Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wednesday In Bullet Points

The Good: Found geocaches hidden on the back of an old train, in a vent hole of a fallen-down chimney, and under a log by the canal.  Pretty cool.

The Bad: Thing Two clocked the hell out of my bad knee with his knee.  Completely accidental, but ouch!!!

The Ugly: I have absolutely no patience left.  Zip, zero, nada.  And there is still a month of the kids' summer vacation left!  Wish me luck...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Big Boys

Thing Two inadvertently crashed into Sean, his soccer coach, the other day while racing a friend and not looking where he was going.  Sean told me about this because he was concerned about Thing Two's head, but my first reaction (how bad of a mom am I?) was to ask if Sean was okay!  He's not a particularly big guy, and Thing Two is about 75 pounds of very dense bone and muscle: not at all what I would want ramming me at speed.  Ouch. 

Thing One had his ten-year well visit this week, and he's now up to 90 pounds, which is frightening. I should add that neither child has an ounce of fat on him and both sink like rocks in the pool: they are just solid walls of boy.  And if those online calculators that predict eventual adult height from boys' heights at age two plus their parents' heights are to be believed, Thing One should top out at 6'4" or so and Thing Two won't be far behind.  Ye gods and little chickens.  Considering how much they eat and how big they are already, my grocery bills will be absolutely through the roof in a few years.

Tonight, I watched Thing Two gallantly shepherd another, much smaller friend through the parking lot at the gym, one arm thrown protectively around her shoulders.  It was very cute, although I knew better than to say that to him.  I was glad to see that he is capable of putting his size to good use when he's actually paying attention to his surroundings: the friend came off a lot better than the soccer coach from their respective encounters with him.  With great size comes great responsibility, or something like that.  A lesson for both of my boys to learn sooner rather than later!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sweet Relief

Thing Two had his playdate today, the one I wrote about on Friday.

And for all my pre-worry and stressing, it went very well.  We (Thing Two, the friend, and I) bowled two games at the bowling alley, then I gave them some quarters for the video game machines before taking them back to our house.  After a snack, they settled in with the Wii since the thunder outside had taken swimming out of the equation, and were still playing together in peace and harmony when the friend's mom arrived to pick him up.    

We've made some good progress since the early, ugly days of the first playdate attempts.  There was no crying at transition points (time to leave the bowling alley, etc) today.  No inappropriate hugging.  No really silly behavior or voices or unnecessary loudness.  To the extent that his bowling alley etiquette was a bit off, it was indistinguishable from that of his NT friend (and not that bad), so I let it go.  He remembered to ask his friend what he wanted to play at our house, and he said "thank you for coming" at the end with minimal prompting.  Sounds like small potatoes, sure, unless you have a child who struggles socially, at which point any one of these things can pose a major challenge.  For us, these are not things we've been able to take for granted.

The biggest problem we had today was me, which hurts to admit but is the truth.  I need to back off and just let them be, not hover so much trying to make things go well.  This friend in particular has been in Thing Two's class for two years now and seems to like him, idiosyncrasies and all...not sure why I still feel compelled to step in and 'help,' to make explanations or move the conversation along.  They can do it on their own, and I'm afraid that my efforts to ease things along will backfire at some point.  I'm sure I'm not the only special-needs parent who frets about when to step in and when to step away, and I know I don't have the balance right yet.  At any rate, the friend appeared to have fun, I know my son did, and I didn't see any real behavioral flags, which puts this one in the "Success" column as far as I'm concerned.   And I'll keep working on that whole helicoptering thing, even though I really do mean well when I do it.

Mama D: 1, Paranoia: 0.




Saturday, July 27, 2013

What A Difference Gender Makes

Took Petunia to a birthday party today.  It was held at the birthday-friend's house, a refreshing change from the current trend of ever more extravagant parties held at commercial venues or gyms or pools.  This particular party involved about ten little girls (and one boy) in bathing suits, a kids' wading pool full of soapy water, a giant sheet of plastic serving as a slip n' slide, water balloons, cake, snacks and a piƱata.  The children had a blast.

This is the first party I've been to that was essentially all girls--not mixed, as is typical for younger kids, or all boys, as I've become accustomed to with my sons' parties.  What made me think about this was noticing HOW the kids were playing!  Specifically, they were not acting like the boys I know.

Had the partygoers been boys rather than girls:

1) somebody would have been doing cannonballs into the baby pool of soapy water
2) somebody would have broken an arm (leg, neck, etc) landing in some crazy manner on the slip 'n slide
3) two or more somebodys would have been having sliding races on the plastic sheet
4) there would have been a full-on water balloon war at some point
5) the phrase "hey Mom, watch this!" would have been heard multiple times.

At it happened today, everyone played together peacefully and went home injury-free.  It's going to take me some time to get used to girl behavior!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Paranoia Will Destroy Ya

According to his neurodevelopmental pediatrician, Thing Two is somewhat backward socially because he was still trying to figure out the whole communication thing back in preschool when everyone else was learning to play nicely; i.e., his social issues are secondary to the communication ones.  I am not entirely convinced that she's right, but his social skills are unquestionably getting better as his language ability improves, so hopefully we will eventually hit the point at which it no longer matters.  Right now, he sometimes stands too close and speaks too loud and touches too much and I am beyond grateful for the patience and forbearance of his playmates.  I sometimes feel that we are in a race against time, that we need to catch him up socially before his peers start to see him as weird and different and exclude him, which would break his little heart since he desperately wants friends.

