Fall woods

Fall woods

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

NYE

Heres to starting a new year with a clean slate, an optimistic heart and a genuine smile. And hopefully a kiss too.

Happy 2015!


Friday, December 26, 2014

Some Boxing Day Humor

Sharing some cartoons that made me laugh since I'm too tired to post today. It's been a long week!!





Thursday, December 25, 2014

Family

My children have been blessed with two sets of loving and active and involved grandparents.  We will be visiting my parents very soon, and my in-laws were here with us for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (my MIL brought the entire Christmas Eve dinner with her from home, thoughtful woman that she is.)  Where there are small children and presents and commotion and excitement, there should be grandparents to share the joy and relive the magic.  And, in the case of my FIL, to write the return notes from Santa because the kids would recognize our handwriting.  :)

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Thank You, Harry Shoup

As NPR pointed out this week, NORAD's Santa Tracker began with a typo and a good sport.

Back in 1955, there was a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper's holiday Sears ad.  Instead of reaching the department store Santa, callers were dialing Col. Harry Shoup's top secret red phone at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.  When he realized what was happening, instead of explaining the error and disappointing the children, he gamely assigned some airmen to answer the red phone on Santa's behalf, much to the amusement of everyone around him.  Then, on Christmas Eve, somebody with a sense of humor drew Santa and his reindeer coming over the North Pole on the big glass board that the airmen used to track flights.  Col. Shoup saw this, thought for a bit, then called the local radio station, identified himself as a commander at the Combat Alert Center, and announced that there was an unidentified flying object on their radar screen that looked a lot like a sleigh.  The radio stations would call him for updates on Santa's progress every hour, and that's how it all began.

Today, the Santa Tracker is a really fantastic website where people can follow Santa all over the globe on Christmas Eve through US military radar.  (For the parentally inclined among us, there's a lot of geography learned while watching Santa's progress...just sayin'.)  My kids love the website, and it keeps them occupied all day Christmas Eve...quite a monumental task in itself!

So here's a toast to you, Colonel Shoup: your memory is honored in this house every year.

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone.




Monday, December 22, 2014

&%^$& Murphy's Law

Cards are long sent.  Gifts all purchased and wrapped.  House decorated way earlier than usual.  Right about now I should be sitting pretty, ready to actually enjoy the holiday season instead of wanting to flip it off like I do most years.  But what am I doing?  Rasping like a frog because my kids have given me their colds, which has turned into laryngitis.  Himself is coming down with the same bug now, and it is a sorry sight to behold.  Needless to say, the levels of parental patience around here are pretty low, and tomorrow there is only a half-day of school before the winter break begins!  Murphy, you're a bitch.



Sunday, December 21, 2014

Best Holiday Party EVER

I love my taekwondo girls, really I do.  For all that this is a frighteningly homogeneous area in general, some of these women are from all over the globe: Austria, India, Egypt, the Philippines, and the UK just to name a few off the top of my head.  Last night, the Indian instructor and her husband hosted a party.  (They don't even celebrate Christmas and they had more Christmas decorations up than I do...pretty funny.)

It was a positive festival of Indian fare, both northern and southern styles.  Other than what my friend brings to class every so often, I'd never had Indian home cooking before, and it was fantastic.  This family is vegetarian and my highly carnivorous husband was a little concerned going in about what he was going to be able to eat*, but several platefuls later he was groaning about his overstuffed belly!  Naan (his favorite.)  Vegetable curry.  Spinach and chickpeas.  A hot drink made of pureed lentils and spices and other veggies.  Lemon rice.  Soaked sprout salad--amazingly, he would have eaten half the serving bowl of this, left to his own devices.  Yogurt rice.  Even a sweet carrot soup for dessert, which sounds odd but wasn't half bad.  Many of the dishes were completely unfamiliar to me but I decided that I was going to try some of everything and I did not regret that one bit.  

Their younger son (a freshman in high school) has been studying a traditional Indian drum called the mridangam for years--he takes intensive lessons every time the family goes home to India--and we even managed to persuade him to play for us.  That was the icing on the cake.  How often do you get to go to a holiday party in the American heartland and watch an expert play the mridangam while eating fabulous Indian food??  I'm a lucky lady.


*Many years ago, before he acquired his current global tastes, my dad would stop at McDonald's on the way to a dinner occasion if he was concerned about finding enough that he wanted to eat wherever they were going.  Along the same lines, Himself preloaded a bit at home before going to this party and then regretted it because the food was so good.  Don't think he'll make that same mistake again!   


 


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Santa's Days Are Numbered Around Here (And The Elf Never Got Through The Door To Begin With)

Saw a post on Facebook or somewhere the other day suggesting that parents have Santa give their children smaller gifts, while the bigger gifts come from the parents.  Given that some families have a lot more money than others, this makes sense: not too cool for Santa to bring one kid an iPad and the latest XBOX or Playstation or whatever while he brings the kid's best friend a hat and mittens.

Last year, I went to the trouble of using separate wrapping paper and gift labels--and even handwriting and pen color: yes, I'm nuts--for the kids' gifts from Santa (as opposed to their gifts from us.)  This year, I made a conscious decision not to bother.  Just got to be too much hassle to figure out which gifts which kid was receiving from Santa, in light of the sentiment above.  Besides which, any kid savvy enough to be paying attention to wrapping paper in all the excitement of Christmas morning is too old to believe in Santa anyway, IMHO.  

My kids are 7, 9 and 11.  If Thing One actually still believes in Santa, I'm a purple dinosaur.  He's never said anything about it, and he's way too nice a kid to spoil things for his younger siblings, but his Jewish best friend accidentally spilled the beans at school years ago and I'm sure he's long since figured things out.  I doubt that Thing Two has ever given it much thought, and Petunia is still pretty young, but I guarantee that neither of them will be looking at gift labels and wrapping paper and if Thing One does this year, oh well.  He's eleven, for Pete's sake.  Boy-girl dances and Santa probably shouldn't coexist anyway.

Bah, humbug.

The presents are wrapped, and that should count for something, dammit.  Even if Santa's aren't clearly distinguishable.

And don't get me started on that damned elf, wherever it might be located.  The line in the sand has been drawn.  This far, no further!








Friday, December 19, 2014

On A Much More Festive Note

If you like soft, chewy ginger cookies, you MUST try these.  The best ever, bar none, and my go-to holiday cookies.  I get requests for the recipe every time I make them!  


Soft Molasses Cookies


1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup dark molasses
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


1) In large mixing bowl, cream butter and shortening till well mixed, 1-2 min.  Add sugar and beat till light-colored and fluffy, about 3 min.  Mix in molasses and eggs till smooth; set aside.

2) In another large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves and cinnamon.  Gradually mix dry ingredients into creamed mixture until dough is blended and smooth.

3) Roll dough into 1 1/2" balls.  Dip tops in granulated sugar.  Place 2 1/2" apart on greased cookie sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 11 minutes. (Don't overbake or cookies will no longer be chewy.)  Remove from sheets to wire rack to cool completely.  Store in tightly-covered container.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.





Thursday, December 18, 2014

Non-Christmasy Thoughts

Had one of those situations not too far away recently: couple separates, separation is acrimonious, guy gets a gun and kills not only his ex, but also many members of her extended family.  *He* is not happy with how things are, so lots of people have to die.

Then I got to thinking about some of the school shootings and the theater bombing.  Yeah, it's one thing to go after people who have directly harmed you, or who you perceive to have directly harmed you.  Not a good thing, mind you, but at least understandable in a twisted way.  But what about the targeting of innocents?  The whole "I'm miserable, and I'm going to make other people as miserable as I am by killing their loved ones so they understand how I feel" thing?

I'm struck tonight by how incredibly selfish and self-centered this seems.  Wondering why we see these rampages more in the US than in any other civilized nation of which I'm aware.  Are we less connected to our communities or just less able to deal with frustration and anger and disappointment because we are becoming a culture of special little flowers in which a consideration of the greater good, the good beyond our own individual needs and wishes, is lost?  Was at taekwondo the other day discussing the murders and in the class were an Austrian woman, the Indian instructor and an Englishwoman who had a hard time even wrapping their heads around the idea of something like that happening in their home countries.  Certainly not with any degree of frequency, anyway.

