Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lest You Think...

... that everything is always hunky-dorey in Savageland, it's not.

I post about the good things, the happy things, the stuff on which I would like to keep my focus.

The trials and tribulations of raising these boys, particularly the special-needs Teen, are not so much fun to read - or write - about.

So I generally don't.

But for the last 36 hours, I've been immersed in Teen angst, and there's really not much else for me to write about tonight.

I'm not a martyr, I'm not a whiner. Life is tough. That's just reality. We play the hand we're dealt, and it is ultimately each person's choice to go through life either as a Tigger or an Eeyore. (Yes, we just finished listening to The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch on CD on the trip to NC.)

Tempting as the pull toward Eeorishness can be at times like this, I have made the decision to make the best of my life and be happy - to be the best Tigger I can be - and that is part of why I have started the daily blogging habit. It gives me a chance each day to focus on what is going well, what I'm doing to take care of myself and my family, what I'm working toward and looking forward to.

Ending the day - no matter how hard a day it was - on a positive note is a valuable tool for me. I will now set aside the Crisis Of The Week and focus on some of the things I'm looking forward to over the course of the next month or so:

preparing for our school year, hiking and camping, reading and relaxing at the pool, cooking with Little (lots of local food right now), weeding my garden and planting some fall crops, kickboxing and karate with Middle, testing for my green belt, running, taking the Girl Scouts to Assateague Island, the start of the THS Soccer season and fall baseball, Book Club, sewing / quilting, more late night guitar jams under the stars (had a great one Friday night), planning a trip with friends, watching movies with Savageman, reading together in bed...

Speaking of which... (yawn)

"Tiggers don't like excessive teen angst."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Keystone State Games

Middle's second competition at the advanced level went a lot better than the first.

Everyone credits the haircut.

I also credit the huge amount of work this kid has put in, both in and out of the dojang over the last month especially.

His first event was weapons. Usually his best event, and the one he works hardest at, he tied for second with his double-nunchaku creative form, complete with the aerial he's been working on since last year. For the tiebreaker, he and the other competitor had to repeat their performances. She won. He got the bronze medal.

Next was open-hand forms. This time, there was a three-way tie for second. Each of them had to repeat their form, and this time he won the silver.

Finally, fighting. Not usually his best event. In the last competition, he got a third-place trophy, mainly because two opponents had been disqualified for illegal contact. This time, he won the two rounds he fought 3-1 and 3-0. A huge improvement for him. Gold medal.

The best part, of course, was all the fun they had. What a great group of kids and parents - we're blessed to have them all as such a big part of our lives.

Next weekend: Washington, D.C. We can't wait.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Nurturing My Spirit

... and loving every minute of it.

Happy for my friends who are doing the same.

Hoping my kids will live happy and fulfilling lives as well, in whatever form that takes for them.

Grateful for my life, my home, my family and my friends.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Girl Time, Crafty Time

I spent a huge chunk of time with one of my favorite people today, without kids (a rare treat!). We went to a quilt show at the Hershey Lodge and immersed ourselves in this beautiful art, with which we both have a small amount of experience. Vendors selling fabric, thread, patterns and kits, sewing machines, accessories, and of course, quilts, filled one room. In the other was an exihibition of the best quilts, many of which were absolutely breathtaking.

Once you've tried your hand at something like quilting, you gain a real appreciation for all of the work that goes into one of these works of art. The piecing, the stitches and other technical elements that require such painstaking effort from a beginner were amazing enough. Add to that the beauty and creativity of so many of the quilts - it was quite something to experience.

I came away inspired to dig out my fabric and play. The sewing machine is still handy from the other night - all I need is to set aside another chunk of time to nurture my crafty side.

So grateful for a good friend who knows how much I need these kinds of things from time to time...


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

August NaBloPoMo

The August NaBloPoMo theme has been announced: Fiction.

My immediate thought? What a great opportunity! I'll get back to work on my fun NaNoWriMo fiction from November and post a section each day on the blog. Or write a series of short stories related to said fiction and post one per week.

Several other ideas of how to use the August blogging theme to further my fun fiction piece came to mind.

And quickly departed.

What, am I crazy?

