Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I'm Curious

Another poll: I would sincerely appreciate anyone willing to humor my scientific curiosity here and give me feedback.

Any of you who identify as right-handed, on which pedal do you first place your foot on a bike, and which arm do you put through the straps of a backpack first??

Odd questions, I know, but there is a reason.

I write, bat and throw a ball right-handed.  I would have said I was unquestionably right-handed.  However, it has been pointed out to me recently (and correctly) that I invariably mount a bike with my left foot first and put my left arm into a backpack strap before the right arm.  The right-handed person who did the pointing-out uses his right leg and arm for bike and backpack as well.

Other "righties": do you do everything with your right arm/leg first as far as you know, or do you mix it up like me?  Just wondering.  (Lefties, feel free to reverse the question and answer as well.)  Thanks!


Monday, March 28, 2016

Well, That Confirms What We Already Knew

Petunia was looking at her Easter haul on Sunday afternoon, and asked me why the Easter Bunny brings her the same basket every year.  Clearly, at 8, she's starting to analyze things.  

Thing One, without missing a beat, looked up from his phone and told her that we just put out the same basket every year for the bunny to fill.  Then, as soon as she looked away, he winked at me.  

We've never had a conversation with him about Santa, the Easter Bunny, or any other gift-bringing imaginary creature, but we've assumed for years that he HAD to know the deal.  Which he confirmed today, but at least he did it with kindness toward his little sister in his heart.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


I met a naturopathic doctor tonight.  Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I've known the guy superficially for a while (another soccer parent) but I had no idea what he did for a living until this evening.  It came up in casual conversation.

Now, I'm all for the "there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy" thing.  Live and let live and all that.  Who am I to say that somebody's entire worldview is wrong just because it conflicts with mine?  Nobody at all.  But when he tells me (straight faced) that he can cure (CURE, mind you) 90% of cancer patients who come to him, even those with advanced disease, simply by administering the proper combination of minerals, I call bullshit.  I'm a cancer biologist by training, remember.  He also told me that asthma can be cured by the administration of two specific minerals (wish to hell I could remember which ones) and that diabetes is simply a deficiency of calcium.  Apparently nutrition is his specific thing.  His own family adheres to the blood type diet, which I'd never heard of before.  As in, what your blood type is dictates what you should eat.  

I didn't have the energy to argue with him, although I did ask a lot of questions.  I can't imagine a scientific basis for what he was saying, but it was still very interesting, and again, who knows?  It's the rare person I've met in my life from whom I can't learn anything at all.  Unfortunately, I had to walk away when he told me that he doesn't vaccinate his children: it was either that or have my head explode.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

Flying Solo

Himself has now been out of town for two weeks and two days straight.  Man, this solo parenting thing is getting old.  He's gone for work and is no happier about being away than we are to have him away, which is a small consolation, but several thousand miles and three time zones is a long way from home any way you slice it.

On the bright side, everyone has gotten to pretty much all of their scheduled activities in his absence (Thing One will have to miss one soccer practice tomorrow because I have a Board of Education meeting, but I'm quite sure life will go on.)  Everyone is clean, fed, reasonably happy and alive, which is saying something after 16 straight days of maternal refereeing of the inevitable interkid squabbles.

He'll be home sometime this week, but we don't know when yet.  Wednesday happens to be our 14th anniversary, but luckily for him I was raised in a family with an often-traveling father and am fully accustomed to the concept of what we used to call the "moveable feast."  If Dad was out of town for whatever the occasion was, we'd just celebrate it whenever he got back and the world never came to an end because of it.

That is not to say, however, that I wouldn't take it as a cosmic thank-you from the karma gods if he WERE to somehow manage to get home on Wednesday.  And in the meantime, I'll be the one hanging by my fingernails from the ceiling by one hand, large glass of wine in the other!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

First Time For Everything

Friend of mine showed me one of these today.

