Fall woods

Fall woods

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Really Good News

Thing Two rocked his annual appointment with the neurodevelopmental pediatrician this week.  There's definitely still work to be done, especially on the social end of things and with pragmatic language, but she used the words "academically gifted" to describe him, encouraged us to get his IQ tested, and (most amazingly) said that she will not be surprised if he no longer needs his Special Ed classification by the time he enters high school three years from now.

Seven years ago he had his first visit with her.  At that point he had essentially no expressive or receptive language at all, and consequently no social skills since his ability to communicate was rudimentary at best.  He's come so far.  I cried.



Friday, August 11, 2017

Because Apparently I Have Lost My Ever-Loving Mind

We took the kids to look at kittens today.  Yes, plural.  As in two.

Because things around here weren't already crazy enough.

We've been debating an additional dog versus kittens for a while, and the kittens make more sense logistically even though I am more of a dog person myself.  I put in an online application yesterday, we chose two kittens today, and assuming our references check out (I can't imagine that they wouldn't, but fingers are still crossed...) they will come home next week sometime.  Two males, brothers about three months old, already neutered, names still under heavy debate.  We had decided on one, a little tabby with white socks, and were trying to pick the second when one made the decision for us!  A little guy with big fluffy ears, he crawled into Thing One's lap and started purring.  That did it.

I picked up a few things at the pet store in anticipation already, including the tiniest little black skull and crossbones-patterned kitten collars with tiny gold bells attached because I absolutely could not resist them.  I also (with very mixed feelings) unearthed the plastic tub from the basement containing all of the earthly possessions of our previous cat, may the kitty gods rest her sweet soul in peace.  I like to think she would be happy that the house will have the pitter-patter of catly feet in it again.




Saturday, August 5, 2017

Stunned

For good or bad, we live in one of those states where all kids have to take a standardized test (actually, a couple of them; Language Arts and math) at the end of every school year, starting in third grade.  As you might imagine, when you have a child who has historically had very significant language-based issues, you start out with relatively low expectations for his LA test scores even though he has been working his butt off for years and improving steadily.

His third grade and fourth grade LA scores were a lot better than expected, frankly.  He got roughly the same score for both of those years, and the first year, I actually did a dance of joy in the principal's office when I saw his results!  She has a Special Ed background, so she fully understands why a parent would be ecstatic over a test result that is basically "not quite grade level but pretty close."  For a kid who had essentially no functional receptive or expressive language in preschool, for him to be even in the same ballpark as his classmates on a standardized and timed LA test by third and fourth grade is pretty damned amazing, if you ask me.

The principal sent out his fifth grade test scores the other day.  Not only does his LA test score indicate that he's performing at grade level, he scored in the 89th percentile nationally!!  Holy crap.  Just for comparative purposes, the kid was actually in a high math class in fifth grade and tested at grade level for that as well, but with a 71st percentile score.  He blew the damned LA test out of the water.  I couldn't believe it.  I gave a copy to his reading comprehension/writing tutor and told her that she should put it on her fridge as a mark of her own accomplishment as well as his!!

We aren't out of the woods yet, not by a long shot.  There's a big social component to this, and as the academic issues resolve, that piece comes more and more into focus as where all of our efforts need to be directed now.  That's a big deal and will only get bigger as he gets older.  But wow.  Just WOW.

Happy mom.



Friday, August 4, 2017

Love My Girl

My daughter had practice for the older of the two teams that she plays with on Thursday evening.  (She was born in 2007, this is a mostly 2006 team.)  At one point she was battling a much bigger 2005 girl for the ball during a scrimmage.  She didn't come out with it, but her coach watched her fighting and said to her, "You really are ferocious, aren't you??"

We jokingly call her our little savage. His comment made me laugh!!



Thursday, August 3, 2017

All's Well That Ends Well

That moment when you realize that in the mad scramble to get the kids fed and out of the house for the evening's activities, the one thing you forgot to grab was your own taekwondo uniform.  D'oh.

The sad thing: The realization that all is not lost because your 14-year-old son happens to wear the same size uniform you do and his gear bag is in the trunk!!  

The best part: The only reason his gear bag was in the trunk to begin with was because I told him to toss it in there so he could come to class with me in case his soccer practice got cancelled.  So I guess I did provide myself with a uniform for the evening after all, if only indirectly!!  Too funny.



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Buried Treasure

On my dad's side, I've been the keeper of the family history for some time.  (Several years back, my aunt sent me all the family documents she had after a health scare, and a remote cousin of my dad's shared what he had around the same time as well.)  I have family trees on ancestry.com for both sides, but haven't had much of anything by way of documentation or pictures on my mother's side till very recently.

Every so often, I get on a genealogy kick and spend days on end updating the family tree in my spare time.  The last time I did, a month or so ago, to my great surprise I found a reference to pictures of my maternal great-grandparents, the first I'd ever seen!  Technically, notes that they had been uploaded but weren't available for public viewing.  Crossing my fingers, I sent a note to the owner asking if she could possibly share the pictures with me.  She is a second cousin once removed of mine, which I determined by consulting one of those relationship charts used by family attorneys since I can't keep that stuff straight in my head.  She very kindly emailed me the pictures and the information that she had, and together we found my great-grandfather's death certificate and filled in some missing blanks in the stories surrounding his death, including which one of my great-grandmother's brothers was the attorney that (family legend says) stole whatever money she had left from her after her husband died!

Turns out that she got those pictures from somebody else she'd encountered on ancestry.com, my mother's cousin.  I'd heard her name, but my mother hasn't seen her since both women were very young: the families weren't close.  This cousin of Mom's must be in her early 80s now but seems very sharp.  After a few email exchanges, she asked for my address, and told me that she was going through her mother's things (her mother and my grandfather were siblings) and wanted to mail me some pictures.  They arrived the other day, along with some funeral Mass cards and a wonderful newspaper clipping from 1956 about my grandfather's boatbuilding business, which included a picture of him that I've never seen before.

My grandfather died when I was six, so I don't remember him well and had only ever seen a few pictures of him.  I was in my early twenties when my grandmother passed away, and we were very close, but she was in her mid-sixties when I was born, so I just wasn't around when she was a young(er) woman.  Imagine my joy at being presented with a pile of family pictures of my grandparents when they were about the age that I am now!!


I scanned these two in immediately to share with the family.  The three girls in both pictures are my mother (the youngest) and my two aunts.  They are joined in both pictures by my grandparents, and in the picture on the left also by my great-grandmother, the victim of the intrigue after her husband's death.  It sounds like she was one hell of a strong and resilient woman, and I'm sorry I never had a chance to meet her.  I've heard a lot about her over the years.

So, in a nutshell, a website connected me with a second cousin in California who connected me to a first cousin in Michigan who sent me pictures taken sixty some-odd years ago in Pennsylvania, which I have now shared with my parents in Oregon and my aunts in Ohio and California, all without leaving my home office!!  I love technology.




Thursday, July 27, 2017

Enough Already

My head is a swirling mass of negativity these days and the urgent-but-not-important variety of stressors are just sucking the damned life out of me.  I'm tired of living in my own skull right now, if that makes sense. This isn't my normal MO or the way I want to be and I need to make some changes.

There needs to be some positive for balance.  Going to focus on that.  Every day, two simple things to start with.  One: a kindness I do for somebody. Doesn't have to be a big one, but a kindness, to get me out of my own head and more focused on others. Two, stopping to formally recognize something good I see while going about my day.  

Today, I let a lady with only a few items in her cart cut in front of me in the checkout line at the grocery store. We had a nice chat about her rescue pup and mine. 

Today, I happened to catch a sweet moment between Thing One and one of his campers. This little boy might be 5...a round-cheeked blond cherub.  He was so excited to see Thing One that he ran up and hugged him around the knees, since that's all he could reach on my tall lanky son!  My grinchlike heart grew three sizes watching that. 

Let's see what smiles the universe sends my way tomorrow. 


Sunday, July 23, 2017

I Just Don't Get It. Any Of It.

Doom and gloom alert.  Be warned.

