Friday, October 31, 2008

Pumpkins and Heralds

Last night the boys finally carved their mega pumpkins. I picked up this snazzy little carving kit at our local target. I had never really seen this kind of thing in person, although I do have a friend who used to do these kind of artistic pumpkins in Tokyo. I thought it was so nifty -- patterns and cool little tools all in the "easy to use" kit that guaranteed a pumpkin design that would wow friends and neighbors. I stood in line and imagined a hallmark-moment carving session with the boys! I have a really great imagination.

By the end of the session, we did have carved pumpkins. They look pretty cool. They were not that fun to do.

Problem number one: The boys LARGE pumpkins meant something like 2 inch hulls. I think that carving a spider web on the front of a nuclear submarine with a blow torch may well have been easier than using the mini hack saw on Henry's pumpkin. We tried using the core cleaning tool to thin out the hull. Heck the thing even had a "thumb rest" guide on there to obviously allow the user to increase torque when thinning. Didn't work.

Problem number two: The darling little tools, so attractively packaged in the alluring carving kit were, in a word, c-r-a-p. By the end of the carving session we had broken both little hack saws and cracked the core cleaning tool in half. I would mention that we are not any stronger than any other average pumpkin carving family.

Problem number three: The "pumpkin carving difficulty guide" was not accurate. In a rare moment of "keeping this to a low roar", I made the boys choose only patterns that were awarded a two pumpkin rating -- out of a possible four. I'm no martha stewart, so I was trying to ensure that even I could carve these suckers. George's turned out to be o.k. - - but Henry selected a spider web design that required him to follow a bunch of tiny little fly-wheel imposed dots that once the pattern was removed looked like - - well it looked like a boat load of tiny little dots in a completely random pattern. It should have been rated the 4.5 pumpkins.

In the end, as I mentioned we did finish two pumpkins. George finished his pretty quickly, once he got the hang of the mini-hack-saw. Henry was a regular trooper and continued to work through his spider-web design for an entire hour miraculously making sense out of the maze of tiny dots. He finally gave up and turned to me for relief. By the time I took over, there was only one hack-saw left and its blade was bent precariously in three places. I managed to get the rest done and if you squint really hard, you can actually see what it is supposed to be.

So, I took pictures. This is the first shot of the pumpkins. I took it without my reading glasses on. This is evidence that I can no longer read a single thing - - or in fact focus a camera on a giant pumpkin. Damn. I tried to blame some of it on not keeping the camera still during a long shutter click. George the Elder was not buying it. I went off to find my glasses.

The next photos are taking with my glasses on - - not kodak award winning photos. I do think I was able to prove that the whole "out of focus thing" cannot be blamed entirely on my aging eyes. I suspect the George would say I shouldn't blame the camera. Still, I feel better.

On a final note, last Sunday our neighborhood had a little Halloween block party. A nice chance to meet some of the neighbors, let the boys play some games, and have a BBQ. The boys have been deciding what they want to be for Halloween for the last three weeks. Georgie was dead-set on dressing as the ever creative baseball player or football player. In the end, he went on Sunday in the baseball outfit, as his football jersey was not here yet. Tonight he will be a Cincinnati Bengals football player. We have no idea why he likes the Bengals.

Henry, on the other hand was going to recreate his Roman Toga outfit, complete with ivy head thingy made from ivy stolen from some one's yard. Then, in the last minute he decided that he would not be "scary enough" as a roman senator. As you can see, he settled on the most frightening, horrid, child scream inducing - - Herald. Apparently, being dressed as a medieval Herald replete with a cap with a feather and wielding a dangerous scroll as a prop meets Henry's definition of bone chilling. That frightens George and I.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Funny Man

I have recently been noticing that Henry is developing a mini-me version of my sarcastic and occasionally caustic sense of humor. I am torn over this. Why? Because this kind of freakish inclination can backfire on a person. I know this from experience. There are people who get it, and then there are people that you inadvertently insult. I, personally, know the feeling of being able to get all of my limbs in my mouth simultaneously. In other words, droll sarcasm can get you in to trouble. This is especially true for the inexperienced and the young.

