Thursday, July 31, 2014

We Have A Date

Went to taekwondo class last night and discovered that the next high belt test has been scheduled for Saturday, August 23rd.

My participation in this test is not "official" yet--I still need two stripes--but the instructor told me to expect to be looked at for those next week.  The seven stripes I have now are for techniques, self-defenses, forms and sparring; the remaining two are the board-breaking stripe and the final red stripe that signifies that I know all my material and am ready to move up a belt level.

This is a big deal, y'all.  Red is considered a high belt (albeit the lowest of the high belts.)  For perspective, in our system a black belt is the 12th belt you earn, and red is number 8.  The expectations for execution and performance and fitness become higher from red up and the tests become longer and more difficult (hence the Saturday test rather than the weekday evening schedule for lower belts)--effectively, this is the big leagues.

I've  known for a while that I would most likely be invited to the next high-belt test, which is why I've been ramping up my out-of-class cardio and lifting, but hearing a date for it was actually chilling!  I have a lot of work to do over the next three weeks, that's for sure.  These tests are only held on an as-needed basis, when there are a sufficient number of high belts ready to move up a level.  I will be one of the lowest belts testing, and I believe the highest ranking students will be testing for their black belts.  The expectations for me will not be as high as they are for the black belt candidates, but for me their test will serve as a preview of coming attractions.

Assuming, of course, that I don't have a fatal attack of nerves between now and then.  Wish me luck!


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Definition Of Insanity

This Friday night, there will be EIGHT eleven year-old boys at my house, only one of whom actually lives here.

They will eat pizza and ice cream cake and probably everything else that is not nailed down since they are all growing like weeds and never stop moving.  They will swim and play basketball and play Manhunt in the yard with flashlights until they collapse, at which point they will all retire to the basement with sleeping bags and pillows and handheld gaming devices.  They'll likely be up most of the night, but as long as they are relatively quiet, we don't care.

In the morning, I will make them pancakes with sprinkles and whipped cream.  There will be a goodly number of very groggy faces and some SERIOUS bedhead at the kitchen table.  After breakfast, parents will come to collect their kids, and I will fumigate the basement (preteen boy hormones...whew!) and try to identify the owners of all the stray games/socks/T-shirts etc I invariably find while doing so.

This is the routine now; Thing One's birthday party of choice. This is the third or fourth year running. He loves it, his friends love it, his friends' parents think we're nuts.  And we are, no doubt.  But it makes our boy happy and once a year we can live with it.  We just invest in earplugs for the rest of the family!  Happy belated birthday to our eldest, coming right up.

And speaking of birthdays, wishing a happy "real birthday" to my beloved mother today as well!

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Thinking tonight: I've lived in this house longer than I've lived anywhere else in my life, and by a long shot, but I'm not sure if this area will ever be home for me.  If I'll ever be able to say I'm from here when people ask, and mean it.

Home was wherever my nuclear family lived when I was growing up, and we moved often. I have a very hard time wrapping my head around the concept of living in the town you grew up in as an adult, sending your kids to the same schools you attended and having them taught by some of the same teachers you had, although I know that's common.  Happens here all the time.  It's just completely alien to me, and I feel like it would be stifling to be so anchored to one spot.  Almost like the sense of belonging would become a shackle sooner or later.

Maybe it's just me, though--an artifact of my upbringing.  Bought corn down the road at a farm stand the other day and the kid selling the corn told me that she's part of the eighth generation of her family to work that particular piece of land.  That's 150-200 years, easy, and the life of a small farmer sure isn't an easy one.  Clearly her family has some strong ties keeping them near those fields and barns and stone houses.  Then Thing One asked me to go help him find a cache tonight, and it was located at the edge of a secluded tiny neighborhood cemetery at the end of a dirt track up a wooded'd never find it if you didn't know it was there.  The oldest graves I saw date back to the 1820s, but people with those surnames still live around here.  (And all the headstones of young women gave me the willies...let's hear it for modern medicine and obstetrical practices.)

Two of my three kids were born here and the third arrived as an infant, so this is the only home they've ever known.  Some days I envy them that simplicity!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Love That Boy

"Kid has an IQ of 500 but can't get out of a Porta-Potty!"  Memorable words from a former soccer coach of Thing One's.  Bless the kid, he is smart as hell but a serious space cadet.

I was reminded of that this morning.  Normally, feeding the dog is Thing One's job, but I came downstairs before him today and she was hungry.  I had to open a new bag of dog food and couldn't find the measuring cups we always keep in her food bag anywhere.  Finally, it occurred to me to go out to the trash can in the garage and look inside the old, empty bag of food.  Sure enough: there were the measuring cups.  *facepalm*

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Can You See Me Now?