I should further preface this by reminding y'all that I mostly didn't grow up in the US.  I'm an American citizen, was born here, spent summers here, but lived in varying places overseas from the ages of 2-18 the rest of the time because of Dad's job.  This had a lot of long term effects on my life, some good and some bad, but one consequence is that I usually wasn't anywhere in the vicinity when any close family or friends died.  Mom and Dad generally went back to the States for whatever (rare) funeral services needed attending and left my brother and I behind wherever we were living so that we wouldn't miss school. I attended the funerals of both my grandmothers in my early twenties, but that was about it.

Fast forward to my life here, and my introduction to the concept of the viewing.  It may well be a normal American thing, and I'm sure if you grow up with it, it is normal, but to me it seems so barbaric and cruel for the bereaved to have to stand in front of their deceased loved one's body (for the love of God) and make small talk for hours on end, I can't even process it.  That actually gets to me me more than the custom of kneeling in front of the coffined deceased to pray, which threw me for a loop the first time I came across it as well.  I'm sure my lack of exposure to death is the root of my issues on both counts.

Having all these thoughts because I went to the wake for my friend's husband on Friday.  Not the first time I've been to a viewing for someone who died by their own hand, sadly, but the first for someone I knew well personally, and the first goddamned one with an open goddamned casket so I am looking at him at the same time I am looking at his bleak-eyed wife and kids and siblings and then kneeling mere inches from him saying the Hail Mary over his coffin because it's the only prayer coming to mind in the shock of the moment and he was a Notre Dame alum like me anyway, so it's appropriate in a weird sort of way and all I want to do is scream, "WHY????"  I probably won't ever know and that's ok.  It's none of my business.   But Jesus.  How does a family even begin to pick up the pieces and move on after something like that?

The line of mourners extended out the funeral home door and down the block, anyway.  I hope that brought the family some comfort.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

May His Soul Rest In Peace

The husband of a dear college friend was hit and killed by a train this week.  Most likely suicide.  They have three children who are relatively close in ages to mine.  To say that I am in shock would be the understatement of the century and I cannot even begin to process how my friend is functioning right now.  Sweet Jesus, what horrible news.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord
And let perpetual light shine upon them.
May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Proud Of My Boy

Thing One started his first job this week, the one I helped him to apply for.  He's a junior counselor at our town's Summer Recreation camp.  It's an unpaid position (the policy for younger teens--he's barely 14--is that the first year is volunteer, they are paid after that) and he's been assigned to help out with the kindergarten/first grade group.  He is having the time of his life!!  Yesterday, the kids spent their entire recess chasing him around the playground...apparently they were the humans and he was the evil monster they were trying to catch.  When he got into the car, he commented that he couldn't believe that next year he'll actually be paid to have that much fun!  The other counselors in his group are a college-aged girl and an adult woman, so I have a feeling that the kids (especially the boys) in his group are loving having a young male counselor.  

The camp director texted me last night. "I can't say enough good things about (Thing One.)  He is so amazing with the kids and they all look up to him!"  When I went in to pick up my other two today, the art teacher came over and told me how conscientious he is with the kids and that he's really good about seeing what needs to be done and doing it without being told.  Made my day, I don't mind admitting it.   

He's not getting paid, so money isn't the motivation.  He just loves little kids and is great with them.  Always has been.  His favorite cousin is the youngest...those two have been inseparable for years.  The director said that she initially wasn't sure about putting a teenaged boy with the youngest group of kids and I told her she couldn't have placed him better if she'd tried!

When he was a little kid, his favorite counselor was an older boy named Rob, who set a great example for him.  I emailed Rob's dad last night and asked him to please let Rob know that Thing One is paying it forward.  :)


Friday, July 7, 2017

A Milestone, But Not A Happy One

Tomorrow, my sweet Thing One turns 14, a thought that pierces my heart.  I have no idea when he got so old or grew so tall...a young man now, no longer a boy.  And tomorrow, I will not see him at all.  This is the first birthday any one of my children will be spending entirely away from me.

It's a matter of logistics, unfortunately.  Thing One and Petunia are both playing in one soccer tournament two hours east of us, a distance that effectively requires two overnight stays given a very early Saturday morning game and ugly traffic in between.  Thing Two has a soccer tournament about 90 minutes northwest of us, commuting distance but still a long haul.  Because Himself and I have to divide and conquer, one or the other of us will be away from Thing One on his birthday, and it is what it is.  Just one of those things.

When I was growing up, my dad traveled a lot for work.  I mean a LOT.  It was not at all unusual for him to be out of town for birthdays, anniversaries, etc; again, just one of those things.  Whatever the occasion was, we'd celebrate it when he got home...we called those occasions "moveable feasts" in my family since we'd move the celebration to whenever we could all be together.

For the first time ever, the birthday of one of my children has become a moveable feast.  We will sing just as loudly and hug just as tightly and eat just as much cake on the 9th as we would have on the 8th, and life as we know it will go on.  And on the 8th, I will hug Thing Two just a little more often than usual because he will be the only kid I can reach!


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Understandable Assumption, But No

Petunia and I were talking in the car tonight in the way to her soccer practice. The subject of Egypt came up because there is a character named Yusuf in a video game she likes, and I reminded her that he shares his name with the older son of my awesome Egyptian taekwondo instructor (and also, in the English translation, her grandfather, which blew her mind.)

She had a whole unit on ancient Egyptian history in school this year--the reason why there is currently a canopic jar made from an old French's mustard bottle encapsulated in a great deal of Model Magic on the shelf in her bedroom, for those keeping score at home--but apparently this did not extend to any discussion about how things are different in modern-day Egypt.  Which is why I laughed out loud when Petunia commented that she felt sorry for our Yusuf and his family since she couldn't imagine having to write letters to her family back home in hieroglyphics!!



Friday, June 30, 2017

You Plant Peppers, You Get Peppers

One of my aunts taught eighth grade in Ohio for thirty some-odd years.  The title phrase of this post came to our family vernacular from the mother of one of her students during a parent-teacher conference.

Just for something different, we were in a bit of a rush this morning.  A friend of Petunia's was supposed to pick her up at 9 for a playdate, and then the rest of us needed to leave at 9:30 to get Thing One to soccer practice by 10.  OK as far as that went.  Except that the friend's mom was running late.  First she said 9:15.  Then 9:25.  I finally called her and said I'd drop Petunia off at her house on my way to the high school.  Again, OK.  Her house isn't too far from my house but I'd forgotten exactly where her road is.  So I say to my beloved eldest as I am driving along, "[Thing One], please look at the map on your phone and tell me if I have to turn right or left at the end of [XX] road."  He does so, and tells me that I need to turn left and then take my first right.

Mom and Dad, I bet you can predict what's coming next.

I turn left, as instructed.  A short ways down the road, I get to an intersection where the road "T"s.  There has been no right turn in the meantime.  Thing One starts yelling at me that I've missed the (like I said, nonexistent) right turn.  With a sweet smile for the aforementioned beloved eldest, I turn around at the T junction and drive back the way we came.  Very shortly after passing the intersection at which we turned left, we come upon the road we are seeking.  On the left.  That is to say, anyone other than my directionally challenged son would have initially told me to turn RIGHT and then take my first LEFT instead of the exact opposite.  (!!)

To this day, I have to stop and think about my rights and lefts, which is why I suspect my parents are laughing as they read this.  You plant peppers, you get peppers!




Monday, June 26, 2017

Filling The Bottomless Pit

My dearly beloved Thing One is rapidly approaching his fourteenth birthday.  As a fairly standard active teenaged boy, he can already be relied upon to approach food like a starving hyena.  Since this summer he will be playing on two soccer teams (limited schedules at least) while also engaging in a massive summer regimen preparatory to trying out for a third team, his high school's freshman team, I don't know how the hell I'm going to keep him sufficiently fueled.  For the high school team alone, he has three lifting workouts, two conditioning workouts, and two captain's practices a week from now through the second week of August.  His protein requirements are positively mind-boggling!

