Saturday, January 31, 2015

Lover Not A Fighter

Woke up this morning feeling like I'd been run over by a train, all bruised and banged up and creaky.  I do understand that the whole point of martial arts is being able to competently fight when you need to, but MAN I hate sparring.  Left to my own devices (assuming the bad guys and gals of the world leave me alone), all I'd want out of taekwondo is more upper body strength, some definition in my core, maybe improved endurance too.  The ability to efficiently beat the hell out of somebody has never been on my lifetime wish list.  Unfortunately, every time I earn a new belt I need a new green stripe for it signifying that I can spar at that belt level, and every future belt test will include a sparring element as well, so it's an issue that will never really go away unless I quit.

The problem boils down to control: both mine and that of my opponent.  I'm three and a half years into this now.  I'm tall and strong and I know a lot of techniques.  The goal in sparring (in class at least) is to land a strike or kick with less than your full power, indicating to the opponent where it would have hit them but not actually, you know, HURTING them with it.  Novel concept.  Given that most of my usual opponents are other women and therefore significantly smaller than me, population height averages being what they are and me being 5'10", I am genuinely concerned that one errant kick or punch from me will actually injure someone, even with everyone involved wearing protective gear, so I tend to err on the side of 'pulling' my strikes (aka checking their strength) more than most people.  This makes it *really* piss me off when people come at me full force in return.  Especially people higher-ranked than me, who should theoretically a) have more control, and b) know better.  Which explains why I blew my stack at the black belt who started off my Chain of Pain yesterday morning.

As a test of endurance, not much beats an extended period in which you are sparring nonstop against a series of opponents, each of whom comes in fresh at defined intervals as you become increasingly tired.  To earn my stripe yesterday, I had to complete an eight-minute Chain of Pain (two minutes each against four sequential opponents), at the end of a full class of sparring exercises.  I was pretty much wiped out already when it began, which is about par for the course...they are looking for you to be able to dig deep and gut it out.  And I can, believe me...didn't appreciate the black belt who started off the Chain coming at me with her full strength, though.  Just kind of looked at her when the first punch landed.  Yeah, she's a black belt, but she's maybe five inches shorter, five years older and somewhat out of shape.  Not normally somebody I'd try to beat up.  She landed another one solidly and I quietly told her that if she didn't start pulling her strikes I'd stop pulling mine.  She didn't and I did, as promised: game on, bitch.  She landed a few more in her remaining time (she outranks me by four belts, after all), but she paid dearly for them.  I saw to that.  Ignore fair warning and you get what you regrets.  Except that I lost my temper, that is.  Not proud of that.  Goal for next time this happens, because she won't be the first or last person to push this particular button: deliver the same lesson while remaining calm.

Got the damned stripe.  EARNED that damned stripe.  But I still hate sparring.

Life With Mr. North Philly

Sometimes a blog post just writes itself!

Philadelphians are renowned for being straight-talking, pull-no-punches, no-sugarcoating kind of people.  You get a couple of glasses of wine into one on a Friday night and you can pretty much guarantee that whatever social veneer might have been constructed over the Philly isn't going to last long.  Anyway, Himself and I were sitting on the sofa watching junk TV and relaxing after a long day when somehow, the subject of people renewing their wedding vows came up.  (There was a long conversational train involved.)  Curious, I asked him what he thought about it.

"Why the FUCK would anyone want to do that?"  (Said with no hostility whatsoever, just genuine confusion.)  "Renewing would mean something expired, like some kind of library book.  Wedding vows don't expire.  I meant what I said the first time and every morning I wake up next to you is a renewal of my damn vows."  

At which point I absolutely burst out laughing.  If that isn't the most romantic thing ever barked out Philly-style, I don't know what is!


Thursday, January 29, 2015

On The Randomness Of Facebook's Algorithms

So, I happened to click on the Friends icon on FB this evening, and the first person on the "people you may know" list that the FB wizards serve up is indeed an acquaintance, but I can't for the life of me figure out how the *hell* FB knows that I know her.  We have absolutely zero direct contact (no phone, no email) and the one solitary person through whom I know her is not on FB.  Just bizarre.

