Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What time is it??

You know that you are nearly done with setting up house when you get around to hanging pictures. In my case, I know that I am nearly done setting up house when I get around to hanging up clocks.

I started collecting clocks nearly 10 years ago. I am not obsessive about it. My clock collection consists of what you see here, plus another 3 or 4 that are scattered around the house. Most of these clocks aren't plugged in. Some because they are European plugs and some because the represent things that have happened. There are three on this wall that were unplugged simultaneously when we left DC for Tokyo in 2000. Some are set to specific dates like the kids birthdays or our anniversary (which for some reason neither George nor I can remember on an annual basis. The clock does not help.) But, I suspect that I don't plug most of them in because it would be too much like that first scene from Back to the Future - - except that I would be too lazy to synchronize them all!

There are a couple of clocks that actually tell time. The green apple one from Tokyo tells the time, but runs a little slow. The rectangle white one on the bottom left tells times as well. This is the only clock that was given to me by a friend. Her name is Julie and she picked this up at a flea market outside of Brussels. Now tell me - - how nice is a person that actually thinks of you while she is at a flea market? Pretty darn nice. Funny thing about this clock. When she first gave it to me I couldn't get it to work. Then at the very moment when we were both holding the sides of the clock, it magically started working. So, I call it the friendship clock. I am a sentimental sucker. It kept ticking all the way from Germany to London, and even stranger - - from London to San Francisco. I unwrapped it yesterday from amidst 14 layers of bubble wrap to find it still ticking! Amazing.

And this one has been dubbed the move clock. I set the date to the day that we move in to a house. Keeps me from forgetting. Ha ha ha. So, the date on the clock in 08-01. This clock was purchased in a flea market in Frankfurt. It technically does work, but it is the loudest damn electric clock I have ever heard. We had it on for a while when we first got it, but it practically makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up it creates such an electronic hum. I could lend it to some terrorist torture groups. After about 10 hours in a quiet room with just this clock humming and there wouldn't be a soul who wouldn't spill just so they would turn that damn buzzing sound off!!!

Other than the hanging of the clocks, it was a pretty slow day yesterday. I went to a meeting of the 6th grade parents that was hosted by the new headmaster. It was an interesting meeting talking about the philosophy of the school and what not. What I did come to realize was that there are people that take the philosophy of a school VERY seriously. There are also parents who, at the 6th grade level seem oddly prematurely occupied with whether or not the activities that their 12 year olds are taking will look good on their college applications. I hadn't even stopped to wonder whether or not George's lack of running on the cross-country team was going to rule him out of attending the college of his choice. Well, I guess for the G-man it "Looks like the University of Illinois"! (thank you "Risky Business")

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Eagle and the Owl

As many of you know, there are times when I do things "for my kids" that are actually just more convenient for me. For instance, none of my children will be Olympic swimmers or ice hockey players. The reason is that both of these sports require rising before the crack of dawn to get to practice at some pool or rink by 4:30 a.m. This is absolutely ludicrous. I choose things for my children that happen at reasonable times of day. Both baseball and soccer are played at a time when any sane individual (albeit perhaps not one who works the third shift at any manufacturing plant) is up and enjoying the day. Admittedly, even 9:00 a.m. games are a stretch for me. But at least the paper is reporting that day break has occurred.

Henry is not a sports guy. He prefers activities like playing the piano and violin. I wholeheartedly supported his passion. Violin and piano take place during hours in which I effectively operate. Or at least I thought so. Turns out that the string ensemble practice start at 7:30 A.M. on Monday mornings. What the hey??? As if the 7:30 a.m. thing isn't bad enough, why choose Monday morning? Monday comes on the heels of Sunday evening - when even well behaved children are still coming down off the high of staying up later on Friday and Saturday. And finally, I question the sanity of the conductor. What person of sound mind chooses to hear the screeching of string instruments before their coffee has had a chance to infuse caffeine in to the bloodstream? It just ain't right.

