Fall woods

Fall woods

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sweet Jesus

A child killed herself today at Thing One’s high school.

The rumor mill is saying lots of things.  I won’t repeat any because I don’t know what’s true.  I have no idea if she was bullied, depressed, LGBTQ, marginalized, had received some bad news....anything.  It really doesn’t matter.

What matters is that my son came home from school today, and somebody else’s child didn’t.  I can hug Thing One (and you’d better believe I did, over and over and over) and those parents can’t.  I can have the conversation with him yet again: nothing is worth killing yourself over.  NOTHING.  Tell an adult if you hear anything.  I love you to the moon and back, as does your father.  The three of us can get through anything together.

They can’t.

I am sick to my stomach.  There but for the grace of God.




Monday, December 4, 2017

Explain This To Me, Please

I took the dog for a long hike in the woods today because she needed to get out. As I picked ticks off both her and myself afterward, I pondered the fact that I can give her an oral medication to make ticks leave her alone or die when they bite her (I forget which) and that I can also have the vet give her an annual Lyme vaccine shot, both of which I do.

By contrast, despite the fact that Lyme disease has well documented, debilitating short- and long-term effects on humans, the only precaution I can take for myself, other than not going into the woods, is applying permethrin to my clothing and boots.  Yippee flipping skippy.

If they can develop these medications and vaccines for dogs, they should be able to do it for humans. Just saying.  Seems ironic that she’s far better protected than I am!


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Annie Oakley Rides Again

For some time, it has been on my bucket list to learn to shoot a gun.  Not that I want to actually own one, mind you--with three curious kids in the house, that would be a recipe for disaster, but I really did want to see what kind of damage I could do on a target.  Out here in the sticks, lots of people have guns for home protection, range use and/or hunting, including three of my better geocaching buddies.  One of them offered to take me to the range with him this past Friday; I grabbed my courage in both hands and took him up on the offer.

Bill is a retired shop teacher, which means that his geocache containers are just about impossible to find.  The trick generally lies in figuring out what he took apart and put back together again with a container in the middle!  Pieces of wood and plastic, train track parts--on abandoned lines of course--etc, etc.  The operative word in this particular case, though, turned out to be "teacher."  Knowing that I was an utter novice, he sent me two long emails of diagrams and explanations and videos to look at ahead of time.  (I joked that it was my pre-reading before the lecture.)  He has four or five pistols, and wanted me to try shooting three of them: a .22, a 9mm, and a .45.  The first hour of the lesson was spent at his kitchen table learning how the different kinds of sights work, how to load and unload the three guns and how to use them safely.  Once he was fully satisfied that I wouldn't inadvertently kill either myself or him (my husband's only request!) he handed me ear protection and a pair of goggles and we drove over to an indoor range.        

We started with the .22, which was the only one that did not have a laser sight.  Took me a while to figure out how to aim it using an iron sight, but I eventually sorta got the hang of it.  This is the .22 target.  Bullet holes all over the place, but at least all on the paper!  The paper targets are taped to a piece of stiff cardboard hanging from a pulley, which you can set at any distance you want from the shooting booth using a rope.  I was shooting at a range of 15-20 feet, far enough for a beginner.  At this stage of the game I was happy just to be hitting the paper, since I was still trying to figure out how to hold the gun comfortably and sight it properly.  By the second magazine I was hitting inside the larger red square, at least.  This was a great pistol to start with because it has virtually no 'kick' when you shoot it.


We moved on from there to the 9mm, which was a scary-looking piece of work and had a serious kick to it.  The laser sight helped a lot with aiming, at least.  I felt pretty badass standing there with that Steyer in my hand!!  This one was my target (of course, Bill's looked a lot better.)  Not too bad for a novice, if I do say so myself.  :)


Bill's .45 is a Colt 1911, the standard Army sidepiece from 1911 until sometime in the 1980s.  It is heavy as hell and those things kick like an Arkansas mule, so I was pretty dubious about even trying it after the 9mm.  He's nearly 70 though, so I figured if he could hold it, I could.  Famous last words, right???  I picked it up, lined up the sight dot, squeezed the trigger...

     
...and blasted my first ever .45 shot straight into the middle of the target!!  Couldn't have worked out better if I actually knew what I was doing.  I turned around, handed the gun back to Bill and called it a day on the spot.  I needed to head home anyway to get the kids off the bus and sure as hell, my next shot would have been into the floor or ceiling or something.  That was the shot to end the day on without any doubt at all!  

So much fun.  I was lucky to have such a patient, thorough and safe teacher.  And look at what he sneaked into a pocket of my purse while I was sweeping up my spent casings!

        
Now I have a few souvenirs of the day for my kitchen windowsill as well.  The small ones are the ejected .22 casings, the silver are the 9mm, and the larger brass the .45s.  Definitely a good day.  :)




Friday, December 1, 2017

Political Analysis of the Flynn Situation via Tweet

A compilation of tweets today from Seth Abramson, a Harvard-educated law professor at UNH.