 Not really a reflection for Christmastime, I know.  Just thinking about the Spock quotation (as in Star Trek, not the pediatrician) about the needs of the many outweighing those of the few or the one and wondering where we're going wrong.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Good Day

Wrapping mostly done now, productive taekwondo class, Board of Ed meeting tonight in which nobody yelled at me for things that are entirely outside my control, and even a first-to-find on a cache that happened to publish near the Target where I was heading to buy stocking stuffers this afternoon.  Life is good and the universe is still rewarding me for being proactive and organized!




Monday, December 15, 2014

It's A Wrap

Well, not quite.  But at least there's a good-sized dent in the stack of Things To Be Wrapped now, which is an improvement.

My ongoing experiment has been a reasonable success so far...getting my holiday stuff done early has made me somewhat less of a crabby bitch this month (December is not usually a good month for me.)  My new Garmin came in over the weekend, the replacement for the one that fell off the cliff and my big Christmas present, and I actually had time to go out and play around with it a little today!  I have a little more shopping and a lot more wrapping to do, and some baking, and some cooking (breathe in...breathe out...) but it will all get done.  And I will NOT allow myself to end up in the nuthouse trying to do it all, either.  That's my gift to myself!




Sunday, December 14, 2014

Muddy Pink Pants

I bought a pair of light pink jeans for geocaching a few months ago at Marshalls or somewhere like that.  They cost all of about $12 and the whole point was that they are light enough in color that I can easily see ticks on them...not exactly a normal selling point but whatever.  They fit a need for me.

I went caching Friday with a girlfriend who regularly gives me grief about the fact that I still fix my hair and wear makeup when I go climbing trees or scrambling over rocky hillsides with her.  Today was cold and wet and we both ended up dirty almost to the knees...she said that only *I* would wear pink pants while trekking in mud.

After a little thought, I decided I'd take that as a compliment...it's not a bad thing to like looking like a girl as long as you're not limited by it.  And if that makes it easier to find and remove ticks while you're at it, so much the better!




Thursday, December 11, 2014

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Priorities

To my deep and abiding chagrin, I dropped my Garmin (the handheld GPS receiver that I use for geocaching) down a steep hill/cliffside yesterday.  My hands were freezing even in mittens and it just slipped out of my grip; gone forever.  I could see where it landed down the slope, but reluctantly decided that it just wasn't worth taking the risk of trying to go down after it and turned around instead.  Call it a triumph of good sense over hope.  It wasn't a new or fancy GPSr, but it worked well for me and it really makes me mad that it's gone, especially since I just ordered a lanyard for it after a similar recent misadventure that had a happy ending!  The lanyard hasn't arrived yet...classic Murphy's Law.

To Himself's credit, the first words out of his mouth when I told him about the Garmin were, "What the hell were you doing on the edge of a cliff?"  At no point did he give me grief for being careless with a reasonably expensive device, he just wanted to make sure I hadn't lost my fool mind and any good judgment it might still retain.  As it happened, I wasn't particularly close to the cliff edge* at the time and it was just an unfortunate freak confluence of force, gravity and angle, but it's good to know that his first thought was concern for my safety!

*I know it sounds bad, but I wasn't there alone, and I really wasn't standing in a dangerous spot.  I swear.





    

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I Cannot Believe...

...that I just ordered my ELEVEN year-old a pair of MEN'S SIZE TEN shoes.  His feet are bigger than mine.  They are bigger than his father's.  And the kid is maybe 5'2" right now!  Hope to hell he does some serious growing soon because he is going to look flat-out ridiculous otherwise.  Time to sign him up for the circus??


Friday, December 5, 2014

If At First You Don't Succeed, Take Two

NOLA, these cookies *are* ours.  :)



My mother came through with her tried and true spritz cookie recipe.  It's truly amazing how much easier it is to operate a cookie press when you are not trying to extrude a cementlike substance through it!  I mixed, pressed, and baked, Petunia decorated, and a good evening was had by all.



Holiday Memories

This time of year, the antique side table in my dining room usually holds a group of Christmas decorations that my kids made when they were in preschool.  Since all of them attended the same school, I have three of one particular decoration from their first Christmas there at age 3; a simple representation of Jesus in the manger.  This is Thing Two's.

 
If you look closely at the top of Jesus's head, you'll see that it looks a bit odd.  Therein lies a story.

Seems that the teachers distributed all of the pieces for the craft to each child before starting.  Thing Two apparently thought that the styrofoam ball was some sort of candy and he picked it up and took a bite out of it before the teachers could stop him!  At least they got him to spit out the piece he bit off.


When I went to pick him up from school they were very apologetic.  I don't think they were expecting me to laugh, but I did!  No harm done, and after all, how many people have decorations in which a bite has been taken out of the baby Jesus's head??




Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Keeping The Ol' Ego In Check...

I've never in my life felt like a moron as often as I have since I took up geocaching.  No worries that I will be getting a big head anytime soon.  This is not fake modesty: I'm reasonably bright, but some of my fellow cachers must have IQs that are through the roof because the puzzles that they set are positively fiendish.  

I'm currently working on a challenge that requires me to solve a bunch of those evil puzzles.  The one currently causing me grief has about four stages and I still haven't gotten through the first one even though I've already found information hidden in the source code of a web page and converted it all from base-16 to base-10 so I can plug it into the online decoder for a particular obscure kind of cipher.  (I'm doing something wrong with the decoding, I think.)  For any who might be wondering, this is masochism at its finest since it is a completely voluntary activity!  I must be out of my cotton-picking mind.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Straight Talk, Right Here

Every field, rink, gym and arena in which kids play needs this sign, and stat.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Petunia loves to bake with me.  I've wanted to try making spritz cookies for a while now (the kind below, that are made by forcing a soft dough through a cookie press.)


While at Costco on Black Friday, I found a cookie press for about $15 and tossed it into my cart.  Unfortunately, when I opened the box at home I discovered that it did not come with any directions (thankfully, I am married to an engineer...) or, more annoyingly, a recipe for spritz cookie dough.

Undeterred, I found a recipe online yesterday, made the dough, and then belatedly realized that the pot roast I was making for our company last night was going to be in the oven all afternoon, so I just wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and stuck it in the downstairs fridge to deal with today.  After church, lunch, a small caching adventure and helping Himself get the Christmas tree set up, I grabbed the dough back out and realized that I could use it as building material: it had set up as hard as cement!  No way that stuff was ever going to squeeze out through a cookie press, even after being allowed to return to room temperature.

Plan B: roll it out and cut it like sugar cookie dough.  Not so much...it crumbled and broke all over.  Plan C: roll it into logs, cut those into discs and bake those.  Worked OK, but still crumbly.  Finally resorted to plan D, which was slicing the big disk of dough into rectangular or triangular logs (no rolling involved)  and further slicing those crosswise to make rectangular or triangular cookies.  That finally worked: they look more than a bit odd but who cares.  They taste good and Petunia had fun decorating them with sprinkles.  And I sure as HECK am not using that spritz cookie recipe ever again: anybody have a good one for me??    


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Man, This Introvert is Fried

Thanksgiving day with a crew at my in-laws'.  Day after Thanksgiving surrounded by Black Friday shopping craziness, followed by dinner again with the extended family.  Errands to run this morning, cooking all afternoon, then some friends here for dinner all evening with their kids and dog.  I want nothing more right now than to crawl into some *very* quiet place all by myself and stay there for a very long time.

Has nothing to do with the people involved: my husband's family are great people and the guests who were here tonight are dear friends who will soon be moving to Canada.  We really wanted to have them over before they go and the dinner tonight was our idea.  Three straight days in, I've just had it up to my ears in general with noise and confusion and talking and crowds; the tank is empty and desperately needs to be refilled.  Glad that there is nothing whatsoever on the agenda for tomorrow!