To add insult to injury, Henry is NOT a morning guy. He is the last to drag himself out of bed. He procrastinates so much in the morning that it is a rare and honored event when his arrival at the breakfast table is not preceded by someone screaming up the stairs that WE ARE GOING TO BE LATE. Inevitably, he gets dressed downstairs at the breakfast table and leaves his pajamas on the table when he is finished. This makes for some contention between the two of us, but there are so many things to beg him to do before we leave for school (eat something, brush teeth, make bed, get backpack ready) that I almost never make it all the way to "get your damn pj's off the table for Pete's Sake. I am NOT the maid!!" In the end, this is what I say out loud to myself when I get home from dropping them off. And yes, I do talk out loud to myself.

As for son #2, Georgie is a rooster of a boy who has adapted his habits to live with a group of late sleepers. He was already out of the shower by the time by alarm clock chirped this morning. On most days he is skulking quietly around just waiting to someone else to get up and hang out with him. I don't understand this. Why would anyone get out of bed a minute before they had to? Even if I am awake before the alarm goes off, I purposefully lay there and pretend to be sleeping just to get those last moments in of being horizontal underneath the covers.

So, after writing this, I am left with two questions. First, is it possible that I am squelching Georgie's inner hockey player by making him adapt to my time zone? And second, is it morally reprehensible that I yell at Henry for dragging his butt in the morning given that that is exactly what I really want to be doing? Answers to both: Course not! It's good to be the Mom!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bells and Boys

When I was younger, I used to spend my summers at a place called Chautauqua. It's actually called the Chautauqua Institution - - which I thought always made it sound like a place where people wandered around in their hospital gowns and "relaxed". In actuality it was a wonderful place to spend the summers - if you get a chance you can look it up at www.ciweb.org. Although I suspect that some of you would feel vindicated if you thought I did spend some time at a place where straight jackets and fuzzy slippers were the dress code.

In Chautauqua there is a wonderful bell tower. It is in Miller park and it's one of the iconic things that embodies the spirit of the place. Most of us who spent time there ended up wearing a little bell tower charm at some point or another. During the summer season, the bell tower plays songs to wake you in the morning, to announce that it is noon and that the kids will be coming home from boys and girls club and in the evening just past dinner time and before the evening concert at the amphitheater begins. It also plays "Happy Birthday" every day so you could always tell visitors that you made them play it special for them! Turns out here in SF I also have a bell tower. Tres nifty. It doesn't play quite as much, but every day I hear it at some point or another. Mostly around noon. I suspect it is the church that I can see from my back porch, but wherever it is, I love hearing the songs. Takes me back to a place that will always be part of my heart. Sometimes I can just take a minute and head out to the porch, have a seat, close my eyes and listen. I love it.

Tomorrow the boys start week 4 of school. The transition has been uneven. Henry believes that the San Francisco School was put on this earth specifically for him. He has had a wonderful time in his new class. He is one of only two new students, so I think that the initial "fame" of being new was good for him. For the most part, the kids in his class have all been together since pre-school. He has about 23 kids in his class with 2 full time and one part time teachers. They sing everyday, he is in the orchestra, and they have art a whole bunch of times during the week. What is better than that??

George, on the other hand, had a rough beginning. I do not technically believe in hell. But if I did I honestly believe that you would need to spend eternity in the hell of middle school. You would have a locker you could not open, a schedule that made you go places you didn't know, and if you were a girl you would be wearing the absolute wrong thing. Navigating middle school is not easy. It is even more difficult when you are new and don't know anyone. 4th graders think new kids are neat. 6th graders actually don't even notice that there is someone new - - it's an age of complete and total self-absorption. So, turns out that George had some issues the first few days without a real friend to help navigate the whole thing. This has since been remedied with new friends and better days, but the beginning was not easy for him. Breaks your heart to watch it - - but you know he will muddle through.

And George and I are starting to make new friends too. Last night we had dinner at an amazing loft down by the waterfront with some folks that were instrumental in helping the boys get in to the San Francisco School. We kind of "knew of them" before we moved here as we both are adoptive parents of a Cambodian boy. They are involved in the non-profit "Cambodia Tomorrow" - - as are George and I. Bo and Connie have been working with the organization for many years and, up until now George and I have mainly been sponsoring children and donating money to build a school. Now Henry and Chaya are in the same 4th grade class. The evening was fun - - great food, good wine and lots of stuff for boys to do while the adults sat around and got to know each other. It is nice to be out and about and establishing some sort of social network. I even had a mild headache this morning, so there was plenty of champagne and wine to grease the social wheels. O.K. by me.

