Fall woods

Fall woods

Saturday, August 31, 2013

1968

45 years ago.

Green Bay wins Super Bowl II.  Madison Square Garden opens.  The My Lai massacre takes place.  The Beatles create Apple Records.  Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy are assassinated.  The Civil Rights Act of 1968 is signed.  The first African-American Marine is awarded the Medal of Honor.  The first manned Apollo mission is launched.  Jackie Kennedy marries Aristotle Onassis.  Nixon wins the Presidential election.  Yale University announces that it is going to admit women.  The 911 emergency phone service debuts.  The Boeing 747 makes its maiden flight.  The lunar module, bone marrow transplantation and crash test dummies are invented.

That year, the average new home went for $24,700.  A first class stamp set you back 6 cents.  A gallon of gas cost 34 cents; a gallon of milk $1.07.

And 45 years ago today, my parents were married.  It was an politically, racially, socially and militarily uncertain and eventful time, but they took a leap of faith and started a life together that year, a life that continues to this day.  They've had a wild ride, but I don't think either of them would trade it for the world.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad.  With much, much love.


Friday, August 30, 2013

I Wish That Jumping To Unwarranted Conclusions Counted As Exercise

As I walked into my taekwondo class yesterday morning, I took my phone out of my purse to silence the ringer and looked at the screen out of habit as I did.  Front and center: a text from Himself, sent only a few minutes before.  "Can you talk?"

Class was going to start any minute, but he knew that and had texted me anyway.  I stepped out into the hallway and called his office.  No answer, not even his secretary.  Sent him a text: "Is everything ok?"  No response.

At the first water break, bowed out again with my phone, called his office again.  Still no answer.  Sent him another text: "Call my cell now. Please."  By that time, I was envisioning any number of scary things: someone was sick or dead or hurt or something else very bad was happening.  Luckily for my peace of mind, he did finally call back at that point, with the news that he'd gotten a promotion and raise in a departmental reorganization and is now reporting directly to one of the big corporate muckety-mucks.  Apparently one of the muckety-mucks had been in his office talking to him when I called previously.

I was very glad to have been wrong on several different levels.  You know what they say about assuming...


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Love This Kid

Petunia has a birthday coming up.  The other day, we went to the grocery store so she could look at all the cake designs and pick one for me to order for the family party on Saturday.  Ten minutes of page-flipping later, we had a winner: a cake with a 'Princess and the Frog' theme.

Can't say that I'm overjoyed with the whole princess thing in general, but she's a little girl and some fights just aren't worth having.  What I do love, however, is that the kit she picked for her cake looks a lot like this.

For the non-Disneyed, the princess in this particular story is named Tiana.  And she's African-American, unlike every other Disney princess, all of whom are lily-white.  I think it's the coolest thing in the world that my kid liked the Tiana cake the best, despite the fact that this princess looks absolutely nothing like her and she knows it.  I can only surmise that she doesn't care, which can only be a good thing.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Rant

NOTE: The entire following post is directed at bad parents.  Please disregard if this does not apply to you.  

Would it kill you to teach your kids some freaking manners???  I'm talking basic stuff: please, thank you, excuse me.  Teach them to wait their turn instead of cutting in line.  For God's sake, teach them that the universe does NOT revolve around their precious little selves.  And if the reason your kids have no manners is that YOU have no manners and they are merely living the example that they see, you really suck.

And while you're at it, why don't you teach your kids to be decent human beings, too?  Not to hit or push or worse when they don't get their way.  Not to treat servers and clerks and store personnel like dirt.  Not to seek weakness in others and exploit it for fun.  Bullies suck worst of all, and they are made at home, either through mistreatment or through failure to require appropriate behavior.  Parent FAIL either way.  And the comment above about kids living the example they see goes double here.

The 14 year-old in my taekwondo class, the one so stressed about the mean girls at her school that she was crying in class about not wanting to go to high school last week, came to class tonight with cutting marks on her arm.  I want to pound the parents of her tormentors into the ground and then stomp on them.  What the fuck, people???  Don't you know what kind of kids you have?  Don't you care???

Believe me, I don't think I have all the parenting answers.  Himself and I are muddling through this whole parenting thing as best we can and doubtless making mistakes left and right along the way.  But we're actually trying.  We set expectations and follow through with consequences.  And we'll be damned if we let our kids make us look like bad parents by being ill-mannered, unkind, badly behaved louts, because they know better and so do we!!

So pissed right now.





Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Baton Has Been Passed

When we got home today, a FedEX box addressed to me was waiting.  It contains pages and pages of handwritten and typed--on a typewriter!--records of several branches of my dad's family, some old pictures, and a few other miscellaneous records including my great-grandparents' original marriage certificate.  Absolute gold, for anyone as interested in family history as I.  I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning.  Not sure yet exactly who painstakingly put all of this together--it could have been a joint effort--but these records appear to all be north of 40 years old and contain a level of detail far surpassing anything I've been able to find online, at least in the quick scan through I've managed so far.

The box was sent by my aunt, my dad's older sister.  She's had these records for years, but I've never been successful in getting copies of them from her, so I was very surprised to receive an email the other day indicating that she had just sent me all of her originals.  She had a health scare recently that fortunately came out for the best--maybe that was part of it.  Maybe it's also that I'm the only one of my generation who seems to care one iota about this stuff.  Who knows.

The email I received actually came from my dad, who forwarded it to me at my aunt's request.  Her note to him read, in part:
"I sent her the originals because she is well organized and persistent; therefore a good keeper of the keys."
The new keeper of the keys is duly honored.








Monday, August 26, 2013

Notes From A People-Watcher

Yes, I'm one of those people.  I find other people absolutely fascinating: what they wear, what they say, what image they choose to project for themselves.  Himself regularly has to remind me not to stare, which can be quite embarrassing when I'm caught.

My family has been at a water park for the last couple of days.  It's hard enough for me to keep my eyeballs to myself when people are fully clothed, but in swimsuits??  Fuhgeddaboutit.  No chance.