People might actually read my fun fiction if I post it on the blog.

They might think it sucks. Or, even worse, they might think it's good. They might wonder what other kinds of wacky stuff go on in that head of mine. (The two people in the world who know are smiling and nodding their heads right now...) They might see elements of themselves in this or that character and think I'm writing about them. They might want to talk about it or ask me questions about it.

I hate answering questions.

All of these thoughts give me a much deeper appreciation for what real authors go through in the process of allowing other people access to their own inner creative worlds.

If I ever do finish NaNoWriMo and actually publish something, it will be under a pseudonym. I'll suddenly have a boat or a vacation house or at least hardwood flooring in my living room and people will wonder where the money came from.

I'll never tell.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Can Quit Anytime

And I did.

Health-conscious as I am, I'll admit to my share of vices. Namely dark chocolate, red wine... and coffee.

Which, as far as vices go, I will happily defend and point to many studies conducted by real scientists that suggest there may be real health benefits associated with these products. For example, women coffee-drinkers are less likely to suffer from depression. Reason enough to brew a big pot of the stuff.

Overwhelmed with three small children at home - each with his own challenges, an always-messy house, and an unrealistic and insurmountable daily To-Do list, I began drinking coffee in earnest after Little was born. I needed it to keep both my spirits and my energy up.

There was a joke among my La Leche League friends about the time we were at the International Convention in D.C. and he was about 18 months old. The luncheon speaker was a researcher presenting his study on how breastfeeding doesn't only provide nutrition, it provides information. Baby animals know what plants are safe to eat because they have been exposed to the taste in their mothers' milk. What our babies experience in our milk, they go on to prefer once they are feeding themselves, he was saying... just as my baby, who was sitting on my lap at the table, reached across for my coffee cup and helped himself.

My secret was out.

But everyone at the table understood because they were just as coffee-centered as I was. Tired, overwhelmed, trying to get through the day as cheerfully and clear-headedly as possible, we were all self-medicating with the Almighty Bean. And that was okay.

Here at home, coffee was a major part of my social life. "Stop by for coffee." "A group of us are getting together for coffee." "Let's go out for coffee." I have a lovely collection of oversized mugs and insulated travel mugs. I kept extra travel mugs around so I could send one along with any friend who stopped by on her way to run errands. A lattè from Starbucks was a thoughtful gesture, a peace offering, a token of gratitude, a hug in a cup.

My personal checks are decorated with various coffee images, and a whole corner of my kitchen has been devoted to this important part of my life. A grinder, a Mr. Coffee coffeepot, a stack of filters for the coffeepot, a French Press, a plug-in teakettle to boil the water for the French Press, bottles of vanilla and almond syrups, and bags and containers of Starbucks and other specialty blends of coffee beans fill the space between the knives and the stand mixer. All of this needed to be out and within reach because in the winter, at 6:40 a.m. when I'm seeing the Teen off to school, it's dark and I really don't prefer to open my eyes completely until after my first cup, let alone dig through the pantry looking for the filters.

Every day started with coffee. No matter what. Once, the men and I went camping for a weekend and I decided I'd leave the coffee at home and do a weekend detox. By Saturday afternoon, my head was pounding, I was snapping at everyone, I couldn't think straight. I headed for the nearest grocery store and bought some instant. When I got back, I loaded my pantry, car, and camping bins with enough Starbucks Via that I would never be caught off-guard again.

I clearly needed this, and there was no reason to deny myself. Ever again.

So, up until this week, every morning, I've made or purchased a large cup of coffee to start my day.

Also, every morning for something like the last 2 years, I've wondered if I have IBS. Just a little nagging thought, and occasionally an inkling that it might be a more serious problem. I didn't say anything about it at my last checkup, and all other indicators pointed to an extremely healthy body, so I pushed these thoughts aside.

But in a recent conversation with a good friend who also happens to be a doctor, we were discussing similar digestive issues, gluten intolerance, celiac disease, etc. and I mentioned my own small concern.

"Maybe it's the coffee."

Just what I didn't want to hear. Just the reason I didn't mention this to my own doctor. I need my coffee. Sigh...

