Sunday, June 29, 2014

It's A Small, Small World

The crazy series of puzzle caches in the swamp I wrote about in my last post?  Turns out their creator is a guy who works closely with my husband (in an office an hour-plus away.)  Talk about random.  I've even met him once before but had no idea he was a cacher.  I'm going to have to suck back all of the taking-his-name-in-vain I did last week as I banged my head against the wall!

In other news, it's been a relatively quiet weekend.  I had a few hours of 'time off' yesterday morning and then some good friends came over for dinner yesterday evening.  In one of those serendipitous arrangements that happen all too rarely, the wife was originally my friend, but subsequently the husband has become a real friend of my husband's as well (the two of them run together on weekend mornings.)  The icing on the cake is that the elder two of their three daughters are almost exactly the same ages as my sons (their youngest is two) and the five older kids get along famously and run in a pack when together.   Their family had no sooner walked in the door than the kids were off...hide and seek, swimming and various games.  The four adults, meanwhile, disposed of an entire pitcher of my husband's famous sangria and caught up while sitting under the tent out by the pool...truly the way to spend a summer afternoon!  Dinner was grilled steak with chimichurri sauce (fabulous), rice salad and regular salad, plus good bread for dipping, followed by berries and cake and s'mores made over the new backyard firepit as the sun went down and the back hedge came positively alive with looked like a Christmas light show back there.  All that was missing was the synchronized music, really.

Last week was kind of a gimme for the kids...we're the sort of parents who keep them reading and doing some academic stuff over the summer, but there was no point last week with the grandparents in town and the newness of vacation in full effect.  Today all of them did a bit of work, and we will be starting to figure out the summer routine, since two of the three kids are happiest when there is some sort of structure to our days.  The challenge is getting done what needs to get done while maintaining time for fun and having some adventures annual summer balancing act!



Friday, June 27, 2014

To Each His Own Form Of Entertainment

Mom just shook her head when I spent my free time in the evenings earlier this week working on a series of twelve geocaching puzzles, each more difficult and complicated than the last.  Obscure languages?  Biblical verses?  Photo image analysis?  Unusual base factor math calculations?  Check, check, check and check.  After a couple of days of work and a lot of aggravation, I got all twelve solved and obtained all the necessary GPS coordinates.  My reward?  The opportunity to go and buy a pair of waders and spend a day this coming fall wandering around hip-deep (literally, so I hear) in a swamp with three or four other like-minded lunatics actually looking for these caches.

I may be very good at solving puzzles, but Mom is now firmly of the opinion that I've lost whatever good sense I ever had!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Murphy Kind Of Day

It started the night before last, when we noticed that the upstairs air-conditioning didn't seem to be working properly.  I figured I'd let it go overnight and see if the temperature came back down to the correct level; if not, I'd call the repairman in the morning.

In the morning, it was clear that the unit was malfunctioning.  It was also clear that Thing Two's right ear had blown up like a balloon overnight.  A bug bite of some sort, we guessed.  Called the nurse at the pediatrician's practice, called the HVAC guy.  Nurse said to use hydrocortisone cream, Benadryl  and ice; HVAC dispatcher said they might be able to get somebody to the house that day between 3 and 5 unless the predicted thunderstorms materialized, in which case it would be next week sometime before they could send somebody out.  (Note that yesterday it was extremely muggy here with highs in the mid-90s.  Further note that my parents were visiting us from the West Coast and a friend of Thing One's was also expected to arrive that morning for an overnight stay while his folks were out of town.)