When I went to the grocery store the other day, I loaded up on eggs, cheese, milk, peanut butter, lean ground beef and chicken breasts.  Oh, and whole-grain buns and breads.  My plan is to keep grilled chicken, turkey and ham lunchmeats, and sloppy joe filling in the fridge at all times for easy sandwiches.  He already eats a lot of eggs for breakfast and cheese hunks for snacks, and luckily we are entering fresh fruit and veggie season in my part of the world as well (I love being surrounded by farm stands!)  I don't keep a ton of junk food in the house anyway, but I'm going to make a concerted effort to cut back on it.  Bottom line, there will be lots of good food in the house.  The flip side of the deal is that he has to eat it without me nagging him!  The reality is that if he wants to make this team, he has to pay attention to his nutrition, and that entire box of mac and cheese that he loves to eat for an after-school snack just isn't going to make the grade.  I spend enough time chasing Petunia around with protein-rich foods, little bird that she is...I absolutely refuse to do the same for Thing One.  If I have to drive his sorry behind to the high school and back seven times a week for the next six weeks, he can darned well show me that I'm not wasting my time by making good food choices!
  
As you might surmise from the description of the summer training, his high school is a big one with a very successful athletic program.  (Also an outstanding academic reputation, I should say.)  It has a full-time strength and conditioning coach who supervises the lifting and conditioning workouts.  Apparently he also has some sort of app that emails all the boys on the soccer team a series of questions each morning: how much sleep they got the night before, how stressed they are, how much water they drank the day before, that kind of thing.  I think it's great that they are encouraging the boys to get into healthy habits.  I also think it's great that Costco recently opened a store nearby, since clearly I am going to be grocery shopping in bulk for the foreseeable future!

 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Golden One Is Gone

Got a series of IMs from a grad school friend today telling me that another grad school friend died last week.  He was only 47.

Chris was the golden boy back when I knew him...the laid-back dude from California, effortlessly cool, handsome in a dark-haired, rakish sort of way and smart as hell.  He introduced me to Pulp Fiction, ska music and surfer slang.  In addition to his scientific papers, he had patented inventions, and he was of those guys who always asked the good questions during lectures, the kind you wish you were quick enough to have thought of yourself.  If he was a little reserved, his charisma masked it and you generally didn't notice.    

After he graduated, he went back to California, landed a job in venture capital, married and had a kid.  Eventually I heard that he'd taken a prestigious research job at our alma mater, to nobody's surprise.  This was a guy who was going places.

I don't know how he died.  I can't find anything on Google and I am normally the queen of Google.  All I have heard is that since I last saw him, he put on a lot of weight, has had some significant health issues and gone through a divorce.  I have no idea if any of that contributed to his passing, but I am heartsick.  The world lost a bit of light last week.  Rest in peace, Chris.

        

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Thoughts From The Very Type-A Parent Of A Very Type-B Child

He is not me.
His priorities are not my priorities.
His successes are not my successes.
His failures are not my failures.
His definitions of "success" and "failure" are not the same as mine.
Mine are not the only correct definitions of "success" and "failure."
I love my son.
He is not me.
Lather, rinse, repeat.

God, this is hard.





Friday, June 9, 2017

On The Roller Coaster Again

Thing Two has had a tough week.  The things about school that challenge him academically are all tangled up with the things about school that challenge him socially and he is coming home saying things like, "I hate school and school hates me."  Add in a busy schedule and the end of the school year and it's a recipe for disaster, fifth-grade style.  Managing frustration and personal space are a challenge for him at the best of times and we are seeing issues with both right now.  

On the bright side, when he melted down at bedtime on Tuesday night, he was actually able to explain to me what was wrong.  Not perfectly, granted, but well enough for me to be able to fill in the blanks by asking questions.  Two years ago we would not have been able to have that conversation, since his language skills would not have been up to it.  The parent of one of the kids involved with a personal space issue was incredibly kind and asked her son to explain what went wrong to me so that we could use it as a teaching moment.  Very helpful since no adults were nearby at the time and we can't explain social rules if we don't know which ones were broken.  Then the parent of another child in the class was good enough to ask her daughter the same sorts of questions for me, but it apparently took 45 minutes to get straight answers since this child is so fond of Thing Two that she refused to tell her mother anything that might potentially get him in trouble until her mother explicitly explained that we only needed the information so that we could help him.  

The best part was the reaction of the school social worker, his case manager, when I called her Thursday with my concerns.  She has been supervising my son's IEP team since he was three, and it was a while before I felt that I had her measure as a person at the beginning since she is very quiet and not in the least warm or fuzzy.  With eight years of working together under our belts now, however, I can confidently say that she is one of the best things that has ever happened to my son and that I am beyond blessed to have to the working relationship with her that we have built over the years.  By the time we got off the phone ten minutes later, she had plans to talk to his teacher and observe him in his classroom and was already considering potential modifications to the program for next year. She also made some very interesting suggestions for things we can do both now and at the beginning of 6th grade to smooth his transition to middle school, particularly in the Language Arts class that is going to be his bete noire simply by virtue of the way his brain works.

So in a nutshell, I guess the best way to put it is that it may be a bumpy road off and on, but there are a lot of things I can be grateful for at this point.  He is undoubtedly making a lot of progress, and there are good people around us to help us along our road.  I'll take it. 


Monday, June 5, 2017

Pout, Whine, Whimper

I just had to borrow Thing One's electric razor to shave off Thing Two's little tiny peach fuzz mustache!  He's only 11 (almost 12, technically, but still.)  I was SO not ready for that.  Where have my baby boys gone??

I know I can't have it both ways, and it is a lot easier in some ways to have big kids rather than babies around the house, but these two little-boy bodies are rapidly turning into young-man bodies and for whatever reason that is really bothering me lately.  Maybe because I am sending one to high school next year and the other to middle school...I can be in denial about all the paperwork but my eyes see the true story.  Only a few years left before they are men.  :(


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Dodged Another Bullet

In our house, the hot water heater dwells in its own partitioned-off room in the basement, with only the well pump and water softener equipment for company.  That is to say, unless you have some specific reason to go into that area, you generally don't.  A door separates it from Petunia's side of the basement playroom, and generally there is so much little-girl stuff in front of the door that you can't easily get to it even if you want to, but I digress.

Must be a dozen years ago now, since Thing One was a toddler and absolutely obsessed with the magnetic letters on our refrigerator at the time, I was constantly hearing a high-pitched mechanical noise in the kitchen and it was making me insane since I could not for the life of me figure out where the HELL it was coming from.  Our basement stairs open into the kitchen near the refrigerator, so in a moment of extreme frustration I actually went down into the mechanical room in the basement, stuck my head behind the water heater in the course of examining it for the source of the noise, and thereby noticed that the water heater was leaking a little *before* it had a chance to totally flood my basement.  Hallelujah.  And the noise?  Turned out to be coming from the battery-operated magnetic letter reader that went with the magnetic letters on the fridge, I discovered later.

Two days ago, I went down to the mechanical room to make sure there was enough softener salt in the container that goes with the water softener.  This is something I do maybe once every six weeks.  Damned if the water heater wasn't leaking again, but again just a little.  Very happy to report that it was replaced with a brand-spanking new one this morning!  Whew.

      

Friday, May 26, 2017

Another Milestone

Last night, I walked Thing One through his first job application.  He filled it out himself with me looking over his shoulder.

Granted, it is for a nonpaying junior counselor spot at our town's summer camp (he's too young for a paying job yet) but still.  It's another big step for him and I am sitting here with a cup of coffee wondering yet again where my baby went!!


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Dichotomy

I don't have anything against the sun, but it did a lot of damage to my skin in my younger years, so I stay covered up now.  I haven't gone out in the sun unprepared since about 1997.  Yes, makes it interesting to spend a week at the beach on vacation, but that's what sunblock and thatched beach umbrellas are for!  Surprisingly, about 25% of the other guests here are like me, always holed up in the shade, while the other 75% seem to be on a mission to see how much sun they can get.  Usually I'm in more of a minority but maybe skin cancer awareness is growing?  Who knows.

My other surprise for the week is just how many people have tattoos.  Hard to cover those up in swimwear if you got 'em.  I'd say also 75% or more.  My ghost white, non-tattooed hide is straight out of Sesame Street..."one of these things is not like the others."  Ha!


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Experiments

Ever the scientist, I've been trying to sample one or two new things at every buffet meal here.  Some turn out great, like the scoop of gray mush I found near the eggs at breakfast this morning (seasoned plantain mash, delicious!) Some not so good: cherry tomato sauce on waffles?  (Yes really, it was right there with the syrup and honey.)  Ok, I'll try most things once.  And then the head-scratchers.  Right next to the oatmeal, a tureen of hot puréed squash. With the previous evening's postre (dessert) of cinnamon ice cream on roasted pumpkin in mind, I tried putting cinnamon and sugar from the bowls nearby on the pumpkin purée as I would have done for the oatmeal, but nope.  It was inedible.  Clearly I was supposed to do something else with the squash but who knows what?  This is not a familiar cuisine for me and without context or directions, I'm lost.  I'm still willing to try again at breakfast tomorrow though and in the end, that's all that matters.





