Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pushing Forward

It was negative 7 degrees outside here when I got up today, and had warmed all the way up (ha) to a whopping negative 4 by the time the kids needed to go out to catch the school bus.  Bloody hell.  Or the opposite, as the case may be, unless hell really is starting to freeze over.  This is the coldest winter we've had in the whole ten years we've lived in this house!  Our driveway is close to 100 yards long and there is no shelter from cold or howling winds at the end of it, where the kids have to wait for their bus.  My general rule is that I will bring them down to the end of the driveway in the car to wait for the bus (or drive down to pick them up off it) if it is raining hard or below twenty degrees outside, since I don't want to stand outside in a downpour or frigid weather either!  We live on a major county highway, so there is no way, at least at this stage of the game, that I would allow the three of them to be at the bus stop alone.  Even accepting that the odds of someone grabbing one of them off the driveway are low, people drive by our house at 60+ miles an hour and one skid on ice or kid goofing around and getting bumped into the road (read: my perpetually-wrestling boys) would be a disaster.

I woke up this morning feeling like I'd been run over by a truck: the dreaded second-day sore muscles after Tuesday night's exertions.  Quads and triceps in particular from all the jumps and pushups; guess we know which muscles need some work.  Himself lifts weights regularly, so last night I asked him to recommend some triceps exercises.  I started laughing right out loud when he started with ones involving barbells (I ask you, would YOU voluntarily try an exercise colloquially known as a "brain-buster??"), but we have a full set of hand weights here as well and he did recommend some employing those instead.

I did go to class this morning.  After Tuesday's experience, I will admit that it took some guts to walk in there, especially knowing that there would be some rehashing of the test going on.  I'd also be lying if I said that the possibility of there being more related girl-drama if I stayed away till next week didn't influence the decision as well!  (And God knows, we need no more of that than we already have going on.)  That said, class went much better than I expected and I had a very useful talk with the instructor afterward.  Since clearly I have a lot of work to do before my next test, and it will be in a completely different format to boot, I asked her what to expect and what I needed to do to prepare for it just to get my head aiming in a productive direction.  She made some very helpful suggestions regarding timing, cardio and pushups: I will have my work cut out for me, no doubt, but at least I have goals in mind now.  And I an NOTHING if not one who sets goals and then aims for them, or (put another way) somebody who figures out the rules of the game as early as possible.

So, all in all, and weather notwithstanding, not as bad a morning as I'd anticipated.  I'll take it.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

On The Brighter Side

Fortunately for me, there is only so much of my own bitching and moaning and pissiness that I can take.  After my little pity party this morning, I decided that I had to get out of the funk and out of the house.  Despite the 20-degree weather (fricking winter) and four inches of powdery snow on the ground, I bundled up and went for a walk.  Two miles of nature trail hiking in snow was enough to get me out of my own head and probably to help with my fitness as well.  Holy aerobic workout, Batman...I might as well have been trying to walk in deep sand.  And since you guys know me well enough to know that I would have picked someplace for exercise that might net me a few caches as well, I am pleased to report that I successfully found all four of the caches I was looking for, snow or no snow, the third of which was my 400th find.  Not too bad for six months of caching with all the other stuff I have going on.

On the way home, I stopped at the county library.  Thing One, my sweet little science geek (and I mean this as a compliment), requested that I get him some books about elements and the periodic table: what mother in her right mind could refuse that request??  It wasn't for a project, either--he's just interested, and all we have at home are old college-level Chemistry texts.  (I emailed his teacher to pass along the compliment, since clearly she's doing a very good job of keeping him excited about science in class.)   While there, I also stopped off to take pictures of some artwork of Petunia's that is currently hanging on a bulletin board in the children's section.

Hers is the one on the top right, and only Godzilla himself could get a close-up of it with how high it is on the wall and the bookshelf in the way, but I'm proud that her artwork was selected for display.  She's our most creative and imaginative child, hands down.  The fact that we have any artistic children at all floors me, since neither Himself nor I are wired that way, but Petunia has been drawing nonstop since she was old enough to hold a crayon.  She's on a roll this month, actually--we also got a note from the art teacher last week saying that another piece of her work has been selected for a separate exhibition (a young artists' showcase) at the county art museum!  There is a formal reception for this on Saturday afternoon, and of course we will all go.

The even more amazing thing, however, is that a piece of Thing One's was also selected for this showcase, a beautiful rendering of a Day of the Dead skull.  Only twenty-five works were chosen from our entire elementary school, and two of the artists are ours!  (Unlikely odds.)  This is the first time in six years that Thing One has had a piece chosen, and I'm hoping that it will serve as a boost to his creative ego, since until now he hasn't thought much of his own ability.

So, even though there is snow on the ground, the sun is shining, I am less growly, and there are still things to be happy about.  Take that, universe.


Well, That Sucked

Yeah, I got my new belt.

But that was the worst test I've had in a long time, possibly ever.  For some reason, I couldn't buy a jump spin kick to save my life last night.  And the technique part of the test was mostly jump spin kicks.  I actually lost my balance and landed flat on my ass on one weak-side (bad knee as pivot foot) kick.  How embarrassing is that as the highest belt testing??  Way to demonstrate my skills.  This particular type of kick is never my strong point to begin with, but last night's display was unusually awful even for me...thank God there weren't too many people there to see it.  That was the only good thing about last night.

