Fall woods

Fall woods

Friday, February 28, 2014

Please Read: Advice Needed!

Well, so much for not posting for a while.

A friend threw me with a difficult question last night and it's been bugging me ever since.  It occurred to me that NOLA might be a good person to ask for info, but instead of emailing her offline, I'm posting it here instead: since I don't know so many of the people who visit here, I thought it might be good to take the chance that one or more of you might have helpful suggestions as well!

Here's the situation.

My friend knows of an Indian woman living in West Virginia who is in an abusive relationship but believes that she cannot leave her husband because she is in the US on a dependent visa.  Does she have any legal recourse, or are her only choices 1) staying with her miserable rat-bastard of a husband (my words, not hers) and 2) going back to India (with her children? without her children??  How does that part of it work??)

If anyone can even begin to point me in the right direction on this, it would be GREATLY appreciated.  I'd love to see abusive husbands get the same treatment in prison as child molesters: after all, both prey on people weaker than themselves.




Thursday, February 27, 2014

Blah

The last few days I've been uninspired to write, and mostly too busy with the mundane sorts of activities that would make me tired just listing them all.  Nothing I want to re-think about and certainly nothing I want to bore the rest of you with!  Not bad stuff--beyond this eternal and damnable winter, anyway--just boring.

So, until I am inspired to post again, there may be a bit of silence.  But I'm still reading your blogs, even if I don't quite manage to comment as often as I'd like.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Overheard From The Hallway, Part 1

Wednesday nights my kids have CCD, which stands for Confraternal Christian Doctrine and is otherwise known as Religious Education and further otherwise known as the classes that you have to take before you can make your sacraments up to Confirmation in the Catholic church.  As far as I'm concerned, it is also what makes my Wednesday nights a logistical nightmare and therefore an acronym often taken in vain, but maybe that's just me.  The powers that be have the sense to stash me in the vicinity of the smallest children for my hall-monitoring duties, which is very wise of them.  All I have to do is think about the bishops who are spending millions on their palatial dwellings while shuffling pedophile priests like decks of cards in their spare time and it's just as well that I am not anywhere near kids who might be old enough to register and process my honest opinion on either subject, should they happen to hear it at any point.

Anyway, my seat in the hall (from which I monitor the to-ings and fro-ings of wayward parents and chaperone small fry on bathroom trips) happens to be directly outside the first grade classroom in which Petunia and a number of other small fry are taught by a truly remarkable woman.  She is a pharmacist by training, but missed her calling as a teacher: I admit freely that I have borrowed many of her techniques for handling little ones for use in my basketball coaching and that the kids are much better off for it.  The other benefit to me of my seat location is that I can hear what goes on in said first grade classroom, and some of the conversational exchanges between students and teacher are absolutely--and unintentionally--hilarious.

I have heard one of the Sacraments called (in all seriousness, on two different occasions) both the "annoying of the sick" and "the annoying of the orange."  (If you are not familiar with the TV show to which the latter is referring, I envy you deeply.)  Another child, on a third occasion, asked if the tablets upon which Moses received the Ten Commandments were iPads.  And on the subject of the Ten Commandments, I bring you the highlight from this evening:

Teacher: "Who can name one of the Ten Commandments for me?"
Student: "Don't bring weapons to the airport."

Love it.  Absolutely love it.  

 

    

Monday, February 24, 2014

Thoughts On Santayana

I once used a quotation of George Santayana's against an opponent in a high school debate: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  I was reminded of that today, as apparently my own memory has started to go!

Twice now, I've arrived at the coordinates for a geocache to find an open expanse with no likely hiding spots in sight.  Both of those times, the cache in question was located UNDER the path upon which I was standing: once in a pedestrian tunnel and once in a drainpipe.   As you might expect (or hope!) I was a lot quicker on the uptake the second time than the first.  Latitude and longitude pinpoint a location on the Earth (the proverbial X marking the spot) but tell you nothing about how far above or below the X you should be looking.

I had to go to Costco today, so I took the opportunity to try a second time for a cache that defeated me entirely on my last Costco trip.  The posted coordinates brought me to the corner of a parking garage in a shopping mall, and both times I spent more than an hour fruitlessly poking around the wire-fenced enclosure and handrails near the stairwell at that corner, just hoping that nobody would see me loitering suspiciously and call Paul Blart!  By the end of my explorations today, I'd had it with dodging pedestrians--I gave up in disgust and fired off an email to a geocacher friend who had previously found it asking for a hint, then took off for Costco.

By the time I arrived, he'd responded.  "Did you go up the stairs??"

Sure enough, when I stopped back for the third time on my way home, it took me all of 30 seconds to find the cache, which was suspended from fishing line off the edge of the top deck of the parking garage, directly above the fenced enclosure I'd previously been examining so unsuccessfully.

So now I have officially been thrown by caches located both below and above ground level.  The real test will be whether I remember to look up the next time I'm stymied!


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Day Is Done

Saw this sign the other day...love it!  Two of my favorite food groups: coffee and wine.