On the bright side, when I clicked on the icon again for giggles, the randomness that is FB produced the page of my fifth grade math teacher, who at least knows other people in my network.  That makes a little more sense.  And since, as it happens, this is a guy to whom I've owed a major debt of gratitude for oh, about THIRTY years now, I took the opportunity handed to me by the universe to send him a message saying 'thanks.'  It's not an exaggeration to say that he changed the entire trajectory of my life, academically speaking at least, so I should have found a way to make it happen long ago.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Is It Spring Yet??

Because I am going to lose my ever-loving MIND here if my kids and husband don't go back to their usual weekday pursuits soon.  Mama needs a little time during the day when she is not either cooking for or cleaning up after somebody, just sayin'.

On a related note, I firmly believe that only children old enough to dress and undress themselves and keep track of their own mittens/boots/hats/coats/snow pants etc should be allowed outside to play in the snow.   The sentence, "But MOOOOM, I can't find my _______" sends chills down my spine that are entirely unrelated to outdoor temperatures. thought I was only Grinchy at Christmas?  Nah.  :)

Love this poem...wish I knew who wrote it!

In My Next Life I Want To Be A Bear

If you're a bear, you get to hibernate.  You do nothing but sleep for six months.

I could deal with that.

Before you hibernate, you're supposed to eat yourself stupid.

I could deal with that, too.

If you're a bear, you birth your children (who are the size of walnuts) while you're sleeping and wake to partially grown, cute cuddly cubs.

I could definitely deal with that.

If you're a mama bear, everyone knows you mean business. You swat anyone who bothers your cubs. If your cubs get out of line, you swat them too.

I could deal with that.

If you're a bear, your mate EXPECTS you to wake up growling.
He EXPECTS that you will have hairy legs and excess body fat.
He KNOWS not to get between you and the food.

Yup..... Gonna be a bear.  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Not A Paid Ad (I Wish), I Just Like It

Quiet weekend so far.  Basketball Friday night (Thing Two made another free throw!), a cache or two, a nice fire in the fireplace and working on a few puzzles to keep my brain moving.  Funny how my weekends are so much less active than my'd think it would be the opposite with three young kids home, but no.  Not even close.  On weekdays, I'm out and going all day with very little downtime and that's the way I like it.

Got one of these (below) for Christmas.  It's a Fitbit, and it's a pretty cool little contraption.  I've been wearing it pretty much straight since about noon on Christmas Day except for showers and when it needs to charge, which doesn't take long.  It can track all sorts of things, most of which I don't care at all about, or at least not enough to bother logging all the info--how many calories you take in, how much water you drink, how much you weigh every day, etc.  What I *do* care about is how much I many steps and what approximate distance.  The sensor embedded in this wristband keeps track of how many steps you take and somehow calculates distance from that.

I haven't seen a way to calibrate my step length, and regardless, it's going to vary based on whether I am booking it around a flat walking track with my headphones on or hiking up a steep hill, but I figure it will all average out over time for my activities anyway.  I know that I was more active on a 15,000-step day than on a 10,000-step day, for example, no matter how long the steps were.  (The default goal is set by the manufacturer at 10,000 steps per day, which I reach easily on a normally-active day.)  One common complaint about these things is that they are not completely accurate and usually overestimate activity, but a friend of mine has a different brand and if we hike together they usually have similar readouts at the end for distance, so it's good enough for me.  Just wish the thing tracked altitude gained and lost as well as distance for some of those hiking days!  As a side note, you can also put it in sleep mode when you go to bed and it will keep track of how long you sleep and how active (i.e., restless) you are while sleeping, which is interesting info too.

As you can see, this model has no digital readout...if you want to see more info than what the five lights give you, you have to sync it to your computer (easy, but a pain if you're out of the house) or your smartphone (a piece of cake and super convenient.)  Free app; open it and hold the Fitbit within range and the display on the phone shows you whatever metrics you want to see.  

Funny thing is that I almost invariably walk a good mile or so by 8AM, just around my house while getting the kids ready for school.  Who says you can't get some good exercise while still in your pajamas??

