Sunday, June 30, 2013

My Old Friend Murphy Is Back Again

What would my life be without Murphy's Law???

A few years back, I chose not to renew the multi-year consulting contract I'd had going with a biotech firm because Thing Two needed more of my time and energy than he was able to get with me working part-time.  Once his situation was more stable, I happened into a situation where I am able to do sporadic patent analysis-type projects for a firm of lawyers who all used to work with Himself at another firm back in the day and then went out on their own.  They are mostly engineer types, and I'm a biologist: every so often they get a job that is more biotech-oriented, and they send it my way.  It works out for everyone--I keep my hand in and can do the job in odd hours from home, and my billing rate is much lower than theirs, so they make out financially on the deal.  Win-win.

At any rate, I'd gotten a note back at the end of April from the partner with whom I normally deal, asking if I could take on a project for them that was an extension of one I'd done previously.  I told him to count me in, and then got slammed with end-of-school-year stuff.  Since I didn't hear back from him, I just assumed that their firm hadn't gotten the job and didn't worry about it.

Now for Murphy: two days ago, I get another note saying that they did get the job and that the client is ready to start with it.  Of course, last week was the first week of summer vacation, so I will now be trying to do this job with three kids underfoot!  It would have been a lot easier back in April when all three were still in school...ugh.  At least it is a relatively small one and in a technology area with which I'm already somewhat familiar, or I would be a basket case right now!

An Experiment In Exhaustion

"You mean we get to go to an afterparty??"  (Petunia)
"There's another party after this one??"  (Thing Two)

Yesterday, my kids all went to an outdoor taekwondo camp from 1-5PM.  When we arrived to pick them up, all three were disgusting sweatballs and completely wiped out, but they'd had a grand old time.  After quick showers, they were revived enough to attend the gathering afterward, the martial arts group's summer pizza party/get-together held under a big tent next to the field where the camp had been held.  One of the high-school aged black belts is the lead singer of a cover band, and his group played the event, very well as it happened.  It was BYOB, and much fun was had by all.

Much of my regular social interaction is with the other ladies from these classes, so I spent most of the party hanging out with my girlfriends.  The kids ate their pizza and then went back out to run around with their buddies (why did I bother to give them showers again??)  Fortunately for Himself, he gets along very well with the husband of one of my classmates who was also attending, so the two of them were drinking beer (and doubtless causing trouble) together off to one side.  Come about 8:30, the party was starting to wind down, but this pair of mutual friends invited our family back to their house (see quotations above for the reactions of two of my kids to this news!)  These friends have girls the same ages as my boys, and all the kids get along well.

Under normal circumstances, we'd have said no, figuring the kids would be fried.  But we figured we'd try it and see how they did, let them stretch a little.  As soon as we arrived, all five kids disappeared into the basement to play Wii and that was that.  A few bottles of wine and some good conversation around the kitchen table later, we looked at the clock, realized that it said 11:45 (!) and dragged three very tired kids home!

All three are a bit out of it this morning, but it was worth it.  Everyone had fun, and we are making a conscious effort to get the kids out of their rut and let them do some different things...staying up till midnight on one summer night won't kill them.  And I bet they'll sleep well tonight!


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Fascinating, Sad, And A Wake-Up Call

A couple of weeks ago, I attended our school district's 8th grade graduation ceremony in my official Board of Education capacity.  I found the award-presenting part of the ceremony fascinating, in that almost no boys received awards at all.  Being the number-crunching geek that I am, and finally having a minute or two to do it, I sat down this morning to work out the exact numbers.

This particular 8th grade class is approximately 55% female, 45% male, for the record.

There were a total of 17 awards, some of which had multiple recipients.  In all, 26 awards were presented, a grand total of five of which went to boys (and one boy received two of those awards.)  Of those five, one was for excellence in physical education, and another was in a category that required a male recipient and a female recipient by definition (highest GPA for each gender.)  That left a grand total of three awards that went to boys on the basis of character, intelligence/performance, personality, contribution to our community, writing skills, or anything else.  Noteworthy is the fact that every single subject area performance award (math, language arts, computers, science, languages, etc) went to one or more girls other than the award for physical education, which was also presented to a female co-recipient.

I was embarrassed on the boys' behalf.  The girls all but ran the table on them.

This is a good school.  Clearly, the girls are learning what they need to learn and are doing well here.  What's up with the boys??  Since my two sons are in this school district, I have to admit that these stats concern me in a big way.  (NOLA and anyone else with teaching experience reading this, is this a normal middle school award distribution pattern???)

Separately, I recently came across an article in The Atlantic called "Stop Penalizing Boys For Not Being Able To Sit Still At School."  Read this.  Really.

For anyone who didn't jump to the link, the article argues that boys are disproportionately less able to behave in accordance with the expectations required in the traditional classroom model than girls, and that this behavior results in grade-related penalizing of these boys (and misperceptions relating to their intelligence and potential) starting as early as kindergarten.

It then goes on to summarize some the results of a study specifically directed toward finding pegagogical approaches that actually work for boys, approaches that specifically harness their comparatively greater (on average) competitiveness and activity levels.

You can bet that I will be forwarding this article and my rough calculations regarding our award percentages to our principal and superintendent.  Food for thought in a big way.



Friday, June 28, 2013

All Good

This crazy week is over, the kids are in bed, and I'm more than slightly bombed on homemade sangria.  All the news today was good, and now I can flop on the sofa and watch mindless TV in blessed relief.  I hadn't realized just how tired I was until I sat down!