It's been that kind of weekend...busy and somewhat stressful, too.  You can tell that we are entering the transition zone between the winter and spring sports seasons: we had two rounds of basketball yesterday and three of soccer today.  (And we are getting signup notifications for spring baseball, too--thankfully that ain't happening now that we have three soccer teams to juggle this spring instead of only two!)

Thing One's team won their basketball game even though the poor kid couldn't hit a bull in the behind with a basketball that day--thankfully, at least he did manage his usual stellar defense.  Thing Two's team was once again scrimmaging Petunia's, which is always a disaster waiting to happen from an emotional standpoint, but with a little careful management (i.e., not putting the two of them anywhere near each other on the court!) we had no tears or trauma when all was said and done.  Then, after the scrimmage was over, one of my kindergarteners came up and gave me a thank-you card on behalf of the team.  There was a gift card in it, which was beyond thoughtful, but the sentiment was what got me...this is the first time I've been a head coach, and I've felt like I was bumbling and faking my way through more than a few times.  Hearing that the kids have been telling their parents how much fun basketball is and how much they are learning completely made my season (and left me choked up like a bullfrog.)

Thing One had a tryout for a summer league soccer team this morning, which apparently did not go terribly well (I was home with the other two and didn't see it.)  Luckily the coaches handling the tryout know him well and presumably know that he had an off tryout, but I felt bad for the kid.  With his anxiety issues more under control now than they have been for a while, we struggle with signing him up for anything that would put more pressure than necessary on the kid.  He said he wanted to try out, though (direct quote: "I'll be BORED this summer if I don't have soccer!") so we'll see what happens.  Fortunately, his usual Sunday evening clinic went very well, which I only care about as far as his confidence is concerned--he was in a much better mood when he came home after that one.

Thing Two had his third travel team practice tonight, and this time I was the parent who accompanied him.  I was very glad to find that one of my taekwondo classmates also has a child on the team (Himself didn't recognize her out of context) and the icing on the cake was that Thing Two's close friend from school made the team as well.  I know much less about soccer than I should considering that I've been watching one of my kids or another play the game pretty continuously for a good seven years now, but to my untutored eye he looked like he was right in there with his teammates skill- and behavior-wise.  It seems like he has been 'different' for his whole life, and my prayer for years has been that he manage to acquire the language and social skills necessary for him to blend in better.  And not because I care for me--because I care for him, and I don't want him to be that odd kid who nobody wants to play with.  Even letting him try out was a leap of faith, and there is still a thornspiked ball of the old fear in my gut about this risk (should I be dreading taking my son to a practice when he is perfectly happy about it??), but we are going with it and giving him the benefit of the doubt.  May we not regret it.  

Oh, well.  The sun has set on the weekend, and for all the promise of potential drama, little of it came to pass.  I guess I should just be grateful for that and move on.


Gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hill,
From the sky.
All is well, safely rest.



Friday, February 21, 2014

Reality Check Times Two

I guess three, if you include my former classmate from the last post.

I mentioned a while back that my next taekwondo belt test will be in a different format; effectively a watered-down version of the black belt test, since my next belt is considered a high belt.  The instructor for this morning's class decided to run a simulated black belt test in class just so we could see how we stack up against the physical requirements at this point.

Let me just say: HOLY COW.

Three minutes each of jumping jacks and sit-ups: no problem, but I'm sure my abs will hate me tomorrow and Saturday.  Three minutes of pushups, however: no freaking way.  I've been working on planks and pushups but clearly have a long way to go.  Bagwork: three minutes hand techniques only, four minutes foot techniques only, then 7 minutes hands and feet together.  Combinations.  Laps of the room.  All the forms and self-defenses in rapid succession, no rest in between.  All told, about an hour, and I was exhausted and dripping sweat at the end, although I did manage to do everything except the pushups without any major difficulty.  The actual test will be closer to three hours long and include a great deal of sparring and some board-breaking as well, so I have my work cut out for me!  The instructor is going to do these simulations about once a month, which will be a fantastic yardstick of progress at least.

After class I ran a few errands and then walked in the door at home to a ringing phone: Thing Two's occupational therapist.  Apparently he's having spatial awareness issues again (i.e., not being entirely sure where his body is in space, which manifests in things like bumping into people and walls.)  As a preschooler, he routinely attempted to walk through people, so he's made a lot of progress, but has apparently regressed in the last few weeks.  I'm wondering if it's because he's growing, which the sudden flood-iness of his pants would indicate.  At any rate, she made some suggestions regarding clothing and shoes and hopefully those will help...there is never a dull moment with this kid.  I knew there was an issue as soon as I saw who was calling: strangely enough, none of the therapists ever call me just to tell me that my son is doing well!  In the grand scheme of things, though, this is small potatoes and perspective is always a good thing.

Rain outside today (thankfully not snow) but gray and gloomy.  I plan to spend the rest of the afternoon hibernating with all the lights on and a good book!        


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Thrown For A Loop

Just learned via Facebook that a middle school classmate I remember well is dead.  He was an attorney; I gather that he had some disappointments trying to make partner at one of the big firms, developed a drinking problem, got fired, got divorced, and died.  I can't tell if his death was deliberate or accidental, but what a freaking waste.  Especially since he left behind two tween-aged kids.