Hearing it from her did make me a little curious, however. Not curious enough to get a headache like that one at the campground, but curious. And besides, feeling that dependent on anyone or anything begins to create a little bit of resentment after a while.

I don't need you, I began to say, glaring at my cup. I can quit you anytime I want. You'll see.

The cup of brown liquid silently mocked me in return.

I limited myself to unsweetened iced tea for a day, just for kicks. Something I already like and drink. I just skipped the coffee this time.

And just like that, I'm better. And I didn't have a headache. Nor was I tired, foggy or crabby like I had been when I wasn't exercising enough last week. I felt, and continue to feel, just fine.

I think it's been three days now. There's a Mr. Coffee iced tea machine on my countertop between the mixer and the knives. I'm putting all the coffee paraphernalia away. At least for now.

Of all the habits I've broken, thought and behavior patterns I've changed, and things I've let go this last year, I thought this would be one of the hardest - and it turned out to be effortless. I don't even miss it.

Sometimes I surprise myself like that.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Remember All That Basil?

Savageman made pesto tonight.

This was a big deal. I don't remember the last time he tried to cook anything. He's pretty much happy with a bowl of granola or a protein bar or someone else's leftovers as a rule. If I or one of the kids makes something, he'll eat whatever it is without complaining. He's a wonderful sport in that regard - one of the things I love about him.

So, given that he's happy with whatever fills his belly, and that there's usually some kind of healthy food (or at least granola) around the house, he doesn't ever need to cook.

But tonight, on my first night back at kickboxing and karate classes, he took a bunch of that wonderful, local organic basil and made a big batch of delicious pesto.

The recipe:

4 cups basil
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
6 sprigs parsley
salt and pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

He made a batch of linguine to go with it and I ate two big plates of it when I got home, hungry and tired from class. I washed it down with an unfiltered Belgian white beer, which was also quite wonderful.

Have I mentioned that Savageman totally rocks?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Playlist

One of the reasons running has been feeling so great?

The music.

The music is what brings it all together. And my challenge has been to find the right songs, with the exact right cadence, to match my stride and keep me moving along.

Yesterday, I put together a playlist of songs I thought would work, and first thing this morning, I tested it out on a 2+ mile run.

Best songs so far:

Blurry by Puddle of Mudd
Steve McQueen by Cheryl Crow
You Found Me by the Fray
Mystery by the Indigo Girls
Shame On You by the Indigo Girls
Something to Believe In by Parachute
Bring Me To Life by Evanescence
Breathe by Melissa Etheridge
It Won't Take Long by the Indigo Girls
My Last Breath by Evanescence
Whisper by Evanescence
Deconstruction by the Indigo Girls

The closer the song is to the cadence of my running, the better. Blurry and You Found Me have been perfect. A few of the others require me to speed up a bit, which isn't such a bad thing. I think I'm running about 8-9 minute miles right now. Since I found, I've been able to keep better records of my neighborhood runs.

Still on the lookout for more good music with the same beat, but this is a good start.

As always, I'm amazed at how much better I feel when I start the day with a hard workout. The whole day, including the long car trip and visit with relatives, was such a pleasure.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

OH Yeah!

I am so back!

Shortly after I hit "Publish" yesterday, my bad mood started to melt a bit. Little made a yummy fried fish recipe, complete with his own Special Sauce, and went on to make a yellow cake with chocolate buttercream icing. The cake fell on the floor as he was putting the finishing touches on it, but instead of getting upset, we laughed, salvaged what we could, and let That Dog clean up the rest.

And then everyone left the house except me.

And I went for a run.

I didn't care that it was 105 degrees, that I was supposed to go out with my friends in about an hour, that my ankle was still a little iffy... I just wanted to put my tunes on and GO.

So I went. And it was fine. I stuck to one mile, both because of the heat and the ankle. I used my Vibrams (a.k.a. The Crazy Feet) because I really do believe that barefoot running is healthier for the entire body.