Monday, May 15, 2017

I *Really* Need To Learn Some Spanish

It's been on my bucket list for years.  I like languages, I'm reasonably good at picking them up, and knowing some Spanish would really come in handy...two of my three children have friends whose families speak primarily Spanish, which has made for some exciting communications in charades about playdates and birthday parties and such over the years.  Good thing I grew up overseas...I'm good at charades at least.

I was reminded of this strongly last night at dinner.  We are staying at a newish resort in the Dominican Republic.  Some online reviews mention that the staffers' English is not as good as at some of the other resorts in town because of this.  Of course, given that this is a country in which the national language is Spanish, I sincerely appreciate any efforts they make *at all* to communicate with me in English, but I digress.  Generally, a smile and good intentions on both sides have worked out fine so far, but we ran into a roadblock last night at the resort's Indian-themed restaurant.  The menu was a little confusing and we were trying to ask someone who spoke mostly Spanish about an Indian menu in English, which ended with a lot of laughing and a culinary adventure!

On the bright side, I have already learned how to properly order cafe con leche and banana daiquiris in Spanish, so I am making some headway in the important areas.






Sunday, May 14, 2017

Early Morning Thoughts From The Patio Overlooking The Ocean

Thing One made it to the state Geography Bee all three years that he was in middle school.  To qualify, he had to win his school-level Bee and then score in the top 100 on a written exam taken by all of the school Bee winners in the state.  (He also signed up to take Geography as an elective next year as a freshman because it interests him.)  Safe to say the kid knows about planet Earth.

I blame it all on the globe I bought him for his third birthday.

You see, my husband travelled a lot for work when we were first married.  I mean A LOT.  All over the place.  And when your toddler keeps asking where Daddy is, you can't really say "Amsterdam" or "Sydney" or "San José" and have it mean anything.  So you buy the kid a real, big-kid globe and you point to places on it.  "You are here and Daddy is there."  And then the questions *really* start.  Ye gods.

On the bright side, all that travel adds up over time.  In Himself's case, to over a million miles flown on one airline as on last year, which qualified us both (not even just him!) for Platinum frequent flyer status.  Which explains why we found ourselves upgraded to Business Class for our flight to Punta Cana yesterday morning, and were able to toast the beginning of our (slightly belated) fifteenth anniversary trip with mimosas on the plane at 7:30AM.

Happy Anniversary to us.  Grateful thanks to my in-laws, who are watching the children this week so we can have this getaway.  And happy Mother's Day to the best mom ever.  Lots to celebrate today!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Yeah, I Should Probably Get That Out Of There...

Cleaning out my purse just now prior to getting on a plane tomorrow morning.  Got to the bottom and found a large black plastic rubber knife!  Yikes.  Pretty sure the TSA folks wouldn't be too happy about me trying to bring that on a plane.

I borrowed it from the taekwondo dojo before my black belt test to practice with, since one of the self-defenses I created for the test would be used against a knife attack.  Perfectly legitimate reason for me to have it (although I really do need to remember to return it) but not so much a reason for me to carry it on a plane.  Glad I found that before the TSA did!!




Saturday, May 6, 2017

Absolutely Heartsick

Penn State just can't stop shooting itself in the foot.

For those who haven't seen the story, a sophomore died there in February during fraternity initiation hazing.  Yesterday, it was announced that a number of people would be facing involuntary manslaughter charges as a result.

For the story, click here.  The details are absolutely horrifying.

I can't even begin to imagine how this young man's parents (or brother, or girlfriend) will ever have another peaceful moment's sleep in their lives, knowing how much and for how long he suffered before he died.

Most of the men on my father's side of the family are members of one fraternity.  Not the one involved with the Penn State incident, as it happens, but I'm not sure that matters.  At various points Thing One, knowing that he is a legacy many times over, has mentioned possibly pledging the fraternity as well when he goes to college.  I want to sit him down right now and make him read that article, although I won't.  Not yet, because it would give him nightmares.  But sure as hell before he goes to college.

  

Friday, May 5, 2017

Yikes

Thing One's class has been doing a unit on the Holocaust in Social Studies.  Our community happens to have in it an Army veteran (now in his early 90s) who was both a liberator of Auschwitz and an observer at Nuremberg, and he comes to the kids' school every year to talk to the eighth graders about his experiences, which is an absolutely amazing opportunity for them.  How many kids are lucky enough to hear about Nuremberg from someone who was actually there??  To cap off the unit, the grade takes a day-long field trip to a nearby university to visit their Holocaust museum.  Now, Thing One is a rabid soccer fan and wears a professional soccer jersey of some variety to school as many days as not.  He told me that he had a jersey from his favorite team in his hand to put on that morning but it occurred to him that it might not be a good idea, since that team is Bayern Munich!!!  Good call, kid; good call.



Sunday, April 30, 2017

Two Sides

I've been on the school board at my kids' school since 2011.  If I have learned *nothing* else in those six years, I've learned that the truth is somewhere in between the two sides of the story you hear upfront.  Sometimes closer to one side or the other, but oh, I have learned over and over how much it pays not to make any snap judgments.

A particular storm has been brewing for months now, and the situation came to a head this past week.   Thursday I got an email from one parent and a phone call from a second about it, and then a third buttonholed me while I was trying to walk my dog at the park that evening.  In this case, I happen to know the other side of the story (or at least part of it) already.  Will be interested to see how that all plays out through the formal process.  That was still half on my mind when I checked my BOE email account this afternoon and found a note from another parent about a totally different issue.  It sounded ridiculously cut and dried, but I'm going to bet there's another side to that one too.  The BOE generally does not get involved in this kind of stuff until all the other layers in the chain of command have failed, but we are often copied on things as an FYI before that stage, and of course parents are free to contact us with concerns at any time.  You couldn't pay me enough to be a school administrator...I suspect that managing parents is the toughest part of that job by far.

*******

In less bureaucratic news, we are the the throes of soccer tryout season here in Mama D-land.  Those of you who remember my posts from this time last year about the three clubs the kids were trying out for will doubtless understand why I am so happy that only their current club is in the picture this year!  All three should make their current teams again unless there is some serious disturbance in the force, which takes away a lot of the stress of tryouts.  Thing One has established himself as the primary centerback on his team; they've played two State Cup games in the past week and he played every second of both games, the only player to do so other than the goalie.  I don't want the kid getting full of himself, but that is a very solid indication that the coaches trust him to do his job.  Thing Two is the only goalie on his team and he's coming off some very good performances going into tryouts as well.  Then there's little Petunia, who is blowing the doors off her team offensively right now.  They played the top-ranked team in their flight today and demolished them 8-2!  She scored four of the goals herself and assisted in two others, then the coach sat her out most of the second half to keep the game from becoming a rout.  She may actually be playing up next year, still TBD.

    



Sunday, April 16, 2017

Have I Mentioned How Great It Can Be To Have A Teenager Around?

I'm not even being sarcastic.  Really.

Our resident rapidly-approaching-14-year-old has become a very reliable babysitter for his younger brother and/or sister.  When I have to take Thing Two somewhere right after school, I can ask him to help Petunia with her math homework and make sure she's ready for soccer practice when I get home, and he does.  He's as tall as I am now (5'10") and almost as strong, so there's always someone around to help pick up the other end of something heavy even when Himself is at work.  I can practice my taekwondo moves on him too, since he's only a couple of belts behind me!

And the icing on the cake?  Recently, he started showing an interest in learning how to cook.  So this morning, while I was busy doing something else, I was able to ask him to make breakfast for himself and his siblings, which he did.  Scrambled eggs and oatmeal and yogurt, nothing fancy, but perfectly functional and without burning down my kitchen.  A huge help!  I think I'll keep him.  :)






Saturday, April 15, 2017

Post-Test Update

The test lasted more than four hours!  Yikes.  At one point (right after the "chain of pain" sparring, about three hours in) I was literally shaking and had to sit down, have a drink and eat something quickly to get my blood sugar back up.