I'd heard of them, but never actually seen one before.  He still had it from high school, which should tell you everything you need to know about the generation from which my friend hails.  :)  This thing is a slide rule, for the benefit of anyone who doesn't recognize it.  The precursor to the calculator.

Let me tell you, it is a pain in the BUTT to operate.  Line your first number up with this.  Line your second number up with that.  Slide the clear thing over once the first two alignments are made and then look at where the marker on it is located, but don't forget to adjust your answer for the right number of zeros, and be sure to pay careful attention to the value of all the little line divisions.  Ye gods.  I tried a couple of problems on it and gave up.  I'm sure it's not as bad when you've used it for a while, as with most things, but the calculator is just so much easier!  I looked it up: the first calculator was invented in 1972.  I was born in 1973, right at the dawn of the electronic era...I can only imagine the joy with which people chucked out their slide rules once the newfangled calculators became available.

And yet...this one was used by the crew of Apollo 13.  Read this article!  Wow.

“I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer, born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace and propelled by compressible flow.”  --  Neil Armstrong

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Jesus, Mary And Joseph

Thing One has an Instagram account.  As with his email and texting privileges, one of our conditions for granting him permission to go onto IG was that we have access to his account at all times.  So, when my girlfriend texted me that I needed to go look at the comments under a certain picture, I was easily able to log in and view them.  Dear God and little chickens, what a shit show.

I can't go into details for a number of good reasons, but suffice it to say that two kids who haven't been getting along for a while ended up having a very public fight in the comment section under what was actually a lovely picture.  During the fight, one party visibly hit the point of no return and then went absolutely nuclear on the other, on a subject that would have been much better discussed via DM (i.e., privately) rather than in air-all-the-dirty-laundry style if the two parties really *had* to have the conversation on Instagram.  The Internetz being forever and all that.

While reading the string, I observed that Thing One had stepped in electronically mid-battle to try to mediate the dispute, which resulted in a rapid ceasefire.  Leadership is not his strong suit at home, but it was solidly on display on my iPad screen; guess his school persona is different.  I was impressed.   Nevertheless, we ended up having a long conversation afterward about what topics are and are not appropriate for public and/or electronic discussion and I suspect I now have a few more gray hairs than I had at lunchtime. Sigh.  And good GRIEF am I glad that social media did not exist when I was in middle school!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Test Results Are In

You know how I said that my kid is damned smart under the crossed language wires in his head?  How I said he was likely to pass the tests they were giving him this time around because of it, even though he's far from out of the woods with his language skills yet?  Yeah, well.  Speech therapist was over the house this afternoon working with him and she told me I nailed that prediction.

The standard procedure is to administer two big batteries of tests to evaluate students' language progress.  We got the results from the school yesterday.  Thing Two scored in the average range overall on both, thereby knocking himself out of the "Communication Impaired" classification category he's been in since finishing preschool.  Unfortunately, as everyone who's actually *talked* to the kid for more than 30 seconds can tell, he still needs services at school, especially speech therapy.

Fortunately, the good professionals at his school, including the abovementioned speech therapist, KNOW that he still needs help.  The speech therapist told me that she deliberately chose to administer a third test after scoring the first two, one that targets pragmatic language (his particular area of deficiency) with laserlike precision.  That one he failed, as she'd hoped he would.  Because she wanted to be able to justify continuing to provide him the services that he needs.  

There's a meeting scheduled for Monday morning.  The school could legally have taken that opportunity to discontinue his services.  Instead, I've been informed that they will be changing his classification category from Communication Impaired to Other (because they now have to) but leaving him with an IEP and speech therapy.  Moreover, the speech therapist will be using the results of that third test, the one they didn't have to administer, to create his speech goals for the next year so that they focus their efforts on his areas of greatest weakness.

