Tuesday, June 28, 2016


The Antietam battlefield was very impressive.  For those possessed of any kind of imagination whatsoever, it's easy to visualize the desperate morning battles in the cornfield, the piled-up dead of Bloody Lane around midday, and the fight to the death for Burnside Bridge later in the afternoon.  Photographers followed the soldiers in this war, which resulted in some staggering images.

Bloody Lane then
Bloody Lane now

Wherever you go in the whole broad area of the battle, there are signs: some black and some yellow.  The yellow are the 30,000 foot level signs...the ones with maps with handy blue and red arrows denoting which side was located where and going in which direction.  Big-picture signs.  The black and white ones, on the other hand, probably ten or twenty times more numerous, get right down to the nitty-gritty.  If you had an ancestor in the 19th Kentucky, for instance (I am making that up as an example), you could follow that unit's movements across the battlefield almost hour by hour via the black signs.  For Civil War buffs like Himself, the black signs were the correct level of detail.  For those not quite so well versed in this particular period, like me, they were overkill to such a prodigious degree that eventually I gave up trying to keep all the states, units and commanders straight!  

A yellow sign
Another yellow sign

A black sign

Seriously, enlarge this third picture, read it, and imagine literally hundreds of them scattered everywhere you look!  Then imagine trying to actually remember all the information on them.  Yeesh.

Dotting the battlefield are also a huge number of concrete or stone monuments, many large and elaborate.  These were donated by individual states over the years since the war (some old, some recently) and memorialize places where particular state units fought.

130th Pennsylvania
20th New York
8th Connecticut
Literally hundreds of these dot the battlefield too, both large and small.  The battlefield is almost visually overwhelming. 

Then, there was this sign.

Stopped me in my tracks.  We had to make a detour to pay our respects.

Bloodiest single-day battle in American history.  Almost 23,000 dead, wounded or missing.  Truly fascinating place to spend a weekend, although very sad.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


We're at a B&B this weekend.  My husband is not one who particularly cares for casual conversation with strangers, so communal breakfast tables are not his preference, especially before his morning caffeine. I am convinced that one of the reasons why he married me is that I can converse with anyone at any time about anything and therefore save him from having to make small talk, but I digress.

Anyway, we came down for breakfast this morning and saw that we would be sharing our table with another couple.  I should add that we are in the ruralest of rural Maryland at the moment, so I was rather surprised to hear the other gentleman's unusual accent when he requested a cup of coffee from the innkeeper.  To make a long story short, they were from the Czech Republic: he is a diplomat snd former soldier stationed in the Czech embassy in Washington.  We ended up having a fascinating conversation for an hour covering topics ranging from NATO to German castles to restaurants in DC to the challenges of learning English as a second (or more) language because of all the exceptions to the grammatical rules to the differences between the Czech and American educational systems, with a detour into the recent BREXIT vote.  Not at all what I expected to be discussing over eggs and bacon this morning, but since my husband was raised in Germany by two civilians who worked for the US Army and spends a great deal of time working with European attorneys himself now, the irony is that he carried most of the conversation for us!  I contributed by translating the heavy West Virginia accent of the innkeeper for the Czechs when she stepped out of the room...talk about a multicultural experience.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Very, Very Quiet

Every summer, the kids spend some time at their paternal grandparents' house.  This year, my mother-in-law decided not only to take all three of them at once...she is taking my nephews at the same time as well.  For a week!!  Five children between the ages of 6 and 12, four of them boys.  Wow.  After Thing One's soccer tournament last weekend, we dropped him and his siblings off at 'Camp Grandmom' and came home to a *very* quiet house.

They are having the time of their lives, or so Thing One's texts and the photos my MIL is sending would suggest.  A history day in the city.  A beach day.  A day at an outdoor waterpark/amusement park.  A day at a state park with breakfast at a diner and a movie thrown in as well.  And today, they will be packing up and driving down to my SIL's house, which has a lovely pool.  They will be staying there for the weekend and we will pick them up on Sunday, on our way back from our own little vacation.

It's been a productive week for me, especially since Himself was out of town for work Mon-Wed.   No cooking and very little laundry, with the added bonus that in the absence of the kids, what I cleaned actually stayed clean for more than five minutes!  Bonus.  Got a lot of stuff done around the house (including planning for a bathroom remodel and some front landscaping changes), took several martial arts classes, did some geocaching, went for walks. A nice recharging break for me after the craziness that is the end of the school year.  Last night I took the dog to a new sitter's (speaking of quiet, right now there is not a single small dependent noisemaking creature in the house!) and later today we will pack up and head out.

Always good to have some time with only my husband...doesn't happen often in the craziness that is our lives.  We found a lovely B&B that overlooks a historical battlefield and plan to have a fun weekend!  I spent the entirety of last evening checking out all the geocaches in the area on the online map (of course) and Himself has already noted the locations of all the local microbreweries.  Last year this time we went to the Berkshires in western Massachusetts for our weekend away and he came back with a trunk full of craft beer!   We plan to spend most of Saturday checking out the battlefield, Himself is bringing his running gear so he can get out in a new area...should be good.  Of course, it would be helpful if I were packing right now and not blogging.  :)


Saturday, June 18, 2016


So, Thing One's new soccer team (those kids available for the summer, anyway) have a tournament this weekend.  First time they've ever played a real game together, two hours from home.