He has kids he plays with at school, but is not often invited for playdates outside school.  I hate to think that this is the beginning of secondary social status, but it may be.  After unsuccessfully trying to set up a play date for him with one friend a few weeks ago (it seemed that logistics were the issue) I tried again with a different friend this week.  I emailed the friend's mother Monday, and hadn't heard back as of this morning, despite the fact that I'd seen the mom a couple of times in passing this week and gotten waves each time.   I have to admit that I was pretty upset by the time I picked the kids up from camp this afternoon, since I knew how hard my son would take it if this boy didn't want to play with him anymore.  But then, when I walked in to the school gym to get the kids, Thing Two was playing tag with the boy in question, and both looked like they were having fun.  Not seeing the other mom around, but emboldened by what I'd seen, I re-sent my invitation email when I got home.

This time, I got a quick response.  Apparently she hadn't seen my message.  Her son does want to play with mine, and we have a playdate set for Sunday afternoon.  I am taking the boys bowling, and then back to our house to swim.  Thing Two will be so excited when I tell him.

I don't want to be that paranoid mother.  It is summer.  People are busy and have a lot going on.  The first friend is the youngest of six kids, and the second is the oldest of three boys born in a three-year span.  There are good reasons why play dates might not work out that have nothing to do with my son.  But I am afraid for him, and my thoughts often go to the worst even if there are other explanations.  I need to work on that, because I don't want to be that mother or that person.  Somewhere out there is a good friend for my son, and if it turns out that he hasn't met this friend yet, we will find him or her.  I swear it on my love for my child.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I have no idea how we traveled in the bad old days pre-Apple.

Remember how I said a while back that we were going to try traveling a bit with the kids as part of the whole getting-them-out-of-their-rut thing?  This morning, we packed the hound off to her sitter's house and loaded the kids into the car for an overnight adventure.

If you have an iPhone and haven't yet tried the MapQuest app (which I believe is free) you need to. Really.  This morning, we plugged the address of an amusement park that is about two and half hours from the house into the MapQuest app, and got out-loud, turn by turn directions the whole way.  My 'navigator' skills are now completely obsolete.  We also subsequently got directions from the park to the hotel, found a kid-friendly place to eat dinner, and then located a movie theater showing Despicable Me 2 with nothing but said phone.  (And I have to admit that the Minions made me laugh out loud!)

So far, so good.  Kids had a good day and were so tired when we got back from the movie that all were asleep within a few minutes.  We have a suite: they are in one room together and our room is just off theirs.  And since Himself and I had the foresight to bring both of our iPads and a bottle of wine as well, we are having a lovely quiet evening ourselves now, recharging the batteries for another crazy day tomorrow before we head home.

Sure, we could have lugged maps and printouts and books with us, but it's nice not to have to.  A few small iDevices, changing the whole way we travel and making it simpler and more efficient.  Always a good thing when on the go with three little kids!!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I Would Really Like To Know What Huma Abedin Is Thinking

Leopards usually don't change their spots.  This one certainly appears not to have changed much.

At what point does a woman decide that enough is enough and refuse to be publicly humiliated any further?  Is "keeping the family together" really worth it??

None of my business, of course.  Just can't figure out women who continue to stand by men like this.  Maybe I'm just too proud, but I'd like to think that if it were me, I'd have left a smoke trail behind me long since.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Heir Is Born!

And the previous 'spare' just got sparer.

Feeling a bit sorry for Harry, actually.  To the extent that royalty is not a completely meaningless anachronism these days, how galling must it be to think that the egg that became you happened to be released second instead of first, with such resounding consequences??  No wonder he acts this era of modern medicine, the odds of those before you in line conveniently popping off before siring children are much remoter than in bygone eras.  Even  though the current heir-in-waiting does have a comparatively dangerous job...not quite sure how that got past the official approval process.

And kudos to Kate for keeping the gender secret.  You don't think they knew??  No way...that crew of control freaks??  They knew it was a boy.   And Kate made that 'slip' deliberately to mislead everyone, dollars to doughnuts.  Of all the times that you don't want the world all up in your business, the day you give birth is pretty damn high on the list, and I'm sure that somewhere she is graciously smiling at the world's surprise about the 'boy' part of the announcement.  ;)

Leaving aside all the royalty bit and all it implies, boiled down to basics, a woman had a baby today.  Wishing her and her husband heartfelt congratulations, as all births deserve.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Happy Birthday To Me, Again

Just realized that I started this blog exactly one year ago today.  Believe it or not, this is post #432!  Can't believe I've had that many things to write about in one year or that so many of you have taken the time to stop by and share your comments.  I appreciate that more than I can possibly say.

On that hot July afternoon a year ago, I was out back weeding the vegetable garden and thinking about blogs for some reason.  On a whim, I decided to try to set one up, and here we are.

Thanks for coming with me on this ride, y'all.  It's been a great one so far.

Mama D

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Thing Two Just Melted My Heart

One of the (many) things that worried me about Thing Two when he was little was that he didn't seem to understand how to hug.  Not that he wasn't affectionate or loving, but if you can imagine giving someone a hug without using your arms, that's how he would do it.  Just a full body press.  We worked on "hugging *with* arms" for quite a while.  

It also took him quite a while to learn how to give a kiss.  Something about the fine motor control of his facial muscles was a little slow to develop too...I got a lot of slobbery kisses while we were working on that particular skill.  He's able to give absolutely "normal" hugs and kisses now, but believe me, I don't take a single one of those for granted!  I'm also impossibly grateful for how loving a child he is...even though we are still working on his social skills, whatever issues we have stem from him being too affectionate, not the opposite.  

Just now, I was sitting in the kitchen drinking my coffee and reading the news on my iPad.   He came up to me out of the blue, gently took my face between his hands, and kissed my forehead.  That is something I've done to him (and his siblings) literally thousands of times--it is one of my go-to expressions of love with my kids.  I've never seen him do it before, though.  He just used my own gesture on me and I am undone.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

On Recognizing Compliments That Take Unusual Forms

The Friday taekwondo instructor is a very observant Muslim woman, the wife of an imam.  She is also one of my heroes and high on the list of the coolest, most personality-filled people I know.  Back in March, she came to the St. Patrick's Day party Himself and I throw every year.  I was amazed that she came, a holiday party centering around a Christian saint and alcohol not being a likely place to find her, but she did.  And she had on a green headscarf and a light-up, flashing shamrock bracelet!  I think I commented here at the time that her mere presence was one of the highest compliments I've ever received, since nothing but true friendship would have gotten her to a St. Pat's party.