Stick a fork in me...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

This Makes Me Insane

Why (WHY???) do my children refuse to listen to requests when I make them nicely?  They insist on waiting until I yell, which I hate to do.  Way to make me look like a rotten mom, kids.  I meant it the first time, really.  Oh, the guilt...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


If you were a political body with appointment power, and you were thinking about appointing a person to committee A as a permanent liaison from committee B, don't you think you'd at least mention the fact beforehand to the heads of committee A and/or committee B as a courtesy?  God forbid that you might first seek either of those people's opinions on the matter...apparently that's too much to ask.

As it happens, the person in question has caused a great deal of conflict in committee B.  The head of that committee is actively trying to get rid of the person, in fact, and absolutely does NOT want the person representing the views of committee B in any forum whatsoever.  But yet the deed is done, bureaucratically speaking.

I know this sounds like gobbledygook, and I'm sorry.  But I'm the head of committee A, and I'm seriously pissed off at our local politicians, who are generally not known for being boneheaded but have pulled a real lulu with this one.  Nice work, guys.  Not sure if I'm more annoyed about the fact that they were too dumb or oblivious to ask before they acted or because I'm the one whose going to have to clean up their damned mess!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Black And Blue

A while back, I had to switch primary care physicians for various sordid reasons that were fortunately completely unrelated to me.  I ended up getting an appointment with a new female doctor about my own age.  As it happened, she was an MMA student (mixed martial arts) in her spare time, which was very handy since I was having taekwondo-related trouble with my knee: she knew exactly what I meant when I told her that it hurt to strike a target with an outside crescent kick.

At any rate, she helped me to resolve that issue, and I didn't have need of her professional services again for a while.  The next time I was in, I asked about her MMA practice in the course of the usual small talk and was very surprised to learn that she'd given up the study since I'd last seen her.  I asked why, genuinely curious.  She told me that many of her patients were convinced that she was a battered woman because of all the bruises on her arms and legs from her workouts, and that this was affecting her professional performance, so she had to quit.

I was reminded of that conversation tonight as I sat on the sofa taking stock of my own current bruises.  Four sparring-themed classes last week plus two self defense-themed classes so far this week have taken their toll: the one massive shoulder bruise (still ugly) from last week along with a couple of other lesser ones on the same arm, one on the inside of my ankle, and a lovely new one from last night on the outside of my left wrist.  And all appear to be classic defensive wounds, because they are!  I wonder if I'm ever going to have to explain to any authority or medical figure that my sweet blameless husband has never raised so much as a finger in my general direction.

I sometimes end up helping with a brief part of the service at church on Sunday mornings if there aren't enough other volunteers.  This past Sunday was one of those days.  I was wearing short sleeves, and apparently at one point the one sleeve raised up enough to reveal the big arm bruise.  Nobody said anything, but my husband was unhappy about that afterward.  And I totally understand his concern, since it's he that people who don't know about my hobby will think is a wife-beater.

Not sure quite how I'm going to handle this long-term...I'll have to ask the other women who are senior to me what they do.  Will definitely have to remember to wear long sleeves or pants when banged up, though, since my husband's reputation will be terribly (and unjustifiably) besmirched if I don't!!

Pack Mule

We had a busy morning of back-to-back activities scheduled today.  When we left the house at 8AM, all of the following accompanied us:

*bag of dry cleaning to drop off
*birthday gift and platter of mini-cupcakes
*sneakers and socks for the two younger kids
*change of clothes, swim goggles, towels and sunblock for the two younger kids (they had swimming lessons today)
*my taekwondo bag
*Thing One's taekwondo bag
*two water bottles
*Thing One's DS
*snacks for all three kids
AND (of course)
*a partridge in a pear tree.

I had to take the dog's travel crate out of the back of my car to get it all in.

I am not at my best early in the morning (unfortunately, my boys are morning people, for which I curse my father-in-law the early bird regularly) so this was a remarkable feat of bleary-eyed coordination.  I can't believe that we actually remembered everything that we needed to bring.  But if summer vacations are supposed to be relaxing, so far we are doing it all wrong!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

An Unusual Gift

Thing Two recently threw me for a loop with his uncanny awareness of geographical relationships.  The other day, we were on our way to his speech therapist's, but coming from Petunia's school, not at all our usual route.  Out of the blue, he pointed to a road ahead of us and told me that it was the best way to get to her office from where we were.  Not only was he correct, the road he pointed to was one that we almost never have occasion to take.

That same afternoon, Thing One had a playdate at a friend's house.  (He detests having to sit and wait for his brother to be done at speech, so he was overjoyed at the reprieve.)  We'd planned to stop and pick him up on the way home.  There are a good half-dozen possible ways to get to the friend's house, but Thing Two had only ever seen one of them before, the most direct way from our house.  We were coming from town in this case.  Clued in by the earlier odd comment, on a whim I asked Thing Two if he wanted to direct me to the friend's house from where we were.  Which he then proceeded to do, flawlessly.  He doesn't seem to know any of the street names, but from what I could tell, he knows exactly what all the intersections look like, and when we got to the right ones he told me exactly which way to go.  He took me to the friend's house by a direct route that I would have sworn he'd have no reason to know.  Up to and including knowing that the friend's house was on the left, very soon after the left turn onto the correct street.

