Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Off on a quest this morning to find something that will successfully keep a long, white mustache firmly affixed to the upper lip of a ten year-old boy: I hear that spirit gum will do the trick and am hoping that Michael's carries it.

All is ready for today's celebrations.  These cookies are for the first- and second-grade class parties: Oreos, pretzels, a touch of marshmallow fluff to hold them together, some quick decorations on top.

These are for the Halloween party at our friends' house: ghost petits fours.  (Yes, I'm out of my mind, but at least I know it.)

A nearby city really does Halloween in style: decorations, crowds, closed streets for safer trick-or-treating.  A friend who lives there has a party every year.  We park near her house and then take the kids out from there when it gets dark.  Where we live, the minimum lot size is multi-acre and nobody trick-or-treats except in the few actual neighborhoods that exist...walking from house to house just isn't practical anywhere else.  Welcome to the boonies.

One of the places we lived while I was growing up was a residential suburb of Auckland, New Zealand.  Back then (early '80s) we were literally the only Americans in town: the second we opened our mouths people knew exactly who we were!  We were there for two years--I would have been 8 and 9 and my brother 4 and 5.  At that time (and for all I know, even now) the Kiwi kids didn't go trick-or-treating on Halloween.  Guess it wasn't part of their celebration...I don't think it was as big a holiday there as here.  My brother and I were never in the States for Halloween as kids that I remember anyway, but Mom tried very hard to preserve the American traditions for us, and she wanted us to be able to dress up and trick-or-treat.  She explained the situation to some of the neighbors, who were kind enough to agree to humor the only two American kids in town: come Halloween night, these accommodating souls had orange paper jack o'lanterns on their mailboxes so we would know which houses to approach.

It takes a very thoughtful and loving kind of mother to organize all that--to make the holiday so special for two little kids far from home.  Since this is the example that was set for me, perhaps now it's clearer why I make ghost cakes and spider cookies and Thanksgiving turkey cookies out of candy, why I am a class mother and frequent trip chaperone, why I figured out how to make a Saturn (as in the planet) costume for my three year-old when that's all he wanted to be for Halloween.  In the immortal words of my aunt, when you plant peppers, you get peppers.



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Guardedly Optimistic

A few weeks ago, a friend invited me to join a new book club that she and an acquaintance (the two of them are good friends) were putting together.  Theirs were the only two familiar names on the list, and I hesitated a bit before accepting the invitation.  We've established that larger groups of women aren't really my scene, and I'm still not sure that I have enough free time to spend it reading books I wouldn't otherwise want to read (is there anything more important than having generally compatible tastes in a book club?)  The bigger thing, though, is that your opinion of a book is a highly personal thing, framed and shaped by your own life experiences, and to discuss books is therefore to share a piece of yourself.  That being the case, the whole 'who-are-these-other-people?' element was a bit disconcerting.

The first get-together was last night.  Both of my boys were testing for new taekwondo belts last night as well (a great success!) so I ran out of the dojo immediately afterward, trying to drop the mom persona and remember what the hell happened in the book while driving across town.  There were two women there I'd never met, one of whom reminded me very much of a close friend.  I liked the other on sight as well.  A good start to the book club, and possibly some new friends as well as icing on the cake.

Speaking of sweets, today I made close to 50 spider cookies out of Oreos and stick pretzels and another 50 mini ghost-shaped petits fours for parties tomorrow.  Then I found three caches in the woods, one in a drainage tunnel and one on an abandoned train car before getting the kids off the bus and dealing with the furnace service guy, the piano teacher and a school board colleague regarding a meeting.  Never a dull moment in my life!

Off to bed.  Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Failure Of Common Sense

"Not, I'm bound to say, the smartest place in North America to position oneself."

Bill Bryson was talking about standing in Centralia, PA (a town that sits on top of a coal fire that has been burning for more than 50 years) when he wrote these words in his book 'A Walk In The Woods,' but they popped unbidden into my brain this afternoon in connection with a cache I was hunting.

The picture below is of an abandoned (sturdy, thankfully) railroad trestle.  What it fails to adequately convey is the 50-foot drop to the streambed below on either side.  Or the image of me belly-flat on said railroad trestle, fishing down between the timbers with a hook on the end of a long stick.

This is a really crazy hobby, said the spider to the fly...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Stitch In Time

The women in my mother's family are artists with a needle.  My maternal grandmother made all of her own clothes, and they were so beautiful that the customers she served at the department store where she worked liked the clothes she was wearing better than the ones that she was selling.  The powers that be eventually told her that she couldn't wear her own creations to work anymore.

Both of my mother's sisters can make their own clothes as well: one still had her dressmakers' form in her bedroom as recently as last year.  It's been there since I was a kid and is probably still there.  That same aunt, my sweet godmother, made me an intricately crocheted lap blanket with raised flowers on it a few years back, which I snuggle under every chilly evening while watching TV.  My mother makes the most beautiful hand-pieced quilts, small and large; some to give away and some to keep.  Each of my children sleeps under one of these, and I have one as well--oh, and she also made every curtain in my house.