Reading Born To Run by Christopher McDougall (a recent recommendation from one of my running friends) has confirmed my belief that the human foot is capable of doing what it needs to do without fancy running shoes or other equipment. Sometimes, the equipment itself is the problem. (The Teen's Sports / Orthopedic Doc said roughly the same thing to me last fall when the Teen was seeing him for shin splints and a suspected stress fracture.) There's a reason some of the best runners in the world are running around Kenya and Mexico in their bare feet.

I know, I'm such a freaking hippie, but I just don't get so much of what we do in our culture. Including the obsession with having the right shoes. I'm in Birkenstocks three seasons of the year and clogs in the winter. Barefoot at the dojang and in the house. And as close to barefoot as I can safely manage when I run.

I've only just started learning all there is to know about the Barefoot Running Movement, but after running with the Vibrams for the last few months, I can see why it's gaining such popularity. I never thought that running felt great before, but that's how I feel about it now. It feels great. It makes me want to eat nothing but healthy, natural food, pamper myself with quality sleep, engage my mind with interesting, productive activities, and blow myself a kiss in the mirror.

So I had this great run, came home, took a delightfully cool shower, and headed out to dinner with my friends at The Green Room. I felt positively euphoric, driving down 81, smiling like an idiot, singing with the radio... better than I've felt in days.

What a change!

Today we went to visit the organic farm where we get our veggies. We picked lots of fresh basil, some flowers, picked up some extra veggies, talked to the grass-fed meat guy, drank some freshly brewed iced tea with mint and agave nectar. I made a fabulously healthy dinner, accomplished a major sewing project for my niece and nephew's upcoming birthday, and am finishing today feeling healthy and strong and approaching normal.

Tomorrow I'm getting up super early and taking a good long run with my Crazy Feet.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Dropping Balls

Guess I dropped the ball for NaBloPoMo July somewhere mid-vacation.

C'est la vie.

For someone who often uses juggling too many balls as a metaphor for her life, I've dropped a few of them these last two weeks. Despite all of its positives, I think the vacation takes a lot out of me, especially the part before and after. I'm still trying to get back to feeling normal again.

The worst ball-drop was karate / kickboxing. It's been over 2 weeks, and while I did a little bit of running, swimming, and Middle's mini-cardio class at the beach house, it's really not the same as 8-10 hours per week of heart-pounding, sweat-drenching, gut-busting workout. Or the effect it has on my body, my mind, my mood, my productivity...

I feel like crap, and I'm downright surly to live with. It's like having constant PMS.

Was I like this all the time before karate? If so, I apologize.

I'm sitting here asking myself why I would let something so important go for so long.

I really did have good reasons. First, the vacation, of course. At one point, Savageman asked me if there was a dojo in NC who would take me in for the week. I guess the change in me wasn't subtle. But I really didn't think there was a martial arts exchange program, and I'm really not the kind of person who will put in that kind of work without other people in the room making me do it.

But there's also the leg. (Ankle?) It seems to be the peroneus longus down close to my ankle bone, and I don't know how I injured it, but it started the day we got to the beach and it still isn't 100%. Not that I'm testing it out at this point. Last weekend, when we got home, I ran 1.5 miles both Saturday and Sunday and it felt like someone was stabbing me with a needle with every step. I was almost afraid my fibula was fractured. Fearing the damage that might result from pushing it, I've taken it easy this week while the dojang was semi-closed for summer break.

I'm forcing myself to be patient, but the longer I wait, the more I'm dreading going back in, knowing how hard it's going to be, worrying about the injury, looking around and seeing how much needs to be done around the house...

... but the cleaning I'm doing is Angry Cleaning. I'm grouching at the kids, resentful toward Savageman, miserable with myself, with my ankle, with the heat, with the clutter in the house.

Note to Future Self, reading this somewhere down the road, thinking about blowing off karate for anything other than life-or-death reasons: Don't Do It.

Today I start easing myself back into my normal routine. I am telling my ankle exactly what I used to tell my elbows.

"You are one 60th of this body. Suck it up."

The elbows got the hint, and I hope the ankle does the same.

This is one ball I just can't drop if I want to keep the others going.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kayaking and Other Adventures

It's been almost a week since I've had a martial arts class.

And I'm beginning to feel it.

Sure, I've gone running. I've been swimming in the ocean and the pool. I've been playing with the kids. But it's not the same, and I've been getting grouchy.

