Monday, November 30, 2015


With respect to lights on Christmas trees, do you prefer:

A) white/nonblinking
B) white/blinking
C) colored/nonblinking
D) colored/blinking??

Inquiring minds would love to know.  Himself and I are of diametrically opposed opinions on the subject (one of us prefers white/nonblinking, the other colored/blinking) so I'm curious as to which of us is more with the majority??

Yes, I know.  First world issue.  But still...I await your thoughts.  :)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

I Love My Nerdy Family

It's Sunday morning.  Himself and I have been sitting in the kitchen drinking our tea and coffee respectively and chatting for maybe half an hour, with the sounds of Petunia and Thing Two peacefully playing together in the basement for background accompaniment.  Thing One wanders into the kitchen, says good morning to us and then goes downstairs to join his siblings.  Not FIVE SECONDS later there is an uproar: "No!!  Leave that alone!! Go away!!  

Himself calls Thing One to the bottom of the basement stairs.  

H: "What are the three factors needed for an explosion?"
TO: "Fuel, oxygen and ignition."
H: "Don't be the ignition!"

I don't know what is going on with those two boys but they can't be anywhere near each other these days without all hell breaking loose immediately.  Half tempted to tell both of them to put on their protective taekwondo sparring gear and pitch them out into the backyard to work things out. Would be a reasonably fair fight and maybe they can ditch some of their excess testosterone that way!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

It's The Most Stressful Time Of The Year

Is there any better way to deal with a massive to-do list than just to put your head down and plow into it??

In the last two days I've done 90+% of the Christmas shopping and almost all the house decorating other than the tree (which is up and will be decorated tomorrow.)  Wrapping and baking and holiday carding and such are yet to be done, but will be tackled soon. My goal every year is to try and get the big stuff done by the beginning of December, the idea being that if I am not a total basket case I might actually ENJOY the damned holiday season.  Novel concept.  I have nothing against Christmas whatsoever, but its approach on the calendar reliably makes me vibrate with preemptive agita.

Oh well.  If I can't get everything done early, I can always go kick something hard in taekwondo class. That's a great stress-buster too.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful Today

For my beautiful daughter, who builds fairy houses in the backyard out of sticks and leaves, not just for any old fairies, but for the sick and homeless fairies so they have a safe and warm place to sleep.  

For my younger son, who tries so hard and has come so far, bless his rock hard, stubborn little head and his loving heart. 

For my older son, the one stuck between childhood and adolescence, the one with so many gifts and no clear path yet, who will still hug me at the school bus stop even in front of his friends.

For my mother, who understands me and loves me anyway.  
For my father, who says I'm perfect even though he knows better.
There are no better parents in the world. 

For my in-laws: she who has welcomed me as a daughter from day one, and he who would willingly take all three of my kids to the park by himself to give me a break even back when one or more of them were in diapers.  

For my husband, who is my rock in stormy seas.

For my friends, near and far, old and newer, who enrich my life and make me laugh.

I am blessed.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Full Praise To Teachers

For the second year running, I taught three sections of eighth grade science today.  A chance encounter with the science teacher at the soccer field last fall that started as a discussion about the curriculum (my BOE subcommittee) somehow took a detour into my professional background. Once he heard that I am a cancer biologist by training, he asked if I would come and talk to his kids about new types of targeted cancer therapies as an addition to their regular cancer unit.  Sure, no problem.  Right up my professional alley.  Not trivial to tailor that material to the eighth grade level (you get into the nitty gritty pretty quickly no matter how hard you try to stay at 30,000 feet) but apparently it went well last year since he asked me back again this year!  Made a few changes to my presentation and brought it and my prop box to school today as requested.

First class period: despite the fact that the presentation was virtually the same as the one that went over well last year, I got almost no response from the kids.  No questions and none of the kind of body language that says 'I'm listening.'  I might as well have been talking to an empty classroom.  Very disheartening.  Second class period: the total and complete opposite.  Interest, enthusiasm, really outstanding questions, one girl who actually came up to me after class to have a point clarified.  Third class period: somewhere in the middle but more like the second class.  Fewer kids with questions but still good questions and a couple of kids who were clearly very engaged.