The major take-homes of my time here?   First, that I need to stop worrying about what I look like in a swimsuit, since in the grand scheme of things I'm clearly doing ok (although I'm also not likely to be an SI model anytime soon), and second, that I am absolutely in the minority of adults for not having a tattoo. No doubt at all on that.

One particularly memorable guy I saw today had a truly giant potbelly and multiple tats, including one of a sun around his belly button, which must have been relatively new since it was unstretched and symmetrical.    The belly button itself was pierced with a tiny jingling bell.  Would love to have been able to ask him why!  Another time I was in a line behind a beautiful African-American girl of perhaps 20, who also had multiple tats, including one on the back of her right shoulder marking the passing of a baby girl named Destini.  It was a long line, so first (just to entertain myself) I did some math and calculated that the baby had only lived 52 days, then started thinking about the actual dates and realized that the baby probably hadn't been the child of the girl with the tattoo, since she likely would have been too young to be its mother (the dates were from 2004.)  I can only imagine that there is a personal and painful history behind that tattoo.

I look at people because what I see tells me part of their story, and our stories are what make us human, what make us who we are as individuals.  Sometimes it's just faces that tell stories, too, not even clothes or bodies or ornamentation.  Tonight I noticed a boy of perhaps 12 who was clearly in distress, stopped to ask if I could help and learned that he couldn't find his mother.  If I had to guess from our conversation, he's high-functioning autistic, and he was just panic-stricken.  I took him to a lifeguard and explained the situation: hopefully he was able to find the boy's mother.  When I got back to my family, who'd overheard nothing of this, Petunia asked me if the boy was ok because she'd noticed that he was upset.

I think I know who's another people-watcher...

Third Circle Of Hell

Sharing a hotel room with my family.

Much as I love them, there is a reason we have separate bedrooms at home!  My rise-at-the-buttcrack-of-dawn sons and my go-to-sleep-late-then-sleep-in daughter don't mix well in one room, even a big one.  I also woke up sometime in the middle of last night to the unmistakable sound of Petunia singing in the bathroom!  Mama needed a BIG cup of coffee this morning.

Ah, family togetherness and making memories...   ;)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Things That Make Me Cry

As we all know, Thing Two is still working on the whole social thing, and sometimes stands too close, hugs too often, all that fun stuff that bothers a few of his classmates.  One particular classmate, however, is really, really patient with him and actually seems to enjoy his company.  This boy invited Thing Two to his house for his first ever 'real' playdate the week before last ('real' being defined by my son as me dropping him off, not staying) and it apparently went very well.  I was a wreck for the whole three hours, but the other mom said that he used his manners, played nicely, didn't insist on having his own way all the time, and even did a good job of including the friend's two younger brothers in their play.

Got a text two days ago from the same mother.  The boys' school sent home optional summer workbooks this year for skill retention (which were mandatory in my house!) and one lesson in Thing Two's workbook required the kids to write a paragraph about their best friend.  Attached to the text in question was a picture of this lesson page from her son's workbook, in which he had described Thing Two as his best friend.  My boy is officially, in writing (!!) no longer the friendless kid off in the corner by himself because he doesn't understand what's going on, and this brought me to tears.

Progress, my friends.  Making progress.

  





    

Very Unexpected Recognition

Got up briefly about one o'clock this morning.  When I got back into bed, I inadvertently disturbed my sleeping husband, who stirred, looked at me, said "Thanks for everything you do around here" and then went immediately back to sleep.  He had zero recollection of this in the morning.

I have no idea where that came from, but I'll take it!!



Friday, August 23, 2013

Caregivers, Care For Yourselves

The sister of a friend of mine died today.  She was in her late 40s and had three kids, the oldest in his mid-teens.

She'd had digestive symptoms for a while.  She called these issues her "granny stomach," and according to my friend, she pretty much ignored them.  The so-common mom/caregiver excuses.  "I don't have time to get to the doctor right now."  "I'll get to it when the kids go back to school/after the holidays/whenever."  The usual life getting in the way kind of stuff.

By the time she finally saw a doctor, the diagnosis was stage IV colon cancer.  She lived less than a year from the date of diagnosis.  Her family members are beside themselves with grief today.

I heard this morning that she'd had last rites.  The news of her death followed late this evening.  We'd gone to the fair and gotten stuck in horrible traffic on the way home...Himself and I were really upset at the idiots directing the traffic, but that email set us straight in a hurry.  Talk about a dose of perspective.

Those who pray, please say a prayer for this woman and all those who are grieving her passing tonight.

And everyone, if you have symptoms of anything, please get them checked out.  Your loved ones are depending on it.






Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Toughest Job I'll Ever Love

I've been a school board member for a couple of years now.  Our district has a few issues, but is generally a good one.  We have mostly engaged, educated parents who go out of their way to raise decent kids, and an administration that goes out of its way to comply with the letter and spirit of state laws relating to things like bullying and appropriate school behavior.  But a school district can only do so much.  As far as I can tell, a lot of of the problems we do have occur because of parents who don't actually parent.

Thing One asked me once if it was hard to be a mother.  I told him that it's really easy to be a bad mother: you just let your kids do whatever they want.  It's being a good mother that's hard.  Being willing to have your child disappointed or angry with you, because saying no (or yes) to something was in their best interest in your best and loving judgment.  Bette Davis once said that if you've never been hated by your child, you've never been a parent.

Thinking about this because of an article I read on CNN tonight.  Food for thought.

Roller Coaster Day

The teachers and administration of our school make up the class lists for the following school year sometime in early June, but the individual assignments aren't mailed home until late August.  (I suspect because the principal doesn't want to listen to parental grumbling about class assignments for any longer than she has to.)  The letters were mailed this past Tuesday, so Wednesday morning the texts started to fly: "my kid has Teacher X, which one did yours get?"

Always a nervewracking day.  And unfortunately, it also happened to be the same day as Thing Two's annual appointment with the neurodevelopmental pediatrician.  The mail truck arrived about half an hour before we had to leave for the hospital where she works.

