Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The last of 2008

Am sitting here in the quiet of my living room. George the Elder was taken the boys down to the local park - - a blessing since it is kind of cold, drizzling and very foggy. He is a king. He is also a savior. He arrived home from work to find Henry in his room and me with that look of "You arrived at the very nick of time as I was considering beating him with his own arm!" Yes, I am hopeful that this will be the last of Henry's descent in to darkness moments of 2008. We still have several hours to go, but I am hopeful.

Georgie is like water - he flows serenely through his days and there is very little that gets the kid riled up. Henry is like lava - smooth and calm and black until - - well, until he becomes red and bubbly and erupts. Today it was because I asked him to do his Kumon and he discovered that he was 2 worksheets behind. Zero to fifty in about 2.4 seconds. He makes a Maserati look sluggish. I ended up taking him to the store with me to do grocery shopping (yes, that is a punishment. People who throw tantrums cannot be trusted to stay at home while I go to negotiate the size and quality of a pork loin rib roast...) and then he was put in his room (stomping all the way up the stairs) until he could 1) finish at least one kumon worksheet, and 2) become a rational human being again. He was in there for 2.5 solid hours before he emerged. He emerged because he heard Dad and George leaving to go to the park.

It is worthwhile noting that a Kumon worksheet takes approximately 13 minutes to complete. On the outside. Obviously, the ability to rationalize the 2.5 hours in his room staring at the ceiling, in addition to being hauled around a very crowded supermarket for about 40 minutes - - is worth it, as opposed to just doing the damn worksheet. On one hand, you have to admire his tenacity. He's like a dog with a juicy bone. He can't let go. On the other hand, you have to wonder about his ability to see the forest through the trees. Big picture is that he could have been well done with the evil kumon in the time it took me to strong arm him in to the station wagon for the dreaded trip in search of meat.

So, for now all is quiet. I am hopeful that the time outside will do wonders for Henry's disposition and the age old remedy of a little "fresh air" will suffice. He wants to stay up until midnight tonight. We will see. Right now there is a little note taped to the fridge that states "Henry is not permitted to stay up tonight." He will need to figure out a way to convince me to take it down. Short of sprouting real wings and a halo, his chances are slim. I say that, but the flip side of Henry's darkness is that he can be the sweetest, most loving boy you would ever want to be around when he wants to. They wrote "There was a little girl, with a little curl" with Henry in mind. They just changed the sex so that it wasn't so obvious.

We have no real plans for tonight. Gonna sit around, eat corn chowder and play some raucous dominoes while we wait to usher the new year in. I got some party hats and streamers, champagne and bubbly cider for the boys just in case they make it that far. Last year we were in Sri Lanka watching fire dancers. This year we will be in our living room watching TV. Kinda the same, I guess?

Tomorrow George and I will make the New Years pork roast and sauerkraut that will bring us good luck in 2009. He has found a new recipe that calls for homemade cornbread stuffing. I wonder. If the recipe is a total bust do you still get all the luck that the pork is supposed to bring anyway? It sure looks pretty in the Sauveur recipe picture. Am I doubtful that ours will look the same? Absolutely.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Nothing says Christmas like a Glock

As I reported earlier, the boys "got what they asked for" this Christmas. Both guys popped on to Santa's knee, wrote the letters and reminded us for an entire 90 days that the very very very best thing that they could ever get this year would be an air soft gun. I wondered, for the entire 90 days, if there was something that looked like an air soft gun, but wasn't an air soft gun. No dice.

So, while I attended to purchasing other items on the aforementioned list, I passed off the responsibility of getting the guns. Henry merely stated that he wanted a pistol, but Georgie had done the responsible thing by listing the assault rifle by UPC code, model and manufacturer. Good boy. He also included the standy-thing and the scope. He's been known for his ability to think to the future.

So, George ordered said weapons in early December. On December 16th he got an email that said they were back-ordered and wouldn't be in until mid-January. What the @#$??? He called to tell me this while I was in the car. What was I supposed to do at that moment? Pass the ball back to him and tell him to "fix the problem." Fix he did, as you can see from the looks of pure joy on my new little mercenaries faces.

Before they could go out and shoot George the Elder, a "Gunsite" Graduate, schooled the boys on the rules of gun handling designed by Jeff Cooper:





Then, armed (pun intended) with this knowledge they headed to the back yard to annihilate various things such as soda cans, little plastic yakult bottles and, fingers crossed, nothing that resembled a brother or another live creature.

Henry trying to determine which is his dominant eye... the jury is still out.

The Georges and Henry in what used to be our little unused backyard. Now it is a shooting range.

Doesn't he already have the face of an expert sniper? The only thing he needs is to dump the fru-fru beach towel and cover himself with large pieces of foliage for camo.

And while I was feeling kind of like the worst Mother in all of San Francisco (which I still probably am) - Georgie reported that he had asked a number of his friends in other parts of the country and outside the US what they got for Christmas. Surprisingly, about six or seven of his friends are also the new owners of war mongering Christmas toys. I feel satisfied that I am not alone.

Rumor has it that they will head out in the dark tomorrow to pair up the weapons and the infra-red night sight eye-clops goggles. Look out neighborhood cats.

(note: For those of you checking my ability to determine when to start a new paragraph - - I am actually inserting them, but for some reason, they don't appear when I publish. Feel free to insert paragraphs where you see fit)

(note 2: Thanks to Katherine B for the title of this post...)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Xmas Jammies

Hard to imagine, but the theme of this year's family Xmas jammies was "San Francisco". The extent of my creativity is astounding, don't ya think??

For the uninformed blog lurkers, we do a cheesy thing every Christmas. We all get matching Xmas jammies. Did I write about this before?? Anywho, as you can see, we got cool deco rendition t-shirts this year. I also decided to go for bottoms that were useful. The boys got under armour sweats, George got some "after work" lounging pants and Shannon and I scored some really nice new yoga pants. Now all I have to do is actually sign up for a yoga class! At least I have the pants now. (Oh, and a mat that Shannon got me last year for Christmas that is still unused - - perhaps I was just waiting for the pants??)
Christmas was very nice - - except that Shannon was in Atlanta. The boys didn't wake us up until a reasonable hour of 7:30. Could this have been because we told them that their presents from Santa would turn in to ash and soot if we were awakened prior to that hour? Me thinks that the jumping on the bed at EXACTLY 7:30 was just a weird coincidence.
George and I didn't get to sleep until around 1:30 a.m. and it wasn't because we were enjoying watching "A Christmas Story" - - although is that not the funniest damn Christmas movie ever? It is because for some unfathomable reason, we don't wrap the Santa stuff until the night before. We call it "the dark side of Christmas". We wait until the kids are all asleep, then we crack open a bottle of champers for me and George pours himself a bourbon or something of the darker nature and... let the wrapping begin. Again, for some unfathomable reason, I generally estimate that the wrapping will take about 45 minutes. But, there we are 2 hours later, finishing up (both the wrapping and the drinking).
The "dark side" was further extended this year as George the Elder was wrapping George the Younger's gifts and I made the mistake of commenting that perhaps George the Younger was going to think that his gifts were wrapped by Santa's retarded elf. I put forward for his consideration that the wrapping paper was actually supposed to cover the entire gift AND not look like it had been recovered from a crunched up ball at the bottom of the garbage can. George the Elder decided that he wasn't gonna take any of that crap from me and decided to stop wrapping and just enjoy his bourbon. My own damn fault. But honestly, what's so hard about covering things with paper?
The evening's video enhancement of "A Christmas Story" was a bit prophetic as the boys' were given air-soft guns from Santa. In the olden days they called them bb guns, but I guess since the wee plastic balls are no longer metal, they needed to change the name or something? I will get to that tomorrow with pictures of "when George the Elder teaches the boys that an armed society is a polite society." For now we are off to a Cambodian restaurant for dinner. Bring on the grilled pork!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

I miss my girl

Shannon left yesterday to head back east. I cried for the better part of the day. George says that she is no longer allowed to come and visit. Luckily, the boys were off to some friends to make gingerbread houses, so I was pretty much able to bask in my misery for the afternoon until it was time to go and pick them up. George stayed upstairs and communed with his computer while I worked through my issues.