He's not the first of our classmates to pass away (one died of cancer when we were just out of college) but he's the first to go this way, the victim of midlife crisis, addiction, depression and ambition.  I don't feel middle-aged, but the mirror tells me otherwise, and a little more of the illusion of youth disappeared today.  RIP, my friend...may you finally be free of your demons.




Not Quitting Just Yet

The book club meeting was the straw that broke the camel's back yesterday.

Due to all the damned snow we've had this winter, it had been rescheduled a couple of times, so I'd mostly forgotten the last book we read by the time last night rolled around.  Of course, the kids had yet another delayed opening yesterday because of the snow we'd gotten the night before, so they went in to school late.  All I had time to do before my dentist appointment (which had also been rescheduled twice due to snow days!) was run the vacuum cleaner and fold a couple of loads of laundry.  Run to the dentist, swing by the bank to get Thing Two's birth certificate out of the safety deposit box (needed to prove his birthdate for travel soccer), quick trip to Staples for some desk organizing stuff, home to grab the rice krispy treats I hurriedly made that morning when I learned that the first grade Valentine's Day party had been rescheduled after Friday's snow day, then off to school for the party.

Direct from party to grocery store to pick up dental floss for the kids and cookies for Thing Two's half birthday celebration in school today (his birthday is in August, so we celebrate half birthdays at school instead.)  Home to get the kids off the bus.  Frantic half an hour of getting the kids a snack, packing up their homework and having them put on their taekwondo gis before running back out to take them to their classes at the dojo (with whomever was not in class doing their homework in the hallway.)  Home again, hurriedly cook dinner for everyone, wait for Himself to get home and then take off like a rocket to get back to town for book club.  NOT, to put it mildly, a relaxing day.  I was in rare form by evening: I have all the organizational skills of a master sergeant in the Army and whatever shit needs to get done gets done, but it takes a toll!

I spent the entire drive back to town thinking about quitting book club.  Not that the reading itself is much of a hassle, since I love to read even though sometimes I have to force myself to read the particular selections: it's more the evening time commitment causing stress since my kids have one or more things going on every night of the week and getting anywhere alone on a weeknight requires juggling in the form of some combination of my husband, babysitters and friends.  (Last night a girlfriend brought Thing One home from basketball practice, for example.)

So, I got to book club about half an hour late, sagged into a chair and took a deep breath.  This isn't even a group of girls I know all that well: a few friends, but a lot of friends-of-friends too.  I was thinking that this should be something that I could cut from my list of to-dos without it being too such of a sacrifice.

But then it turned into a really great evening.  We had fun talking about the book, and I remembered more about it than I'd expected.  And of course, a good chunk of the evening was spent talking about everything in the world OTHER than the book anyway.  By the time I left, I was really glad that I had gone, and my batteries were feeling more charged than they were when I arrived, even with all the stress of the day.  Right now, I'm thinking that I will try to stick it out, since I don't get all that much time with the girls and clearly it's something that I need.  (The whole "if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" thing.)  Guess the juggling will have to continue!

              

Monday, February 17, 2014

Big Brother Strikes Again (And I Want To Hit Someone Back)

A week or so ago, I got a box in the mail that had me scratching my head.  It was a so-called "Newborn Nutrition Kit" from Abbott Nutrition, your friendly neighborhood manufacturer of Similac baby formula, and was filled with 2-oz bottles of formula.  My initial reaction was amusement, since my youngest is 6 and there are no more little D babies on the horizon: clearly the marketers got it wrong in my case.  I tossed off a quick Facebook comment and moved on.

If you really want to read something scary, read this Forbes article.  It's called "How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did."  (And for even scarier detail, click through to the link for the extended NY Times article within the Forbes article.)  Take special note of Target's use of what people buy to predict whether or not they are expecting, and then their further deliberate deviousness of tailoring the coupons and ads sent to potentially pregnant women to make it less obvious that the company is data mining and then specifically targeting them based on their suspected gestational status.


Now, I very rarely shop at Target because they don't have any stores near me.  I have absolutely NO idea what I would have purchased recently (or where!) that would have led somebody's mathematicians and marketers to have put two and two together to get five and sell my data to Abbott so that it could start sending me formula.  Clearly, as my case demonstrates, their statistical models aren't perfect.  But apparently they work well enough to justify the existence of these programs.  And Abbott has clearly put a lot of thought into this: check out this blog post, which details one family's experience with multipronged Similac-marketing efforts.

Yeah, the idea that the retail industry is speculating as to my family planning is annoying, intrusive and slimy.  But what tipped me over the edge to actual anger was the responses I received to the Facebook comment I mentioned above.  You see, some of the expectant mothers targeted by these marketers aren't actually fortunate enough to deliver healthy babies.  Sometimes, those babies are miscarried, or stillborn.  And none of these marketers seem to be worried about whether their damned statistical models are figuring that part of it out.  So, these mothers who have already suffered a great loss are painfully reminded of it.  Around the due date for a baby who is no more, they unexpectedly receive formula in the mail.  Or baby product coupons.  From a company that they did not register with, that should not even know that they were expecting a child and clearly does not know that it was lost to them.  How unbelievably cruel and insensitive.  One friend was crying as she recounted her experience with this to me.   You would think it very shortsighted, as well, given the statistic I've seen that about a third of pregnancies end in miscarriage: maybe if enough people get angry at these marketers, they will adjust their approach.  The friend I mentioned actually tracked down the information for the marketing director of Similac and expressed her fury personally!!  