His case manager told me on the phone this morning that she sees a future for him in which he's no longer a Special Ed student, but that he's not quite there yet.  I agree on both counts.  And I am beyond grateful that these women really do have his best interests at heart, that our relationship with them as his parents is collegial and cooperative and not in the least adversarial.  Not sure how many Special Ed parents can say that.  Perhaps one day that label will indeed come off him, but in the meantime everyone agrees that there's progress to be made first.  Hallelujah.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

On Losing Touch With Modern Music

I was sitting at the kids' soccer clinic the other night watching them scrimmage.  The trainers pick the music that plays through the loudspeakers in the facility, and that night's trainer is a really nice guy in his late 20s.  I have no idea what the hell music he had playing, but it was pretty much all loud thumping drums, nothing melodic at all as far as I could tell.  I already had a headache when we arrived, and about halfway through I realized that I was wishing that Matt would just turn that noise (meaning the music) off.  I'm turning into my father, right down to the vocab choice.  :)

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Nothing Like A Hefty Shot Of Beer To Clear Out The Ol' Sinuses

Due to circumstances beyond our collective control relating to his &%$&% extensive work travel, Himself and I hosted our (10th annual!) St. Patrick's Day party last night.  Better early than not at all, we figured.

I'm no real fan of the suds, despite the hefty percentage of my blood that hails from the Emerald Isle. I have two ceremonial beers a year, one on St. Patrick's Day and one at my in-laws' Oktoberfest party.  Unfortunately for me, I happened to be midway through one of those two beers when a song I'd never heard before came on the radio, with the result that a good chunk of it came out my nose accompanied by choking gasps of laughter!

Listen to the words.  Really.  And Happy early St. Pat's to the lot of ye.  :)

Should the video not link properly for whatever reason, search YouTube for The Dubliners' rendition of "The Sick Note."  You won't regret it!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

How To Strike Fear Into The Hearts Of Seventh Grade Boys

Yes, I'm mean.  But their facial expressions were just priceless.

Thing One had a friend over last night.  At one point in the evening Thing One, Friend and I were in the kitchen and one of the boys (I forget which) referred to somebody as a "douche."

I asked the boys if they knew the meaning of that word, and both shook their heads.  I told them that the next time I heard them say it, I'd explain the term to them, and that if they thought they'd been traumatized by the curriculum of their 7th grade Health class, they ain't seen nothin' yet.  :)


Thursday, March 3, 2016

On Goats And Flagpoles

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, a friend told me a story.  He'd been a pilot in the Air Force, flying one of those gigantic planes that can go long distances without refueling and that accordingly carried a couple of pilots who would trade off sleeping and flying.  The friend woke up to find the other pilot doing something that he, the friend, disapproved of for whatever reason, and called the guy on it.  The response he received was classic and brief.  "Who's f&%^ing this goat??"  Meaning, of course, "I'm the one actually flying right now, so butt out."  To this day, when someone asks me a question about something that isn't my concern, my answer is "Not my goat."  Along much the same lines as "Not my circus, not my monkeys," just slightly more off-color (at least if you know the backstory.)

I was reminded of this yesterday when I heard about the Sandhurst Test.  In one version, which I borrowed from the website, here's how it goes:

"You are a second lieutenant. Your platoon consists of a sergeant and a dozen privates. You have three 12-foot poles, 300 feet of rope, five stakes, a shovel, a knife, two clips and a flag. Your task: Put up the flagpole."
In the US, this is called the second lieutenant promotion test.  It raises questions of both engineering and personnel management for the candidate who is being tested: how the job should be done and also how the available personnel should best manage the necessary steps between them.

Most candidates go into a long spiel at this point, but the official correct answer is only five words long: "Sergeant, put up that flag."  You see, this is not in fact a test of the lieutenant's knowledge, but rather her or her propensity for micromanagement.  The idea is that if you have capable, knowledgeable underlings who understand the objective and have access to the necessary resources, there should be no need to explain to them how their jobs should be done.

I think the phrase "flagpole test" has just been added to my permanent vocabulary.  :)

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...