This is Petunia's first year at this school, so we aren't really plugged into the grapevine for her grade yet.  One close friend from last year's school is transferring with her, and both girls happen to have the same (wonderful) teacher--this is jumping-for-joy kind of news.  We knew who Thing Two would be getting already, and understand the reasoning behind it...we'll just have to see how it goes.  For Thing One, all three potential teachers are good, and we are very happy with the one he was assigned--as icing on the cake, several of his best friends are with him as well.  So overall, the teacher news was happy news, and we left for the hospital in good spirits.

I absolutely dread Thing Two's appointments with this particular doctor, for the record.  She is a lovely woman and very professional--it has nothing to do with her personally.  It's just very, very hard to watch her test him and then to have to sit through a discussion of his shortcomings.

He's making progress, God knows.  We should be grateful for that, and we are.  Many kids with his language processing issues do poorly in school and have serious learning delays, and somehow he's managed to avoid that.  Quite the opposite, actually.  Just to look at the kid's report card, you'd never know he has such a major language processing issue.  Of course, you talk to him for 30 seconds and it is painfully clear, though.  The good news is that she is now pretty much convinced that he is not on the spectrum (this can be unclear in younger kids--there is a lot of overlap)--she believes that all of his issues are secondary to the language problem.  But it's one hell of a language problem.  She's still describing it as "severe," which kills me.  I gather that we are still doing all the right things at home and that the school's plan for him is a good one--we were told to keep doing what we're doing, which I guess is good.

Clearly the kid is bright, which will be his salvation.  His IQ tests as normal overall even with the language problem--who knows how well he'd score if he actually understood all the questions?  He reads at third to fourth grade level, spells at 6th grade level (!!) and his math is third grade level.  Not bad for a rising second grader who has trouble constructing a grammatical sentence and struggles badly with short-term auditory memory.

Still, it's clear that this is going to be an uphill battle of long duration for both him and us, and that annual reminder is profoundly depressing.  It always takes me a day or so to bounce back emotionally after these appointments.

Since I'm not going to be able to make this morning's taekwondo class, I decided to go last night after we got home from the doctor.  Figured it would be a good opportunity to hit something hard and vent some steam, since it is a board-breaking week.  I've been frustrated for some time with the classes, since I don't seem to be making much progress.  I don't know if I'm beginning to hit my physical limit or if I'm just going to the wrong classes, since the stripes just aren't coming.  Last night was no exception.  Kicked and struck the hell out of the boards, which did make me feel better, but no board-breaking stripe for no reason I'm aware of.  Oh well.  This endeavor will teach me patience, I guess.  Himself keeps reminding me that I take the classes for exercise and to learn, which is true.

In the "work-on-your-own-material" period at the end of class, I watched a girl (a very sweet one, whom I happen to like very much) who is also a Blue belt flawlessly executing one of the kicks at our belt level that has been a struggle for me.  I can do it, but for me it looks awkward still and hers is a thing of beauty.  I just can't fly through the air like a girl of 14.  It isn't going to happen, and reality bites.  But then, I saw her becoming very distraught toward the end of class because (I gather from her friend) she is being picked on by the 'mean girls' and really doesn't want to start high school.  In the grand scheme of things, some things are a lot worse than not having the athletic ability of a slender teenager, and that was a good perspective reminder for me too.            

So, one day: some high highs and some low lows.  Just working on maintaining my equilibrium through it all.


  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

It Is 10:30PM

And a MFing tractor equipped with headlights is baling hay *loudly* in the field of preserved farmland across the street from my house, keeping me awake.

Welcome to rural America, y'all.  Yeehaw.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Should Never Have Doubted Sheldon

He's not much of a joker to begin with, and there was no "Bazinga!"

Himself and I are major fans of the TV show The Big Bang Theory, not a shock given that we are a matched pair of overeducated dorks.  We watch reruns of several episodes on most evenings.  One of last night's included the following lines of dialogue (and yes, I looked it up, I'm not that bad!!):

Leonard: You want to hear something weird?
Penny: Sure.
Sheldon: In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II was named an honorary Harlem Globetrotter.
Leonard: What are you talking about?
Sheldon: You asked Penny if she wanted to hear something weird.
Leonard: Yeah, because I have something weird to tell her.
Sheldon: Oh. I thought it was a game.
Penny: What’s yours?
Leonard: There’s this guy, Jimmy Speckerman, who used to torment me in high school. He sent me a message through Facebook. He’s in town and wants to have drinks.
Sheldon: Okay, Penny, if it were a game, here are your choices. An e-mail from an old acquaintance, or the head of one of the largest religious institutions in the world slam dunking to Sweet Georgia Brown. Pick.

I actually had to look it up today, because I simply couldn't envision any scenario in which Pope JPII would be formally associated with the Globetrotters!  Nevertheless, it appears to be true.

And THAT, my friends, definitely qualifies as the weird fact of the day.








Monday, August 19, 2013

Fiesta, Numero Dos

Last Friday afternoon, Hector called to invite Thing Two to his little brother's birthday party at their house today.  The family is from Mexico, and although the father speaks pretty good English, for some reason Hector (who is probably in his early twenties, at a guess) is the family member designated to handle all official communications with gringos.      

I attended this party with Thing Two last year, and learned a few lessons.  First and foremost, this is a marathon, not a sprint.  Unlike most birthday parties around here, which last only a couple of hours, these are multigenerational extravaganzas that last well into the evening and feature live entertainment, music, and phenomenal food.  Since I was unaware of this going in last year, I had to leave while things were in full swing, to my great regret.  This year, I knew what I was getting into and planned accordingly!  The other thing I figured out last year is that whole families attend this party, not just the friend of the birthday child.  As the fortunate adult who happened to chaperone Thing Two last year, I feasted on amazing food while texting Himself pictures of all the home-cooked deliciousness he was missing.  :)

Hector told me that the party today would start at 3.  I was running a little late leaving the house with Thing Two and Petunia and had to make a quick stop at Ed the computer guy's house on the way (he ended up refusing to take payment for fixing my computer, calling it a favor for a neighbor, so I brought him a homemade sour cream chocolate chip pound cake as a neighborly thank-you in return.)  It was about 3:20 when we got to the birthday party house, and there wasn't a soul around except for a few grandfatherly types occupying chairs in the shade under a big tarp-tent in the back yard and one younger guy supervising a group of kids in the trampoline.  The younger guy is a friend of mine and the dad of what turned out to be the only other Caucasian children present: he'd shown up punctually at 3 and was very disconcerted to find the yard deserted!  Note to self for next year: come an hour after whatever Hector says is the start time.  Second note to self for next year: park the car on the street (or at least facing outward) so that I can get my car out while the night owls are still going strong in the evening!