The good news, though?  Lots of it, as it turned out.

I did not panic.  I remembered pretty much everything I needed to remember.  I made a decent showing for a 40+ year-old soccer mom...just about the best I can do physically.  I walked out of there with a lovely new black belt that I earned fair and square (although I will have to wait until I earn my first-degree black belt at my next test to get my name embroidered on it; this belt is plain black.)  And most importantly of all, I did not get hurt!!  That was my biggest fear, in general and specifically because my right knee is dicey at the best of times.  I wear a steel-hinged brace on it while doing taekwondo.

My husband and kids did not come to the test because there was other stuff going on today, but when I got home, a bouquet of flowers, a card and a bottle of champagne were waiting in the kitchen!  Oh, and they took me out to dinner to celebrate, too.

I am so glad that is over, I cannot even BEGIN to tell you!!  Huge relief.  And now I can officially teach, too...all of my employment paperwork has been done for a couple of weeks, but you can't run a class on your own unless you are a black belt.

On to my Easter Bunny duties now, and then the couch will be calling my name!!




Into The Crucible

The test for my black belt in taekwondo begins at 10 o'clock sharp this morning.  I'm expecting it to run around three hours, give or take.

Among the things it will include:

-A timed 1/2 mile run
-2-1/2 minutes each of jumping jacks, sit-ups, and pushups
-Timed bagwork (hands, feet and combination)
-Demonstrating that I know the previous 11 (!!) belts' worth of forms, techniques and self-defenses (this will take the bulk of the test time)
-Seven belts' worth of step-sparring
-A so-called "chain of pain" (probably ten-fifteen minutes of straight sparring in gear, with a new opponent substituting in every minute; this is exhausting)
-Board breaking (two 1/2' boards with each foot strike, one board per hand strike), and
-Teaching the audience two self-defenses that I have come up with on my own, one each for an attack with a weapon and a bare-hand attack.

There will almost certainly be other stuff as well.  The head instructor likes to change things up a bit with each test.  Oh, and to make things even MORE fun, his mentor will be there observing as well!  No pressure.  My instructor is 3rd dan (third degree); the mentor is 5th dan. Oh, and as the icing on the cake, our dojo has changed over from taekwondo-based MMA to pure ITF taekwondo in the last year or so, and along with that has come a *lot* of terminology changes to keep straight.  I can't even begin to tell you how happy I will be when this thing is finally over with!

As I stress, people keep reminding me that I wouldn't be testing if my instructor didn't think I was ready.  I know they're right, but it is what it is.  In the five-plus years I've been doing this, I've never seen someone test for a belt and not receive it even if they make a royal mess of things, so by early afternoon I'm pretty sure I'll have the black belt.  At this point, I'm just hoping that I make a good show of earning it and that I don't get hurt while doing so!!

Wish me luck, please???

  

  







Friday, April 14, 2017

Randomly Resurfacing From My Archives...

Just looked at the Feedjit gizmo and no fewer than six people from six states have looked at a blog post I wrote in March of 2016 about goats and flagpoles in the last six hours.  Anybody have any idea why that particular post is getting so much attention all of a sudden??  Inquiring minds are curious.  And yes, "Not my goat." really is part of my everyday vocabulary.  :)

 

Spring Break (AKA A Whole Lot Of Family Togetherness)

Himself is working this week, but the kids are off school and have been since Monday.  They go back Tuesday.  As much as I love them, I may have a permanent twitch by then!  So not looking forward to summer vacation already.  Your introvert friend here needs some downtime, and that's in short supply at the moment.  As a means of preserving my sanity, we've been getting a lot of physical activity in.

Monday, we loaded up the bikes and drove out to a nearby park that happens to be centered around an old WWII airstrip.  So much fun for them tearing up and down the runway.  Tuesday, we tried out a rock climbing gym for the first time and all three of them had a blast!



Yes, that is my baby girl 40 feet up a wall!

Wednesday, we tried a trampoline gym.  They were exhausted afterward, but loved it.  I wanted to try it too, but with my black belt test on Saturday, no way I was taking the risk of getting injured.  :(





Think we're going to go out on the bikes again tomorrow.  Anything that keeps them occupied (and not with video games) is a bonus.  I may need a vacation to recover from this vacation though!




Thursday, April 13, 2017

Things I Don't Understand

Check out the soccer shorts below.  They belong to Thing One, who wore them in one of his own games rapidly followed by another game that he guest played in.  As you can see, he spent a fair bit of time on the ground...those boys play rough.  The back of his jersey was actually worse, but I didn't have the presence of mind to take a photo of it before putting it in the wash.


Will somebody please explain to me why 13 year-old boys would be given WHITE uniform shorts?  I never understood the existence of white baseball pants either, back in the days when my boys played baseball.  There's just not enough bleach in the world some days!




Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Getting More Complicated By The Day

I have three children.  They all play for the same soccer club, which is small, flexible and very focused on player development.  So far, so good.

This past year, USA Soccer made a big switch to bring the program in line with international programs.  Kids are now placed on teams according to their birth year (January-December) as opposed to the previous system, under which the birth cutoff was July 31st.  Take Thing One as an example.  He was born in July of 2003.  Under the previous system, he was one of the youngest on a team of boys born between August 1st of 2002 and July 31st of 2003.  Now, he is smack in the middle of a team of boys who were all born in 2003.  In other words, last spring the US went from a system under which every travel soccer team in the country was composed of children born in two calendar years to a system under which every team is composed of children born in only one calendar year.  As you might imagine, the result of this was that tryout time last year was absolutely insane, since every team in the country was blown up and reorganized, with the older half of any given team joining the younger half of the team one year up in age and the younger half of that team now being paired with the older half of the team one year down.  A real mess.

All of which preamble (if you are still with me...) is intended to help explain why my three children are now practicing with five different soccer teams between them!  Petunia, who is a very strong striker/midfielder, was born in 2007.  Ever since the player development coach got a good look at her in winter training, she's been practicing with the 2006 team as well to hone her skills.  This evening, her 2007 team was practicing, and my boys were messing around at a nearby goal, Thing One shooting and Thing Two defending.  The coach of the 2001 boys' team (who also is the assistant on Thing One's team) grabbed him and tossed him into the scrimmage the older boys were playing, since he was there anyway.  Thing One's a big boy for an eighth grader, average in size on that field of high school sophomores, and he held his own very well out there.  He's maturing into a good solid back.  Coach comes up to me after practice and tells me that he'd like to see Thing One start practicing with this team as well whenever he can; that he should consider it a standing invitation.

The good news (other than the implied compliment to both kids) is that all the teams practice at the same complex of fields.  I'd be there every night of the week anyway for somebody's practice, so having somebody else pick up a practice at the same time is both good for their training and efficient for me.  Win-win, except for me having to keep it all straight.

Here's how it shakes out:
Monday: Petunia 07, Thing Two
Tuesday: Petunia 06, Thing One 03, Thing Two goalie training (because of course)
Wednesday: Petunia 07, Thing One 01
Thursday: Thing Two, Thing One 03
Friday: Petunia 06

And THIS, my friends, is why there is a whiteboard in my kitchen with the kids' weekly schedule on it!



 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

News and Bigger News

I haven't posted much about it lately, but I've still been plugging away at my taekwondo studies.  It doesn't seem possible, but I have been invited to test for my black belt on April 15th!!  I expect the test to take between three and four hours, which will be a real physical challenge.  As I've been joking with friends, I will be representing for the 'old ladies' in the program...there are four or five of us testing for black, and I am the only one over the age of 25!  Ugh.  (As we all know, I am WELL over the age of 25.)

In even more significant news, the head of our program, a man whom I respect deeply both personally and as a martial artist, asked me a month or so ago if I would consider becoming the instructor for the morning classes that I have been attending so religiously for the past five or so years.  This transition would take place in the fall, when the current instructor moves on.  I was both honored and terrified by the request, but I have chosen to accept his vote of confidence in me and on Monday, I turned in the first part of my official employment paperwork.  I have been an assistant instructor for some time now, but it is an entirely different kettle of fish to be responsible for a class on my own--it is actually not allowed below the rank of black belt, which will add a whole additional level of significance to my April test.

