Fall woods

Fall woods

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!


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!