Took the kids to their scheduled soccer camp, did some shopping with Mom, Thing One's friend arrived.  Picked the kids up from soccer, made lunch, threw the kids in the pool while we waited for the A/C guy.   3 o'clock, 4 o'clock, no sign of him.  Clouds start rolling in, wind picks up.  Repairman showed up at 5:15, just as the first raindrops started to fall and the first rumbles and flashes began.  Mercifully, he did in fact stay to finish the job and the part required was one he had on his truck.  $350 later, the A/C was functioning again.   Meanwhile, I was trying to cook dinner for the kids, so I got the repairman started outside and then came back in to work in the kitchen.  I was standing at the stove stirring spaghetti sauce when I felt a sharp pain in one thigh, followed quickly by another...investigated and was horrified to discover that a yellow jacket had apparently flown up between the two layers of my skirt while I was outside and was stinging me through the inner layer!  (Thank God I am not allergic.)  Terminated that little bugger with extreme prejudice, grabbed an ice pack from the nearby freezer and kept stirring the sauce while holding the ice pack propped between my leg and the front of the stove to keep the ice on the bites.  Thankfully, my dad had returned from the drugstore with the hydrocortisone cream for Thing Two only fifteen minutes previously, so it was now available for BOTH the bug-stung family members.

Got the kids' dinner cooked and the four of them fed.  It was probably 6:30 by that point.  The plan was to wait to feed the adults until Himself got home from work, and I was starting to get moving on that when Dad asked me why the ice dispenser on the fridge wasn't working.

You guessed it...the power had just gone out.

It was a brownout, not a complete blackout, so we did have some water and dim lights, but certainly not enough power to cook.  Or to run the newly-repaired air conditioning, for that matter.  Himself came home hungry half an hour later; still not able to cook, we gave up and ordered a pizza!  The power didn't come back on till almost 9PM...still not sure what caused the problem.  Fortunately, we have an abundant supply of wine in our basement courtesy of Himself's collecting habit, and it was put to good use last night.  Also fortunately for my by-that-point-absolutely-and-utterly-nonexistent patience, the younger two kids fell asleep quickly and the older boys were very quiet and well-behaved in their basement sleepover-lair.

I have rarely been so happy to have a day over with in my life!


As a side note, because yesterday didn't do enough damage to my cortisol levels, this morning I noticed that the DOWNSTAIRS air conditioner appeared not to be working.

Fortunately for my sanity, it occurred to me to check the fuse box BEFORE I called the A/C guy back to look at the other unit.  As sometimes happens, the power outage had blown the fuse and I had to flip the switch to reset it: after that the temperatures crawled back down to their appropriate levels again.  Bloody hell!!  Enough already.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I'll Take It

It's been a busy week, a crazy week, really.  (Hence my long absences here.)  Sitting in the late-evening quiet and reflecting on the day; pretty sure I'm the only one still awake in this house right now.  Today wasn't an especially eventful day, but a lot of good things happened, and in the spirit of counting my blessings, I am taking a moment to appreciate them.

1) My parents took us out to dinner at a nice restaurant tonight, and despite the fact that my kids were already exhausted and it took their dinner almost two hours to arrive, they were well-behaved from first to last!  Way to go, all three of you.  (Whew!) 

2) A taekwondo friend of mine successfully earned her Yellow belt tonight in her first test ever.  She is an amazing woman and everyone sees it but her...she has some sort of negative tape running on continuous loop through her head.  She works full-time, goes to school, is raising four young children including toddler twin boys, and is a genuine character (the best sort of person in my opinion)...she actually puts a diaper on a pet goat and lets it run loose in the house!  Couldn't be prouder of her and it absolutely made my day to hear that she succeeded.  

3) I've been working on a miserable beast of a geocaching puzzle series for the past few days.  As of this afternoon, I'd solved ten but had two ridiculously evil ones left--both were driving me nuts.  After dinner, the light bulb came on and I was able to figure out the last two.  It's the challenge that attracts me...the pitting of my wits against those of whomever created a puzzle.  I feel nine feet tall and bulletproof when I successfully solve's reassurance that my brains haven't completely turned to mush in my ten years of stay-at-home parenting!    

4) After years of sweltering in my kitchen on summer afternoons, Mom and I bought blinds today and she hung one of them over the window above my kitchen sink while precariously balancing on the countertop (I was too tall for the job.)  Ten degrees cooler instantly...three cheers for handy and very loving mothers!  

5) Last and most assuredly not least, it was another day of having my parents here with us in general.  They live far away, I don't see them often enough, and I especially love to see them with my children.  That alone would have made it a good day...the rest is icing on the cake.