In the Japanese martial arts, the term 'shodan' is used for first degree black belts.  This term literally means 'first step," and signifies that the individual is now ready to begin the true journey.  Let the journey begin!






Sunday, March 26, 2017

Making Bells For The Pope Since 1000AD

Opened up the CNN webpage last night while reading in bed and just about fell onto the floor when I happened upon the video below.  My maternal grandmother's maiden name was Marinelli and her father's family back in Italy runs this foundry: my great-aunt told us so years ago.  The oldest family business in Italy, it has been casting bells for over a thousand years.  How incredibly cool is that??   Even though we already knew about it, seeing it on video makes it even more amazing.  One of these years, I will visit Agnone and see this for myself!

Handcrafting Papal Bells with Italy's Oldest Family Business

The video is less than two and a half minutes long.  Check it out!!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Where Was I Again?

Oops, blinked and there went another pesky week.  A few highlights...

1) Helping Thing One and a friend make cooking videos for their Spanish class.  Apparently the use of a particular verb form was involved in the narrative.  Bear in mind that both of these boys are the most rudimentary of cooks even in English: one attempted to cook meatballs in Spanish and the other enchiladas and I haven't laughed that hard (in a nice way of course!) in a really long time.  At the end of it all, we'd had a very fun afternoon, we had two reasonably edible dishes, two videos and no injuries, and my kitchen had not been blown up or set on fire.  I consider that a resounding success.  And both boys had picked up a cooking tip or two, as well.  (A side note to anyone--like Thing One's buddy--who needs to put any very hot mixture into a blender and doesn't know: this is why blender lids have that central plug.  Remove it before you turn on the blender and put a dishtowel or something that allows airflow over the opening to keep any mess down instead.  If you leave the central plug in when blending hot liquids they will emerge from the blender like lava from Vesuvius as soon as you remove the lid afterward otherwise.)

2) Followed a day later by driving the child (Thing One again) 200 miles each way for a weekend soccer tournament, all three games of which were played in subfreezing weather and howling wind!  There just isn't enough warm clothing for either players or spectators under those conditions.  All hail snow boots, four layers of clothing, blankets and chemical handwarmers in mittens.  Frigid conditions aside, both of us had a great time, believe it or not.  He really likes his teammates and the other parents are great.  Besides which, how often do I get an opportunity for that much one-on-one time with my teenager?? I'll trade any number of frozen fingers for that.

Followed as soon as we got back by 3) preparations for a blizzard.  Ugh.  In this totally electric-powered house, losing power is a problem.  Stockpile nonperishables and water and batteries, check.  Storm arrives, more sleet than snow at least, but still 6" on the ground when all is said and done.  At least the power stayed on but it knocked out school for two days.  More importantly, it cancelled my parents' flight in from California (along with hundreds of other flights) which led to them having to miss

4) Thing One's Confirmation Mass, which was last night.  Boo.  :(  Beautiful ceremony, presided over by the bishop at the "big" church in our parish, not the little one we usually attend.  Thing Two was asked to be an altar server despite the fact that he has never served at that church or even *seen* a bishop!  When I realized that he had been tasked with holding the crozier (the bishop's staff) during the Mass I was a bit concerned, but to his credit he managed not to drop it on the floor in front of a very large, very full church.  Hallelujah.  I was fascinated by the number of hat changes a bishop makes during a Mass...from the large white mitre to a red skullcap to a bare head and back.  I had to look up the rules when we got home.  Apparently he wears the mitre when teaching, removes it during scripture readings (revealing the skullcap underneath) to demonstrate that even he learns from scripture, and takes off the skullcap as well when consecrating the bread and wine.  Who knew?  I'm sure I was supposed to but I'm not sure I've ever seen a bishop say a Mass either.

Which brings us to 5) St. Patrick's Day.  We aren't having our usual big party this year, since between soccer, visitors and one of Himself's crazy 200 mile relay races we don't have a free weekend for the entire month!  The house doesn't have the usual decorations up and it's quite sad.  :(  Nevertheless I will be making the traditional corned beef and cabbage and soda bread this afternoon.  Slainte!!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I Need To Clone Myself

Two weeks ago Thursday, I was driving Thing Two home from soccer practice when my cell phone started pinging nonstop.  When I was able to check it, I saw that I had about twelve texts in a row from my friend Rose, who was at the kids' school watching the Star Wars tournament in which Thing One's team was playing.  (Don't ask me what it is...I still don't have all the rules straight but it is something like Guard the Castle crossed with dodgeball.)  The tourney was a charity fundraiser organized by the middle school student council and a good dozen or so teams were signed up to play, including one primarily composed of Thing One's posse of 8th grade buddies.

Rose's texts got progressively shorter and more excited as they went along, starting with one asking where I was and moving on to tell me that Thing One's team had made the final and later that he was the last man standing on his team against three opponents.  The last couple of texts informed me that he had gotten the last man out on the other team with three seconds to spare to win the tourney for his team (one text was entirely exclamation points!) and the grand finale was a picture of a dogpile of all seven boys on the team on the gym floor with a note from Rose that Thing One was on the bottom of the pile.  

In a very deja vu-like echo of that evening, tonight my phone blew up yet again on my way home from a soccer practice, this time Petunia's.  My friend Susan was breathlessly updating me on the last ten minutes or so of our joint sons' semifinal rec basketball game.  (Thing One again.)  They had come from way behind against arguably a much better opponent to win by 7 and there was absolute pandemonium on the court by the end!  Once again, I was very sad to have missed it, but at least my husband was at both events. Sometimes the logistics of  'divide and conquer' just stink.  

The basketball team's story is a particularly good one.  It's mostly the same group of boys as were on the Star Wars team, not one of them a 'real' basketball player.  There are two very good soccer players and a cross-country runner in the group, but that's about it.  Thing One is the tallest kid on the team at 5'9", too...they aren't exactly a physically imposing group.  Their coach is Susan's older son, a high school senior who can't even officially *be* the coach of a team since he isn't 18 yet!  (The father of one of the other boys attended all the practices and games since the presence of an adult was required by the league, but that dad would be the first one to tell you that he had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual coaching.)  Very special to see this group having so much success even though I couldn't actually see it myself either time. 


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

We Haven't Come Far Enough, Baby

Had a fun experience (ugh) two nights ago with our home alarm system. Seems that the battery needed to be replaced, so every four hours the alarm would go off, shocking us out of a sound sleep. First thing yesterday morning I disconnected the battery from the system and shut it down, planning to go and buy a new battery ASAP.

Other logistics for the day dictated that I ended up walking into Home Depot on that errand with a geocaching friend, a gray-haired guy 15 years older than me.  Despite the fact that the battery was for *my* house and that *I* was the one who explained what I needed and asked where to find it in the store, both the greeter and the guy in the electronics department spoke exclusively to my friend.  Apparently my lack of a Y chromosome means that you can't have an intelligent conversation with me in a hardware store.  GROWL.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Meeting

Himself and I had Thing Two's annual IEP meeting with the relevant school personnel last week.  This is the meeting where we discuss how he's been doing and make plans for the following school year.  Not that we don't touch base informally all along, but this is the formal planning meeting required by law.  The kid will be in middle school next year, God help us.  Thats a whole new can of worms to navigate, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor.

On the bright side, they do some class changing in fifth grade, so that concept shouldn't be new to him next year.  (Back when Thing One went through they spent much more time in their own homerooms than they do now, and I like the new way much better since it is a good segue to the middle school model.)  He's doing very well in science and social studies and not bad at all in math considering that he's trying to do two years in one--he wasn't in high math last year, but is now. The major issue, as always, is language arts with the language processing issues he has.  Right now he has aide support in core subjects, but those are paraprofessionals.  Their main job is to keep him on track and focused.

Starting next year, he will have a certified special Ed teacher in his language arts class with him, to work with him and any other kids who need it, and that person will actually help to teach him (and run interference with the regular classroom teacher for him) as well.  It's a fantastic arrangement and one I had hoped would be an option.  They offered it before I could even ask.  I love this school.  He will still have speech services and the paraprofessional in the other core subjects as well.  Talk about caring about the kid and setting him up to succeed!  I know this is not at all the experience many parents have with the Special Education team at their schools, and I am beyond grateful for our good fortune.