It's kind of that I miss the "girl" stuff - - and of course I just miss her too. But, I am now living with all men. We spend a lot of time dealing with boy things.

We have boy games, eat boy food and watch boy TV. We shop for boy clothes (or let me rephrase, I shop for boy clothes since boys don't particularly care to go shopping). Said clothes are boring to shop for anyway. Jeans, shorts, striped shirts and sports jerseys. Oh, and white socks. Lots of white socks. Woo hoo.

Our conversations lean towards sports, and there's nearly daily conversation about various bodily functions, the speed and velocity of peeing and the size relationship between the penis and the balls.

Never, in the whole time that Shannon was a child did I hear the following comment, "Kiss my hairy balls." On one hand, this was an interesting comment from a guy who doesn't have a single hair on his body. On the other hand, this was not said directly to me, but was overheard in a conversation between the two younger boys. All the boys have been warned that THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE when I am around. We spend the better part of two weeks drilling this in when the boys get back from camp. I don't want to hear about it. Moreover, I don't care a itsy-bitsy about hairy or hairless and I have already heard most of the names they can be called. Enough already.

Any who, it was nice to have Shannon here, even if she was somewhat depressed. We didn't get to spend a whole lot of time together, but we got to go and have lunch where they serve good salads. We went to the bookstore and talked about books we like to read (and whether or not we really thought the Sex in the City movie was all that great). She told me that I needed to get a pair of skinny jeans to haul my butt in to the 21st century (I declined) and she borrowed some perfume while she was here. There were two of us "girls." It was nice. And, as I mentioned before - - at least there was someone here to help me finish decorating the tree.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Early Christmas

It's been a heck of a week. Shannon arrived last Sunday night at 1:00 in the morning thanks to some snow in the Midwest. It was really great to have her. But, she is suffering from a broken heart, so she wasn't exactly in the frame of mind to fully enjoy my obsession with Christmas-music-all-day. She would have been happier suffering to all the other "my-heart-is-broken-you-are-the-only-guy-for-me" pop songs on other radio stations. I made her suffer through.

Her on-again-off-again boyfriend, who swore that that they were going to be married someday come hell or high water in an email to me this past summer, decided that...well, hell or high water wasn't the benchmark any longer. He got a new girl. Shannon's heartbroken, but I gave her the "men are like buses...a new one goes by every 15 minutes" pep talk and while she wasn't exactly perky the whole time she was here, there were moments when she wasn't sobbing that her life was over and she was going to die alone with only cats to keep her company.

In addition to trying to keep the blues at bay for Shannon, it was the boys' last week of school before the break. As those of you with past or present elementary and middle school students you know that this means the requisite chaos and confusion that comes with extra holiday festivities. Secret Santa stuff, presents for teachers and in our case, an all-school ice skating bonanza and the elementary holiday play.

The holiday play was by far the best piece of children's school theater I have had the pleasure of seeing. The actually rent out a full-on theater about 10 minutes drive from the school. This does entail much car-pooling back and forth for rehearsals, but the end result on Thursday evening was an amazing montage of musical-type plays with a Brazilian theme and lots of great music. Henry played his violin, sang many songs and played the role of "Tree Spirit One." The plays had nothing to do with Christmas or any of the holidays, but in the true spirit of the San Francisco school, mainly focused on being kind to each other and saving the forests from destruction. I have ordered the DVD, so perhaps at some point in the future I will load up Henry's big scene.

Shannon left this morning, so we celebrated Christmas for her similar to the "real" Christmas morning before she left. In other words, we roused her happy butt out of bed at close to 8 a.m. and opened presents. We also opened our family Christmas jammies. This year we chose a SF theme - - retro printed T-shirts with a cool rendition of the Golden Gate - - and took the annual family photo. It'll end up looking just like we do every Christmas morning, 'cept it wasn't really Christmas. The boys all have disheveled hair, Shannon uses some piece of Christmas ribbon to tie in her hair and I will appear to have no lips unless I apply some lipstick.

And, why is it that every year it takes an extra 10 minutes to remember how to set the automatic timer on the damn camera? You "know" how to do it, it's on the tip of your memory tongue, there are little icons that should be leading you to the right operation - - and yet. This year however, we did have the cutest little tri-pod to set the camera on, so at least we did not have to attempt to building the "cat-in-the-hat" tower consisting of books, plates and teacups to achieve the proper elevation for the photo. There have been Christmases where we have either had to elevate ourselves or scrunch down to accommodate the camera. Not this year. It just took 10 minutes to figure out the timer and another 20 minutes of running back and forth until we were satisfied that we had a good shot. Dollars to donuts, when I download those suckers there won't be a single one where we are all smiling simultaneously with our eyes open. Yup, a pretty typical Christmas photo.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Deck the Halls...

We decorated our Christmas tree last night. Why is it that the whole hallmark-card-visions-of-sugarplums ideal is what we always remember just BEFORE you start the decorate the tree? Why is it that when you are done the last thing the whole ordeal actually resembles is the hallmark-card-visions-of-sugarplum ideal? Yeesh.

Sure, the whole thing starts out wonderfully, the kids are excited, they gleefully go through their ornaments, remember which ones are theirs, fight over the ones that aren't marked and practically skip over to the tree to find the "perfect place" to hang them. That lasts exactly 20 minutes. Next thing you know, Shannon and I are still hanging stuff, George the Elder has retired to the couch to do whatever he does until he is called to put the tree topper on and the boys are chasing each other around the room with a Nerf ball making the dog crazy. Oh, I am also yelling at them to "Come and finish the Tree! This is supposed to be a FAMILY activity!" Whatever.

As always, the tree ended up looking really cool. I like that we don't have a "theme" tree and when it is all decorated it is just covered with memories. A boat-load of memories really. This is why the boys get bored. We have a "few" ornaments (defined as more than 10 and less than 200) and I like them all to go up. Yup. No one to blame but myself that the number of ornaments to be hung far exceeds the attention span of the male members of my household. If I were honest with myself I would realize that that number is say, ten. After ten ornaments the activity loses it's appeal.

We have my felt snowman from kindergarten who is now one-legged and eye-less, we have Shannon's early attempts at art and sculpture, glittery pine cones made by George 9 years ago and Henry's "snowflake" which is nothing more that a few twigs held together by string. We have origami from Japan, tiny little red phone booths from London, the coolest retro 8-ball ornaments from Camden Town, and a tree topper that is an angel with the head of a bull terrier. It would not win a single Martha Stewart award. But, it's damn fun to look at.

Wait! Maybe that's the solution. I am looking at the ornaments like a girl. If only I had thought to make all the ornaments interesting to the boys in my family, maybe we could live the hallmark moment. Yes, I see it now. Bobble-heads of all of our favorite sports characters, tiny little t-shirts from all the European soccer teams, little replicas of any kind of vehicle, a few dinosaurs, bugs and throw in a couple that made realistic bodily noises and man! They'd be at it all night.

Oh, and in case this blog ever acts as my last will and testament: I bequeath to Shannon my felt gimpy snowman, the used-to-be-white owl with the bent sequin eyes and ratty feathers and the little ceramic mouse in the babushka and moo-moo. She must promise to put these on the tree every year alongside her Care Bears GIANT ball, the numerous sculpy Santa heads, the green and red beaded safety pin creation and the mostly-disintegrated ice-cream-cone-satin-ball-with-sparkles that she made in kindergarten.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Smile Pretty

We headed over to our local mall today so the boys could see Santa. They are now 10 and 12. They both still believe. I am certain that these days are numbered. Still, they were anticipating the visit.