Compared to these talented women, I'm a journeyman at best.  I have a sewing machine and a well-stocked sewing box.  I can do needlepoint and cross-stitch and basic mending without too much trouble, but that's about it.

In our small town, the fire department hosts a Halloween parade every year. It starts at the school, and the kids dress up and walk the few blocks through the heart of town to the firehouse with their families.  The local policemen block off all the cross streets, and the parade is bookended by flashing-lighted fire trucks, the one at the back blasting Halloween music through its loudspeakers.  Good times.  At the firehouse, the kids with the best costumes are awarded prizes and then everyone eats hot dogs and drinks lemonade.  My kids decided that they were going to participate this year, Thing One arriving at school directly from a soccer game and hastily throwing his Einstein outfit and wig on over his uniform (shinguards, cleats and all) in the parking lot.

I'd only given the kids' costumes a cursory look before today, just enough to make sure that they weren't too small.  When they dressed for the parade, though, it became clear that I had some work to do!  Einstein's lab coat was down to his ankles and the sleeves covered his hands. It needed some extra Velcro to hold the top closed, too.  Petunia's black cat costume was a good four inches too long and she managed to detach some of the fur trim from the pants while putting it on.  Most ragtag kitty ever...costume held up with safety pins and shedding bits of fur!  Fortunately, Spider-Man's costume was the correct size, although he categorically refused to wear the mask...oh well.

When we got home, I broke out the sewing box.  I hemmed sleeves and pant legs and the lab coat, reattached the fur and applied the necessary Velcro.  Any one of the other ladies could have done the job twice as well and in half the time, but it was a labor of love and I felt particularly close to them with a needle in my hand, even though they all live far, far away.  Not quite ready to start making my own clothes or quilting yet, but at least I didn't let them down too badly today when push came to shove!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Really Good Day

The stars aligned today, and I had the opportunity to spend a lot of the day with Thing One.  It's unusual for me to have an extended period of one-on-one time with any of my kids, so I'm always grateful when it works out.

Logistics dictated that I was going to be the parent who drove him to his late-morning soccer clinic, and while we were out, we also needed to run a couple of errands.  Nothing too exciting.  But we stopped off at his favorite pizza place for lunch after soccer, and on a whim, I asked if he wanted to see the cool geocache I found yesterday (the light at the end of the tunnel.)  He's my caching buddy--he has his own account and everything, which he diligently updates from his iPod--and eagerly agreed.  That quick stop somehow spontaneously segued into two hours of walking and scrambling and climbing and laughing together at a county park not far from the tunnel cache on a beautiful, crisp, sunny fall afternoon.  He picked up seven new caches, and I logged five (I took him to two I'd already found so that he could log them as well.)

Here, he's gingerly traversing a water obstacle on his favorite cache of the day.  It's hard to tell because of all the leaves, but he's balancing on logs that somebody strategically placed in the middle of a very wide creek--at each end of the logs there was about 15 feet of hopping from rock to rock to be done.  This was a ten year-old boy's dream...left to his own devices, he would have crossed and recrossed the creek for the fun of it until he eventually and inevitably face-planted into the water!  
Caching and errands accomplished, we headed home.  In our absence, Petunia had fun at a friend's birthday party, and Himself had some good bonding time with Thing Two involving a lot of basketball on the driveway.  I made a quick dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, and settled down with the family to watch my beloved Irish play football.  They beat Air Force handily, but what made me proudest was seeing my team lined up right behind the Air Force players in respect and support while the Air Force alma mater played after the game.  The ND players do this every time they play a service academy...Air Force, Navy, or Army.   After all, football is just a game, but these servicemen are also playing another game entirely, one in which the stakes are a lot higher for themselves and for all of us.

Hoping that your Saturday was a good one too.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Day Is Done

My brain is fried. It's been a long drama-filled week, exacerbated by the fact that Petunia had a nightmare last night and came into my room for a hug and some reassurance at 4:45AM.  By the time she felt better, I was awake for the day.  I deeply envy Himself his ability to sleep through kid noises and to go back to sleep immediately if awakened...I have neither of those gifts.

The construction project in my living and dining rooms is proceeding apace.  I have high hopes that the guys will be done on Monday, but midweek is probably a better bet.  Then I have to buy a new carpet for the dining room and figure out what colors to paint things, which is a personal circle of hell for me.  There is a reason I'm not a designer, and it's the fact that I have a very solid left brain and not much where my right brain should be.  I have a feeling that I will end up doing what either the contractor or my mother tell me to do by way of decorating!

In the meantime, I'm taking a poll: darker wainscoting and lighter walls above it or vice versa??