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Between The Eyes

Oh good GOD more appropriate words have never been spoken.  

Thought about this all the way through tonight's basketball games.  The dads, the dads (it's almost always the dads...) for the love of Pete just shut UP and let the kids play and the coaches coach.  And the dads who are coaches...don't start yelling at your kid about the game in the parking lot before you even get to your car.  We saw the kid's body language as he walked, and you suck.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Oh, And Two Other Hacks While I'm Thinking About It...

Both of these relate to freezers and power outages/loss of freezing for whatever reason.

1) I learned this one the hard way: don't make my mistake!  If you have an upright freezer, purchase plastic bins that fit on the shelves and put your frozen foods inside the bins, not on the shelves.  That way, if your power goes out (or if it doesn't go out, but somebody whose name will be nameless accidentally leaves the door open a crack and all the cold leaks out) and everything inside melts, it will melt inside the bins, greatly facilitating cleanup.  The alternative being, of course, cleaning disgusting smelly thawed raw meat juice out of the bottom of the freezer and off the basement floor--just ask me how I know about this.  There isn't enough bleach in the world to eradicate that odor!

2) Wash out large plastic drink bottles (soda and juice bottles are ideal) refill them with fresh water, and freeze them.  Fill any empty spaces in your freezer with these bottles.  Should the power go out (or someone leave the door open, ahem) these very large solid non-messy 'ice cubes' will help keep the contents of the freezer cold for an extended period.  And, of course, once they thaw, they are another supply of water for those poor benighted souls such as ourselves whose household water pump does not run without electricity.

This has been a public service announcement. :)  Anyone have any other tips to add??

Monday, January 19, 2015

Useful Laundry Hacks

Folding laundry today: how in the WORLD does one family generate so many dirty clothes??  They must be multiplying like rabbits in the hamper when nobody's looking. Did make me think about a few tricks I figured out long ago to make the process easier for myself, anyway.  I'll share: maybe they'll help somebody else too!

1) Boy underwear: white for Thing One, colored/patterned for Thing Two.  No more trying to guess which pair belongs to which boy, remember which superhero is on whose undies or read faded tiny numbers on tags.

2) Boy socks: ankle-length for Thing One, calf-length for Thing Two.  (Bonus hint: previous strategy was to buy a bunch of all one kind of sock and just divide them evenly between the boys every time I did wash.)

3) Which clothes belong to which boy now?  Sizes don't always help--they vary by manufacturer.  And once something gets handed down?  Hard to remember whose it is now, especially in the case of e.g. soccer shorts or athletic t-shirts, which can eventually get passed down to little sister too.  The solution?  Dots of permanent marker in the tag.  One dot for the eldest; when little brother gets it, add a second dot; if little sister eventually wears it too, add a third dot.  Easy peasy.  

4) If an item of clothing does not go in the dryer, its owner is responsible for putting it in a delicates bag before it goes in the hamper.  That's the signal to me to line-dry it, since I refuse to read the tag of every item that goes in the wash: my life is too short for that.  If the owner forgets?  The item gets dried: too bad.

Readers: any more to add?  All sanity-saving tips appreciated!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

On A Roll

It's been a crazy week and Himself was out of town from Sunday to Friday to add insult to injury, but I managed not to lose my gourd on any of the children in his absence and this is always a happy circumstance.  :)

In general, it's been good, though.  Two particularly proud moments for the boys:

1) Thing One scored twice within a minute in Thursday night's basketball game!  (This from a kid who is usually lucky to get a point or two per game...he's mostly a defender.)  The first basket was a fast break layup off a pass he picked, and the second a layup off a pass from a teammate on a 2-on-1 fast break.  I cheered so loudly when he made that second basket that I felt like I needed to apologize to the woman sitting in front of me on the bleachers afterward for yelling right in her ear.

2) Thing Two, my sweet boy who played in just the third 'real' basketball game of his life this morning, MADE A FREE THROW!!   Luckily there was nobody sitting in front of me today because I would have blown out their eardrums for sure.  And I even managed to capture the shot on film--terribly fuzzy, but my older iPhone can only do so much from a distance.  Nothing but net, and the team won their first game, too.  

