Sunday, August 31, 2008

Push-up Postponement

Like Becky and several others, I was planning on following the 100 Pushups plan and seeing if I could boost my pushup performance from its current barely acceptable level. I had done the pretest and the first week twice (I'm going slowly due to the easily aggravated nature of my left elbow.).

This morning however, I got down to do my pushups for the day, and the heel of my hand landed on a largish glass sliver. I then reflexively jerked the hand sideways (with my weight still on it), and successfully drove the sliver way down in. It took Rob most of an hour with an Exacto knife and tweezers to get that sucker out. I now have an inch-and-a-half long cut, shallow on one end, quite deep on the other, exactly where I put my weight when doing pushups.

So I think I'll be dropping out for a week or so and then restarting. Right now the very idea of pushups is making me feel a little queasy. Yoga on Tuesday is going to take some modification too, I suspect. Primarily I'm crossing my fingers that extensive washing and liberal applications of Bacitracin are sufficient to keep it from getting infected.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Moments in Basset-hood

*sounds of dog scratching at door*

"Robbie, could you let the dog in?"

"He's not here."

*sounds of dog scratching at door*

*Wander off to look -dog is not at back door *

*sounds of dog scratching at door*

*Check bathrooms & bedrooms to see where dog got trapped. Nada*

*sounds of dog scratching at door*

*Open FRONT door. Dog trots in.*

"Nicky! How the $*#!! did you get out front?"

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

State of the Brain

I spent the last few days getting my pituitary MRI again, plus blood tests various and sundry. This morning I went trotting off to the endocrinologist for the review.

The good news is that the adenoma hasn't changed at all in the eighteen months they've been watching it. Both my endo and the neuroendocrinologist agree that I can safely drop down to having an MRI every other year. Yay for fewer MRI's and resultant less money spent taking pictures of my brain!

Also in good news, my weight is stable despite a summer of much less activity than my norm, due to the combination of travelling and trouble getting to the gym while the kids are home from school.

The less good news is that except for thyroid, which is stable, all my other numbers are showing the effects of the more sedentary life. Everything is still in a decent range, but cholesterol is up, HDL is down, insulin sensitivity is down, LDL is up.

Fortunately I get back into my normal schedule next week (The Y is shut down for annual cleaning this week), and there shouldn't be any difficulty with kicking my numbers back into place within the next few months. Next week I'll go back to yoga and pilates, once I've recovered from those sore muscles, the next week I'll put back the Turbokick, and then the weight work. I'm debating between going back to the weight class, which was what I was doing before, and going to the weight room to do my own workout. I tend to be more loyal to classes, so I'm more likely to actually get regular hard workouts if I take the class. On the other hand, the class does a lot of lunges and squats, which aren't always on when my knee is acting up, and is somewhat awkwardly placed time-wise, as it starts 15 minutes before the kids' swim lesson, and ends at exactly the same time.

All this is at an apropos time, since my major work of the week is revising my article on pituitaries for the Damn Interesting book. It's somewhat frustrating because Alan wants the article done in a significantly different way from the way it now is. Instead he wants it - exactly the way I initially wrote the dratted thing last year, before I was asked to do major revisions. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure I didn't save my initial draft. Blarg.

Karate was all drill, all the time last night. We worked up a pretty good sweat, and Sensei was in an explaining mood, showing us bunkai from the early katas, and alternate ways the sequences of moves could go. Friday is kumite.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Teacher Night

I'm a few days late writing this one, but we met Aaron and Robbie's new teachers - or at least Robbie's new teacher. Aaron has Robbie's old teacher, so we made short work of getting reacquainted with her. She did a good job with Robbie, even though they weren't a match made in heaven, and she hit it perfectly when recommending his third grade teacher, so I'm happy Aaron has her.

Robbie's new teacher is still an unknown quantity. She seems nice enough and Robbie likes her, so first impressions are good. On the downside, she spent the classroom portion of meet-the-teacher night giving a presentation on how her class runs. It was informative, but she left no time for mingling and simply getting to know her better. Though I may be doing her a disservice, because Rob ran out of patience and we left about fifteen minutes early. On the good side at least one of the mothers I know with older children absolutely loves her. We will see. I am glad to notice more signs of independence with Robbie's homework this year. Last year he started doing his math in school before he came home - but I was thinking that was probably because his fourth grade teacher encouraged it. But he's doing it again already, so it seems to have become an established habit. Not only that, but at least one night he came home with his spelling homework already started. Now if only I can get him to pack his own backpack reliably...