And speaking of the school. George and I are sponsoring the construction of a school near Phnom Penh. We get to name it. The last name Wisniewski isn't particularly conducive to the snappy naming of a school. This would be trouble in the US - - let's not even think about how it would be massacred in South East Asia. We've been trying to come up with something creative that would be a tribute to the boys and Shannon without being something too tribute-y. So, if anyone has any great ideas - - send them our way. The school should be up and running in the next couple of months. I suspect it will need a name before then or it will just be called "the-school-with-no-name-that-some-people-with-a ridiculously-long-and-hard-to-pronounce-last-name-built". How's that for un-snappy?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cheese and Gold

When we were living in Germany, there was no cheddar cheese. I don't mean that it was prohibited in the country, just that it wasn't the cheese of choice for the Germans. They prefer their cheese in a white mild form. Butter Cheese or Gouda. In order to get some cheddar you needed to go to the specialty counter and pay some absurd amount for a little hunk of sharp. It made making macaroni and cheese a "special dish"!

When we moved to London we found ourselves in the quintessential land-o-cheddar. In fact, at the grocery store that I frequented there was so much cheddar that they even implemented their own Waitrose "cheddar rating system". This rating ranged from 1-4. 1 was mild. 4 was so sharp it crumbled. The packaging was designed with just a giant number on it. We were generally "3" cheddar eaters - except in the instance of making the previously mentioned mac/cheese. A combo of "2" and "3" was optimal.

Since returning to the states we have found ourselves mildly annoyed with the quality of cheddar available. Let's not even go with the cheddar that is in the dairy section. That isn't even in the same league. Frankly, it's just one short step away from Velveeta. Velveeta - - a "processed cheese food" that doesn't even need to be refrigerated and has a nuclear shelf life equal to twinkies. Scary stuff. I'm talking about the quality of cheddar found in the supposedly upscale deli areas that you pay some absurd amount for. It just isn't very cheddary. I am wondering if we have become cheddar snobs or if we just need to find another cheese supplier? This is not a very important issue, but it was on my mind today as I opened yet another $6 block of "sharp" and got no kick. Should I have bigger things to worry about like, say a failing economy and the fact that the tree squatters protesting the removal of redwoods at Berkley had to be forcibly removed from their trees? Probably.

I went to an informational meeting last night at school for Henry's upcoming 3 day overnight trip. They are going to Coloma, the supposed birthplace of the California Gold Rush. They're going to do all things gold-rushy like pan for gold, shop at the local general store for ingredients to make corn bread in a cast iron pot over a camp fire,build their own tents, and apparently they will learn how to dance a hoe down. This last part confused me. I need to do a little research on the genesis of the hoe-down (assuming that's even how to spell hoe-down) - but I was thinking it had to do more with the south and cotton than it did with California and the miners. If memory serves me, I recall that miners were more likely to head to the local saloon for a dangerous hand of poker, copious amounts of cheap whiskey and a "dance" with an easy woman than they were sitting around on bales of hay toe tapping to the Virginia Reel. I could be wrong. But then I guess a group of 4th graders experiencing the true authenticity of the period would probably not fully appreciate the enjoyment provided by cards, hookers and hooch. Yee Haw.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Toys for Boys

A few weeks ago, George convinced me to go to "look" at motorcycles with him. In our world, albeit not necessarily known to George himself, "look" generally does not mean "look". When we got to Monroe Motors and George wanted me to put 50 cents in the meter so he could just have a quick gander around. Knowing what this really meant, I fed the meter the full allowable amount and prepared my wallet for easy access to additional quarters. It was not in vain. I drove home by myself. George drove this.

Being naive about motorcycles in general, I thought it was like a new car. When you buy a new car, it comes with everything that you need. Not so with this little gadget. With a little bit of enthusiasm and unlimited access to the Internet, it appears that you can change lots of things about the vehicle. This is a "before" picture. Since this was taken, it now has new mirrors, new caps, new gear shifty-things and a whole host of other nifty upgrades. In fact, I now know the UPS guy by name.