When I told Himself about these incidents that night, he was less surprised.  He reminded me that this is the same kid who recognized the route to the pool where he took his swimming lessons (beloved, beloved swimming lessons) at the age of 2, which I'd forgotten.  Every time I passed through that intersection with him in the car, the kid would point up the road to the swim club and say "Swimming. Yes. Me."  (A classic example of his terribly banged-up early speech patterns, by the way.)  He's also the first to tell me if I don't turn the way he expects me to while I'm driving.

He is a profoundly visual learner, most probably because the input coming in through his ears is so terribly scrambled by the time it gets to his brain that it takes tremendous effort for him to sort it out.  This is a kid who wants to read the directions, not listen to them: his eyes are his hope and salvation in what must seem to him a crazy world of swirling, befuddling language.  I can only imagine that his direction sense is another visual-learning thing, based on his comments about the appearance of the intersections as he was guiding me: it appears that he's essentially assembled a very comprehensive map of our area in his head (without ever looking at an actual map as far as I know.)  And he's just a little kid.  Some of it could be a control thing, too...since for so many years he had trouble understanding the words when we told him where we were going, maybe he decided at some point to just figure it out for himself.

There's no question that there's a good brain operating under those crossed language wires, thankfully.  Not sure I fully realized just HOW good a brain until this week, though, at least in this one area.  Anybody know of a good adult occupation for a kid with this kind of visual puzzle-assembling skill?



Saturday, June 22, 2013


This afternoon, an early birthday present from Himself appeared on the back deck: a 10x10 foot shade canopy for vampire-like me to sit under while I keep an eye on the kids as they swim in the pool.  And he even dragged out a chaise lounge from the big shed for me to comfortably recline on while under it!  (When we redo the deck, part of it will be permanently covered, but that project is probably a ways away yet.)

Then, tonight, I sat on the front stoop in blessed peace for some time, only the dog and a glittering lawn-full (really, an unusually large number) of fireflies for company.  A huge yellow moon was rising behind the maple tree in front of me, one of the four along the road at the front edge of our property.  And in the gaps between passing vehicles, all I could hear was occasional snatches of conversation from the neighbors' porch and the muffled jingling of the dog's collar tags as she sniffed around in the bushes.

Between this afternoon and tonight, there was a kids' birthday party (indoors, in one of those places filled with gigantic inflatable climbing structures) so loud and chaotic as to make me very happy to be back outdoors afterward.  Why live in a place as beautiful as this if you don't sit out and enjoy it every once in a while?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ashamed Of Myself

Each week of our taekwondo classes has a theme.  Some themes repeat more often than others.  About once a month, we have a week in which the theme is Sparring.

I understand that the whole point of martial arts is sparring, I really do.  But it's my absolute least favorite part of the whole endeavor.  I'm not especially good at it (although I am getting somewhat better over time) and I really don't enjoy it.  It's one of the things I do in class because I have to.  This past week was a sparring week.

Green belts and up are required to purchase sparring equipment--generally, headgear (a helmetlike contraption), hand, foot, and shin protective gear, all made of a dense foam-like material covered in a thin layer of some sort of flexible plastic (vinyl?) that can be wiped clean.  This gear is worn solely to keep us from getting hurt in case there is an errant hit; unlike in some martial arts schools, when we spar it is not for points and it is not with full-on intensity.  The idea is that you position yourself correctly during the sparring and actually land the kick or strike, but only with a tap that shows where it would have landed had the attack gone through with full force (this is known as 'pulling' the strike and is intended to keep people from getting hurt.)    

Usually that's the case, anyway.  Often younger kids have a hard time pulling their strikes, but with increasing age generally comes more intensity control.  Unfortunately, there is a middle zone of bigger kids who don't yet have that control, and I had to spar one of those kids today.

The really annoying thing is that I also sparred in class Tuesday and Thursday and did better than usual.  I was thinking that I was finally getting somewhere with it, and maybe that I could get to dislike it a little less over time.  Should have damned well skipped class today while I was feeling ahead.

The sparring partner in question from today is 17.  She's smaller and lighter than me, but still a decent-sized person.  She's a higher belt than I, very skilled technically and very strong physically.  And she can't pull a fucking strike to save her life.  The third or fourth time she clocked me full-on (after several requests from me to dial it back), I lost my temper and began to respond in kind.  Still not with full strength--I did manage to maintain some modicum of situational awareness--but there was definitely a tit-for-tat, take-it-if-you're-going-to-insist-on-dishing-it-out kind of thing going on during that round.  Against a fricking teenager, FFS.  Not one of my prouder moments, to be sure.

At the beginning of each class, we recite the six tenets of taekwondo.  One of those is self-control: I blew that one to hell and back today.  I often choose not to play games because I am very competitive and I know that.  Staying out is generally better than getting too involved. See e.g. today.  I will say in my own defense that normally I have no issues with this in sparring, and that in fact I managed to spar five other people today without any problem.  Of course, they actually pulled their freaking strikes.  (I did mention the problem to the instructor as well, but she really didn't address it.)

In any case, I walked out of class really, REALLY pissed off at myself.  Way to act like an adult there, champ.  Nice.

Just looked at myself in the mirror after my shower.  There's a lovely big bruise developing on the front of my left shoulder (the gear only covers so much square footage of body.)  I'll probably find a few others over the next day or two, if I had to guess.  Makes me feel slightly better--it's clear from the size of the bruise that I took a serious wallop there--but only slightly.  Good thing I don't have class for a few days and that sparring week won't come again for a while, since I clearly need a time-out.