Friday, November 28, 2014

It Just Keeps Getting Better

Every year, I stay over at my in-laws' house on Thanksgiving night while the rest of the family makes the hour's drive home.  My mother-in-law and sister-in-law and I have gone out shopping every Black Friday morning for years now...it's the tradition and we have the routine down.  When my alarm went off this morning, I jumped in the shower and then ran downstairs to grab a quick bite.  My father-in-law was the only other person in the kitchen, and he pointed to the styrofoam Dunkin Donuts cup on the counter and told me to make sure I grabbed it.

Seems that my MIL woke up this morning, realized that there was no caffeinated coffee in the house (my in-laws only drink tea) and MADE A RUN TO DUNKIN DONUTS JUST TO GET ME COFFEE.

Absolutely unnecessary--I would have been perfectly happy with tea, I've been married to their non coffee-drinking son for a long time--but such a tremendously kind gesture, I couldn't believe it.  That, my friends, is love, and I'm a damned lucky daughter-in-law.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

It Started With The Cranberry Relish

My mother-in-law makes a really fabulous cranberry relish every Thanksgiving.  It has blueberries and oranges and nuts in it and I could eat the whole bowl with a spoon all by itself, never mind putting it on the turkey.  She knows that I love it.  This year, while we were cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, she told me that she made double the usual amount so that I could take the second batch home with me.

I've been thinking about what to write today for a few days now: there are so many things I'm thankful for, and I really didn't want to just post a laundry list.  This many not be something you see often in general, but I've decided that the blessing I'm going to focus on this year is my mother-in-law.  I couldn't ask for a better one, and after almost thirteen years of marriage and three kids, that's really saying something. 

She's been nothing but kind and thoughtful since the first time I met her, which was before her son and I actually started dating (I think...the chronology there is a little shaky.  Certainly before it was public and official.)  She voluntarily hosted a bridal shower and a baby shower for me at her home.  She doesn't interfere between me and her son or get involved in our parenting decisions at all...the biggest problem I have with her is getting her opinion on something when I actually WANT it, since she tries so hard not to step on my toes!  When we need help with the kids, she's there.  She has a daughter as well, and she is every bit as loving to me as she is to my sister-in-law...for all that I am married to her only son (the setup for many a horror story) I have been welcomed into the family with open arms.  

Marriage takes work, no doubt.  Certainly good marriages do.  But how many women can truthfully say that their mothers-in-law make their marriages easier instead of harder?  Not sure how I got this lucky, but thank God for it.  I hope I manage to be half as good to my sons' wives as she is to me!

*****
ETA: For anyone who may be wondering, she has no idea that this blog exists.  


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Snow Day

Winter's here. Bloody hell.

Husband worked from home because the commute would have been a mess and a half. Kids' school was cancelled today.  I was stuck in the house all day and I HATE being stuck in the house all day.

On the bright side, the house is now decorated for Christmas except for the tree, which we haven't picked out from the tree farm yet.  I baked a batch of gingerbread cookies, a batch of pumpkin bars, and a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread and made the kids waffles for breakfast from scratch.  And I managed to get the address labels printed for the Christmas cards and a lot of the envelopes labeled and stuffed.

Still on track with the plan to get stuff done early this year. The goal is to *not* be a raging bitch for the entire month of December because I'm a stressed-out lunatic!  So far, so good.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Heartbreaker

Petunia has a longtime admirer.  He's a determined little guy and will be quite a catch in eight or ten years: he's handsome, bright, athletic and from a nice family.  Unfortunately for him, he keeps announcing that he has a crush on her, and she has absolutely no idea how to handle this!  He did it again at school today.  She likes him well enough, but has no romantic interest...that appears to be reserved for a friend and classmate of Thing Two's (an older man!!), based on her frequent unprovoked comments about how much she doesn't like him.  Ah, the drama of elementary school romance.

At least unrequited love is a little easier to deal with...her father was unamused two years ago when she came home from school one day and announced that she was engaged to a boy in her kindergarten class!  This one's going to run us a merry dance.




 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Oh Well

I wasn't supremely vested in the whole NaBloPoMo thing, but I had managed a post a day until yesterday.  Just didn't happen and that's ok.  Great day otherwise, though...finally made my expedition to the swamp with the other crazy cachers and it was a BLAST!  30 degrees, wind, ice, mud and brambles everywhere...believe it or not, eight of us willingly chose to do this together on a freezing day and every one was highly educated, over the age of 40 and (apparently) certifiably nuts.  :)  We found everything we looked for, laughed a lot, fell down a few times, and walked about three miles total through the swamp while bundled up in hip or chest waders...an experience for the books overall, for sure.  Kind of like climbing Mt. Everest because it's there.  The most amazing thing was that one woman in the group is 74 and another guy is rapidly approaching 70, and they kept up with the rest of us in a minefield of ice, fallen branches, and knee-deep muck.  I want to be like them when I grow up, no joke!






Friday, November 21, 2014

High Praise

Longer-term readers may recall that I've been coaching some of my kids' basketball teams for three or four years now, and that last year I was a head coach for the first time. The only female coach, too, head or otherwise.  I had the occasional run-in with male egos, but not many, and the two guys who helped out as assistants with my team were both great.  

Fast-forward to today.  This year's season is gearing up, and some planning-type messages have recently gone out.  Got an email from one of last year's assistants this morning: "Are you taking a team this year?  My son wants you to be his coach again and I'll be happy to come back as the assistant."

From a guy??  About as good as it gets. 


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Introvert In Sheep's Clothing

Read something interesting today.  Don't remember the exact words, but the gist was that you can't necessarily tell an introvert from an extrovert by how they behave around people: an introvert can be plenty talkative when need be.  What makes the difference is where they recharge their 'batteries'...for the extrovert, being around people does the trick, while the true introvert needs time alone.

By this definition, I'm an introvert, always have been.  I remember being a little kid and going voluntarily to my room to read quietly for a while every day after school.  Even now, as outgoing as I generally am, I hit a threshold of contact with people after which I need to go be by myself for a while...there's only so much I can take even of people I genuinely love before I need a few minutes of quiet to regroup.  The really funny thing is that I decided to marry Himself in part because he's one of the few people I've ever known that I don't need to 'escape' from...maybe because he's an introvert too and can just sit quietly with me!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Three Days

Three whole days: that's how long we had between the end of the fall soccer season and the beginning of winter basketball season.  We had the final three soccer games on Sunday (blowout wins for Thing Two and Petunia, a tie for Thing One) and an evening of blessed peace on Tuesday, which would normally be a soccer practice night, but basketball starts tomorrow.

At least it's indoors...I think the high here *might* have reached freezing today.  Ugh.  I'm SO grateful that I don't live in Buffalo or wherever the hell just got six feet of snow in one dump.  Ye gods.  I'm not ready for either winter or winter sports yet.  How about some fall without fall sports in it??


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

So Far, So Good

So, Thing One rocked his first marking period of middle school.  Straight As, all 9 subjects!  This with minimal academic supervision from me AND while playing on two soccer teams at once.  Kid is on a roll in middle school and I couldn't be happier for him.  He's still feeling his way through a lot of the social stuff, especially everything that relates to girls, but he has academics, sports and a good posse of buddies going for him and he'll eventually figure the rest of it out.  One step at a time!


Monday, November 17, 2014

'Tis The Season

The stores are in a full-court press for the holidays, commercials involving Santa and snow are all over the TV dial, some radio stations are playing nothing but holiday music 24-7, and there are even houses around me already bedecked with icicle lights and reindeer and inflatable monstrosities.  To all of which I say: "Bah, humbug."


Christmas used to be my favorite holiday before I became the person responsible for making it happen: the shopping, the wrapping, the baking, the cooking, the decorating, the hosting, etc.  All of this while still doing all my normal jobs, mind: I wish the laundry and vacuuming and mom-the-taxi-ing and lunch-packing and the like would conveniently disappear during the holiday rush, but no such luck.  My mood starts getting surly around mid-November and woe to anyone who sings a Christmas carol in my house!  Not a great way to be, I freely admit, but the sorry truth.