As a parent this is exceedingly challenging. Generally, my first impulse is to laugh. My heart swells with pride when he intelligently accesses a situation rapidly and comes up with some really stupendous one-liner. Ah, how quick of wit is he! My second (and more common) impulse is to get highly pissed off. This may have something to do with his timing. His drollery is most keen when he is teetering on the edge of the precipice of really, really, really getting in trouble. They say your own innate traits are the ones that parents find most difficult to accept in their offspring. I would add that this is exacerbated when they are in the process of provoking them. My brother calls it "poking the bear." Nothing could be more descriptive.

I guess the question is - - how to teach moderation - - not to mention how to teach your child to accurately access when he is funny versus when he is about to get grounded until hell freezes over? As Bill Cosby so accurately put it, "Be careful. What comes out of your mouth next could determine your remaining life span."

This is probably making my mother laugh, as she was the one who had to put up with me while the razor's edge of my wit was being sharpened. But, in those days your mother could just haul off and pop you when you got too sassy. Now, you get a visit from child services for that. I guess my options are to just continually remind him when he is being just a tad too acerbic for a child of 10 years old. And by "remind him", I mean flick him on the forehead.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bad Mom

This week Georgie was on his 6th grade sleepover trip. They left at the crack of dawn on Monday morning and headed up/over/down/north/south to a well respected and highly regarded nature reserve to study the sequoias for several days and summarily bond with his fellow 6th graders. You might notice that I am being vague about exactly where he was and what the name of the nature center was. The reason? I honestly don't know where he was.

I went to the parents orientation. I heard all about what they were going to do - - hiking, campfires, wading in cold mountain water, making s'mores, hugging trees, etc. I felt comfortable that it was going to be a well supervised trip and educationally worthwhile four days. I packed his bags with him using the packing list supplied by said "highly regarded nature reserve." I dropped him off at school at the previously mentioned crack of dawn. I waved good-bye. And then I realized - - I had no friggin idea where he was headed. What kind of mother am I?
More to the point, do you think I asked any of the other parents where they were going? Hell, no. What kind of an idiot doesn't know exactly where their child is going for the next 4 days? Obviously an idiot that looks exactly like me. I consoled myself with the facts that I knew.

I knew that he was going to be in the State of California. I knew that his altitude was going to be greater than 8,000 (thanks to a long lecture by the naturalist at the parents orientation on the possibility that the kids would suffer altitude sickness - -I packed the requisite two 2 liter stainless steel water bottles). I knew that there would be ginormous trees there. I knew that he was within a 5 hour drive of the school assuming the speed of a very large touring bus. I knew that Henry, who is reigning king of google earth, could help me find him. Ultimately, I knew that bad news travels damn fast and would likely be accompanied with necessary directions.

In the end, there was no bad news, no need to use google earth and Georgie arrived home safe and sound last night from wherever he was.
While I don't know exactly where he spent the last four days, I now know that sequoias produce some of the smallest pine cones of all pine-like trees. When I asked Georgie what was the most interesting thing he learned on his trip he said, "You can't judge the size of the tree by the pine cone." Words to live by. I never did ask him where he was.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Change of Heart

A couple of days ago I posted about the walk-a-thon at the boys school. I snarkily commented on the price of the requisite t-shirts that commemorated this auspicious event.

Yesterday Henry came home from school with his "Tuesday Note Home". This is the school rag that brings all the parents up to date with important goings on and also has a section that toots horns for kids that have done something noteworthy.

Said Tuesday Note Home announced that Henry's watermelon drawing had been selected as one of the fruits in the design of the walk-a-thon t-shirts. Go figure, I wore the thing all day long and didn't realize my own little budding artist was responsible for the glorious slice of watermelon resting directly upon my right breast.

This means two things - - 1) I am never going to be able to throw out those t-shirts, and 2) What were they thinking charging ONLY $13 for something my child poured his creative soul into???