We are paired with an instructor for two-thirds of the test, and the one assigned to me was the one I absolutely dread having: the woman who appears to actively take joy in making me feel like a large, clumsy oaf.  (Yes, I know the Eleanor Roosevelt quotation about people making you feel inferior without your consent, but I'm not there yet.)  Walked out of there feeling embarrassed, out of shape and incompetent and then had to go directly to a school board meeting at which the chair was very snippy with me because we have a difference of opinion in connection with some state review results.  I was in truly rare form when I got home last night, so I was glad that it was late enough that Himself  had gone to bed already--did not want to take anything out in his general direction.  Bless the man, he'd gone to sleep on my side of the bed to keep it warm for me, so at least I didn't have to crawl into a freezing bed after my shower, although I did feel bad about having to wake him up to get him to move over.

To add insult to injury, the program head mentioned before my test that this one was the last of the regular tests for me.  Last night's pathetic display notwithstanding, my current belt level is fairly high and I have to undergo a slightly watered-down version of the black belt test to earn my next one.  If last night showed me anything, it showed me that there's no way in hell I can hack that right now, so I have some decisions to make.

Last night, I left my certificate face-down on the kitchen counter and both of my belts in my gym bag.  I didn't feel right about putting the certificate in the frame where I keep all the certificates or the old belt in the display rack.  I also really wanted to skip out on class for the rest of the week.  But when I woke up this morning, I put both belt and certificate where they belong.  I did the best I could, which counts for something.  And my mama didn't raise her no quitters, so I'll be right back there on Thursday morning to put my head down and keep working.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Because I Am Very, Very Stressed Today

I am choosing to focus on the positive.  For example, the fact that I managed to do my nails to be ready for tonight's taekwondo belt test (the source of most of the stress) without totally messing up the black stripes.

My tradition since my very first test has been to paint my nails to match the belt for which I am testing: this one is blue with a black stripe down the center, hence the (French manicure-like) blue and black look.

I'm also happy for the fact that Thing Two launched himself into a seamless back roll (taekwondo-style) when knocked off his feet at soccer last night.  And that I was able to quickly figure out the puzzle that a geocaching friend sent me this morning, which had been eluding him for a while.  And finally, that the sun is actually shining here today, even though it is still fricking cold here (single digits again.)

Went to class this morning just to work out any remaining bugs, then had some errands to do.  Came home to get dinner ready, since Himself will be feeding the kids here while I test.  After my test, I have to go directly to a school board meeting, which will be interesting on several levels.  No more caffeine for me today, though, or I will be bouncing off the walls tonight.

Wish me luck...

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Petunia had a playdate today.  I love absolutely everything about the little girl who came over except (and this is a BIG except) the fact that she is deathly allergic to peanuts.  Considering that peanut butter is a food group as far as my kids are concerned, I live in fear that she will accidentally ingest something containing traces of peanuts (off a utensil or glass or dish that wasn't washed properly?  After touching an imperceptible trace of peanut butter left on the table?) while at my house and end up in the hospital.  I actually chased her mother's car down the driveway today after she was dropped off because I realized that she'd forgotten to leave me an Epi-pen.

This girl happens to have a cousin who is allergic to not only peanuts, but essentially everything else in the universe other than air.  (Yes, I'm exaggerating, but not by much.)  Because the universe lives to spite me, the boy in question is a classmate and good friend of Thing One's.  (Small town small town small town.)  There are so few foods this child can eat that he comes over with a bag of his own food provided by his mother, and I watch the kid like a hawk to make sure that he only eats things from his bag.  His mother leaves me Epi-pens, too.  I do know how to use them, and it's a useful life skill, but being the only thing standing between a kid and death is a little intimidating, especially when it isn't even your own kid!

I have no idea how teachers and school nurses deal with the allergy thing.  Even excluding Thing One's friend, his classmates include kids who are allergic to wheat, dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, soy, and bananas (of all things), and that's just a quick list off the top of my head.  For one class section in his grade, there is literally nothing that the parents can send in for birthday treats other than Popsicles, since somebody in the class is allergic to at least one ingredient of every other common treat.  It's completely insane.

I don't remember this EVER being an issue with my classmates or friends when I was a kid, in any country we ever lived in (I also don't remember the high prevalence of kids with learning difficulties or other disorders of some kind, but that's a subject for another post.)  Am I just looking back through rose-colored glasses or is this legitimately a new thing??

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Too Close

My children are all 25 months apart, meaning that under other circumstances they would now be in first, third and fifth grades.  However, since we held Thing Two back a year (for myriad very good reasons) he's only a year ahead of his little sister in school, and he HATES that.  Especially since their classrooms are directly across the hall from each other this year, so he can't turn around without running into her.