Took Thing Two to the optometrist for his annual checkup today.  On the bright side, he cooperated admirably, but unfortunately, his prescription has deteriorated again (par for the course with farsightedness as kids grow, or so I am told--what the hell do I know?) and he needs new glasses.  He's the only one of our three kids who needs them *knock on wood* but this poor kid got every damn whammy in the collective genepool.  Learning disability?  Sure.  Aplasia cutis?  Bring it.  Kid doesn't have enough else going on??  Sure, let's make him wear glasses too.

We have no idea where the aplasia cutis came from; might have been a spontaneous mutation thing although one of our nephews (Himself's side) has a similar sort of spot in a different location.  The language processing problem came from me, no doubt.  Clearly his case is much worse than mine (considering that I got through high school, college and grad school without formally realizing that I can't remember shit unless I write it down as soon as I hear it, and I don't have the expressive language issues that he does) which does NOT make me feel any better about being the conduit.  His vision issues, thankfully, I can't blame myself for: those are 100% from my blind-as-a-bat-before Lasik husband.  Whatever you can say about brown eyes (and don't get me started about how all the songs except Van Morrison's are about blue-eyed girls), my brown ones work.

In the grand scheme of things, a prescription for new glasses shouldn't be the end of the world, and it isn't.  I just feel bad for the kid, since the glasses are just that last bit of insult heaped onto a shitload of genetic injury and I'm reminded of it every time he needs new ones.  Dammit all to hell.


Monday, July 21, 2014


Since July 9, 2013 I have found 1000 caches (1004, actually)...picked up #1000 on a bike ride yesterday afternoon.  My first time on a bike in a good 15 years, I might add, and boy, is my derriere having an opinion about that today.  Yikes.  Gives me a whole new level of appreciation for the Tour de France athletes!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Banged Up

Check out this beauty of a bruise!  One punch to a target with my fist aligned not-quite-right, and ouchouchouchouch.  Luckily I just broke a blood vessel, not my hand.  But doesn't this make me look like a badass??  Especially with the entirely incongruous girly red nails.

To add insult to injury, a couple of days before this incident, I jammed the heck out of the thumb on the other hand while sparring...I was moving toward my opponent for a strike just as he lunged in as well and he caught the end of my thumb straight on.  You don't think about how important it is to have two fully-functional hands until you don't!  My husband was kind enough to point out that this is a purely voluntary activity of mine and that injury is part of the package with martial arts, both of which are true, if not particularly helpful or sympathetic...we'll just see what this ninja mama has to say when he bellyaches about being sore after his next marathon.  :)

Friday, July 18, 2014


Happy birthday to me,
Camp and playdates times three,
Mama needs a vacation, 
or a glass of Chablis.

I'm not a big Chablis fan, but Sauvignon Blanc didn't rhyme....luckily, Himself only put five candles on my birthday cake, or the smoke alarm would have gone off for sure.

The kids attended the town's recreational camp this morning, as they have all week.  Since the afternoon schedule was open (a rare event), we had playdates as well, birthdays be darned...Thing One was invited to a friend's house and the other two had friends over to our house.  I left the camp with five children aged 11 and under in my car, took them to a local burger joint for lunch and ice cream, and then brought them back to the house.  Thing One's friend's mom picked him up, and the four smaller ones spent the afternoon playing games and swimming.

Not necessarily the way I would choose to spend my birthday, but it ended up working out fine.  I've found that when you are the one who makes celebrations happen in your house, it's a bit awkward being the one having the occasion, so to speak.  Not all that excited about getting older, either, but I guess it beats the alternative, and I did get to go to taekwondo this morning, where I creditably represented for the old ladies of the world.  (And let me tell you about craziness...I went to class even knowing that sparring was the theme of the week and that the [Muslim] Friday instructor was going to be both low on blood sugar and caffeine-deprived because of Ramadan!)

Happily, the kids all played well together.  In keeping with my recent post about Thing Two, I noted today how much easier it is on everyone involved for him to have a playdate these days...they used to be *tremendously* stressful because he had no idea how to interact appropriately with peers and needed constant supervision and guidance.  Today, while I still had to keep an eye on him (personal space is the biggest issue), he and his friend played Wii, had a great time in the pool, and even successfully played some sort of imaginative game with Thing Two's Angry Birds Jenga set.   And I didn't feel a dire need to start drinking as soon as the friend left.  Win!  As a birthday gift, that's a whopper...happy birthday to me, indeed.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Home Cooking Thursday

From the home I grew up in, anyway.  Simple fare, and these two recipes all or mostly vegetarian.  Boy, does it smell good in my house right now!