They had written letters and so were a little confused as to why, if Santa had already gotten the letters, they needed to actually "ask" for the things that they wanted. I just told them that it was more polite to ask in person. Give the guy a break - - all those letters to read! But, it's been a while since we've been to a U.S. Santa and it turns out you literally have to plead with the helpers for the extra two minutes to actually have a conversation with the guy. Basically, it is a long long line for kids to wait in for a photo op.

First, you have to decide what package of photos you are buying before you can even get an audience with the guy. I wonder if you decided not to spend more than thirty bucks on some mediocre photographs if they would even let you near his lap. I, of course, wanted photos but they seemed flummoxed that I wanted to actually see the photos before I decided. What if the kids looked stupid or Santa's eyes were closed? The elf did not see my point. I had to decide first and THEN if the pictures were stupid, I could choose differently. Was this better line management? I wasn't sure.

So the boys get up there and the helper immediately herds both the boys at the same time towards Santa's lap. I nicely asked if they could first go separately so that they could have some private conversation with the red suit. The woman looked at me like, "Why do they want to talk to him? Could I not see that there was a line of screaming preened children behind me?" I told her that even if they both took 3 minutes whispering their desires in to Santa's ear, they guy was still making more than $300 an hour. She begrudgingly obliged them.

The photos came out pretty good after all, but what ever happened to the cheesy little photo "frames" that used to come with your photos? Now they just print out what you ordered and jam them in to a little white envelope. No little paper frame, no nothing. What a rip. You could, of course, choose to purchase the "pewter-like" frame for an additional $17.99. I decided against.

So, after photos with Santa, we went to get our tree. We got a nice one, tied on the roof of the car and headed home. We were so excited to get it in to its little nifty tree stand when we got home. No joy.

When we unpacked from London I KNOW I saw our Christmas tree stand. I KNOW I actually touched the thing and put it somewhere. Somewhere where I know it would be handy at such a time that I needed it to put a tree in it. I can't find that damned thing anywhere. It's big. It's green. It's heavy. There's only a few places where it could be. It is in none of those places. I have packed and upacked that bad johnny from Tokyo to Frankfurt to London. It was one of those really cool ones that have the little lever that you press to tighten the bungie-like metal wire. Tree goes in straight with none of that screw-the-little-metal-screws into the trunk while holding it straight and steady for 10 minutes.

I had to run to Home Depot and get a new one. A cheesy metal one with the little screws. I hate those screws. The tree is still crooked. Once it's decorated and the lights are on only I will ever notice it. And I will notice it until the day we take it down. Crap.

On a lighter note - - Shannon arrives tomorrow night. We will hold off on tree decorating until she is here to share it with us. She has her 28th birthday while she is here. Yup. That's right 28. Crap.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Da Bears

Georgie played his first JV basketball game yesterday. I wish there was a photo or two I could share, but alas, my camera and I were not simpatico and I got lots of blurred shots. I still can't get the whole "sports" mode thing down and I need a stronger lens. Dear Santa, What I want for Christmas is...

Georgie was so damn excited for this game. He said he was so nervous that he couldn't get to sleep ALL NIGHT. I did check on him right before I went to sleep at 11, so I guess "all night" just means until about 10:30. He was up at around 6:15 a.m padding around, so I know he really was excited.

He has a nice little black/red/white uniform for the San Francisco School Bears that I will show once my camera and I understand each other. He is number 34. Not his personal choice - - since the number 7 is his "lucky" number (yup. Get in the long line for that one!). When they were getting their uniforms assigned the other night all the boys were bemoaning the length of the shorts and the tank tops. They think their shorts are too short because they are not hanging off their butts and pooling around the tops of the basketball shoes. If only they could see the hot pants from the 70's! The wanted to wear black t-shirts under their nylon tank tops, but the coach vetoed it. I have to admit that most of their arms did look kind of scrawny.

It was a very exciting game as far as basketball games for the under 5'2" crowd goes. They were actually executing plays, passing the ball and getting yelled at by the coach like they were a real team! I am not sure how this will go over with some of our "softer" ultra-liberal-don't-yell-at-the-kids-everyone's-a-winner parents -- but I wrote the coach an email (and copied the headmaster) so they will at least know that they have one parent that's o.k. with the coach yelling at her kid when he makes a bone-headed move!

They ended up winning the game 21 to 7. A rousing triumph. While G3 didn't personally score any points, he played defense well and was engaged in the game the whole time. It's entirely possible that Georgie's feet never touched the ground from the time that last buzzer rang until I brought him down to earth by reminding him that he had two tests to study for. Felt badly to take the air out of his balloon, but Spanish and English tests wait for no man. Not even a victorious 6th grade Bear.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Kanye and Me

This morning on the way to school the boys and I were talking about the upcoming activities over the next couple of weeks. Well, we weren't exactly "conversing" in the sense that we were exchanging information, It was more just me talking to them - - or technically, me talking to myself. We have Georgie's first basketball game on Wednesday, the holiday play is coming up and then there's the school ice skating party next week.

I was also mentioning that Shannon would be coming on Sunday night - so we were going to do this and we were going to that, etc. I finally mentioned that she and I were going to be ushers at the school play. At this point, it became clear that Georgie (and surely Henry too) were only listening to part of what I say because G3 immediately piped up and said, "You and Shannon are going to see Usher??? Why can't I get tickets to see Usher??"

I clarified that I was using the word usher as a verb not in reference to a musical performer. Georgie then announced that I probably didn't even know who Usher was. I responded, "Do you think I live under a rock? I read People Magazine. Heck, I ride in the car with you every day. What do you think we are listening to?" (O.K., so recently I have been subjecting them to the All-Christmas-All-Day song station - - such the sap that I am - - but on every other damn day we listen to their stuff.)

So, to further make his point that I am old and completely without any up-to-date cultural knowledge, he starts quizzing me on who I really do know. Solja boy? Flo Rida? (at this point I launched in to my own rendition of Low - - apple bottom jeans all the way through the booty smack - which Henry thought was funny) And finally he says, "Okay, I bet you don't even know who Kanye West is!!" Problem was, he pronounced it as Cain West.

I told him the correct pronunciation was Kan-Yeah, but he wouldn't have any of this. He had asked HIS friend Eric who is obviously the go-to-guy for music trivia in the 6th grade. He was SURE it was Cain. Eric said it was so. I said we should call Shannon, the coolest big sister on the planet, to settle the argument. Let's just say that thanks to Shannon I emerged "cool, hip, Mom" this morning.

Having said that, I am glad that he didn't ask me to sing anything of Kanye's. All I could think of was that Kanye's mother had just died after some problematic cosmetic plastic surgery. Like I said, I read People.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pretty Please

I had to buy some new make-up the other day. For the record, I am not one of those girly-girls who have vats and boxes full of cosmetics hidden under the sink, in vanity drawers or in closets. I have a make-up bag that consists of the following: mascara, blush, lipstick and tweezers. O.K. that's not exactly true. I do have a second small bag of "dress-up" cosmetics. My every-day routine is spiced up considerably with sheer foundation, neutral colored eye-shadow and eye-liner. The only thing I own multiples of is lipstick. Much of the multi-lipstick colors are left overs from my working days. I suspect that according to any lip color guru these tubes are far beyond their expected lip-stick lives. Alas. Should I ever drop dead at some future cocktail party of unknown causes, please do ask the coroner to check for death-by-expired-lipstick.