George's new hobby now lives in the garage where he spends several hours on the weekend attaching new upgrades to what I thought was a perfectly good motorcycle just the way it was. He keeps asking me if I think it "looks better" with the new this or the enhanced that. I nod vigorously. But truth be told, if he didn't point at exactly what he was referring to, I wouldn't notice the difference. This, I am told, is just a girl thing. Similar to when you rent a car and are asked what kind of car you rented. Men answer "Ford". Women answer "blue". To me, the motorcycle is "red".

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Almost Home

After several solid days of unpacking, the house is finally near to looking like a "home". The furniture is in it's place, and I have stopped moving knick-knacks from surface to surface and some have found their homes. Most of the art work remains in their protective packing materials, but that's the only thing still in boxes. Luckily, I had George home for the whole weekend, and he played a critical role is putting together the office. The boys have computers AND internet access! There was much rejoicing.

A more important and startling accomplishment came last night when George worked on hooking up all the equipment that goes along with the TV. We have had TV access for a while, but now we have the DVD player, processor, Olive and the speakers are working. We go through this drill every time we move. It generally takes George a couple of days and at least two trips to a components store before we are fully operational. For some reason, plugs go missing, wires are too short or there is just a gremlin in the works. The startling accomplishment was that the whole shebang worked THE VERY FIRST TIME. Frankly, it shocked the shit out of both George and I. The only things that still need work are 1) our universal remote uses a UK plug, so for the time being we are destined to try to find the right remote for the right activity -- inevitably getting it wrong at least once before locating the correct button, and 2) we needed to hook up the GIANT processor instead of the nice compact processor for the same reason as #1. The plug for the remote can be purchased at Radio Shack, but the processor needs a professional to switch the whole thing from 240 to 110.

Usually, George would be excited and pumped to run off the Radio Shack today to get the plug for the remote. What's more fun than getting electronic stuff to work?? However, while he was able to get the TV up and running on try #1 yesterday, he wasn't so lucky with the computer stuff. It took three trips to the store get stuff to hook up the computers and printers. Three trips down and up the Hill of Misery. The H.O.M. is what leads from our house to our cute little shopping street in West Portal.

The walk down the HOM is a pleasant stroll through a nice leafy neighborhood. The walk UP the hill is done without any concern to the scenery. You're just trying to catch your breath. Head down and one foot in front of the other. It's a beast. The first block up from West Portal is just down right nasty and the next three blocks are a steady relentless incline. After a month and half I am finally getting used to it. I can no longer physically see my heart beating through my shirt and breathing in does not feel like shards of glass. Those first few weeks when I had to travel down there at least twice a day carrying a laptop back and forth were serious heart attack danger treks. I got soft walking the level terrain in both Frankfurt and London.

Of course, we do have the option of driving down the hill. This is California for Pete's Sake!! It's a full 4 blocks to the shopping area, not to mention another three blocks of stores that need to be traversed. I haven't checked any laws yet, but I suspect that it may be illegal to walk that kind of distance when you have a perfectly good car with a California license plate. Still, the true urban dweller way-of-life is still ingrained in us and we can't bring ourselves to do it. So we will continue to trek the H.O.M. and for the time being live life without the new plug for the remote until one of us gets up a little more energy.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Big Truck Big Pile

I finally got my phone situation rectified today. Turns out that the guy who set up Georgie's phone really did know what he was talking about. He just seemed like a real bone head. All I needed to do was turn my phone off and take out the battery and the whole thing resets. My unasked question was, "And I was supposed to know this how???". Frankly, navigating the world of cell phone plans, roll-over minutes, "friends and family", "Push to Talk" and all the other innards of cellular technology are no easier to navigate here in the States than they were in any other country. Sobering to think that when I heard about these things in German or Japanese, it made just as much sense then as it does now.

Last night as I was lying in bed trying to visualize where I wanted to put some things in the house, I suddenly realized that my list of things to do to maintain basic life continuity was growing. I hadn't taken any time over the last several days to attend to the act of living as immersed as I was in the whole act of unpacking. So, I stopped considering where the optimal location would be for the button jar and made my to do list. Today I took the morning off to, as Elvis would say, TCB.

Among the list of things to do was to establish a relationship with a new neurologist -- supposedly the "best guy" in SF. He was recommended by my original neuro from DC, who graciously agreed to call the guy on my behalf. I had tried to make an appointment with the new guy earlier, but was summarily rebuffed by his secretary. Clearly she had a former career as either a prison matron or an INS employee. Luckily, once Stanley (my old guy) called Bruce (my new guy), - the secretary starting singing a whole new tune - - dare I say friendly? Even cordial? Turns out once you've been recommended you're in. She even welcomed me as a new member of the "team". The second unasked question of the day was "the team of what?".

