't anti-smoking already, I am now: nothing like carrying the smell of cigarettes with you wherever you go without even getting to experience the pleasure (I guess?) of the nicotine rush.

And the kitchen smoke detector is now working again, too.  I saw to it personally!!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

I Really Wanted To Quit My Job Today

Which is why this article, which coincidentally appeared in my Facebook feed this morning, resonated so strongly with me!

Go read it.  Really.  Especially if you are a parent of small children.  It's funny, except that it isn't: the truth in it cuts painfully close to the bone.  How many thousands of times do we all bite back what we really want to say to our children in favor of saying something that is polite, appropriate, not profane, and not likely to leave us in hot water with Child Protective Services??  The little twerps know just where our parental buttons are and appear to take positive joy in pushing them, or maybe that's just what happens at my house.

Anyhoo.  By ten o'clock this morning, I had HAD ENOUGH.  The whining.  The arguing.  The sassing.  The not listening.  The bickering.  Etc.  Etc.  Not a good way to start a weekend.  Honestly, if motherhood were actually a job that I could quit, I would have seriously considered doing it today.  This mother clearly needs an upgrade to a more patient version, or at least one with a higher tolerance for alcohol.

Anyhoo again.

Himself periodically reminds me that I can't control the behavior of others; that all I can do is control my own reaction to what they do.  And he's correct, of course.

But when he said that to me today, I just looked at him.  And then calmly pointed out that all of our children were in one piece and that I had not spent the morning screaming at them, which as far as I was concerned, demonstrates pretty damned good control over my reactions to what other people do, thank you very much!

I think I'm developing an ulcer, though.  I wonder why???        

Friday, April 5, 2013

Murphy's Law Strikes, Yet Again

Activity Night at school tonight.  Games in the gym and cafeteria, balls flying, kids large and small running wild everywhere, fun night until 15 minutes before the end.  The point of the evening was to have parents and kids playing games together, and one kid playing the same game as me was driving me absolutely frigging nuts.  The fourth or fifth time I had to ask him to stop doing something he wasn't supposed to be doing, I just called it quits and walked over to where some of the other parents were hanging out.

When I got there, I made some comment to the lady next to me about it being time to stop playing a game when I'm ready to start yelling at somebody else's kid.  I didn't even know who the kid was: turned out I was complaining to his mother.  You knew that was coming.

I wasn't the only adult he sent packing out of sheer frustration, and in fairness to her, she did go and tell him off.  But what are the odds??  Damn you, Murphy...      

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Let Me Count The Ways

Tonight, there was a family roller skating night for our school at the local rink.

Thursdays are hell days for us.  I've written about that before.  The particular brand of hell varies with the season, but this time of year we have Thing Two's speech therapy right after school, immediately followed by three consecutive taekwondo classes for the kids.  The last thing on God's green earth I wanted to do was go directly to the skate night after all that!

But Thing One really wanted to go, so we did.  Himself picked up the younger kids from the dojo after their classes, and I drove the eldest the 15 or so miles to the rink so he could make the last part of the skating session with his friends.

He had a blast, and it made my heart happy to watch him zooming and crashing and goofing around with the other boys.  In the end, not so much of an effort for me, and eminently worth it for him.  But I did tell him on the way home that he needs to remember tonight anytime he has the slightest question about whether or not his mother loves him!!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

You Can't, Because You're A Girl

I've now said this phrase to my daughter twice in the last 24 hours, which gives me pause.  I did not want to be the kind of mother who would say that, and hearing those words pass my lips was sobering.

The first time, at least, I had the force of regulation on my side: no matter how much The Girl wants to play on Thing Two's Little League baseball team, baseball is boys-only in this league and she can't.  The girls play in a separate softball league.  (She's also two years too young for his team, but who's counting?  This kid is tough and she wants to be with her brother in all things.)

The second time was a bit different, though.

She and I were talking about sleepovers at friends' houses this evening, for some reason.  Thing One had his first sleepover when he was not much older than she is now.  She asked if she'd be allowed to stay overnight at a friend's house this year, and I said no, which did not go over well.  