First: zucchini and tomatoes.  Fresh zucchini, cooked in crushed tomatoes with finely minced basil from my garden, eaten piping hot with a shower of Parmesan.  Yum!

Next up: pasta e fagioli, Mama D-style.  My Italian grandmother made this soup often; when I asked my aunt for the recipe, she sent me both Grandma's and another version cut out of her hometown newspaper.  Sad to say, mine is based on the newspaper's version!  Onions, garlic and celery sautéed till soft; add chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, ditalini pasta, and small white beans; top with rosemary, parsley and sage fresh from the garden; add salt and pepper to taste, simmer till the pasta is done, and Bob's your uncle.  Piece of cake...serve with garlic bread and enjoy the raves of your children.  (Go figure: all three of my persnickety little eaters AND my mostly carnivorous husband actually ask me to make this!)  Don't inquire about a specific recipe: I don't actually have one.  (I can hear my mother laughing from here...after all the years I spent giving her grief about cooking by feel and taste, I've finally started doing it myself for some things.)

A few things I will say:

1) I deliberately make mine thicker than most: more pasta and beans and veggies than broth.  It started as a way to keep the mess down when I had three little ones trying to eat something red with spoons (it was easier for them to eat something with a more pasta-like consistency than a thin soup), and it makes for a more filling meal that way anyway.

2) If you don't have one of these fabulous multi-bladed contraptions, you need one.  Really.

Makes short work of mincing the herbs.  (Have YOU ever successfully convinced a two year-old to eat a large chunk of rosemary or sage?  Me either.)

3) Fresh herbs really make the difference: I rarely make this soup in cold months because dried herbs just don't taste the same.  I grow a pretty fair selection of herbs myself, but in a pinch buy them at the supermarket before using that dried sawdusty stuff.

Mangiar bene, stare bene, my friends.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Taking Stock Again

Had an epiphany today: I really need to stop bitching as much as I do.

I won't lie; it's been tough getting used to having the kids home for the summer this year.  Guess I'm having a crisis of patience.  All three kids are a little high maintenance in some way or another and sometimes I just want afewfreeminutesofpeaceandquietalonefortheloveofGodisthatTOOmuchtoask??  If I'm not cooking, I'm cleaning something or refereeing a squabble or shuttling them all over the place, and generally not to the same places at the same times, them being of different ages and genders and abilities and all.  The first week of September (school starts right after Labor Day around here) is starting to look really good, y'all.

All three of my kids having summer or summer-ish birthdays, this time of year we have a big round of annual well visits and eye exams and such, followed in quick succession by the annual checkup with Thing Two's neurodevelopmental pediatrician (NDP), which I hate with the blinding fierceness of the sun.  In fairness to the NDP, she is an absolutely lovely woman, but there is nothing quite like spending three hours with even the loveliest of human beings as she assesses your child and then details everything that isn't "right" in cold numbers and percentages and excruciating detail.  If he wasn't making so much progress year to year I swear I would have quit going long since...her annual visit with him really highlights his growth because she only sees him the once per year.  Everyone else who works with him sees him so often that the changes in him are not quite so apparent because of their gradual nature.  Kind of like not noticing that your kid is getting taller until he puts on a pair of old pants at the end of the summer and his shins are hanging out all of a sudden.

Before each NDP appointment a crap-ton of paperwork has to be filled out by everyone and their aunt Matilda and sent in.  Two of these forms are parent assessments, one general and one more specifically-targeted, and I gird my loins every year before Himself and I sit down to do them because we pretty much ALWAYS end up having significant differences of opinion and it sucks.  Part of the issue is that I am the stay-at-home parent and have two other kids to juggle as well, so I am outnumbered far more often than not and have to get all the regular daily shit DONE while outnumbered.  (See comment about patience, above.  Not my strong suit.)  When Himself is home, generally I am as well, so what he sees is not the one parent/three kids dynamic that is my daily life.  Besides which (and it pains me to admit this) Thing Two gets along much better with Himself than he does with me, hence Himself doesn't generally get the sass and attitude that comes my way.  Sadly, again, it is most likely because Thing Two and I are two of a kind in personality--Himself jokes that I shouldn't be surprised that he gets along so well with Thing Two because he picked me to marry, after all.