1/ First, it's important to understand that Mueller has entered into a plea deal with Flynn in which Flynn pleads guilty to far less than the available evidence suggests he could be charged with. This indicates that he has cut a deal with Mueller to cooperate in the Russia probe.
2/ We've already seen Mueller do this once before in the probe, with George Papadopoulos—who was charged with the same crime as Flynn, Making False Statements, to secure his cooperation with the Russia probe. The Papadopoulos plea affidavit emphasized facts were being left out.
3/ Flynn is widely regarded as dead-to-rights on more charges than Making False Statements—notably, FARA violations (failing to register as a foreign agent of Turkey under the Foreign Agent Registration Act). There's recently been evidence he was part of a kidnapping plot, too.
4/ Getting charged with just one count of Making False Statements is a great deal for Mike Flynn—it doesn't necessarily mean he'll escape incarceration, but a) it makes that a possibility (depending on what the parties and judge say and do), and b) any time served may be minimal.
5/ What this suggests is Flynn brings substantial inculpatory info (info tending to incriminate others) to the table. Unlike Papadopoulos, Flynn was going to be—because of his position in the administration—a primary target of the probe. So he had to offer a lot to get this deal.
6/ Deals like this are offered *only* when a witness can incriminate someone "higher up the food-chain" than them. In the case of the nation's former National Security Advisor, the *only* people above him in the executive-branch hierarchy are the President and the Vice President.
7/ There may be other targets in the Russia probe—such as Attorney General Sessions—at Flynn's same level in the hierarchy, but unless he could incriminate two or more of them, a deal like this would not be offered to him. And there *aren't* two or more at his level in this case.
8/ What this indicates—beyond any serious doubt—is the following: Special Counsel Bob Mueller, the former Director of the FBI, believes Mike Flynn's testimony will *incriminate* the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, or both of these two men.
9/ For this reason, what's about to happen in 50 minutes is far and away the biggest development thus far in the Trump-Russia probe, and likely the biggest development in U.S. politics since President Nixon resigned from office during the Watergate scandal. 
This is historic.
10/ The Papadopoulos plea paled in comparison to this because Papadopoulos was a top national security advisor to Mr. Trump, but still at nothing like Flynn's level of access and authority. The Manafort indictment pales in comparison because it was just an indictment, not a plea.
11/ The range of crimes for which Flynn can incriminate the president is unknown, but we have *some* sense of what could be involved. The first thing to understand is that Flynn had access to—and influence with—Trump on national security issues beginning in the Summer of 2015.
12/ The last *known* contact between Trump and Mike Flynn was late April 2017—meaning the two men were in contact for approximately one year and nine months. Given that these twenty-one months make up almost the entirety of Trump's political career, this is a huge swath of time.
13/ During their last known contact—April 2017—we know Trump told Flynn (at a minimum) to "stay strong," after which Flynn stopped cooperating with investigators. So the first thing Flynn can tell Mueller is all Trump said—and if he obstructed justice—during that April 2017 call.
14/ But of course the "story to tell" that Flynn's attorney bragged the ex-NSA had—back in late March of 2017—goes *well* beyond Obstruction allegations. Flynn was at the center of numerous contacts with Russia that he can report the president knew about and perhaps even ordered.
15/ Flynn met with the Russian ambassador and Jared Kushner in early December 2016 to discuss a "Kremlin back-channel" that some have argued would have constituted an act of espionage. Did Mr. Trump know about this? Did he direct Flynn and/or Kushner to pursue this back-channel?
16/ This December 2016 event underscores that Flynn's a threat not just to Trump but to others. It's easy to forget that, just because Flynn—it appears—can incriminate the president, doesn't mean he can *only* incriminate the president. Many others are at risk, including Kushner.
17/ Indeed, today's plea coming so close on the heels of Mueller asking Kushner to come in and talk about Flynn suggests Kushner is also a target of the Russia probe. Perhaps Mueller didn't think Kushner would flip on family, so he set him up to Make False Statements about Flynn.
18/ This is critical: Flynn pleading guilty today means he was cooperating with Mueller *before* this. You don't offer value to a prosecution *after* you plead, you offer it beforehand—via what's called a "proffer" of info (that incriminates others). That's what earns you a deal.
19/ So it's entirely possible that when Mueller called Kushner in to talk about Flynn, he already had everything Flynn planned to give him—meaning he was *testing* Kushner to see if Kushner would lie about events Mueller was already fully informed about via Flynn's prior proffer.
20/ That proffer may have incriminated not just Trump and Kushner and—perhaps—Pence, but any number of Trump NatSec (or simply "top") aides: Manafort, Sessions, Clovis, Hicks, Lewandowski, Page, and Gordon, to name a few. We may not know, however, until someone else is indicted.
21/ Mueller isn't obligated to tell the public what Flynn told him. We'll first learn of it (for all but Trump) via future indictments of those Flynn incriminated. As for Trump, he can't be criminally tried as POTUS, and probably can't even be indicted, so it'll work differently.
22/ What Flynn told Mueller about Trump will first appear in an indictment of a third party—quite possible, if the third party was/is close enough to Trump—or else in the final report Mueller is tasked with giving Rod Rosenstein at the DOJ (though that may take a while to come).
23/ How long it will take Mueller to issue indictments based on Flynn's proffer? It's hard to say: it depends on what evidence was given, what evidence Mueller already had, what additional investigation he wants to do on that person (perhaps to bring further charges), and so on.
24/ But Mueller may act on Flynn's proffer at any time, which means—and here's another critical point—the daily, harrowing watch to see if Trump will attempt to fire Special Counsel Bob Mueller begins in earnest *now*. 
If Trump moves to fire Mueller, all hell will break loose.
25/ I've long said that Trump *will* move to fire Mueller—simply because doing so would quickly become one of his only options for self-preservation when/if Mike Flynn or another top associate entered into the cooperation deal with the Special Counsel. 
Well, we're finally here.
26/ As I've said, we now have reason to believe—to a near-certainty—Flynn can incriminate Trump. And as noted, the range of potential crimes is vast. Did Flynn tell Trump and/or Pence the truth about his Russia contacts as they were happening—despite what the White House claimed?