 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Close Call

I went to lunch with a group of my martial arts girlfriends yesterday.  One, who happens to wear a hijab (she's a Muslim of Egyptian descent) told us a story while we ate.

Seems that she was in the grocery store parking lot recently putting her shopping in the trunk of her car when she looked up to see a woman running at her full tilt, a total stranger.   As she noted, it would have made sense just to get into her car as quickly as she could, but in the moment that didn't even occur to her.  In these days of batshit crazy politicians encouraging anti-Muslim sentiment, she assumed the woman was coming to harm her, and she was standing there mentally going through the moves she's learned in taekwondo and jujitsu (this is NOT a woman you want to attack, for the record...she's a bad mo-fo black belt) and deciding how best to defend herself when she realizes that the woman is smiling at her.

The woman gets to her, gives her a huge hug and says, "I'm so sorry our president is such an ignorant asshole!  We all support you."  And walks away.

I love the sentiment.  I love that this happened in my white-bread small town.  And most of all, I love the fact that my friend would have absolutely beaten the shit out of that woman if she'd come looking for a fight instead of in friendship and solidarity.  She is physically small but she takes no crap whatsoever and I think its awesome that she was ready to take on a bigot had push come to shove.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

And While On The Subject Of The Weirdness Of English...

...try reading this poem out loud!!  Insanity, thy name is my mother tongue.

The Chaos (by G. Nolst Trenité, a.k.a. "Charivarius"; 1870 - 1946)

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse
I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye your dress you'll tear,
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer,
Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, beard and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written).
Made has not the sound of bade,
Say said, pay-paid, laid, but plaid.
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say break, steak, but bleak and streak.
Previous, precious, fuchsia, via,
Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir,
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles.
Exiles, similes, reviles.
Wholly, holly, signal, signing.
Thames, examining, combining
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war, and far.
From "desire": desirable--admirable from "admire."
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier.
Chatham, brougham, renown, but known.
Knowledge, done, but gone and tone,
One, anemone. Balmoral.
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel,
Gertrude, German, wind, and mind.
Scene, Melpomene, mankind,
Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.
Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet;
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rime with "darky."
Viscous, Viscount, load, and broad.
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's O.K.,
When you say correctly: croquet.
Rounded, wounded, grieve, and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive, and live,
Liberty, library, heave, and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven,
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover,
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police, and lice.
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label,
Petal, penal, and canal,
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal.
Suit, suite, ruin, circuit, conduit,
Rime with "shirk it" and "beyond it."
But it is not hard to tell,
Why it's pall, mall, but Pall Mall.
Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, and chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor,
Ivy, privy, famous, clamour
And enamour rime with hammer.
Pussy, hussy, and possess,
Desert, but dessert, address.
Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants.
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rime with anger.
Neither does devour with clangour.
Soul, but foul and gaunt but aunt.
Font, front, won't, want, grand, and grant.
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger.
And then: singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.
Query does not rime with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post; and doth, cloth, loth;
Job, Job; blossom, bosom, oath.
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual.
Seat, sweat; chaste, caste.; Leigh, eight, height;
Put, nut; granite, and unite.
Reefer does not rime with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
Hint, pint, Senate, but sedate.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific,
Tour, but our and succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria,
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay.
Say aver, but ever, fever.
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.
Never guess--it is not safe:
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralph.
Heron, granary, canary,
Crevice and device, and eyrie,
Face but preface, but efface,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust, and scour, but scourging,
Ear but earn, and wear and bear
Do not rime with here, but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, clerk, and jerk,
Asp, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation--think of psyche--!
Is a paling, stout and spikey,
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing "groats" and saying "grits"?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel,
Strewn with stones, like rowlock, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict, and indict!
Don't you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
Finally: which rimes with "enough"
Though, through, plough, cough, hough, or tough?
Hiccough has the sound of "cup."
My advice is--give it up!


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Who Knew??

Found recently in an article about the wonderful weirdness of the English language: the rules governing the order of multiple adjectives preceding a noun.  "The WHAT?" you say?  "There are rules for that?"  Yes, really.  And if you're a native English speaker, they doubtless come so naturally to you that you don't even think about them unless someone else messes them up.


Chart copied from here.

I bet this sentence sounds perfectly normal to you: "The beautiful, large, round, orange plastic pumpkin sat by the front steps."

I bet this one does not: "The plastic, large, orange, round, beautiful pumpkin sat by the front steps."

We talk about an "old blue metal" wheelbarrow, not a "blue metal old" wheelbarrow.  A "lovely young dark-haired girl," not a "dark-haired young lovely girl."  It's a "long, narrow, wooden" cane, not a "narrow, wooden, long" cane.
 
Then there's the "thin blue" line, and "Big Red" gum!  Even those follow the rules.  Who knew.  I'm so glad English is my first language...for this and many other reasons it must be absolutely infuriating to learn English as a secondary language.

  

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sticking Up For Their Own

My best girlfriend has a daughter Thing One's age.  She's had a tough time with middle school, courtesy of the resident group of 'mean girls' in their grade.  She and Thing One have known each other since kindergarten and through the years have become very close friends.  This girl got on the school bus on Friday afternoon with a storm cloud hanging over her head.  As she later reported to her mother, Thing One immediately asked her what the [unkind but fully-justified epithet for the mean girls redacted] had done now.  Upon hearing that they had nothing to do with her bad mood, he then asked if her boyfriend (who is a buddy of his) was being an idiot again and if he needed to go talk some sense into him!  I'm so glad that those two jump to each other's defenses the way they do and you could NOT pay me enough to go back to middle school.  (shudder)

My girlfriend was laughing when she told me that story, but then the conversation took a more somber turn.  My friend also has a daughter Thing Two's age, who, due to the nonmutable pecking order of school bus seating that has the oldest kids in the back and the youngest in the front, sits close to Thing Two in the middle of the bus somewhere.  Apparently the younger daughter came home on Friday and informed her mother that a couple of the kids on the bus were bullying Thing Two.  She and Thing Two have been classmates since preschool and she is VERY protective of him, as is her big sister.  The younger girl was absolutely livid.  I made some calls, another mother sent an email, and apparently the situation was addressed at the school level today.  I'm supposed to get a call tomorrow morning explaining what happened.  Independently of whatever happened at school, though, the older daughter also took matters into her own hands.  Seems that the girl on the bus who was responsible for the bullying (another fifth grader) got herself read the riot act loudly and publicly by one tall, beautiful and really seriously pissed-off eighth grader after school today!  God I love that kid.  And her little sister, too.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Just Signed My Baby Up For High School

Not sure why this is bothering me so much.  It's not like I didn't know it was coming, after all.  He's halfway through eighth grade.  The school has been talking about it since November.  He's been in a pre-tryout training program for freshman soccer run by the HS coach for months already, too.

Something about the paperwork part is getting to me.  Looking at the courses online.  Figuring out what to sign up for and how.  Creating online accounts at the school, ours and his.  His middle school is tiny.  The high school, massive.  800 kids per grade, plus or minus.  Going to be a huge change for him.

His online course registration window opened this morning.  When I came downstairs, Thing One and Himself were at the computer getting his selections in.  Besides being a big school, its a good one.  An almost paralyzing variety of course options.  Should he take all honors courses?  Just a few to focus?  Which electives?  Everyone has an opinion but it all boils down to knowing your kid.

We decided to sign him up for a few honors courses (math, science, social studies) and start with regular level for the others (health, language arts, Spanish.)  You have to choose and rank six electives; they will give you four.  To absolutely nobody's surprise, his first choice was Introduction to Geography.  (Did I tell you that he won the middle school Geography Bee *again*? Third year in a row: now waiting to hear if he made it to the state competition for a third time as well.)  Invention and Innovation.  Music Theory and Composition.  Intro to HTML and Web Design.  Art 1.  Keyboarding and Piano.

The kid is 13, will turn 14 in July.  He's only an inch or so shorter than my 5'10" now, with floppy teen hair, difficult adolescent skin and the all-pervading smell of Axe body spray following him like a cloud.  Sure doesn't look like anybody's baby anymore.  And yet, he parked himself in the middle of my kitchen the other day after school while I was running around like a crazy woman and refused to move until I gave him a hug.  He still kisses me goodbye in the morning at the bus stop (in front of the bus!!) and gives me grief if I don't look in on him on my way to bed at night.  He still voluntarily talks to me too...what's going on at school or at soccer or with the girls.  I'm sure that at some point we will lose some of that closeness, and I think that's what is really bothering me about this whole transition.