So today, Savageman and I went kayaking. Just for a little while, and just on the Sound, but it was a change of pace I needed.

See how happy I am?

Later, we did the Big Photo Shoot on the Beach - this time with a real photographer first. Hoping hers turned out well - ours weren't too bad.

Middle and I decided we needed to work out. He started on the beach. Yes, that's an aerial - he's a foot off the ground. Very Wow.

After we got back, he orchestrated an excellent mini-kickboxing class for us in the pool area (The Teen provided the music, but didn't join in). Afterward, we hit the hot tub and the pool.

I feel tons better.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cultivated Happiness

More good stuff on The Daily Love today.

One of the things that struck me about today's post was the idea of "Cultivated Happiness."

"Cultivated happiness comes from having learned how to build your own happiness, regardless of what is going on around you. It comes from knowing yourself and taking on the challenges that you are passionate about and being proud of the path you are on, no matter what bumps it may have. Cultivated happiness is lasting happiness and is a skill you can bring to any situation. For me, cultivated happiness came when I realized that I, and I alone, was in charge of making sure I had a good time each day and that I really did have the power to enjoy my life no matter what."

Love that.

And it reminds me of what Gretchen Rubin is always coming back to in her Happiness Project book and blog: "Be Gretchen." It's her first Personal Commandment - being herself, being true to herself.

Being Kath isn't all that complicated. I've learned to let go of a lot of things that aren't important to me, aren't worth a fight, aren't worth getting worked up about, or aren't within my sphere of influence anyway. Party politics, global warming, war and poverty, the personalities and actions and judgements of other people... I remind myself to put them in a bubble and blow them away.

That alone is a huge step toward a happier life.

Getting rid of all the noise leaves the things that I do care about, that I do have influence over. Starting with my own body. Eating well, taking time for exercise and making sure I get good quality sleep are all important to me. So are my relationships with others. Putting in the time and effort needed to nurture and sustain friendships and family relationships, and (hopefully) showing my appreciation for them.

And of course, I am passionate about how I raise and educate and feed my family; which aspects of Mainstream Culture we choose to embrace and which aspects we choose to question or reject. And there's a lot that I question or reject, at least in the areas that fall within my sphere: essentially whatever occurs in our home or requires our funds.

Many of the healthier choices we make are also the most countercultural ones. Homeschooling, our lack of Cable TV, video game systems and processed / chemical-laden foods comes to mind. It's not easy raising a family counter to the pervasive messages of a largely unhealthy culture. So yes, Being Kath has its bumps now and then. But feeling secure in my convictions, knowing that my choices are backed by good research and experience, and remembering that it's my own vision and values on which I need to focus, not anyone else's - helps to soften the impact of those bumps. If I know I'm doing the right thing for my family, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. (Likewise, my opinion of anyone else's way of doing things shouldn't - and doesn't - matter.) People are best served by being true to their own convictions, and if those were the same for all of us, the world would be a boring place.

It would be so much easier for me if the entire culture shared and supported those same values.

But Easy is for wimps.


Monday, July 11, 2011


Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Husband Totally Rocks

What can I say? I can pick 'em.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Wiped. Out.

Long day of travel prep and travel after long night of not enough sleep.

So I'm tired and grouchy and I feel bad because the 'rents were wonderful as always, renting us this nice house and taking the younger Savages in the car all day and I'm having a hard time being cheerful.

I wish the rest of the family loved camping as much as I do. It's cheap, there are good places close by, there's always plenty to do and there are no TVs or electronics for the kids to fight over. I love cooking over a campfire, listening to the crickets at night and the birds in the morning, hiking and exploring and relaxing and reading or playing guitar.

I shouldn't complain - I have several friends who want to plan some camping trips, and several Girl Scout trips I've signed on for, so it's not like I'm not going to get to go. But it's not the same as a family vacation.

Sigh... off to bed. I'm sure I'll feel better after a full night's sleep.

Friday, July 08, 2011

I Am Happy to Report...

... that BOTH cars are home and operational. Little passed all the tests and quizzes having to do with his yearly checkup, the pets had their checkups and shots as well. The hot water heater is still broken. C'est la vie.