Footnote: You can see said watermelon in the photo previously posted. It is the triangular red and green splotch located on the woman's right breast. My watermelon slice looked bigger (yuck yuck yuck).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Run boys run!

Yesterday we had a "walk-a-thon" for the San Francisco School. When the boys first brought the information packet home from school I excitedly opened the package looking for the worthwhile charity my children would be walking for. Alas, the selected worthwhile cause was....The San Francisco School. This confused me. I didn't realize you could do a walk-a-thon to benefit yourself. Turns out you can. Turns out that you can spend $13 each on creatively designed Walk-a-thon t-shirts for the whole family. More to the point, it turns out that the actual walking part isn't nearly as important as the parents writing the check part.

In return for said check we were rewarded with being able to force our children to walk around and around in a circle in a park for the better part of an hour while we cheered them on. George and I were interested in making sure we got the most for our money. We whipped our boys into a frenzy and forced them to run. Our money. Our entertainment.

In the end I thought this was such a super-good idea that next week I am going to start raising money for my own personal walk-a-thon. I'm raising money to support my new outdoor holiday decoration habit. It won't be tax deductible, but you'll be able to bask in the feel-good-emotions of knowing that I have the coolest decorations you ever did see. I'm going to do the walking while I am roaming the aisles of my nearest Michael's Craft emporium. There won't be any t-shirts, but I may head over to Nordstroms to purchase some cute new shoes to roam the aisles in. You can be assured your money will be well spent.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Holiday Preparation

Halloween is approaching. The boys have celebrated this classic holiday, but heretofore it has been celebrated in Japan, Germany and Great Britain. They have been trick-or-treating but never on the scale of the US. And, never on the scale that is rumored to happen in our neighborhood. Turns out that we live in "THE" place to trick-or-treat in San Fran. Our neighbors tell us to expect at least 400 kids. We are going from low-key to high-octane.

In preparation for the big day, I have ordered candy from a classic candy company. I know that the boys will come home with the expected trick-or-treat loot consisting of the easily-available Nestles and Mars mixes. Maybe some one will get creative and chuck in the Brachs (I am hopeful as I love candycorn and the kids do not!). But, I decided to go for something a tad more interesting. So we will have BB-Bats, Kits taffy, red hots and charms caramel apple lollipops. I do this as an anonymous gift to every parent who will search through their kid's bags after the house-to-house trek is completed. There nestled in the wrappers of kit-kats and snickers bars, will be a little trip down memory lane for the over 40 crowd.

Also, in preparation we took the boys to our local pumpkin patch. The rule was that they could pick any pumpkin as long as they could pick it up and hold it. They took this to the ultimate level. Don't they look pretty pleased with themselves? This is the first trip to buy a pumpkin that didn't happen in a grocery store parking lot. There were real hay bales, corn stalks and everything. The speeding traffic on the parallel street impacted the ambiance, and the "hay ride" consisted of a loop around a vacant lot, but beyond that it was practically like we were really in a pumpkin patch. We have excellent imaginations.

I have also had to focus on the aspect of external house decorating. In Japan, we headed over to my dear friends neighborhood to do the deed - - so she is known in our house as "Crys who has all cool things for halloween." In Germany we headed over to where the US Consulate personnel lived, so we enjoyed their decorations. And in London, we didn't even realize that there would be trick-or-treating until the actual night of Halloween - - ergo, we did nothing but throw on some costumes and hit the two blocks around our house. Bottom line for SF, we had to go out and get some stuff. We now have "Jack the Pirate Ghoul" and the requisite spider webbing/large arachnid in the window. George the elder is dismayed. He is wondering whether or not I am going to go out and get all things plastic and illuminated as we move in to the Christmas season. I'm thinking of it. If you're going to go there -- I say go all the way. To take Halloween to the next level, I'm seriously considering purchasing the fog machine and hiring some local teenagers to jump out of the bushes to scare people senseless.

Our Backyard

Our back yard is not very interesting. It is a very steep slope that mostly contains the sub basement that serves to keep our house perched nicely in place. Whether the copious amounts of concrete will technically work to hold the house on the very, very steep slope if "the big one" comes to SF is uncertain. What is absolutely certain is that one of two things will happen. The house will stay on the hill - - or the house will slide off the hill and rest on top of our backyard neighbors who live at the bottom of the hill. Very zen, eh?