I needed some new mascara so I went shopping. I, of course, put on "dress-up" make-up before attending to this errand. Why? Because I am intimidated by cosmetic sales people. They always look so shiny and twinkly and they spend more than my own personal make-up application limit of 3.5 minutes on their own faces. They know all the newest products, they use them, they live them, they ARE them. I have, at one time or another, actually had to wipe purse lint off of my blush tube. I could be condemned to make-up hell for this in their universe. They treat cosmetics like manna from heaven. I treat cosmetics like they are something that keep me from looking like death warmed over.

As you approach the counter they always peer (leer?) at you like you are some foreign species. A foreign species that is a treasure trove of potential cosmetic needs. Your skin quality is immediately critiqued and your application techniques are second guessed. You can actually see them mentally running through their own product catalog, as well as all other product lines, for items that you would absolutely have to have in order to be presentable. They want to fix you. They want to age-defy you. I just want new mascara. Do I want a complete make-over so I can see what my face would look like in it's ultimate, beautified, age-defying state? No. Why? Because every time I have had a make-over I end up looking way, way closer to "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" than is desirable.

In the end, I honestly believe that the "dress-up" make-up helped make the situation more bearable for both me and the sales person. She believed that I actually took 10 minutes to apply the requisite facial shield every day. This fit in to her world view and I was only happy to have made her more comfortable. In return, I was only advised on a select few new items and the only advice administered was that a little more cream-type blush would help make me look more dewy. I guess you can't err on the side of too much dewiness.

It was all very civilized. I raptly listened to her spiel. I reverently and lovingly fondled a couple of new eye-shadow colors because it seemed the right thing to do. I looked at the 17 million new kinds of mascara - - new wand types, new formulas for longer, lusher lashes. I bought the same mascara I have used for the past five years. It only took 15 minutes. I was happy.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I have a funny sister

It appears I am being taught a lesson. This lesson is "Never mention your opinion of GIANT blow-up lawn ornaments" in your blog. Should this happen, you will be rewarded with the most GIANT-EST blow-up lawn ornament that is available outside of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

Once this baby started inflating I went back to look for some dwarfs in the bag who's job it would be to tether this sucker down in strong winds. I actually couldn't put this in my front lawn. My lawn is too small. Luckily, I have this outdoor porch. Makes it look like we've got the polar bear in a pen. Oh, and you can't really see it in this photo - - but he's actually illuminated so that everyone in SF can see this puppy at night. We will be in the next google-earth satellite photo for sure.

Neither Henry nor George the elder has seen this yet. Henry will LOVE it. George the elder will feel right at home. His aunt in Philly has the biggest collection of lawn paraphernalia I have ever seen. She will be jealous!! As for Otto, this inflatable pair obviously is a force to be reckoned with. He hasn't stopped growling at them and he won't go up or down the stairs. Guess he's gonna have to learn to cope.

Can't wait to surround this piece of Christmas art with all the multi-colored outdoor lights I got yesterday. That's gonna win us "christmas year of the year" for sure.

And, thanks Deb. You're the best big sister ever.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cambodia Tomorrow School

Today in Cambodia (our tomorrow), the new school for the orphanage will be dedicated. One of the board members from Cambodia Tomorrow is there for the ribbon cutting ceremony. We had considered going ourselves, but in the end we decided that the boys should be staying in school here in SF this time.

The building looks really nice - - but get a load of the size of the sign! When we first saw the "sign" via e-mail photos the shot was taken in a zoomed-in view with nothing to gauge the actual dimensions. We thought it was going to be a little plaque located next to the front door. Imagine our surprise when we saw the billboard-sized sign that they put out. The good news is that they got the named spelled right. This is some kind of Cambodian miracle. Actually, it is a miracle anywhere. The kids have been going to the same summer camp for the last three years. The batting average for the camp in spelling our names right is low. Very low.

As it turned out, we were never able to come up with a cool school name that included the letters of the kids names. Finally, we decided that the name of the school would be the Cambodia Tomorrow School reflecting the name of the non-profit. The school's motto however, would be "Growth, Hope, Success" There's our nod to George, Henry and Shannon. Although, at this point, I guess the size of the sign leaves no uncertainty, eh?

I have also heard that there are T-shirts for all the Cambodian students with the school name and motto just like the painting on the side of the building. I'm hoping to score a couple for the kids. Truthfully, I am hoping to score one for myself as well.

I was wishing that the one photo with all the Cambodian folk would include our two other little guys that are still there in the orphanage, but alas they are not in this shot. Perhaps tomorrow at the ceremony the board members will remember to take one. They are really great kids and doing well in school. Each time we get a letter from them their English proficiency improves. Fingers crossed they will be able to move one through university.

The coolest thing is to realize that the school is finally built and in operation. We've been working on this for three years. Camtom has been dreaming it for far longer. It's so amazing that it is finished and the kids have somewhere to go to school with desks and windows and doors. Pretty nifty when you think about it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving Riddles

On Thursday, Henry was in charge of decorating the Thanksgiving Table. It is hard to see, but along with the traditional holiday greeting, the table was decorated with California State Flags. Before the titles went on, I was wondering why he was drawing goats floating on clouds in little boxes. Obviously, he needs to work on both the overall girth and ferociousness of the California Bear. Along with his beautiful art work, Henry further treated us to some thanksgiving riddles. Just before dinner, each family member got one at our plate.

Riddle #1:

I'm here at the table and I eat very slow. Who am I?? (Answer: Henry)

Riddle #2:

I swear a lot and love recesses (he meant Reeses ). Who am I??? (Answer: Dad)

Riddle #3:

I love my orange ball and snore louder than Dad. Who am I??? (Answer: Otto)

Riddle #4:

I once won a science fair and I don't live here. Who am I??? (Answer: Shannon)

What a crack up. He was so cute. He a) really thought that these would be stumpers for everyone and b) was convinced that we didn't know who wrote them. Let's just be clear that Henry's handwriting is distinctive. He has a future in the medical profession just writing prescriptions. Of course we played along and all hummed and hawed before answering. I don't think he has a future in riddle writing.

We ate the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers last night. My final thing to be thankful for this thanksgiving season is that it will be another full year before we eat gravy and stuffing for three consecutive days.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 49. Yes, really turned 49. Next year I will turn 49 again. I think I will turn 49 for the rest of my life. I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not one of those people who will age gracefully. I intend to fight it all the way.

I keep reflecting that I simply don't feel like I have 364 days left until I am 50. That is until I try to get up off the floor quickly after playing a game with the boys. I'm a little less nimble than I used to be. My right knee makes the same noise that Cinderella's step sister Prunella's did in the original Rogers and Hammerstein TV presentation of the same name. Having just typed that, I realized that that presentation was made in 1965. Perhaps my knee is just remarking that I need to get a reality check on how old I actually am. Hell, since then Brandy has starred in a 1996 version that is already ELEVEN years old. Crap. The good news? Pat Carroll who played in the role of Prunella is still living. Thank heavens.

It's as if there is some disconnect between actually aging externally and aging internally. In my mind's eye I am still brown haired with a nice firm ass. In reality I have significantly less brown hair than gray and I have a 49 year old ass. If said ass is packed snugly (I said "snugly" not "hermetically sealed" - I am not a fool) in to a pair of jeans, it doesn't jiggle so much. But left to it's own devices unfettered by the restraints of denim laced with a smidgen of Lycra it's like a damn bowl of jello. Should I be doing some squats or something or is it just far too late for that?

Not too many months ago I was on the train in Boston with the boys. I was giving the motherly lecture on how to be a gentleman on the train by offering elderly people your seat on the train. I explained that they were young and supple and that elderly people would benefit more from the seat than they would. Not but seconds after this a young college girl, who was seated and apparently overheard my mini-lecture, tapped me on the shoulder and offered me her seat. If I'd of had a cane I would have hit her with it. Snotty little brat.