Not much I can do about it and I know everyone goes through it.  I'll deal just like everyone else does, but thinking about him growing up makes me sad.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Frightened

The balance of political power is too lopsided right now.  We seem not to be able to stop anything that isn't outright unconstitutional, no matter how appalling it is.  It's a nightmare and I can't wake up.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Well, Shit

The bad guys won again. I feel just like I did when Trump won the election. His surrogate/supporters won tonight too. Bad run we're on as a country. 


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Dumb Luck

Love my contractor.  His name is Tony.  Older Italian guy.  Salt of the earth.  Former star high school football player with two bad knees to go along with the trophies.  After five surgeries on one knee couldn't fix the damage, he finally gave up and scheduled a knee replacement.  Orthopedic surgeon is doing a pre-op exam of the knee, sees a rash, says "I think this is eczema, but go get it checked before I operate."

Tony goes to the dermatologist.  My wonderful dermatologist, as it turns out.  The rash is eczema, but the doc says, "As long as you're here, let's check out your skin."

Long story short, doc finds what turns out to be a melanoma on his back.  A small one, thank God.  Doc took it off on Monday. Even a small one leaves a hell of a hole after you clear the margins...eight internal stitches, eighteen external ones.  I checked in with Tony today to see how he was doing.  He'd just heard from the doc that the surgery was successful and that they got it all.

That, my friends, is one fortunate man.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Can't Take The Crazy

I'm going to have to quit Facebook, I think.  Or at least cut drastically back on my social media time, as an alternative to unfriending half my so-called 'friend' list.  Damn this homogeneous, white, affluent area.

I've posted in the past about sometimes being able to tell just from the bumper stickers on somebody's car that I won't like the driver.  Getting that feeling a lot these days online.  I just can't take the enthusiastic pro-Trump postings.  They tell me all I need to know about these women that I would have said I liked well enough at an acquaintance level before this election hit the fan.  I don't post much political stuff online...the odd 'like,' but that's about it.  Enough to make it fairly clear where I stand though, I guess.  Wonder if that will tank me for the school board in this year's election.  Fuck 'em all if it does.  No kool-aid for me, thanks.

Went to lunch with some ninja girlfriends this past week to celebrate the fact that one of them is still above ground...she survived a random and massive cerebral aneurysm this past fall.  Ten ladies, all in street clothes and looking like the middle-aged matrons we are.  Would have been interesting if the restaurant had come under attack, though...nine of the ten are either black belts or only one step away from it.  Lesson in not judging books by covers, I guess!  Anyway, one lovely lady (and Facebook friend), who happened to be sitting next to me, quietly told me that there was a group I need to join, another of those secret ones.  I got the invitation later that day.

A valid use, I guess.  Maybe I just set the filters to ignore everyone who makes me crazy.  That's going to be a lot of ignoring though.  I'm finding myself retreating into my shell, talking mostly to the few people I know aren't crazy.  Good thing a lot of my pursuits are solitary, or at least small-group.  Still waiting to wake up from this terrible dream.




Saturday, January 21, 2017

Things That Confuse Fourth Graders

Petunia is 9. At this stage of her life, her primary sport is soccer.  Since both boys play soccer as well and Thing One in particular lives and breathes it, she has absorbed somewhat of a soccer-centric worldview.  However, during the break between the fall and spring soccer seasons (when the teams are on a more limited winter training schedule) all three kids play Rec basketball as well.  Since they play for a soccer club in a town that is about half an hour away, they don't go to school with any of those kids, so this is their chance to play a sport with their friends, plus it also lets them use different muscles for a season.  Anyway, it sometimes gets interesting when young kids whose primary sport is soccer are suddenly trying to figure out how another sport works.  (Remember a few years ago when Thing Two assumed that shinguards are part of a standard baseball uniform until we explained that he was only wearing his because he never had time to take them off between soccer practice and baseball practice??)

So, yesterday Petunia was talking about her basketball coach and where he plays her during games.  She said: "I wish he would stop playing me at back.  I'm much better as a guard," mixing the two sports in the process.  I reminded her that there is no such position as "back" in basketball.  Ironically, the term she was looking for was "forward."  Both backs and forwards play right in front of the net in their respective sports; can't blame the kid!!


Friday, January 20, 2017

Sick

I wanted to throw a bowling ball at the television as it showed the smirking, smarmy, orange face of our new President (god how that phrase sticks in my craw) taking the oath of office today.  People who voted for him: you created this mess.  You.  I hope every bloody one of you eventually regrets that vote.  When you lose your health insurance.  When you lose your job, because big business keeps exporting them.  When it becomes clear that every campaign promise was a lie aimed at a gullible population and that you bought them hook, line and sinker to your own detriment.  When you finally wake up and realize that your candidate is a racist, xenophobic bigot and terrifyingly ignorant to boot.  Fuck you all.

Yes, I'm bitter. I'm still bitter. Can you tell??



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

New Arrivals

A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking that it might not be a bad idea to buy an extra set of nunchuks to keep in my geocaching backpack, so I started looking through the catalogs they keep on the desk in the dojo.  I've had two sets for years already: one made of foam around a central core (so hitting your elbow, head etc with them while practicing doesn't hurt quite so badly) and one plain black wooden set, unadorned except for ridges engraved into the handles for better grip.  Both of those live permanently in my taekwondo bag now, since a nunchuk form is one of the requirements for my black belt test.

I've been using chuks for about five years now, off and on.  They are comfortable in my hands as a weapon, and one-on-one they beat just about everything other than a gun.  I don't make a habit of spending time in dangerous places alone (I actively avoid it, in fact), but it's always good to be prepared.  My keychain has a kubotan on it and my pack always contains both a pocketknife and a small canister of Mace; still, I can envision a scenario in which I want to keep somebody a good arm's length and then some away from me, and chuks would take care of that very nicely.

I was going to order another plain black set identical to my current wooden chuks, but the other girls convinced me to branch out a bit for the hell of it.  The new ones arrived today and are now tucked away in an accessible pocket of my pack.  Meet the new set, affectionately christened the "badass chuks" by my classmates since they look like something a biker would carry!  May they never see action.




      

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Last Leaf

Thing Two's tutor has assigned him (as part of his reading comprehension work) a series of short stories to read, each of which contains a plot twist.  The idea is that he needs to try to pick up on the twist, which is happening about half the time right now.  Oh well.  Work in progress.  Most of the stories I'd never seen before, but this week's reading assignment was an adaptation of "The Last Leaf" by O. Henry.  I hadn't thought of it in years but remembered it being wonderful, so I took the book and read it myself after Thing Two had completed his work.  Short indeed, but poignant and with a solid blow to the gut at the end.  You can find it here.  Read it, if you haven't and perhaps if you already have as well.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

I Have Arrived (*sniff*)

Heard the *bing* of an incoming email the other day, and when I checked my messages, saw that it was the notification that a new geocache had published.  Not a big deal ordinarily, except that this one was dedicated to me!  In my universe, that's a pretty big deal.  It's called a 'tribute cache.'  I've hidden three to honor friends of mine, but this is the first one with my name on it.

I solved the puzzle on the cache page and got myself to the final coordinates posthaste, since convention dictates that the honoree is supposed to be allowed to find a new tribute cache first.  Look what I found inside!  The very kind septuagenarian friend who put the cache out left a souvenir for me in the container.   There was also a small blue frog attached to the top of the container...apparently my fondness for frogs is not a secret.  :)
.    

I told him that I was going to add my souvenir to the frog collection on my kitchen windowsill, which I did.


Not a great picture, but you get the idea.  Sadly, this is only about half of the frogs in my kitchen...my husband just rolls his eyes when the subject comes up.  Oh well.  Everyone is entitled to an idiosyncrasy or two, and I am no exception.

The funniest thing is that this friend had no idea whatsoever that he put my cache less than 50 feet from the door of one of the places near home where my children play soccer!  I was there tonight with Thing Two, who had goalie training, and as I walked past the bush in which the container is hidden, I smiled all over again.