Like I said, I did not want us to be those parents who had a double standard.  But for some reason, the thought of my daughter staying overnight anywhere other than her own bed (or at relatives' houses) gives me a whopping case of the heebie-jeebies at this stage of the game, in a way that it did not for her elder brother.  The double standard is alive and well in the world, sadly.

But at least her brothers are older than she is.  I remember being highly annoyed at my parents, way back in the mists of time when I was in high school, for allowing my brother (three and a half years younger) to do things I NEVER would have been allowed to do at his age!  Their comment was that they weren't worried so much about what I would do, but more about what would happen to me, because I was female and he wasn't.

And I have to say that I am applying similar reasoning to The Girl's situation with sleepovers.  I don't think she'll do anything inappropriate at someone else's house, far from it.  It's what could happen to her that would keep me awake all night worrying.   I know that at some point I will need to learn to let go a little, but I am so not ready for that yet.  My baby and my only girl is a bad combination!


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Well, Crap

Was awarded the third black stripe on my Senior Green taekwondo belt last night.  By the big kahuna himself, no less.

In our program, there is a phenomenon among higher belts jokingly referred to as "hiding from the tape."  This is done by people who are either happy at their current belt level or (more commonly) either with physical issues or lacking enough time for the practice required to do a good job of moving higher.  The instructors use electrical tape to apply the stripes to our belts that indicate where we are on our journey through the skills required to advance to the next belt, so when you are "hiding from the tape" it means that you are not in a hurry to acquire more stripes.  The further into the program I get, the more I understand this phenomenon.

My current belt rank is in the middle of the spectrum.  I'm nowhere near black-belt level, but high enough in rank that there are certain expectations for overall fitness and capability.  Even with the bum knee, which means that there are some things I'm just not going to be able to do as well as others, no matter what, I've hit the point at which I either need to start taking those fitness obligations more seriously or just chuck the whole endeavor.  Arguably, I should have come to that realization a belt ago, if not before.  It's not that I am hideously out of shape, because I'm not.  But I am carrying weight that I shouldn't be, weight that will eventually cause more knee problems if I don't get rid of it, especially with the more complicated kicks and jumps and spins that come with higher rank.  I am also, and equally importantly, going to have to make a concerted effort to improve my overall strength and flexibility too.  Both have come a long way in the last year and a half, but if I am going to really commit to being serious about this sport, I'll have to commit to regular out-of-class stretching and exercise as well.  The rubber has officially met the road...this is just not an enterprise in which one can dabble.

I was thinking about this at the end of the week before Easter break, when I was awarded the second stripe.  Typically the first two stripes take the longest to earn, and the remaining five to seven (depending on your belt level) come more quickly.  Usually you test for your next belt within a few months of getting your second stripe.  The technique sheet for my next belt up has some serious shit on it...right now, I'm not sure I can even do some of the kicks in particular.  That second stripe was a real wake-up call.

So, when I went to class last night, my first since receiving the second stripe due to the break, and came out of it with the third stripe, it was not so much the proud moment it should have been...more like one of panic!  Crap on a cracker...time to get real.  Starting now.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Getting The Stink Out

Hi all, I need your help.

Last night, I very ill-advisedly forgot that I was simmering a ham bone for stock when I went to bed.  Thankfully, the smell of the pot burning woke me up some time later before there was a real crisis, especially since it turned out that the kitchen smoke detector was malfunctioning. No fire, for which I am deeply grateful, but I tossed one seriously scorched and completely trashed stockpot into the yard last night and into the trash this morning.

Which pot did, unfortunately, before its rapid exit from the premises, emit enough rancid smoke to make the entire house currently smell like a convention of smokers was in residence all weekend.  8 hours of open windows plus four Yankee candles only made a middling dent in the miasma.

Any suggestions for de-smokifying my house??  Please??

School Logic

Yes, I’m still alive. All is pretty well,’s just been crazy, and now it’s been so long since I posted that it seems like whatever ...