Thursday, April 30, 2015

Faith, Rewarded

Those guys who took my family room apart on Monday to put the new floor in?  They were done (trim work and all) by Tuesday evening.  Three full days before they needed to be.  Gotta love them.  There's a reason why I don't call anyone else now when I need work done on my house--that was their fourth job for me and they've come through like this every time.

Lots still to do in that room, to be sure--get a new TV, area rug and entertainment center, also take out the fireplace insert and put in a Franklin stove (eventually)--but the construction part of the job is over and that room will be functional for Saturday's houseful of guests.  Whew!

Only downside of putting hardwood floors in is that my dog hates, and I mean HATES, the compressor and nail gun needed to install it.  Think they are just too loud for her, so I had to get her out of the house Monday and Tuesday.  Spring finally having arrived in these parts, we did some hiking (me) and crashing around in the woods chasing squirrels (her) and it was all good.

These are two different lakes--actually, one is a lake and one a reservoir.  And the first pic was taken from almost a thousand feet straight up a rocky hill!  May have had to miss the first couple of days of TKD class this week, but I sure got my exercise.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Leap Of Faith (No Pun Intended)

Petunia makes her First Communion this Saturday.  There will be 18 people in my house for her celebration that afternoon.  And THIS is what my family room looks like right now:

It's hard to get a good shot of that room because of the angles involved, but suffice it to say that it has only 2/3 of a floor right now and is missing most of its furniture.  We've been on an ongoing mission to reduce the number of flooring types on the first floor of our house (when we bought the house, there were six; we are currently at three, soon to be two) and the family room project has been in the works for a while now.  I love my contractor.  This is the fourth big job he's done for me, and I trust him implicitly.  When we scheduled this job, I told him that Friday was the hard deadline and that the new floor and trim HAD to be installed by then, no matter what.  He promised that it would be.

What you see above is one day's work for two guys (removal of old grubby carpet plus installation of new hardwood.)  They should be well into the trimwork by tonight.  So far, so good, but please keep your fingers crossed for me!  The room won't be completely done by Sat (Himself has grand plans relating to a new and bigger TV and different entertainment unit) but as long as we have a complete floor and someplace for people to sit comfortably that is not a construction zone, I will be happy!


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Funny But Also Sort Of Sad

Today is Opening Day for Thing Two's baseball season.  He's had practices, but no games yet.   He's still pretty new to the sport, as well...he played two years ago for the first time as a first grader and then not again until this season, so he's a little shaky on the fundamentals.  Including the parts of a baseball uniform, as it turns out.

Not that the last part is really his fault, mind you.  Due to the jam-packedness of our after school schedule this spring, every time this child has had a baseball practice, it has been immediately after a soccer practice.  As in, the eat-your-dinner-in-the car-on-the-way-to-baseball, play-baseball-in-your-soccer-cleats kind of immediately after.  So, when the boy was getting dressed in his baseball uniform this morning (NOT after soccer, for once), I shouldn't have been surprised that he asked me where his shinguards were!  The poor kid has still been wearing his soccer shinguards for every baseball practice because there wasn't time to take them off in between (and, in truth, because I figured that they might help keep him from taking a line drive to the shins, as long as we were making a virtue of necessity) so he legitimately had no idea that shinguards are not normally worn while playing baseball!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why Mothers Drink

Take a look at the picture below.  There's a whiteboard in the kitchen on which I keep track of the kids' weekday activities, and this is a shot of the Tuesday schedule.  Observe that there are three activities, one for each kid, all of which start at 6PM.

Of these three, one is at a park in our township, one is at a park toward the near edge of the next township over, and the aikido class is at the far end of the next township over.  That is to say, there is no possible way of getting all three of them to where they need to be on time on Tuesdays short of cloning not only myself, but also my car.



Sunday, April 19, 2015

Yes, I Am Old, But I Am Not *THAT* Old

Yesterday was a beautiful day, and I took the two younger kids to the playground. At one point I was on the swings with them, all three of us in a row.  My otherwise beloved daughter asked me--in all seriousness, mind you--if swings had been invented yet when I was a kid. 

Good thing she's cute!  No danger of my ego getting out of hand with her around.  :)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Long Time Coming

Thing Two went to a friend's birthday party last night.  By the time I got him to the friend's house, a number of little boys were already running around the yard yelling and chasing each other and generally having a grand old time.  The second Thing Two got out of the car, one of the other boys yelled, [Thing Two], you're on our team.  Come on!" and he was off to join the fun just like that.