I was thinking about that during her class this morning.  She is notorious for teaching a tough class and for mixing it up every week so that we have no idea what to expect: she's online the night before looking at football drills she can adapt and coordination exercises and all kinds of crazy things.  She's the one who has us doing jump kicks over targets and leaping between hula hoops and weightlifting with water bottles and whatnot--her classes are never routine, at least!  The running joke is that we have to look at the theme of the week before we decide if we are coming to her Friday class.

Her classes are especially demanding when the theme of the week is either Endurance or Sparring, and this was a Sparring week.  Even worse, it was a Sparring week during Ramadan, which means that she was hungry, thirsty and caffeine-deprived while teaching her usual hellacious sparring class!

And yet, the class was still full: another compliment as good as it gets.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Late Birthday Update

My older son just left me speechless with his birthday gift.

In one of those strange coincidences that serve to remind us how small the world truly is, one of Thing One's best friends happens to be the grandson of a nationally-recognized author whose work I've admired for years.  I'd read most of his books long before I figured out that he was related to somebody I knew...if the friend's mother hadn't retained her (unusual) maiden name, I might never have connected the dots.

At any rate, the friend's birthday party was tonight, and Thing One attended.  The grandfather was also there: we've been introduced before, but have never had any extended conversation.  I waved hello to him when I dropped Thing One off, and that was it.

When Thing One came home tonight, he was tightly clutching a white plastic bag, which he excitedly thrust at me.  I opened it to find a copy of one of this author's books, autographed to me with birthday wishes!  The kid came up with this idea all on his own, and since he was a little nervous about asking for the autograph, he made his friend the grandson come with him when he did it.  But he pulled it off, and I couldn't be happier if the kid had bought me diamonds.

That was a lot of thoughtfulness and guts wrapped in a ten year-old package, very much a "long walk part of gift" kind of thing for a little boy to do.  Dear God, I love that child.  He's going to be a fine man someday.

Lordy, Lordy...

Look who's 40!!

It's John Glenn's birthday today.  Mine, too--I always thought it was cool to share my birthday with him.  He's a hair over 40, though.

Started out the day feeling old and creaky, but I wasn't allowed to get away with that while talking to my parents, who pointed out that they are 28 years older than I am and don't want to hear any griping out of any young whippersnapper, thank you VERY much.

It's a take-stock sort of birthday, but thankfully, there aren't too many things in my life I'd change if I could.  Loving family, good friends, good kids, good husband, and fairly decent physical shape: earned this in taekwondo class today.

First stripe on my Blue belt!  The march toward Senior Blue has begun.  I was 38 when I started studying taekwondo, and I wondered if I was too old...I remember distinctly telling somebody that I'd be 40 in two years and had to be nuts to be starting at my age.  They asked me how old I'd be in two years if I didn't take up martial arts.  Fair enough.  Two years and five belts later, I've made some good progress.  The instructor brought a cupcake with a candle in it to class today and everyone sang "Happy Birthday," which was pretty cool.  

Himself wanted to throw me a big party, but the thought of the hassle and attention just wasn't appealing.  I'm getting grumpy in my old age!  We compromised on a 'nice' family dinner out tomorrow instead.  This afternoon, I picked 15 cucumbers from one plant in my garden, went swimming with the kids, found one more cache, and made a simple dinner.  No fuss, no frills.  But I did celebrate with a ceremonial cupcake after dinner.

Couldn't resist the candle.

Happy birthday to me!!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Found that cache today, the one with the waypoint 223 feet away at a bearing of 171 degrees magnetic.  It was out of sight on a high ledge, an old film canister stuck magnetically to the underside of a historic bridge by the river.  That was an undertaking, but I am sadly unable to give up on a challenge even when I probably should.  For good measure, I then went looking for the only other cache I hadn't been able to find, and eventually located it masquerading as a screw under a park bench.  I must be insane.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

More Fun With Languages

I was laughing when I told the guy I dated during my senior year of college that I would need to learn three languages for our relationship to work out long-term, but I really wasn't kidding.

His undergrad major was Computer Science Engineering: my eyes glazed over every time he started talking about his classwork because I didn't understand a word he was saying.  Especially with all the acronyms.  And speaking of acronym hell, he was also in Air Force ROTC--anything relating to the military is incomprehensible to non-military folk as well.  And, to serve as the icing on the cake, he was (and is) half-Mexican: his immediate family all spoke English, but many of the extended relatives spoke only Spanish.

I remember thinking back to this when I first started blogging and everything was a mystery.  How to set up a blog at all, first.  Then, eventually, as I got more ambitious, how to link text, embed images, and add HTML code to my site.  Blogger made most of that easy enough to figure out, but it was an exercise in unfamiliar terminology nonetheless.

I was reminded of it yet again today.  Courtesy of NOLA (whom I still consider a friend even though she added to my obsession list!) I am now trying to figure out geocaching, which has a very steep initial learning curve.  For example, if you see a listing for a "bison in a pine" (or anywhere else), you are looking for a small metal cylinder, often on a keyring.  Figured that one out pretty quickly, but I saw the following sentence in a listing this morning and had absolutely NO idea what it meant.

"To locate the cache you'll need to project a waypoint 223 feet at a bearing of 171 degrees magnetic from the above waypoint."

Somewhat depressing since this one is marked as a relatively easy find, too.  Yet another foreign language...


