Friday, July 31, 2015

Sad Commentary

I saw this picture tonight, and it immediately made me think of my two best friends!  Truer words have never been spoken.  :)  And I mean no insult whatsoever to anyone with a genuine mental disorder, I hasten to's just that finding those few rare someones whose quirks match yours is a true occasion for celebration.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Punishment For My Sins

Thing Two has just started learning to play the trumpet.  Oh, the enthusiastic bleats and moans and dying-cow noises; the dog runs for cover every time he picks it up and the rest of us are wishing that we could.  I understand yet again why my mother made me learn to play all new instruments in my bedroom with the door shut when I was a kid.  Karma is a bitch and what went around is definitely coming it's my turn to be the parent who has to suffer through the initial stages with a new instrument.  I'm sure that both of my parents will find this highly amusing after everything I put them through!

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Chosen Ones

Got an email today reminding me about a birthday party that Thing One is attending tomorrow.  From the other names on the email, I can tell that Thing One's whole posse was invited.  They're a tight-knit crew of eight or ten boys and have mostly been together since kindergarten, although there are a few newer arrivals mixed in.  As I've mentioned before, my family moved a lot when I was a kid.  At the time, I just couldn't wrap my head around the idea of growing up with one group of friends since the concept was so alien to me, although at various points I desperately wished for that kind of stability.  It's funny that I am watching my son grow up with the life I wanted as a kid--living in one house in one town, with all the same kids from grade school through high school--and deeply ironic that he is begging for a passport and wants us to take him somewhere (anywhere!) out of the country!!  The grass is always greener, I guess.  We might not have had much by way of roots while I was growing up, but I sure saw a lot of the world in the course of our adventures.

We've been in this house for almost twelve years and in this state for over fourteen, which blows my previous record for living anywhere (six years or so) all to hell.  As my kids are putting down roots here, so am I.  And I suppose that over time I'm acquiring somewhat of a posse of my own, although in thinking about it, it sure is an eclectic bunch of people.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Had lunch with four of them today: my "ninjas," some of the girls who do taekwondo with me.  The Indian instructor, an accountant by training.   She's tiny but deadly and an absolute knockout in a sari, although she doesn't wear traditional garb very often.  The Egyptian Muslim instructor, who is also a professor of English and keeps the wickedest, sharpest sense of humor you ever saw buried under her hijab along with her hair.  The Filipina, who runs a YMCA childcare program when she's not kicking ass and who keeps us all supplied with ginger tea from her uncle's Asian-import store.  The Italian-American gym teacher, who runs marathons for fun and could probably bench-press me.  Every one a wonderful, strong, supportive woman.  Oh, and every one a black belt or higher, too...not a lunch table to mess with!  Then there's my two closest geocaching friends, men of 55 and 70 respectively who share my obsession with solving puzzles and finding hidden things and who cheerfully hang off bridges and hike up mountains and wade through swamps with me while doing it.  And of course my best friend B, who has *zero* interest in either martial arts or geocaching but who has my back in every imaginable scenario, loves my kids like her own and can make me laugh till wine comes out my nose!      

If friends are indeed the family that we choose for ourselves, I've chosen well, even though this group might look a bit odd on a Christmas card.  And since I'm not planning to move ever again, they are stuck with me for the duration...hope they're okay with that!  :)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Vacation or Trip?

Courtesy of a friend's Facebook page, a few days ago I was treated to a very funny Huffington Post article entitled "Vacation or Trip? A Helpful Guide For Parents."  Go ahead, read it!

In a nutshell, the author argues that any time spent away from home involving your children, a kitchen, another family or relatives is a trip, not a vacation (which by definition involves actual peace, quiet and/or relaxation.)  The part of the article that hit home the most for me??  This paragraph:

What is Your Role in the Family?
If you are the Default Parent
 and/or the Stay-at-Home Parent, you aren't even on a trip. You are on a work trip, and, in a perfect world, the entire "journey to a place" would be a damn tax write-off. The only known and quantifiable "break" you are getting from life is that for about a week you will not have to open and sort the mail. Other than that, it's business as usual.

Yep, that's about it.  I've jokingly-but-not-jokingly told my husband that our beach trips are essentially exercises in moving my standard jobs to places where it is harder to get them done (although it is becoming blessedly simpler as the kids get older, I will say that much.)