Having said all that - - I want to give a shout out to my family who made navigating the perils of aging yesterday a much kinder, gentler experience. I asked for a day to read a book cover to cover. I was graciously awarded that request. Henry made me a lovely necklace out of hand "knitted" kitchen string and Georgie gave me a coupon for a massage. (Aside: I don't think Georgie totally got the concept that he was supposed to be giving me something that he was going to pay for. He and George the Elder apparently had a conversation about the art of giving someone a gift that that person would enjoy and appreciate. Obviously, George the Younger missed the secondary part about being able to afford said gift. In other words, I got a piece of paper that is pretty much worthless with the exception of the good intentions behind it. We are halfway there.) Last, George the Elder made a delicious dinner of Kobe beef with sauteed mushrooms and black truffle gnocchi. He even bought me a sumptuous banana-creme pie. I adore that pie. Could this be another contributor to the jiggly ass? Most likely, but hell, it was my birthday. I'm old - I deserved it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Great Turkey Day

Another Thanksgiving here and gone. I suspect that the national power grid is returning to normal. I was thinking that given that my own oven was on for nearly two days straight - - how does that compute for the whole of the US with millions of ovens? Does this particular day add to global warming - - 325 degrees of cooking for an entire day? That's some heat.

This year we decided to get our turkey from a nice little local butcher. They had several choices for birds - sort of like a gourmet turkey menu. They had weird names like Willie Birds and Branigans. There were a couple of other types all boasting some special feature such as having superior dark meat, those that were fed only the finest in corn kernels by hand or turkeys that spent their entire lifetime on a turkey farm that treated them far better than any other turkeys. Given all this information, it took some few minutes before we could decide on the "type" of turkey that we wanted. I was hoping for the dress-itself-cook-itself variety, but I was informed that this type of humor was not appreciated in a butcher shop that prides itself on wondrous fowl for eating. We selected the Branigan. Don't ask me why. I think we just liked the name. Sort of an Irish Turkey theme.

Again this year, we went for the brining cooking method. For all of you that brine you know the drill. Boil lots of water, add lots of salt and several other things found in nature. The first year we did this, the recipe actually called for a wild pine branch. We were living in Japan at the time. Not a whole lot of giant conifers around. We skipped the branch. This year, we went the prepared route and got our brine mixture at Williams-Sonoma. I had Georgie helping me when we added the turkey and brine in to the exceptionally large plastic zip-lock baggie. There we were wrestling o'turkey in to the giant bag while adding 6 million quarts of water when - - we both let go of the bag at the same time. I have heard of salt rubs at fancy spas. I have never heard of a salt shower replete with tiny little hunks of citrus and thyme springs. It was not pretty. Luckily, we were doing this in the basement. I have a sisal rug covering the cement floor. Now, it will forever smell like salt water and citrus. While I did not find this particularly amusing, Georgie sure got a good laugh. He was on the dry side of the brine bag. I have pickled feet.

In the end, we had great food, great company and a to-die-for-pumpkin pie. Not your average Libby's for us. Got the recipe from "The Pie Bible" (I kid you not) and while it did require a 17 step crust, much simmering of raw brown sugar and a crushing of 5 ginger snaps - - it was really really worth it. (Quick aside - why is it that when you need only 5 ginger snaps the only box of snaps that can be bought is the one that serves an entire senior citizens center???) The boys also got to have their first taste of cool-whip. They had never had this before and were curious. So, we did a little taste test - cool-whip versus real whipped cream. Real whipped cream won the taste test - - but then again, I cheated. I knew that the cool whip would be sweeter than plain whipped cream (my all time favorite) - - but I didn't want the kids thinking that the crap in the plastic tub was actually better. So, I slipped in a couple of teaspoons of sugar during the beating when they weren't looking. I think that the added fun of watching cream get whipped further tilted the scales. I don't regret the cheating.

After dinner was finished, the dishes washed and the last of the wine drank, the boys challenged George and I to a vicious game of Monopoly. Henry summarily brought us all to our economic knees in a little over 90 minutes. I have never seen a game of Monopoly come to it's fatal end. The typical end of the game, in my experience, is when people have played for too long and just succumb to boredom. Not this game.

George the Elder went down first. A bitter, bitter pill to swallow. His 10 year old had just out maneuvered him in a game that has to do with real estate and cash. Henry tried not to be too much of a braggart, but when your Dad has had to mortgage both Park Place and Boardwalk and then hand over the cards to you (along with his remaining $16 in monopoly money) - - well, a little hubris is deserved. Within short order Henry had hotels on nearly every corner and so follows the most basic Monopoly rule of all. "He who has hotels -- wins!!" Georgie and I went down lickety-split. The funniest thing was that right before Georgie gave it up - - Henry had just been sent to jail. So there he sat in the slammer while Georgie and I ended up giving him everything we owned. A true real estate baron.

And, for those of you who have ever spent a Thanksgiving with me and know that I have an uneasy relationship with knives - - I would like to report that for the first time in as long as I can remember, I made it through the entire day without cutting myself at all! And with so many things to be thankful for, that was just whipped cream on the pumpkin pie!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Big Turkey

I'm walking Otto the other morning and I saw this GIANT inflatable turkey in one of my neighbor's lawns. I burst out laughing when I saw it - - I was alone! Crazy person on the street. Today, I made the boys drive around until I located it again (my neighborhood has non-block-like streets and sometimes on my walks with Otto, I meander aimlessly.)

It is clear that these folks are not limited by extravagant Halloween
decorations. I am looking forward to how they deck the halls for Christmas. Will there be a giant inflatable santa? Will there be an all out sleigh and reindeer on the roof? The anticipation is killing me. Frankly, I was also secretly curious to know if there was a cornucopia shaped bouncy-house somewhere in their backyard.

Lately, I have realize that I am moderately inflicted with a kind of agoraphobia. Actually, it more like large-store-intolerance. Since coming back to the US, I have had repatriation issues with big retail centers. I find I can tolerate Target in small doses - mainly because I HAVE to do stuff there. But, I cannot bare any kind of Safeway, Giant or any other super-sized grocery store. Costco and Sam's are entirely out of the question. The crowds are too much and I am overwhelmed with the choices of products. With regards to Costco, I question what is the world I would ever do with 8,000 rolls of toilet paper in my home at one time? My little local grocery store is right up my alley and I still shop every day similar to my life over seas. It is absolutely certain that my grocery bill is higher because of this - - but my sanity is priceless, right? Besides, I cannot think far enough in advance to determine what I am going to have for dinner on more than one consecutive night. (Question: can one night be "consecutive"?)

Knowing that I abhor going - - still, I reluctantly bit the bullet and went to Safeway today to do the lion's share of my Thanksgiving shopping. It was a hellish experience. Why, oh why would I choose to go to a place I cannot stand on the very day when 120% of the human population is also clawing their way through the isles cramming their baskets full of cranberry sauce and fixins' for stuffing? What a dope. I rarely drink and I never drink anything amber colored, but I swear that I felt that this might be the one time I wanted to have a scotch. Straight-up.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sweet Respite

Just returned last night on the red-eye from New York City. I am now completely convinced that no person over the age of, say, 40 should take the red-eye. I looked around at my fellow passengers in the San Francisco airport upon arriving at a little after midnight and we were a sorry, sorry bunch. Younger people tend to have springier skin. Us oldies looked like we had had those terrible airplane blankets etched in to our foreheads - permanently.