Around 4:30, people really started coming in numbers.  Old, young, in between.  Hamburgers and hot dogs appeared for the kids, then a clown, big shoes, red ping-pong ball nose and all, wearing a clown suit that had Spongebob decorations all over it.  He made balloon animals for the kids while a colleague did face-painting.  Petunia emerged with a flower on her cheek, while Thing Two's face was covered with a full black Batman mask.  While all of this was going on, a laptop hooked to a huge speaker sheltered under one corner of the tent was pumping out song after song of dance music in Spanish.  I didn't understand a word of it, but darned if I could keep from moving with the beat!

Last year's party was a joint celebration for the birthdays of two children, and featured a live mariachi band, a pit-roasted pig, and various other indulgences.  This year's party was just for the one child, and was accordingly scaled-back, but still pretty amazing.  Once the kids were finished eating, the clown led them in dancing and singing and games on the lawn.  As I was compelled to Tweet while watching part of this, "You have not lived until you've seen a Spanish-speaking clown in a Spongebob outfit directing a bunch of kids in the Gangnam Style dance!"  And I didn't have room in the tweet to mention that this was taking place right next to the massive homemade chicken coop filled with squawking hens in the backyard.  A somewhat surreal moment.  And at that moment (as for a good chunk of the party) I happened to be the only Caucasian adult present.

Given that this was a smaller celebration than last year's, I wasn't sure what the dinner situation was going to be, so I snagged a hot dog when the first plates of food went out.  I ended up glad that this was all I'd eaten, because no sooner had the kids finished their dancing and crazy games and scattered back off to play than huge trays of adult food were carried outside from the kitchen and set up under the tent on one of the tables.  Homemade corn tortillas, flaky and still warm.  A spicy and delicious green sauce.  Pulled roasted pork.  Chicken in some kind of oily red sauce.  Yellow rice.  Beans.  A feast, I tell you.  I wish I knew what to call the dishes--I'm sure they have official names--but they were just amazing.  I discovered to my great joy that the parents of the birthday boy have just opened a Mexican restaurant not too far from my house.  If the food they serve there is half as good as what they serve at home, we will be loyal and enthusiastic customers!

By the time I was finished stuffing my face, it was after 7.  I reluctantly began the processes of dragging Thing Two and Petunia out of the trampoline and finding their shoes and trying to figure out who owned the blue SUV that was blocking my car into the driveway.  When I turned back around, the pinatas had come out, and it was clear that we weren't going to be leaving anytime soon!  I was just hoping that we'd be able to tactfully head out before Thing Two melted down completely, as he was beginning to look not only crispy around the edges but also completely black of face, where sweat had made his Batman facepaint run!  He looked like an exhausted London street urchin who'd just crawled out of a coal bin by that point in the evening.

He didn't even have enough energy left to whack at the pinatas...Petunia was right in the thick of the candy wars, though.  And yes, I am saying pinatas, plural.  There were either two or three of them, all filled with Mexican candy.  And bless Petunia's heart, when she saw that her brother was too pooped to participate, she walked up and handed him half of the candy she'd collected, cheerfully and without so much as a word or glance from me.

Thing Two said his goodbyes and thank-you's, as did I.  This is when the remarkable kindness and generosity of our hosts really became apparent.  It took a good fifteen minutes for us to be allowed to leave, and all because they were giving us things to take home!  First, we had to wait for the guy giving out the goody bags to find us.  Then, they needed to cut pieces of birthday cake for us to bring home, since we weren't able to stay.  And at the last minute, the father, who was standing with me in the driveway, insisted that he send home portions of dinner with me for my husband, who'd gotten stuck in traffic on his way home from work and never made it over.   I was expecting a plate.  He reappeared a few minutes later with a stack of five plastic containers!!


This family is not by any means well-off, but the thought was so kind that I hesitated to offend him by not accepting.  I will have to find something delicious to put into those containers when I return them.

The green and red stuff on the paper plate, incidentally, is the 'birthday cake.'  I'd forgotten about that from last year: they had both this and a more American-style cake.  It is a stiff version of something like Jello, with cubes of what I at first thought was fruit but appears to be other colors of Jello inside it.  Upon Googling this just now, I see that it is traditional in Mexico to serve jello/gelatin desserts at birthday parties.  What do you know??

One other thing that the father said to me I was leaving has stayed with me for the rest of the evening.  We were talking about the other party guests, and I'd asked if they were his relatives.  He said no, that most were just friends from the area, but that he considered everyone there to be his family and was blessed to be celebrating his son's eighth birthday with them all.  Those weren't his exact words--I don't remember precisely what he said--but I remember thinking at the time that whatever words he chose were meant to include us in his definition of family, and I was deeply honored.  What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon and evening.

And darnit, I still need to learn some Spanish!  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Mommy Had A Day Off

Just one day, but ohmygodhowbadlydidIneed that???

Last night, I was ready to scream, really seriously scream, at the next person who asked me to do anything.  Anything at all.  I feel like I am surrounded by people who need something from me ALL THE TIME.  Attention.  Food.  A haircut.  A particular item that they can't find.  A bandage.  Etc.  Etc.  No sooner do I finally sit down than the magic words waft through the air: "Mom? Can you..."

At any rate, today my family (other than me) went to my in-laws', as I mentioned earlier.  The assorted males went to a baseball game together, my MIL and daughter had a 'girl-day,' and I most gratefully stayed home.  I was invited to join them, but had some Board of Ed work I legitimately needed to complete (my annual online mandatory training course, which requires about two hours of focused attention, which I will never have in a million years if any of my crew are at home.)