To add further insult to that injury, the first and second graders are lumped together in our town's rec league sports, so the two of them play on the same soccer team and at the same level in basketball despite their two-plus year age difference and significant size difference.  Thing Two flat-out refused to play on the same basketball team as Petunia, however--apparently this was the final indignity.  ("The line must be drawn here!  This far, no further!"  Ha.)  As it happened, we were able to accommodate him because there are four basketball teams and all four practice and scrimmage in the same place at the same time at this level; Thing Two plays for the dad of a friend of his and Petunia is on my team.

Of course, as one with a bit of foresight might predict, this set us up for an even worse scenario: sister's team vs. brother's team in a scrimmage.  We dodged that bullet for the first couple of weeks, but this morning's game was sibling vs. sibling.

Given that Thing Two ended up in tears when his team lost last weekend (he has some competitiveness issues), I was not looking forward to today.  We had some serious preemptive discussions with both of them over breakfast about being good winners and good losers!  I went so far as to warn my assistant coach about the issue before the game, and he asked me if we should make sure that the other team won: I said hell no, since Thing Two won't be able to play third grade ball (it gets 'real' at that level), much less travel ball of any kind, until he gets a grip on himself.   As it happened, the score went back and forth but his team eventually won, so it ended up being a non-event.  Thankfully, although we are required to run a man defense, they were never assigned to each other--it would be OVER the first time she stole a ball from him, and she's quick!  Bullet dodged for the time being, and no winner or loser drama today: whew.

Reminded me of a Dylan Thomas quotation, actually. "It snowed last year too: I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."  Or hot chocolate, as the case may be.


Friday, January 24, 2014


I am not the sort of woman who goes clothes shopping just to browse.  When I need something, I go and buy it, and then I generally don't darken the doors of a clothing store again until I need something else.  Very guy-like of me, in fact.  Yes, my personal style could undoubtedly use some work (I'm a jeans or khakis and nice sweater kinda gal) but keeping up with trends is too much work and one advantage of being north of 40 is that I care a lot less about what people think of me than I used to. 

This is a good thing, too, because on the rare occasions when I do go shopping for myself, I almost invariably end up frustrated.  I've ranted about shoe shopping here before--this is one of my pet peeves.  When you're close to six feet tall, you will have big feet.  It's the way of the world and also simple physics.  Add to that the inevitable increase in shoe size post-pregnancy (thank you VERY much, kids) and what was big enough before (10) has now become bigger (10.5-11.)  Ha.  Good luck finding anything that isn't geriatric-styled or butt-ugly in a size bigger than 10.  (Or, paradoxically, something without a four-inch heel--have these fool designers not figured out that most women who wear larger sizes are tall already???) 

As it happens, today's rant is not related to shoe shopping, but the related (yes, strangely!) subject of bra shopping.  This is the reason for the title, and Dad, you probably ought to stop reading here.  

Every so often, I decide that I need to go less utilitarian and more pretty in bras.  And then I go shopping, get pissed off, and end up staying with the basics.  Why?  Because, along with my well-above-average stature, the genepool also tendered me no freaking chest at all despite the fact that most of the women in the family are stacked.  (God only knows how I successfully managed to nurse three big, thriving kids, but at least that part of it worked out for me.)  As a tall and well-endowed friend of mine pointed out to me yesterday, nobody knows her eye color because her endowments are right at eye level for the average guy: I guarantee everyone knows that my eyes are brown!  Anyway, I also have my kids (specifically, the eldest and his perpetual internal head-butting) to thank for what was without question a pregnancy-related expansion of my rib cage, and the combination of small cup size and large band size is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to find in any kind of pretty style at a store and even difficult online.  It has not been a good couple of days of looking much for the resolutions to fuss over myself a little more this year. 

In a nutshell, I come out of either shoe or bra shopping feeling like some kind of freak and that gets very, very old.  Hope any of you who are normal-sized people appreciate being normal-sized!


Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's Official

Next Tuesday night, 6:15 sharp.  Be there or be square.

These are the ends of my current belt.  Six black stripes for techniques, self-defenses and forms (two of each.)  One blue stripe for board-breaking.  One green stripe for sparring,  And today's, the final and most important one: the red stripe, which is earned when you have demonstrated command of all your material.  The holder of a red stripe is eligible to test for the next belt up.

The display rack is down, awaiting the addition of my Blue belt (and no, I have no idea why the picture came out sideways!)  Next up: to avoid becoming a basket case before Tuesday.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014


When I came downstairs just now, this was the sight that greeted me.

4 degrees is freaking ridiculous.  Worse, note below it the low of negative 3 (degrees, not windchill!) from last night.  Where are we: Alaska??

Today was a snow day for the kids, courtesy of the storm that blew through yesterday.  It deposited six inches or so of the finest powder; enough to snarl traffic and slide school buses off the road and leave a sea of white in its wake.  This was the view from the driveway in a still moment this morning: icy as a witch's heart and clear as ice too; far too cold for clouds.

By noon, the temperature had climbed all the way to a balmy 18 degrees, and my stir-crazy children were bickering nonstop and begging to go outside.  (As a side note, I am vividly reminded why I am in no hurry for the calendar to roll around to summer vacation.)  After lunch, we bundled up like Randy from the movie A Christmas Story and braved the front yard.  The snow was not at all the right sort for snowballs or snowmen (too powdery to pack), but the kids did manage to make snow angels all over the yard and dig cave forts in the piles left by the snowplow.