When the last kids walked out, I looked at the teacher (who had to be in the room with me for all three periods because I'm not certified) and just shook my head.  I asked him what I got wrong with the first class and right with the second two!  He said absolutely nothing, that it is just the personality of the three classes. Then he told me to imagine tailoring my lectures to those three very different groups five days a week while still getting all the material across!  Wowza...that's a tall order.  Three cheers for him and all his professional brethren.

Thing One happens to have the same guy for seventh grade science this year; I believe he teaches five sections altogether.  Thing One's class walked in a few minutes after the third section of eighth graders left. Thing One gave a halfhearted wave when he saw me and then took off for the back of the room with his buddies.  In yet another alpha-omega moment, my best friend's daughter (two kids behind him walking in) ran straight up to me and gave me a bear hug.  Whiplash, thy name is middle school!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Thing, It Is Done

The new taekwondo belt, it is earned.  Fair and square.  Two and a half hours' worth of exertion.  They don't let you go into the test if you don't already know your material...the test is mostly to challenge you physically, which it did.

Only one more belt between me and Black now!  Never would have believed it when I started out.  Guess there really is something to the old joke about eating an elephant one bite at a time.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Direct, Guide Or Shut Up??

The everlasting parental conundrum.

When they were little, it was easy.  Less guiding and shutting up, more directing needed from me.  As Thing One in particular gets older, that balance is changing and both of us are feeling our way through it, may the universe help us stay sane while we do so.

He's 12 now and in seventh grade.  His second year of middle school.  Hard as it is to fathom, he has fewer than six more years with us and then he'll be gone.  Sometime between now and then, he's going to have to learn to navigate the world on his own.  A pretty tall order for somebody who doesn't even like staying home by himself at this stage of the game, I might add.

Ever mindful of the need for him to eventually become independent, I'm trying to back off. I suck mightily at this, by the way, but I'm trying nevertheless.

A couple of days ago, he came home upset about a social situation he's dealing with at was pretty much the first thing out of his mouth when he walked in the door.  First and foremost, I'm grateful that he's still voluntarily talking to me, and I hope that continues.  I'm sure as hell not taking it for granted.  The details aren't important, and the situation is decidedly mundane in the grand scheme of things, but it does represent the first time he and his group of buddies have run into this particular scenario, so none of them have a clue how to handle it.  While I understand Thing One's initial reaction entirely, it came from a place of thinking more about his own feelings than those of others, which isn't really the pattern you want to reinforce as a parent, so I wasn't quite sure what to do.  I ended up having a quiet chat with him after he was done venting steam and calmer--just pointed out an alternative view of the situation and the likely feelings of the other kids involved and left it at that.  My attempt at the Guide approach.  Didn't want to tell him what I would do, just figured I'd see how he would handle things on his own given that little extra bit of non-accusatory input.

First thing he did was talk things over with his best friend.  I gather that the two of them together then went to the rest of their posse with their conclusions, after which the group dynamic changed and the situation resolved itself.  The eventual actions were more or less what I would have suggested had I been in Direct mode, so it was gratifying to see the boys get to pretty much the same place on their own.

I mentioned all of this to Himself after the fact, and he wondered aloud (not in a mean way at all, I hasten to add) if I should have just kept my mouth shut and left Thing One to his own devices entirely as a social learning experience.  There's something to be said for that, sure.  There will probably come a time when he won't want to listen to anything I say anyway, and if so, that will become the approach by default.  In the meantime, though, I'm going to aim for guiding as opposed to directing and listening more than either one (the whole two ears, one mouth thing)...please wish me luck with this because I'm going to need it!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Beyond Fortunate

The other day a friend regaled me with a series of eyebrow-raising stories from a recent extended-family trip that included her mother-in-law.  Seems that she is a difficult and attention-seeking sort (the MIL, not the friend) and embarrasses them all regularly, particularly the grandkids. In the middle of the conversation, I picked up my cell phone and dashed off a quick text to my own MIL thanking her for being so awesome!  Nothing like a good solid dose of perspective to make you appreciate your blessings.