Thing One was seriously nervous this morning.  He was uncharacteristically quiet during the car ride down, and not just because we had to leave home at 6:15AM to get to the tourney in time to warm up for the first game.  He looked jittery during pregame, too.  Why the insecurity, I'm not sure, but he was clearly worried about how he was going to perform in a game at that level of play.

As he thought might happen, the coach started him at center back the first game.  Luckily, once the whistle blew, he settled down quickly into autopilot.  No matter *what* was going on in his head, the kid's body knows how to play soccer.  He was on the field for 57 of the 60 minutes of that game and 59 of the 60 for the second game, coming off only long enough to grab a quick drink. His first touches looked good, he tracked down and blocked pretty much everyone who came into his area, and by the end of the day his booming foot had earned him the new responsibility of taking all the free kicks for the team as well.  Most importantly, on the way home I asked him if there was any further doubt in his head as to whether he belongs on that team, and the answer was a resounding, "Hell, no."  A sentiment with which I heartily concurred, by the way.

The team lost the first game 2-1 and won the second 3-2.  Odds are that they won't make it to the championship game in their bracket tomorrow afternoon, but he's already a winner in my book.  So unbelievably proud of him.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I Am Not Asking, Because I Really *Don't* Want To Know

Tomorrow is the last day of school.  Today, Thing One and his classmates collectively gave their homeroom teacher, a man whom they like very much, the following gifts:

1) Live crickets
2) Hot cocoa mix
3) A very creepy-looking doll

I assure you, a la Dave Barry, that I am not making this up.

I did enquire this afternoon whether any of the crickets had escaped.  Fortunately, the answer to that question was 'no.'

Sunday, June 12, 2016


Found out today that Thing One is going to be invited to a bar mitzvah in the fall.  Unfortunately, I haven't the faintest idea how they work: what he should wear, what to tell him to expect, or even what gift to send.  I've heard multiples of 9 in dollar amounts, but I don't know if that's correct. Anyone with a clue: could you please enlighten me??

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Passing It On

Lo these many years ago, probably in early 2012 sometime, I was a yellow belt in taekwondo and struggling with a particular self-defense.  It happens to be a defense used when someone grabs you by both shoulders from the front (as if to shake you by the shoulders) and when done correctly it results in the attacker becoming quickly and efficiently detached from you and shoved away with prejudice.  Unfortunately for newbies, it also requires several successive motions, each of which needs to be executed properly for the thing to work.  Bottom line, it's harder than you might think to get it right.

Jill, a black belt who was teaching me at the time, made it her mission that I was GOING to learn this self-defense on her watch. No exaggeration, she probably made me do it 50 times in a row in class one day.  I thought that she was being a persnickety nitpicking pain in the ass, but this generally not being the kind of thing one *says* to one's martial arts instructors, I sucked it up and did the damned thing the full 50-odd times until I had it down to her satisfaction.  

Anyhow, fast forward to tonight.  A different instructor asked me to work with a yellow belt on his self-defenses during the open mat time after class, and darned if he didn't ask about that specific one.  Every time I opened my mouth to say something to him about it, I could hear Jill's instructions coming out, even after four years.  Uncanny.  Repetition is an amazing thing.  

In the martial arts, it's tough to 'pay back' your instructors.  They give you the benefit of their training and experience, but in return essentially you can only serve as a body for them to practice on.  The tradition is that you thank and honor your instructors by learning well and then passing what they have taught you down to students who are junior to you.  Today's instructor thanked me after class for working with the other student, and I told her sincerely that it was my pleasure. I had an old debt to pay off.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Thing One Is Definitely NOT In Kansas Anymore

You may recall that Thing One (along with my other two kids) is switching to a new soccer club this summer.  Last night, there was a mandatory parent meeting for his new team.

At the risk of swelling Thing One's head, he's movin' on up like the Jeffersons here.  He was able to jump from a midlevel travel team to a very good premier team by virtue of his own expended blood, sweat and tears: he's put body and soul into training this past year.  I've said before that he was blessed or cursed with a lot of natural abilities, which have given him a great deal of success over the years without a lot of effort on his part.  This is the first time I've seen him set an ambitious goal for himself and then dig deep over an extended period to achieve it, which makes me tremendously proud of him.

It's pretty clear that the coaches think this new group of boys has serious potential: they are already talking about high school and college play for them in the future.  In the near term, the conversation about opponents alone has me gobsmacked.  Next year's schedule includes games in other states, including one tournament that is 300 miles and five hours' drive from home!  If these boys really have to go that far to get good competition, it will be a very interesting year.

Still boggles my mind that we are talking about a bunch of twelve year-old seventh graders.  Welcome to the big leagues, kid.  Hang onto your hat.

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...