Petunia and Thing One in their respective forts: I believe that Thing Two was in time-out when these shots were taken, for the offense of nearly decapitating his sister with a snow shovel.  Completely inadvertently, of course, but there must be repercussions for that sort of near miss to discourage a repeat event involving better aim.  (And let me also point out that Thing One's hat is actually a vivid blue--the white is all snow!)

It was a relief to go inside afterward and thaw out over hot cocoa, and a further, greater relief to subsequently load all three ruffians into the car and get them out of the house; the boys' weekly piano lessons were blessedly still on.  And, as it happens, I discovered by chance while at the piano teacher's house that her husband took one of Petunia's preschool teachers to his junior prom twenty-five years ago in an entirely different part of the state, speaking again to the premise that this is an extremely small world.

Thankfully, there is no reason for school to be cancelled tomorrow.  After the long weekend, an early dismissal and a snow day in rapid succession, the kids desperately need their regular routine back and so do I!    


ETA: Just looked at the thermometer again and it is currently negative 2 degrees outside.  Bloody hell.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Just Can't Go There

Himself's mother and sister both practice yoga regularly and have been trying to recruit me to it for years.  Honestly and truly, I understand the benefits reaped in the form of flexibility and muscle tone and strength and balance, and I fully recognize that I need work in all of those areas.  I've even gone so far as to acquire some yoga DVDs and a mat for home use and to take a few basic classes at the gym.

This morning, on a whim, I put one of those DVDs in the player and did a strength and flexibility session since the weather outside is abominable and my regular taekwondo class was cancelled.  It was a good workout, and I know that I will be feeling some muscles that I don't use often tomorrow.  But I also have to say that I turned it off before it ended, right in the middle of the cooldown part, because I was done hearing about meridians and chakras for the day.  I could handle it until we got to the part where I was supposed to be visualizing a red light somewhere (I forget where) and an orange light in my pelvis and a yellow light in my navel: that just got too darned hokey for me.  I didn't stick around to find out where the other lights would be and what color they are.

I know I sound narrow-minded, and I don't mean to be.  My training as a scientist leaves me skeptical about a lot of this stuff, and yet I am fully aware that science does not know or describe everything.  ("There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy" and all that.)  For the time being, anyway, I will focus on the stretches and how my body feels and leave the chakra talk to others...perhaps even going so far as to employ the 'mute' button on the DVD player!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Stick A Fork In Me

Is there any sound more pathetic than the sobbing of a small person who doesn't feel well??  Himself and I were wakened at about 5:30 this morning by Petunia, who appears to have contracted a respiratory bug of some sort: she was alternately coughing and crying and sounded like a bullfrog, the poor little thing.  A dose of decongestant and a snuggle with Mom worked wonders and she did go back to sleep (we were up for the duration, unfortunately) but she ended up staying home with Daddy and orange juice and pjs and games instead of attending the soccer clinic as planned this morning.

All three of my kids play soccer more or less year-round.  During the off-seasons of winter and summer, they take part in periodic skill-building sessions at a training facility near our house.  One of the many things I like about the trainers is that they keep tabs on the schedules of area schools and offer optional clinics on days that the kids are out--sometimes, by the end of a long weekend, the kids really need some exercise.  The clinic this morning ran from 9-12 and was actually in one of their other locations, which of course to me translated as an opportunity to go geocaching in a new area (yes, I freely admit that I need professional help for this addiction.)  I got the boys checked in with their trainer and took off for a couple of hours.

On two separate occasions I've found 14 caches in one day.  Last night, I looked at the map for the area around the soccer field and was gobsmacked by the number of caches in the near vicinity (yes, this looks great, but I keep forgetting that it is directly tied to population density and do I really want to live so close to all those people??  No effing way.)  At any rate, I figured it for an opportunity to beat my record, and did in fact manage to log 18 in just over two hours, including one evil little beast masquerading as trash at the base of a stop sign.  Just when you think you've seen it all...ha.  Stopped quickly at a drugstore to purchase a new humidifier for the room of our little froglet, picked up the boys, and then hauled back home to throw them into the shower.

The other thing we try to do on days off from school is set up playdates if the kids want them, since the regular schedule is busy for them and their friends.  Petunia's had to be cancelled today, unfortunately.  Thing One was invited to a friend's house this afternoon: piece of cake.  Clean him up, drop him off, remind him to use his manners and Bob's your uncle.  For Thing Two, however, anything social is never simple.  He's still working on playing with people as opposed to next to them and the whole imaginative play thing in general, although that skill set is improving, and when people come to our house he only wants to play video games with them, so for him playdates have to be a little different at this point.  What we generally do is invite a friend of his to accompany us out on an activity instead of coming over to play, and keep it to him, the friend and one parent so that we can discreetly guide things socially if need be.  Today, I took him and a buddy bowling.