Karate is a swelter this week. Our new location is an old building with unreliable air-conditioning. So far it's been out more than it's been in. Fortunately the Jazzercise people keep about six monster fans set up. The room sounds like an airfield, but at least there's moving air. I'd have been ready to fall over after sparring without them. As was I was just soaked. While we were in the park, sensei was allowing t-shirts & pants, but now that school has started and we're indoors, it's full uniforms.

I've started Sunsu and I'm really liking it so far. Though it inspires interesting comments from Sensei: "You look like you're cupping your boobs! Move your hands lower!" He still doesn't seem to have decided whether to pursue Tokomine no Kun or Kusanku Sai as my next weapons kata. If he doesn't start with one or the other soon, there's no way I'll have it down by the Lennox Legacy Tournament, which would leave me stuck with Simple Sai (I've done Tsu Yoi Bo three years running now). Erk. I hate finishing up learning katas just in time for tournaments. There's no time to get feeling really comfortable with them and they're much more prone to falling apart.
On a more optomistic note, I'm thinking of drilling Seisan in mirror fashion (left to right), and talking either T (blue belt, my age) or one of the purple belts (both young teens) into joining me for the team kata competition. I think two people doing mirror katas would look really cool.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Belt Musings #1

As people who read my blog regularly already know, I'm a brown belt looking at a probable test for black within the next year to eighteen months. Part of that testing is submitting three essays. I don't have the sheet listing subjects to hand, but one is on the meaning of the black belt, one on the meaning of martial arts in general, and the third is something more personal (Why do you take karate, or why did you choose Isshinryu, or something of that nature). Towards that end, I started writing on the first essay (What does a black belt mean to you?), only to discover that my thoughts were running off in several different directions which didn't seem to all fit well together in a single essay. So I thought I would make some blog posts on the subject and get my thoughts out in the open where I can get a good look at them - maybe see which themes develop into something essay worthy.

When I first started karate, I really didn't care at all about advancement or what color I had wrapped around my waist. My sensei was pretty casual about advancement - he only gave two formal tests: one for yellow; one for black. Other than that, he simply announced promotions just before the end of class as he thought you were ready. I was at that dojo for two and a half years and was promoted to brown just before I left. That final promotion was the first inkling I had that I did care about rank. Not because I was excited about being brown, but rather because I felt I didn't deserve the belt and was hideously uncomfortable about receiving it. In a dojo primarily known for fighting skills, I had been training for the last five months pregnant, unable to fight. I'd been training katas, largely by myself while the class fought, and without anyone other than my sensei himself to check me. There was no way I had the fighting skills that dojo expected of a brown belt - and even if I had, there was no way for me to show it.

That discomfort was underlined when six years later I tried a dojo in a different form of karate. That sensei requried newcomers to continue wearing the highest belt they had ever earned - his reasoning being that students on the floor deserved to know the potential skill level of the opponents they faced. Which was horrible from my point of view. The brown belt I already felt I hadn't deserved often left me acting as the senior student even as I was still learning their first form and basic exercises.

By the time I got back into Isshinryu, I knew that I cared very much that my belt not overrepresent my abilities and knowledge, but I still thought that I didn't care about advancement in the other direction. I wanted the knowledge and skills, not a black belt around my waist. Offered the chance to restart at white, I lept at it. With nearly eight years away from serious karate, I didn't feel I could live up to a higher rank.

At first, I was right. After that long, my skills had gotten pretty rusty, but they started coming back quickly. At the time, we were not in a formal dojo, having classes out on a volleyball court, and belt testing was sporadic, as Sensei had little to remind him of who was ready. Several times he would mention I was ready, and then forget to set a date. I was ready to test for yellow within a month of coming back - but I didn't actually test for nearly six months.

In those six months I discovered that I did care about that belt around my waist.