In the meantime, we will enjoy the best part of our backyard - - the view. No matter what perils may exist living on a major fault line - - there is an exceptional offset. We get to see this most nights. It doesn't suck.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Henry left yesterday morning for his 3 day overnight field trip to Coloma. The trip was nearly cancelled as a result of one of the kids getting head lice - - but in the end, all went off as planned. He is probably at the ho-down right now as we speak. Yee-Haw! He was so excited to go. He is certain that he is going to come back a millionaire since he can pan for gold during any free time he has. He took an extra garbage bag just in case he needed additional luggage to bring home all his loot. With the performance of the market these past weeks, George and I are secretly hoping he also hits the mother lode. It'd be nice if some of the nest egg was just plain g-o-l-d.

Son #1, Georgie, was/is thrilled to be spending time as an only child. Let's just say that the house is significantly quieter without Henry here. Henry is just one of those special kids who needs to make noise constantly -- whether he is playing the recorder, reading out loud, running an endless verbal commentary to whatever he is doing (an audience is not the intention - - just likes to hear himself talking) or just tapping his feet or wiggling around. In our house he is the "hum". Tonight, the only noise is the baseball game in the background and the two George's occasional comments to each other in the way that only men communicate:

G3: Nice Slider.
G2: (5 minutes later) Put 'em away (in response to a walk by the Ray's closing pitcher)
G3: (5 minutes later) Was that a splitter?

This is followed by another 20 minutes of silence. They don't even conversationally respond to each other. Just random blurts and observations. I miss Henry.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fleet Week

It was "Fleet Week" last week here in the Bay area. It is a week when the bay area celebrates the armed services. Big ships come in to port for a parade, lots of troops are around for the festivities and the Blue Angels are in town. For the better part of the week, we were teased by being able to hear the jets practicing their routines. Every afternoon, we could hear the engines roar - - but no visuals. This made the boys nuts. They would go running out of the house, searching skyward - - but no joy. I tried to explain the speed of sound versus the speed of jets, but to no avail. Finally on Friday afternoon, we caught a brief glimpse of them when I went to pick the guys up from school. We now had no choice but to go and see them.

Sunday afternoon we hoofed it down to Pier 39. Getting to Pier 39 isn't exactly a straight shot from where we live. I guess we could have driven, but we figured that several thousand of our closest friends would also be driving. We were right. We took the Muni instead - - with several thousand of our closest public-transportation-using-friends! We headed downtown and then walked the rest of the way. Somehow, walking there looking for planes was exciting and the walk didn't seem as long. The walk back was terminal. We were re-thinking the whole be-green-be-smart-take-the-muni plan.

It was just plain exciting to watch the Blue Angels. It was even better because the boys had never seen them. They remained riveted for the entire hour. Plus it was an incredible view. Many times they would zorch right over our heads close enough that you could see the pilot with the naked eye. With binoculars, it was even more amazing (that is if you could follow them fast enough!) The Angels put on a really great show, and it was moving watching them come in over the low hills behind Alcatraz. I swear that the strains of the Battle Hymn of the Republic could be heard as they took their final turn towards the city. I am a patriot sap.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Date Night

On Saturday night, George and I went on a date. We don't do this often. Or, at least, often enough. Every once in a while though, George pulls a rabbit out of his hat.

A few weeks ago, he sent me an email and just told me to get a babysitter for the night of the 11th. I complied and was able to get a great college aged girl to come over and watch the boys. She was recommended by the owners of the house we are renting. The owner is a wonderful reference for lots of things. She even left us a nice binder with all the local food delivery joints. It was nice not to have to try lots of bad Chinese before finding the tasty one! Anyway, the babysitter turns up and I was glad that Georgie was only 12 and not the least bit interested in girls. I managed to get him a really hot young Brazilian babe for the evening! Being the guy he is, Georgie didn't notice that she was a cute little 20-something. Once he found out she was from Brazil, he only wanted to ask her about their soccer team. Still, it won't be long now before soccer pales in comparison to blond hair and long legs.