Found a really neat geocache today: to get to it, I had to walk under a nearby highway, through a pedestrian tunnel that I had no idea existed until that moment. Just beyond the tunnel, there was a contraption that I finally recognized as a modified light fixture attached to a tree, and the log I needed to sign was where the filament of the bulb would normally be in that fixture.  Yes, I was quite literally (I realized after the fact) looking for the light at the end of the tunnel!

A good metaphor for this weekend: it's high time I took a break and found some daylight in the gloom.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Twin Demons

Temper and impatience.  Over and over and over again, the character flaws with which I struggle mightily even at the best of times.  On days like today, when I am tired and there is much background drama going on, all bets are off.  I formally warned the children this evening: "Mom is officially out of patience now!"  They all know that I mean this when I say it.

An acquaintance sent me into a blinding fury earlier today through pure stupidity and obliviousness.  She is what she is and likely won't change much, though.  If I am to deal with her, as I unfortunately have to do, at least in the short term, the only thing I can control is my reaction to her.  Easier said than done, but necessary.

Time to go back to basics, and circle back yet again to the source of my blog title:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference."

To get to that wisdom, I need control, and neither temper nor impatience move me in that direction.  Wishing tonight, for the hundredth or thousandth time, that I'd thought to ask for the brown oval Serenity Prayer plaque that hung in my grandparents' Ohio kitchen for all those years when they downsized from that house.  If it were here, I'd hang it over my desk right now, in the kitchen in my house.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Well, It's A Strange Old Game

You know that old Dire Straits song??  Well, tonight I'm the bug.  Wiped out, drained, emotionally fried.  As part of a group, made a decision that changed somebody's life tonight.  Right thing to do, but sure doesn't feel that way right now, and won't tomorrow when the news gets out either.  At least I didn't hit a deer on the way home this time around.

 Crazy times ahead.  Hell.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I mentioned before that Thing Two's been having a very tough weekend.  And today was a long day for all of us...all three kids had to wear their soccer uniforms to Mass this morning, because we needed to go directly from the church to Thing One's game to Thing Two and Petunia's game to get to everything on time.  Thing One's surname and jersey number were clearly visible through the thin fabric of the back of his altar server's robe as he processed up the aisle ahead of the priest.  The two younger ones brought up the gifts as usual: the lady who doesn't believe that the head usher should let kids help with the Mass even when they are dressed nicely had her lips pursed even tighter than usual at the sight of them dressed for soccer in church (miserable crabby old biddy that she is.)

This kind of logistical situation posed a challenge even for a seasoned tactician such as myself.  I had the car loaded with their drink bottles for the games, cleats and shinguards, and packed lunches, since I knew we wouldn't get home till close to 3.  We also needed hats, sunblock, fleece jackets, the soccer blanket, Thing Two's special sports glasses, and handheld electronic games (for the two who hadn't lost game privileges due to backchatting Mom to play during their downtime)...not an exercise in preparation for the faint of heart, all in all.

Halfway through Thing One's soccer game, Himself called from the airport departure gate to see how things were going.  I told him honestly (and in great exasperation) that if Thing Two had ever been prescribed meds for his ADHD, I would have given him some this weekend.  He's been just that out-of-control hyper. Fortunately for all concerned, he doesn't need meds at school at this point, so he doesn't have any.

After Thing One's game, we loaded up and drove across town to the park where Thing Two and Petunia were playing.  Petunia is young for this team, and relatively small compared to the other players.  She's still trying to find her place and get used to the speed of play at this level.  Thing Two, on the other hand, is either a really, REALLY good player or not a good player at all: which one depends on the day and the moment.  He's either completely dominant or mentally out to lunch, and you never have any idea which one you'll get at any given time! This makes both his coach and his father completely nuts, but to their credit, both are very patient with him.  

Last week, the Thing Two who showed up was mostly the unfocused one, although there were a few flashes of the other.  Today, he was absolutely and utterly dominant from start to finish.  I've never seen that before.  It was amazing to watch, and I was near tears.  He played the entire game, alternating between defense and offense as the coach dictated.  On defense, he tracked down every opposing player who came near him, stole the ball, and cleared it out of the box.  On offense, he charged and charged and charged every chance he got.  He'd get the ball, make a run for the goal, and shoot.   He must have missed half a dozen shots...just wide, just high...but kept trying.  He scored the goal that tied the game at 1 all, and the score stayed there for almost the entire game.  With literally less than ten seconds to go in the game, he had a final breakaway, lofted a kick over the opposing goalie's head into the corner, and scored the winning goal!  The sideline went absolutely berserk.

We went out for ice cream after the about a mood-changer.




Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Hat Is Off To Single Parents

I really have no idea how they do this constantly-on thing day in and day out.