It wasn't that I minded wearing a white belt, per se, but it began to feel like playing pretend. I was coming to class wearing that white belt, and yet with skill levels well beyond people two and three ranks above me. It didn't make for good class dynamics, as someone who worked hard and long for an orange belt is unlikely to feel great about being trounced by a white belt, even when they know why the white belt is good. As an orange belt, I ended up running class at least once, because when Sensei was called away, the blue belts were not willing to teach me, but were more than willing to have me teach them. The belts weren't matching up with the actuality on the dojo floor.

And so I discovered a lust for a black belt. Or, more accurately, the lust to become a black belt. I had been uncomfortable wearing a brown belt, because in reality I wasn't a brown belt - I was a person wearing a strip of brown fabric around my waist. I was uncomfortable as a white belt later, because again, I wasn't a white belt, just wearing one. I discovered I wanted to become a black belt, to have the skills, abilities, and discipline that would make any other belt seem like a mismatch.

Now I'm a brown belt for the second time and it's a whole lot different. This time it's a good match for where I actually am in my karate journey, and I'm comfortable wearing it. However, part of being a karateka is the drive to improve. Being comfortable can never mean being complacent. So I have become ambitious. The drive to learn and improve is in some sense, inseparable from the drive to advance. So unless I give up my desire to do karate at all, then the black belt is going to mean a great deal to me. Because if I continue to improve, then eventually I will reach the point where I am a black belt, regardless of whether or not I wear one.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


For the interested, here are samples of various songs that were part of the Wellesley College Choir repertoire while I was in it. Unfortunately I can't find any tracks of the current choir, but imagine these done by an 80-120 woman choir that can split into up to 9 parts at need. We also sang with men's choirs on occassion - usually a rude shock for the poor men as they discovered what they had signed up for. The Worcester Glee Club (WPI Men's Chorus) sang with the Choir regularly up until the first time they sang with Constance directing, whereupon they took to singing with the Regis College Choir. Fortunately I had already met my husband Rob by then, since we met at one of those joint concerts.

Cantique de Jean Racine - Gabriel Faure

Lift Thine Eyes - Mendelssohn

The Snow - Elgar

Ceremony of Carols (video is Balulalow)- Benjamin Britten - When we did this I had the solo part for Balulalow, and this particular piece from within the Ceremony of Carols was sung by the Chamber Singers, even though the whole choir did most of the pieces.

Es ist ein Ros entsprugen - Brahms

God Bless the Master of this House -

Requiem - Mozart (Lacrymosa and Domine Jesu in video)

Unfortunately, the more contemporary pieces are a lot harder to find on-line, so most of these are classical. Some of this is due to more people preferring to post pop and classical, some due to things like common names (You try finding the modern piece "Love" when you can't remember the composer!), and some due to my imperfect memory. Some of the pieces I remember but couldn't find on-line are:
Gesang aus Ossians Fingal - Johannes Brahms
The Virgin Martyrs - Samuel Barber
Litinies a la Vierge Noir - Poulenc

All three of those are gorgeous, and if you get the chance to hear them, you should. Particualarly #4 of Gesang aus Ossians Fingal, which is possibly the single most beautiful piece of music I've ever heard.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Pursuit of Perfection

Elizabeth McClung of Screw Bronze wrote an entry based on a segment of my entry on our new dojo. She got me thinking about the perfection as a goal, how we get there, how you drive yourself to achieve.

Perfection has been both boon and bane of my existence. A boon when it drives me forward, taking me to levels I wouldn't have thought I could attain. A bane when it's very unattainability causes me to either drive myself past the point of diminishing returns, or worse, causes me to simply toss my hands up and give up. The pursuit of is why I have a novel at all, let alone another two in process. But perfectionism is why I can't ever seem to make that novel good enough to pass my own muster and get sent out into the world.

My first real experience of an utter drive to perfection came in the form of my college choir director. The new director, that is. I tried out for the Wellesley College Choir when I first arrived on campus and made it in. At that point they had a director who had been with the choir for 40+ years. He ran a warm, friendly choir. They were good, no doubt, but they were comfortable. That Christmas I got my first ever solo part (I had been a year behind a couple of extraordinary singers in HS, and then switched schools my senior year.). I thought I had this singing thing pretty well down.