No delay in pulling him into the game.  No "you're on the other team."   For a kid who has always had significant social delays that are secondary to his language processing issues, this was so huge I wanted to cry right there.  The other kids are used to his idiosyncrasies, no doubt, but the social differences that mark him as separate from the "normal" kids are getting smaller and smaller as he grows and clearly he has friends in spite of them, thanks be to all the angels.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

And So It Begins

Read an interesting article the other day called "Dear Well-Meaning (But Ignorant) Parents: This What Your Teens Are Really Doing On The Internet."  Written by a young high school teacher, it lists a bunch of apps and services that many of her teenaged students are using and goes on to say that she'd almost guarantee most parents haven't even heard of one or more of them.  Granted, my eldest is 11, but she's right...a couple of them were news to me entirely and most are only peripherally on my radar.

It's unrealistic to expect even preteens like Thing One to be completely off social media these days, so we're easing him in.  He has an email account (linked to my iPad so I can monitor all messages) and the ability to text (but we have the passcode for his phone and the right to inspect his texts at any time.)  Most of his friends use Instagram, but I think I inadvertently put the fear of God into him with the discussion about pictures lasting forever in cyberspace and he decided on his own that he doesn't want that responsibility yet.  Fair enough.  So, I thought we were doing okay with the first tentative forays into social media...all text and email monitoring was coming up clear except that I lose brain cells every time I look at his text messages with his buddies, all of which are dingbat boy stuff and full of emojis.  But then I happened to look at his email inbox last night and saw five messages in a row from an app called Kamcord, which I'd never heard of and wasn't mentioned in that article, either.  Most disturbingly, every one of the five was an email informing him that somebody else whose name I didn't recognize was now following him on an account I didn't know he had.

As you might expect, we had a conversation first thing this morning.  There is a game he loves playing called Goat Simulator (yes, you get to go around the world controlling a goat--don't ask, just see above regarding dingbat boy stuff.)  Apparently you have the ability to record the things that your goat does in this game and post videos of this (Kamcord is the service) for the amusement of other people whose idea of fun is watching animated goats wreak havoc online.  We clarified that none of these videos are inappropriate and that none of his personal or identifiable information is available on this service.  We also had a long chat about the need to talk to a parent before establishing accounts of this sort.  This particular one seems harmless enough, but my radar is now *really* up, and my resolve to continue all monitoring is redoubled.  I'm glad that this stuff wasn't even around when I was a kid, but protecting mine while they develop good judgment of their own is clearly going to be a big job.

Friday, April 10, 2015

I'm Officially Hooked

Went to my second aikido class tonight.  Only three students this time, different instructor, and a whole different experience.  Much more explanation, which helped a lot: clearly Fridays are going to be better for beginners like me.  The pace was slower and I actually felt like I had time to figure out a technique (more or less, anyway) before we moved on to the next one.  Hell of an ab workout, too...get knocked down, roll back up, get knocked down, roll back up, repeat.  If I can't do an effective back breakfall at my next taekwondo belt test, it won't be for lack of recent practice!  The two styles are very different and I'm going to have a hard time leaving all my taekwondo muscle memory at the door when I'm practicing aikido, but it is truly amazing how easy it is for me to bring down a man twice my size when I do it right.  The whole concept is that you get out of the way of the attack and then use the attacker's force and momentum and what they actually *want* to do against them, adding little to no force of your own.  Really, really cool.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

On The Kindness Of Strangers Who Are Clearly A LONG Way from Home

The minivan was parked by the side of the road with its hazard lights blinking and I was sitting on the guardrail near it, phone in hand, when the car pulled up next to me.  The first thing I noticed was the Oregon plates, which are (to put it mildly) not often seen in my neck of the woods.  A man stuck his head out the driver's side window and asked if I was okay, which startled me, since I was very much okay and it hadn't occurred to me until that moment that I looked like a damsel in distress!  The man very kindly said that if it was his wife, he'd want somebody to make sure that she was okay in my situation, then drove off.

As it happens, I was sitting on the guardrail because I had just found a geocache magnetically attached to the back of it (using the GPS receiver in the phone) and was in the process of signing the log.  A friend and I were doing what's called a power trail, which is a series of caches placed close together for easy finding, in this case all along one road about 600 feet apart.  Since power trails often require a lot of hopping in and out of the car, usually one person drives and the other does the hopping; my friend was still in the minivan and had just pulled over to the side of the road so I could grab the cache for us.  Things were not at all what they seemed, in other words, but I can still be grateful for the thoughtfulness of 'left coasters' who were concerned when they saw a woman sitting by the side of the road.  Apparently chivalry is not dead!