Some good today, some bad.  Took the kids to a corn maze, which was a lot of fun.  Then Thing Two's mouth and temper ran away with him and he lost his next four days' worth of video game time in quick succession: not so fun.  That will suck royally for me tomorrow, since now I can't give him his DS to keep him occupied during Thing One's soccer game, but oh well.  Them's the breaks, and this is the punishment that works.  I'm just proud that I managed to remain calm (at least outwardly) while all this was going on.  He's having a tough run right now for some reason, but I will not be disrespected by my own child.  Ain't happening...I'm old school that way.

Got the kids to bed, dragged out my stack of Board of Ed reading material, and am slogging through it while watching the Notre Dame game and drinking a mug of tea.  It's going to be an interesting meeting Tuesday night.  Hoping that I can get my mental batteries recharged before then!

Friday, October 18, 2013

It's Never A Good Thing When I Run Out Of Patience Before I Run Out Of Day

It's been a LONG week.  All of us are a bit out of sorts between the school schedule being odd for three days (this related to parent-teacher conferences) and the ongoing construction in the house.

As of Sunday night, my dining room looked like this (cleaned out for construction):

The doors to the porch looked OK from the inside, but the outside posts were rotting and letting water in.  I have a weird thing about wanting my house to be watertight (I know, I'm so demanding), so we had to get rid of those doors.  We decided to put in a window, since we didn't use the doors anyway and they were basically a pointless leaking security risk.

Not a huge deal--this is a one-day job.  However, when your life is governed by Murphy's Law, nothing is ever a one-day job.  We called in our favorite contractor, who gave us a quote for the project.  While talking to him, we mentioned that eventually we wanted to put in a hardwood floor (to replace the old shabby carpet), wainscot the walls, and replace the trim to make it a nice formal dining room.  Suddenly, we were doing the whole job at once, because it made sense from a construction perspective.  And because it wasn't a big enough job even with that (ha!) we decided to extend the flooring into the adjacent living room as well and replace the trim in there too while we were at it.

The first day, I was nervous.  It was a really big hole in the house.


They did get the new window in quickly, though.  The dog was unamused, but I thought it looked pretty good.

And by Tuesday morning the outside was actually finished and watertight, and I was pretty happy about that.  Especially since it rained all day Wednesday.

Since they got the window finished, they've been working on the floor.  Right now, my dining room looks like this:

The floor is done (cherry-finished oak) and looks beautiful, at least the part of it you can see.  Everything that would normally be in the living room and dining room is currently stacked in the dining room, which makes it kind of hard to tell WHAT the floor looks like.  Not much of it is currently visible.  

My living room is next...they start there on Monday.  It's ugly, bare and echoing right now!

Sincerely hoping that these two rooms will look a lot better (if not be finished) by the end of next week.  The dog has absolutely had it with the racket from the nail gun and compressor and saws, and I'm ready to be done with the constant noise and mess and people in my house too!  

Yesterday was one of the days with an odd school schedule.  The kids came home early and were crabby and at loose ends.  After they finished their homework, I piled them all into the car and took them to the orchard...they love picking apples, and it got them out of the craziness at the house.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the heart to tell them when we had enough apples since they were having so much fun, so we ended up with a few more than I expected.  About 50 lbs total, to be precise!  That'll be the last time I tell them that they can pick as many as they can carry...the boys are getting strong.

Fortunately, I know how to make applesauce: that was one of my projects for today.  I cooked the apples this afternoon, Thing One helped me run them through the food mill after tonight's soccer practice, and I did the actual canning right after they went to bed.  I now have a total of 11 quarts, which should hold us for a week or two.  It really does taste a lot better than the commercial stuff, and what the hell else am I going to do with 50 pounds of apples??  Nothing freezer-based, in this benighted land of frequent power least the home-canned stuff can just sit on a shelf.  Note that the bags behind those 7 quarts are still full of apples and there's a third bag behind them!

Himself left town at the crack of dawn on Thursday morning (thereby missing that night's parent-teacher conferences and not endearing himself to his wife.)  He won't be back till sometime Sunday.  Right now there are three out-of-sorts kids and one mother who is not known for her patience at the best of times living in a construction zone with a very unhappy dog and no other adult.  Recipe for fun, no???

My patience didn't make it through bedtime, sad to say.  WHY must that be the time of day when everyone decides to act up?  I was so close, but no cigar.  However, since the worst thing I did was yell about the dirty clothes on the floor and the gobs of toothpaste in the sink, I'm claiming a moral victory over this frigging week!

I forgot to mention the final straw: we have a Board of Ed meeting on Tuesday night, and the Friday before a meeting we are able to pick up the materials we need to review prior to the meeting.  This is the stack I was handed today.

Guess what I'm going to be doing all weekend??


Thursday, October 17, 2013

This Is Why I Do It

When Himself and I started seriously talking about getting married and having kids, we decided that I would stay home with any kids we had.  We didn't much like the idea of having latchkey kids or having someone else effectively raising them, and we were fortunate enough to be in a position where we could afford for me to stay home.