Thursday, June 20, 2013


Ok, I have to ask you all a question: what is your least favorite household chore??

My current personal nemesis is laundry.  I have no trouble getting the family's clothes washed and dried in a timely manner.  But I truly, deeply HATE folding them.  No matter how often I mention it to the offending parties, almost everything goes into the wash inside-out, so it's a time-consuming chore to fold.  At the end of the day when I have the time, I don't want to deal with it, so the clean laundry pile accumulates.  I'm not such a bad mom for periodically telling my kids to dress themselves from the clean laundry basket, am I??

I'd rather scrub the toilets, dust the baseboards, bleach the showers AND deal with all the dog-fur dust bunnies in my house than look at one more inside-out kid sock right now!

What's your bĂȘte noire??

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's Only The First Day Of Summer Break...

And I'm already being driven completely berserk.  And the saddest part is that Petunia is still in school through Friday, so it's just the boy-bickering that I'm dealing with so far!  I need a zebra shirt to go with my basketball-coaching whistle, and stat.

There is a good reason why I don't home-school.  This is it.  We are fortunate to have a great public school around the corner, but even if we didn't I would drive them somewhere else...I just don't have the patience to be a primary at-home teacher.  I might be able to handle it for Thing One and Petunia if I absolutely had to, but Thing Two's constant arguing would land me in the funny farm within weeks.  As it is, I'm one of those evil parents who makes their kids do some schoolwork over summer break every year (Thing Two legitimately needs to so that his hard-won skills don't regress, and it would be egregiously unfair for him to be the only one!) but being with my kids 24-7 year-round would not be good for any of us.  It is what it is.

At any rate, this morning I was trying to run errands with the boys after we dropped Petunia off at school.  The third or fourth time I had to threaten mayhem due to shopping cart wars, it became blindingly clear that my refuge and sanity will lie in keeping these kids occupied all summer!  They do have some camps and clinics scheduled, and things like piano, speech and taekwondo go year-round.  We are planning a few short trips, too.  But that stuff, even combined with the pool in our yard, will only go so far.  

And more importantly, at the end of most recent summers, I've found myself wishing that I'd planned better.  That I'd made a point of looking for fun activities and then doing them with the kids so that their summer was more like a real vacation and less like the same-old, same-old routine, just without school in it.  I was thinking about this on the way home from shopping.

When I got home, I went online and did some searches for kid-friendly activities in my part of the world.  A quick search yielded a list of 15, at least half of which we've never done before.  We have about ten weeks of summer.  By the end of the summer, I plan to have done all 15 of these things with my kids, and you can hold me accountable for that.

Building family memories and keeping the kids busy at the same time...sounds like a win-win to me!

Factoid For The Day

It's no secret that I am sun-averse.  Not because I don't like the sun, but I've had a lifetime of UV exposure already and then some and would keep to a strictly vampire-approved schedule if my dermatologist had his way.  I'd try the self-tanner route if I wasn't afraid to end up carrot-orange, but as it is, I give off a radioactive-white glow that can be seen for miles.

At any rate, as the crazy mother of three kids who have a lot of activities between them, I spend a lot of time driving.  My car is permanently equipped with my sunhat, sun wrap and a bottle of sunblock so that I am always prepared for the hours on end of soccer games etc, but it occurred to me recently to wonder how much sun exposure I was getting while in the car en route to all these places.   I called the dealer, who didn't know for sure.  Just for giggles, I looked online to see if there was anywhere to submit the question, and found the Volvo Customer Care website (I drive an XC90.)  I'm sure other manufacturers have a similar site.

A very helpful representative responded to my question almost immediately.  Apparently UVB rays don't go through glass at all (who knew?) and most UVA rays are blocked by the treated glass from which windows and windshields are made.  In my car, more than 99% of UVA rays are blocked by the windshield and about 82% by the side windows.  Happy news for your friend Dracula here!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


We got started on this whole taekwondo thing as a family about two years ago.  It was my reaction to Thing One coming home and telling me that a boy in his class was getting physical with him.  First Thing One started taking the classes, then Thing Two, then me, and last Petunia.

Thing One is not a leader by nature.  In general, he's not one to stand up for himself either, although he will defend a weaker friend long before he'll defend himself.  I was concerned that he would be a doormat, one of those kids who gets pushed around at school.  He's a big kid for his age, too, but this didn't seem to matter much as a deterrent.

Anyway, I signed him up for taekwondo mostly for the self-defense element of it.  I want my kids to know what to do if somebody comes after them.  The rule is that they may not swing first, but they may swing second (and hard) with my full blessing regardless of what the school thinks of the matter.  Sometimes deliberately breaking a rule is worth it in the long term, after all.

At any rate, Thing One told me today that some jerk kid on his bus was picking on him, and finally aimed a shot at his groin.  He reflexively blocked the hit (!) and then delivered a solid strike to the kid's shoulder (!!) which put the little turd in his place.  He sulked off whining after that.  Frigging GO THING ONE.  Way to stand up for made your mama so proud today.  And hopefully that little punk will think twice about messing with you in future, too!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Going Under

It's the last week of school for all three of my kids this week.  Which means that it is also desk-cleaning time.  And bulletin-board emptying time.  Each kid has brought home a positive flood of stuff every day for the past few days!  Notebooks.  Binders.  Crayons and markers.  Art projects and posters and papers galore.  All of which are unceremoniously dumped onto my kitchen table by their respective owners as soon as they get home.