I understand that he wants to have friends and really needs the playdates to work on his social skills.  I understand that his friends know him from school and appear to like him 'issues' and all; it's not like they don't know how he is.  But I hate his playdates with the fiery passion of thousands of suns because it is so painful and stressful for me to have to watch him feeling his way awkwardly along.  I have knots in my stomach for hours before these things, which is ridiculous but there it is.  As it happened, today's outing went quite well after an slow start: the boys had three rousing games of what we were calling "bumper pinball" (how DID little kids bowl in the era before gutters could be blocked by movable barriers??) followed by a treat.  Thing Two managed to carry on a reasonable conversation and to stay out of his friend's personal space for the most part: success!!

Dinner and baths over, kids in bed now: time for tea and bed myself.  Done, fried, baked!






Sunday, January 19, 2014

A More General Conclusion

People who work at home improvement stores must just be used to fielding weird questions.  I found myself at a TrueValue Hardware branch today looking for a thermometer that can measure temperatures around freezing in water and that request did not appear to faze the salesman at all.  (Thank you, second-grade science project.)

A quiet Sunday here.  Went to Mass and then directly afterward to donate blood (the vampires called again.)  Theirs is an amazingly disorganized operation, but worthwhile, so I deal with it even though it really shouldn't take 90 minutes (from walking in the door to walking out the door) to donate a pint of whole blood.  Ugh.  Petunia enjoys coming with me for some reason, probably because she gets a cupcake or cookie afterward too, so I always bring her along: she has the same high-demand blood type that I do anyway, so it's good that she gets familiar with the donation process and learns that it isn't scary from a young age.    

Time now to cook, to fill the house with good smells to go along with the crackle and woodsmokiness of the fire that Himself started for me while I was out on my fools' errand.  (Who says that true love must only manifest itself in grand gestures??  Only this morning, I noticed that he had also turned on my car seat's heater for me while I wasn't looking.)  

Chili, a roast of pork, perhaps a loaf of bread.  I am ashamed to say that my bread is made in a machine, not by hand, but no matter: the aroma is almost the same and these fingers have not yet really gotten the hang of the kneading process.  One of these years...we all need a goal or two!          

Saturday, January 18, 2014


The younger two had basketball this morning.  I'm the coach of Petunia's team; Thing Two plays on a different team since he listens much better to people other than his parents.  Not sure what happened, but our team had only five players for today's game.  Three kids just didn't show up (maybe they thought we were off for the holiday bad for not e-mailing everyone beforehand to confirm) and a fourth broke her wrist at gymnastics this week.  And it wasn't our strongest five there, either: God love the ones who showed up, but that game was an adventure.  Let me just say that man defense (required by our league for reasons that have not been satisfactorily explained to me) is a challenge to teach to newbie first and second grade players and leave it at that.  The kids we had played the entire game, did the best that they could, and made a respectable showing and I was beyond proud of every one of them.

Thing Two had a tough morning.  He has some real athletic gifts, but he HATES to lose and does not take losing well.  His game was on the other side of the gym from ours and there is a curtain in between, so I couldn't see any of their game.  By the time our game ended and I got over there, he was on his sideline crying.  He'd been taken out of the game.  We're working on explaining that being sad and frustrated is ok but that crying because of losing or getting something wrong is not: this is an uphill battle at the moment.  I was told later that he played well, at least.  He has to learn to get his emotions under control in order to move to anything beyond rec level sports: as it is, his behavior is standing out even at rec level, especially since he's such a big kid (he could be a third grader but we held him back.)  He might be good enough for travel soccer from a skill standpoint, but those kids will eat him for breakfast unless he gets the social element down, so he's staying at rec for the foreseeable future, unfortunately.  Damn language and social impairments.  Damn them for limiting him because we fear the social repercussions to him.  (Is that just our fear, or cold reality??)

Fortunately for me, I was able to spend the afternoon regaining my personal equilibrium at a nearby nature hike/geocaching event.  I now recognize vole holes, fox poop and praying mantis egg sacs (I heard a horror story from a friend about the eruption of tiny praying mantises in her house after one of those sacs came in on her Christmas tree, so I'm glad that I now know what they look like!)  I am also very happy to say that I declined the opportunity to eat the larvae of some bug or other when it was presented to me.  Himself is convinced that I am insane for deliberately spending an afternoon walking around in mud in 35 degree weather, and put that way, he does have a point, but to each his or her own form of insanity.  I made some new friends, had a nice walk in a beautiful park, and found four more caches, including one so sneaky and evil that the prior logs for it (written by both finders and people who gave up) are among the funniest things I've read in years.  Fake bolt embedded in the wooden support of a guardrail, anyone??

Home now, getting ready to enjoy some good wine in front of the beautiful fire that Himself just built after a dinner that I did not have to cook.  Another day survived and a peaceful evening earned!


Friday, January 17, 2014

Movin' On Up

I haven't mentioned taekwondo in a while.  There's been some 'girl drama' of the kind I really hate going on with it, the result of which has been me trying to just keep my head down and focus on the skills I need to learn instead of the drama, but at least that seems to be working out okay.  Looks like I'll most likely be testing for my next belt on the 28th.