At any rate, I was thinking about this today because I just this morning booked an actual vacation for Himself and me!  Just a long-weekend trip to a historic inn in a beautiful mountainous area a few hours away by car, not jetting off to Hawaii or anything, but I can't wait.  The kids will be at my in-laws' that week, so we'll be able to relax and read and eat and sleep in peace!  And considering that we are taking a trip (literally and figuratively) with them the whole week before, we'll definitely be due for a vacation by then.  :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Day 10

My husband left for his extended business trip at the crack of dawn a week ago Monday.  I am happy to report that all three children are still alive and well despite their best efforts to drive me completely batshit crazy in his absence.  At the moment they are 7 (soon to be 8), 9 (sooner to be 10) and 12, but they have this truly lovely trick of descending to the lowest common level when together, meaning that I effectively have triplet eight year-olds as far as behavior is concerned!  (My daughter is mature for her age, which at least raises the bar a little.)  Utterly maddening.  Last night I got a sitter and went out to dinner with friends and it's the smartest thing I've done in the last 10 days!  If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy...truer words were never spoken and this Mama *needed* a night off.

One more week.  Who thinks I can make it??  Given all the wine in this house, it's a damned good thing I never drink alone.  And I REALLY have no idea how either single parents or spouses of deployed service members do this long term, so I hereby offer a most sincere tip of my hat to each and every one of them!


Sunday, July 19, 2015

One Lucky Lady

So, my husband is in the middle of a two-and-a-half-week business trip to London.  He left last Monday and returns a week from Wednesday, 16 days gone in all (but who's counting?)  Fully in keeping with Murphy's Law, Thing One had a soccer tournament both days of this weekend in a town two hours' drive away, by far the furthest from home of the three summer tourney sites.  Oh, and did I mention that it was also 95 degrees outside both days and that yesterday was my birthday?  Was REALLY not looking forward to hauling all three kids two hours each way both days by myself, as you might imagine.

Anyway, into the breach stepped my amazing in-laws.  They live about an hour from us and the tourney site is another hour past them.  They invited us to stay with them for the weekend.  The original plan was that I was going to bring the kids down to their house Saturday morning, leave the younger two with them and then take Thing One to his two games, which would get us back to their house around 9:30PM but at least would not require anyone other than me to suffer through the stifling heat with Thing One.  So, that morning I loaded up the car with dog and dog food and dog crate and air mattress and soccer bags and snacks and sunblock and hats and water jugs and clothes for the four of us and all the other necessary crap and got us all to my in-laws' house, where my FIL promptly informed me that he intended to take Thing One to that day's games himself since he couldn't make today's game.  Then my MIL took the two younger ones to the park, which very unexpectedly (but blessedly) left me with two free hours in the afternoon, which I of course spent geocaching in peace because I could, and hey, happy birthday to me.  :)

We stayed at their house overnight (I should also point out that my FIL, who does all the household laundry there, washed Thing One's soccer uniform for him that night!), and then today my MIL and I brought all three kids to the tourney since there was only one game and I like it when the kids cheer for each other.  Can I tell you how awesome it was to have another adult there to help with hauling all the stuff around and keeping the younger kids entertained?  It was 95 degrees in the shade (thankfully there were trees near the field) and apparently the real-feel temp was 114 in the sun according to some weather app but the kids all survived and Thing One played a good game even though he was hot and miserable.  I was very proud of him for trying so hard under such tough conditions.  We got them all frozen drinks on the way home, tossed everyone into cool showers and then my in-laws took us all out for dinner to celebrate my birthday before we loaded up the car again to head back home.

Could have been a really horrendous weekend, but they saved it.  Pretty sure I used those exact words while thanking them (profusely!) when we left.  They are good people through and through and I am one really fortunate daughter-in-law!


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Things I Do Not Get

The gym to which I belong recently installed lockers in the hallways.  Each one has a built-in combination lock which can easily be set by each individual user for each use.  Very handy for purses, coats, etc that you don't feel like either leaving in the hallway or taking into an exercise classroom with you.  The lockers get a lot of use.


Nobody actually LOCKS them.

They open the door, put their belongings inside, close the door, and leave.  How many times have I opened an unlocked locker only to find it full of stuff?   Many, many times.  This in itself is not a big deal and I can usually find an empty one eventually.  The part I don't understand is why any rational human being would choose to put her (and it is generally her) purse into an unlocked locker (which she could easily CHOOSE to lock, but doesn't) and then walk away from it for an hour plus!

Entitlement?  Obliviousness?  General idiocy?  Hell itself would freeze over before I would leave my purse unattended and unsecured for any length of time (the thought of having to go through all the bureaucratic aggravation involved in replacing the driver's license, credit cards, etc alone gives me palpitations.)  A thief would have a field day at this gym and I frankly can't believe that it hasn't happened already.  Maybe it's just a reflection of the fact that I live in a generally safe, relatively wealthy area, so people just aren't thinking about the potential for crime all around them, but wow.  Just wow.  Call me a cynic, but maybe common sense really isn't that common?