One day of this would be bad enough, but we're going on three now with at least two more in sight.  If I don't sort through the stacks immediately and make very heartless decisions relating to recycling, it is all over.  There is only so much counter space in my kitchen, and I actually need some of it for cooking and eating!  Starting to look like an episode of Hoarders here...

Nice Question, Kid

This morning, my elder son looked at me suspiciously and asked why I was being so nice to him.  (The implication of course being that I am normally unkind and unreasonable!)  I just gave him a look.

What provoked this, you may ask?  Permitting him to play Google Earth on the laptop first thing in the morning.  And also, in fairness, to have a very small lollipop (from a stash his teacher gave him at school) before breakfast.  My rationale for the latter was that the oatmeal he was going to have for breakfast surely contains a whole lot more sugar than one small lollipop anyway, but you'd think I'd given him free reign of the treat box for the reaction I got.

I didn't have the energy to argue about it, either...I was trying to do some school board stuff on my computer at the time.  But if he's going to be a twerp about it, it will be back to plain Cheerios for him before he can say "mean, nasty Mom!"

Friday, June 14, 2013

Remains Of The Day

Last Friday of school for the boys, school board subcommittee meeting, end of year party for Thing Two in class, baseball end-of-season picnic craziness amid scattered thunderstorms this evening.  Long day.

Now, TV, a glass of wine, and Angry Birds.  A very crazy week survived; summer's almost here.  Raising my glass in a toast to peace and quiet.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Knock, Knock...

Last night, I was chatting with a friend at the park.  She also has a son Thing One's age, and she asked me at one point if I was going on their class's field trip today, with a laugh in her voice because the forecast for today has been dismal all week.  (She and I were half-drowned in freezing rain on another class trip a few years back, and it has become somewhat of a running joke between us.)  I told her no, that I had to take Petunia to the dentist for extraction of two baby teeth this morning instead.  And that I would infinitely prefer standing outside in thunderstorms on the field trip to that!

But just then my gaze landed on another friend who was there, the reason we were there.  Or more accurately, the mother of the reason we were there.

I met this woman and her daughter years ago, right after I moved to this town.  At the time, Thing One was barely six months old and my friend's daughter only a few months older.  Less than a year after that, her daughter was diagnosed with a rare pediatric cancer.  She fought it with everything she had, but she lost the fight midway through first grade.  Thing One was in her class that year, and had been for kindergarten too.  Her final decline was rapid, and one terrible spring evening we received notice that she was gone.  I still remember trying to find the words, any words, to explain what had happened to Thing One so that he wouldn't have to hear about it at school the next day.

It's a tight-knit community, and years later she is still lovingly remembered by her former classmates.  Every June, we have a memorial gathering of sorts for her at the town park one evening: nothing fancy or formal, just her friends gathering to think of her.  The parents bring treats and drinks, we raise a little money for a donation of art books to the school in her name, and the kids play.  (While I was having this conversation, most of them were playing some crazy game that looked like tackle soccer on the field behind us, half the boys still in baseball pants from their earlier practice.)    

So, when I looked up in the middle of that conversation and my eye happened to light upon the mother who lost her own beloved little girl, my heart convulsed.  I've been pissing and moaning about the crazy schedule for days now, and I sure as hell didn't want to have to deal with a double tooth extraction in a young child.  But in the grand scheme of things, I have my daughter, and a dentist visit, even an unpleasant one, is small potatoes.  Sometimes I need a swift kick in the pants, and I got one.

And, as icing on the cake, the dentist visit was completely uneventful.  She didn't cry, she was telling the dentist jokes, and she was perfectly fine with going straight to school afterward.      

Reality check, anyone??


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I Am Losing My Freaking Mind

Yesterday, I brought the bag of dry cleaning that needed to be taken in downstairs and put it by my purse so I would remember to grab it when I went out.  And then forgot it.

Today, I put a bag of genealogy paperwork I was going to look at during a car service appointment next to my purse so I would remember to grab it when I went out.  And then forgot it.

Good thing I am at least remembering my purse, I guess.  My brain is fried by end-of-year craziness and this forgetfulness is just a symptom.  But am not in any respect a space cadet by nature, so it is frustrating the hell out of me!!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Conundrum Du Jour

I have a child who remembers with no effort whatsoever things like the year in which Benjamin Franklin performed his famous kite experiment (1752) and the date on which I had a particular conversation with him ("But Mom, you told me on December 14th that I could do X, Y and Z.")

So WHY is it that he can't remember to take an envelope out of his backpack and give it to his teacher or go check the school lost and found for his missing water bottle to save his life???

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Balls, They Are All Over the Place

My juggling skills are being SORELY tested this week.

Minus the 'email addresses' bit, this is exactly how I feel at the moment.

One of the many things I had to do when we got back from Maryland yesterday was figure out the calendar for the week and write it on the whiteboard in my kitchen.  I did this about 8 o'clock last night.  Since then:

1) The school board subcommittee meeting I was supposed to have at 11 this morning has been switched (possibly, this is not set yet) to Friday at 12.  With an adjunct submeeting that will probably take place sometime next week now.

2) The baseball picnic that was set for Friday evening has been changed to Thursday.  This means that Thing One has to switch his soccer clinic from Thursday to Friday.  But since it is supposed to rain on Thursday (why the baseball people can't look at the weather, I have no idea), my bet is that at some point the picnic will be back to Friday and who knows what will happen with soccer then!