Also one proud moment for me: I found my two-thousandth geocache on Friday!  Not bad for about a year and a half of caching.   The tradition is to go for something particularly difficult or cool for these 'milestone' caches, and I tagged up with a friend who was going for #1400 to try for one that's been on my bucket list for a year now.  We donned hip waders and headlamps and slogged through a waterlogged and icy (and abandoned) train tunnel to get to the most amazing narrow valley on the other side, the walls of which were entirely choked with the biggest icicles I've ever seen.  Some of them had to be 40 feet long.  Definitely a memorable adventure, especially since it took us a good half hour to find the cache container once we got to the valley and we were really getting worried that it was buried in the ice.  Not the case, and thankfully because I'm not sure I'd want to do that tunnel traverse more than once each way!  Knee-deep water and spiders and bats, oh my.

My friend as we were exiting the tunnel into the valley

The tunnel we came out of and the wall of solid ice

Yes, only a crazy person would do this and I know it.  In general, I'm OK with being nuts...I think everyone should have at least one good solid eccentricity.  It makes life more interesting.

Anybody else have a good week for an offbeat reason?  :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

On The Difference A Few Words Can Make

This morning at breakfast, Thing One said something that stopped me in my tracks.  Out of a clear blue sky, he informed me that his Language Arts class at school is "kind of fun."

Now, this is a kid who has detested LA since first grade.  He's decent enough at it, just doesn't want to deal with the hassle of proper handwriting and grammar exercises and such: math, science and social studies are far more his thing.  His current LA teacher is strict as hell and very demanding, too...she got into his head about the second week of school and has stayed there.  I think she rocks, but she's the first teacher he's had who really treats the kids like young adults and the transition has been tough for many of his peers.

The second the kid got on the school bus, I sat down and dashed off an email to the teacher in question, passing along his comment about her class and noting that it would be difficult to get a much better compliment from a sixth-grade boy.  Her response? "Wow!  It sure doesn't get any better than that.  Thanks for making my day!"

Then, tonight, Thing One's basketball coach emailed all the team parents requesting that we let him know if our boys were going to miss either of this week's games.  There are two teams at his level, and in his four years of play he's had each head coach twice.  I sent a quick note back confirming that he'd be at both games, and got the following return email.

"Thanks, [Mama D], love having [Thing One] back on my team.  Missed him last year."

Just a few brief words from me to the teacher, and again from the coach to me, but what a difference they made to the day in both cases.  You'd better believe I'll be showing the coach's note to Thing One tomorrow morning, too.  And I'll also be trying to remember the power of even a few words to change somebody's day, so I can use that power for good going forward.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Gotta Start Giving The Kid More Credit

Every year, the art teacher at my kids' school organizes an exhibition of selected works at a local art museum, maybe three or four max per grade level so this is a pretty big deal.  Last year, when we got the notice that a piece of Thing One's had been chosen, my reaction was (sadly) astonishment.  "Him?  Really?"  Nothing against my son, believe me, but he is Mr. Math and Science and has never had any interest in art whatsoever.   The drawing in question was a stunningly realistic depiction of a snake, so ok...figured we were still going with the science thing, albeit in a slightly new direction.  

Just got another notice from the school: work of his has been selected for the art show AGAIN.  Not sure which piece, but of the pieces that have been uploaded to the web, not one is remotely sciencelike this time around.  Maybe I really do have a budding artist on my hands??


Sunday, January 11, 2015

%&!$& In The Ice Cream

Read a great article on Keith Van Horn's blog today called "Delusional Parent Disorder (DPD) in Youth Sports."  For any uninitiated, he's a former professional (NBA) basketball player and current youth coach, among other things.  The gist of his article is that parents have to be realistic in their expectations for their children in sports and also generally have to back the hell off and let the kids play and have fun and let the coaches do the coaching.  You know, so they don't become that dad or that mom that everyone hates to sit near in the bleachers and whose kids everyone feels sorry for.  Read the article to see where the title line of this post comes from and tell me that mental picture won't stay with you for a while!