Monday, July 15, 2013

Thinking About Mike

A couple of days ago, a Facebook friend posted a old picture of himself on a football team from (my best guess) either middle school or sometime early in high school.  It really surprised me that one of his sisters asked which number he was in a comment, only because it was so obvious to me and I haven't seen him in person since 1988.  Some people you just don't forget, and he's one of those for me...I'll call him Mike.

He was my first boyfriend, the one from my freshman year of high school.  That was his only year there, unfortunately--like every other guy I dated in high school, he moved at the end of the year.  His situation was a little different from the others', though.

We met at a party held by a mutual friend.  Mike was 17, a junior, a big guy with dark hair and blue eyes.  He'd just moved to town from New Jersey, and had the kind of tan and muscles that you get when you've worked a lot as a lifeguard--in his case, at the beach in a town somewhere near Atlantic City.  I was only 14 at the time, and my mother was not at all happy about the age difference until she met him and realized that he was one of the good guys.  I still remember that our first 'date' was a walk to the McDonald's that was near our school campus, and how nervous I was!

Mike was dealing with some tough stuff that year.  He's the youngest in a big family, and his mother had died a few years before I met him.  Both of his parents were alcoholics, and his dad left the family after his mom died.  Shortly after that, their house burned down (I never got the full story on that, or wanted to) and the older kids took care of the younger kids from then on.  As the youngest, Mike was shuffled from sibling to sibling a lot--the year he attended my school, he was living with one of his brothers.  He had a lot of venting he needed to do, and I'd often end up crying as I listened--I was way too sheltered and naive to even begin to process that kind of pain, let alone find words to help him.  There wasn't anything I could do but listen.

He went back to the States at the end of the year, finished high school, and got a scholarship to Rutgers.  We'd lose touch for extended periods, but then one of us would pick up the phone and find the other to catch up, and it would be like there'd been no intervening time at all. I talked to him most recently a couple of years ago, and am hoping to be able to catch up with him again in person over a cup of coffee one of these summers.

He's happily married to a lovely woman and has good relationships with his remaining siblings (two have died of cancer.)  He has three beautiful children and a good job.  And I am happier for him than I can even begin to express.  Thinking about where he came from and how far from there he ended up, and what that says about him.

I'm proud to know you, my friend.  And I think the kid in the football picture would be, too.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Peace and Quiet

Blessed peace and quiet.  For three full hours of each day this upcoming week and the next.  All three kids will be in a camp together, and I cannot wait!!

There is such a thing as too much togetherness in my world, and I am there.  Even where my most beloved ones are concerned, I sometimes need space and alone time.  Always have.  And for the past few weeks there's been none.  As sociable and outgoing as I am, I'm way past ready to be off in a corner by myself with a book.  Or my iPad, these days.  And that corner needs to be out of earshot of the cries of "He punched me!" Or "I'm hungry!"  Or "I can't find any clean underwear!"  And preferably also very far away from my kitchen, which is perpetually full of dirty dishes, the family room, which looks like a bomb hit it, and the laundry room, which taunts me with bottomless baskets of laundry that needs folding and putting away.  That leaves my bedroom and the garden...these kids are making weeding look good right now.

Not that they are even particularly bad.  They're just little kids, and they act like it. (Fair enough.). Bottom line, I need a vacation, but unfortunately, everyone else's vacation time is my busy season by default!  The nerve of these kids, expecting to be fed three times a day, clothed in clean clothes, and not left to their own Lord of the Flies-like devices 24/7.  ;)

At least all three can wipe their own bottoms, tie their own shoes, and choose their own clothes now.  I know that in a few short years I will want this time back, and I am trying to be mindful of that.  I would love to be able to hit 'pause' on the roller coaster for a day or two, though!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Cross-Cultural Explanations Needed Here

Himself has a number of relatives in the Philadelphia area.  Knowing that Thing One is a soccer nut, one of these extended family members sent him a Philadelphia Union (the Philly MLS team) jersey for his recent birthday.  He immediately put it on and came to show it to me: unfortunately, my immediate reaction was to comment: "Good thing you're a boy."

Not one of my better parenting moments, to be sure.  But in my own defense, this is the jersey:

For anyone who may be confused, Bimbo Bakeries is currently the biggest bakery company in the US, a division of Mexico's Grupo Bimbo.  Their corporate headquarters are in the Philly area (just looked this up), so I understand why they are the jersey sponsor for Philly's MLS team.  All perfectly logical.

I still felt compelled to explain the meaning of the American slang term "bimbo" to Thing One, though.  Not that I don't want him to wear the jersey, and I sure as heck don't want him to start using the term himself; I just don't want him to be confused if somebody makes a comment about his jersey.    

Must be tough to be a multinational matter what you call your company or your product, it's not going to translate well into some languages!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Weekly Balance Sheet


1) Successfully performed a skyfall for the first time.  (Essentially a midair flip from a standing position, landing on your back in a breakfall position on the floor.  Not a technique for the timid or unskilled...I'd never mustered the courage to try it before.)

2) Learned the last of my self-defenses for this belt level.  All of them are defenses against knife attacks, which is enough to get your blood going even knowing that the practice knives are plastic!

3) Learned half a dozen more moves of my form--the end is finally in sight.

4) Found six geocaches.  (I think I have a new hobby/obsession...)

5) Spent a solid week with three small children who neither nap nor have 'quiet time' anymore without completely losing my gourd at any of them.


1) Aggravated my 'good' knee practicing &%$& tornado kicks on Tuesday, causing me to skip class today out of a sense of self-preservation.  I need at least one functional knee.

2) Had something of a tiff with my primary TKD instructor.  It happens every so often: not sure if the issue is cultural or if it's because we're both female (maybe some of both.)  I can say without hesitation that one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life was to choose a male PI for my graduate mentor--and NO, there was nothing inappropriate going on!!

3) Currently desperate for peace and quiet: two of my three kids never stop talking and all three never stop bickering.  Would rather weed my entire garden in 100 degree heat than referee for one more second!