Since my computer was still AWOL (or AWL, I guess) this morning, I went geocaching in peace after they left.  Picked up six new ones, including two very cool multistep puzzle caches.  Came home, collected my computer (which appears to be working again, thanks be to Ed and all the saints), successfully completed my online training, and rewarded myself with another quick caching run and a cup of ice cream.  Home from that, had a quick dinner and took the dog out for a lovely stroll.  Peaceful, quiet, and exactly what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it.

I, I, I.  I know.  Selfish as hell.  But so much of mothering is putting yourself last.  Doing what needs to be done, or what somebody else wants to be done (because you love them) even though it is not at ALL what you feel like doing at that moment.

Today I have not cooked since breakfast.  Or cleaned since putting the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher.  The barest minimum of chores have been completed.  And I don't care one iota.

My bucket has been filled a bit.  Because of this, I will be happy to see my family when they come home, and if anyone says anything about the state of the house, there might just be war!  :)


*Oh, and a note to geocache owners everywhere: if your cache is hidden somewhere down a very steep slope covered with brambles and poison ivy, its terrain level should not be marked as a 2 (on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the hardest.)  Just sayin'.
      


  

I LOVE This Town

So, Ed the computer guy calls my cell this morning while I'm out geocaching in a nearby town by myself in blessed peace and quiet (the rest of the crew has gone to my in-laws' for the day.)   He's a retired science teacher from the high school, and putters with computers in his garage for the fun of it.  It used to be a side business, but as he put it, it got to be too much like a real job a few years back, so he took the sign out of his yard.  Fortunately for me, he's a neighbor and was willing to see what he could do with my laptop even though he's not really in the business anymore.

At any rate, he told me that the computer seemed ok to him and that I could come to pick it up at my convenience (note that he repaired it between 10AM Saturday and noon on Sunday.)  He wouldn't let me pay him when I picked it up--wanted me to take it home first and make sure it was fixed.  (And the fees he charges are crazy low anyway.)  Then he gave me two eggplants and two zucchini from his garden and told me how to kill the tiny black bugs that ate my own eggplant bushes to boot!

In case anyone wonders why I'm never leaving this area willingly, here's another exhibit for the case.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

What To Do With Those Really Wacky-shaped Heirloom Tomatoes?

Make sauce, of course.

Years ago, my mother bought me a food strainer, which is a contraption that removes seeds, skins, etc from batches of cooked fruits or vegetables.  I use it every year when I make applesauce, apple butter, peach butter, and/or tomato sauce.  (Yes, I am revoltingly domestic sometimes.  Sorry.)

Today, I looked at the bowl of ripe tomatoes on my counter, every single one too oddly-shaped to slice for a sandwich, and decided that it would be a good day to make tomato sauce.  My strainer looks a lot like the one in this link: if my laptop weren't down the street at Ed the local computer repair guy's house as of this morning because I inadvertently downloaded some crazy bug while trying to download geocaches to my new 40th-birthday-present-to-myself Garmin Oregon yesterday (GROWL...) I'd post a picture of my own setup, but oh well.  At least Ed was home and willing to take a look at it, and hopefully he can get rid of the bug.

The actual procedure is pretty easy.  First, whack the tomatoes into rough chunks.  Throw the chunks seeds, skin and all into a pot and cook to soften.  Cool a bit.  Run the resulting potful through the food mill, and Bob's your uncle.  Season to taste, cook down a bit more if you want thicker sauce, and either can or freeze to store.  Nothing better than a taste of summer right around February in these parts, and a less cluttered counter now is a bonus!






Help Needed: Who Should I Be Reading??

Just occurred to me that I look at the same blogs over and over.  I like them all, don't get me wrong: they are the ones that I find compelling enough to make permanent in my rotation--but I know there are tons of blogs out there and I'm looking for some new ones.  Any genre is fine.  My current list has mommy blogs, travel blogs, medical/vet blogs, blogs about nothing in particular...I'm just looking for good writing and posts that will either teach me something or make me think.

Would really appreciate some suggestions!  Many thanks in advance...


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Eight

Unlike the last one, this is a tough post to write.

My second pregnancy, largely uneventful except for one spotting scare early on, ended with a nightmare.  Since my water broke one evening near the due date (a trickle, but enough), I had to go into the hospital that night and have labor induced the following morning.  Compared to the natural progression of my first labor, induced labor came on like a tidal wave and was very difficult.  They started the induction early in the morning and Thing Two was born about 6:45PM.  Exhausted, I looked at him across the room, looked at Himself, and said "What is that thing on his head??"   A red spot was clearly visible at the crown.

The red spot was raw and hairless, about the size of a dime.  We initially thought it had been caused by the fetal distress monitor wire, but were told that those insertion site marks are usually much smaller.  Panicked, we waited for the neonatologist to arrive.  Since he'd gone home for the night, it was the on-call resident who came to our room.  He appeared concerned, and told us that they'd likely need to send the baby about an hour away to a children's hospital in the morning.  We were completely distraught; I've only seen my husband cry a handful of times in the fifteen years I've known him, and that was one of them.

About three o'clock the following morning, my labor and delivery nurse came back to my room, where we were still awake and shell-shocked.  At the end of her shift, she'd gone to the hospital library on her own, done some research, and printed out pages of information for us.  She qualified it all with "you know I'm not a doctor, but here's what I think it is..." and told us that she thought things would be okay.  That woman was truly an angel.

The following morning, the neonatologist came in and promptly confirmed the nurse's suspicions. Thing Two had (and has) something called aplasia cutis congenita, thankfully stage 1, which is the most common and the most benign form.  He told us that the baby would have to stay in the Special Care nursery for a few days while they ruled out a few other possible things, but that he was just covering his behind legally with that testing and he wasn't worried.  So Thing One stayed at the hospital in which he was born and I went home two days later without him, which was horrible.  My in-laws were at the house with Thing One, I was at the hospital as much as I could be with Thing Two, and Himself was going back and forth.

They were able to do most of the necessary tests pretty quickly.  CT scan to make sure his skull was okay under the skin defect, a lumbar puncture, physical exams, all things that hurt my heart when I thought about them in conjunction with my newborn.  The final test was specialized bloodwork, and the sample had to be sent to a lab across the country for analysis.  The neonatologist stepped up for us again: he expressed the blood to the lab and harassed them by phone until they sent the results back.  Finally, Thing Two was cleared to go home (a few days earlier than expected, thanks to the neonatologist!) and we were beyond overjoyed.