I have to admit that in the ten years that have passed since Thing One was born, there have been a lot of days when I would have killed to have an office to go to, just to get some peace and quiet and to get away from the humdrum day-to-day routine of life at home with very small children.  A lot of days when I asked myself, "I got a Ph.D. for this??"  A lot of days when I thought one more potty-training accident or Dora DVD or tantrum would spell THE ABSOLUTE END of my sanity.


I got an email on Wednesday from a girlfriend.  She'd torn a calf muscle running, was in a boot as a result and having trouble driving...would I mind terribly bringing her daughter home after CCD that night?  Sure, no problem at all.  This little girl is Petunia's age (6) and a good friend of hers.

When we got to CCD, the friend ran up to me, gave me her school backpack and coat and asked me to hold them for her till the end of class.  It was 6:45PM, and she hadn't been home yet.

This child's parents both work.  They need to--I mean no judgment at all here.  (They are great people and loving parents.)  She is dropped off at her grandparents' house well before 7AM each workday, eats breakfast there, catches the school bus from there, returns there after school, and is picked up at dinnertime by one of her parents.  On CCD nights, her aunt or uncle takes her to CCD directly from the grandparents' house, and her mom or dad picks her up from the church at 8PM.  (Don't even get me started on why CCD has to run so late at night for small kids.)

By the time I loaded all four kids into my car and got to this girl's house to drop her off, it was 8:30PM, 14 hours after she left.  Six years old.

And THAT, my friends, is why I am a SAHM.  For all my griping, and for all the running around we do after school, I'm grateful that I can be home, because it means that my kids can be there with me.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wish Me Luck

My house is a construction zone.  At least the gaping hole in the exterior wall between the dining room and porch (where a leaking door used to be) now contains a window and is once again watertight!  The house is in complete disorder and has workers tromping through it all day.  The rest of the work is essentially cosmetic (wainscoting, flooring) but will take at least another week to finish.

The kids have three half-days of school this week for parent conferences, so they are underfoot more than usual.  And of course, Himself leaves town at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning for one of his crazy 200-mile relay races and returns late Sunday.  I'm the sole parent responsible for soccer, birthday parties, and after-school activities for four days, plus I have to go to my kids' parent conferences alone, which I really don't like doing.  Not so worried about Petunia, but either or both boys' teachers could have news for me that I don't want to hear.

Whine, whine, gripe.  I know.  Small potatoes in the big picture, but feeling a bit overwhelmed right now.  Deep breath...this too shall pass.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I Do Not Belong Far From Civilization

Himself and I have been obsessively watching Buying the Bayou and Buying Alaska of late.  Hmmm: Barrow, Alaska, where the sun does not rise for two months in the winter, or a Louisiana swamp-side dwelling with gators and snakes in the yard???  Outhouses and skinning racks and guns, oh my.

I watch these shows with fascination.  I am just NOT that much one with nature...I like my creature comforts.  These places might as well be part of a foreign country, for as alien as they are to me!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

I Think We Fried The Poor Kid's Circuits

It's been a tough day for Thing Two today.  I mean TOUGH.  Arguing, backchat, foot-stomping, yelling, all culminating in a soccer game this afternoon that wasn't one of his best, refereed by a total ass and ending in tears.  We were supposed to go as a family to watch Thing One's away game afterward, but I brought the younger two home instead.  After a shower and about an hour and a half of solo quiet time in his room, he was somewhat human again.

In thinking about it, yesterday the kid went from taekwondo class directly to soccer practice and then to a birthday party, was home for a couple of hours and then spent the whole evening out at our friends' house.  That would be a lot for any eight year-old, let alone this language-challenged one.  I'm sure he's just exhausted, and in retrospect I feel pretty bad for letting the schedule get that crazy for him yesterday. But the kid actually hacked it, which is also amazing in retrospect.  Especially since it went well enough that it didn't even occur to me to think about it yesterday.  So, in all, could be worse.  I'll take the beastly grumpy kid of today, but I also hope that he gets a good sleep tonight and wakes up back on the right side of the bed tomorrow!  His teacher is depending on it.  ;)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

What Are The Odds?

I met her in the hallway outside the dojo last summer: we were both watching our respective children in one of the classes through the window.  She told me that she had just moved to town from Switzerland and had taken some classes herself before, and I encouraged her to try the ones I take, which she did.

Although we are very different, we quickly grew close.  We joke that my role in her life is to talk her off ledges...she is as dramatic and high-maintenance as I am not, but she is a good, genuine soul and a loyal friend.

The first time I met her husband, I was immediately struck by how much he physically reminded me of Himself's best friend.  He's a runner, too, and one of the few who can keep up with Himself.  Since both wake up early, they regularly run together on weekend mornings now, and they finished 1-2 in their age group in a 15-K race they ran over the summer.  The husband is also a wine drinker, a mid-level guy at a pharma company, and the father of three young kids, so the guys have a lot in common beyond running, as well.

