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 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)'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


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 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, 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.

Preview, Part 2

(Or maybe this should have been part 1 since it will happen first.) We dropped Thing One off at his first sleepaway soccer camp on Saturda...