Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Heading for the Rum Zone

Nice, sitting here watching the snow floating down, to know that I’ll be floating soon myself, off to a tropic isle with many of my favorite people, where we will all float languorously together in the warm azure waters of the Caribbean, before floating yet higher on a selection of naturally occurring rum concoctions and the fine local brew. There may be other plans, but these are mine.

The timing of this idyll is excellent, because it’s nice also to be leaving—temporarily at least—the Mephitis mephitis zone.

Remind me to tell you about that sometime.

And furthermore...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

National Pastime

Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training some time ago, and the teams are edging toward their first exhibition games. I’m not the fan of big league ball that I used to be, but the essential game, the look and feel of it, the smell of it ... oh, perfection, oh, youth, oh, summer.

People ask me what I do in the winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.

Hey, I felt the same way ... when I was 12.

The cool flag is from Tom Shieber’s great blog.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Saturdays in Concord are a whirl of activity. First, the dawn patrol. “M. You awake, M?” Gentle pats on head and strokings of remaining hairs. “M? Are you making a joke, M?” Little pokes to see if I’m really asleep. “Let’s go downstairs, M.” At this point, I sometimes open one eye, look aghast at the clock, haul her giggling under the covers, and suggest we go back to sleep. Success is only occasional. Fallback position is often a brief tour of YouTube Sesame Street videos on my computer...but only after I hustle downstairs to turn the wireless on. Either way, we’re usually downstairs sharing our Wheaties sooner by an hour or two than I would have made a kitchen appearance if left to my own devices. We discuss the variety of cereal in the cupboard, whether she would prefer a little bowl or a grown-up bowl this morning, the milk choices available in the fridge (two soy milks, white milk, occasionally a little very special chocolate milk), and why I use lemon in my tea.

We then hang out in the living room until mama and daddy appear for their breakfasts. Afterward, the velocity of the day gradually picks up. Until, zoom: boots, coat, hat, mitts, and we’re off to the farmers’ market, which is held indoors at some distance during the winter. There’s almost always a small group playing music, to which B invariably responds, despite style or rhythm, with a sort of swanning ballet, before she cadges a bill from daddy or me to put in the bowl or instrument case.

Then quick, quick, back into the car, and the hustle back into Concord for the weekly swim lesson at the Y. Mama gets her ready and takes her to the pool, then all three of us watch the lesson from the balcony above. Waves exchanged. She’s gotten very comfortable in the water, is terrifically proud of being able to put her face under water, is down from four flotation bubbles to one, and still paddles and kicks off on her own when the teacher turns her attention to the four other kids in the class. Gentle pursuit and herding back to the edge.

Cafe (where she wants to study those options), home, lunch, nap. Phew. This is when Mom and Dad might head out for a run or ride. But the wind was whipping in New Hampshire this weekend, and they decided their club swim workout Friday night was sufficient.

In the afternoon, wind or not, though, it’s off to ski.We always manage at least one Stooge moment. This one involved my skis and B’s interlaced in a way you would assume to be impossible for rigid forms. H sorted out the spaghetti, though, and off we went. Today, H mostly held onto B from behind, using the reins attached to her harness. This meant that B was skiing on her own, without support and without anyone catching her if she began to fall. Which she hardly did at all. She was terrific, bending her knees and even turning, a little bit, sort of. But what she really likes is going fast. Super fun to watch, and big grins all around. Of course, we still needed a chocolate break (Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for her, Nestles Crunch for me...and, well, that’s Crunch she’s eating in the picture, too.)

A great weekend.

But remind me to tell you sometime about our skunk infestation back at the old Woodbury homestead.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

From pool to slope

I’m in Concord this weekend. After B’s swim lesson at the Y this morning, we walked a few streets over to a cafe for a bite. This place has a sort of display at counter height to show off its offerings. As H and I scanned the possibilities, B looked up and said, “Lift me up, mama, so I can see my options.”

B becomes an “Eel” in a few weeks in the Y’s progression. She’s moving along a lot quicker than I am, that’s for sure. (I’m still deeply involved in my battle to breathe.) But very soon the two of us will have a week floating together in the warm, tropical waters of the Virgin Islands, looking down at pretty coral and colorful fish. I, for one, will using a snorkel.

Later today, we’re planning on a near-opposite experience: a good ski at the local hill. We’ve had a stretch of unseasonably warm weather followed by rain (and sleet, and finally a little snow) yesterday, but the lifts are running. So this afternoon I’ll be trying to control my grin as I follow B down the bunny slope. For me, a pretty good option.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Downhill racer

B, three-years, seven months now, changes week by week—so far, I’m happy to say,  always in the direction of a highly verbalized open cheerfulness. (This last is either from her father’s side of the family or from my mother alone on our side. Certainly not from her Oscar the Grouch grandp√®re maternel.) Anyway, it makes doing things with her happy occasions.

For a variety of reasons, we haven’t been north as often as usual this winter, but we have hit the slopes with B and her mama twice. You may recall last year’s disastrous strangulation event. Hoping to avoid similar issues, I bought her a little harness that would help us keep her from harm while simultaneously allowing her a clear airway when in the clutches of her grandfather.

On our first outing, she was using her new but not-alpine equipment. General fun, but not great from the skiing standpoint. H decided we should rent her some true downhill equipment for our second go. Tiny skis (barely enough room on them for bindings), tiny  boots, and away we went.
The first run was mostly a series of falls, trips, tangles, and flops. And this was just me. The three of us provided Stooge-like entertainment to others on the little hill, and at the bottom, a slightly bewildered B decided, “I need a little break.”