I left on Thursday morning just in the knick of time. I had realized Wednesday night that the kids and I really, really, really needed a break from one another. I was feeling that feeling like I wasn't very good at my "job" of being a full time mom. I was having empathetic thoughts of animals that eat their young -- and enjoy it. It was just one of those days. Georgie was torqued because I didn't agree that studying exactly 20 minutes to learn 80 new Spanish verbs was sufficient. I actually made him do the math of dividing the 80 words in to the 20 minutes to derive the exact time that could have been spent on memorizing said new words. This math problem sent him over the edge at which time he burst in to tears and yelled, "I AM NOT GOING TO STUDY ANYMORE AND YOU CAN'T MAKE ME!!!" Wanna bet?? This exchange of pleasantries occurred directly on the heels of Henry "practicing" his violin. Since Henry is afraid being in any room of the house alone (another topic for another post), I have to go and hang out with him while he practices. Wednesday's practice should have been called "time for Henry to whine" because that's all he did through the whole 20 minutes. Henry can whine in a tone that only dogs and bats can hear. This set me off on one of those age old Mother lectures of "do you know that it is costing us $400 a month to provide you violin lessons?" and "I could think of million other things to do with $400 a month - - like buy shoes that don't whine or take myself out to dinner where the waiter wouldn't whine!" and finally "Do you know what starving children in any number of countries, including our own, could do with $400???" Henry was then yelling at me because, "He really was trying!" Liar Liar pants on fire! And then George who was sitting there during the practicing keeping himself busy playing PSP then wanted me to "quiz" him on his Spanish words. After not knowing the first three that I asked him - - our altercation began.

By the time George got home from work, the atmosphere in the kitchen was thick with pissed off kids (now doing their dreaded Kumon - talk about adding insult to injury) and a seething wife/mom. He is a smart man and took over the fight about the Spanish with George. Given that Dad was now focusing solely on the transgressions of George and working with him to study - Henry did what all children do when their brother is now in trouble. He miraculously sprouted wings and a halo and in that annoying Eddie Haskell way helped me get dinner on the table. I find this irritating, but he was helping. I actually called him "Eddie" but he didn't get the reference. A nice little inside joke with just myself. Makes me sound kinda crazy doesn't it?

All of this to say that when I got on that plane on Thursday morning, I was damn ready for it!

Today I am back. The boys had a great weekend doing boy things and I had a great weekend doing girl things. This morning we were all happy to see each other again. And, besides having airplane blanket patterns still etched in to my forehead, I am relaxed and ready to take on the role of Mom again -- this time with a little more patience!

More importantly, I know that George absolutely believed that I needed a break. I know this because not only was he encouraging of my weekend away in NYC, but the house clean when I got home last night at 1:00 in the morning. And best of all -- today I discovered that he had done the laundry in my absence. I am married to the best guy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How Far?

We live exactly 10 minutes drive from the beach. It took us 3 1/2 months to get there. (No, we are not particularly slow drivers.) Had it not been unseasonably warm this past weekend, it may have taken us longer. We are lazy and unmotivated.

What does it say about us that it took us that long to get up the gumption to go to a beach that is literally in our backyard? Perhaps we are not beach people unless that beach has a concierge that will bring us drinks with little tiny umbrellas? Perhaps we are only beach people when the water temp on said beach is more than 50 degrees? Whatever it says, I think that "generally sluggish" is more accurate.

That being said, the boys had a fab time walking on the beach. We collected all manner of beach things - - sand dollars and rocks. The sand dollars are soaking in bleach in hopes of achieving that pristine Florida Beach look. I'm thinking this might be too aggressive for Northern California sand dollars. They are sort of a light ecru color at best. These particular dollars lead a harder life than those perched on the white sands of the East.

As for the rocks, have you ever noticed that when rocks are slightly wet and are selected from the beach, they are interesting and beautiful and have cool patterns and fascinating rock features? However, once placed in a boy's pocket they emerge dry, dullish and have been magically transformed from stellar to meager-so-so rock quality. These so-so rocks are now sitting on the kitchen counter where they were dumped yesterday. I will move them in a day or so to another less obvious counter. In a week or so I will move them to a drawer in the boy's room. It it likely that they will never actually touch them again. I, of course, will need to pack and move these rocks at some point in the future. All this because I know that if I actually just chuck them out the window, they will NEED to see these rocks tonight. Somehow they know when the rocks are gone. How does this happen??

Saturday, November 15, 2008

We LOVE snails

Today Henry and I headed over to the San Francisco Exploratorium for a little family science. We took a class called "Garden Snail Inquiry." Who'd have thunk that snails were so damn fascinating?

We started the class with a little ice breaker of writing Haiku about snails. Again, who'd have ever thunk to write poetry about the lowly garden snail. Henry and I came up with our Haiku together: Oh hidey-home snail! Curious tentacle touch. Leaving shiny trail. Look out all past and present poet laureates. The Wisniewski's are on a tear.

Overall, the class was pretty interesting. We got to explore snails in compelling ways. Henry ended up trying to build a snail obstacle course. After some trial and error we figured out that you need to lure them with food. We discovered that they don't like Jolly Ranchers. Could we have stumbled upon the idea that will make us millions? Repackaging Jolly Ranchers as tiny little garden encircling bricks? Not surprisingly, they are healthy eaters. The little buggers prefer strawberries and leaves. Life lessons in snail management. Oddly, of all the supplies that they provided to provoke intriguing science questions regarding snails - salt was noticeably missing. Go figure.

We did have one minor glitch with our first experiment. We were to take our snail, put it in a tin foil pan, cover it with a lid that blocked out all the light except for the small square cut-out that we then covered up with a high powered flashlight. We were attempting to determine whether Mr. Slimy would crawl to or away from the light. Our snail definitely went towards the light. Yes, towards the light in the poltergeist sense of the word. "Carol Anne, stay away from the light, baby!" After 5 minutes of waiting for our specimen to prove our hypothesis out, we eventually determined that he was dead. There he remained, curled up inside his shell having left to join his fellow departed snail friends. We held a one minute funeral and got another snail.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Worth 1,000 words

I was trying to get some photos together today to put in a letter that I am writing to our other two Cambodian sons. When they closed all foreign adoptions from Cambodia (not to mention from Vietnam yet again), we decided that we would sponsor two brothers around the same ages as G & H. We write and send photos several times a year. Anywho...
I was looking through bunches of photos and came across these of Henry and George. After the afternoon yesterday when I thought I wanted to ground them (both figuritively and literally), I realize that I just have to take a look at these photos to remember that they are the most precious little guys I have ever had the honor of loving.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Do I look good in stripes?

Please note the vacant and bewildered look captured on the face of this referee. Now, imagine this look on my face.

Please note the red penalty card that he is waving up and down. Now, imagine me waving this wildly in front of my two children's faces. Further imagine that the wild waving has absolutely no effect whatsoever.

Today was one of those days when I felt I should trade in all my normal-person clothes and send off to Referees-R-Us for the wardrobe that I really ought to be wearing. Do you think that if I were wearing the ref stripes that they might actually listen to me? Do you think an uncommonly high pitched shrill whistle that would cause actual head pain would help?

Good night nurse!! If wasn't "he's touching me!", "he's pestering me!" or "he's not sharing!!", it had already descended in to darkness as in "he PUNCHED me!!" This was then rapidly followed by highly emotive wailing and thrashing.

The aforementioned wailing and thrashing was (and typically is) Henry's starring role in this scenario. While Henry would surely prefer to be the one doing the punching and not the wailing, his punching accuracy sucks. The most typical exchange is Henry trying to pop George. The reason for wanting to hit him is vastly wide and varied. Regardless of the motivation behind the punch, Henry's inaccurate bash is reduced to a grazing-slapish kind of thing. George's response is to cuff him back. Only where George is concerned, his aim is true and he is infinitely stronger. Plus, he's been provoked so he has anger backing his wallop. Hence, the wailing.