Then after winter break, things changed. Our old director got ill, and we started a hunt for a new director. In the meanwhile we had a temporary director. Our interim director pushed us harder, gave us new material, and generally livened the place up. We loved him, and most of us wished he could become the new director, but he committed to Harvard instead. So we started interviewing candidates. I remember four, but I'm not sure if there were more than that. The choir officers would review applications, then interview, and then the choir would have a working interview.

Constance stood out from the pack. She wasn't able to make the working interview on a regular choir night - so she came to the Collegium Musicum to do her trial. Unlike the Choir, the Collegium did not do tryouts. Anybody who liked medieval music was welcome to sing - so we had everything from serious musicians and singers, to people who had serious trouble holding pitch. I was in it largely because I would sing in any group that would have me - for someone with perfect relative (though not absolute) pitch, the Collegium could be pretty painful on occassion.

The night Constance tried out, she stood us in a row, and tried to get us to divide a whole note into sixteenths (that being the number of people we had that night) - not rhythmically, by pitch. The person on the left hand side started by singing a C, the next person sang just slightly higher, the next higher still, until (theoretically) the last person was singing a D with the group having gotten there by even steps.

She nearly managed it. With a group of largely untrained (maybe 50%) singers, many of who couldn't hold a pitch to match the group, she nearly managed to get even 16th divisions. I was completely floored. The rest of her trial was equally impressive, but that one thing was what stuck in my mind. When time came for the final vote, I voted for Constance, and urged everyone who would listen to me to do the same. And she got the job.

We had no idea what we were in for.

The next year Constance (DeFotis) showed up. The differences became evident immediately. By Flower Sunday, the first concert of the year, only two weeks into the school year, it was already evident that this was new management indeed. Good wasn't good enough. Flower Sunday, by its nature tends to have old familiar music, but even with stuff we knew cold, Constance found things to work on - lots of things. Lots and lots of things. Our unison wasn't great. Our vocal technique wasn't great. Our rhythm wasn't solid enough. After Flower Sunday she started introducing new and more challenging music, and driving us harder than ever. We went from good to excellent. At the same time, she instituted a Glee Club to be a training ground for singers who weren't quite up to her stringent standards for the choir, and a Chamber Singers as an elite group. By the time the choir auditioned for new singers in my junior year, the choir had become so much better and so much higher profile, that despite the requirements being more stringent than ever, we had the largest choir ever - 127 women.

It didn't last. My junior year we were scheduled to go on tour (Ireland, England, Wales) in the spring and compete in the Limerick Choral Festival. Within three months we had gone from the largest choir ever to the smallest. Constance drove us. We learned new music - amazingly difficult contemporary pieces, complicated classical pieces, even one piece written just for us by her brother, William DeFotis named (no I'm not kidding): How Many Times Have We Found Ourselves Mouthing Recieved Opinions, Using the Language of Oppression, Before We No Longer Have Any Claim To Be Oblivious, To Our Having Become, Both Victims and Perpetrators of Injustice. If you think it's a mouthful to say, it was much more to sing. We were expected to practice several hours a week on our own time as well as the time in official practice. When we went home for winter break we were expected to memorize a pile of new music - in German. We were tested in quartets when we got back - and everybody failed. Constance was disgusted. At the first rehearsal she absolutely tore into us, and then started working us even harder. It was insanely hard. Every word of every piece was memorized. We rehearsed them in sections, in quartets, with our eyes closed, in triplets, while counting - any and every way I have ever heard of to rehearse music. We worked on our singing technique. We worked on responsiveness to our director. We worked on our German diction with a native German student. And we did all of this over and over and over to Constance's exacting standards. I alternated between loving how much better I was getting - how much better we were getting - and hating how much work and how much of a time suck the whole thing was. Was it really worth thirty minutes of drill just to better differentiate our triplets from our quadruplets? Was it worth doing that drill over and over again?

The tour was astonishing. We knew we were improving, but from the inside, we never really got a good view of just how much we had improved. At the Choral Festival we won our section easily - and then we won the whole shebang. We were the first non-Irish choir to ever win that competition (going by what the other choirs were saying, I've never actually looked it up), with the highest score ever given. We blew the roof off!

But the most amazing thing was that the competition wasn't what we were shooting for. The competition was the side-effect. What we were shooting for was perfection, and while we never achieved it, as no one ever can, we became glorious in its pursuit.