Now I sleep.  Good night...    

Sunday, June 22, 2014


The first thing I noticed was that he still had his hat on during the National Anthem.

I caught it out of the corner of my eye...he was sitting across the aisle from us and a few seats down at the minor league baseball game last night.  Registering immediately afterward was the textbook military salute the owner of the hat was performing, his bearing ramrod straight, right hand raised at the perfect angle.

He turned his head shortly thereafter, far enough around for me to read the white block letters on the dark ballcap-style cover: KOREA VETERAN.  Basic math would put him in the vicinity of 80 years old, and as an African-American man he almost surely had mixed experiences with the military of the early 1950s, but he was clearly a staunchly proud veteran.  (As a side note, I was confused by the fact that he kept his hat on, so I looked up the protocols today.  According to the current version of the flag code, members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute--those in uniform never remove their hats.)

I meant to thank him for his service at the end of the game, but unfortunately, I must have been paying attention to something else when he left (possibly one of the many foul balls careening past our seats.)  Not many like him still around, I suspect.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Limitations Of Modern Technology

I mentioned that I was out of town last weekend, traveling by air.  Since I have not yet gotten myself through the TSA Pre-Check program, in both directions of travel I had to walk through one of these charming machines.

(Bear in mind that these machines have drawn criticism for the somewhat explicit images they produce.)

Bear further in mind that my hair looks something like this in heat and humidity, although it is quite short.

In both directions of travel, after I passed through the scanner, a TSA agent physically patted down the back of my head. 

Do you really mean to tell me that this crazily-, invasively-detailed scanner can't determine if there is anything hidden in my hair???  I call BS, big-time.  But then, the alternative would be that those TSA agents were trying to make sure I looked good in any selfies I planned to take at the airport!

Technology FAIL.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Of Monkeys and Goats

Saw this on a friend's blog this morning and it just rocks (thanks, NOLA!)  Love it.

Made me think about a guy I knew back when I was in grad school, a former USAF pilot.  He once told a story involving a disagreement he had while airborne with another pilot, who was flying the jet in question at the time--something to do with the handling of the plane.  As he told the story, the other pilot finally ended the argument with the line, "Who's fucking this goat anyway, you or me?" 

To this day, my (abridged) version of the message in the image above is still "Not my goat!"  


Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Good Call

My aunt and uncle were married 50 years ago yesterday, and this weekend there is a big celebration in their hometown.  Planning to attend should have been a no-brainer, but logistics complicated things: my kids are still in school through next week, Petunia has her last soccer game of the season tomorrow, and today is the day that Himself's family is getting together at my in-laws' house to celebrate Father's Day, my FIL's birthday, and our nephew/godson's birthday.  Oh, and my aunt and uncle live in a different part of the country, too.

When all was said and done, we decided that Himself would take the day off on Friday and I would fly to the anniversary celebration by myself, leaving him home to handle the rest of the weekend's plans with the kids.  It seemed like the best solution,  although getting everything done before I left last week was so crazy that I was really beginning to second-guess it.   And then when I had to drive to the airport an hour away at 5AM Friday in a driving rainstorm, I started second-guessing in earnest.

The thing is, I have two aunt/uncle sets on this side and five cousins, none of whom I'd seen since my wedding 12 years ago and two cousins whom I haven't seen in well over 20 years. Did some quick math for one of those yesterday...he was 13 the last time I saw him and is now 38!!  Wow.  These cousins all have kids, none of whom I'd met except on was way past time for a family reunion on this side.  Especially since this is a happy occasion and not a funeral, as people keep pointing out!

All the aunts and uncles and cousins are here and all but a few spouses and kids.  Today is the celebration Mass and dinner reception, which will be pleasant events and full of people, no doubt. But last night it was just family at the anniversary aunt and uncle's house, a low-key dinner, people drinking beer and telling stories and the kids running around the lawn and having pillow fights (with one vase a casualty!)  It was a great night of reconnecting with family and I wished my kids were there with all their second cousins more than I can even begin to tell you.  Hassle or no hassle, I would have regretted missing this weekend for the rest of my life; beyond grateful that I'm here!