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Well, So Much For THAT Pedicure

What you're looking at below is two large pieces of heavy-duty cardboard (probably two feet in length) held together with packing tape.  This contraption is used as a target for a particular kind of kick called a round kick--one person holds it perpendicular to the ground by one of the shorter ends and the other person kicks it.  It makes a very satisfying *thwack* when struck correctly.  

This is a round kick (image from Wikipedia.)  This dude is getting a round kick to the side of the head, which can actually be lethal if done correctly.  Good thing he's covering up!  Bottom line, this is a very powerful kick, particularly for those (like me) with long legs.

Now, go back to that top picture. See the red streaks on that cardboard target?  Those are nail polish!  You can see exactly where the top of my foot hit the target each time.  Nice little cluster, dontcha think??  I had to repaint both big toenails after class but I don't even mind because this is photographic proof that I am becoming a badass ninja.  :)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Rising Like A Phoenix from The Ashes of Despair

Ok, perhaps despair might be a strong word, but I had tournament detail with the boys yesterday and it was a really tough day for them.  We drove 90 minutes each way so that each of them could play two hourlong games in 90+ degree heat; Thing One's games at 10 and 3:30 and Thing Two's at 3 and 5.  Long day of shuttling around from field to field lugging camp chairs and coolers and tents and collapsible team benches and all the other folderol that goes along with spending a full summer day outside watching soccer.  And that was just me: they actually had to run around in that brutal heat!

Thing One's team never had a prayer of competing going in; at least they knew that.  A couple of their opponents should have been flighted higher and their team is a mix of 12 and 13 year-olds playing all 13 year-olds.  It does raise the very legitimate question of why the hell they PLAY in this tournament, but I'm being logical again.  Anyway, they lost their two games by a combined total of 0-15 and the games were painful for everyone involved.  Nobody has fun when things are that lopsided.

Thing Two's team lost their first game 1-6.  Because there was overlap in our second and third game times, I had to choose one, so I caught that game and then ran over to watch the second half of Thing One's second game.  That ended about ten minutes before Thing Two's second game started, so I ran *back* to Thing Two's field and arrived just in time to see him absolutely DRILL a ball into the net!  Two minutes later, he did it again.  I was jumping up and down like a crazy woman.  (He almost had a hat trick, but the third shot went wide.)  He was in the goal the second half and made a couple of beautiful diving saves, too.  Final score was 8-4 for the only win of the tournament!!  At least it ended on a high note...I'd been darkly muttering to myself about exercises in self-flagellation all day.  :)


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Pretty Damn Fine Day

So, I went to my third aikido class in three days this morning--4.5 hours total!--and lived to tell the tale.  (I go when I can, and there are a lot of "can't" class days coming up.  Call it preloading.)  The funny thing is that I ended up staying at the dojo until almost 11PM after last night's class eating takeout Thai food and hanging out with the other four people who were at class, and three of them were also there at 8:30 this morning!  That's dedication for you.  I'm still lousy at this style, but I'm becoming slightly *less* lousy...there is hope.  It's hard for me (after nearly four years of taekwondo) to wrap my head around a discipline in which muscling anything is by definition doing it wrong, but I'm persevering. Water grinding down rock and all that.

Then, at 11, little Miss Petunia had her first ever Saturday (i.e. high) taekwondo belt test, and passed with flying colors.  I was just sitting quietly off to the side watching at first, but then was invited to help (holding targets and attacking for self-defenses and such) which I've done before and is cool enough.  To my huge surprise, however, the head of the program ceded an entire chunk of the testing to me: I had to choose techniques for the students to perform and give them (and the other instructors) all necessary directions for that segment of the test material.  It's all part of the instructor training thing but MAN it was a rush to be given that honor (!!!!!!) and I managed to acquit myself respectably.

After buying her small ninja-ness a big ice cream cone and feeding her lunch, we met up with some friends of mine to pick up a couple of caches. They've been married almost 50 years: he turned 70 this past spring; she's a few years younger.  Wonderful people.  I met him at a caching event about 18 months ago and have subsequently spent a lot of time with her as well.  He's not much into puzzles and I solved a nasty one from his neck of the woods yesterday, so we met up to look for it and then he tagged along to help me find some others in the area that he'd already found. Very much the old-school gentleman; he's externally gruff but completely marshmallow-hearted (a former Marine) and his wife is one of the single nicest women I've ever met. She and Petunia had a mutual admiration society going within five seconds of meeting and they had every bit as much fun looking at flowers and birds as we did hunting caches!  They invited us back to their house for tea and cookies afterward and it was really a lovely afternoon.

When we got home, the two of us played in the pool for a while, cleaned up, and then went to the neighborhood family-run pizza place for dinner.  The boys and Himself were out of town at a soccer tourney all day and got home shortly after we did.