Our "date" was happening downtown, so we took the motorcycle. This was my first real ride on a motorcycle in my whole life. Mopeds are not considered motorcycles. George had taken me around the block several weeks ago, but this time we were on the open road going more than 20 mph. I can definitely see why people love it. It's quite the thrill ride. Still, I'm not much for the helmet. It squeezes my face together - - it is supposed to - - but at my age skin does not bounce back as quickly. I think I spent dinner with "helmet tracks" down the sides of my face!

George had planned dinner at a very low key Indian place right off of Geary. It bordered on "dive" but the food was marvelous! It's one of those places where you order when you walk in and then pay at the register when you leave. It had been written up in the regional where-to-eat book and most assuredly lived up to it's reputation. You know you're in a good Indian joint when entire extended Indian families are pushing together tables so all 15 of them can eat together. Plus, the dinner bill was only around $35 for the two of us. Perfect restaurant. Delicious and cheap!

After that, we hopped back on the bike to head over to The Filmore. This, I have come to find out, is an SF institution for music. It was a fun little club - no tables, just standing on the dance floor under these huge vintage chandeliers. We saw Chris Isaak. It was a super-fun show (that was SF speak - - everything is super-something!) We got there early and we were able to snag some really great standing space right in front of the stage. Ended up we were right where Chris walks down in to the crowd after playing a few songs, so I got to actually touch him as he walked by. It's always cool to touch famous people. Better than that, because I had made friends with the bouncer while we were waiting, I got to sit on this big roadie case and lean on the stage for the rest of the show. I felt like a groupie.

This seating arrangement was super-nice for a couple of reasons. First, I could chair dance when I wanted to and stand up and dance when the spirit moved me. Second, I could actually see the whole entire show. This is unusual for me in any standing situation. Usually there is someone taller than me in front of me, so I spend lots of time shifting around to get a view. This view typically involves the back of some one's head. And third, this gave me a good opportunity to be able to turn and look out at the crowd. I got to see a glimpse of what the band gets to see.

There were quite a few "real honest to goodness groupies" there. They were viciously jealous of my location. And, most were very forward in trying to get Chris' attention. It was hysterical watching a bunch of late 40-somethings writhing seductively thinking/hoping/praying that they were the "one" for him. From my vantage point, most of them were standing very near to other woman who looked eerily like the babysitter I left at home with my kids. So, I had to ask myself. Who would Chris really go for? The rabid 40-something fan who had obviously practiced choreographed dance moves to accompany all his tunes - - or the 20-something nubile babe who hardly knew the words, but obviously could be had for the asking??? A question for the ages - - or is that the aged??

In the end - - GREAT time. Good food, cool motorcycle AND a great performer. He played until Midnight. We were exhausted the next day. But, thanks to George for planning a super-great date!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Breakfast Wear

Yesterday morning while I was in the kitchen making breakfast, packing lunches and running through the typical morning regime, Georgie and I shared a bit of conversation between his bites of lovingly prepared homemade oatmeal:

Georgie: "Mom, when you were young were you a nurse or a doctor or a surgeon?"
Me: "No, George, I was never any of those things. Why do you ask?"
Georgie: "Cause you always have those blue pants on. You know. Like Doctors wear."
Me: "Say what?"

I mean, honestly! On most mornings I am in the kitchen running through the a.m. drudgery outfitted in my daringly sheer negligee complete with a pair of ostrich feather topped stiletto mules. My make-up is perfect. I am wearing lipstick and eye liner. And, I am alluringly misted with my favorite perfume. Me in surgical scrubs for the 8 billionth morning in a row? I don't think so.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Tooth Fairy

Henry lost a tooth last night. When I got home from a little "book club" meeting with my incredibly zealous fellow fourth grade moms, I was informed that it was there under the pillow. This is the first tooth lost on US soil for either of my boys. George and I had to have some discussion about the going rate for the tooth fairy. After deciding on $1 (this had more to do with what type of bills and coinage we had on hand than with what the local customs were), we had a little chuckle about how lucky we were that the kids don't really understand currency conversion.