On balance, I'd say the Pros have it.  But tomorrow morning, after Himself gets back from his long run, I am leaving all three kids and the dog with him for several hours and going out BY MYSELF!!

The Eyes Are the Prize

Himself has absolutely beautiful green eyes.  It is one of the deep regrets of my life (although entirely in keeping with the rules of genetics) that all three of our children got my brown ones instead.  Petunia's are hazel, Thing One's a warm rich cocoa, and Thing Two's so dark that you can't distinguish the pupil from the iris except in bright light.

The one thing that I will say for my brown eyes, however, is that they work.  I knock on wood as I type this, but I'm a few days away from 40 and doing fine so far.  Himself, on the other hand, started to wear glasses as a small child and his eyesight progressively got worse, to the point where he would have to hold an alarm clock right next to his face to see it in the morning.  This was eventually corrected through the wonders of LASIK, but with that background, I wasn't too surprised when the school nurse called me two years ago and suggested that I get Thing Two's eyes professionally checked.  I was, however, seriously pissed off with Fate: for crying out loud, how many whammies was one kid going to get out of this genepool??  Neither Thing One nor Petunia have vision issues so far (again, knocking on wood.)

Thing Two did indeed need glasses, as it turned out.  Fortunately, once he figured out that he really did see better with the glasses on--the doc told me that with his prescription, the other end of a basketball court or soccer field would be blurry sans glasses, as would a blackboard from the back of the classroom--he stopped fussing about having to wear them.  

His scrip changed only a little last year when he went in for his first annual checkup.  He had another annual checkup yesterday, and the scrip didn't change at all!  No new lenses needed, which is a good thing since he has three pairs of glasses to keep current...his regular and backup pairs, plus a special set for sports.

And the factoid of the day: it's the preservative in the eyedrops they give you to dilate your eyes that make the drops sting.  I'd asked Himself (rhetorically, in an irritated text) why the hell a pediatric ophthalmologist would use eyedrops that hurt on kids.  Apparently there is no such thing as a nonstinging eyedrop, courtesy of the preservative issue: I'd forgotten that he deals with his company's ophthalmic drug franchise.  At least it cut my rant short!



Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Found cache #1 of the series (the last one I needed) this afternoon.  I am nothing if not persistent...had to go back to the site twice to do it!  This one was right on a main road, and there's only so long you can look around at a time there without being completely obvious.  Was impressed by the ingenuity of the person who hid it, actually: I was poking around in the dirt under the sign that marked the correct spot, wandering through the weeds, overturning rocks, all to no avail.  Then I sat back and thought a minute, looked up at the sign, pulled off the reflector that was attached to the signpost and lo and behold, the cache was inside the reflector!  Got all the clues, figured out where to start looking for the mystery cache--so far, so good.  I am constitutionally unable to ignore a puzzle.

In other news, Thing Two had his second piano lesson today and is kicking butt.  Not only did he quickly grasp abstract concepts like what a note is and how to tell how long to hold it, he also practices like a mofo.  He may not have been quite as lucky in the genetic lottery as his brother, but he's going to be one hell of a pianist if he keeps this up!   Glad I let Himself talk me into getting the kid trial lessons for the summer...I underestimated him again.

It's Amazing That More People Aren't Arrested Doing This

Once, years ago, I was doing a Google search for something else entirely and stumbled across a mention that there was a geocache hidden in a local park.  Of course, I couldn't resist bringing the kids over to look for it.  I didn't own a GPS device at the time, but knowing the geography of the park well, I had a pretty good idea where it would be.  We found it readily, a plastic box half-buried in the dirt in the middle of a clump of trees encircled by the park's walking trail, and opened it to add our names to the list of finders inside. Petunia might not even have been born yet; my recollection is that Thing One (who actually found the box) was three or four at the time.

That was my one and only experience with geocaching until yesterday.  I have no idea where the thought came from, but on a whim I opened up the official geocaching website and did a quick search to see if there were any caches hidden near our house.  To my great surprise, there are dozens, including a group of five in the very small town nearest to our house.  Once I realized that you have to collect a clue at each of the first four of those in order to find the mystery fifth cache and complete the series, there was no turning back (who could resist??)  I immediately downloaded the app onto my iPhone and told the kids that we were going on a "treasure hunt" that day.  The GPS coordinates bring you to within a certain number of feet of a cache, but then you actually have to look around (sometimes quite a bit; they can be very well hidden) to find it.

We had a few other things to do first, and then Thing One had an afternoon playdate that went later than expected.  As it happened, the first attempts at finding caches were undertaken by just me and the two younger kids before we picked Thing One up from his playdate.  And these unfortunately turned into an exercise in "How many things can Mom possibly do wrong because she is clueless about geocaching?"

The first cache we tried to find had an icon that looked like a ghost next to it on the listing.  Subsequently, I discovered that this indicates a "virtual" cache, meaning that there is something significant at that location (in this case, a historical sign) but no actual cache.  The kids and I looked for a box there for some time before giving up and moving on to the first cache in the mystery clue series.  This was supposed to be in the parking lot of a local restaurant.  It being dinnertime, the lot was full, and it didn't seem like a very safe place to be wandering around with two small kids at the time.  After a cursory and unsuccessful search for a box there, we picked up Thing One and went and looked for clue cache #2, failing to find a box anywhere in the vicinity of that site after an extensive search either.  The younger kids were getting frustrated, and it was clearly time to regroup.  We went home for dinner.

While the kids ate, I figured out my "virtual cache" error.  I also figured out that not all caches are in boxes (you know what they say about assuming...I'd only ever seen the one box, so I thought they were all like that!)  Turned out that for clue cache #2 we were supposed to be looking for a film canister hanging in a tree.  It is possible to find that info on the geocaching site; I just hadn't known where to look.  Armed with that info, Thing One and I went back by ourselves on a sneak recon mission after dinner, with the idea that we'd find cache #2 and then "help" the other two find it again later.  