For whatever reason, many of my friends have mothers who are ugly-mean or batshit crazy or both, so my mother has received a number of "thank you for being normal" calls from me over the years as well.  In thinking about this tonight, it occurred to me that I am one of only a very few lucky women I know who get along well with both their own mother and their MIL.  To complete the trifecta, these two lovely women even get along well with each other!  I'd say I'm so lucky I should go buy a lottery ticket, but I've already hit the jackpot.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Just Can't Wrap My Head Around It

My mom and dad have these friends they've known since they were first married.  The wife of the couple passed away a few years ago, God rest her soul, but the husband is still with us.  They are (were?? having trouble with tenses here because only one is still living) my brother's godparents and the kind of friends who are enough like family that I grew up calling them Aunt and Uncle and referring to their kids as my cousins even though there is zero blood relationship.  Yes, that was a rambling and probably grammatically incorrect introduction, but it does at least explain my relationship with the guy I'm about to discuss, who is the younger of their two kids and about two years older than I am.  I'll call him Frank.

My parents only lived in the same city as Frank's parents (a smaller one in upstate NY) for six or seven years, but Frank's parents were born and raised in that town and they stayed to raise their own kids there as well.  Frank went through high school there and didn't quite manage his dream of getting into Notre Dame, although several of his closer high school friends did.  He wound up attending another nationally known university a few hours away.  The year I was a freshman and he was a junior, I went home with him for some school break or other...maybe spring break?  Any cockamamie idea the collective parents might have had about Frank and I ending up together ended at that point, because even then both of us could tell there was just no way for a variety of reasons, but we get along well to this day.  At any rate, through him, I got to know his two friends at ND, one male and one female.  

After he graduated from college, he moved right back home, started working for his dad and married a local girl.  Incidentally, his two friends from ND married each other and moved back home as well.  Frank and his wife still live in that city, I believe even in the same suburb he grew up in.  As the icing on the cake, one of the first homes he and his wife bought together was the house he grew up in!!  (His parents had sold it some years earlier.) They don't live in that house anymore but are still in the same area and have three kids of their own, who are in the same general age range as my kids.  Also incidentally, Frank's older sister (whom I'll call Ella) never left that town at all except maybe for college...she married relatively young and has her own three kids.  Both of my "cousins" and their dad still live very close together and Ella and her kids actually lived with her parents for many years after her divorce.

I was thinking about all of this recently (yes, I'm sure you're all wondering where I'm going with this by now...) because I am Facebook friends with Frank.  He posted two pictures of the same bunch of guys, including the guy friend I know from ND, stacked up into a pyramid (cheerleader-style) on a taken when they were in high school and one taken this past summer, twenty-five plus years later.  I simply canNOT process spending my *entire life* with the same people in the same town by choice.  Not that there's anything wrong with it, it's just so utterly different from my own life experience that I can't even begin to imagine it.  How do you change and grow as a person when you are with the same people forever?  And how in the world, as an outsider, could you ever even HOPE to become part of a group that has been together since preschool and has had family in the same town for generations when you aren't from there??  Thank all the gods in the pantheon that nothing ever worked out between me and Frank, since I can't imagine how somebody as peripatetic as I've been my whole life could ever fit in with people who don't want to live anywhere other than that one suburb in upstate NY...wowza.

The irony, of course, is that I've lived in my current small-town house for the better part of twelve years now.  It's the only home any of my kids know (Thing One was an infant when we moved here.) I moved all over the earth as a kid, but my kids will most likely live here until they go off into the world on their own.  Wonder if they will feel compelled to move back here to settle down as well?  Has the pendulum swung the other way??  Only time will tell.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Saturday, November 7, 2015

It All Comes Out In The Wash

Girlfriend of mine from aikido had a bunch of the aikido girls over for dinner last night: six of us total ranging in age from 35-50.  Really fun evening.  The hostess's taste in decoration is cool and funky, ranging from mid-century American to historic Asian pieces plus odd bits of antique bric-a-brac that all somehow fuse together into a really interesting whole.  She has no children, and at one point I observed wryly that I would love to live in her house if I could somehow wrap my kids permanently in bubble wrap so they wouldn't break anything!

At any rate, on her kitchen wall there is an antique washboard, but a much smaller one than I've ever seen before. Wandering over to look at it more closely before dinner, I noticed that the ridged surface was made of glass, not the usual metal.  I wondered aloud what that might have been used for, and one of the other ladies answered immediately that it was probably a travel sized washboard intended for laundering more delicate items.  My surprise must have showed on my face, so she went on to explain that in her childhood in India, her mother had one similar to it, which she used to wash the clothing that she didn't trust to the neighborhood washerwoman.  The other ladies were listening to this exchange, and I was floored when two of them added that they had also regularly seen washboards used during their childhoods, one in Singapore and the other in Colombia.  That just boggled my mind, although in retrospect it shouldn't have.