27/ Remember, besides a long course of conduct involving both Obstruction of Justice and Witness Tampering—of Sally Yates, of Comey, of Jr., of Flynn himself, of Sessions, and of various Congressional investigators—Trump is being looked at for Aiding and Abetting Computer Crimes.
28/ In the Aiding and Abetting Computer Crimes probe, the question is a) when Trump knew Russia was committing crimes against the United States, and b) whether and how Trump offered Russia anything of financial or political value ostensibly for "free" after he had this knowledge.
29/ If Donald Trump learned Russia was committing crimes against America and subsequently offered—unilaterally—policy shifts of political or financial value directly to Russian agents either himself or through intermediaries, he's guilty of a crime as great as the underlying one.
30/ We know Trump knew there was a "high likelihood" (the legal standard in this case) Russia was committing crimes against America as of August 17, 2016, when he received his first security briefing as a presidential candidate. A speech in late July suggests he knew it earlier.
31/ But given that Mike Flynn dined with Vladimir Putin in Moscow in December of 2015—after he'd been a key Trump campaign foreign policy and national security advisor for four months—it's possible Trump had this knowledge as early as the fall of 2015 or the winter of 2015-2016.
32/ This is the key information Mike Flynn can offer: what Trump knew about Russian crimes, and when; and also, what actions he directed his national security advisory apparatus to take—possibly in response to this knowledge—and when. For instance, secret sanctions negotiations.
33/ We know Flynn was engaged in secret sanctions negotiations with Russia that Trump—rather oddly—said he "would have told him" to engage in throughout December of 2016. But we've *no* idea if this was the first time such negotiations occurred. Flynn will have this information.
34/ Flynn will also know exactly what occurred as the White House tried to cover up these illicit December 2016 sanctions negotiations—or any earlier ones—including what Trump and Pence knew of them, and when, and how and when they coordinated lying to American voters about them.
35/ Remember that Trump *not only* tried to get Comey to drop the case against Flynn—suggesting he was scared about what that case could uncover—he *also* tried to convince his aides to let him *re-hire* Flynn after his firing and *then* called Flynn to tell him to "stay strong."
36/ While Trump also exhibited some fear about what Manafort could reveal to investigators—keeping him on as an unpaid advisor through February 2017 after "firing" him as an unpaid Campaign Manager in the summer of 2016—he's shown much *more* concern about Mike Flynn's situation.
37/ A quick pause while I read the court documents for today's plea—they're just coming out now.
38/ One thing is clear: Mueller charged Flynn with the most innocuous lies he could to shield from the public—and far more importantly, from President Trump and his allies (at least for now)—the extent of what Flynn has told him. A longer charging document would reveal too much.
39/ The first allegation in the single-count charging document is that Flynn lied about asking Russia to moderate its response to the US decision to level new sanctions in December 2016. Presumably, Flynn made this request on a representation Trump would undo those new sanctions.
40/ The second allegation, dating from 12/22/16—the first was from 12/29/16—involves Flynn asking Russia to take a particular stance on a UN resolution. While both these acts violate the Logan Act—private citizens can't negotiate with foreign governments—they're just appetizers.
41/ For Mueller to be *so guarded* in what information he's willing to reveal in his single-count indictment—as we know Mike Flynn lied to the FBI about far more serious things than Mueller has disclosed—confirms, indirectly, that Flynn's proffer to the FBI was *quite* explosive.
42/ That said, the UN resolution had to do with Israel—and we know Israel had reached out to Kushner about that same resolution, so there's a possibility that the second allegation against Flynn will give the lie to things *Kushner* told the FBI about his contacts with Israel.
43/ But remember, when the FBI sat down to discuss Flynn's Russia contacts with him, they would have asked him about *all* his recent Russia contacts—including, for instance, his December '15 trip to Moscow to dine with Putin. So the topics Flynn lied about could date back years.
44/ (When I get a number of new readers—as today—people ask me to restate my bona fides: Harvard Law School, 2001; public defender for eight years in two jurisdictions; trained at Georgetown/Harvard as a criminal investigator; represented 2000+ defendants in cases up to homicide;
45/ have worked at 3 public defenders since 1996—one federal—and have testified in federal criminal cases as a defense investigator; current member in good standing of the New Hampshire bar and the federal bar for the District of New Hampshire; I now teach legal advocacy at UNH.)
46/ Another key point many will forget: Flynn was so scared about the extent of his criminal liability as Trump's pre-election advisor and post-election NSA that in March 2017 his lawyer took the *extraordinary* step of *publicly* offering to cooperate with federal investigators.
47/ Usually, this sort of offer is made privately—and usually it's made somewhat further along in a federal investigation than was the case with Flynn, who made the offer just a few weeks after he was fired by Trump. 
It was after that offer that Trump told him to "stay strong."
48/ At the time, Flynn's lawyer said he had "a story to tell." It was clear Flynn and his attorney believed enough *other* potential witnesses had similarly inculpatory information about Trump that they needed to "race to the courthouse" (as we say) to get a deal *before* others.
49/ It can't be overstated that Flynn had been assumed to be one of the primary targets of the Trump-Russia probe—so him being given a sweetheart deal by federal law enforcement means the "story to tell" that he had was a very, very good one in Special Counsel Bob Mueller's view.
50/ UPDATE: CNN confirms Flynn has now plead guilty. Technically, he pled to *four* false statements, though they were paired—he lied about two statements he made to the Russians *and* their responses to those two statements, one about U.S. sanctions policy and one about Israel.
51/ It's *very* telling that U.S. media has received *no official response* from the White House about this. Remember how quickly they came out with a party line about Papadopoulos' plea, and even the Manafort and Gates indictments? This is so bad there's nothing for them to say.
52/ You can read the available charging document from the Flynn case here (and note that, for this being perhaps the most significant indictment in U.S. politics of our lifetimes, its brevity is truly *astounding*—and underscores how much more is coming): cnn.com/2017/12/01/pol
53/ BREAKING NEWS: Flynn told the FBI that Trump ordered him to make contact with the Russians.
https://twitter.com/SethAbramson