Speaking of related things staying with me for a while, this year I'm the parent responsible for maintaining good sideline behavior (i.e., PARENT behavior, and how sad is that?) for Thing Two's travel soccer team.  At the training meeting, the leader told us that 88% (I think that was the number, but it was ridiculously high, regardless) of student athletes in one big survey reported that they quit high school sports because of the car ride home.  Meaning that their parents made the car ride home so miserable for them with post-game yelling and quarterbacking and 'shoulda-woulda-couldas' that the kids said "the hell with this" and quit whatever activity they were doing.  That thought now crosses my mind every single time I get into a car with any one of my three after any sort of competitive event whatsoever, and I think that's a good thing.

Travel parents are *often* completely insane (I've written about our experience with this multiple times before), but their kids have at least some modicum of athletic potential or they never would have made the team to begin with.  (Not that this excuses the insanity, but it does make these folks generally slightly less delusional.)  What kills me is the Rec parents who are nuts.  I'm on my fourth year of coaching basketball and my husband his seventh? eighth? year of coaching soccer and both of us have stories that would absolutely curl your hair.  And for what??  These are kids who want to have fun playing whose parents (not to be stereotypical here, but I would say it is 99.999999% dads: the truth hurts) think they've spawned the next Messi or Kobe.  I want to put a muzzle on some of these people, or better yet banish them permanently from the gym/field/arena/planet.

Petunia is still too young for organized basketball games in our league: it's all skill building and scrimmages at her level.  Both boys play real games against other schools, though; Thing Two for the first time this year.  He actually played his first game ever yesterday morning.  My boys are unlikely to make it to the NBA, let's put it that way.  Neither one of them could hit the broad side of a barn with a basketball a lot of the time, but that's okay.  Both are ferocious and tireless defenders, as it happens, but even if they weren't?  They love the game and they have fun playing it, and I refuse to take it away from them by being that mom.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Why I Don't Go Shopping With My Kids

I'm lucky in that we get a LOT of hand-me-downs for Petunia and some for Thing One as well.  My MIL also buys a lot of clothes for the kids at Target and Costco, so I really don't have to go shopping for them often.  When they need something specific--pajamas, a pair of shoes, a coat--I go buy it while they're at school.  Easy peasy.  Except when it doesn't fit, as I discovered today.

Thing One lives most of his life in either sweatpants/tracksuit pants, athletic shorts, or elastic-waisted khakis.  Unfortunately, he is now of a size and age where he needs 'nice' pants, which generally do not have elastic waists, much to his chagrin.  When I tried to guess his size for button-waisted dress pants, I guessed wrong.  Rather than guessing incorrectly a second time, I brought the kid with me to the store today and we were able to quickly make an appropriate exchange.  Sadly, then we spent the next hour and a half looking at trying to find exactly the *right* one for him (acceptable color, correct size, no strings at the neck) since he wanted a new sweatshirt and now has opinions about these things, heaven help me.  We finished off with another half an hour of looking at neon-colored T-shirts and shorts before we found a few he liked.

Since this was an eleven year-old BOY, I imagine I will be absolutely tearing my hair out once I start having to shop with my daughter.  Wonder how old a kid has to be before you can just give them money and drop them off at the mall??

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Somewhere, A Village Is Missing Its Idiot

I'm too tired to muster enough energy to really rant about this but this guy is clearly a flaming moron. Glad he was demoted; it's just unfortunate that it was to a position where he's actually freer to speak what little there apparently is of his mind.  Good grief.‘feminized’-church-and-altar-girls-caused-priest-shortage-29667

My absolute favorite line??

"Young boys don't want to do things with girls.  It's just natural."

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"I'm Tough As Three Old Boots And 42 1/2 Nails!"

Both Petunia and Thing Two have suffered from the curse of so-called 'shark teeth,' a situation in which some new adult teeth don't emerge in the correct position to push out the corresponding baby teeth.  This ultimately results in a very sharklike (hence the name) double layer of teeth; baby teeth to the outside, adult teeth in parallel orientation behind them.  The first time I saw this, I panicked, not knowing that it was a possibility. Now, resigned, when I spot one coming in (this does not happen with all their teeth, thank the good Lord) I just head for the phone and call the pediatric dentist.  She yanks the offending baby tooth, the adult tooth moves forward into the appropriate position in due time on its own, and all is ultimately well.