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Going out of town solo for the weekend (50th anniversary celebration for my aunt and uncle), leaving at the crack of dawn tomorrow.  The universe has accordingly conspired to make this week (and especially today) as crazy as humanly possible.  School, garden, pool cleanup, meetings, errands, laundry, trying to get everything in order to leave behind.  Since the school year ends a week from tomorrow, it was going to be crazy even without the trip...last minute events and obligations galore.  As a counterbalance, I'm feeling every bit of the weight of summer lurking around the corner and trying to savor my last few days of relative freedom even with the madness.  I really can't decide if having all this school crap over with for the summer is worth the price of having to referee constant bickering for three months...I'll let you know in September.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Least Favorite Question Ever

At some point in casual conversation, it always comes up.  "Where are you from?"  A simple enough question, but for me, there's no simple answer.

I was born in New York, but only lived there for two years, and we were only there for my dad's work anyway, not because of any personal ties to the place.  Before I turned three, that same job sent my family overseas, and we moved from international city to international city every few years until I got to junior high.  I was able to stay in the one place for the six years of junior high and high school, but then it was four years of college back in the US in one state, grad school and work for six years in another, and then the final move with my husband to the state in which we now live.

To my amazement, I've been here for thirteen plus years now (in my current house for almost eleven)...more than twice as long as anywhere else in my life.  By that measure, this should be home, but I am not with my tribe here.   My husband is from the general area, my kids were all born here, but this is just not where I belong.  "Home" used to be the city in which I went to junior high and high school, but that's more than half my lifetime ago now, so that doesn't really apply either.

If you ask me the question and I don't feel like going into the whole explanation of how I'm not really from anywhere, which is most of the time, I usually say that I'm from Oregon, a state in which (ironically) I have never lived.  My parents now live there most of the year, I've visited many times, and I love that particular corner of the it a spiritual home of sorts.  It's as good an answer as any!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

New One On Me

Saw this yesterday while at a house party.  Darnedest thing ever.

In case you can't believe your eyes, let me confirm: this is a kiddy-sized, honest-to-goodness motorcycle with training wheels.  And the kid riding it was three years old, I kid you not.  I asked to be sure.

Yeah, his dad was right behind him on another motorcycle.  And yeah, he had on a helmet just like this one, and kneepads and motorcycle boots and the whole nine yards.  BUT...just seems to me that a kid shouldn't be on anything motorized until he or she doesn't need training wheels anymore, at a bare minimum.  This kid will either be the next Evel Knievel or have a frequent-flyer card at the local ER before he's 10!


Friday, June 6, 2014

On The Benefits Of Children Getting Older

Four cubic yards of mulch were deposited on my driveway at 5:30PM today.  By 8:30PM, at least three of those yards had been successfully relocated to my garden, where I hope they will permanently suffocate the $&!?@ weeds that plague my summers.

Himself (bless the man) kept the wheelbarrow and buckets filled with mulch from the pile and my sons hauled them to the garden in a sort of boy-powered conveyor belt.  While that was going on, Petunia finished up the weeding and helped me spread the mulch around the plants.  It would have taken me days to do that job by myself and I probably would have thrown my back out in the process, too...let's hear it for kids big enough to make themselves useful and a husband who loves me!


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Old And Square, Right Here

Went with Thing One to a school awards ceremony last night (still can't get over the fact that my laser-focused-on-math-and-science kid received an award for art.)  Anyway, I sat in the school gym for a good hour just people-watching, since there wasn't much else to do.  The middle schoolers in particular are an interesting bunch...some still look like they are nine or ten; others could pass for high schoolers easily.  What really strikes me every time I go to one of these school functions, though, is what some of the girls choose to wear.  And more importantly, the fact that their parents permit it.