In Tokyo, where G3 lost most of his milk teeth, we shelled out a 100 yen per tiny enameled nugget. Back then, that converted to about $1.10. Molars were worth 200 yen. Compared with this morning's payout H is getting slightly ripped off.

In Germany where G lost most of his molars and Henry lost his milk teeth, the going rate was 1 euro for teeth and 2 euro for molars. Easy conversion would be $1.30 and $2.60 respectively. In general this was a good locational move for the boys. As for Henry, he should be getting a little more ticked off that he only got a measly one dollar bill today.

Finally in London, the boys hit the jackpot. The easiest coin to slip under the pillow is the pound coin - so in essence the boys were getting $2 every time they shed crunchers. For those nice big chewers in the back, the payout was a 2 pound coin or $4 U.S. buckaroos. George and I wondered if these payouts would have a financial impact on their college fund accounts. "Yea, we paid for your teeth, sorry about the tuition!" Luckily, we were not in a serious tooth shedding phase for either of the boys. Their education is safe for now. If Henry had any financial acumen, he should be suing us for Loss of Income, and any accompanied payment for pain and suffering - as a result of move he had no control over, he has now lost 50% of the price of a tooth had we stayed in London. Luckily, he doesn't have any financial acumen. I'd hate to have another case in front of the Supreme Court this term.

In the end, H lost his last milk tooth last night - - so we shelled out a dollar. Tonight he lost a molar - so it will be a $2 night. If I was a really good mom, I would have gotten to the bank today to get dollar coins since they are so much cooler. But H didn't care what shape the dollar came in this morning, so I suspect when is comes in pairs tomorrow morning he won't care either. Frankly, I think that the molar tonight was prematurely wrenched from it's socket, wiggled relentlessly all day long with the sure knowledge that there would be a cold hard cash reward for his work and sacrifice. I worry about crack with Henry.

And yes, I think he still does believe in the tooth fairy. I know he also still believes in Santa. Georgie believes in neither, but had a smooth transition to enlightenment and doesn't see it necessary to burst Henry's last thin veil of childhood. He's a great kid that way.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A dog's Life

This is our dog, Otto. As you can see he is an English Bulldog. According to George the Elder, Otto is not really a dog at all. He is a cat in a dog suit. Personally, I think he is a great dog. I can support my position with several observations.

First, the activity level in this photo is an accurate representation of what Otto does for the lion's share of the day. In this photo he is lying on the back porch with his back to the ocean view. Obviously, he doesn't care about the vista. In several minutes (or perhaps as long as 30) he will get up, wander to a new location, and summarily plunk himself down in an identical position with a different back ground. More often than not, his movement is based on my movement. For instance, if I am doing laundry, he plunks himself down in the laundry room. If I go up the stairs to do something else, he follows and plunks. This will continue until he gets tired of going up and down the stairs. Then his location generally is related to where the sun is coming in the windows.

Second, he does not drool, slobber, or lick. Sometimes he is accused of licking. This is confusion on the part of the lickee. Because he has no nose he must get his face really really close to a person to smell him. The action of exhaling may result in some minuscule snot particles to be released. This is not licking, this is breathing. However, the attribute of not licking people is not nearly as critical as the attribute of not being able to lick "himself." Bulldogs are physically designed so that their tongues can not reach their units. Big head, fat body and little weenie. A major selling point to me. If, indeed, Otto should ever get up the gumption to lick me, at least I will know where his tongue has NOT been.

Third, and in close relation to the reason #1, he only needs to be walked once a day. This walk consists of a fairly long spin around the neighborhood and the occasional game of fetch in the nearby dog park. The game of fetch cannot last for long since Otto neither has the stamina, nor the interest in fetching for too long. After about 30 minutes he grows bored and then settles in to just chew on the ball. Time to head back home where he will now sleep for the remainder of the day.