I am not meaning to target (ha) only Target and Similac here.  I'm sure that all retailers and formula manufacturers use similar programs.  As I recall, back in the days when I was actually having babies, I somehow got on the list for whatever company makes Enfamil, and they kept sending me formula and coupons too.  At the time it annoyed me only because I kept having to find people to donate them to, but I think that if I had lost a pregnancy I would have taken the same approach my friend did and ripped some marketing person a new one.

Time to think about making more purchases in cash, indeed!





Sunday, February 16, 2014

All Things Are Relative

Out of the mouths of babes this morning (in this case, Thing Two:) "But Mom, I don't need to wear my heavy coat to Mass today.  It's 22 degrees outside...it's WARM!"

Sad commentary on our last month or so of frigid weather!


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Crazy

Life sometimes has a way of not working out quite the way you thought it would.  (The whole "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans" theory.)

By way of illustration of this principle, I live on the East Coast, I'm married to a nondemonstrative Yankee, and I have a special needs child.  None of that was on my agenda (until I met the Yankee in question in connection with point two, anyway.)  Decisions lead inexorably to consequences, and on top of that, in some cases things just happen and you have to play the hand you're dealt.

Thinking about this because of a woman I met at the gym the other night.  She is a little older than me, in her late 40s.  Married, but hadn't wanted any kids.  She went to the doctor one day because she was really not feeling well, and was told after a few tests that she was pregnant.  Her response?  "Could be, doc, but I'm betting it's more than that: I just feel SO awful."  The doc had her come back for an ultrasound that afternoon.

To make a long story short, she was pregnant with triplets!  At 41.  Unplanned, certainly no IVF involved.  All boys, as well: two identical, one fraternal.  They were born at 26 or 27 weeks, all three tiny tiny tiny.  One had a major brain bleed shortly after birth and ended up with a diagnosis of mild cerebral palsy, but all are happy thriving elementary schoolers now, thank God.  But just think about the changes in that woman's life.  She went from living the DINK dream to having a difficult, abbreviated pregnancy and then premature triplet boys to raise, one with significant health issues, all while still working a job that requires travel because her income was needed.  Sure, you could perhaps argue that it was a birth control issue, but it could just as easily (and more likely!) have been one full-term baby that she ended up with.  Three preemies at once??  Talk about an almighty spanner being thrown into whatever plans you had.  What in the world do you call that?  Luck?  Fate?

Unexpected births or deaths.  Injury.  Illness.  These sorts of things have to make you wonder how much control you really have over your life and how much of it is just buckling your seat belt and hanging on for the ride!  And this is really where the Serenity Prayer (from which the title of this blog is derived) comes in, too.

Accept the things we can't change.  Try like hell to change the things that are actually within our power to change.  And hope for the discernment needed to be able to tell the one situation from the other.  In the face of what often appears to be a completely fickle and capricious universe, what else can we do?




Friday, February 14, 2014

It's That Day Again

February 14th.

I'm not a big fan of Valentine's Day; never have been.  Who cares about the grand Hallmark-inspired gesture on the day that society dictates that Great Love be shown?  Instead, bring a bunch of roadside-picked flowers home on a random day for no reason; it means a lot more that way.

I say this even though I am married to a man whom I would cheerfully marry all over again if the opportunity presented itself.  Love and marriage, at least to me, are not about the chocolate or roses or sappy cards or diamonds.  Or about the big fancy expensive wedding day, for Pete's sake, but that's a separate post.

True love, to me, sounds something like this:

"I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out.  I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich.  I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts.  I love that after I spend a day with you I can still smell your perfume on my clothes, and I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night.  And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve.  I came here tonight because when you realize that you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of the life to start as soon as possible."

Just once, I'd like to see a Hallmark commercial that shows real love.  The kind shown by a husband who gets up with a crying baby even though he has to go to work early the next morning, because he knows that his wife is exhausted.  Or a wife sitting by her husband holding the emesis basin while he's getting chemo.  Or a couple holding hands by the bedside of their ill child, each drawing strength from the other.  Or beaming with pride while they watch their child graduate from college or marry.  Those are the moments that bind.  The roses can be a reminder, but they aren't enough.  By itself, no trinket or bauble is enough, no matter WHAT the marketers say, which is why I don't like this holiday.
  