Their two oldest are almost exactly the same ages as Thing One and Thing Two and in the same grades, but at different schools.  Both are girls, but that doesn't seem to bother any of the four of them, and it brings Petunia into the mix as well.  The five of them get along famously.  (The sixth, their youngest, was a surprise, and at slightly under 2, doesn't fit the group dynamic as well.)

They had us over for dinner tonight.  All five older kids disappeared together the second we walked in the door and only rematerialized for dinner and dessert.  We four adults had a lovely dinner in peace (only interrupted by the odd toddler intervention) and some good wine.  As it happened, my friend needed to talk tonight, and that was OK, since I knew I wasn't leaving my husband in an awkward social situation with hers.

Usually, if I particularly like the wife of a couple, my husband doesn't really click with her husband, or vice versa.  Murphy's Law and all that.  I can't think of another instance where the husband of a good friend of mine is a legitimate, no-joke good friend of my husband's.  Add in the fact that our collective kids love each other, and that's the icing on the cake.  A very happy situation, indeed, and I didn't really think about it until tonight.

Friday, October 11, 2013

It's Been A Good Day

Not in a huge way, just in a my-little-life kind of way.  And that's OK, too.

(Except inasmuch as I just found out that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) won the Nobel Prize for its work with the chemical weapons in Syria, since the husband of one of my best friends from grad school works there.  Pretty darned cool, if you ask me, and pretty big.)

Things that have made me happy today:

1) Two major, major things are off my to-do list: submitting an ordinance amendment to our local governing body (part of my responsibilities as chair of the Town Day-organizing group) and sorting out our heating oil delivery price for the year.

2) I finally solved a very tricky puzzle for a puzzle cache (my favorite kind) that has been making me nuts.  I can't resist a good puzzle, and this one involved reading shorthand.  I don't think I'd ever SEEN shorthand before today!

3) I was the first to find a new cache not too far from my house, which is a semi-big deal in the land of cache geekdom.  Since it happened to be raining at the time and this one was near a police station, a policeman came out while I was signing the log to make sure everything was okay with me.  Of course something must be wrong...why ELSE would any rational human being be standing out in the rain??  :)

4) I got a stripe in taekwondo, my third on this belt.  It's one of the self-defense ones.  Moving on toward Senior Blue...

5) Since it rained all afternoon, Thing One's soccer practice was cancelled.  Because of this, he could go to a friend's house after school for a playdate.  And because we did not need to be on the road after school, Thing Two and Petunia could snuggle under blankets in the family room with hot cocoa and watch Looney Tunes DVDs, which they love.  And the best part?  Both Thing Two and Petunia were upset when they noticed that their big brother was not on the school bus home, not realizing that he'd been picked up from school by his friend's mom.  I love it when my kids look out for each other.

6)  The contractor called: he's starting my job Monday.  We will have two weeks or so of construction chaos, but after that I will have a beautiful living room and dining room and no more leaky dining room door!

A small life and small joys in the big picture.  But I'll take them.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Making Some Headway

My son Thing Two has severe language processing difficulties, both expressive (talking) and receptive (understanding.)  It has been a great fear of mine since he started school that he might be unable to tell me if anything bad happened to him during the day.

When he first started preschool, he was completely unable to tell me anything about his days, good or bad. His teacher would send home summary sheets of what they'd done that day, and I would use those (usually fruitlessly) to try to start a conversation about school.  As he progressed, he began to respond to my questions, and then, finally, to spontaneously tell me things about his day. But still, expressing complicated ideas was (and is) very difficult for him, and he would usually get frustrated and quit.

As his language skills have improved, he's begun playing much more with the other kids, which is a wonderful thing.  He has friends now.  But when stressed, or in a position where he feels like he has to  explain or defend himself, words often fail him, and I worry that he will end up taking undeserved blame.

Today, on the playground at recess, two other boys tackled a third, one of his friends, and tickled him when he was down. Thing Two went to help his friend up, tripped, and landed in the melee with the other three.  At that point, a teacher noticed what was going on and sent all four boys to the time-out wall.  I asked Thing Two if he explained what happened to the teacher.  He said he had, and that the teacher then allowed him and the friend (but not the two aggressors) back out to play.

Let me list some good things here:

1) Thing Two noticed that his friend was having trouble.
2) Thing Two went to help.
3) Thing Two stood up for himself to the teacher.
4) Last, but most assuredly not least, Thing Two managed to explain all of this to me when he got home.  I had to ask a few questions, but the answers were coherent, and that was a complicated series of social interactions to put into words.

Progress, my friends. We are making progress.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nope. Couldn't Do It.

Read a post over at Reflections of a Grady Doctor yesterday that absolutely stopped me in my tracks. Still chewing on that one a day later.  Go read it.  Really.