Even so, he'd been in the hospital five days.  He'd been in the same room as some really scary-tiny preemies, so I did have some sense of perspective by that point, but I wanted my baby out of that room and unhooked from all the tubes and monitors so desperately that I can't even begin to express it.  It was a terrible time...people were calling the hospital to congratulate us and we didn't know what to say, even to those we actually wanted to talk to.  We didn't know what to put in the email that we'd planned to send out after his birth.  I realized a few weeks ago that I never saw the email that Himself finally ended up sending out, and he forwarded it to me.

Thing Two still has a scar on his head.  It grows proportionally with his skull (which was fine under the skin defect, thanks be to God), and when his head is close to adult sized, we'll have it taken off.  In the meantime, it causes him no problems...we just have to remember to put sunblock on it.  People do often ask him about it, though, which is why we'll have it removed.  We call it his 'spot.'


If we'd only known then that this was going to be the least of his medical issues!  It was a good two years later that the gross communication/language problems became apparent.  According to the pediatrician, the two issues are completely unrelated, and he was just genetically unlucky.  At least he got the mildest form of ACC, if he had to have it at all.

He was born eight years ago today.  It's been a wild ride from Day One, but I wouldn't trade a minute of it for a different child.  Happy birthday, little buddy...your Mama loves you more than you'll ever know.




  
      



    









 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Summer's End

Mid-August already.  It's been a cooler than average summer overall...legitimately bearable weather (for this heat-hating woman, anyway) except for one really miserable week in July.   Today, the high here might have been 75, which is crazy.  It was actually too cold for the kids to go swimming.

Dad and I took the kids out to breakfast at a diner-type place, and then mini-golfing on the way home.  Breezy and cool, not a cloud in the sky.  After lunch, we went to a nearby playground, and I actually wished I'd brought a sweater.  In August.

On the way back into the house afterward, took a minute to look at the butterfly bushes.  We have four giant ones (one of which is actually obstructing the front walk and must be moved!), which have collectively been the setting for a riotous aerial ballet for a good six weeks now.  Mostly tiger swallowtails, some monarchs, although not as many monarchs as in past years for some reason.  Since I had my phone in my hand and the butterflies seemed ok with my presence, I snapped a couple of pictures.



As I turned away, I caught sight of another butterfly on the ground near the bushes.  When I looked more closely, I saw that a good chunk of one wing was missing and that the edges of the rest were ragged.  I couldn't bring myself to put it out of its misery, although I thought about it.  Summer's ending for sure; the first few leaves are beginning to fall as well.

About three weeks until school starts.  Another new season coming.
  

Monday, August 12, 2013

You Can't Always Get What You Want...


Spent a good chunk of the day today with an ex from long ago, who was passing through our general area on the way to training for an Air Force deployment.  I hadn't seen him in nearly 15 years, and it was really great to finally have a chance to catch up face to face, but the whole experience reminded me of nothing so much as an old Garth Brooks song called 'Unanswered Prayers.'  Pronouns switched, of course. 

Just the other night, at a hometown football game
My wife and I ran into my old high school flame 
And as I introduced them, the past came back to me
And I couldn’t help but think of the way things used to be.

She was the one that I’d wanted for all times
And each night I’d spend prayin’, that God would make her mine
And if he’d only grant me, this wish I wished back then
I’d never ask for anything again.

Way back when, this guy and I were pretty serious.  We were young, though, and our lives were taking us in two very different directions at the time.  When we did finally break up, it was a nod to reality and logistics more than anything else, and it was very painful.

The first time I heard this song, I thought the narrator was going to realize that he was still in love with his high school flame, but I was wrong:

Sometimes I thank God, for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts, are unanswered prayers.

She wasn’t quite the angel, that I remembered in my dreams
And I could tell that time had changed me, in her eyes too it seemed
We tried to talk about the old days, there wasn’t much we could recall 
I guess the Lord knows what he’s doin’ after all.

Today, I had a moment of just looking at this guy across my kitchen table as we were talking, my kids playing in the family room beyond.  It was very odd to see the familiar face, to remember loving him, but not to love him any longer except in the most platonic sense.  I want him to be happy, and he is.  He's married to a lovely woman, one far better for him than I ever would have been, and has three beautiful kids and a good life going for himself.  I'm very glad that my place in his life is peripheral at best.  That's absolutely as it should be.  

And as she walked away, I looked at my wife
And then and there I thanked the good Lord for the gifts in my life.

Like the narrator of the song, I wouldn't go back if I could.  I wouldn't trade my now for any used-to-be I've ever had, this guy included.  This is not a new conclusion for me, but I did get a powerful reminder of it today!  Himself is the man with whom I should be sharing my life...the gift and blessing is that it worked out that way. 

 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Good Boys

Well, we survived.  The last of the crew was just picked up.  Everyone had a good time, everyone appeared to get at least some sleep, and there were no major injuries!  One boy came out of the pool last night covered in blood and scared me to death, but it turned out that he'd just taken an accidental elbow to the nose and was fine after a few minutes.  Thank God for chlorine.

Despite the chaos, I really enjoyed listening to the interactions that I overheard.  These are all good kids.  We're so fortunate that Thing One has good taste in friends...some of them are more boisterous than others, but all have parents who care enough to teach their kids manners and good behavior and how to be decent people.  I was actually pretty worried about the one kid who went home last night with the stomachache...was really hoping that the other boys hadn't gone all Lord of the Flies on him, since he's one of the quieter boys.  As soon as he told me he wasn't feeling well, I grabbed Thing One and asked if anyone was being unkind to this kid, and he looked at me like I had two heads and said no.  The dad is a friend of mine, and when he came to pick his son up, I quietly pulled him aside in the driveway and asked him to please let me know what was going on when he got home, so I could bang heads like coconuts if need be.  Nobody's getting bullied on my watch.  Got a text shortly afterward: kid was having fun here but legitimately wasn't feeling well and wanted to go home before he puked because he would be really embarrassed if it happened at my house!!  Ok, I can deal with that.