The first entertaining part was trying to explain to Thing One what a film canister looks like!  (Yes, I feel old.)  Took us a long time to find it, too, even knowing what we were looking for.  And I'm sure we didn't look suspicious or anything, either...loitering in the back of the firehouse parking lot, wandering repeatedly in and out of the treeline.  Yikes.  I'm amazed that nobody called the cops on us or at least came over to see what we were doing.

Emboldened by our eventual success in finding #2, we decided to try for a couple of the other clue caches.  We headed back to the restaurant parking lot, which was slightly less full by then.  I was arm-deep in trees again (this was another hanging cache) when the owner of the restaurant came out to his car, which was of course right by where I was standing.  Lovely.  At least I know him...he just shook his head, said "hi" and kept going.  Maybe he's used to random people poking around the trees in his parking lot by now, but I was glad not to be a stranger when he came out and 'caught' us!

Clues 2 and 3 found, we went for #4 next.  It had become clear that the younger kids weren't going to be able to find these particular caches anyway--too small and too high up--so it was a better activity for just me and Thing One anyway.   Putting the nail in the "box" assumptions, this one was in an Eppendorf tube under a rock in a wall, for Pete's sake.  We used these things in lab all the time; they are about an inch long, max.

But we did find it, at least, and are now in possession of clues 2, 3 and 4.  We have one more to find, and then we can figure out where the final cache is.  Thing One seemed to enjoy the hunt, but even if he hadn't, I'm now hooked!  I am finding this blessed thing, come hell or high water.

As long as I don't get arrested while looking for it, anyway.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Had to pick up a couple of things at the drugstore today with Thing Two and Petunia.  The checkout clerk told Thing Two that she liked his glasses.  Then she pointed to her own and said something like "Wearing glasses really sucks" to me.  RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM.

What kind of clueless idiot says that out loud within earshot of a little kid who wears glasses???

A big, clueless idiot, that's what kind.

Delicious Fringe Benefits Of Nonfiction

Thing One loves anything to do with science.  I took him to a very cool kid-friendly physics demonstration at our library last week, which he thought was the coolest thing in the world except for a few unexpectedly loud bangs.  (Really, setting a match to balloons filled with hydrogen INDOORS??  It was certainly a good illustration of why we fill balloons with helium now, anyway...think the Hindenburg disaster on a smaller scale.)

He made a beeline from that presentation directly downstairs to the nonfiction section of the library, where he proceeded to pick out--no exaggeration--22 science books.  My only rule is that he has to carry whatever books he picks out, and he managed that stack although we did have to take the elevator back up.

Not my son; I couldn't see his head!

While he was digging around in the Rocks and Minerals area, the other two kids started looking at the cookbooks on the adjoining wall, and soon I was fielding checkout requests from them too:  Thing Two wanted a bread machine cookbook and Petunia a children's dessert cookbook.  OK, sure.  I told each of them that they could pick any recipe out of their books and we'd make it together.

Sunday was cooking day.  Thing Two wanted cinnamon raisin bread, so we hauled out the breadmaker and tossed all the required ingredients into it.  Petunia decided that she wanted to make meringues.  I whipped the egg whites and sugar together for her, then handed her the bowl of marshmallowy goo, a spoon and two smaller bowls of raisins and Craisins for decorating and let her have at it.

This was the result:

 Not entirely sure what some of these shapes were supposed to be, but they were delicious!  As was the cinnamon raisin toast we all had for breakfast this morning.  Let's hear it for edible nonfiction...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Ten Years Ago

Ten years ago yesterday, a Monday.  You were already over a week late.  It was hot outside, I wasn't sleeping well, and I was really, really crabby and more than ready for you to be born!  The doctor was going to induce you if you held out too much longer, and I wanted no part of that.  You'd just turned yourself from breech position in the nick of time, too...the C section had already been scheduled and cancelled.

Finally, reluctantly, you decided on your own that it was go time.  I'd been feeling a bit odd the day before, the Sunday, and had asked your father to work from home on Monday.  So at least he was with me that evening when the real contractions began, not an hour-plus away at the office.  And bless the orderly-minded engineer that he is, he wrote down how far apart those contractions were and how long they lasted.  Every one.  I still have that piece of spiral notebook paper.

I didn't want to go to the hospital and be sent home again, but it happened anyway.  (Fortunately, the hospital was close by, just down the road a few blocks.)  You still weren't quite ready to be born yet.  They told us to come back in a few hours, so your dad and I walked lap after lap on the circular road surrounding our apartment complex, trying to get you moving.  We went back to the hospital about 1AM, and this time, they let us stay.

Even in the hospital, things went slowly: the pain meds they gave me stopped labor, and they had to give me Pitocin to get it started again.  Finally, I was far enough along for an epidural.  They gave it to me, the nurse left the room for a minute, and suddenly all hell broke loose.  I felt really strange, the contractions were off the charts on the monitor, and your dad ran out into the hall frantically yelling for the nurse at the top of his lungs.  We found out later than I'd gone from 5 to 10 cm dilation in less than three minutes.

Four pushes later, you were born, my precious boy.  At 9:17AM on Tuesday, July 8, 2003, I officially became a mother for the first time.  Ten years ago today.

Your beloved Nana got you that size 0-3 month pair of PJs: it's covered with shamrocks, each one surrounded with the words "Kiss me, I'm Irish."  You came home from the hospital wearing it, as did both your brother and sister after you.  Even a few weeks after coming home, you were still swimming in it, just a tiny little bit of a thing.  (I love that air guitar photo!)