Rest and chocolate geared her up for another try. This time H played a brilliant little game of  “Simon Says” with her at the bottom of the slope to get her more accustomed to the odd appendages she was dealing with. Then up the surface lift again, a careful tucking away of the harness reins, and H turned around to ski backward to be there to steady B without making her feel too much held. Result? Spectacular success. B flying ecstatically down the hill, waving us off as her mother narrowed her reverse snowplow to stay ahead of her and I fluttered ineffectually nearby, trying to stay within disaster-prevention distance. No worries. A few falls, cheerfully brushed off, and a vigorously expressed eagerness for solo speed. So now we have another skier in the family, if you don’t count knowing how to turn or stop or any of those other extraneous skills.

At the bottom of her second semi-solo run, B’s run-out took her toward the little bleacher seating area set aside for friends and family who want to watch their loved ones risking their dignity on the bunny slope. None of them knew B from Eve. But as she came to a stop, she gave everybody a big, excited smile. Everyone’s her friend, after all. “Did you see me? Did you see me ski right down the hill by myself?”

Then she turned to me and said, “M, I think I was very, very, very terrific.”

You know I agreed.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Well, you hold one nostril closed with your index finger, like this...

Ha. Philip Werner has a blogpost here on an inelegant topic. It reminded me of my first day as a high school cross-country coach. The school was just beginning cross-country and none of the boys (just was the olden days) knew anything about it, or about running distance in general. We were jogging slowly in a group and chatting to get to know each other when one of them asked to be excused, and headed off for the school building. He returned quickly, then another boy needed to go in. When the third boy asked, I realized this couldn’t be what I at first thought it was. So I asked, and received their common answer with incredulity. They had needed to blow their noses. So my first lesson as coach was to teach my apparently virus plagued and ultra-fastidious crew how to manage this procedure without benefit of kleenex.

Runners, of course, also drool, froth at the mouth in hot weather, bleed from untaped nipples in cold weather, frequently produce odd noises from one orifice or another, and occasionally fall victim to poorly timed bodily functions. As a senior in high school, I beat a very good runner in very tough two-mile when he, ah, lost control of himself. In college, I ran with a half-miler who threw up after every race. And, of course, we spit a lot (sorry, sweet B), and often use our shirts as washcloths, bandages, or bar towels. We are a fairly disgusting crew taken all in all. Much worse than most walkers or hikers. Climbers? A toss-up.

And that brings us back to Philip’s post. In the winter mountains, I use a two-step process that relies on digital technique followed by handkerchief or tissue for occasional touch-ups. And if it’s something else, just go behind that bush over there.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Nose bubbles

A minor breakthrough at swimming class the other evening. I’ve recognized that retaining any oxygen at all in my mouth wrecks my ability to inhale properly when I come up for air. I always think I’ve done this right, but usually haven’t. Clearly I need some mechanism to be sure that I expel all that O2. To work on this, I grabbed a kickboard, pushed off from poolside, brought my right arm down along my side, and from there gave myself a little “trigger” by pursing my lips and forcing my tongue hard against my palate to remind me to force whatever air was in my mouth into and then out of my nose, rotated, rolled my head up, and took a good breath. I was able to keep this going, breath after breath—a huge advance for me. Then I began to bring my right arm up and over to simulate a real stroke, while still leaving my left hand in place on the board. That worked smoothly, too.

Until it didn’t. Mine clearly wasn’t the only unattractive cranium in the water, and discombobulation inevitably raised its ugly head. Smart for a change, I just stopped the drill, decided I was happy with what I’d managed, hopped insouciantly out of the pool (class was almost over, anyway) and cheerily headed for the showers.

I think I had a breakthrough. Now I need to figure out the best way to  consolidate it and, eventually, build on it. Next week is the final class of this session. I’ve got to admit that I’m surprised and disappointed at how much trouble I’ve had with this basic skill of breathing. But now I’ve had this little encouragement, too. I’ll be sticking with it, of course, and getting in the pool more often to work on things. At this rate, I may not make my November mile, but I’ll get there eventually.

Stand by for a post or two about ski adventures with sweet B.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Over the Rainbow

How’s this grab ya? I think it’s terrific. (It took me a while to notice that’s a cello her accompanist’s strumming.)

I’ll be looking for more of her stuff.

Friday, February 3, 2012


My friends (and H) are urging me to learn to breathe to both sides as I swim. It’s apparently a good thing generally, and helps keep your technique from getting lopsided. Given that I still gag and sputter no matter which way I breathe, and that even a lopsided technique would be superior to the slap, wiggle, gag I now manage, I’m just going with the good thing approach.

The trick to good breathing while you’re swimming the crawl turns out to be exhaling fully first—weirdly and astonishingly difficult to do, especially when your face is in the water and you’re otherwise ineptly thrashing about. I admit to throwing a minor fit over this issue the other evening, which would have gone unobserved except for  the echoing crack the foam kickboard I was using made when it somehow slammed onto the surface of the water. It promises it won’t do it again.

One of the on-line sources I’ve checked on swimming suggests I try to run while holding my breath, and then to let it all out and breathe in again quickly to demonstrate how awful it is, and then I’ll be more likely to do it right underwater. Quite right, of course, from the points of view of both O2 and rhythm. But I don’t need to be persuaded, I just need to know how.

What I’ve decided is that I need to be in the pool more if this is going to work. So when I re-up in two weeks, I’ll get a full Y membership and try to get over there two or three times a week.

In other exercise activities, it’s getting almost light enough early in the morning for me to put away the blinky light and headlamp when I go out to shuffle. Probably about two more weeks for them, as well. No breathing problems to report.

In the small bedroom, I’ve collapsed sweet B’s redundant crib (she sleeps on a fold-out couch now), reestablished the Total Gym in its old spot, and begun pumping away. The usual tedious drag. But no breathing problems to report.

And in both these activities, I’m perfectly bilateral.