The remaining four rolled groggily upstairs at 8 or so this morning.  Fed them pancakes, bacon and cinnamon rolls.  Every one cleared his plate when he was done (without me saying a word!) and thanked me for breakfast.  While I was cleaning up, they continued last night's Wii tournament in the adjacent family room.  While they gave each other a lot of good-natured grief, none was mean-spirited, and there was a whole lot of belly laughing going on in there.  Made me so happy to hear it.

Overall, a very successful night.  Now, I just have to figure out how to clear the sleeping-boy funk from the basement!!


It's A Bloody Miracle

There are four boys in my basement (one got a stomachache and went home unexpectedly.)   We sent them downstairs at about 11:30PM last night.  And I have not heard a peep from them since.

No banging.  No yelling.  No goofiness.  No slamming doors.  No loud music.  I have no idea what they were doing down there or when they went to sleep (I assume that they are still sleeping now) but I went to bed around midnight and woke up at 6:30 without being disturbed once.  I tell you, this is a sign that the apocalypse must be upon us...generally we are up all night when Thing One has sleepovers because of the general racket.  Truly amazing!





Friday, August 9, 2013

We Must Be Nuts

There are eight ten year-old boys in my house right now.  EIGHT.  And five of those are sleeping over.

Technically, at the moment they are all in the (fenced-in) backyard playing Manhunt.  They have eaten pizza and ice cream cake and swum in the pool and played basketball and are now running like maniacs around the yard, dark happily-yelling shadows illuminated by small dollar store flashlights.  This is Thing One's idea of the ideal birthday party.  Himself and I are just hoping that the ones who are sleeping here are tiring themselves out right now!

Past history suggests that most of the boys will be up half the night goofing off down in the basement, even though Himself traditionally confiscates all personal gaming devices at midnight.  We are okay with this--especially since the other two kids are still away, which is not a coincidence--we would just like to get some sleep ourselves.   As long as they are quiet downstairs, they can stay up till the break of dawn for all we care!  It's only when doors start banging at 4AM that we get a bit testy.

Happy birthday, kid.  Can you tell that we love you a lot??  ;)



Thursday, August 8, 2013

Oh, One Other Thing

Today would have been my beloved maternal grandmother's 105th birthday.  

If I could stand the taste of martinis, I'd raise one in her honor, but since I can't, I made spaghetti sauce.  The real kind, from scratch, the way she always made it.  Even down to the homegrown tomatoes.  My house smells like her house used to, and that makes me happy.  

Miss you, Grandma.  Miss our debates and your stubbornness and your feisty spirit and your love. 
  


Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.  May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen. 


Car Talk

The younger kids being away with my in-laws this week, it was only Thing One and me in the car on the way to the last day of his golf camp this morning.  As it happened, the commercial playing on the radio as I flipped it on midway down the driveway was advertising a semi-local casino.

Thing One asked me what a casino was.  While trying to explain it to him, I somehow got on the subject of addiction and bad decision making (with respect to gambling,) which then led into the subject of decision making relating to alcohol.  Sweet and naive as he is, he currently assumes that he will not drink until he's 21 because that is the legal age, and was very surprised when I told him that he will certainly have to make decisions about drinking in college, if not in high school.  I also said that our discussion was only the first of many that we'll likely have on the subject as he gets older, and that he really doesn't need to worry about it right now.        

Frankly, my biggest alcohol-related concerns (for all of my children, not just him) relate to decisions they make about driving and sex, but since he has no idea what sex is yet, I couldn't really go there.  That will come sometime after the birds-and-bees talk.  For now, we focused on the driving-while-impaired side of it.  Again, the kid just turned 10, so I have some time.  It just seemed like an opportunity that could be seized to introduce a difficult topic (several of them, actually) at an age-appropriate level.  And fortunately, he didn't seem bothered by it at all.  Knowing the kid, I expect him to go off and process the conversation for a few days and then come back with questions out of the blue...that has always been his MO.  The hatches will be battened in readiness for a while, and I will give Himself a heads-up as well.  

I've always found that some of the more difficult conversations are easier to have when you aren't looking at each other, and he's still too young to sit in the passenger seat at the moment.  I grumble on occasion about being the family chauffeur with all the driving to activities, but this morning reminded me that the car (especially when I have only one child in it with me) will be a good place to talk to my kids about the important things.  A definite silver lining!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Male Bonding

Thing One apparently had a tough day at golf camp today: couldn't hit a bull in the hind end with a golf ball.  He came home frustrated and embarrassed.  I think every golfer ever born has days like that.  I know I have.

Because of potential rain, the soccer conditioning practice he was supposed to have tonight was cancelled.  Himself took him out in the front yard for some ball-handling drills instead (completely voluntary on both sides, I should add.)  While they played, I cleaned up the kitchen from dinner.

A bit later, I looked out the window, and saw that Thing One had a golf club in his hands.  Himself was standing over him, patiently putting his hands in the correct places on the club and modeling a correct swing.  The kid hit a beautiful shot, and I caught the smiles and high five they exchanged before I turned away.  Building a little man in the model of his father (a good thing), one step at a time.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Frustrated

It is my opinion that, in a school setting, limited resources should generally be allocated in proportion to, and to align with, demonstrated student need, not some artificial perception of fairness based purely on class sizes.

Life ain't fair.  It ain't always reasonable, either.  Sometimes the best solution to a school problem isn't the one that allocates the resources evenly across the student population.  Especially since the only way to 'fairly' distribute the particular resource in question here is to take it away from the whole population, leaving a net loss overall.

Sometimes, you get to a point in an argument where everything that can be said has been said, on both sides.  There is just a fundamental disagreement.  With this one, we are also at a point where the other party seems almost irrationally obsessed with the subject, on several levels.  This is not helping matters at all.

Fairness is relative.  At the moment I'm right where being 'fair' and being conscientious diverge, and holding onto my temper with both hands.  GROWL.