Monday, November 20, 2017

Just Priceless

A good friend of mine and frequent geocaching partner is an Assistant Scoutmaster.  He had to pass the Boy Scouts’ Wilderness First Aid training course in order to qualify to go on some crazy hiking trip or other next summer, so he spent the weekend up north freezing his butt off and learning what to do in case of various medical emergencies on the trail.  As he put it, if the parents knew all the scenarios they train for, they'd never let their kids go on these hikes.

At any rate, one of the potential injury types they discussed was bites from poisonous snakes (my personal worst hiking fear, so I’m glad my usual hiking partner now knows what to do if it happens.) The EMTs who teach this course told the group that women are generally bitten on the feet and legs, while men are more frequently bitten on the hands, arms and face.  When my friend told me this, I burst out laughing.  Of course, it’s because women have the sense to leave the snakes alone and try to get away, while men lean over them and poke them and try to grab them!!  Too funny.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Some Things Never Change

When my children were young, my mother, who is very good with a needle, got tired of seeing them freezing on the sidelines of soccer and baseball games and made the three of them an enormous blanket of heavyweight flannel for outdoor use that is affectionately known to one and all as the “Nana blanket.”  Two layers thick, one printed with soccer balls and the other with a space motif; it’s a good solid armload to carry but it has lived in the trunk of my car during cold weather sports seasons (and seen a whole lot of use) for the better part of seven or eight years now.

Thing One had a soccer game tonight starting at 8PM.  Outside.  I would guess the gametime temperature was hovering around 30, but at least it wasn’t windy.  Because I am still a mother no matter HOW big my kids get, I quietly walked over to his team’s bench at the beginning of the game and placed the folded Nana blanket on one end.  Sure as hell, by halftime there were half a dozen fourteen-year old boys huddled together under it!

Thanks again, Mom.  :)


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Not Sure If I Should Be Offended On Behalf Of All Women Or Just Myself!

So, Petunia decided that she was going to do a little Halloween decorating last week.  She dug through the big bin of decorations in the basement and chose some to put up, including a sign much like this one.



Note that there is a little tie at the top of the star where the "in" is written, so that it can be turned around to read "out."

After a day or two, I noticed that the star was being turned regularly, so I asked her about it.

M: "I see that you're turning the star on the witch sign.  Who is the witch?"

P: "You are, Mom."

M: "Uh..."  

P: "You're the lady in the house.  That makes you the witch."


Gee thanks, kid.  Out of the mouths of babes.  Happy Halloween, everyone!!


Monday, October 30, 2017

#metoo

I’ve been hesitating to write this post because nothing bad actually happened to me, which makes me way luckier than so many other people currently using this hashtag.  Abuse of power is abuse of power, though, and there was an incident back in grad school that still infuriates me to this day.

My graduate program had a retreat every year, at which we would present our own research and  listen to a keynote speech by a leading national scientist. One of those years, the program head asked me and a few other students to pick up our keynote speaker from the airport.  He was and is famous, and until that day I respected him immensely.  The group of us had a lovely conversation all the way to the venue from the airport. He told us all about his wife, his kids, his research...in short, he came across as a really nice guy.

Unfortunately for my opinion of him, later that night, he tried to get me into the elevator to go to his hotel room with him.  He told me it was lonely up there all by himself.   I was so naïve at the time that I was absolutely stunned. I couldn’t believe that anybody would really talk so openly to me about his wife and children only a few hours before and then expect me to sleep with him.  I told him to piss off, turned around and walked away. If he said anything back, I didn’t hear it.

I didn’t report him to anybody. I didn’t think they’d believe me if I did. To this day, I wish that I had tried.  I have no idea if he would’ve tried to sabotage my career in retaliation, but as it happened I went into a different branch of science after I earned my doctorate, in which I was entirely safe from him regardless.

Wonder how many other times he got away with it.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Another Loss

My high school class’s Facebook group blew up this afternoon with news that a classmate died by her own hand today, a consequence of years of crippling depression.  Apparently she posted a goodbye note on Facebook (I did not see it) that included instructions of what to do with her animals but nobody got to her in time, and if that isn’t just horrifyingly awful I don’t know what is.  (Mom and Dad, nobody you know...don’t think you would recognize her name if I said it to you.)

The friend of hers who shared the news with the group also shared the news that she herself suffers from severe bipolar 1 illness and survived a suicide attempt last year, which was news to me despite the fact that she (unlike the other woman) is actually a Facebook friend of mine.  The candor of her post blew me away.  The most amazing thing, though, was some of the supportive comments from other classmates.  Several are fighting depression themselves and on medication for it.  One lost her mother to suicide a few years ago.  Another lost a friend to suicide.  All things I had not known before today.  And most of these people I would have considered the ‘cool’ folks back in high school, proof (if any was needed) that mental illness respects nothing including social status and strikes across the board.

The first post included words to the effect that awareness is what makes the most difference to someone who struggles; having friends and loved ones to check in, to help, to support, to listen.  So, for what it’s worth, here’s my tiny candle in the darkness, and if anyone needs to talk, I am here to listen.



Saturday, October 14, 2017

On The Increasing Usefulness Of My Eldest

It’s been one of those days.  Tomorrow will be another.  And per Mrs. Murphy’s Law, Himself is out of town yet again.  Both Thing Two and Petunia have math homework due Monday and not much time tomorrow to do it, so I had them working on it after dinner tonight. Thing Two’s was done but needed to be checked over, while at the same time Petunia (who had a sleepover last night, which I suspect from her behavior afterward involved very little actual sleep) was completely melting down over her inability to understand hers.  

Given that I have not yet managed to clone myself, the next best option was to grab Thing One off the sofa in the family room and send him to the kitchen table with Thing Two’s homework.  He’s three years ahead of Thing Two in school...figured he could handle checking sixth grade high math.  He caught the few errors and explained how to correct them, which left me free to calm down the crying fifth grader, make sense of her homework (why, why, WHY do they so often require diagrams for problem solving these days??) and then put her to bed.

Teenagers...not just for babysitting anymore. Gotta love it!!



Friday, October 13, 2017

Yeah, I’m Still Here

It’s just been a tough couple of weeks and I’ve been too darned busy and tired to blog.  Crazy kid schedule, crazy schedule for me, status quo around here.  The big news is that the belt test went fine on the 30th and I am now an official ITF-certified first degree black belt in taekwondo, but that actually isn’t what prompted me to finally sit my butt down at the computer, at least not directly.

I went to lunch today with a big group of my ninja girlfriends, one of whom is the Egyptian former instructor who started studying taekwondo to show her then-tween daughter that the headscarf she wears as an observant Muslim does not limit her.  Love this woman.  Her daughter is now a college sophomore at a major state university and pursuing a teaching degree.  As a function of their conservative religious beliefs and her gender, they require her to live at home during college,  although she is free to participate in whatever activities she is interested in at school and it sounds like she is away from home most of any given day.  I can understand and respect that as a compromise given where they are coming from.  The interesting thing, though, came up when we started discussing the elder of their two sons, who is currently a high school senior.  I asked where he was looking at for college next year, and she listed four universities that are in our general area, although some would be a further drive than others.  This made me wonder if they were requiring him to live at home while he attended college as well, so I inquired.