I have, somewhere in my old tapes, a recording of the Wellesley Choir in my senior year. It's the Vespers concert. In the middle of a song (Lullay my Liking), one of the soloists comes in a third high, leaving us in the wrong key. In the split second between the end of the solo and the entry of the choir, Constance gave us the correct note. Every person caught the cue and the choir comes in on time and on key. In the recording, even having been there and knowing exactly what happened and when, I cannot hear the correction. It was that fast and seamless. Never before or since have I been part of a group that truly excellent.

But I keep hoping that someday I will. And I keep striving to become that truly excellent in my individual endeavors, knowing that the glory is at least as much in the pursuit as in the achievement.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Back to School

Both kids are safely ensconced back at elementary school again. It's hard to fathom that this is Robbie's last year here. Next year he'll be busing down the road to middle school.

Aaron's teacher is who we thought it was - the same teacher Robbie had for second grade. He was scared when we went in Wed. morning, but recognized her as soon as she came over to say hello, and relaxed immediately. His best friend Ashley has moved (fortunately only one town over), so he was also nervous about who his classmates were, but there are at least two kids in there he knows, and several who are new to the school altogether, so that makes him happy. I was a little surprised by his thinking in being happy about new kids in his class, but his explanation is that new kids don't come in with friends already made, so they're more likely to be open to being friends with him. Logical enough, I suppose!

I'm having a horrible time remembering Robbie's teacher's name. Every time I think I've got it down, I ask Robbie and it's wrong. It's long, ethnic (though not as distinctively ethnic as I keep thinking), and begins with an H. I'll get it eventually. There are half-a-dozen kids Robbie knows in there, and at least a couple he likes, including the little girl who lives behind us. He seems to like his teacher, which is great. We get to go in next week for a meet-the-teachers evening, and I'm looking forward to it.

Robbie's also decided he wants to try out for the track team. This is surprising, since he's never shown any interest in any kind of sports before. He's already practicing, doing several wind sprints on our way home from school. He wants me to start timing him as he goes. Also surprisingly, this seem to have nothing to do with the Olympics, though he's now planning on watching the track-and-field events next week, which he hadn't particularly thought about before.

I'm running very short on sleep these days, due to the aforementioned Olympics. The swimming has been fantastic, of course, but I've been paying most attention to the gymnastics and the equestrian events. Rob, who really doesn't give squat about any of it, has been very good about letting me watch without griping about how it all doesn't really mean anything anyway, or how I should really give up and go to sleep. I have been discussing the gymnastics with my friendL in Massachusetts though, to avoid making him repeatedly discuss stuff he doesn't care about. For myself, I grew up listening to Dad (who was a college gymnast, and quite good) commenting on the gymnastics, and as with most things, the more you know, the more interesting they are. I never got very far with gymnastics myself (too big, not enough explosive power), but did enough to appreciate just how darned tough those routines are. The injury rates on elite gymnasts are horrific (I believe 93% have either broken a bone, or had a soft-tissue injury severe enough to require surgery.), and their toughness and dedication to their sport is truly awesome.

So I guess I'll be losing sleep for at least a few more days.

Monday, August 11, 2008


I guess we were taking a bit easier when we were outside in the heat. I've had sore muscles after both of our classes in the new place. This weekend particularly I'm feeling the after effects of 30 straight minutes of spin-kick drills. Today my back and obliques are telling me about every minute. Of course, we don't usually drill spinning kicks like that even indoors unless it's only the intermediate and up students in class. Friday was just me, sensei, and N (formerly I, which was getting too darned confusing), who is likely to be the next one up for a brown belt test - just as soon as he gets reliable with candle-punching and his sais.

I'm not quite sure what's up with I and his candle punching. Those who were reading back when I tested for brown may remember that we're required to punch out a candle flame at our brown belt test. Two flames actually, one for each hand. It's mostly a matter of snap and accuracy. Learning to punch out candles gave me fits at my test, because while I have great accuracy, my punching speed simply isn't terrific. Which in turn made the demands on my accuracy that much greater. At the speed I punch, I have to hit within an inch of the candle or I have no chance of putting out that flame. (Tapping the candle is an automatic failure.) N has the exact opposite problem. He has a terrific snap, and can easily put the candle out at a 2-inch distance, or even more. Unfortunately, he has a tendancy to lean backwards while he's preparing to punch the candle that puts him 4 or more inches back. When he tries to correct for this, he then overcorrects and taps the candle. I hope he sorts it out soon, because I think it's really the only thing that's making him feel unready for the test, and from my POV, his lack of confidence is the only reason I'm leery of testing him right now.