Anyhow, we did our forms the other night and only had one major issue, which was pretty good for us.  Then I had to find all the other stuff that gets sent in with them...the IEP paperwork, report card, therapists' evaluations, teacher forms, etc etc etc.  It isn't too often that I have all of that stuff in my hands at one time, so I flipped through the papers quickly and came across a paragraph in something--I think the IEP--that described Thing Two's abilities when the whole intervention/diagnosis process started, and it stopped me in my tracks.  Kid had staggeringly limited receptive and expressive language, no social skills, no classroom skills, and (not surprisingly) a lot of pent-up frustration that manifested as bad behavior.  Guess I hadn't thought back to those days in a while.

Whatever issues he may still be facing, and make no mistake, he's still got a steep uphill grade ahead of him, he's functioning just fine so far in a normal classroom with an aide to redirect him every once in a while.  His grammar and comprehension can still be banged all to hell sometimes but both the expressive and receptive language are orders of magnitude better than they used to be.  He has pretty decent social skills now, much more spatial awareness than he used to, and he plays basketball, travel-level soccer and the piano.  He even has perfect pitch, for crying out loud.  (The most amazing thing about that is that he understands a concept as abstract as 'this particular pitch has this particular name'...that blows my mind.)   Kid is wicked smart under all the crossed neurological wires, thank God, even if the NDP does repeatedly classify his language deficit as 'severe'.

He has been the single biggest source of stress in my life by far since the moment he was born (literally--maybe I'll tell that story sometime), almost nine years ago now.  I have cried more times than I care to discuss about things he can't or couldn't (or did, conversely) do.  But as it happens, recently I've come across a few blogs written by parents of children who have such significant medical issues that I simply have NO business complaining about my kid, who has legitimate problems but also gets a little 'better' every day.  Perspective is a gift, and it just smacked me upside my fool head.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Did I Call It Or What?

World Cup Final today.  90-plus minutes of regular time, no score for either team.  Next up: 30-plus minutes of extra time, in which Germany finally scored one beautiful goal somewhere around minute 113 and then held on to win the whole shebang 1-0.  What was it that I wrote yesterday??  Oh, yeah:

"In general, I have a hard time watching soccer matches in which my children aren't playing.  They go on for all eternity and end with scores like 1-0; the one goal invariably scored when I turn my head away for a second!"

I did actually see the winning goal, as it happens, but only because I knew ahead of time which part of the game to watch: we were viewing it on time delay because Thing One had a tournament this weekend.  (I happened to see the final score on CNN, but my menfolk did not.)  I can assure you that my attention would have wavered long before minute 113 otherwise, especially since I was also attempting to cook dinner at the time.

My menfolk, Germany fans all, were beyond ecstatic about the win.  There was some yelling and dancing involved.  Honestly, I could have cared less who won.  Back in the day, I participated in several college football pools, in which I ostensibly made my picks based on whose uniforms I liked better, much to the disgust of the hardcore guys making up the rest of the pool.  I won more often than not, primarily because my picks were actually based on the Vegas lines (!!), but it was fun to watch the aftermath.  In that spirit, I informed the gentlemen that I would be cheering for Germany as well but purely because their players were better looking.  Also in that spirit, I got a hell of a kick out of NOLA's daily post, in which she informed her readers that she was cheering for Argentina because she likes Pope Francis more than Pope Benedict!

To each his or her own, my friends.  Happy Sunday.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

This Made Me Laugh Right Out Loud

In general, I have a hard time watching soccer matches in which my children aren't playing.  They go on for all eternity and end with scores like 1-0; the one goal invariably scored when I turn my head away for a second!  That said, with the World Cup currently going on, the four soccer players in my house have had the TV tuned to FIFA more or less nonstop, and even I have been enjoying the drama.

Speaking of which, check out this link (for some reason I can't embed the video)--the video is all of ten seconds long and worth it!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Quiet Week Plus A Milestone

I know there's been radio silence for an unusual number of days now, but all is well.  Just on vacation and not quite so glued to technology as usual.

The rest of the crew has been spending every day at the beach.  Since I no longer do sun, I've been caching instead and just meeting up with them in the afternoons.  (I actually contemplated writing a post about how people who see me must think I belong to some crazy religious sect because of the long pants, hat and long sleeves I've been wearing to cache in the heat of summer in a beach town!)

In other news, I can't believe that this child, my oldest "baby", is now 11.

Seems like he looked like this not so very long ago at all.  I blinked and all of a sudden he wears men's size Small shirts and men's size 8.5 shoes and I no longer have to lean over much at all to kiss the top of his head.  

In the spirit of accepting that which I cannot change, since it appears that he is going to continue to grow regardless of any opinions that I may have on the matter, I am trying very hard to focus on enjoying the fine young man that he is becoming instead of wondering where my little boy went! Works a lot better some days than others.  