This year, I've decided to do a few things differently and see if it helps a little.  I deliberately chose not to be a class parent, since that poor soul has to coordinate teacher gifts and holiday parties in December.  I'm going to simplify my decorating: we'll see if the world comes to an end if every decoration in my basement isn't put out.  And I'm trying to avoid some of the last-minute rush that always proves to be the icing on the cake of my grumpiness...as I mentioned, I ordered the holiday cards yesterday, today I brought up the decorations, and hopefully I'll start getting some of them put up this weekend.  If all I have to do is shop, wrap and mail cards by Thanksgiving, I'll be in better shape than usual, at least.

It can't be just me, can it?  Surely some others reading this have at least mixed feelings about the winter holidays??  If not, maybe I'll just try hibernating next year.  At least I'd get more sleep!




 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hallelujah

November 16th and the Christmas cards already ordered!!!!  Trying to spread out the holiday stressors a bit more than usual this year.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Joys Of Country Living

Himself saw a mouse behind the TV cabinet in the family room tonight. Damn and blast.  Cold weather always brings them inside.  Peanut-butter traps deployed: hoping for some small-scale mouse genocide.  đŸ˜«


Friday, November 14, 2014

Girl Trouble

Thing One came home today grumbling that he doesn't understand sixth grade girls. I gather from the conversation that followed that one of his buddies got dumped today and that the buddy was dumped in favor of a specimen of much lesser worth in Thing One's eyes. He's come to the conclusion that the girls care only about looks and it's depressing him.  He's not a bad looking kid, but his best friend wouldn't call him hot.  I had to explain that it might be a few years yet before the girls learn to look beyond the superficial and that it's worth the wait.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

36 Degrees And Raining

Miserable, damp cold.  The only way to combat it is to turn on lots of lights and cook warm, filling things that make the house smell good.  Tonight's list: spaghetti sauce with peas and prosciutto, a coffee cake, apple strudel, two pizzas and a partridge in a pear tree.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Things You Never Thought You'd Say To Your Children, Part 652

"Stop playing with my normal cell and put it back in the prop box!"

(The "normal cell" in question being the blue ball from the photo below...the orange ball was my cancer cell.)


Gave my talk on new cancer therapies to the eighth graders today, all three classes of them.  I was teaching pretty much the whole time from 10:30-1:30, and I now have a new respect for middle school teachers.  How in the world do you present the same material to every one of your classes multiple times a day, every day, year in and year out?  I've certainly given talks before, but never the same talk three times in a row on one day.

My biggest concern was the level at which I was speaking.  It's tough to target that age group in science: oversimplifications bore and insult them, but it's hard to get much below the 30,000 foot mark in Biology without things getting grad-school level pretty quickly.  I did the best I could with that, even bouncing some of my slides off Thing One ahead of time as a gauge.  He's only in sixth grade, but he's a bright, science-focused sixth grader...figured if he understood what I was saying, the older kids would.  As it happened, the kids seemed to be able to follow the talk and the teacher was happy with it...guess the acid test will be whether he invites me back to give it again next year!  We'll see.  At the very least, I'm glad to have it over with for the time being...I've been stressing about that for a good two weeks now.

*******

In other news,  the most recent sign that the apocalypse is nigh came from Thing One, who bounded off the school bus and informed me cheerfully that the next middle school dance will be in December and that formal clothing is required.   He wants to go. (!)  And is planning to wear dress pants, dress shoes, a nice shirt, and A TIE. (!!)  This from the kid who fusses about wearing a collared shirt to church!




Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day

It's a big day around here.  Today marks the start of our fourth year with our beloved dog--hard to believe she came to us from the rescue three full years ago.  It's also, as it happens, the eleventh anniversary of our move into this house.  I've lived here longer than anywhere else in my life by about five years now, which is pretty wild.  Not at all what I'd planned, but oh well.  Man makes plans and God laughs, isn't that how the saying goes?

On a much more important note, today is Veteran's Day in the US, the day on which we honor our current and former service members.   Reprinting the following from two years ago.


Four of my husband's cousins, two of his uncles, and one aunt are Army veterans.  An additional cousin is still on active duty in the Army Infantry.  Both of his parents are civilians who worked for the Army until retirement, and his grandfather was in the Coast Guard.  His best friend is a Lt. Colonel in the Marines, a helicopter pilot.  On my side, two uncles and an aunt are also veterans--two Air Force, one Army.  We take Veteran's Day seriously around here.


Honoring all current and former service members today.  The four-legged ones too.



It is the soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.
It is the soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

--Charles Michael Province, U.S. Army

(Copyright Charles M. Province, 1970, 2005. 
All rights reserved.)





  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Cross-Eyed

After a normally crazy Monday (with, sadly, Himself out of town yet again) I ended the evening with preparation for my lecture to the eighth graders, which I found out today will be on Wednesday, three classes more or less in a row.  Talk about a baptism by fire!  Props are done, PowerPoint presentation is done, not much else I can do.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

We're Growing Some Kind Of Puppy Here

Thing One needed new basketball shoes, so we went shopping yesterday.  Kid is eleven years old and now wears a men's size 9.5 shoe, which is ridiculous...my dad wears 14s, so we know where he gets it, but still.  Dad is 6'4" to Thing One's maybe 5'2"...either the kid will eventually grow into his feet or we'll send him to clown school!


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Work In Progress

Raw materials for my lecture to the 8th graders.


Raw materials in slightly less raw form, although not finished yet.


Can't you see ligands and receptors and conjugated toxins in that second picture??   Trying to put together some visuals to help the kids see how targeted cancer therapies work.  Got my PowerPoint presentation mostly done too.  Happily so, since it's been a long time since I had to put a presentation together. 

Spent some time cooking today as well...had to do SOMETHING with the 50 pounds of apples in my kitchen from apple-picking yesterday!  Made a big batch of applesauce and an apple crumble, along with a pot roast and a loaf of bread.  My house hasn't smelled this good in years!






Friday, November 7, 2014

Dorkin' Out Over Here

About a month ago, I showed up a few minutes early to collect Thing One from a school soccer practice and met the school's 7th and 8th grade science teacher, who also has a child on the team.  I mentioned that I thought his curriculum was great (I reviewed it last fall in my school board capacity) and we got to chatting about the subject material he covers. When he found out that my professional background is in cancer research his eyes lit up, since his eighth graders do a cancer unit: before I knew it I had agreed to come in and teach a class for all three sections of his eighth graders.

Their cancer unit is pretty basic: what is the disease, what causes it, how the standard treatments (surgery, chemo, radiation) work.  I borrowed a textbook so I could get a sense of what they will know by the time I get in there and at what level of detail.  The really awesome thing is that I get to take the next step from their book, and explain how all the newer targeted anticancer therapies work: the vaccines, the biologicals, the gene therapy, etc.  I only have a 43-minute class period for each section and I have NO idea how to condense even a superficial view of the massive coolness that is this subject area into that limited amount of time at an 8th grade level, but my goal is to figure it out this weekend.

Love this stuff.  Science is just so damned fascinating...I was lucky enough to have biology teachers in my freshman and junior years of high school who lit a fire under me, and I'll be ridiculously happy if I can do that for even one kid myself.  Call it karmic payback!

  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Whiplash

Thing Two has always been my wild-card child, the one with definite opinions as to How The World Should Be that don't necessarily conform to convention, shall we say.  As an example of this, for the past year he has adamantly and categorically forbidden me to accompany his school classes on any field trips.  Stings a little, but at least the other two still want me along, and some battles just aren't worth fighting. I suspect he feels that if I come along it would be to 'help' him in some capacity, and he's a proud child who's had it up to his ears with help.  I can respect that. So it came as a bit of a shock to me last week when he broke down in tears on the morning of a class trip because I was NOT going to be accompanying them.  Go figure.

Yesterday, he came home with the permission form for yet another trip.  He took it out of his backpack, handed it to me and told me that he wanted me to be sure to come along this time. I have no idea whatsoever what caused his thinking on this subject to change so dramatically, but I'll take it: Things For Which I Am Grateful, #2.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

And For The Low, Low Price Of Only $50...