WAY Out Of My Comfort Zone

Last night, I took the high-belt taekwondo class for the first time.  Tuesday nights are usually crazy for me with kid activities, and I've been intimidated about attending that class anyway since I am currently the lowest rank permitted to attend.  The real ninjas take that class!  Add that to the fact that I will soon be testing for my next belt (as a consequence, some part of my skill set is being formally evaluated by a head instructor every time I take a class as part of the official qualifying-to-test process) and you have a recipe for major nerves.  As Murphy's Law would have it, there weren't many students there last night either, so I had the personal attention of one of the instructors...on the bright side, two major chunks of my pre-testing evaluation have now been crossed off the list and I acquitted myself respectably on both although I was a disgusting sweatball by the end of class.

Then, because the one new class wasn't enough of a stretch for the evening, I did a quick belt change (took off my red belt, donned a white one) and stayed for an additional hour and a half to try my first-ever aikido class!!  Boy, was that an eye-opener...I haven't felt that fish-out-of-water in YEARS.  Not since my first TKD class, probably.  :)

Aikido is purely a defensive discipline, and it focuses on the practitioner remaining calm and centered and using the attacker's force and momentum against them.  Very little force is involved and the moves are often subtle.  If you aren't relaxed while doing the moves, they don't work.  Now, consider that fact that the TKD instructors have been telling me to relax in TKD for the last three and a half years, a style that is much more focused on action than calmness, and you can imagine the extent to which my work is going to be cut out for me in aikido if I stick with this!  Talk about the proverbial bull in a china shop.  Add to this the fact that white belts in aikido seem to be tossed right in with whatever everyone else is doing (in TKD, there are techniques associated with each belt level and you generally stay at your own level to avoid getting hurt) and you get a class last night in which I don't have the right sort of mindset AND I'm trying to practice completely foreign and very complicated techniques with partners I don't know!  (They were all very patient with me, thank the gods.)   At one point during a particularly complicated demonstration by the instructor, I looked at the head TKD instructor, who is a brown belt in aikido and happened to be kneeling next to me, and said, "I have no idea what the hell he just did!"  The TKD guy laughed and said that he'd show me during the practice session, and he did, but man, there's going to be a learning curve here.

Woke up this morning with a sore and bruised left wrist (there are a lot of wrist locks in aikido) but I'm definitely going back.  If personal growth comes from change and taking risks, this one should result in a LOT of growth...besides an improvement in my self-defense skills, any progress in calmness and centeredness would be good too.  Proud of myself for taking that first step!




Monday, April 6, 2015

A Quiet Easter

We knew we'd be up late on Easter eve putting together the baskets, coming up with the puzzles and hiding the eggs, so we told the kids we didn't want to hear a peep until at least 6:30AM.  Of course, at 6:30:01 there was an uproar in the hallway outside our door, but oh well.  :)

Petunia is *not* a morning person...she was dragged out of bed by her brothers right before they came to get us.  Accordingly, she wasn't quite awake yet, so a few of the riddles took her longer to figure out than they might otherwise have, but she did eventually find her basket.  Thing Two was initially flummoxed by the substitution code, and he does not like being flummoxed.  Himself had to sit down with him to help him write out the code, but after that he had the idea and he was off.  Basket number two, check.  Thing One's face was priceless when he opened his one big egg and found a piece of sheet music and a printout of about four octaves of piano notes (took that idea straight from a geocaching puzzle I did a couple of months ago, simplifying it a bit for him.)  Took him a little while to figure out that the notes in the piece of sheet music I wrote convert to letters (middle C = A, etc), but he actually found his basket before Thing Two got to his.  We do go overboard on the Easter basket hunt, I know, but my parents did something similar for my brother and me and it's one of my fondest childhood memories of Easter.  Thing One clearly no longer believes in the Easter Bunny, but that's OK.

After Mass, we headed back home.  Most years we spend Easter with my in-laws, but this year they are in Florida, so it was just us.  Very low-key.  Picked up a couple of caches with Thing One while Himself took a nap and the other two played with their new Legos, since it was a beautiful day, then popped the ham in the oven, roasted some asparagus and wedged potatoes and put a lovely dinner on the table about 5:30.  Cleaned up the kitchen afterward and capped off the day with a sunset walk with Thing One, Petunia and the dog.    