In case you didn't, it's the story of this doctor's interaction with a particular patient, one who made a conscious decision to be joyful even though things didn't look so hot for him.  The way he saw it, his mood was a choice, even if his circumstances weren't.

That patient sounded like a kick.  A good guy.  A funny guy.  The kind you really don't want to have anything bad going on with them.  Especially if you are the one who has to deliver the bad news.  And this guy had some pretty bad stuff going on.  I'm no doctor (well, technically, I am, but not the kind who sees human patients), but reading between the lines, I'm guessing that this guy had pancreatic cancer.  Bad bad bad stuff, lousy prognosis.

It's not a coincidence that I am not the kind of doctor who sees patients, actually.  This kind of situation is exactly why I'm not.

I went to graduate school in a medical school.  I did breast cancer work for my doctoral research.  In that kind of setting, you often find yourself wondering if you should be wearing a different kind of white coat.  As a third-year grad student, I went so far as to shadow an oncologist for a few days.  What I saw in those few days convinced me that I would make a terrible medical doctor.

I understand that some people have to be oncologists.  I understand that the right kind of person can make all the difference in how news is delivered and what happens next.  I even understand that it is possible to learn to measure success by milestones other than "cure."  But *I* can't.  I couldn't leave the patients at the office.  That job would have killed me.  I can still see some of the faces all these years later: the shell-shocked man who'd just found out he had lung cancer; the Hispanic immigrant with a massive external breast tumor, the woman with the bellyful of ascites.

The doctors must have some way to emotionally survive this kind of patient load.  The ones I worked with were mostly very kind and professional.  But one ASSHOLE dropped a bomb of a diagnosis on a patient and then walked out of the room, telling him that a nurse would be in shortly and leaving him alone with me.  I sat with him until the nurse came just to keep him company; as I recall, we talked about the weather and the hometown baseball team.

That was it for me.  I couldn't do the job as I then was, and I was damned if I was EVER going to turn into that particular kind of person who could.  Went back to my lab and stayed there, earned my Ph.D. a couple of years later.

All of this is to say that there is a very special place in my heart for the good kind of doctors.  Hats off to you, Dr. Manning.  Fight the good fight.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Way Too Close For Comfort

We had crazy storms here this afternoon.  As the strongest of these was moving through, I decided it might be a good idea to pull my car out of the garage so I could get to all the afternoon and evening activities if we lost power, which happens regularly in these backward and benighted parts.

I was standing at the door that opens from my laundry room into the garage, keys in hand to move the car out, and stopped for a second, my eye caught by the swirling, bucketing rain outside the open garage door.  In the next instant, I watched with horror as the wind brought the kids' full-sized metal basketball hoop crashing down onto the very spot where my car would have been 30 seconds later! Note to self: time to put the basketball hoop somewhere else on the driveway.

I mentioned this on Facebook, and a friend commented that the car had indeed had a close call, but so had I!  That hadn't occurred to me until she brought it up: she was right, of course.  A very lucky day for me, indeed...should have stopped to buy a lottery ticket when I went out afterward.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

We Will Have Fun If It Kills Us, Dammit

I've been a little too busy recently to be thinking much about the season (as an entity separate from the weather forecast, anyway) but autumn is trying its best to smack me upside the head right now.

The leaves are changing color and falling to earth.  Pumpkins large and small are on display everywhere.  And here in Mama D-land, we are in the middle of apple season.  Last year we never quite got around to making a trip to the orchard, which is pretty sad, so it's been on my list of must-dos with the kids for this year.  However, they have activities every day of the week after school and soccer Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons, which makes it a little more difficult than it might sound to fit it in.

Yesterday was crazy, as you heard, and both soccer teams (Thing Two and Petunia are on the same team; Thing One plays in a different league) had games this afternoon, but everyone was home by 3:30.  The smart thing to do would have been to flop onto the sofa and collapse, but no: I was on a mission.  Everyone back into the car, destination apple orchard.  Himself rolled his eyes so hard at me that I swore they'd stick that way, but he ultimately came along in the interests of family unity.  

The orchard was a madhouse.  We had to park what seemed like half a mile from the main building, then wait ten or fifteen minutes for the wagon out to the apple trees once we'd hiked in.  Add 20 minutes on the ride and an interminable speech by the driver (does anyone NOT know how to pick an apple, FFS?  Really??) we were finally handed large bags and released.  Good thing, too, since Himself was winding up to blow and Thing One was mere seconds from vaulting over the side of the moving wagon and making a run for it.

With five people picking, it took no time at all to fill the bags once we finally got started.  We had more than forty pounds in less than five minutes...I'll be making applesauce all week, I think.  Thing Two was mad that he had to stop picking when the bags were full.  Petunia was mad that I wouldn't let her climb the conveniently placed ladders to get the apples at the tops of the trees.  Both of them sulked all the way back to the scale at the main building.