The other twist in this scenario is that this exchange almost always happens while I am driving and they are in the back seat. I have a sneaking suspicion that they know I cannot reach them given the configuration of the car, the length of my arms and the semi-public nature of the automobile. They know that if they try this at home, I will chase them down. Punishment is swift and sure. In the car, I am virtually impotent. The most I can do is yell. CUT IT THE HECK OUT!!! FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!!

By the time we finally arrived home everyone's knickers were in a twist. I fed the animals and moods improved. At least until the third damn time I asked them to start their homework. I've still got the ref stuff on order.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dia de los Muertos

November 2nd was Dia de las Muertos - the day of the dead. Henry's Spanish teacher invited all of the 4th graders over to her home that evening to make bate-bate (chocolate) and to get their faces painted before the procession down in the mission. As you can see, most the kids were not particularly keen on the whole skeletal face-painting part. However, chocolate was consumed.

November 2 was so close to the elections that when we got down to the Mission to wait for the parade, there was a whole group of people trying to get the vote out for "No on 8" - the proposition that opposed gay marriage. You can see the sign in the background. Before too long - - the kids were all wearing "No on 8" stickers and had started their own unique chant. For 30 minutes or more the kids yelled, "No on 8! Yes on Tacos!" Don't ask me or any of them where the taco part came from - - but soon enough the whole crowd was chanting it. The lead woman of the No on 8 coalition put a call in to several other "cells" that were operating around SF and soon enough we could hear, "No on 8! Yes on Tacos" from as far away as Oakland. Amazing.

Last night I got an email from the lead woman, Lacy, who wrote, " LOVED dancing/ screaming in the streets and would really appreciate the photos if available. Also, I would like to find out where the children attend school and stop by with tacos sometime in the next week if appropriate. I can not even begin to express what that night did for all of us...the story has been told at EVERY possible opportunity, and we've even created a "facebook group" in memory. It provided the motivation and push that was needed at a very difficult and exhausting time...thanks for the lift!! "

How great is that? Unfortunately, the chant had no magical powers and the Prop passed in CA. I do not often make political statements - - but, I just have to make the following observation: What kind of people can vote simultaneously to oppose gay marriage, to oppose a requirement that children under the age of 14 notify their parents to get consent for an abortion and then passes legislation to improve the living conditions of chickens, pigs and other farm animals who's rights are being denied? Yup, that'd be California. Aren't we proud?

On a lighter note, here's some other photos of the procession and some of the characters we saw:

These are the zombies chanting for the dead. They plunk down in the street and apparently this chant encourages living people to lay down and play dead...

Here are the living people playing dead. Henry is in the green fleece towards the left of the photo. This cracked him up!

A dead musician...

And what would a procession be without the nod to Hello Kitty??? My favorite of the night!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dinner and Dancing

Last night we had the pleasure of hosting a little dinner for some new-ish friends here in SF. "New-ish" means that we have known them for a while through Cambodia Tomorrow, the non-profit that we support. We hosted two other families that have Cambodian adoptees. Everyone had a nice time.

Here are all the kids. George called himself the LVK (Lone Vietnamese Kid) and thought this was really, really funny. Rosalie, on the right, was just celebrating her 13th birthday the day before. She was going to have her birthday party the night of our dinner, but when she heard that George was going to be there - -she changed her party date. Rumor has it - - she has quite the crush on young G3. Of course, I think he's handsome, but I'm the Mom.

On that same note -- Georgie had his first middle school dance on Friday night. He left for the dance around 7ish - - smelling strongly of Axe. I believe that "Axe" is the "High Karate" of 2008. I picked him up around 10:00 - still smelling faintly of Axe. His report in the car was that he had a nice time in that it-was-really-lame-but-i-still-had-a-fun-time middle school shrug of the shoulders way. Apparently, the music selection was not the ultimate in sick music. I highly suspect that any songs with profanity were eliminated from the play list. This would have the effect of eliminating most of the really "sick" songs. [Note: Translation for those who are not on the up and up - - "sick" means really really cool or whatever word we lame-o older people used in the olden days to describe something nifty.]

After a few more monosyllabic answers to my questions I finally got some real scoop. Surprisingly, amidst the lack of cool tuneage - our little guy not only danced but got up the courage to ask girls to dance with him! This is a noteworthy milestone for our budding pre-teen. He was very nonchalant about it. Georgie reported that he and a pal had a bet to see who could get the most girls to dance with them. Figures that George would turn a poignant adolescent moment in to a competition with money on the line. Cash provides a certain incentive that obviously trumps lack of courage. He won the bet. I asked him how. He said that he asked girls to slow dance! In the end, the amount of cash on the line was not sufficient for Peter to overcome the fear of the terrifying slow-dance. Either Georgie is braver, or his price is lower. Still...

My sweet baby slow dancing - - I secretly welled up in the car. My little guy is growing up.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Used to be in my old working-outside-the-home life I was always busy doing something. Projects to finish, people to manage, meetings to attend, and meetings to prepare for. All of this was generally planned in advance and my secretary would print out a nice little schedule in the morning so I could get through my day seamlessly. This whole stay-at-home-mom thing is a different ball of wax. Most of the time I meander through and, essentially get nothing done.

It's as if there is always some Schedule Gremlin in the day that makes getting shit finished impossible. I can't even recall what these gremlins are on a daily basis - - but at the end of each day I am clueless as to why I didn't get done what I thought I was going to get done. Frustration reigns. Honestly? How hard is it to keep a house clean, manage the kid's schedules and prepare a nutritiously balanced yet tasty dinner? Ummm, the answer would be DAMN hard.

I think that part of the problem since we moved to SF is that I am now "THE BUS." The boys have always taken a bus to school. We have also typically lived a fair piece from the school so their pick up time was somewhere between 7:15 and 7:30. They were generally returned to me right to my door around 4ish. This made for a nice long day. Now that I am "THE BUS" and we live close to the school, we don't leave until somewhere between 7:50 and 8:00. I don't get back home until 8:30 and I need to leave the house by 3:00 to get there on time for pick up. My time frame for getting things done has gone from 8.5 hours to 6.5 hours. It's killing me.

Several years ago I was talking to a friend who had made the decision to stay home and raise her kids. She was lamenting about how she really wanted to get a job, one that would exercise her mind and give her a greater sense of self-worth. Problem was, she just couldn't figure out how she was going to fit a job in with all the things that she had to do to run her house and take care of the kids. I sat in my nice corner office, crossed my stocking-clad legs, adjusted the skirt of my suit and said to myself, "I guess I am just more organized than you." What a crock.

Most interestingly, I often try to remember how everything got done. Perhaps it just didn't get done? I can't remember. Maybe when you're working, you don't have time to obsess over the fact that there are hand-prints on the wall leading down to the basement or that the ironing is piling up at the rate of a commercial laundry or that they really really need parent drivers for the trip to the Asian museum. Perhaps you use alternative methods of getting things done (secretary, housekeeper, nanny, dry cleaners) to off load that stuff. But what about all those working moms who don't have those resources? They still get it done. Somehow.

Fact is - - I'm not getting it done now and I have nothing else really pressing on my plate. So, to my friend (who didn't even know I was smugly being superior) -- my most deepest apologies. I can ABSOLUTELY see what you were talking about!

Finally, as to the comments about the whole naked thing at the spa. Perhaps I wasn't clear. YES, of course I had a nice plush robe!!! It's just that I wore my birthday suit underneath the robe and everyone else wore their bathing suit. Consider yourselves informed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Shells and Peas

On Saturday I had the ultimate pleasure of spending the day at the Nob Hill Spa. After the debacle of Friday night with the lost child, the timing couldn't have been better. Plus it was pouring down rain and leaving George the Elder in the house without a car with the two boys was, in a word, satisfying.