You could have bought this outfit for Halloween.  It's called the Delicious Women's Phd Darling Sexy Costume.


Apparently "Delicious" is the name of the company that makes it and not an attribute of the costume, although you could be forgiven the assumption...looks like it might be stocked next to the edible underwear at Frederick's!  Bet I'd have earned my Ph.D. a lot quicker if I had one of those, but at least I know how to capitalize and punctuate the abbreviation...some small consolation.  ☺️

If you want a few minutes of entertaining reading, click through to the link above...some of the reviews are really funny.  I'm too tired tonight to go off on a rant about the objectification of women in Halloween costumes in general and this one in particular, so I'm choosing to be amused instead...please take the rant as stipulated!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

It's Official...

Three more years. The votes are in, and I have been reelected to our school board.  The results weren't close, for which I am both humbled and grateful.  Taking that as a vote of confidence going into term #2!  Never saw myself as the politico type (quite the reverse, actually), so it's odd to see my name on the same ballot as senatorial candidates' names and be vying for an elected office.  There's no personal power or glory in being on a school board but the opportunity to make a difference for the kids is front and center every day, and I'll proudly take my oath again come January.



Monday, November 3, 2014

Things For Which I Am Grateful #1

Thought about doing the NaBloPoMo thing again this year but decided against it.  Don't feel like having to write something every day just for the sake of writing every day.  That said, it is November, the month in which we traditionally give thanks for the people and things in our lives that make us happy, and since I can be a cantankerous, crabby old buzzard, I figure it can't hurt me to focus on my blessings for a month or so.

Without further ado, I give you blessing #1: Thing One, my sweet, beloved space cadet of a son, has finally pulled his socks up and taken responsibility for his own schoolwork this year.  His grades (test, quiz, homework, the whole shebang) are all available online through the school's parent network now that he's in middle school.  Once I realized that, very early in the year, I called him over to my iPad, showed him what I can see and asked him to please not make me micromanage him.  His grades are good, his teachers are happy, he's bringing the right stuff to and from school, and I have absolutely nothing to do with any of that...I'm so far from helicoptering him that I'm not even at the same airport!  With two younger ones who still need lots of help and attention, having the eldest well on the road to self-sufficiency is a big deal indeed.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Holy Crap On A Cracker

Thing Two SCORED A GOAL today.  He hasn't scored in a game since he left his Rec soccer team for the travel team last December, y'all.  This is huge.

Left to the head coach's devices, the kid would play goalie for the whole game, every game.  Given that this coach is himself a goalie, this could be construed as a compliment, and it probably is.  Kid is pretty good and he gets better with every week's training.  That said, as parents we aren't thrilled with the idea of a nine year-old getting compartmentalized so early, so we've asked the coach to play him in other positions as well, which unfortunately in practice means that he plays a half in goal and then another quarter on defense...tough positions from which to score.  God love the child, but defense is not his strong suit...even his nonprofessional Rec coaches alternated him between goalie and forward.  I have no idea why the current trainer/coach thinks he should be a defender but neither of the assistant coaches see it either...they sneak him in at forward for a few minutes whenever the head guy misses a game!

Anyway, today he had a good first half in goal and it was tied 0-0 at halftime.  By the time the fourth quarter was winding down, they'd scored twice on our backup goalie and we'd scored once.  I looked up from my watch and Thing Two was coming back into the game as a forward...I noted in disbelief that the head coach was still there.  Then I watched with my mouth open as Thing Two took a pass from a teammate, dribbled it coolly and methodically a third of the way down the field and then jammed it into the net for the tying goal!

The end-of-game whistle blew within 30 seconds of that shot, no joke.  Kid walked off that field with a smile as big as I've ever seen plastered across his mug and if I could have cartwheeled with joy, I would have.



Saturday, November 1, 2014

Best Kind Of Day

45 degrees and raining sideways.  Yeah, really!

All our activities for today were cancelled.  At 5PM, I took my shower for the day, changing from one set of pajamas into another set of pajamas.  Fire in the fireplace, chicken and dumplings for dinner.  Love it!  Now settling down on the big sofa to watch the ND-Navy game in peace and quiet.




Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I Must Be Out Of My Cotton-Picking Mind

Planning a caching trip with three friends.  The Saturday before Thanksgiving.  In a swamp.  Requiring the solving of 12 miserable nasty puzzles beforehand to get the necessary coordinates (done over the summer) and high boots or hip waders to attempt. We are going to freeze solid. I can't believe there are three other people (otherwise sensible, rational, highly-educated adults) who are actually excited about doing this and I CAN'T WAIT.  To each his own form of insanity!


Saturday, October 25, 2014

One Way Or Another

Friends of ours had a big Halloween party at their house this afternoon, complete with a giant inflatable slide for the kids, a crazy haunted house in the basement (the husband is a movie cameraman--the behind-the-scenes tour was scary enough for me!), a costume contest, and a cake walk.  Guests were asked to bring a treat for the cake walk and I baked a caramel apple cake.  Thing One saw it cooling on the counter last night when he came home from the dance and was *very* annoyed that it was for the party and not our family.

Not to be deterred, he entered the cake walk at the party, and when he won the chance to choose from a table that was absolutely groaning with treats of every sort, he picked my cake and proudly carried it back to our car!  One determined boy right there...cracked me up.

 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Update

He is home.  He survived.  He felt way out of his comfort zone (and said as much) but he's proud of himself for going even when his best friend bailed and I told him that I was proud of him for that too.  He found a group of his other friends and had fun with them, steering clear of the girls all night but that's ok.  No surprise there.  He saw a lot of drama and gave it a wide berth.

When he started talking about what he'd wear to the next dance (a collared shirt! ye gods!), I knew he'd turned the corner.  Hopefully he can talk his friend into coming then as well.  And my little boy gets just a bit bigger before my eyes.




Hell Freezes Over

(An outstanding Eagles album, by the way.)

I was going to title this post "You Couldn't Pay Me Enough Money To Go Back To Middle School" but it seemed a bit too unwieldy.

Our middle school is grades 6-8, and since the school is small all three grades have their dances together.  The sixth grade boys in particular are having a difficult time with the idea of dances...the girls by and large are fine with it.  Just about every sixth grade girl attended the first one, but I think maybe 8 or 10 of the boys, if that many.   Thing One categorically refused to even think about it and I didn't push him.

Then, a week or so ago, he came home and informed me that he had to stay after school today to help decorate for the second dance because he is his homeroom's class rep, which is a student council position.  I gather that the student council puts on the dances.  He then hastened to add that he wasn't GOING to the dance, he was just DECORATING for it.  Ok, whatever.  There was another activity tonight he wanted to do with some of his buddies and that was the plan until Thursday morning, when I got a text from a friend informing me that her son (one of Thing One's best friends, and another of the anti-dance holdouts) was actually considering attending.  Seems critical mass of friends from the group had been attained, and the tide had shifted.  Thing One suddenly did a 180 on the idea, and I was scrambling at the last minute trying to find the permission slip on the school website, print it and get it signed so he could bring it in.  Again, whatever.  My friend offered to pick Thing One up from school, take him to her house to play and then bring both boys to the dance together, so I planned to take my younger two out to dinner and then to a family taekwondo class.  (And oh, the drama of the discussions as the older boys tried to figure out what to wear!)

Thing One was pacing around like a caged lion this morning...sheer nerves.  I told him that he didn't have to get near a girl if he didn't want to and that seemed to help a little.  Texted my friend after school and the boys seemed ok...they were playing football in her yard.  Got my younger two fed, walked into the dojo, and I get another text: my son's buddy is so nervous that he's refusing to leave the house!  I'm with the other two kids half an hour away, so my friend now has to take my son to a dance that her son is no longer attending.  Fortunately, she lives close to school, but I wasn't taking any bets on what Thing One would do without his wingman.  Texted her again after class...Thing One did actually still want to go, and she dropped him off without incident.  Go figure.  He's not home yet...you better believe I'll be interested to hear how it went.