The new belt will be my seventh, which means that I'll have to correctly (and publicly) perform six belts' worth of techniques, six forms, and nineteen self-defenses to earn it. The even scarier thing is that this is the last of the mid-level belts...after this one, my tests will be lesser versions of the black-belt exam.  Time for me to get serious about those push-ups!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


After an extremely frustrating school board subcommittee meeting this morning that lasted almost four hours, I ran a couple of quick errands and then dashed home to take my poor dog for a walk--she loves getting out of the house and I felt guilty for leaving her inside for so long.

As we got to the end of the driveway, a passing fuel oil truck honked, and I recognized the driver as the father of a kid on Thing One's basketball team.  A UPS truck was right behind it: its driver has had our route for years and he knows me from deliveries to our house.  He honked and waved, too.  Then, a few minutes later, we got around the corner to the house with the three annoying little rat dogs in coats that always run out to yap at my dog. Their owner happened to turn into the driveway as we passed, and I recognized him from church....I'd had no idea he was a neighbor too.  It's a small world around here, and generally that's a good thing.  Ten plus years in, I feel like I have a place in this small world, and that's appealing after my highly peripatetic childhood.   I was thinking warm fuzzies about community and belonging as the dog and I walked back home.

The funny thing is that these aren't my only people.  I'm hall monitoring right now while my kids are at CCD and catching up on the blogs I read, since it's quiet.  One of the new posts has to do with a breast lump that is being removed surgically this week.  I've never met the lump's owner (is that the right word??) in real life.  I'd probably recognize her if she walked up to me right now, but maybe not.  Her life is about as different from mine as it is humanly possible to get, too.  Nevertheless, courtesy of blog connections, I've known about the lump for some time.  I've worried about it, and she knew it. And when she scheduled the surgery, she made a point of telling me about it even though we've never met and she lives on the other side of the globe right now, quite literally.

Some friends, I see when I leave the house.  Others I only see online.  How fortunate am I to have both??

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Me, An '80s Kid? Nah.

Sad commentary that all three of my kids know every word of this song, or cool that they immediately start singing along (with head boppings and finger snappings and falsetto and all) every time they hear it on the radio??

Monday, January 13, 2014

True Story, I Swear

Fifth grade around here seems to be a pivotal year: in both public school and CCD, this is the year that the powers that be see fit to officially introduce the concepts of puberty and basic sex ed.  (Thing One's reaction?  "Disgusting!!"  Yep, you just keep thinking that, kid.)

Anyway, one of my best friends also has a fifth grader, a girl.  This story is from her CCD class.

The teacher is discussing puberty.  A classmate of hers, a quiet, easygoing boy who goes to school with both of our kids, is visibly becoming more and more unhappy about the subject matter.  Finally, he said to the teacher (out of a clear blue sky): "Are you a Democrat?  I bet you're a Democrat.  My family is all Republican."

She told him that she didn't feel comfortable discussing her politics with him.  He fired back, "I'm not comfortable discussing puberty with you either!"

Sunday, January 12, 2014

On The Unflappability Of Home Depot Associates

He asked what kind of adhesive I needed.  I told him that I had no idea, but that it had to be able to securely stick a rubber frog to a plastic lily pad, outdoors.  He chose a tube from the wall of possible options and handed it to me without so much as a batted eyelash.  

(A new princess-themed geocache is in the works, let me hasten to add.)

We have no internet connection at home today, a state of affairs that leaves me more than slightly twitchy, so I hope the serviceperson coming tomorrow can remedy whatever problem we are having.  In lieu of my regular escapes into the Web, at least I was productive: a pot of my grandmother's spaghetti sauce from scratch, three batches of roasted vegetables for lunches, and a pot of my mother-in-law's veggie chili as well. The house smells spectacular.

Speaking of my grandmother, I think she visited me in spirit this afternoon, while Thing One and Petunia and I were helping to put away the Christmas decorations at church.  At one point, I was vacuuming up the pine needles scattered hither and yon, and commented jokingly to the other woman working with us that my grandmother would ghost me good if I left a mess in church.  At that very second, the vestibule door blew open--no doubt my grandmother vigorously emphasizing the point.

The end of another week is upon me: now, to take a deep breath before the next one rides in.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Note To Self

In future, do not allow Thing Two to sit near me in the stands when Thing One's basketball team is playing.

Although they did end up winning the game, and they are a very good team in general, today everything seemed off for some reason--their passes weren't tight, their shots weren't dropping, and, in particular, they couldn't find a rebound with both hands and a flashlight.  Pure grit and a few key shots got them through, and we were proud that they had the mental toughness to pull it off, to be sure.  I was trying really, really hard to only make positive comments to the team and to keep whatever other mumbling I might have been doing under my breath entirely to myself.

However, deep in the third period, a small voice in front of me piped up, "For the love of Christ, will you REBOUND???" (fortunately, not loudly enough to be heard on-court, and quickly shushed), and I realized that my resident little pitcher was able to hear my muttered commentary from his seat in front of me.  Bad mother moment number I don't even know what!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Different Stage, Same Game

I had to stop at at the grocery store quickly on my way home from taekwondo class today.  As I was standing in one aisle, mentally deliberating, a young and very frazzled-looking mother came around the corner toward me.  Her son, perhaps 18 months old or so, was half-reclining in the seat of her shopping cart, his curly head thrown back with abandon and his screams echoing through the store.  I have to admit, my immediate reaction was to smile, but I did hastily explain to the mother that my smile was purely of the "been-there, done-that, no-judgment-implied" variety.  (Thing Two in particular had some truly memorable meltdowns in shopping carts in his day.)  She and I had a brief chat--which established that the hysterics were because he didn't like the new toothbrush that she had chosen for him--and then she moved on. 