The boys are back at school as of Wednesday. Saturday we got a postcard from Aaron's 2nd grade teacher. He's getting Robbie's old second grade teacher, though under a new name as she's gotten married in the interim. She's a nice lady, and did a good job with Robbie. She wasn't as spectacular a match-up as Robbie's fourth-grade teacher was, but she was good. We still don't know who Robbie's new teacher will be - we may not find out until we show up Wed. morning.

Today we went out and bought all the school supplies, except for the diaper wipes the second grade list calls for. Inexplicably, Office Depot does not carry diaper wipes. I'm not going to know what to do with myself Wednesday. I'll figure it out fast enough though!

Friday, August 08, 2008

And The Other One...

Here's the older guy at the same game. They went with their Dad (tickets through work), and lasted about four innings before they called for Mom to come pick them up.

Bill, your cartoon was very apropos - that was exactly why they called for pick-up!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

This Just In

Photo of Aaron at his first ever baseball game (Bats vs. Mudhens). Also likely his last for some goodly length of time, since both of his parents are so unoriented to team sports as to make this a likely once-in-a-lifetime experience, unless he goes off to spend some quality time with his Uncle Doug. In which case he'll see football.

First Impressions

Yesterday was our first class in our new dojo space. Good timing since it turned out to be an intermittantly stormy day - it would have been cancelled for certain if we'd still been outside.

We're renting space from a Jazzercise studio. This has a lot of pluses. First and nicest is having a decent floor again. After months of linoleum, and then grass at the park, it's lovely to be on a floor that's meant to be bounced around on. Grass has its advantages, I will admit, but day in and day out, there's a lot you can't really do outside - particularly in white gis! The floor at the new place is a textured tile with some give. It's not as nice and cushy as the foam floors, but it's miles and miles above slick-as-glass linoleum over concrete. Though we may have to start mopping it ourselves before class, as it's pretty darned filthy.

Other good things - we have a hanging bag again. Last night was the first time I've kicked or punched a bag since December. It's amazing how much a bag will tell you about your kicks, and I've missed that kind of completely personality-free feedback. Sensei may or may not see if your kick was off-center, but if the bag starts rotating, you were off. It's like the snap of your gi. If you hear it, you know your speed was good. If you don't, you didn't have good recoil. I swear that my uwagi (gi top) won't snap, but my kicks snap every time, so it's not the gi, it's my punches.

We also have a closet to call our very own, where we can leave the communal gear. Plus we're allowed to use the Jazzercise equipment, including balance balls, weights and steps. All-in-all it's a fairly sweet set-up. They are charging more than ideal, so Sensei is having to charge us more than he would like, at least until we add some more students. It's still barely half what the old place was charging, though, some I'm not about to complain. If we can pick up five or six new students, Sensei will be able to drop his prices to where he wants them.

Towards this end, he wants to hold a women's self-defense seminar in a month or two, advertising among the Jazzercise participants. I think it's a great idea, and apparently so does the Jazzercise lady. He wants me and T to be there specifically, as he feels that having women demonstrators will make it all seem more possible to women who aren't used to the idea of hitting others. Less intimidating. I hope it works. Based on my Turbokick class, I'm not sure I count as "not intimidating". I'm not exactly small, and the most common first impression word I'm getting these days is "strong". (My blog photo is a couple years out of date at this point. Subtract seventeen pounds and add a noticeable amount more muscle.) If I can, I'd like Rob to come be the mock attacker for the class. Rob is enough bigger than I am (6'4" to my 5'8"), that the size differential looks real - someone his size might attack someone my size. Sensei, for all his skill, is not a big guy - two inches shorter than me, in fact. I'm a little afraid that if we are the demonstration pair the reaction is likely to be skeptical, since in real life situations, people rarely choose victims bigger than they are unless weapons are involved.