Turns out that the answer is yes, but not for the reason you might expect.  They recognize that they are asking a lot of their daughter, who is American-born and -bred, in the name of their religion by requiring that she live at home while attending college, so in a spirit of fairness and solidarity they are extending the same requirement to her brothers.  They don’t want her to feel singled out simply on the basis of her gender, so they will be treating all three the same way.

I can’t even imagine the tightrope she and her husband walk daily as conservative Egyptian Muslim parents trying to raise three children in an overwhelmingly Christian, white-bread part of America without losing their cultural identity.  It must be tremendously difficult for them, and I give them all kinds of credit.  They are good people and they are raising three fine children.




Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sign Of Increasing Maturity

Or possibly of an impending apocalypse, who knows.

Thing One, out of the blue to me last night: "I almost missed the school bus this morning.  I'm going to set my alarm for 15 minutes earlier tomorrow morning so I have time to wake up in peace."

And then he did.  And he made the bus with no issue.

Proud Mom here.  As we say in this house for historical reasons, "That's how the big boys do it."






Saturday, September 23, 2017

Respect

I've spent a good chunk of every Saturday this month at the dojang (I have to remember to stop using the Japanese word dojo--in Korean the term is dojang) because of the upcoming taekwondo belt test.  The highest belts in our school are third Dan (aka third degree) black belts, but because of our switchover to pure ITF taekwondo, we've been training for about two years under a fifth Dan black belt from another nearby dojang.  We will actually be testing next week at his school, under the joint review of both him and his own instructor, who is seventh Dan.  Gulp.  To put all of this into perspective, although the first Dan black belt for which I am testing may sound high ranking, I will be the one of the tiniest fish in the pond at this test!!  Assuming I don't royally mess up, I will, however, walk out of the test wearing a black belt that has my name (in English and Korean) and the Roman numeral "I" embroidered on it and that is pretty damned cool.

At any rate, the fifth Dan instructor has been working with us every weekend at our school this month fine-tuning our group for this test, and he generally brings two of his students with him to help out, a male red belt and a female third Dan black belt.  She's an older woman, I would have guessed in her mid-fifties.  I was talking to her after the class today and commented that I wish I'd started training before the age of 38, which is not exactly an ideal age to start training in a martial art.  Younger is better, I'd say age 6-8 would be optimal.  She replied that she started training again (!) at the age of 50 (!!) and is now 64.  I.e., a full TWENTY years older than I am.  Granted, her knees are in pretty rough shape and she has to modify some of the techniques (particularly those involving jumps) accordingly, but holy hell, the woman is 64 years old, a tremendously knowledgeable third Dan black belt and gearing up to test for her fourth Dan next year!  I want to be like her when I grow up.  Guess I'll start learning my second Dan material at the beginnng of October...I have no excuse not to now!



Monday, September 18, 2017

Can't Believe I Forgot To Mention This Given What It Has Done To My Stress Levels Lately

September is not a good month.  You would think, with the kids back in school, that it would be quieter, but nope.  Yes, during the day I can get things done or relax for a bit, but the evenings and weekends are absolutely insane.  Especially because of the high school soccer schedule involving either practice or a game every single freaking day of the week after school and some Saturdays as well.  Anything that I need to get done (dinner prep, shopping, errands, home maintenance, etc) has to get done during those few blessed hours while all are at school, since there's no way it's happening once the kids get home and have places to be and/or homework to be helped with!

Two years or so ago now, our taekwondo program began transitioning to pure International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) style from the TKD-based mixed martial arts hybrid we'd previously been doing.  The powers that be apparently decided about a month ago that we're finally ready to officially assimilate into the ITF fold. On September 30th, all of the instructors in our program (which includes me, gulp...) will be either regrading for their current belts or grading up to the next one in front of a fifth Dan black belt and a seventh Dan black belt!!  No pressure there.  Since my current plain black belt does not exist in the ITF world, I am one of those grading up.  If all goes well at testing, I will walk out of it a first Dan black belt, with a proper ITF black belt card and everything, assuming that I don't self-destruct from stress between now and then!!  Wish me luck, please...




Sunday, September 17, 2017

Jesus, Mary and Joseph. This Already??

Found a really unexpected message on my cell phone the other night: a girlfriend of mine from taekwondo asking if Thing One would be willing to go with her daughter (as a friend) to her daughter's Homecoming Dance next month.  The two kids are both freshmen but go to different high schools.

My first thought, given that this girl is both absolutely stunning and a sweetheart, was to wonder why she was having trouble getting a date to begin with. Before I called my friend back, I ran the idea past Thing One, who to his credit, did actually consider it, but clearly the thought was giving him a panic attack, and you can't blame the kid.  He's never been to a high school dance, doesn't know this girl well, and doesn't know anyone else from her high school at all...I'm sure there are a few 14 year-old boys in existence with the social confidence to pull off going to her dance under those circumstances, but he just isn't one of them and he knows it.  Like I said, I don't blame the kid.  I expected that to be his answer and I fully respect it.  As did my friend when I called her back, I should add.  She said that if the tables were turned, her daughter wouldn't have agreed either.

The upsetting part of the conversation came when I asked her why her daughter wasn't able to find a date herself.  Apparently it was because half the kids at her high school are already on drugs, and many other boys won't go with a girl to a dance if they don't think she'll "put out."  At *fourteen*, FFS.

I told my friend that I deeply appreciated the implied compliment to me, that she knew I wouldn't be raising a son who was either on drugs or pressuring girls sexually at 14 (Jesus god I can't believe I am typing those words.)  Worst part is that she is an ER nurse at the county hospital nearest to Thing One's high school, so she sees the kids coming in pregnant and with STDs and post-overdoses and knows that her daughter isn't just making this stuff up.