After some other errands, I decided to take myself out to lunch knowing full well that the minute I stepped back in the house I would come face-to-face with the reality of the home situation. The Manor Diner is a little "joint" located down the street in our little neighborhood shopping area. It is a classic 50's diner - well maintained - nice atmosphere - -and serves the old timey standards like patty melts and the daily blue plate special. The Manor had a nice authentic ambiance and had great service. The waitresses wore pink linen uniforms with little white aprons and sported name tags saying Susan or Nancy or Kathy. I would bet everything I own that their given names were really Hoa, Minh and Lo. But no matter. I just ordered some flench flies and had a derisious runch.

So, since my phone is now working - - here are the afore-promised photos. When this bad johnny pulled up, I felt sure that my stuff couldn't possibly have filled the damn thing up. Wrong-o. It was filled stem to stern.

Strange to think that our stuff made it across the ocean in metal box, but even weirder to think that nearly everything we own was inside. But, come to find out that it is even more bizarre when they unload it and you can see some of it sitting in your yard in the sunshine...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Unpacking Day 3

On Tuesday when my moving guys showed up I naively asked them, "why are you scheduled for three days of unpacking"? For some reason, I had it in my mind that there would be absolutely nothing for them to do on the third day. My wild imagination envisioned that once the stuff was off the truck, I would have it pressed, dressed and neatly put away with in 48 hours. I am a complete idiot. The real tragedy was that when I asked the crew that question, they took it to mean that I wouldn't need them the third day, so they scheduled another move today. Double the whole "I am a complete idiot" statement. At least they managed to get all the boxes out of the garage and put the remainder of the 342 boxes in the "proper" room in the house. "Proper" as defined by the moving crew didn't mean the room that they box was labeled for, but seemingly means the room that they picked randomly when carrying the boxes. A cruel moving crew joke, perhaps??

I got up this morning and, given my prior delusions of grandeur, set myself a simple goal. I was going to have the entire kitchen unpacked and put away in time to prepare a delicious hot meal for my grateful and loving family. The reality? It is now 10:30 p.m. and there is still stuff on all of the kitchen counters. Dinner consisted of George making cup-o-noodle for the boys while I rushed off to the Elementary School Back-to-School night. The fact that I actually had to go to this event was lost on me until exactly 5:45 when Henry reminded me about it. It was on the calendar, it just didn't occur to me to jump over the 8 giant boxes located in front of it to check it this morning.

I had to be there by 5:30 and was in no hygienic state to attend. I have been unpacking all day. This does not require brushing your hair, wearing "cute" clothes or mascara. Hell, it almost doesn't require washing your face. I am not sure what kind of impression I made on the other 4th grade parents, but in keeping with the title of this blog - - "why dwell??? - - if they can't accept me in the worst of it - - what kind of friends would they make anyway?

In the end, while I didn't technically achieve my daily goal - - I can proudly say that there are no actual boxes left in the kitchen. I am making headway. I haven't even ventured downstairs to the basement today and do not plan to. I know that there are about 20 unpacked boxes down there - - but if I can't actually see them, I can blissfully pretend that they aren't there for now. Perhaps if I wish it hard enough, the shoemakers elves might visit in the night and magically put everything away.

And finally, I have forbidden myself that I will never again purchase any of the following items: coffee cups, wooden spoons or chopsticks. I heard the other day that 60% of San Francisco's population is Chinese. Based on my existing stock of the aforementioned items, I can comfortably host a coffee morning for all of them at once and we would have plenty of cups and chopsticks to go around.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Moving is Hell

Just sat down for the first time all day. My dogs are barking something fierce!!! Two days ago I waxed sentimental about seeing my things and missing them so much. Forget all that. Today I don't really care if I ever open one more box. The level of confusion and chaos is more than Ian McChaos of the McChaos clan.