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Update

Thing Two made the travel soccer team!  We got an email to that effect yesterday (apparently the trainer for his team and the head of the program had different tryout schedules in mind.)  He will be going to the practice Sunday night again, but this time as a member of the B team.  A and B are separated by ability, and I am very happy that he was assigned to the B team because generally there is much less pressure there, which would make it a better place for Thing Two to test the waters.  Thing One also plays on the B team at his level (U11), and blessedly so since the psycho nutjob reliving-my-youth, my-kid-is-the-center-of-the-universe dads' kids are all on the A team.  Every year Thing One ends up on the bubble between A and B at tryouts, and every year we ask that he stay on B.  He'll play more at the top of B than he would as a benchwarmer on A, and this way we don't need to deal with the parent drama on A, of which there is an astonishing abundance.  I have no idea if the U8 A team parent community is as cuckoo for cocoa puffs as its U11 counterpart, but I don't want to find out right now either!

In other news, it is snowing sideways here right now, big honking flakes coming down at a rate of more than an inch an hour.  I am not amused, but at least we are reasonably well prepared for The Potential Event Which Shall Not Be Named Lest It Tempt The Gods.  We've gotten at least eight or ten inches already and we have close to 24 hours of storm (off and on) yet to go.  For obvious reasons, the kids are home from school yet AGAIN and Himself is working from home, holed up in the office on a teleconference at the moment.  Very glad that all my chicks are in the nest, and the weather will be what it will be.  I saw a robin the other day and laughed out loud...clearly it is one mightily and profoundly confused little bird.

Really hoping we will get out of this $@&!$ snow globe soon,
Mama D

****

ETA: Himself just went out with a yardstick.  There is 10.5" of snow on the driveway already!


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

No News

This particular flashback to the '90s was the earworm in my head for most of today.  Took me a while to realize why...not one of my brighter moments.


Thing Two's soccer tryout went pretty well, as far as Himself could tell.  Unfortunately, we haven't heard anything official back yet.  We're also getting mixed messages as to just how many additional boys they are looking to pick up, which is frustrating.  I happened to run into the head of the travel soccer program at the gym this evening, and he told me to make sure Thing Two goes to the same practice again this Sunday evening since two more boys will be trying out then.   Hopefully they will let us know something after that practice, since they are getting the kid's hopes up.  Also, it's time to sign up for spring baseball, and I'm not sure that the travel soccer and baseball schedules are compatible.  If he doesn't make the soccer team, he will be playing baseball for sure.  I've gone from not being sure whether or not I should hope he makes the soccer team to just wanting to know one way or the other so we can move on accordingly.

The ground is white: six to eight inches of snow covered with ice right now.  I haven't seen grass since early January, since it's been too cold for any of the snowfall to melt.  And here we are, battening down the hatches for yet another dump, this one potentially major.  We're hearing everything from ten to 22 inches depending on the source.  I am so sick of this!!  I had to move a couple of the new caches I just set out because they were too close together--it was a slog just getting to them today and I can't even imagine what that haul would be like at the end of the week with another foot-plus on the ground.   Also picked up more firewood and made another run to the store today for pre-storm essentials...for kicks, I threw a set of long campfire cooking tongs in the cart as well.  Maybe we'll do hot dogs and marshmallows camping style if the power goes out.

Oh well.  Petunia got her red stripe today, so she'll be testing for a new taekwondo belt at the end of the month.  One step closer to having all three of my children in one class!  I'll take my bright spots where I can find them.    

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Giant Leap Of Faith

The car just pulled out of the driveway: Himself is taking Thing Two to a travel soccer tryout this evening.

The email came in a little over a week ago.  "We are looking for a few more boys in the U8 age group for the spring season.  If you have a child whom you would like to have try out, email so-and-so."  I reflexively deleted the copy of the email that came to me, but I knew that I'd be hearing about it from Himself.

Thing Two has two speeds when it comes to soccer: completely dominant and completely out to lunch.  When he's on, he's almost unstoppable, especially on offense.  When he's off, however, he's off.  He's good enough to play a higher level of soccer on the "on" days, but then there are those other days.  And the whole social thing, too.

His social skills are getting better, but are still an issue.  It terrifies me to be potentially sending him into a new social group, to be perfectly honest.  The kids he's known for years are used to his idiosyncrasies, but new kids sometimes aren't sure what to make of him.  When Thing One started playing travel soccer, there were a few real asshole kids on his team, and I cringe at the thought of putting Thing Two into that situation.  Parenthood really does mean deciding to forever have your heart go walking around outside your body, as Elizabeth Stone wrote.

So, Himself and I went back and forth for several days.  Do we try him out or not?  We finally decided that we didn't want to hold him back if he is good enough to play travel, and that we'd give him a shot.  But I still have no idea if it's the right decision.  I'm sitting here now wondering if I should be hoping that he makes the team or that he doesn't.  I guess time will tell.

****

In other news, I finally brought the laptop we've been having all the bug issues with to Staples today to have their tech guys look at it.  They found 34 (!!) virus-like files on it in a preliminary screen.  And this was WITH the McAfee viral protection software on it (direct quote from the Staples guy: "McAfee sucks."). Hopefully I will get it back bug-free in a few days.  And in case you're wondering, he recommends Defender and Kaspersky if you are in the market for an anti-virus program.