As it happened, I was lingering in that particular aisle because I was trying to choose a deodorant for Thing One, his first.  He is blessedly non-stinky so far (except for his soccer shinguards and cleats: dear God; those could be weaponized), but since he's coming up on eleven, I know that those days are numbered.  We're working on establishing good personal hygiene habits before he actually needs them.  I was trying to decide what I wanted my preadolescent son to smell like: adventure? ironman? everest? extreme?  Gel form? Stick form?  All of a sudden, it seemed like a terribly personal decision to be making for somebody else, even if he is currently a ten year-old boy who could care less. 

Much like the other mother, I was shopping for my little boy.  Except that mine is no longer quite so little, and this is only one of the first, easier steps toward him really becoming big and gone and no longer mine.  For a moment there, I would have gone back to him being the toddler in the cart, screams and all, in order to buy myself more years with him.  That not being possible, he's going to get a REALLY big hug to go along with his new deodorant when he gets home from school today!



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

If The Temperature Doesn't Go Above Freezing Soon, I Am Going To Lose My Freaking Mind

The HIGH temperature yesterday was 12 degrees Fahrenheit in my neck of the woods.  Since I for damned sure wasn't going outside in that nonsense if I didn't have to, I spent the entire day packing away all the Christmas decorations into their boxes instead.  The season is now officially over, I guess.

Today, the high was a comparatively balmy 21.  (Freaking winter.)  I spent the day doing dishes and laundry and sorting through about 75% of the great, towering stacks of paper that formerly occupied every flat surface in my office.  The recycling guy will probably get a hernia from trying to move my can, but I can see the top of my desk for the first time in years.

All of this unaccustomed household industriousness is setting a very bad precedent.  If this weather keeps up, I'll soon find myself washing floors and scrubbing toilets for indoor entertainment, and that will never do.  Tomorrow, I get out of this house if I have to do it in Eskimo boots and a parka!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bus Math (n.)

Collectively, the mental calculations involved with figuring out (usually in an early-morning, undercaffeinated state) exactly what time the school bus will be arriving at your house on that day, because the school has a delayed opening or early dismissal that is changing the usual schedule.

The schools in our area have weather-related delayed openings of either 90 minutes or two hours depending on the circumstances.  This morning's was a 90 minute delay, the result of the ridiculously frigid temperature outside.  Friends of mine with children attending three or more area schools (which are populated by age, and all of which share the same school bus fleet, resulting in staggered bus pickup and dropoff times to begin with) were doubtless spiking their coffee by 8AM.

Is it spring yet??

Monday, January 6, 2014


I've always wondered how three otherwise very intelligent kids could be completely oblivious to cues in my word choice, tone and posture that would suggest we might possibly (ha!) be in a little bit of a hurry.  The whole sense-of-urgency thing is invariably lost in translation.  So, on school mornings I often find myself saying things like,  "The bus will be here in five minutes!  Go put on your shoes and coat!" and being met with blank faces, dawdling, news of missing mittens, or worse, "But Mom, I'm not done with this game on my DS yet!"  Growl.  Today was their first day back to school in two weeks, and so there was even more rust than usual on the morning gears, but they did all manage to get onto the bus without me having to lose my gourd at anyone: that never bodes well for the rest of the day.

With them gone (and Himself gone from the crack of dawn, as is his habit) the house was very, very quiet.  The freezing, pouring rain outside took away any desire I had to be productive: I sat down at the computer and contemplated the effort that would be required to go upstairs, get dressed, and start dealing with the Christmas decorations, my major task for the day.  Then I had another cup of coffee instead.

For all the craziness that marked our holiday, all went well.  A good Christmas, safe travels to and from the West Coast, and wonderful visit with family in between.  For all my stress and worry about not being able to get everything done, everything did in fact get done, albeit at significant cost to my nervous system in the form of excess caffeine.  It's over, January is now upon us, and "normal" life as we know it has finally returned.  I've had this song in my head all day:

Time to hibernate from the vicious cold, rest and regroup!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year's Resolutions: Five Days Late And Probably A Dollar Short Too

My first job out of grad school was in a completely football-mad Southern state (is there any other kind??), and one of my colleagues at that job had actually played on the state university's national championship-winning football team a few decades earlier.  He was in his mid-fifties to my mid-twenties at the time, and a true Southern gentleman.  Ours was an interesting partnership: he despised electronic technology in all forms and had our office secretary print out all his emails for him so that he could respond to them by phone, so I handled most of our collective computer work.  In return, he served as one of the best mentors I've ever had, patiently explaining how to calculate net present values and how to think about structuring deals.  Over the year or so I worked there, we became very close: I think his regard for me was almost paternal because of the age difference.