I have discovered a couple of things since I started unpacking all my crap (yes, it is all now a bunch a C.R.A.P. - - at least until I get it all put away). First, inevitably the first boxes you unpack are always things you could absolutely live without permanently The very first thing out of a box that I opened was an amusement park plastic drink container that has two separate compartments and two giant plastic straws that allow the user, Georgie, to have unlimited amounts of both Coke and Diet Coke during a recent park visit. Let's not even ask why this was in a box in the first place.

Second, everything that you take out of a box initially is likely to be dependent on something else either being put together or unpacked. As a result, you are doomed to having little piles of useless items sitting around on all open and available surfaces until the basket they belong is unpacked or the shelves they need to be placed on are put together. Often times you end up moving these little piles more than once until they can truly be "housed" in the appropriate place. Big drag.

Third, it is a well known fact that moving uses the paper equivalent of that which is used by a copy shop on an annual basis. In other words, some small rain forest tribe in now without shelter and some endangered species are now extinct. While I do feel bad about our negative imprint on the earth), I have to admit that it is kind of interested to finally figure out what you are actually going to get when you finish unwrapping something. Since everything is wrapped in at least seven layers of paper, all little parcels end up looking the exactly same. Once wrapped, everything no matter what the shape ends up looking like a slightly squashed oval-something-or-other. Today I excitedly unwrapped a little parcel, hoping it was some meaningful piece of memorabilia - - but alas after the seven layers of paper were peeled away, it was nothing more than a Rubik's cube. Disappointing.

Well, I have some photos of the container that I will share tomorrow. I took Georgie to get a new cell phone on Monday afternoon and in the process of getting a new cell phone for him, they changed something on my account and I can't send or receive emails on my blackberry. Great! I really needed just one more thing to do this week.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Our Stuff is HERE!!

Tomorrow morning bright and early, our things from London are set to be delivered. I'm hitting the hay early tonight! The movers say it will take them three days to unpack. What's up with that? I can't imagine what will take them three days. Historically, I have been able to get the house in order in less than that amount of time all by my lonesome. Is there just going to be one one-armed man pulling stuff out of boxes and trying to set up the beds?

No matter, I am just doing a little jig that they are here. I am over the following (listed in no particular order): Having only one knife in the kitchen, having a set of silverware that actually bends slightly when eating cereal (apparently the weight of the oaten chunks is too much for the stainless steel?), having only 5 pieces of clothing that must be rotated (I packed more, but miscalculated the freezing temperature here in the bay area - - see previous post), having George having only 4 pairs of boxer shorts with him (why did he only pack 4 pairs of boxers when he knew he would be without his stuff for 2 months?? This is a question he refuses to answer.), not having a coffee table (exactly where do you put your stuff while you are sitting on the couch with no coffee table??) and having only one 60 watt bulb lamp to light the entire living room. In essence, I am over just the whole "I am without my stuff" lifestyle.

I apologize to all new-agers who buy into living simply and feeling more in tune with themselves having rid their lives of all the toxic over tones associated with our consumer happy culture. What a bunch of bunk! I just want my nice towels back!!!

Sunny San Fran

The weather in San Fran can be categorized as the most variable and interesting I have ever experienced. In our last three countries, part of our morning ritual was that the first kid dressed, pressed and downstairs logged on to the laptop and checked the daily weather. Adjustments to clothing and the decision whether to wear a jacket or take an umbrella was determinant on the weather checker. Here in SF, we have retired this practice. Checking the weather is sheer folly.

Today's paper reports the temperature in SF to be "highs: 65 - 92 Lows 49-58". Just focus on the temperature swing of the highs of 27 degrees. How can you determine what you're supposed to put on in the morning?? 27 degrees can mean the difference between parka and tank top. I have taken to just dressing everyone in everything that they own and then carrying a large bag to collect the items that they don't need when they shed them.