3) Because it is also raining today, the memorial event we are holding for a classmate of Thing One's who died of cancer back in first grade after a valiant fight (a terribly sad story) has been moved to Wednesday evening.  The kids' taekwondo classes have accordingly been switched to today from Wednesday.

Finally got all that straight on the whiteboard.

This week after school, we have five taekwondo classes, an orthodontist visit, a piano lesson, a speech therapy session, the baseball party, the memorial get-together, and a soccer clinic.  Adding in two full-day school field trips, a routine service for my Volvo, a dentist appointment for Petunia (who needs to have two baby teeth extracted because the adult teeth are coming in behind them rather than under them--they call these 'shark teeth') and my school board subcommittee meeting, whenever that may take place, and we have a recipe for a full-on mental breakdown, especially since this scheduling craziness does not currently take into consideration any of my normal responsibilities like grocery shopping, housecleaning, cooking, and laundry.

Wish me luck, please...I'm going to need it!



Sunday, June 9, 2013

Old Houses, Old Friends, And Youthful Energy

It's an old farmhouse in Maryland: the central core dates to 1750 and is all stone porches and open hearths and rough painted wooden cupboards and floorboards and impossibly steep and twisting and hidden staircases.  A perfect place for children to play hide and seek.  It even has an attic, accessible by one of those steep and twisting staircases and full of that indefinable smell of old heated wood and forsaken stuff--a smell that immediately took me back 30 years to the attic of my grandparents' old house in Ohio.  I'd completely forgotten about it until that instant.

Himself's sister and her husband bought that house a few months ago, and live there now with their two sons.  The older is about Petunia's age, and the younger a couple of years behind them.  They have held a wine and cheese tasting party every year for the past few years, and Saturday they used it as the occasion to unveil their new home to the masses.  Drinking being the order of the day, we planned to stay over: after dropping the dog off with her beloved dogsitter (a 13 year-old boy from the neighborhood), we loaded up the car with inflatable mattresses and sleeping bags and pillows and enough other assorted stuff to make it look like we were leaving town for a week instead of a simple overnight visit and headed out on Saturday morning.  (Isn't it always the case that it is time to embark on a trip right around the time that you realize that it would have been simpler and less stressful to stay home??)    

My kids were in pig heaven when we finally got there.  A whole new house to explore, a pool to swim in, bikes and other toys to ride, and cousins and friends to play with.  There were a lot of guests we didn't know, mostly work colleagues of my BIL and SIL's.  But soon enough, the more casual friends went home, and the core of oldtimers were left, mostly former Army buddies of my BIL's and high school and college friends of my SIL's and their respective significant others.  We've known all these folks for years, and most of them were staying over as well...I think the total was 15 houseguests, plus the actual residents.  Two of the upstairs rooms held a total of seven kids in sleeping bags and they loved every minute of the bedtime (and post-bedtime) chaos!

Once we finally got them down, it was truly fantastic just to sit and chat with these people.  To hear the gossip and the old stories of debauchery and the takes on who's marrying whom (or previously slept with whom) and why.  To laugh about the former highly-decorated tank driver who managed to crash a dirt bike while doing timed loops in the driveway, which was only funny because the crash was truly spectacular (and accordingly uploaded to Facebook immediately by one of the spectating guy-types) but did not result in any major injuries.

And it was even educational: my SIL's college roommate is married to a policeman, and somehow he and I got on the subject of how he can tell when people are under the influence.  You know how they do the whole follow-my-finger-with-your-eyes field sobriety tests after a traffic stop??  Well, he grabbed the tank driver of the infamous aforementioned dirt bike incident on the spot, dragged him into the kitchen, and set him up under the kitchen light, with me parked behind his right shoulder so I could see what he sees when he administers the tests.  Which the tank driver then proceeded to pass with flying colors, leading to much additional grief from the other guys about his lack of coordination even when sober (!), so Pete the cop had to find another willing victim for me later.  The test is called horizontal gaze nystagmus...basically, they are looking at whether the person's eyes can smoothly track along with the fingertip and remain focused on it, or if they move jerkily.  It sounds weird, but you can absolutely see the eye jerks in someone who's been drinking...very cool.  And since everyone involved was staying over, it was a purely academic exercise!

Yes, it hurt to get up this morning.  Badly.  And we were sleeping in the man-cave over the garage, too, so we were spared the worst of the early-morning kid enthusiasm...I hear that they were up and outside on bikes and the trampoline by 6:30AM!  Ah, the energy (and non wine-drinking habits) of youth: quite effective birth control for the two or three childless pairs of adults involved, I would imagine.  :)

And now Himself wants to find us an old house to move into as well.  Which will happen right about the time one or the other of us becomes handy, which is to say probably never!



Saturday, June 8, 2013

Feel Good Story Of The Day

To read the news most days, you'd think the world was composed solely of sadness, evil, and misfortune.  Articles like this one remind me otherwise!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Somewhere, Noah Is Building An Ark

I've let at least five inches of water out of my pool in the last 24 hours.  The creeks and possibly the river are going to flood for sure if this rain keeps up.

But, in happier news, at least the rain caused cancellation of our evening plans, so I was able to stay home and get some things done.