Just for something different (ha) it's snowing here again tonight.  My blog-friend NOLA said this picture made her think of me: if I were a wolf, I'd eat that damned groundhog too.




Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hooped Out

Thursday night game for Thing One.  Friday night game for Thing One.  The regular practice/scrimmages for Petunia and Thing Two this morning.  And finally, a trip to one of the nearer Big Cities for a college basketball game (at Himself's undergrad alma mater) with the family this evening.

With the exception of the Thursday night game, which was beyond ugly, all were wins for the good guys.  Petunia made a basket in her game this morning, as did the child who needed extra help before our practice. (!)  Another of my young beginners drove straight down the middle of the key between two defenders (!!) and then scored (!!!) before my truly gobsmacked eyes.  It looks beyond ridiculous when a coach is jumping up and down with joy on the sideline and I don't care one little bit, I am so happy for those kids.

My own kids seem to be a good-luck charm for the college team: we took them to a game last year as well, and both times these guys won against much higher-ranked opponents.  We're expecting invitations to big games from the team if this trend continues.  We make a half-day of it, going down early so that we have time for a trip to the college bookstore for hats and shirts and such and then dinner before the game.  The kids were exhausted when we got home, but they had a blast and so did we.  Nevertheless, I'm glad that there is nothing whatsoever basketball-related on the schedule for tomorrow!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Coda

Today's sunset, taken from the back of the driveway.  Imagine how beautiful this would be if it were taken with a 'real' camera rather than my iPhone, if you please.


Thing One had an away basketball game tonight.  The school where the game was held is at the end of Hog Hollow Road, I kid you not.  (See all of my previous comments and blog posts related to boonies, life therein.)  His team won handily, and he scored twice, his first baskets of the season.  His first successful shot was also the first basket of the game: the other team was quite taken aback when our entire bleacher section erupted in stomps and cheers!  Not exactly the normal reaction to a routine opening layup, but it says something about the kid that every parent in the bleachers was pulling for him to finally have a shot drop.  As is our custom, there will be celebratory ice cream tomorrow.


One Good Reason

For anyone who might be wondering why in hell we would choose to live here, given my last post:


This was the view from the front door when I let the dog out this morning.




Thursday, February 6, 2014

For The Amusement Of All You City Folk

We were lucky yesterday (I think I can say this now since the bad weather has passed): the power was only out for that one relatively brief period during the ice storm.  As I've mentioned before, having no power here is a big deal, because it means that we have no utilities at all.

I live out in the sticks: between five and ten miles from anything that could even loosely be called 'civilization,' depending on which way you're heading.  Sewer and city water lines generally stay in population centers, and most folks around here live on pretty good-sized chunks of property, so everyone who doesn't live right in a town has a well and septic tank.  A well pump, by definition, runs on electricity, so no power equals no water.  No water for cooking, flushing toilets, showers, anything.

Then there's the issue of temperature control.  There are no natural gas pipelines out this far, which means that all stoves and ovens run on electricity--there's no such thing as a gas range.  If you want gas at your house, you have to install a propane tank, and a lot of people use propane to heat their houses.  Most everyone else uses fuel oil.  Every house out this way has a big storage tank of either propane or fuel oil in the yard somewhere or in the basement, and the big fuel tankers that refill these supplies are a very common sight on the narrow, twisting roads out here.

So, to recap: when we lose power, we have no

*electricity (obviously)
*water
*heat or air conditioning
*way to cook
*way to flush toilets
*internet or phone service (except on our cell phones)

NOT, to put it mildly, a good state of affairs.

So what do good, responsible homeowners do to prepare for the inevitable outages?  (I'm not talking preppers here, just regular folk.)

First, we keep a goodly supply of certain things on hand, always.

Batteries (AA and D, especially)
Gallon jugs and smaller bottles of water
Nonperishable foods
Firewood and firestarting logs
20-gallon plastic tubs and a pitcher for each
Empty 2-gallon soda bottles
Candles and lighters or matches
Towels
Bags of ice
Disposable plates, cups and utensils
Cleaning supplies
Basic medical supplies
Charcoal (for cooking on the grill in more temperate weather)
Baby wipes
Purell


A few other equipment-y things: these stay in the laundry room cupboard till we need them.

Headlamps for each member of the family
Flashlights, large and small
Large lights (intended for camping, I think) that are battery-operated
Solar-powered garden lights (these stay outside)


So, what do we do to get ready when we expect an extended outage is coming??  (Thankfully, this does not happen often and is mostly the result of the odd very large storm.)

First and foremost, fill tubs with water.  Bathtubs and the 20-gallon plastic tubs, mostly for flushing toilets.  (TMI?  Sorry.  This is reality.)  When a storm approaches, the texts go all around: "Have you filled your tubs yet?"

Fill the soda bottles with water and freeze them solid.  Then pack those (along with ice bags) into your freezer with anything that needs to stay frozen.

Gas up both cars.

Put batteries into flashlights, etc and put them somewhere handy for quick retrieval in case of sudden darkness.  (Note that the solar lights can be brought in from the garden to use as indoor lights at night, too: we put them in the bathrooms.)