It's not that he thinks girls have cooties or anything...he never did.  He's just not emotionally ready to deal with any sort of relationship drama.  I wasn't at his age either, so I totally get it.  He sees some of that going on around him with a few of his older friends and wants absolutely no part of it!  I think he'll have fun with his buds if he goes, so I was happy that he decided to give it a shot, but believe me...he's growing up fast enough for me already without throwing girls into the mix.  I'm not dealing with him getting older much better than he is!



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Update from The Trenches

Thirteen of the sixteen days of my husband's business trip have now passed and all three kids are still alive and in good shape.  This is a major achievement since it is a challenge to keep up with them and maintain patience even when both of us are in town and the extended single-parent thing is NOT my preferred state of being.

It's been a crazy week, and unfortunately, rainy for the last couple of days.  Fall is here--morning chill, the occasional frost on the grass and bright leaves on the deciduous trees with it.  Soon enough those trees will be brown and bare, but these few colorful weeks are my favorite of the year.  I've been trying to get out as much as I can when the weather cooperates.  Monday I went for a nine-mile hike with the dog and tomorrow I will probably be out most of the day as well.

There's a tradition in geocaching that when you are approaching a 'milestone' number of caches, you try to find a difficult or interesting cache to grab to get you to that number, not just a run-of-the-mill light post or guardrail cache.  As it happens, I am only a few shy of 1500 finds now and my most frequent caching partner is rapidly approaching 1000, so we put our heads together and decided on a miserable nasty group of puzzle caches about 30 miles away for a joint milestone run.  I've been locked in the office for the last three evenings banging my head against the wall accordingly, but between us we figured out two more puzzles than we need and hopefully tomorrow's hunting will be successful.  This my major brain exercise...for example, in the course of just a few of these puzzles I figured out how to translate Navajo code-talking, the Monk's Cipher and Braille; deciphered a difficult cryptogram comprised entirely of symbols, and found coordinates buried in the source code of one image and hidden on the backs of rapidly moving insects in another image.  Never a dull moment, intellectually speaking.

Also this week: received the first stripe on my Red belt.  Here we go again...the progression to Senior Red officially begins!  I probably have at least six months to go before the next test, anyway.  

I have to share one of the better laughs I've had this week.  If you are a fan of the old Abbott and Costello "Who's On First" routine and are even vaguely familiar with classic rock, you should like this! 




For your amusement, here's the Abbott and Costello routine, too.


Peace out.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Saturday and Sunday By The Numbers

Husbands out of town: 1
Soccer practices: 1
Birthday parties: 1
Soccer games: 6 (!!!!!)
Away soccer games: 4
Games actually played by my children: 6
Number of games I was able to attend: 4
Games played by my children only through the kind graces of friends who helped with logistics: 2
Sleepovers: 1 (see note above regarding logistics)
Goals scored by Petunia: 2
Goals scored by Thing One: 1
Goals saved by Thing Two: lost count (he had three games and he was on a ROLL)
Football games narrowly lost by my beloved team: 1
Number of peaceful hours at home: 0
Hours of sleep: not enough
Reserves of patience: utterly depleted
Exhausted moms: 1

Good night...




Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mama's Still Got It

The bookends of my day: sunrise over my front yard and sunset over the parking lot of the park where Thing Two's soccer tournament was held today.



I've been trying to practice mindfulness and decided to stop to enjoy the beauty instead of rushing through it.

Thing Two's team played two games this afternoon, narrowly losing the first and winning the second 4-2.  Thing Two had (no exaggeration) the game of his life at goalie in that second game...he played the whole game and he was making saves like I've never seen him do before.  In keeping with the Halloween theme, the whole team played almost as if possessed...every single kid left his heart out there on that field and the game was just a joy to watch, even though it was bloody cold out there by 6PM when it ended!  Brrr.

Got Thing One's ice cube costume mostly done, too, speaking of cold: envision two large clear plastic storage boxes with holes drilled into them and rope strung through so that they can be hung over the shoulders in front and back and tied at the sides to keep them in place.  I did take a picture but the getup looked so ridiculous over his travel soccer uniform (he had a game today as well) that I refuse to post it here!  I will post a picture when I can get him in all-white clothes underneath the boxes, as is the plan for Halloween.

Why the title?  After soccer and dinner, Thing Two and Petunia challenged me to a round of Just Dance 4 on the Wii, and I actually got the high score on most of the songs even though they play this game all the time and it was new to me.  Of course, this is a triumph born far more of my superior pattern recognition abilities (one benefit of age!) than actual dance skill, but I'm not telling THEM that.  :)

Oh, and I haven't lost my mind yet, either...had my doubts looking at the schedule for today.  I'll celebrate that too.

Day is done, peace out.

Mama D

  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

She's Crafty

Each year, the third grade teachers give each kid a mini-pumpkin and an assignment to decorate it any way they see fit (a creative writing project centering on their decorated pumpkin follows.)  When Thing One was in third grade, he decorated his to look like his then-current pair of soccer cleats.  Thing Two, being quite the little gamer, decided that he wanted to make his into an Angry Birds bomb bird.

There is no way in the world that I am handing any nine year-old a can of black spray paint for any reason, so I took care of creating the blank canvas while he was at school today.  After soccer practice, we took out the glue gun, a pair of googly eyes, a red pipe cleaner, and two yellow puffballs and he got to work.  What do you think: a pretty good resemblance??


Next up: Thing One's Halloween costume.  He wants to be an ice cube, of all things.  I have all the materials and will post a picture when I get his outfit put together.  This child is a fan of the unconventional where Halloween is concerned: last year he dressed up as Albert Einstein; wig, lab coat and all.  If I don't remember in my next post, remind me to tell you about the year he wanted a Saturn (as in the planet) costume!

 





Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

This made me laugh today.


Two days down of my fortnight of single parenting (with the hellacious weekend in the middle still to come*) and I'm already starting to twitch a little.  I can deal with the after-school craziness alone since I do that every day anyway--bedtime is what's getting to me.  By the end of the day I've generally had it, so Himself handles the bulk of the bedtime routine...it seems like a cruel joke that after all the usual craziness I'm now also dealing with pajamas and toothbrushing and bedtime meds and dirty clothes all over the floor etcetcetc.  Yes, he is gone for work, and legitimately, but GROWL.  I have NO idea how single parents do this day in and day out without completely losing their gourds...full props from me!


*Only Murphy's Law could be responsible for there being SIX soccer games scheduled for those two days, including two games on Saturday at 5PM in different counties and two games on Sunday at 1PM in different counties.  Bloody hell.



Monday, October 13, 2014

Walk A Mile In My Shoes

... by 8AM, apparently.

I've often wondered just how far I walk in a day, especially those days when I'm out hiking for hours on end in the woods looking for caches.  GPS-based apps like MapMyRun work well, but they burn a lot of phone battery life, and if I'm away from a power source for hours on end I need to conserve my phone battery.  It turned out that Himself had a pedometer at work that he wasn't using--a freebie from the company health services or some such--and he brought it home for me.  Of course, it just measures number of steps taken, not distance, and there is a bit of wiggle room in its accuracy, but as a rough indicator it works fine and gives me some idea of where I am relative to the 10,000-step days that are apparently a standard goal.

I've messed around with it a little and it seems to be reasonably accurate, but I'd never managed to remember to wear it for a full day before.  I grabbed it from my nightstand around 6:30 this morning when I got up and clipped it to the waistband of my PJ pants.  By the time the kids got on the bus at 8:10, the device was registering more than 1000 steps!  

Later in the day, I took the dog for a walk, a lap of the walking trail at a nearby park that happens to measure just about exactly one mile. For giggles, I looked at the pedometer as I started and stopped the lap and noticed that this lap took me a little over 1000 steps as well.  Hard to believe that I could be walking the better part of a mile inside my house while cooking breakfast and getting the kids ready for school, but such appears to be the case...crazy.  And the daily total: north of 16,000 steps and still climbing since I haven't gone to bed yet.  Sedentary, I am not!




Friday, October 10, 2014

On The Other Hand...