He's going to MIDDLE SCHOOL next year, heaven help us all.  Class-switching and lockers and dances and all.  


Friday, July 4, 2014

Work In Progress But Moving In The Right Direction

Taking stock of Project Get-My-Butt-In-Shape-So-I-Don't-Embarrass-Myself-At-My-Red-Belt-Test (date still TBD, sadly. )

20+ lbs down.  Old practice shirts size XL, new one M.   Old gi pants size 5, new ones size 4.  Size 6 belt is now way too big; will need a smaller red one. In much better shape, too: managed to do a full Dirty Dozen in class yesterday without collapsing!  (12 each jumping jacks, push-ups, mountain climbers and sit-ups, then 11 of each, 10 of each, etc down to 1.  The dork in me figured out long ago that the total is 78 of each exercise.)

I'm still up 15 lbs and a dress size from when I got married, my upper body strength leaves a lot to be desired, and I need to seriously work on push-ups in particular, but I can see and feel the progress and for an old lady (rapidly approaching 41) in a young person's game I'll take it.  Moving toward the best that I can do, which will never be confused with perfect but is fortunately all that the instructors are asking of me!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Crazy Lady Right Here

We're leaving for a family vacation tomorrow with my in-laws, sister-in-law and nephews.  With the exception of a morning taekwondo class and a couple of quick errands, I spent the entire day at home running around like a headless chicken and am STILL not ready to go.  Why?  Because most of that time was spent doing dishes and laundry, vacuuming, changing beds and towels, and tidying up the house!

Given any choice in the matter at all, I do my best to leave a clean house behind me when I walk out the door for any period of time.   Kind of like the whole always-wear-clean-underwear-in-case-you're-in-an-accident thing...the one time I leave my house a disaster and go away will be the time the house gets broken into or flooded or something and half the town's emergency personnel will be in it and commenting on my lousy housekeeping when I get back!  Not to mention the fact that the friend who will be checking up on the house in our absence doesn't really need to see how bad the menfolk in my house are at aiming.  And also the fact that the only thing that will make me crazier than the inevitable walk back into the house with tons of dirty laundry etc when we get home would be that same walk into a dirty house that will stress me out with everything I have to do to make it decent again!  (This from the same woman who returned to her house after the two days in the hospital delivering Petunia and immediately grabbed the vacuum cleaner because she couldn't handle looking at all the crud on the carpets.)

I think I have a problem.  For the record, that problem is genetic and it is directly linked to my mother's side of the family, congenital neat freaks all.  I hope the policemen and firemen will appreciate it, at least!



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Good God These People Are Clueless

I wrote here a while back about the capital campaign our parish has going for the purpose of refurbishing the main church in the parish, which, in fairness, did legitimately need some maintenance (roof repairs, repairs to the lead holding the stained glass windows together before the glass fragments fall in on somebody's head, etc.)  However, in addition to these necessary items, a lot of work is being done that in my opinion is window dressing, designed solely to increase the grandeur of the church.  Much of what the current pastor does seems primarily intended to feed his own ego, which makes me profoundly glad that we attend a different church in which he rarely presides over Mass.  At any rate, this repair work has been going on for some time now, and we hadn't been the target of any fundraising appeals since the tone-deaf letter in which the pastor (who doesn't know us from Adam) told us that we should be considering a donation in the 20-40 THOUSAND DOLLAR range.  Ha.

Until yesterday, anyway.

Another letter: this one serving as an update on the current status of the renovation project and asking for more money, since the $2 million-plus they raised on the first go-round wasn't enough for the extras that they now want to add on to, and I quote, "add to the quality of the worship experience and the grandeur of the building."

The pastor now wants to add a chapel, change the flooring in the center aisle, (and this is what really got me) add decorative painting throughout the church.  Bearing in mind that this place is a large older church (circa 1900) with pretty much every decorative bell and whistle you can imagine already, it is difficult to envision a more clear-cut case of lily-gilding.  And they are asking for an additional $300,000 to get this all done.

I get that a lot of people attend Mass in this church and that repairs are necessary to preserve the building and avoid lawsuits.  What I don't get is that a church, of all things, which theoretically should be deeply and profoundly aware of what good can be done, how many people could be helped, with that kind of money, wants to blow it on a decorative paint job (not simple repainting of walls, to be clear) and some new floors.  Makes me sick to my stomach.  Pretty sure that if Jesus were to walk in there right now, he'd be less than impressed.

Damn, it's hard to separate the faith from its official custodians some days.


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...