Just a day in the life.  Not a huge life or an important one, but a happy one, and a happy day. I'm a lucky woman.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


I shudder even to write the word.  At least I have a year before the dreaded teenageness starts!

Twelve years ago I was in labor with Thing One, feeling my belly contracting painfully around him, walking lap after lap of our apartment complex with Himself trying to get that baby to move down toward the damned exit already.  Finally went to the hospital around 1AM and he came squalling into the world after three good pushes at 9:17AM, all pink and beautiful and healthy at 7 pounds, 3 ounces.

Sitting here in the quiet looking at his old photo albums and getting soggy-eyed.  How could this little man

have become THIS not-nearly-so-little man

in only a dozen short years???

He's twelve today.  A rising seventh grader, probably 5'3" or so with size 10.5 feet and weighing in at about 110 lbs; a veritable bouncing puppy of a boy.  The baby who used to be the undisputed king of the evening witching hour (I don't think Himself and I were able to sit down to dinner together once in the first four months of his life!) has turned into my sweet, easygoing boy who can roll with pretty much anything.  Same big brown eyes, same goofy smile, same impish sense of humor, just now of a size where I no longer have to bend much in order to kiss the top of his head anymore.

Happy birthday to my first baby, even if he isn't much of a baby anymore.  Mama loves you more than you will ever be able to comprehend before you have kids of your own.  And happy Mom-birthday to me!


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Looks Like This Teaching Thing May Actually Happen

Went to taekwondo this morning and had a discussion with the teacher afterward that resulted in me doing two classes' worth of instructor training this afternoon.  (That is to say, I was not doing the teaching myself, but rather serving as a 'helper' to the instructor, the idea being that I learn the teaching ropes while doing so.)   As far as I can tell, their plan is to have me work with established instructors (black belts with a lot of experience) as often as possible over the summer, and then they will see what happens with the schedule in the fall.

Frankly, I'm much happier with this concept than I was with the initial idea that I be dropped into teaching the Friday class alone in the short term.  It's one thing to know how to do a technique, and another entirely to be able to break it down for somebody else, especially somebody else who learns things a different way than you do.  We joke in the morning class that there are some people who need to see something first a couple of times to get it right, others who learn by doing, and a third group who has to formally process and think through all the steps before being willing to try something.  I'm in category three, by the way.  And this is just adults...both classes I worked with tonight were entirely children, which adds yet another curveball to the mix.  You can't really tell a seven year-old to pivot on the ball of their front foot and make sure their center of gravity goes forward, after all, at least not if you want any response other than a blank look...for the kids there are all sorts of simplified explanations that involve turning ice cream cones upside down and answering telephones and such.  The motions end up being the same, but the way you explain things to kids versus adults is so entirely different that I need to watch and listen for a while before being let loose on a class on my own!  

That said, tonight went fine for a first effort with kids, especially since all three of my own kids were in the second class.  I reminded them on the way to the dojo that today was my first day and that they were NOT to embarrass me by acting up while I was in the room with them!  For the most part, they managed it, and the kids I ended up working with looked better afterward than beforehand, so I'll take it.  Small steps!


Monday, July 6, 2015

Proud (Pride?)

It will doubtless surprise nobody (given all my posts here about my family and soccer) that we all sat down together last night after dinner to watch the American women play Japan for the World Cup.  Amazing, spectacular game and all props to Carli Lloyd for her record-smashing hat-trick performance.  All props to every other woman on the team, too--it's a group sport, after all.  We yelled ourselves absolutely hoarse cheering.

But one of the best parts of the night for me?  Watching Abby Wambach kiss her wife in joy after the game.  I'm about as straight as they come, and in general, I don't want to watch anyone's PDA, gay or straight (guess you could call me an equal opportunity "get-a-room"er) but at that moment I was suddenly proud to live in a country where it's OK to kiss your same-sex spouse on national television.  By contrast to, say, Nigeria, whose head coach Eucharia Uche has been accused of driving homosexual players off her nation's team.  Or either Russia or Qatar, the controversial host nation-awardees of the 2018 and 2022 men's World Cups, both of which are blatantly discriminatory and anti-gay.  Not like we don't still have a lot of work to do as a nation on this, either, but it's good that the times are changing.

As a biologist, I've seen more than enough evidence to convince me that homosexuality is a genetic thing, not a "choice" in the traditional sense of the word.  Hopefully, one day, the gender of somebody's partner will be a total nonissue.  And in the meantime, on this Independence Day weekend, I'm glad to be American.

(Oh, and you idiots who are tweeting about the win over Japan being some sort of retribution for Pearl Harbor??  Get back under your rocks where you belong.  NOW.)

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...