Murphy's Law being what it is, the first night of our vacation last week (i.e., some 2500 miles from the dentist!) I went to floss Petunia's teeth at bedtime and noticed yet another incoming shark tooth.  I may or may not have done some silent cussing.  As soon as we got home, I called the dentist and made an appointment for this morning.

To make a long story short, the poor kid needed to have not one, not two, but THREE baby teeth pulled.  Two on the side where the shark tooth was to give the adult tooth enough room to move forward, and then one on the other side to keep the mouth in symmetry so the other teeth wouldn't move too much.  The 'extra' two teeth had long roots and it must have been a real production to get them was clear that Petunia had been crying when she came out but she was a real trouper.  The dentist invariably raves about how polite and well-behaved she is.  For a seven year-old to go in thinking she is having one semi-loose tooth pulled and come out with three holes in her smile had to be a rude shock, but she handled it with grace and still even likes the dentist!!

I told her I was supremely proud of her and that she is one tough little cookie.  She responded with the title line, which absolutely cracked me up.  Exactly 42 1/2 nails...not 42 or 43.  Then she went to school (she wouldn't hear of staying home) and didn't even visit the school nurse for an afternoon dose of Tylenol even though she knew she could if she needed it.  She ate dinner normally tonight--you'd never have a clue she was newly missing three lower fangs if you didn't actually look into her mouth.  I'm in awe.  Guess there's something to having two older brothers...very little fazes this kid!!      


Monday, January 5, 2015

First Day Of Vacation

Yes, I know it sounds odd.  But it really was my first day of vacation today.  And why?  Because my husband and kids went back to their respective usual daily occupations today for the first time since December 20th!

I love all four of them dearly.  Truly, I do.  But what most people who aren't primary stay-at-home caregivers just don't seem to *get* (I have no idea why) is that a vacation for other members of the family, particularly all of them at once, is by definition NOT a vacation for the primary stay-at-home caregiver!  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Especially when the vacation in question is Christmas break, with all its attendant responsibilities (shopping, cooking, wrapping, decorating, un-decorating, baking, etc) in addition to all the usual chores like laundry and vacuuming and such.  Having the family all home just means that more domestic work needs to get done, and sadly, Santa's elves just don't seem to be available for housekeeping detail.  

Got home from our trip Saturday night.  Spent all day yesterday getting the kids ready for school today (packing lunches, finding backpack stuff, etc) and taking down and putting away all the Christmas decorations.  But today?  Time for Mama D to have a mental health day.  10-mile hike in the hills above a beautiful nearby reservoir (pic below...isn't that GORGEOUS??): a serious workout on a freezing-cold day but it burned the proverbial carbon off the ol' cylinders and I'll sleep well tonight.  If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy, and Mama really needed that day off!


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Home Again, Home Again

Just arrived home from a week's visit with my parents on the other side of the country.  We had a wonderful time with them, and it's always tough to leave, but at least we got home without incident.  United changed one of our return flights so that we had a *30* minute connection (ugh) and I have to admit that I was stressing that a little.  We checked all the bags we could check to streamline the plane change and each of us had a full change of clothes and a toothbrush in our carry-on luggage just in case we got stuck, but all went well.  Both flights actually landed early and we were out of the (major) airport that was our final destination in 45 minutes from when the wheels touched down, baggage claim and all.  Not too shabby.   The kids held up all day even though we had to drag them out of bed at 3:15AM local time this morning, too.  Have to say that it is a lot easier to travel now that the kids are older...I was watching a man with a beautiful toddler daughter walking her up and down the aisle of the second flight and thinking how happy I am to finally be in the phase where all three kids can occupy themselves quietly on an extended flight!

School starts Monday.  It's about time, too.  The most wonderful time of the year, parent style.  :)


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Check out the animation in the blog link below!  It's the work of a multitalented cousin of mine and a very funny way to start the New Year.

Preview, Part 2

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