The trend for tween girls appears to be really short dresses and skirts.  Like barely-covering-the-butt short.  As my daughter is only six, this is not an issue we've had yet, but I am observing the older girls from an almost anthropological point of view and girding my loins for future battles.  Thankfully, the friend from whom Petunia's hand-me-downs flow also has tall, long-legged girls and similar views on children not dressing hoochie-style, which makes my life easier, but I'll be damned if my kid shows up anywhere in public with her ass flapping in the breeze.  Especially at 12!  There has to be a middle ground that does not involve my daughter looking like she should be on a street corner somewhere, and in four or five years I anticipate many arguments over that middle ground.  I'm sure she will be royally pissed off at me, too, but I'm her mother, not her friend, and that's okay.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Interesting Evening

Finished planting my garden after the kids went to bed...a few weeks late but oh well.  Not so into the whole thing this year...when we redo the back yard, I may switch over entirely to container gardening.   Now I need to mulch so I don't spend the whole damned summer weeding!

Quick shower, pack the kids' lunches for tomorrow.  What's this in my in-box?  Oh of my geocaching friends sent me the link to a puzzle to solve, since I love puzzle caches.  Fifteen minutes later, I've figured out that the little Lego guy in the animated file is doing semaphore and I've decoded the numbers he's signaling.  Next up?  Explaining to my husband why we may need to explain the concept of being transgender to our eight and ten year-old sons.  (Long story not having to do with anybody in the family, and boy, am I hoping to be able to find the right words for the conversation with the boys.)  Never a dull moment around here!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Unnerving Dependence on Technology

My children, the young'uns that they are, have no idea that there was a time when cell phones did not narrate directions to you turn by turn, never mind that there was a time when cell phones did not exist at all and people had to use (*gasp*) paper maps to navigate.  When we have these conversations, I feel very VERY old.

I spent a lot of this weekend in the car.  Friday night was that birthday party of Thing Two's I almost forgot about.  Saturday I had a baby shower for one of Himself's cousins to attend in the afternoon and then the end-of-year party for Thing One's soccer team that evening.  Today, it was Mass, Home Depot, Petunia's soccer game and then a haul out to the boys' tournament site to catch the last two games (sadly, I missed all four of Thing One's games this weekend and the first two of Thing Two's...the realities of time and space sometimes suck.)

I'm familiar with the park where the birthday party was held despite its 30-min distance from home, but needed directions to avoid the major highway leading to it at rush hour.  I am totally unfamiliar with the areas where the bridal shower and tournament were held (each at least an hour from home in opposite directions) and the soccer party was at a house so far off the beaten path that two of the three direction-finding apps on my iPhone didn't even acknowledge its existence!  Mapquest and the basic maps app were both clueless...Google Maps was the only one that came through on this particular occasion.  I felt like one app or another was telling me where to go all damned weekend between the to-ing and the fro-ing.

All things considered, the apps did pretty well.  I got lost going to the park on Friday and suspect that I came home from the tournament by an exceedingly roundabout route, but I did eventually get to where I was going in both cases.  And considering that my alternative in each case was having an elementary schooler navigate from printed directions, the apps were a much handier alternative, although it is always disconcerting to be relying entirely on a device that may well be leading you completely astray for all you know!  (see e.g. the park debacle, in which case I ended up on the wrong side of town entirely and had to switch to a different app in a random parking lot somewhere.)

Oh, and the kids' record for their nine games of soccer this weekend??  1-8.  Thing One's team won once and that was it.  Thing Two did shine today, though, particularly in the second game, in which he played goalie for the second half against a far superior team and shut them out entirely except for a freak goal they scored in the last 30 seconds of the game.  That's his last game of the season and all three coaches were effusive in their praise after the game, so at least his season ended on a high note from a personal standpoint even if they had just lost four games straight as a team in two days.

Now we are home, and it is quiet.  The kids are in bed and there are no electronic voices to be heard.  It is a major relief to me that I do not need direction-finding assistance to get me anywhere I need to go tomorrow!


Time In A Bottle

Okay, time can slow down now, please. When I was a kid, I remember my mother saying that the days were long but the years were short.  I d...