Put towels by the fish tank.  The second the power goes out in winter, the tank needs to be wrapped up for insulation: tropical fish do not like cold water!

Do all laundry and dishes in the house: who knows when we'll be able to do them again?

Put small bottles of water in the bathrooms for tooth brushing.

Charge every electronic device in the house!!  Phones, iPads, the kids' DSs...to keep people occupied, and, in the case of Himself's phone and mine, as a connection with the world outside the house when the power goes out.


You ask, very reasonably: "Given your household's dependence on electricity, why in the world don't you have a generator?"

It's a great question.  We've considered it.  The problem is that when major storms hit out here, we can be out of power for a week or more.  The power companies prioritize their resources and focus on the areas with more customers first.  Logical, no doubt, although profoundly annoying for us.  However, regular, smaller generators aren't intended to be used for that long.  They burn out, even with periodic use.  Also, they need gas to keep them going.  Not many people I know can stockpile enough gasoline to run a generator for days on end, and those who don't stockpile are assuming that the gas supply is normal and that they can get to a station (no downed trees, etc.)  The only real solution to a long outage is to have a big generator hard-wired into your house's electrical system, and a separate tank with fuel for it.  While that would be fantastic, it's also very expensive.  We've been lucky in that we are on the power circuit that is usually restored first in our area, and in that we have my in-laws' house relatively nearby to escape to in the more long-term outage situations!


Doesn't this just make you all want to move to the boonies??  Hope those of you with city water, city sewer service and power that generally stays on are appropriately grateful!  :)







    

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winter Wonderland

It started about 2AM: big fluffy flakes of snow.  By 6AM, it had changed to sleet.  By the time I let the dog out, the trees and bushes were mostly bowed down with the weight of the ice--every branch, leaf and needle had its own heavy coating.


The holly tree by the front door.  Can you see the icicles??


The ice coating on these leaves has to be at least a quarter of an inch thick!


The burning bushes by the driveway...


The driveway itself... (UGH)


The maples along the road...

 


The row of pines separating us from the closest neighbors'.  Can you see the ice on each individual needle in that second picture??  Crazy.  

It goes without saying (or should) that the kids' school was--yet again--cancelled today.  As it should have been for safety, to be honest.  They've been good, and except for the brief flicker around 7AM, --I am not going to finish that sentence because I KNOW better than to tempt fate!  Ice, branches and power lines do not mix well, especially out here in the sticks where the electrical grid is old and trees are plentiful.  And the precipitation is still coming, albeit mostly a misty rain right now.

Signing out from the Snow Queen's domain, and wishing her damned spell would be broken soon...

Mama D

***

ETA: Not half an hour after I typed this, the power went out for several hours.  Apparently I thought the word too often, Beetlejuice-style!



 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Growl

This was the view from my driveway this morning.


And this, looking a different way.


Beautiful, right??  No doubt.

However, courtesy of yesterday's snowstorm, the kids had a 90-minute delayed opening this morning: they were still clearing roads to make them safe for the buses.

Just after I took the pics above, I took this one.


That's two stacks of firewood from the stand down the street, which I picked up right after I put the kids on the bus.

Because, since we haven't had enough winter yet, a major ice storm is coming tonight.  This means that we will likely lose power, and therefore all other utilities: we may need the wood for heat.  And we will also be stockpiling water in bins, since when we have no power, we have no water.

The ice storm also most likely means that the kids will have no school tomorrow, to go along with their missed day Monday and half day today.

Dammit.  WHERE IS SPRING???


Monday, February 3, 2014

Celebration

This little guy turned 43 today.


Despite the forecast for miserable weather, he had important meetings today that he couldn't skip.  He left for work at 5AM, before the worst of the snow hit, but then drove home this afternoon in ten inches of the heaviest, wettest snow imaginable.  It took Thing One and I about 90 minutes just to shovel out the bottom third of the driveway (the sloped part) before he got home so that he would have a fighting chance of getting back up to the house!  Poor kid, the shovel is almost as tall as he is, but as the next biggest and strongest in the house, he got the job of helping me since the task was monumental.  I can't wait until the boys are a little bigger so that I can send them out to do that job together while I stay inside!  The roads were miserable: while we were shoveling, a truck spun out on the road not thirty yards from the end of the driveway and landed in the ditch.  And not a puny little truck, either; a big one, jacked up with monster truck-type wheels.   When the plow guy came to do the driveway a little later, he was driving a dump truck instead of his usual pickup, and he needed it!  He plowed up huge mountains of snow along the driveway that are serving as forts in a wicked snowball fight as I type.

Courtesy of the snow, we are going to have a slower evening than usual, anyway.  No soccer, no baseball planning meeting.  Just dinner and presents and a fire; very nice after the insane weekend we had.  At the birthday boy's request, we are having a Thai(ish) peanut chicken and noodles dish followed by banana pudding (the kind made with Nilla wafers, sliced bananas, custard, and whipped cream) for dessert.  Not the most likely match, but on birthdays I make whatever the birthday person requests.

Looks like we have snow coming both Wednesday and Saturday as well.  At the rate we are going, the kids will be in school well into July!  