Hope you all had a lovely day as well!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Well, THAT's A Relief

Let's just say that I've learned a lesson: when you have a neurology-related concern, you should ask a neurologist.  My family doc scared me half to death for no damned reason but the good news is that all is well.  Happy Easter to me!

I love Easter eve...we always make a big deal out of hiding the baskets so the kids have a 'treasure hunt' of sorts on Easter morning.  As they get older, the hunt gets more complicated--for both us and them--but that's half the fun.  This year, Petunia has riddles in her eggs (each one leads her to the next egg, and eventually to her basket, which is in the dryer this year.)  Thing Two's eggs are in code for the first time...a simple substitution cipher.  His basket is in the linen closet.  Thing One, who is really getting a bit too old for this, gets a slightly different approach.  He only has one egg, but it contains a puzzle that is a doozy, which he must solve to get to his basket!  I had serious fun coming up with the puzzle...considering how much time I spend solving puzzles to get coordinates for geocaching, I had a lot of raw material from which to choose.  Since he's an accomplished musician, I wrote him a music puzzle, in which notes substitute for letters.  We'll see how he does with it!  His basket is in the trunk of Himself's car.

Can't wait for the morning.  We're as excited as the kids.  Come on, bunny!!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Because We Don't Have Enough Going On Already...

The martial arts school where we study taekwondo has recently started offering judo and aikido classes for children.  (Previously these styles were only offered to adults.)  Both of my sons started judo about a month ago and Petunia starts aikido next week--all in addition to the taekwondo, not as a replacement.  The boys absolutely love the physicality of judo, all the flips and rolls and falls, and if Petunia becomes reasonably competent at both taekwondo and aikido she'll be able to handle just about anything she might ever need to handle, so I'm all for her studying both.   Three styles is a lot for one family at one time, especially with all the other stuff we have going on, but the nice thing about martial arts is that it is not a race.  If you have a busy period, you can focus on other things and it will still be there when you have more time to get back to it.  And thank all the gods for that, too, since this spring is going to be a scheduling nightmare of epic proportions!  Travel soccer.  Rec soccer.  Baseball.  Martial arts.  Piano.  Yikes, yikes and double yikes.

Oh, and because I've apparently completely taken leave of my senses, I think I may try aikido as well.    It's supposed to be great for balance and focus, and it looks really badass.  Love the idea of using an attacker's weight and momentum against them with minimal effort, too.  We'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

To Be Filed Under "Be Careful What You Wish For"

Three being the proverbial crowd, one might expect that in houses (like mine) containing three children, one might often be left out of the play shared by the other two.  This is in fact the case at my house, but the identity of the odd child out might surprise you.  Despite the fact that I have two boys and one girl, in that order and all precisely 25 months apart, the two that have bonded most closely are my two youngest (Thing Two and Petunia) not my two sons.  Thing One does his own thing, while Petunia almost single-handedly dragged Thing Two out of the self-isolation that resulted from his social and language difficulties by effectively forcing him to play with her!  He legitimately enjoys it now, and they spend a lot of time together...over an hour just this afternoon in an imaginary world they've jointly created in my living room that somehow involves both Minecraft blocks and Angry Birds figurines who have different jobs and operate factories.  I've said it before, but we might not have had a third child if we'd had any idea how severe the second child's language deficits were at the time, and that third child turned out to be the second child's saving grace in many ways.  The universe is a funny place.

At any rate, Himself has always wished that the boys interacted more.  Not that they had issues with each other or anything; their orbits just didn't overlap much.  I was more of the opinion that as long as we were continuing to see social and imaginative improvement in Thing Two as a consequence of interactions with a sibling, I could care less which one it was as long as the boys didn't actively hate each other.  Either way, Himself got his wish.  About six weeks ago, for whatever reason, the boys started getting on each other's nerves.  Blame is pretty much 49/51 you pick 'em most of the time, as far as I can tell.  Who started the shoving, who's standing too close to whom, who is blocking whose view of the television or taking up more than his fair share of the is never ending and all I want for Mother's Day is a good set of noise-canceling headphones!  I'm sure they will eventually work through whatever is currently ailing them, but in the meantime I am doing a lot of refereeing.  I actually had to break up fisticuffs in the family room today, which was a new one...the fight is relatively fair at least, but there is a lot of glass in that room.  Next time I send them outside in their padded taekwondo sparring gear!  BOYS.

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...