All that is fairly peripheral, though. I don't seriously think a little skepticism is going to ruin a self-defense seminar if we run it well. Towards that end, I'm going to be rereading The Gift of Fear, which is chock-full of good information, and doing some other research. I do want us to be actually useful, not just a marketing ploy. And that means giving the women who come some real information. After all, anything physical we show them is likely to be forgotten in a few months, but solid tactical information is more likely to stick.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Home Again, Home Again Jiggety-Jog

We're back home again, having driven down from the reunion (in Minnesota, about 2 1/2 hours north of Minneapolis) yesterday - yes, all in one day. We hit the road at 6:30am which was a rude shock for the boys, who had been getting up between 9 and 10 all week. It backfired on us a little, as Aaron had some motion-sickness due to the discombobulation. He used to be prone when he was tiny, but hadn't thrown up in a car in years - until yesterday. Fortunately once he dropped off back to sleep he was fine.

The reunion was lovely. The reunion was at a lake. We had a protected swimming area (about 4' deep), with two water trampolines and a slide, a playground area, and a ping-pong table. There were boats and golfing available, but we never availed ourselves of them. We spent late afternoons swimming pretty much every day. Robbie is turning into a proper fish - I got lots of practice with throws by tossing him for a dunking every time he would splash me. Aaron is only just getting comfortable with deeper water, but made lots of progress. I think by next summer he'll have it down. We didn't get to spend as much time with my eldest brother and his family as we would have liked. Their eldest has autism and reacts badly to having his schedule mangled, so they only came up for one night (and the surrounding days). He's a sweetheart, though, much more affectionate and willing to have bodily contact than I'm used to with autistic kids. We gave him a Neopets dragon (talking, interactive toy) for his birthday, and it drew a smile out of him. We also got to meet his PCA, who is delightful herself. Apparently he took to her immediately when my SIL interviwed her, after hiding from all the other candidates.

Mom was also not much seen, as she came down with a nasty cold the day after we arrived. Mostly she stayed in and slept, showing up in late afternoon and then taking off again after dinner. She was still coughing and sniffling on the last day, but plainly feeling somewhat better. Fortunately we get another shot on Tuesday when she and Dad drive by here on their way back home.

We did get to see a good deal of my brother Bill and his wife and daughter, as well as my Dad. Bill and Kathryn (my niece), and I undertook to teach Robbie ping-pong. He did pretty well, moving from a 19 handicap to a 17 handicap over the course of about three days. By his last day, he was ready for me to drop his handicap against me to a 15. By contrast, when I was taught by my brothers, albeit at 6 not 10, I spent a couple of years playing with a 20 handicap. Bill is a ferocious player, and Kathryn is no slouch. Dad isn't as vigorous, but he's got plenty of experience and as a lefty with a deft touch with spin, he's dangerous himself. I play with a 10 handicap against Bill and 5 against both Kathryn and Dad - which I don't think is too shabby when the last time I played ping-pong was 11 years ago.

Rob got lots of lounging time, which he desperately needed. He actually spent the first three days reading and sleeping, which is almost unheard of for him. Usually he's itching to go do something after about one day of lounging.

I brought my tonfas and sais and managed to get in several sessions of kata practice. Apparently the people in the cabin next door found this very amusing. They spent mornings sunning out on the dock, and generally by the time I had gotten through one or two katas, they would have all turned around and started providing commentary on what I was doing. The more I use the tonfas Rob made me, the better I'm liking them - it's just such a treat to have something that's made to my exact measure.

My main project for this trip has been penguin socks - visible in the book cover in the photo at the top of the page. The first sock is almost done and it's coming out really cute. The directions aren't terribly good though. They're close enough to figure it out if you're an experienced sock knitter, but I woudn't recommend them otherwise. They've named the main color "M", and then don't differentiate it in the directions from the "M" of "make 1", their charts aren't well proofed (at least two errors in the penguin chart), and they just generally aren't as clear as they should be. There are several cute patterns in the book though, and I'm already planning on making their ladybug socks for my youngest niece.

So - home again, home again. Sensei has already called to say we're a go at the Jazzercise place, so starting Tuesday we're back on a regular schedule at a regular location. Go us!