Monday, August 5, 2013

I Should Have Known Better

I was both a precocious reader and a very sensitive child, and accordingly (and regrettably) read some books long before I was mature enough to properly process their contents.  A few of the Sherlock Holmes stories terrified me as a fourth grader--"The Adventure of the Speckled Band" in particular--and James Michener's "Poland" gave me nightmares for weeks the following year.  (Is there any piece of land other than present-day Israel where so much blood has been shed so cruelly for so many generations??)

Thing One is very much like I was in both respects, so we have to be careful what books we allow him to read at this stage of the game, especially inasmuch as he loves biographies.  I don't remember how the topic of explorers came up, but Himself and I thought that the book "Endurance," the story of Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated 1914 Antarctic expedition and subsequent adventures on the way home, might be safe for him to read, given that everyone in the crew came back alive against impossible odds.  He started reading that a few days ago.

Tonight, I was sitting in the kitchen going through my binder for tomorrow's Board of Ed meeting when I suddenly became aware of racking sobs coming from upstairs, where Thing One was reading before bed.  I sprinted upstairs to find out what was going on, only to discover that he'd reached the part of the story where the starving men killed the expedition's dogs for food and was utterly distraught at the thought of having to take a knife to our beloved pet dog under any circumstances.

Parenting fail: we'd forgotten about that part of the story.  Time to go back to the children's section of the library for bedtime reading material!
      

      

 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Crazy weekend.  Just got back from my in-laws' house; we spent most of the day there and dropped off Thing Two and Petunia, who will be staying with them for a week.  (Thing One gets his time there solo later in the month.)  When we left, I commented to Himself that this week is the closest thing I'll get to a vacation this summer, with only one kid at home and him at golf camp four of the mornings.

We did take a short family trip last week, and we have another one planned for the end of the month, but the problem with being a SAHM is that by definition, mothering is my job.  And that's a 24/7 kind of job that knows no holidays.  I have to worry about small people eating and sleeping and having appropriate clean clothing whether we are at home or not!  When we took beach trips back when the kids were very small, I used to joke with Himself that all of my normal responsibilities were just being transplanted to a place where it was harder to get them accomplished.

Now that all of the kids are in school full time, I have more down time during the day, except inasmuch as all the practicalities (laundry, cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc) have to be taken care of while they are at school, since after-school hours are a blur of kid activity every day of the week.  But during the summer?  Forget it.  Constant mess and craziness and bickering and eating and driving.  Ye gods.  For a SAHM, the summer is the equivalent of the run-up to April 15th for an accountant!  When everyone else is off, we are on and racking up some serious overtime.  Saw an e-card the other day that said, "Cleaning with kids in your house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos."  Ain't that the truth.

In the final push to September now.  I love my kids, really I do.  They are getting bigger before my eyes, and I don't want to wish away the relatively short time I have with them.  I gave up a good, lucrative career voluntarily to be home with them, as a matter of fact.  I know that childhood is short and adulthood long and I didn't want somebody else raising my kids.  But Mama is tired, and she needs a break. And she is beyond grateful to her wonderful in-laws for giving her one, while also doing so much fun stuff with the grandkids that they look forward to this week all year!  Win-win.





Friday, August 2, 2013

Best Husband Ever

I think I need professional help.

Some geocaches are marked on the official map by question marks, which means that you need to solve a puzzle of some sort in order to find that particular cache.  We've established that I can't pass up a puzzle to save my life, which will absolutely be my downfall one of these days.

My kids had soccer camp in a nearby town this past week.  Because I had to be in that vicinity anyway, I checked the geocache map for the area and located half a dozen nearby caches, one of which was of the puzzle variety.  It took me the entire day yesterday--no exaggeration--to solve the damned thing, which started with a simple find-a-word that resulted in a code message that then led to a crazy exercise in image analysis.  The necessary clues turned out to be secretly embedded QR codes.  (Cue extensive headbanging on desk during the discovery process.)   Even when I finally figured out what the code message meant, I had no idea how to do the image stuff and had to figure it all out on the fly.

This is an example of a QR code.  I have no idea what this particular one is for.  

God bless the man, Himself (who is of the definite opinion that my hobbies should not be either addictive or infuriating, as they so often seem to become) spent half an hour this morning figuring out how to download the image manipulation software I needed to solve the problem, entirely against his better judgment!  Or perhaps he just wanted me to finally look up from the computer and stop swearing, who knows.  :)  The good news is that I finally have all the info I need, and will take Thing One with me to find the blessed thing tomorrow morning so I can scratch it off the list once and for all.  Holy hell.  My life would be a lot simpler if I was constitutionally capable of giving up when the going gets tough, but for better or worse I am just not wired that way.  Knowing this, he does his best to help me get through whatever I'm stuck on instead of just telling me to quit!

********

Tonight, Himself and I were drinking cava with dinner.  Thing One asked why the carbonation makes it sparkle and where the bubbles come from.  I watched with amusement from across the table as Himself attempted to explain how bubbles get into sparkling wine, stay there, and eventually fade away without using the terms "vapor pressure" or "equilibrium," both of which any self-respecting student of chemistry (as both he and I have been) would ordinarily find very helpful in this situation.  It was tremendously endearing to watch him make a valiant effort to explain principles of high-school chemistry to a rising fifth grader in age-appropriate language!

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I got a Facebook message a few weeks back.  The friend who sent it is a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force, and is going to be doing some training in my general vicinity (far from his home base) before shipping out to Kabul; he wanted to see if we could get together for a visit while he's here.  He was also a college boyfriend of mine, of relatively short duration and long ago, but high intensity at the time.  I haven't seen him in person since I was in grad school, lifetimes ago.  Our breakup was the result of geographic incompatibility, and was tough at the time, but in retrospect, unquestionably for the best: he's now happily married to someone who is a far better fit for him than I ever would have been, and vice versa.  I'd love to see him if we can work out the logistics, but there's no hidden agenda.  And I am inordinately blessed in that Himself is secure enough to be ok with this.

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I met Himself fifteen years ago this month.  I figured out that he was a keeper very soon after I met him, and he continues to prove me right.  I kissed my share of frogs, no doubt, but I eventually found my prince.