The fruits of my labors (literally)

It's strawberry season.  Himself loves my homemade strawberry jam, and every spring he asks me to make some for him to give to the people in his office at Christmas.  I have the system down by now--the canning process takes a while and makes a hell of a mess (red sticky goop everywhere), but he keeps the kids and dog out of the way so I can get it done.  The final product is delicious, and doesn't get much fresher: I'd bet the berries I used were picked today!  Love that orchards and farm stands are all around me here.

There was other good news this week as well:

I've had this peony bush for about five years now.  The first three years I got no flowers at all: either the deer ate all the buds, it wasn't in the right place in my yard, there was an unseasonably hot spell that burned all the name it, something went wrong every year.  Last year, I got one stinkin' flower.  Which looked much like this one, actually.  But this year, I must have done something right, because this is what the rest of the bush looks like right now:

 Buds and opening blossoms galore.  This makes me very happy.  Soon, the butterfly bushes that surround this peony bush will bloom as well, and there will be a soaring aerial ballet of monarchs and tiger swallowtails to enjoy too.

But in the meantime, we will be pairing off two by two and looking for that ark.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I Remember

Her name was Ding Laoshi (Teacher Ting), and she taught the Mandarin classes at my high school in Hong Kong.

She had been an opera singer in China before the Cultural Revolution.  She sang for our class one day: to our uneducated, adolescent ears it sounded like a cat wailing, but we knew enough to show respect.  Because one of the goals of the Communist regime was to eliminate the old cultural traditions from Chinese society, she'd been interned in a re-education camp, assigned to hard labor on a farm for several years.  They wanted her to learn some "useful skills."  She cried when she told us about that.

When the student demonstrations started in Beijing in the spring of 1989, she was overjoyed.  She spent whole class periods telling us why the Communist Party should be overthrown.  Then everything suddenly went south.  The hardliners directed the military to crack down on the protesters, and tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square.  

We made white armbands (bearing the name of one of the student leaders in Chinese characters) for ourselves and our classmates to wear to the anti-Chinese government protests in downtown Hong Kong.

The Tiananmen Square Massacre took place 24 years ago yesterday, but I remember it vividly.  Ding Laoshi, wherever you are, thank you for the lessons you taught us.  Your strength, your dignity, and your conviction have stayed with me for all these years.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sometimes Things Work Out In Unexpected Ways

A good friend of mine (who moved here about a year ago from Switzerland with her family) has a daughter who is the same age as Thing One.  She's had a rocky year adjusting to school in the US, but has finally found her groove and is doing well.

The daughter tried out for travel soccer this spring, the same club for which Thing One plays.  She'd only played Rec-level soccer before, but went to the tryouts and did her best.  Since the coach of the girls' team at our local high school (who is also one of the travel soccer club's officials) also happens to be a friend of mine, I put in a good word for the kid at the time.  Not to subvert the coaches' decision in any way, just to say, "this is a good kid from a nice family."  So many of the problems these sorts of teams have to deal with result from interpersonal dynamics: in a situation where playing skills etc. are equal, the coaches would always rather pick a good kid for one of their teams than a total brat with JA parents.

Unfortunately, when all was said and done, this girl didn't make the cut.  She took the news as well as could have been expected, although she was very disappointed, and made plans to play another season of Rec soccer.  This was a couple of weeks ago.

Then tonight, I was at the dojo, watching the kids' taekwondo classes through the window.  My friend happened to be standing right next to me (her kids take taekwondo as well--this is how we met) when my cell phone rang.  It was the girls' soccer coach.

One of the girls on the A team had decided to play elsewhere.  One of the B players was moving up to A to replace her.  And the coach wanted to know if I thought my friend's daughter would be interested in taking the last B team slot.  She was one of three players on the bubble for the open spot, and the coach remembered what I'd said about her and her family.  I handed the phone to my friend on the spot, and she joyfully accepted that last open position for her daughter.  Who promptly broke into the most energetic happy dance I've ever seen when she heard the news a few minutes later.

She wouldn't have been in consideration tonight if her soccer skills weren't up to par.  That was the first cut for this last open spot.  But she got the final nod because she's a great kid.  Her parents have done a wonderful job of raising her and are genuinely good human beings.  And isn't THAT the feel-good story of the evening???



(Subtitle: The Second Dropped Ball In Ten Days)

So much for the day off I wrote about in yesterday's post.  Not 15 minutes after I got up from the computer, a text came in from a friend: " Do we have a meeting tonight?"

And of course, we did.  Glad she was paying attention, because I'd forgotten about it completely, although it was in the back of my head as recently as last Friday afternoon.  I chair the committee, FFS--forgetting about the meeting meant that I hadn't sent out the usual reminder email about it, drafted the agenda, or written up the minutes from the last meeting yet (the latter is not usually my job, but the secretary missed last month's meeting.)  Guess how I spent my late afternoon and early evening?

The meeting went fine, actually--good attendance and very productive.  But it bugs the daylights out of me that I would have spaced on it entirely but for that text.  THERE IS TOO MUCH GOING ON RIGHT NOW.  