Middle went to adult sparring and earned the respect of a much older and tougher opponent before going to a fun after-party with his favorite friends. Little played with his Saudi neighbor friends for a long time and the Teen got to visit his gf for a little while. Savageman and I went to the library and grocery store together and did a lot of cleaning and work done.

Kitty McSoftpaws is thrilled that we took her crate out for the trip to the vet. We left it open in the family room and she's been sleeping in it on and off all day long. Hopefully she'll still love it after a longer car trip.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

And Yet...

The stress is beginning to creep in.

And the more stressed I feel, the more stressful stuff I'm being given to juggle.

Car issues. Kid issues. Pet issues. The fact that my house is destroyed (again) and there doesn't seem to be a clutter-free square inch in the entire place. I've got a kid-checkup and a pet-checkup both scheduled for tomorrow, we now have one car, and the one car needs to be taken to the dealership to have the spare tire put back where it belongs under the car instead of in my trunk.

And that's on top of the normal, everyday level of stress that sends me into the dojang to pummel things just about every day.

Back to cleaning the house. It's now midnight. Maybe I'll get to bed by 3.


Wednesday, July 06, 2011

In Denial

I always like going on the Big Family Vacation every year, and once we're at the vacation house and into the vacation mode, it's all good.

But packing for the vacation, making decisions about the vacation, and dealing with the kids making the transition into the vacation is a different story.

Many a meltdown, many a screaming fit, many an utterence of "No vacation is worth this hell" has preceeded a Savage vacation. Whether it's the Beach, the Lake, Disney World, or a cruise to Bermuda, we go through this. And it's absolutely exhausting.

So for my own sanity, I try to keep things as normal as possible up until the last possible minute. Honestly, what do you need for a beach vacation other than some sheets and towels, a few changes of clothes, the freaky running shoes, sunscreen and a bathing suit or two? Add a camera, the laptop, the Nook, the guitar, the iPod and a comfy beach chair and I'm all set. Ditto for the kids, who are old enough to pack their own clothes and entertainment. The Dog and Cat need their crates, bowls and food.

Anything else can be bought at the local grocery store. Packing should take 30 minutes, not several weeks.

I have a similar approach toward camping trips. In the garage is a shelf. On the shelf are some tents and bins. Put this stuff in the car along with the sleeping bags and a few changes of clothes and you're equipped for a weekend in the woods. Five minutes. I kid you not.

This is my way of doing things. Make the decisions and pack the bins over the winter so that they can go right in the car when you need them. Stock up on a few healthy ingredients so everyone can make what they want when they want it. No on-the-spot decisions, no stress, no fighting, no whining, no hurt feelings. It may not fit everyone's ideal model of How Things Should Be, but it works for us.

Say I'm procrastinating, say I'm in denial, say anything you like, but I'm not packing until the last possible minute before the trip. And if you ask me about snacks and menu plans, I have four words: healthy à la carte.

Sanity is important too, and vacations are supposed to be fun, not stressful.

Trying not to forget that this time.


Tuesday, July 05, 2011

I Don't Feel Like Blogging Tonight

Actually, I don't feel like doing much of anything.

I'm beat after Hershey Park yesterday. Didn't get enough sleep. Got up early to get Middle and Little to morning martial arts. (Little had his first day back after taking about a year and a half off.) Took martial arts class myself. Went out to a buffet lunch with the Gang. Came home, drove people around, bought hairball medicine for the cat. Returned for kickboxing class. Came home, threw in some laundry and mowed our lawn and half of my neighbor's. Back to the dojang to get Middle. Shower.

That was my day. It was good, but I'd like for it to be over now. However, the place is a mess, the kids are still up, and we have a stack of movies we've rented and haven't watched.

By the time we get to the point in the evening where we can put in a movie and kick back and relax, it will be too late to watch the movie and get enough sleep.


Monday, July 04, 2011

Where's Little?

We had a great day at Hershey Park today with Savageman's extended family. Middle had a great day of his own with his martial arts buddies who also happened to be there, but that's a different story entirely.