I've written a lot lately about how well Thing Two is doing academically.  It's fabulous...he's finally making up some ground.  That said, he's also going through a rough patch right now behaviorally.  Mostly with me, thank God (in the sense that I'd rather him be a raging asshole to me than his teacher, for example) but it gets really old.  Yeah, I understand that I'm a safe place for him to vent and all that shit because he knows that I will love him no matter what, but FUCK it all, I'm done dealing with it.  Kid is giving me whiplash lately with the mood swings and he hasn't even hit puberty yet.  And clearly he does have some control with it, because he only pulls this stuff at home.

He actually took off his backpack and threw it on the way up to the house from the bus today because he was pissed off about having to go to the library before picking Thing One up at soccer.  Fortunately, he tossed it onto the lawn and not at somebody, I will give him that much credit.  And he was immediately penitent, so much so that I was sad to have to follow through with my decision not to take the kids out to dinner as a result of this tantrum...not sure what else to call it.  We'll try again tomorrow. I will say in my own defense that I did not raise my voice at any point and that this may have been one of my crowning achievements as a mother to date, since I REALLY wanted to lose my shit.

Himself is out of town now, and will be gone more or less straight for about two weeks between the trip he's on now and an upcoming business trip.  We'll see how this stretch of single parenthood goes. If any of you are so inclined, I'd greatly appreciate some prayers for patience!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hope

Thing Two really got screwed by the genepool.  He's just as smart as his sister and brother, but his language processing whammy means that he has to work much harder than they do for the same results in school.  It's both exhausting and demoralizing for the poor kid.  It's taken some doing to convince him that he isn't stupid--I don't think we've entirely succeeded, either--and it doesn't help that both of his siblings merrily traipse off to G&T at school while his pullouts are for speech and social therapy.

So, it was a very pleasant surprise when I received the email from his homeroom teacher on Tuesday afternoon.  "The class is due to take the Chapter 2 math test on Friday, but he's clearly very comfortable with the concepts and I'd like to give him the test tomorrow and then extension work for the rest of the week if that's OK with you."  Um, let me think about that for a second...YES PLEASE.  (And while I'm at it, thank you for noticing that he's really good at math so quickly.  And for being so proactive about it.  Clearly you're seeing more than a very wiggly kid with an IEP when you look at my son, and bless you for it.)

He duly took the test on Wednesday, and it hasn't come home yet so I have no idea how he did.  However, the math homework that he brought home today was a whole different animal from what I've been seeing to date: reasoning-based and multi-step.  (Any educators reading this will recognize the influence of the PARCC standards, I suspect.)  I had to walk through the first problem with him, but after that he was gone...he grabbed that ball and ran with it.  And he was proud of himself for earning the "hard" homework, too.  It sure as hell wasn't from their regular textbook, wherever it came from.

A few years ago, Thing Two had an incredible preschool teacher who almost single-handedly dragged him out from behind the eight-ball: she spent hours and hours of her own time coming up with activities and resources targeted specifically to his needs and the progress he made in her care was nothing short of remarkable.   Maybe third grade will be another of those years for him...dare I believe that he's been gifted with the same sort of teacher again?





  
               


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I Want Better For You Than That

We drove past some boys practicing football after school today.  Petunia associates football with cheerleaders (cute uniforms and sparkly pompoms going over well with the little-girl set, as they do) and predictably, asked whether she could be a cheerleader yet.

I have nothing against cheerleading per se, and would even go so far as to call it a sport.  Those girls work hard, they take a lot of physical risks, and it legitimately takes serious skills to execute some of those maneuvers.  No doubt.

BUT.

I want my girl to be on the field playing, not on the sidelines cheering for a bunch of boys while their activity is the main attraction.  That just sends the wrong message to girls in my opinion: "You guys can be decorative and entertaining on the sidelines during lulls in our manly action."

Which is why my answer to her question is always, "No."


Monday, October 6, 2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014

My Boy, My Boy

As if it weren't obvious from my last few posts, I'm having a very hard time with the fact that my eldest is in middle school already.  He's only eleven, but I can see so clearly that he is only a few years from gone, and it is just killing me.  It isn't that I love him more than my other two children, really: I just love him a little differently because he was my first baby.  My husband doesn't understand that, but perhaps somebody else reading this will.

At any rate, the universe is clearly trying to tell me something, since reminders that he is growing up are hitting me in the face left and right this week.  Today, it was the friend who saw him for the first time in several months and commented to me that he is turning into a fine young man.  He is, it's true, and it beats all the alternatives I can think of, but I (perhaps selfishly) have a hard time hearing it.

My gut said to grab him and run away, and kindly, Himself let me.  We had a few free hours this afternoon, and since I so rarely have one-on-one time with him, we picked up a few caches together and then grabbed frozen yogurt on the way home.  Nothing special, not even that many caches, just a quiet afternoon together.  Me and my boy.


Friday, October 3, 2014

If THAT Isn't A Scary Thought, I Don't Know What Is

I mentioned a few days ago that Petunia was testing for her green belt in taekwondo, which she did, successfully and with fierceness.  For someone so young and cute, she is quite the little ninja; determined, focused and diligent in her training.

Besides the fact that this promotion makes our after-school schedule simpler, earning a green belt is a big deal in our system.  This is the level at which you are considered advanced enough to require sparring gear, and it also brings with it the right to wear the coveted black uniform pants of the higher-ranked (all ranks below green belt wear the white pants of the beginner.)

All of this goes some way toward explaining why I spent the better part of my Friday evening hemming black gi pants.  There was no way I was buying her a teeny new pair of black pants that would be quickly outgrown: what made far more sense given that all three of my children study taekwondo and grow like weeds was buying a new pair of black pants for my biggest sprout and passing each of the two current pairs down one child.  And this (to finally bring me to the point here!) is how my eldest ended up standing on one of my kitchen chairs just now while I pinned a hem into his new pants.

From his position six or eight inches over my head, he joked that I needed to get used to the height difference since he'd probably be that much taller than me when he's done growing!  It flashed into my mind that I'll probably be looking up at him in exactly the same way during the mother-son dance at his wedding, and as a shot to the gut, that one was tough to take.




Thursday, October 2, 2014

Acceptance

The crazy logistics of my afternoon (with which I will not bore you) dictated that I would arrive at Thing One's school soccer practice about 15 minutes before he was due to be picked up.  As I idly watched the drill they were running--something involving keeping track of which small teams made more of their shots on goal than the rest--it became clear that he was doing pretty well on his turns, burying the ball in a corner of the net more often than not.  It happened that he was the last man standing on his team and made his final shot for a team win, after which he was mobbed by the others in his group, every one a seventh or eighth grader to his sixth and two of them captains.  His grin lit up the field and my heart melted.

Monday, September 29, 2014

It's A Miracle

Petunia received her red stripe tonight, meaning that she is now eligible to test for her next taekwondo belt, which is Green.  This month's ceremony happens to be tomorrow evening (along with two soccer practices) so we'll have a bit of a last-minute logistical scramble, but it's well worth it. Why?

Kids who have achieved the rank of Green or higher all take class together.  My boys are both already in this class: Thing Two's belt is Senior Green and Thing One's is Blue.  Once Petunia gets her Green belt, she will move up from her current class to their class, and all three of them will be done with class in 45 minutes instead of 90 (her current class meets right before theirs.)  This transition will mark the first time in the history of our family that the after-school schedule actually got LESS complicated and time-consuming!!  Hallelujah.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

NOT A Labor Of Love

Call it a labor of avoiding embarrassment, if anything.

My mother-in-law is coming this afternoon and staying the night so that Himself and I can take Thing One to his first college football game...she'll be watching the younger two.  Spent the morning cleaning my house, since as much as I love my MIL and as easygoing as she is, I refuse to have my house be filthy when she visits!  Or when anyone visits, for that matter. It's a pride thing. 

Problem is that I am the only member of my family who gives the tiniest flying crap if anything is clean or tidy.  I am surrounded by slobs, and it gets OLD.  I am the only one in the house who cares if there are clothes on the floor or gobs of toothpaste in the sink or (my personal favorite) pee all around the toilet.  Why should I waste my time worrying about it if they don't??