Just a small sampling of the things on the to-do list rattling around in my head at the moment:

*Draft field use charges for our town park (don't even ask why I have to do this, but it's legitimate, not meddling)
*Collect money for Thing One's teacher's end of year class gift (class mom)
*Get gifts for Thing Two and Petunia's teachers
*Gather agenda items for the next school board subcommittee meeting
*Get the town summer camp's art supplies out of my basement
*Buy ice cream toppings for Thing One's G&T party, Italian ices for his regular class end of year party, condiments for Thing Two's baseball picnic, and dishwasher detergent before we run out and have a domestic crisis
*Take my car in for service
*Get straight which of the kids' schools has half days on which days between now and the end of the school year
*Buy birthday presents for two birthday parties
*Make arrangements for the dog to be boarded when we go away this weekend
*RSVP for the school graduation ceremony (must attend as BOE member)
*Get sitter for said school graduation ceremony
*Fold four loads of laundry
*Have a full-blown stress fit

This doesn't even include keeping up with three kids' worth of the regular daily routine...homework, activities, cleaning, etc.

The end of the year is always insane, but this is as bad as it's ever been.  And in fairness, I do have to admit that a lot of it is my own fault: I don't have to be a class mom or the chair of this, that and the other thing.  Usually things space themselves out a little better, though!  Right now I am just getting hammered.
This being the case, I identify a LOT with Jen Hatmaker, who recently wrote a blog post entitled Worst End Of School Year Mom Ever.  This has gone viral on Facebook.  Seriously, if you have small kids (or probably even bigger kids), go read it.  If at least some parts of it don't make you cringe in recognition, I want to know your secret.

This was the part that really did it for me:

"The emails coming in for All Of The Things – class gift, end of year letters, luncheon signup, party supplies, awards ceremonies, pictures for the slide shows, final projects – are like a tsunami of doom. They are endless. I mean, they will never ever end. There is no end of it. I will never finish and turn it all in and get it to the (correct) Room Mom and get it all emailed and I am pretty sure the final week of school will never be over and this is the end for me.
“You don’t have to do all that, you know. Just blow it off.”
Me, staring blankly:
“Well, what a lovely thought you’re having there in your brain. How nice for you to be thinking that thought. I want to live in your imaginary world where my failure to do the School Stuff doesn’t mean our kid is the only one not wearing a purple shirt or didn’t have his pictures in the slideshow or didn’t bring in a handmade card for his teacher like every other student. I’ll just ‘blow it off’ and our kids can work it out with their therapists later.”

 'Tsunami of Doom' is a great description of my inbox.  And I don't want my kids to be the only ones left out either.  Thank God we aren't having to do school projects or make costumes right now or that would absolutely, no question, be the end of me!  

Enough already...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Land Of The Free

Now that the spring sports seasons are finally over, the after-school calendar looks radically different.  Amazing how much more down time we have with baseball and travel soccer both scratched from the list!

Thing Two's baseball game this past Thursday night was his last of the season.  Thing One's official travel soccer season ended with this weekend's tournament.  They went 2-0-2 (two wins, two ties) in their bracket and placed second.  The weather was in the mid-90s and muggy both days: by the fourth game, they were exhausted and running entirely on adrenaline and sugar.  And of course, that fourth game was against the best team in their bracket, one which had beaten them at every meeting this season.  Our boys dug deep and came back from a 2-0 deficit to tie them, with Thing One scoring the tying goal off a corner kick with only a few minutes left in the fourth quarter--a great way for him to end the season!  We have a whole two weeks (ugh) off before his summer soccer league starts...I don't remember sports being this crazy when I was a kid.  

The kids' taekwondo attendance has fallen off a cliff the past couple of months with all the other stuff going on (they've been lucky to get to class once a week) and we will pick that back up starting tomorrow.

But today, we are having a day off.   Petunia is drawing pictures, the boys are peacefully playing computer games, and I am celebrating the fact that I am NOT driving anyone anywhere!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Quiet Kind Of Day

There's no such thing as a day without anything that needs doing here, but the frenetic pace and activity-to-activity-to-activity standard dictated by my usual overstuffed to-do list have been blessedly absent today.  Despite the early start--why must all three of my menfolk arise so bloody early in the morning??  Nobody other than me and Petunia seems capable of sleeping past 6AM, even on a weekend--it has been oddly peaceful so far.

Himself and Thing One have been at a soccer tournament all day.  The younger two and I pottered up to the grocery store for canning jars and sugar and pectin after breakfast, and then out to the orchard, where we found that the jam strawberries won't be ready until next week.  Of course, we bought some of the eating berries just to eat (how do you pass up fresh strawberries?), and now have red-stained fingers and lips.  Then the younger two had soccer practice, but I couldn't tell you what they worked on.  I sat with the dog and my friend J in the shade of a big tree by the field, out of the searing heat, and we chatted while they played.

Home again, I checked the chemicals in the pool, fixed lunch for the kids, and helped Petunia decorate cupcakes for a picnic this evening.  She got red and silver sprinkles all over the place and I don't care.

Probably because I wasn't in such a stressed-out rush today, I was able to notice and appreciate my surroundings more than usual.  My part of the world is rural and peaceful, full of fields and ancient deciduous trees and stone walls.  The primary colors are the blues and greens and browns/grays of nature, and even in the heat today, I was struck by the beauty around me.  It's not a majestic, Rocky Mountains sort of gut-striking, just-try-and-ignore-me splendor, but the more subtle tree- and farm-covered rolling hill variety that is much more easily overlooked by a distracted mind.

Which made me think of a Robert Brault quotation: "I regret less the road not taken than my all-fired hurry along the road I took."

Indeed.  The days pass slowly but the years quickly, and I miss too much of what goes on around me for my brain being somewhere else, preoccupied with another responsibility.  Perhaps I should hang this quotation over my desk to remind me of days like today.

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...