It was a pretty uneventful trip, other than when we temporarily lost Little, who is 8. I'm thinking he was on line getting his drink refilled when I headed for the bathroom and Savageman and family headed for the kiddie train, maybe 100 yards from the tables where we'd been sitting. I joined them at the train, took some pictures, and when the ride was over, Savageman looked perplexed.

"Where's Little?"

Interestingly enough, it was the Teen, who has been complaining quite a bit lately about his annoying younger brother, who took off the fastest to look for him.

I wasn't particularly worried, and I don't think Savageman was either. I thought back over the incidences of Hershey Park Child Abductions over the years (none) and of Little's Common Sense Skills (considerable) and walked calmly over to the tables where we'd been. Sure enough, he was there walking around with his drink.

I approached him casually. "Hey, there you are! Where've you been?"

"I've been here looking for you!"

"Everyone went to the kiddie train - sorry you got left behind."

"It's okay. I knew you'd be back so I stuck around."

"Well, that was exactly the right thing to do because we knew exactly where to go to look for you."

"I figured if you didn't come back soon, I'd ask a security guard if I could use a phone to call you."

"Do you know the number?"

"Yup." He recited the number.

Maybe I should have felt like the Worst Parent in the World, but I didn't. My number one goal in most of the decisions I make with these boys is for them to be self-confident and self-reliant. I was very proud of him because 1) he stayed calm and didn't panic, 2) he trusted us to come back for him, 3) he knew the smartest thing was to stay in the area and 4) he had a well-thought-out backup plan.

Maybe we're doing something right...

Sunday, July 03, 2011


The Before Picture:

The After Picture:

Saturday, July 02, 2011

And the Winner Is...

not so much Middle this time. He was kind of disappointed. 5th in Weapons. 5th in Open Hand Forms. The two events he usually places in. Of course, that was when he was competing at the Intermediate level.

He didn't come home empty handed - he got a 3rd place trophy in Sparring. Partly because an opponent got disqualified for repeatedly kicking him in the 'nads. Having no external 'nads of my own, I can only go on what he said (and his pained facial expression as he walked out of the ring), but reportedly, even when wearing a cup, getting kicked in the 'nads hurts. A lot.

So it wasn't really his day. But, being the totally awesome kid that Middle is, he moved on, was happy for his teammates, and had fun the rest of the day going out to lunch with the gang and hanging out late into the night at the after-party.

He's already working on what he's going to do differently next time.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Sparring Middle

I sparred with my son for the first time tonight.

In our school, 13 is the typical age when kids move from the kids' classes to the adult classes. Including Friday night sparring.

Middle is 4 months shy of his 13th birthday and close to testing for his Junior black belt, so when he asked permission to try adult sparring, it was granted.

Adult sparring is nothing like kid sparring. Kid sparring is for points - in a ring, with judges choosing the partners, keeping the time (3 minutes?) and starting and stopping the match when points are scored, when someone is forced out of the ring, or if someone is hurt or needs to take a knee. In adult sparring, pretty much anything goes. You pair up with anyone who's available, and you spar continuously for about 15 minutes in whatever space you find. You're not going for points, just trying to land a few punches or kicks to your opponent's head or torso while he or she tries to dodge, block and counter. Courtesy and common sense rules apply, but that's about it.

I've been doing this for a few months now, and I still suck at it. Thankfully, I have many good black belt mentors who work with me every time, teaching me what I need to know to get better, (and popping me in the face when I forget to keep my guard up.) It's a good workout, it gets the adrenaline pumping, and the kids and adults all go out for pizza and sometimes a movie afterward. It's a good time.

Middle asked me to be his third partner tonight. He's got two more years of martial arts experience than I do, and he's been point sparring and competing. Needless to say, he's a lot better than I am. His M.O.? He stands still with his guard down, and when I move in with a kick or punch, he quickly blocks it and counters with a well-placed kick or punch of his own.

Even though he kicked my butt, it was fun working with him. I love that we do this together and that his friends are my friends and vice-versa. Rank and experience matter more than age, so the kids are often the ones helping the adults improve their technique and skills. Which must be pretty empowering for a kid.

Tomorrow morning is the first compeition of the season. Hoping he does as well as he did tonight.