Another $&@!$ Snow Day

We're expecting up to a foot before evening.  If spring doesn't come soon, I'm going to lose my mind. 

 


Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Long Day But A Good One

My mother has told me on more than one occasion that just listening to our daily schedule (from across the country) makes her tired.  With the aid of a color-coded whiteboard in the kitchen that helps us keep track of who needs to be where when and with what equipment, we manage, but I think yesterday might have been a stretch even for us.

8:40: Basketball pictures for Thing One.  Then a confab with his coach followed by a road trip to an away game that started at 10.  Himself took this detail, then ran some errands afterward.

9:10/9:20: Basketball pictures for Thing Two and Petunia, followed by their usual practice and scrimmage.  This one was all mine since I'm a coach.

We got home at 11.  The other two, around noon.  The art show (the exhibit of pieces by artists from the kids' school, including Thing One and Petunia) started at 2 in a town half an hour away: we had time for lunch, showers and getting the kids nicely dressed and were off again to the art museum.  When we got home, we had about an hour before Thing One had to be at his team's winter soccer training (5-6PM, every Saturday.)  Himself is an assistant coach, so he has to be at these practices too.

Then, because tomorrow is Himself's birthday and tonight is the Super Bowl, we went out for a nice dinner as a family.  We had 7PM reservations at a lovely inn down the street, and in the 'real' restaurant part of it, not even in the bar area.   Overall, sounds like a recipe for disaster, right??  Believe it or not, it was one of the best days we've had in a long time.

Our team's basketball practice went really well.  I have two or three boys who are already very good players, so for them practice is just skill refinement.  Then there are a few at the other end of the spectrum who are just beginning to figure out how the game works, and the rest are in the middle somewhere.  Petunia is one of the kids in the middle, and she's made a lot of progress: she's quick and has the right idea, but her ball-handling still needs work.  (At least she is no longer running around the court while holding the ball in both hands!!)  One of the beginners is an adorable cherubic blond five year-old.  He has a pretty good shot but started the season with no game awareness at all, especially on defense--he'd just be wandering around the court instead of staying with his man.  Yesterday, that child almost succeeded in breaking up a pass between two opponents, and I couldn't have been prouder of his heads-up play if I was his mother.  As a coach, I feel like I can make a lot more difference with the kids who have more to learn, and it's great to see the improvement that these kids in particular are making as the season goes on. I have one other beginner who needs more work on fundamentals than we have time for in the practices with the schedule the way it is, so starting next week his mom is going to bring him to practice fifteen minutes early every week and we'll do a few extra things before everyone else arrives.

The art show was lovely, and I wrote about the highlight of that yesterday: the art teacher's comment that Thing One's focus is improving.  (Hallelujah.)  Apparently all the running he's doing in basketball is paying off, too--this was the second week in a row that Himself came home from soccer practice commenting favorably on his fitness level relative to his teammates'.  And while he was at practice, I had time to put together five new geocache containers and get one placed in the tree where it will be residing: when I get the remaining four out (i.e., whenever the hell it stops snowing here) it will bring the total of caches I 'own' up to 13.

The really amazing thing is that none of these good things were the highlight of the day: that honor would have to go to dinner, believe it or not.  You would think that taking three young children to a nice white-tablecloth restaurant at 7PM after that busy day would be asking for meltdowns, and you'd be right under ordinary circumstances.  Nevertheless, those kids were ANGELS.  Thing One and Petunia are usually pretty good; Thing Two is the wild card, between volume issues and personal space issues and silly voices and wiggling around and I don't know what all.  I have no idea what got into him last night, but he could not possibly have behaved better.  He even tried a new food (fish and chips with tartar sauce) and loved it.  The icing on the cake came when the gentleman from the older couple sitting at the table behind us (a total stranger) stopped on his way out of the restaurant to compliment the three of them!








Saturday, February 1, 2014

Most Contradictory Sign Ever?

On a whim, I stopped today to take a picture to share with you all.  I've been passing it for years now and I'm still not sure what it means!  (Like the shadow of my hands taking the picture??  That's art right there.  Ugh.)


Anyway, we had to drive by the sign on the way to the art show, which was lovely.  Both children were very excited to see their art hanging on the wall in a real museum, and probably equally excited to see the cookies and punch at the refreshment table!  Go figure.

On the way out, I stopped to chat with the kids' art teacher, and mentioned that I was a little surprised at Thing One's selection for the show (or at least, that I had been until I got a good look at his piece, which was amazing.  The color and detail were just stunning.)  Her comment to me was that I needed to see the piece he just finished in class: apparently it is wonderful as well.  She went on to say that in the past, his work has been hurried and a bit careless, but that this year he has seemed better able to focus for her.

Focus is a key word for him, since he is borderline ADD.  He has struggled so mightily to keep his brain on track, and things have been much better in fifth grade than they were in fourth.  But since we never discussed that with the art teacher, having her home in on his increased ability to focus as the reason for his startling artistic progression was absolutely a gift, a reinforcement that we are on the right track with what we are doing with him.  Made my day.