Bearing in mind that I live in an inordinately white-bread corner of America, I continue to be amazed that I've managed to find such a cosmopolitan and international group of friends here, and that it was in a martial arts dojo of all places.  Between the two styles I study, I have friends from these three countries plus France, Egypt, the Philippines, China and Iran that I can think of just off the top of my head.

And incidentally, having now looked carefully at a washboard for the first time in years, I am even more grateful than usual for the advent of electricity and modern technology.  I doubt sincerely that it would be up to the challenge of detoxifying the soccer socks that end up in the laundry at my house, and the sheer quantity of laundry here would make even the most determined washerwoman throw in the washboard!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Worth The Toil

So, a few days ago I went out for a hike with two of my fellow geocaching nutjobs (er...friends...) and my dog.  At one point in the middle of the hike we had to climb up a very steep field of rocks that looked like this.

Except that the stairs were blocked off with locked gates, so they weren't an option.  Pretty view anyway, huh?   And yes, those stairs go just as far down as the picture makes it look like they do.  Ugh.

Now check out the *reason* we climbed that minefield of boulders, otherwise known as the view from the top.

I LOVE this hobby.  Even if my pooch must think I'm completely out of my mind.  ("Hey, know I'm a dog, not a mountain goat, right??")

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Countdown Has Begun...16 Days!

Got an email out of the blue today from the director of the taekwondo program, who informed me that he'd like me to test for my Brown belt on November 21st.   Still have to check out on sparring and board-breaking and earn the formal red stripe that signifies my readiness to test, but if my name is already on the list for the 21st, I'm assuming that the instructors are reasonably confident that I'm good to go. Alternately super psyched and freaking the hell out...only a little over two weeks to make sure I have a good grip on everything I've learned in the past four-plus years of study!!  Time to kick it into gear for sure.  *insert determined face emoticon here*

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Just found out that a couple I know are divorcing.

Both are lovely people.  Small children are involved.  I have no idea what happened and I don't want to know; none of my business.  So very sad for all of them.  I have no doubt that they will find a way to get through it but the waters they are facing short-term are very rough.  I know I joke about wine solving all problems here sometimes (even though I'm not much of a drinker in truth) but some things wine just doesn't touch.

Header Photo

Felt the urge to change it up.  Picture taken with my iPhone camera looking west from my garage doorway the other night.  Aren't those colors just amazing???

Monday, November 2, 2015


Living in a rural area as we do, trick or treating from home is not an option (lot sizes start at three acres and go up, and there are no sidewalks) so of necessity, people around here bring their children to one of the two or three nearer towns on Halloween evening.  One town in particular is legendarily amazing--and mobbed--on Halloween...entire streets are closed off for trick or treaters and the owners in that area take great pride in the spookiness of the decorations that fill the porches, facades and yards of their large Victorians.  We've been bringing the kids there since Petunia was four or so.

Petunia is far from the timid, shrinking wallflower sort, but at eight, she is still a small person.  We encourage our kids to just bypass any house they think is too frightening, and last year Petunia took one look at a particular house and actually crossed the street to avoid it!  To be fair to her, it was creepy as hell, even to me...a hearse in the driveway, hooded Druids roaming the front yard amidst great billowing dry ice clouds, and a shrouded 'body' dangling from an upper balcony.  Can't say that I blamed her one bit, but apparently this attack of nerves has been bothering her for the past year.

Some friends of ours in that town host a Halloween party every year, and as soon as it gets dark everyone walks over to the closed-off area to trick or treat.  We'd no sooner left the friend's house than my little princess (gown, tiara and all--very regal) looked up at me very solemnly and said, "Mom, I'm going to that house this year."  I told her that it was entirely her choice and that she could decide when she got there.  Along the way, she was unfazed by pirates, mummies, skeletons, giant jumping spiders and eyeball-dangling masks, so I figured she had a good shot at making it through whatever the creepy house was going to feature this year, but then we arrived and its only 'decoration' was a For Sale sign on the lawn.

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...