It's going to be YEARS before we do this again.  Seasonal family bonding, my rear!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

All Verklempt

When you plan something on the scale of our Town Day for as long as it takes to plan Town Day (six months off and on plus three months of hard-core "on" as the day approaches) it is virtually inevitable that something will go wrong.  Murphy's Law sees to this, in fact.

This event has an incredibly large number of moving parts.  Exhibitors.  The coordination of parking.  Food vendors and all their related inspection and insurance issues.  Demonstrators (yoga, Zumba, the like.)  An antique vehicle show.  A baking contest.  Pony rides.  A petting zoo.  A kickball tournament.  A large-scale hot air balloon sendoff.  Inflatable rides for the kids.  Performances by two bands, involving rearrangement of bleachers and the setting up of a stage.  And this year, to top it all off, an aerial acrobatics show by three World War Two-era airplanes in the afternoon and a fireworks display to end the evening.  When I say that planning this event is an undertaking (and a massive exercise in patience and paperwork) I am not exaggerating in the slightest.  And I am the chair of the group responsible for planning it, and have been for the past three years.

Usually, what derails the event (or at least some subset of the day's events) is weather.  For a while, it looked like there was going to be rain today, which would have really been rotten.  When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was go online to check the weather forecast.

The rain never materialized.  The weather was warm and mostly sunny.  And EVERY SINGLE MOVING PART moved the way it was supposed to.  Everyone showed up.  Everyone did what they were supposed to do.  The few logistical hiccups we had were easily resolved.  It was absolutely uncanny and utterly amazing.  Only in my dreams would the whole crazy convoluted day come together exactly the way we planned it!!

Except that this was real, and it did.  I actually choked up during the was an absolutely perfect day and I was SO overjoyed that everything worked out after we worked so hard to pull it together.  And clearly I will have to resign my chairman post forthwith, since we will never, ever top today's success and I have zero desire to preside over an anticlimax.  :)

At The Starting Line

Our annual Town Day is today.  I have to be at the park in about two hours to help with setup, and probably won't get home till well after dark.

I've been running like a madwoman all week, but things will be what they will be at this point.  Drinking my second cup of coffee and painting my fingernails a startling shade of lime green, just because!  (Stress and impulse and an odd nail polish color that was on my kitchen counter for no good reason: not the best combination?)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

In A Better Mood

Still not sure about the computer virus, but the volunteer signup program worked, we seem on track for Saturday's big event, I got in a nice walk with the dog today, and a couple of other good things happened of such a level of dorkitude that I am not even going to share them here out of pure embarrassment.  Now, all I need is to get the stick out of the ass of my kids' school bus driver and convince Thing One's lunch monitor (who is one of the office receptionists, not a dietician or nurse) to stop commenting on the subpar--in her educated opinion--nutritional value of the lunches I pack for him and all will be good!

Oh, ok.  One example of happy dorky things: one of the better episodes I've ever seen of my favorite TV show aired tonight.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ticked Off

Computer virus of last month may not be completely gone after all.  While Himself tries to get that figured out, I'm on the iPad trying to master how an online volunteer signing-up program works, the one I'm trying to use to get things organized for Petunia's homeroom class.  It isn't a simple thing.  Why can't it just be simple??  In a separate volunteer issue, we (a town group I chair) have a major community event scheduled for this Saturday and we can't find enough people to help make it happen.  We've been having logistics-related meetings all week.  And then, on top of all this, the kids really didn't have a good-behavior day.  Overwhelmed and aggravated right now.

Having one of those moments where I wish I didn't feel compelled to get involved with things.  Wish I could be one of those people who simply coasts along on the efforts of others and doesn't feel obligated to give back.  My life would be SO much less frustrating and complicated.

Just have to get through this week.  But next year, things change.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Taking A Break

Got one of the better (albeit most ass-backward) compliments I've ever received last week.  I was practicing my self-defenses in taekwondo class, all of which are defenses against knife attacks at my belt level, and I finally have them down.  The senior belt with whom I was practicing made the following comment: "I felt like you could really have hurt me if you wanted to."  Reflection on both skill and control: both good things.

But of course, the universe has to keep me humble.  The very next class I got my ass kicked, and a very clear demonstration of how far out of shape I am and how very, very bad I am at a lot of things I really need to be able to do better than I can right now.  I couldn't jump for crap even before I banged up my knee, and my jumps (particularly the spin jumps) really suck.  Reminded yet again that this is not a casual's a fitness-based lifestyle.

Running into my physical limitations, hard.  The fitness ones I can do some things about, but the injuries are what they are.  Walked away really bummed after Monday's class, and decided to give myself a break for the rest of the week and cross-train instead.  As my husband pointed out, it IS a hobby, and when it starts to influence my mood and how I feel about myself, the healthy thing to do is take a step back.

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...