Needless to say, as soon as I hung up the phone, I had yet another conversation with my son about respecting women and staying away from people who use drugs and calling me to come get him at any time if he finds himself somewhere he doesn't want to be.  What a world.





Saturday, September 16, 2017

Interesting Factoid Of The Day

Despite the fact that our kittens Darcy and Bingley were from the same litter (as vouched for by the woman who trapped them, who happened to be at the shelter the first day we visited) they really don't look much alike.  Clearly both are part tabby, but Bingley has medium-length hair and Darcy's is short.  Bingley has the characteristic "old-man" ear hair (it sticks out a mile!) of Maine coons, while Darcy does not.  I was told at the shelter that kittens from the same litter often look very different, but didn't inquire further at the time.

Today, I brought them to the vet for their last round of kitten shots. While the tech was weighing them, I commented again on how different they look.  She told me that kittens in the same litter often have different fathers, as a function of how ovulation works in female cats.  I did not know that...very cool.  (More info here, for anyone interested.)  Yes, I'm a dork, but I'm ok with that.  I love learning new things!


Friday, September 15, 2017

Back To School

Went to Back To School Night at Thing One's high school this week.  Good GRIEF that place is huge.  They had kids in neon green shirts stationed at every corner and stairwell to give directions (sadly, in this day and age, for security reasons, they can't give out maps of the buildings) and that was a lifesaver.  We parents were allotted 12 minutes to get from class to class, given that we were without question going to get lost and need help, but the kids only have 5.  I went to all eight of his classes in order last night, and I have no idea how he gets from History to Math or from Intro to Technology to Gym on time without roller skates!  They are that far apart, although I suppose the skates would make the stairs a little challenging.    

With my current comfort zone being our tiny little school, I was intimidated by the idea of sending my eldest off into such a gigantic place.  At the local elementary/middle school, I know all the teachers and I know the building like the back of my hand.  I don't need to go to BTS Night to feel comfortable with having my children there in a particular grade anymore.  Despite the fact that he's adjusting well so far, not having any mental picture whatsoever of where he is or who is teaching him was a bit disconcerting.  (And yes, I know that college will be exactly like that, but I have four more years still before I have to worry about it!!)

As I mentioned, he has eight classes, seven of which are academic.  (Hard to get too excited about Gym one way or the other.)  Of those seven, four of the teachers made a very solid first impression on me, and the remaining three came across as so outstanding that I would really like to take their classes myself!  His Science teacher really understands that the kids need to learn to build and create and problem solve, not just memorize.  The Intro to Tech maker space was absolutely amazing.  You could build a rocket ship in there.  And the way that they will be learning to approach hands-on science and the supporting documentation??  Priceless.  The other teacher that impressed me, possibly even impressed me the most, oddly, was the Geography teacher.  He's maybe 25, overflowing with enthusiasm, a world traveler and absolutely dedicated to showing these kids that there is a whole exciting world out there beyond the confines of our white-bread, relatively homogenous county.  I love it.

As it happened, it took me about 30 seconds to get from the prior classroom to his since I was only one floor down, so I had a good ten minutes to talk with him before the other parents arrived.  When I introduced myself as Thing One's mother, he gave me a funny look, said "wait a minute," and went over to rifle through a stack of papers on his desk.  He pulled one out, looked at it, said, "Yeah, I thought that was his," and gave it to me.  I laughed out loud.  As an assignment on the first day, he'd given the kids a blank map of the world and asked them to name as many countries as they could.  He said that the average is usually in the 8-15 range and that the highest he'd ever seen was in the low hundreds.  Thing One correctly named 162 countries!!!  Guess all that Geography Bee studying in middle school paid off.

I walked out of the school tired and with a blister on my heel (wearing heeled sandals wasn't the brightest move I've made all week with all the walking!) but relieved.  Having a chance to see the facility and meet everyone was profoundly reassuring and I think my boy is in good hands.



Wednesday, September 13, 2017

NOPE*NOPE*HELLNOPE*

There's this one geocache not too far from me that I haven't found yet.  It sticks out on my map like the proverbial sore thumb...one green dot in a sea of smiley faces.  Of course, there's a good reason it's still unfound.  It's on a tiny island in the middle of a smallish river, sitting on top of the stone support pillar for a long-gone bridge maybe 20 feet up.  People usually do this one with a boat and climbing gear, neither of which I possess.

I haven't had an adventure for a while, so two of my friends and I decided to do some recon on this one yesterday.  We packed up an extension ladder and our waders and decided to see if we could wade across to the island with the ladder!  Sad to say, I've done much weirder things than that while geocaching. Anyway, we get ourselves and the ladder and waders to the shoreline after a nasty bushwhack, then wade in to see how deep the water is.

On our side of the river, it gets deep pretty quickly, so we realize that wading across there isn't going to work.  Two of us have chest waders like the kind fishermen use, while the third only has hip waders, so he stays on shore while the other guy and I wade upstream to a shallower area, cross and wade back down the other side of the river to case that side.  It's slow and mucky going, lots of silt and roots and slippery rocks on the bottom, but we make it back to the island without incident and start checking out the water level on the other side.  Unfortunately, we decide that it's probably too deep on that side as well, at least at current water levels.  Given that the mosquitoes are fierce anyway, we decide to come back and check it out again in winter.

As we turn to retrace our steps to the other side, the guy wading with me looks up and sees what he thinks is a head swimming toward us in the river at a distance.  Then another.  When he notices the second, he calls my attention to them.  Could have been debris, but he didn't think so and neither did I.  Odds are it was either swimming snakes (nonvenomous) or turtles, probably snakes.  That was the final straw!!  We got the hell out of Dodge at a good clip after that.

We'll be back another time, but not in summer!  We got our adventure, anyway, even if we didn't get the cache.  THIS time.  :)




Sunday, September 10, 2017

Curveballs

It's been a week, let me just tell you.

As my kids get older, I increasingly hesitate to write about the challenges they face. I wonder if I am crossing a line in writing about them at all.  But as their mother, what weighs on them and affects them burdens me as well by default.