George the elder mentioned that he was getting some flack about the whole "date night" thing. The Spa Day thing should make it worse. Yes, George regularly gets me the gift of a spa day. Typically, this Spa Day has a price. That price is moving. I plan, execute, pack and unpack. He calls a really nice spa and orders me a day o' relaxation. Since we move a lot, I get to go a lot. And yes, sometimes he just gets me one for the heck of it. He's just a nice guy.

This was my first time in a US spa in a while. I learned quickly that the whole "naked" thing that is standard and acceptable (and frankly required) in all European and Asian spas is not the deal here in the States. Everyone had their bathing suits on. Color me embarrassed. Not that I strutted around in my birthday suit - - in fact, I doubt anyone noticed my unintended nudist colony gear - - still there's something about being appropriately dressed or undressed that is meaningful to most women. I felt - - well, naked.

The only really funny thing that day was that the facialist - with the utmost sincerity - described to me the "sea shell" age-defying massage that was to be a part of my 90 minute facial. Did she honestly believe that those very sea shells, the ones that she was pointing at like Carol Merrill in Let's Make A Deal, possessed awesome magical powers? She discussed this treatment with such veracity and earnestness that I could sense no tiny morsel of guile whatsoever. She believed with every fiber of her facialist soul that what she was saying was true. I was, without a doubt, going to look younger thanks to something that washed up on a beach somewhere. Crack me up. I thought about egging her on -- such as asking her exactly how much younger I was going to look when she was finished. Would I need to be carded again? But she was so refreshingly sweet and I had just had a 2 hour massage. I couldn't get up the energy to incite her. I let her rub my face with sea shells. I look exactly the same. Rats.

So that was Saturday. Today, I had another respite of a sort. I spent the better part of 2 hours in a super-fantastic-better-than-average MRI machine. I'm not kidding about the better than normal part. I was asked to take part in a new MS study that is trying to connect genetics with the incidence of MS. Apparently, being a WASP comes with a higher incidence of MS. What's up with those darn pilgrims? But, since I don't have to do anything but provide them with 16 vials of blood once a year - - and I get to have a free annual MRI in one of the coolest most powerful MRI machines - - what the heck, why not?

This bad johnny took up the better part of a very large room. It was the biggest thing I have ever been inserted in to. Every time I get rolled in to one of those machines I keep imagining myself as a bar of clinique soap. Only this time, because the machine is so powerful and exact, I had to have my head strapped down for the test and then jammed in to a pretty nifty, and snug fitting, little plastic helmet. I think that look, combined with the hospital pants, top and robe in three different muted hospital patterns, was clearly one of my better ones. Too bad I didn't have a mirror or a camera. It was a frame it and put it on the mantle moment.

I did have two realizations during the test. First, I confirmed that I can sleep through just about anything. Even though I was strapped down with my head in a vice; even though I was being assaulted with the deafening sound of rotating magnets; even though in this Mack-Daddy of MRI machines, the deafening sound of rotating magnets is also accompanied by a high pitch continuous squeal that would make dogs howl and cower - - - - I slept like a rock for the first hour and a half.

Second, I found out that I have a highly sensitive head. When I woke up from my nap, I realized that I had a GIANT pain in the back of my head. I was absolutely certain that there was a very sharp thing - -a pebble, a rock, a thumb tack or a witch's severed claw - digging in to my head. I couldn't move, and being removed from the machine at that point means you get to start all over again, so I tried to relax and wait it out. I made it for the next 20 minutes or so, but was certain that there would be blood or a lump or something from what ever it was that was burrowing in to my skull. When I was able to stand up to examine the foreign object, I was expecting to see something huge and pointy. Interestingly, the GIANT foreign thing was - - a tiny itsy-bitsy crease in the sheet. I am a living example of the Princess and the Pea. Not only do people of my genetic background have a higher incidence of MS, it appears that we also have some royal blood in the fairytale sense. Obviously, had the sheets been more than 1000 count my last 20 minutes would have been more pleasant. I'll bring my own pillow case next year.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween 911

I wanted to start this post with a good photo of Henry in his terrifying Herald costume. He ended up having a nice run of it, and loved the whole aspect of going to stranger's houses and begging for candy. He and his friends, trailed by Dad, only stayed out about an hour, but managed to get a lot of loot.

There is no picture of George and there is a reason for that. I thought that we would get some good photos of him after his first real mega-Halloween trick-or-treating - - giant candy bag and all. Turns out that when the cops end up bringing your son home, you don't remember to take photos.

Yup, that's cops with a c-o-p-s. It was a hell of night.

The evening started out on a high note. We went over to some neighbors for dinner around 5:30. They own the best local Indian restaurant. It was a wonderful. The kids ate mac/cheese and we had delicious food and good wine. We were joined by three or four other families from the school that the boys are now attending.

The kids started whining to go out at around 6:30, so the fourth graders all got ready and headed out with George the Elder as their chaperon. The 6th graders - -at the ripe age of 12 - -decided to go alone. There were three of them. One of them, Peter, took his cell phone and off they went. We were very comfortable with this, as they were together. It is a nice quiet neighborhood and we felt confident that this was something they could do. Once they were off, I rushed back up the hill to open our door to little beggars.

Around 7:00 I saw Georgie and his friends, as they stopped by our house for treats. Around 7:45 both groups returned to our house, thirsty and tired, with bags of candy. They all trooped in past me as I continued to dole out candy to the horde of trick-or-treaters in front of me. I didn't bother to count them. I just assumed that they were all there.

Around 8:00, Peter and Christian (the other 6th grader) said that they wanted to go back out and get some more candy. I asked why George didn't want to go. They then said they didn't know where George was. What???? Turns out that they had lost him around 7:30! In their words, "We turned around to say something to him and he wasn't there." Whaddya mean he just wasn't there? Did you look for him? Yes, we looked up and down the street twice. He didn't say anything to you like he was going somewhere? Nope. He just disappeared. Yep. Just like that - we entered the twilight zone of crazed parents with a missing kid.

So, off went George the Elder to scan the hood. 20 minutes later, still no George. He is joined in the search by 4 other parents. 20 minutes later still no George. Panic had firmly settled in. This is NOT like George. He doesn't wander. He doesn't leave his friends. He doesn't, he doesn't, he doesn't. Please, please, please don't let anything happen to him.

Finally at 8:50, two cars take off to scan the neighborhood. We come up empty. I confer with George - - we called 911. It was surreal. Yes, my child is missing. What is he wearing? How tall is he? Is is apt to be a run-away? Some one is coming right over.

The police car arrived within about 5 minutes and I am doing the unthinkable of rummaging through my wallet for his photo. It felt oddly like an installment of CSI or something I wish I wasn't watching. 15 minutes later we get the call - - they've found him and he's on his way home. Two plains clothes guys spotted him and picked him up. The good news is that since they were plains clothes it took a lot of badge showing to the other parents on the street before they let Georgie in the car with them. That was nice to know.

In the end, we forgot to factor in one very important thing. The whole "I can go to all the houses I want and get more and more candy!" part of Halloween. We forgot that because of that he didn't care about being with his friends. He didn't even know we were looking for him. He was just out enjoying his first uber-Halloween with unlimited candy from unlimited houses.

We were sure he had been nabbed off the street. His two friends were sure that they were going to have to live with the knowledge that they had "lost" their friend while trick-or-treating. Our friends were as worried as we were (which was helpful later on when I was second guessing whether or not we panicked too soon). Georgie, on the other hand, was blissfully going from house to house getting more candy than he had seen in a lifetime.

And in the end, to all those parents who have ever lost their children, even for an minute or an hour - - what was the time lag between wanting to just hold them so close and so tight for as long as you can, breathing them in as if you haven't loved anything so much in any single moment - - and - - wanting to shake them silly for scaring you so horribly when they should have known better??