Of course, things don't get left that way for too long.  Basic health and hygiene (not to mention the ghosts of my neat-freak Italian foremothers) dictate that things get cleaned, and they do. But talk about a Sisyphean waste of time, since they just get dirty again almost immediately.  It's hard not to be resentful, frankly. 

I used to have cleaning ladies back when I worked, and they came with their own set of frustrations, but I'm wondering if I need to look at that again.  Maybe my kids' bathroom floor will piss me off less if somebody else is cleaning it!!  I love my kids dearly, but love is not what I'm feeling while I clean, '50s tropes be damned. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I Don't Blame Her One Bit

Ran into a friend at Thing One's school last night.  In the course of conversation (don't remember how this came up) she told me about a recent day in which her daughter had forgotten a field hockey stick at home and called the mom to bring it to school.  Mom duly brings the stick in, happening to catch girl at lunch.  Girl, apparently embarrassed by mom's appearance in the cafeteria (heaven forbid), gives mom quite a bit of attitude.  Mom, not being the sort who takes nonsense, and who thought a thank-you might have been nice, calls daughter on said attitude right in front of her friends.

This mom has four of the smartest, kindest, best-behaved and most polite kids I know.  (Apparently girl was having a bad day that day, since her behavior was highly uncharacteristic--probably the only reason mom didn't take the stick right back home with her!)  People often tell her how lucky she is to have four great kids, which pisses her off mightily.  As she puts it, she's lucky that they are healthy, but the fact that they are all well-behaved, decent human beings is the result of years of hard work in parenting and she and her husband want the credit they've earned!


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Total Waste (Of Money, And Perhaps Also Air)

As I've mentioned, Thing One is now a middle schooler, which means that he is eligible to play on his middle school's sports teams.  For what I can only assume are liability reasons, students must be examined by their own physician and cleared to play before they can try out for these teams, which seems sensible enough.  You bring a form to the exam, the doctor fills it out, you return it to the school, and Bob's your uncle.

Except he isn't.  Not quite yet, anyway.

Those forms from the kids' doctors?  Those have to go to the school's doctor (not on site; he's retained on contract for this sort of stuff and comes in periodically), and he has to look them over and rubber-stamp them before the kids can play.  Never mind that he has never laid eyes on any one of these kids in his life and wouldn't know them from Adam, and never mind that their OWN doctors cleared them to play...doesn't matter.  The school doc has to approve them too.  And since he was two days late getting back from a business trip and had no covering doc, a third of the kids who wanted to try out for soccer had to sit on the sideline for the first two days of tryouts.  Charming.  Apparently state law requires this nonsense.  (Is it only my state???)

On the third day of tryouts, I called the assistant principal (who is also in charge of middle school sports) and told him very nicely that if Thing One was going to be sitting on the sideline for the third day straight, I would be collecting him right after school and taking him to his piano lesson instead.  Fortunately, that day the doc had finally gotten his ass to school and signed all the forms, so the kid was able to participate for the rest of the week and it wasn't an issue.

So, you may well be asking yourself, why is she bellyaching about this now, when previous posts have already indicated that the kid did make the team (despite missing two of the five tryout days) and is doing well on it?  Good question.

This morning, Thing One dug into his backpack and handed me a pile of sadly crumpled papers, one of which was a form letter from the school doctor confirming that my son is eligible to participate in middle school sports through the 14/15 school year.   This is the second sentence, bold text and all:

"Please be advised that this letter reflects the recommendation of the examining physician, who completed and signed the blahblahblahblah forms submitted to the school on behalf of your son."  So...what this dude is saying is that, although he HAD to review the form before my kid could play, and got paid for it, he's going to pawn the blame for any problems off on the doc who actually examined my kid, since he knows nothing about my kid.  Can somebody please tell me what value this jackass added to the process?

My tax dollars at work.

 




Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Picture Of Determination

The big (big!) round bed came with our dog from the rescue organization.  She loves it dearly and it will be a sad day at our house when it finally needs to be replaced.

Had to vacuum the family room rug yesterday.  As is my habit, I picked her bed up off the floor and balanced it on top of the upholstered tea box that sits next to our entertainment center to get it out of the way of the vacuum cleaner.  However, I forgot to put it back after I was done cleaning, and THIS is what I saw the next time I walked into the family room!

 
Cracked me up.  "Okay, Mom...if that's where you're going to put my bed now, I can roll with it."  Funny dog!



Friday, September 19, 2014

Escape

Watching a show about Spain on the Travel Channel and feeling an almost uncontrollable urge to crawl into my TV, away from the world of backpacks and soccer and domestic drudgery and into an infinitely more appealing one of siestas and tapas and exotic accents.

Then, of course, my husband burst my bubble by pointing out the 24% unemployment rate and ongoing economic protests.  Guess a girl can't even dream anymore!  Time to renew my passport, though...it's been way too long since I used it and there's a lot of the globe yet to see.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Counting My Blessings

The man's comment stopped me in my tracks.  He'd been unlocking his office door as I passed it; he paused to tell me that my smile was beautiful and that it made his day to see a happy woman walking out of the building holding carnations.

One of the bigger breast imaging facilities in town is one floor up from his office.  I was there this morning for my annual mammogram, just a routine checkup.  I hate them with a blinding passion, as do most right-thinking people who dislike pain, but that doesn't mean my butt isn't in there like clockwork once a year anyway.  Every September...a back-to-school gift to myself and my family.  This place does a good job of making an unpleasant experience about as pleasant as it's going to get: among other things, lovely employees, nice warm robes to put over the thin and ugly hospital-gowny shirts, a coffee and tea machine in the lobby, and a bucket of flower bouquets in the changing area.  When your appointment is done, they ask if you'd like to choose a bouquet to take home, a very nice touch.  Anyway, since I had the telltale evidence in my hands, the man knew exactly where I'd been.

He added that he sees a lot of women with flowers passing his office door, many of whom are sobbing, or who break down as soon as they reach their cars or the curb outside.  I was happy to have the whole experience over with and be leaving, but I hadn't taken time to be grateful for my good fortune.

The next time I leave that building, if I am smiling I will NOT take it for granted, I promise you that. Reality check received, loud and clear.

  

 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Good Day For Thing One

So, today he won the election for Homeroom Rep, and also found out that he made his middle school's soccer team as a 6th grader.  Pretty cool.  Of course this means that he will have either a practice or a game right after school every weekday between now and Halloween, followed on Tuesdays and Fridays by his travel team's regular practice.  Good thing he likes soccer: he's going to get a lot of it this fall!

Middle school has a reputation for being tough on a lot of levels.  This kid is starting out with both social and athletic affirmations, though...eases some of the worries in this mother's heart.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sweet Flavor Of Victory

It tastes like vanilla soft-serve ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.

Thing Two's soccer team won a game today for the first time since he started playing travel last December!  His team was egregiously misflighted last spring, so they got killed every game.  No fun for anybody and seriously demoralizing...by the end of the season the only thing getting him into his uniform for games was the promise of going out for lunch or dinner on the way home.  We had to promise to let him play spring rec league baseball too (yes, both sports at once) to even get him to try out for this year's soccer team.  He's a decent player, and we really didn't want that bad experience to be all he got.

Today was the first game of the new season.  Thing Two, God help me, was the goalie for the first three quarters.  He hasn't had much training at the position, but he's the best they've got: he's big and quick and he has absolutely no fear.  (A a side note, from a spectator standpoint I am firmly convinced that the only thing worse than being the mother of the goalie is being the mother of the quarterback, and only because the opposing players in soccer aren't generally trying to kill the goalie on each play.)  Anyway, the kid flat-out rocked it.  Two tough goals got by him but he kept a lot more out.  He had a couple of booming corner kicks in the fourth quarter, too, one of which was tapped in by a teammate for an assist.  When final whistle blew, our boys were up 4-3, and they were absolutely beside themselves with joy.

Of course we stopped for ice cream on the way home...some milestones are meant to be savored!