At any rate, one day he told me that he'd asked his wife to sponsor me for membership in the Junior League.  Anyone who knows anything about either this organization or the South will recognize that this is the highest possible honor that can be bestowed by people of a certain mindset and generation, especially when the recipient is a damned Yankee!  From a man whose daughter had formally made her debut at the annual ball (gowned and white-gloved and properly escorted, of course) and whose wife was a leader in society, this was the most kind and generous and mindboggling of offers.  As it happens, it was also terrifying and not at all well-directed, since I am NOT the Junior League sort, but the sentiment and compliment behind the offer did not go unappreciated.  As it happened, Himself was recruited for his current job in another state very soon afterward, so I was able to respectfully decline the honor without hurting his feelings.

One day early on, the two of us were working on a deal together.  Out of the clear blue sky, he asked me why I didn't take better care of my hands: i.e., why they weren't manicured.  (See above regarding my not being Junior League material.)  By the way, this was asked with legitimate curiosity, not in any inappropriate way whatsoever.  To his way of thinking, it was odd that I didn't make the time for the salon, and since I understood his frame of reference by that point, I didn't take offense.  Since I was used to my hands being banged up and washed repeatedly over the course of the days in lab, I just didn't consider it a priority at the time.  The question stuck with me, though.

Fast forward a goodly number of years, most of which were hard on my hands--diapers and washing and cooking and dishes and the inevitable repeated bathings in Purell because of kid-germs.  I'm on the other side of a lot of that stuff now, and starting to think again about me instead of just the kids all the time.  I happened to look at my nails one day before Christmas, noted that they were on the raggedy side, and out of nowhere, I was suddenly back in that office.    

I'm still not a society belle, and likely never will be.  But the thought occurred to me that there's nothing wrong with taking a little time to do the best I can with what I have, not for anyone else, but for ME.  Because I'm worth the time and effort, dammit, not because I care what anyone else thinks.  The end result of that thought process (see, I'm finally getting to the point!) was the following two resolutions for 2014:

1) I will make an effort to keep my hands lotioned and polished, and

(for good measure)  

2) I will figure out how to use a curling iron once and for all and do something with my wild wavy mane other than dragging all of it back into a knot on the back of my head every morning.

Ambitious and world-changing, right??  Ha.  Very small potatoes even in the small picture, let alone the big picture.  But when I look better, I feel better about myself, and this is a small start.

Oh, I have other goals as well.  The usual ones: lose some weight to ease the pressure on my knees, develop better pushup form, be more patient and present with my kids, etc.  I'll work on those as well, I promise.  But 40 years into my life, I'm beginning to realize that I can be a priority too, and that there's no shame in taking the time to make myself look like something other than a dowdy mom every once in a while.  So there.  (The next makeover: the lingerie drawer!!!)

There is a new curling iron on my bathroom sink, and I raised a glass of wine at dinner with my sparkly red nails a-shining in a silent toast to my former mentor.  Happy 2014 to me, and to all of you as well!  May your wishes come true, be they big or small.



Saturday, January 4, 2014

Back For Good Now

What a wonderful, wonderful trip: grandparents and skiing and cousins and games and good food and exploring and fun.  And 16 geocaches for me, too.  Not that there was any doubt that either one of my parents love me, but both accompanied me on separate caching forays and found themselves in places where they would NEVER otherwise have set so much as a toe: definitive proof!  Mom ended up climbing around on top of two different very large piles of lava rocks, and Dad standing on top of a three-foot wall, hanging onto the wire fencing above it with one hand and digging around in a tree with the other.

Murphy's Law being what it is, we were scheduled to fly home into the teeth of the storm that hit the East Coast on Thursday evening.  There was not so much as a snowflake the entire week we were gone, mind you.  I never thought we'd get out of San Francisco: I was confidently expecting a ground stop until the second that the wheels lifted off, and the pilot told us that we were carrying an extra hour's worth of fuel in case we needed to divert.  Himself was cool as a cucumber, refusing to get drawn into my web of stress.  He actually fell asleep in the departure lounge as I was pacing a path between our seats and the bank of monitors!  Fat lot of good all my worrying did me, and it wouldn't have been helpful even if we had gotten stuck...unfortunately, positive thinking is not my strongest suit.  As it happened, we landed about ten minutes before the storm struck--probably one of the last flights in--and had a truly miserable drive home in the snow, but that was the extent of the problem.  Whew.  And school was cancelled Friday, which gave the kids a chance to sleep in and readjust themselves to this time zone.

Woke up this morning to an overnight low well into the negative numbers: ugh.  (Which of course did not stop me from bundling up and heading out to be the first finder of a new nearby geocache, because I am certifiably insane.)  Welcome back to reality.  Basketball practices, basketball game, birthday party; just a normal Saturday.  And not necessarily a bad thing...without the usual routine, special trips are less special, and our life is a good one even if it isn't very exciting most of the time.

Happy New Year from the frozen tundra...

Mama D

Preview, Part 2

(Or maybe this should have been part 1 since it will happen first.) We dropped Thing One off at his first sleepaway soccer camp on Saturda...