You know I saved those PJs.  Every so often, I take them out and look at them.  Yesterday, I asked you to hold them up against yourself for me.  With the footies on the floor, the neckline of those PJs barely clears your knees now.  Looks like you've done some growing in the last ten years.  And look at those feet of yours!  You ever grow into those, you'll be the full 6'4"-6'6" the doc said you'd be as an adult.  Just like your Grandpa, the one you resemble so much.  My dad, and his dad before him too.

Happy 10th birthday, Thing One.  I love you more than you'll ever know.




Sunday, July 7, 2013


We attend a very small church almost every week.  It's a satellite of a much larger, more ornate and older church in a nearby town--I calculated once that it might hold 100 people at full capacity, 120 tops.  It's closer to our house than the big church, and also has a much less crazy parking situation: both of these were handy, but what kept us going back was its very smallness.

As you might have predicted, Thing Two did not take well to church when he first started attending.  Until he was three, we didn't even try--Himself and I traded off, with one of us taking Thing One to church and the other staying home with Thing Two and Petunia.  Even at three, he was a raging handful.  Nothing like trying to get a kid with ADHD and severe language comprehension issues to sit still and be quiet for 45 minutes...fortunately for us, the parking lot is safe to walk around in during the service, because we spent a lot of time out there with him the first few months.

I think we would have given up entirely at some point but for the kindness of the other churchgoers.  Precisely because it is so small a place, they almost all already knew us and knew how hard we were trying to bring our children to services and get them to behave.  And since most of them are much older than we, the majority have had kids themselves and have been there--people sitting around us would tell us that it was okay and that Thing Two wasn't bothering them when he made noise, even when he probably was.

And then, thank God for the intelligence lurking under all the crossed auditory-language wires, the child learned to read.  By four, he could handle Dr. Seuss on his own, and his ability improved rapidly thereafter.  Being able to hand him a missal and have him follow along during the services made all the difference in the world--all of a sudden, he had a clue what was going on and it was like a lightbulb had illuminated over his head.  He was still wiggly, but at least finally capable of staying in the building for a full service.  Now he reads along and sings along and we are very happy to buy him the post-church donut or bagel that his good behavior has earned him!  

For the most part, it's some subset of the same people there every week.  A few tourists here and there, but familiar faces all around otherwise.  The snow white-haired organist, who is 92 and sometimes dozes off between songs; she was a pianist on cruise ships in the 1940s.  Her loyal husband, who sits in a chair beside her organ bench to keep her company.  He can't make it up the aisle for Communion anymore, so one of the lay ministers always brings it back to him.  Everyone knows to do this.  The elderly professor and widower who served for years (alongside his late wife, a former teacher in the community) as the driving force behind keeping this tiny church open.  We're all happy to see that he has recently found a new companion; there's light in his eyes again.  The family with four daughters in their twenties, one or another of whom is almost always the cantor.  The staggeringly beautiful, elegant African-American ex-model (often a lector or lay minister) and her quiet Austrian husband.  The usher, a proud retired Marine never seen without his gold USMC pin, who has a grandson with issues similar to Thing Two's.  It was his idea to have the small children in attendance bring up the gifts for the offertory each week, and he included Thing Two from the get-go, even back in the early days when he probably shouldn't have.  He's the kind of guy who would rather put rubber bands around the tops of the bread and wine containers to make sure they wouldn't spill if accidentally dropped on their way up the aisle than see a child left out.   (When was the last time you saw that done in a big church??)

And then we have our priests.  As a small satellite church, we almost never get the parish pastor.  Our service is held at the same time as one of those at the big church, and he chooses to preside there instead.  For several years, we had a priest borrowed from a neighboring parish, a kindhearted and easygoing Ugandan who came to us by way of Colombia.  It was while he was with us that Thing One began to help at the altar during the service (he was the only child attending this church of the right age) and he was very patient and encouraging through the inevitable mistakes and stage fright!  He is far more concerned with substance than form; a good man throughout.  We were very sad when he was recalled to his home parish to work with the Spanish-speaking population there.

Thinking about this today because of this priest's successor.  He's been retired for years now, but comes back to help on Sundays and has been with us for about a year.  He cannot get Petunia's (real) name right to save his life, but I don't have the heart to correct him because he is such a good soul!  Thing One is his regular helper during the service also--he's still the only child who serves at this church.  Last week, we let the priest know that he has a soccer tournament today and would not be able to help this week; Himself and Thing One went to soccer and I went to church with the younger two.  There is a very solemn part of the service during which the intentions (prayers) of the community are read aloud; the priest unexpectedly added a prayer for Thing One and his soccer team at the end of these today!  Not a typical intention, to say the least.

I texted Himself after church to tell him about this.  He replied that Thing One had drilled the game-winning penalty kick in the first of today's two games and that maybe we need to have the congregation say a prayer for him more often!

Unfortunately, my faith is not always as sturdy as it could be.  The older I get, the more questions I have, many of which seem to have no good answers.  (And you had better believe that my son does not leave my sight at church, for he will NOT be a victim on my watch no matter how unlikely it seems that any of our priests would even consider such a terrible thing.)  I am not always sure what I believe and what I don't.

But I am sure that being part of this inclusive, welcoming community is good for my soul and good for my family, and that's enough.



Friday, July 5, 2013

The Universe Really Wants Me To Learn Spanish

The school that I attended for junior high and high school offered three language choices: French, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.  Given that the school in question was in Hong Kong, I chose Mandarin as the most useful option.  (Besides which, why take a language I could take in any school in the US when I had the opportunity to study Mandarin in Asia instead??)  Six years later, I was reasonably fluent in Mandarin, with the added bonus of being able to operate fairly well in Japan too.  Written Japanese is composed of three basic elements, one of which is Chinese characters--this came in very handy when I needed to read a street sign or the card on the front of a train.  The characters--aka kanji--are not pronounced the same way in Japanese and Chinese, but they have the same meanings.  (The other two written components of Japanese are both alphabets, one for the Japanese language itself and the other for phonetic translations of foreign words, the two alphabets being easily distinguishable by the style in which they are written.  I was able to quickly teach myself to read the phonetic alphabet as well.)