Thing One is facing challenges relating to increased responsibility and independence and good decision-making.  (Growing pains of high school, fairly standard stuff, I imagine.)  Thing Two as well, in a different way.  His middle school teachers don't seem to have been prepared well to deal with him, which seems odd to me.  I'm glad I realized that early, but I had a lot of explaining to do on Friday.  At least it seems to have helped.  Petunia seems to be heading for a different sort of difficulty, one which may affect her self-confidence for a while and which may also affect decisions we make for her next spring or fall.  Throw in a crazy schedule full of time conflicts, and it's just one big mess overall.  

Oh well.  I keep being told that I'll miss these years.  Maybe so, but I sure won't miss this kind of stuff.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Call My Faith In Humanity Somewhat Restored

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has spent more than a quarter of an hour or so reading my scribblings here that I am no fan of the hostility, unkindness and racism that have felt justified in crawling out from under their slime-covered rocks since the Orange One was elected.

There still may be hope for the country, however.

Yesterday, I made the mistake of running to Target at exactly the same moment as what appeared to be the entire remainder of the local population.  When I went to check out, there were lines 8-10 people deep at every register.  I sighed in resignation and got into a line behind a woman a little older than me (probably early fifties) with a full cart.  The line crawled forward and eventually she got herself and her mountain of shopping to the front of our line.  As she was checking out, a large family passed us on their way to the exit from another register.  It looked like three or more generations all out together, including two little girls of perhaps four and six.  As they walked by, the younger girl took a candy bar from the display and asked her grandmother (I'm guessing) if she could have it.  The grandmother was kind, but pointed out how long the lines were and said that there was no way they were going back through again.

Without missing a beat, the woman in front of me told the cashier to add the little girl's candy to her purchases.  Then, to top it all off, she asked the other little girl if she would like one too!  (Clearly a devotee, like me, of the "what you do for one, you do for all" school of parenting.)  Both little girls thanked the woman profusely and the grandmother (?) actually gave her a hug.

Not that it should matter one iota, since kindness is kindness, but the woman in front of me in line was white.  The family was black.  The (black) cashier turned to me after all of them had gone and said how glad she was to see that there are still good people in the world.

I couldn't agree more.  That woman made my day.


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Only So Long You Can Sit

Went to a minor league baseball game last night with my immediate family plus a friend of Petunia's. It's a very nice park with reasonably priced food and souvenirs, and the kids love the mascot and the silly between-innings diversions. Makes for a fun summer evening.

I was reminded yet again, though, why I'm glad my kids play soccer and not baseball!  Both boys tried baseball in first and second grades but quit because they couldn't stand still that long. From a parent perspective, their games were interminable, too...in that age group outs are few and far between and usually an inning half only ends when the batting team has batted through the entire lineup. (And thank heaven for that rule, let me just tell you. Some of those games would still be going on otherwise!)  Whatever you may think about soccer, the games are played for a predefined number of minutes and then they end. :)

Last night's game was tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the ninth. It finally ended with two outs on a double to far left field that brought in the winning run, an exciting way to finish up by any measure. Good thing, too. Three hours into sitting in those rock-hard plastic seats, I was ready to cheer for whomever wrapped up the game without going into extra innings!!


Thursday, August 31, 2017

I'm Clearly Doing Something Right With This Parenting Gig

Thing Two, Petunia and I were talking in the car on our way to taekwondo class this morning.  A song by Coldplay came on the radio, and the kids and I were reminiscing about the show of theirs we attended as a family, which was one of the best I've ever seen.  Really amazing.

Thing Two: "You know who else I want to see in concert someday?  Queen."

Me: "Sorry, bud...I don't know if they are touring anymore.  They must be in their sixties or seventies now, and their lead singer died years ago.  But guess what: their lead guitarist has a Ph.D. in astrophysics.  How cool must it be to play in a famous rock band and also be an astrophysicist??"

Petunia (in dead seriousness): "But Mom, you have a Ph.D. in biology and a black belt in taekwondo.  That makes you pretty cool, too."

First time in my life I've been compared to Brian May, that's for sure.  I wouldn't exactly put us in the same category, but my daughter loves me (even if her comparative judgment is a bit suspect) and my son has great taste in music!!  I'll take it.  As it happens, May wrote my all-time favorite Queen song, too: "The Show Must Go On."





Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Just Another 911 Call, Country-Style

Got a call this afternoon from one of my best friends.  He was laughing so hard on the phone that it was almost impossible to understand him at first.

Seems that while he was driving home this afternoon, he encountered coming toward him, on a relatively major road to boot, an *emu.*  Really.  He sent me the pictures below as proof, since Thing One's initial reaction was to ask me if I thought he might be driving drunk!

   
As he tells it, he felt ridiculous calling 911, but like my incident years ago with the runaway horse, this kind of call to 911 is relatively common around here since escaped livestock are a big hazard on the roads.   Police officers actually carry large-animal ropes in the trunks of their cars for this reason.  Even in this very rural and agricultural part of the country, however, the term "livestock" does not generally encompass large flightless birds from the Southern Hemisphere.  I suspect he thought that the dispatcher would think he was driving drunk too!!

However, when he called, the reaction was, "Oh good.  Where are you?  We've been looking for that bird."

Priceless.  Never a dull moment!

  




Sunday, August 27, 2017

On The Personalities Of Cats

My husband is a Yankee through and through.  Reserved until you know him well, not demonstrative and rarely emotional.  I, on the other hand, am the product of Midwestern parents with strong ties to the West coast.  He jokes that he married me to do his talking for him so that he doesn't have to be friendly with strangers!  Courtesy of my family tendencies plus all the moving around I did as a kid, I can talk to pretty much anybody at any time about anything and do it with a smile on my face.

From his perspective, you know where you stand with a Northeasterner.  Although they may be slow to warm up, once they do you know you're a real friend and not just a casual acquaintance.  From my perspective, Northeasterners often initially come off as standoffish, and casual acquaintance with say, Midwesterners is a lot more comfortable.  