In the morning on the way to school we excitedly watch the thermometer in the car that measures the outside temperature. It's kind of like "ambient temperature theater". When we leave the garage it is 68 - reflecting the indoor temp of the garage. Within several moments of leaving the house we can watch it descend to below 60 as we crest the hill on the way to school. From there, the three mile drive to school registers numerous readings as we go up and down hills - - and typically we can see it rise to nearly 68 again as we approach the school. Here we joyfully see the sun for the first time. I then return to our foggy cold neighborhood while the kids enjoy the day in the sun - - merely 3 miles from their house. Of course, if I want to get warm during the day, I just hop in the car and head towards Castro where it is nearly always 10-15 degrees warmer and beautifully sunny. I can actually remove my coat and gloves and hat while I am driving! It's just downright weird.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Take me Out to the Ballgame

Last weekend we took the boys to see the Giants play the Pirates. It was going to be the boys first MLB game when we first bought the tickets - - but the two Georges managed to score some free tickets to see a game about 10 days before - - so this was technically their second Giants game. As you can see from the hats and the tee-shirts, the boys are getting in touch with their new "home team" spirit. Despite the new threads - - big George remains a loyal Sox fan and Little G claims the Mets as his personal favorite. Given the performance of the Mets so far this season, G3 has possibly picked a winner!!

Note Henry's blue teeth in the photo. He is NOT a baseball fan per se, but he definitely buys in to the whole stadium food aspect of viewing professional sports. Especially when stadium food comes in the form of a tri-color cloud of cotton candy the size of a VW bus (that coincidentally costs about the same amount as a VW bus).

Which leads me to my sardonic comment about how things have changed since we left the states. What's up with the cost of tickets to professional sports games? Is it that I didn't attend a representative number of games before I left so that I don't recall being gouged within an inch of my entire life savings to get the four of us to a baseball game - - or have tickets always been absurdly expensive - - or has the price of tickets actually risen significantly over the past years??? It makes me wonder how the average family affords the cost of taking their kids to see a baseball game. Kind of sad really.

San Francsico Duck Tour

Shannon came for a visit last week on her way home from the Dem national convention in Denver. O.K., so San Fran isn't exactly on "the way" from Denver to Providence, but the airfare was cheap and she had a couple of days before school started.

Given all my worldly travel, I need to make a confession here - - I LOVE bus tours. Regular buses, double-decker buses and, yes - - Duck Tours. On the opposite end of the spectrum is George who, in a word, HATES any sort of tours. Especially those that involve strangers and being couped up on a vehicle with them. He will, however, go on these tours if I whine loud enough and have the support of the other four members of the family. Since Shannon has inherited my love of bus tours, and the boys will go on any vehicle - - we convinced George to go with us. The boys deeply appreciate duck tours in the way that only boys can - - they come with little duck call thingys (see photo) so you can make noise, the operators are generally kind of funny AND they do go from land to water!! The perfect combo of vehicle and noise.

We learned all kinds of nifty facts about our city that day. None of which I can remember. Still, it was a nice introduction to our new home AND it was a beautiful day in Fisherman's wharf AND we got a free waffle cone at Coldstone Creamery afterwards. A good day all in all.

Friday, September 12, 2008

First Back to School Night

Headed off to the San Francisco School last night for the middle school back-to-school night. The school is very small, slightly more alternative that I had imagined, but generally is going to work out great for both guys.

The event lasted from 6:30 until 9:00 replete with the requisite "changing of classes" so we could get a feel for what our kids were experiencing. It also came with those words of wisdom from the middle years educators about how to deal with the next three years and our burgeoning teenagers. Frankly, it has long been my personal belief that if you wind up in hell, you must spend the whole of eternity attending middle school - - with your own locker and the wrong choice of clothes.

The teachers were great - and some stereotypical. The music teachers were bouncy and enthusiastic, the PE teacher bordered on "Pat" and the art teacher was so artistically esoteric I hardly understood what she was saying except that I needed to do some soul searching to ensure that I was properly addressing my inner creative soul. Yikes! Are we are the end of those cute little paper mache animals and clay figurines???

George has school off today so that I can go and meet with his advisor to talk about him one-on-one. Given the overall level of middle school angst, he is really thrilled about this! Luckily, he has a new buddy over for the day and I suspect that they will mostly play Wii and watch Blades of Glory. In essence - squelching their inner creative child. Go me.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why "why dwell"?

Since moving back to the States for the first time in a little more than 8 years, it seemed time to start something new. While a blog doesn't exactly ring with originality these days, it did seem an appropriate way to meet a couple of goals. First, as a place to record some observations about life in the US after an 8 year absence and second as a place for friends and family to stay up to date with the goings on of the family.

Since I haven't ever done this before, I suspect I will keep it to a low roar until I figure out how to meet the demands of the 21st century (i.e. how the hell do you even get a picture posted here???)