Back in the Dark Ages when I was there, my university only offered Mandarin I and II, in addition to a full slate of the more traditional European languages.  I had a language requirement to fulfil, but taking introductory classes in a language I already spoke pretty well seemed like a complete waste of time.  For reasons long forgotten, I chose to study German instead (hopefully because Spanish didn't fit into my schedule--no idea what I would have been thinking from a practical standpoint otherwise.)  At any rate, three semesters of German later, my command of the language was deemed adequate for graduation purposes, and my formal language training ended.

Fast forward to the present.  Our community is staggeringly homogeneous, one of the few things I don't like about it.  But bless their color-blind, innocent little hearts, none of my children seem to notice the ethnicity of their friends yet, and two of the three have very close friends whose mothers speak virtually no English whatsoever.  In this community, that is highly unusual, so the odds of this happening x2 at the same time are low indeed!  As it happens, both mothers speak Spanish--one is from Mexico and the other from Honduras.  I've written about the Mexican mother before--it was her son who had the wonderful birthday party last summer.  The Honduran mother is newer to the scene, and a lovely woman, but communication is always a challenge.  Her son is currently at my house (the reason for these musings today)--I wasn't at all sure that he would show up at the right time or with his swimming gear, charades being much more effective when you can actually see the other party, but it did work out, though.  Playdates set up by phone are an exercise in guessing and goodwill on both sides!

The universe has offered me two chances to learn Spanish, and both times I've elected to study a different language.  Now that my children are a little older and I have more time, perhaps it is finally time to make a serious stab at learning foreign language #3, since it has been made abundantly clear to me that this is the one that will actually be useful in my daily life here!  I can take a hint...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

I Detest Chemistry, But This Is Pretty Cool

Borrowed from the IFLS page on Facebook...

The chemistry of 4th July fireworks.

Sodium produces yellow/gold colors. Barium creates green, copper compounds produce blue, strontium salts give you red and titanium metals give you silver-colored sparks. 

Other commonly used chemicals are carbon which provides the fuel, oxidizers which produce oxygen for burning, magnesium which increases the overall brilliance and brightness, antimony that gives you a "glitter" effect and calcium which deepens the colors.

Independence Day

For whatever reason, this is always my Fourth of July Ohrwurm:

(Neil Diamond formed a large part of the soundtrack of my childhood: what can I say??)

Spent the morning at one of the local parks for the annual Fourth of July races, in keeping with the family tradition.  I wasn't much of a runner even before my knees went south, and I sure as heck am not taking it up again now, but the dog and I went along with the rest of my nutjob family to serve as the pit crew.  The two younger kids ran the mile fun run, Thing One the 5K, and Himself the 10K, and a good time was had by all despite the heat and blanketing, suffocating humidity. (Ugh.  Who in the world thinks this is a good time of year to go running outside???)

My plans for the rest of the day include hot dogs and hamburgers, good wine, the company of my lovely in-laws, and this chair:

The canopy was a very thoughtful early birthday present from my sweet husband to his vampiric, sun-avoiding wife.  One of the best gifts I've ever received, conventional 'rules' be's right up there with the Bissell carpet cleaner I received for Mother's Day one year as a joint gift from baby Thing Two and the cat.  (If I've written about that before, I can't find the post...when you are unfortunate enough to have a projectile-vomiting baby and a hairball-hacking cat at the same time, anything that helps to clean up the resulting messes is a godsend!)  

In keeping with today's theme, I leave you with one of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes strips.

Happy Fourth of July!!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

An Unexpected Kindness From The World Of Words

Some time ago, I sent a small token to a blog friend from France, a woman I know only from her insightful posts here and elsewhere.  It was absolutely my pleasure to do so (such a small thing that I sent!) and I expected nothing whatsoever in return.

Today, I received a surprise in the mail:

Although it was intended for a more utilitarian purpose, I am very tempted to frame it!  It matches my kitchen perfectly, but much more than that, it is a reminder to me that the words that I throw out willy-nilly into the universe from this computer link me to a community of like-minded souls, friends that I haven't physically met but friends nonetheless.   My life is so much the richer for all of you.

Merci beaucoup, J...


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Kid, I Feel Your Pain

Thing One is my oldest child.  I am an older child as well--I have one younger brother--so I really do understand that his two younger siblings make him nuts, and I sympathize.  (I would also lump my one brother in his heyday against my two younger children put together any day of the week and twice on Sundays, but that's neither here nor there.)

Thing One's patience is beginning to run low, and on several recent occasions he's commented about how much he wants to go back to school--he's tired of being annoyed by his siblings and never having any peace and quiet.

Believe me, I'm relating to that too!!  Except that I have THREE small people requiring my time, attention, cleaning, cooking, refereeing, chauffeuring etc every two freaking seconds all day long, every day.  I'm about ready to disown the name "Mom."

But if the kid tells me that he's bored just one more time, I'm going to personally see to it that he's not bored for the rest of the summer, and he's not going to like it!!  I'm thinking lots and lots of math workbooks and book reports.  :)


Monday, July 1, 2013

Cause And Effect

"If anyone needs to use the bathroom, please do it now!!"

Sadly, this is now the first thing I say to my kids whenever we are at home and I hear thunder.  (The voice of bitter experience speaking.)

We live in a very rural area with old trees and an antiquated power line system.  Thunderstorms equal wind equals downed trees equals power loss.  Which, out here in the boonies, therefore also means no heat, no air conditioning, no cooking, and most critically, no water!  There are no mains gas or sewage lines out this far (heat comes from fuel oil or propane, and most homes have septic tanks) and everyone has their own well.  Which is, of course, powered by an electric well pump.    

Consequently, it is not possible to flush toilets here during a power outage.  These darned developing countries...


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...