Anyway, I was thinking about this because it appears that we have both a Midwestern cat and a Northeastern cat!  Bings is as sweet as it gets.  No fuss at the vet, no problem to pick up and love on at any time, purring machine.  Darcy, on the other hand, is 20 pounds of cat attitude in a three-pound body!  Although he can also be a real sweetheart, it's on his terms.  He does not like to be held, he's the one who's done most of the hissing at the dog, and he howled bloody murder at the vet!  He crawls onto my chest in the morning to be loved on as soon as I wake up and will readily allow himself to be petted, but he wants no part at all of being picked up.  He's the independent one of the two.

Anyone who has ever read Pride and Prejudice will be laughing at this point.  We decided which cat would get which name before we really knew their personalities...we sure got that one right!


Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Picture Of Security

Doesn't look like Darcy is too worried about the dog anymore!


King of the hill, anyone?  Note that this picture was taken (peaceful appearance notwithstanding) during the morning rush on a Saturday.  Dog, two kittens and five people all in one area, with two of the people running around trying to get out the door for a soccer tournament on top of it all.  And this little guy just sacked out in the middle of the floor, oblivious to it all!!  Hard to believe that the kittens have only been in the house a little over a week...we've been fortunate that they and the dog have come to terms with each other quickly.  She's curious but not aggressive, and they are becoming more comfortable around her as they realize that she means them no harm.

Their food, on the other hand, is squarely in her crosshairs!!  They have been eating wet kitten food (although the vet told me at their checkup on Thursday that they don't need it anymore, so we are transitioning them to dry food) and she wants it ALL, wet and dry.  We improvised a solution, and I have to say I am pretty darned proud of it.

 
This is the dog's old car crate (yes, I bought her a new one) with a cooling rack (the kind you'd use for cookies) securely zip-tied across the top of the front opening. The kittens can get through the space at the bottom of the opening, but the dog can't.  Plus, I can open the second door on the right-hand side of the crate to put the bowls in and take them out without having to try to deal with the small front opening myself.  Perfect!!  Now we can feed all three critters at the same time in the same room without worrying that the dog will eat all the cats' food.

How's Bingley doing, you might ask?  Well, he's a little more skittish around the dog still, but not enough so that he's about to hide himself away.  Here's where he was this morning...


Right on the other side of the kitchen table against the knee wall separating the kitchen from the family room, observing the morning mayhem from the comfort of Thing One's club soccer backpack!!  Too funny.  





  

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Day Late, Maybe A Dollar Short, But Who Cares

Thing One had his first scrimmage with his new soccer team yesterday.  They beat the other high school 4-0, and he played well.  But the kicker--no pun intended--was that the coach had him and one of the other centerbacks run the warmups beforehand (a traditional job for the team captains) and then told him to take on the captain's role as needed.

There are 25 good players on that soccer team, and he has no idea yet if he was just the captain for the one game or if he's THE captain.  Even if the coach is going to pick a different boy for each game, it doesn't really matter.  Thing One was the kid he tapped first, and from a confidence standpoint, that was huge.  So proud of my boy.




Monday, August 21, 2017

Meet The Boys!!

I can't believe I forgot to introduce our new additions!  Thanks to SD for reminding me.  :)  (I also can't believe that with one crazy set of brothers already in the house, we'd voluntarily introduce another set of brothers into it, but that's another story.  See previous post about me losing my ever-loving mind.)


This is Bingley.  Love his fluffy ears!  We were initially going to call him Yoda.


And this sweet little guy is Darcy.  He has four white feet and a lopsided stripe on his nose...so cute!  They are about three months old and were from the same litter, rescued from a barn by volunteers from a local cat shelter.  They are named for characters in a Jane Austen novel, but my kids, no respecters of classical literature, insist on calling them Darce and Bing-Bing.  Sheesh.  Bingley is the adventurer and the friendlier of the two, although both are very sweet kittens; Darcy the more reserved (go figure.)  We actually decided which kitten would get which name before we knew their personalities, but clearly we decided correctly!




The boys sacked out on my bed...


Bingley fell asleep on one of the floor mats in our bathroom while waiting for me to get out of the shower!!


And then crawled into my lap and fell asleep while I was lying on the floor.  He sleeps a lot.


Like I said, the adventurer.  Here he's on the dog's bed!!!  Good thing she wasn't looking.  The dog and cats are actually getting along quite well.  After an initial introduction process involving a baby gate and lots of treats, we have progressed to reasonably peaceful coexistence.  They aren't quite sure what to make of her yet and will hiss if she gets too close, but she is not being aggressive with them at all and if anything, just wants to play with them.  I think they are mostly frightened because of her size relative to theirs...they weigh less than three pounds to her approximately 55.



Here they are surveying their new domain from the balcony at the top of the hall staircase.  They love this perch.  If you zoom in, you can see their collars...little tiny kitten collars with a skull and crossbones pattern.  Between the collar bell and their tags, they jingle when they run (and they run around a lot)...it's handy to know when a small creature is underfoot so you don't step on him!

They are doing very well here...eating, sleeping and using their litterbox from right when we brought them home.  They seem to be settling in with no problem.  I continue to be fundamentally a dog person but these two are absolutely adorable and definitely good additions to the family!





Saturday, August 19, 2017

More Good News

I was thinking this morning that I'm finally glad that I'm tall.  Not for me, but that it was in my genepool to give to my son since my husband's family is somewhat vertically challenged.  Thing One is about 5'10" and he needed every inch of that this week.

The high school at which he will be a freshman next year is both enormous (about 800 kids per grade) and extremely competitive in sports.  He's been trying out for the freshman soccer team all week, 14 hours total spread over six days.  Every boy trying out plays club soccer at some level and there were 50 of them vying for 22 spots, including six or seven boys who play the same position Thing One does.  It's called centerback: these are the two defenders (in standard 11v11 play) who are right in front of the goal.  For a variety of reasons, it helps to be tall if this is your position.

Thing One made the team.  I couldn't be prouder of him.  And Dad, thanks for being 6'4".  Your grandson owes you,  :)




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!