Okay, there are some drawbacks to the dog. In the interest of fairness I will list those as well. Otto is an hellacious snorer. I'm not kidding you. Once he gets rolling he could put any napping grandpa in a recliner to shame. When the boys are here, he sleeps with them. When the boys were at camp, he tried to sleep in our room. He was banned in short order. Banished to the hallway where we can still hear him through the solid core door.

Second, Otto is a pansy. He is afraid of most loud noises and crinkling plastic or paper sends him to the furthest corner of the room. He might muster up a kind of a bark, but for the most part it sounds more like a big semi-sneeze-cough.

Last, if a clinical psychologist were to diagnose him with a metal illness it would be some form of o/c disorder. He likes things where they are supposed to be. If you move a chair, or heaven forbid, bring something new in the house (such as a vicious shopping bag placed haphazardly on the floor) his world erupts into uncertainty. He will circle it, bark at it and then just resort to a low continuous growl (while standing at least 7 feet away - - remember he is a pansy at heart.) With most things this is easily remedied by just telling him to "get over it" in a fairly stern voice. The single exception is the screen saver on any TV or computer. If he happens to see either of these, no matter how much you tell him that it's harmless, it doesn't have any effect. Obviously in "Otto World" these screen savers represent world annihilation.

But the real bottom line is that the boys really really really love him.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Can you open this??

In the past several weeks I have had to open more product packaging for the boys than I have had to do in the last 8 years. I have had to use scissors, a razor cutter and, yes, kitchen shears that could cut through cold hard steel. These shears make ginsu knives look like child's play. What's up with this? Why is American packaging designed so that only people who have the upper body strength of Andre the Giant (prior to his premature demise) and who also happen to have a chain saw can effectively open this stuff?

I'm not talking specifically about those hard plastic packages - - they have a name that I cannot remember - ah yes - blister pacs. These fall in to a completely different category. I have heard that there is a specially designed opener to tackle these bad johnnies. I am talking about your run of the mill packages and containers such as pickle jars, chip bags and fedex packages. These are now held together by a mystery sealant that could keep even the smallest atom from breaching the product. How do elderly people who live alone actually access the innards of their Special K?

On the same vein - what's up with everything being packaged and then packaged again in to smaller portion packages? Gosh we Americans love to create little parcels of things. There's a whole world of individual serving stuff out there. The way I see it is that either there is a highly improportionate number of "singles" out there or non-single people are incapable of rationing out their own servicing sizes. Having been to Cheesecake Factory not too long ago I believe it is the later. I had a salad the size of a mid-sized outdoor shrub.

The boys go to a school that prides itself on being waste free. This means that all of their lunches need to be packaged in reusable containers - - it's called Tupperware. What's really bizarre is that I spend the morning opening little packages of things, throwing away the refuse in my own home and then repacking it in to a reusable container that I then need to wash out when it comes home. Using this technique, the school is able to tout itself as the benchmark by which "Green" should be measured. The consequence is that my own home is spewing out enough refuse and water waste that I have been asked to "name" the next landfill project.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Viva Las Vegas!

We've been spending some time watching baseball this week. I think that both Georges are making up for lost time having had no access to bball the past years. Georgie has also taking a real liking to US football. He says he wants to play. I am wondering what position a little Vietnamese kid would be good playing? He's actually kind of cute cause he asks a whole bunch of football related questions like "what's a blitz?" and "what are the names of all the positions on each line?" Today he was talking about seeing a "thumble" on some game he was watching. Since he's 12, we corrected him lightning fast. Sometimes you need to be highly vigilant against making your middle schooler make a fool out of himself in front of his homies.

Given our time in front of the TV we have also been watching more than our fair share of commercials. Since when does the pharmaceutical business spend so much dough on TV advertising? It's crazy. Interestingly, many of the commercials seem to be related to either obscure diseases I have never heard of or penile dysfunction. Mostly the later. We have had some "splaining" to do with the kids. In Europe you see pictures of naked folks on random public billboards, but I can't recall ever seeing a commercial about poor erectile performance. Last night while we were watching the bball game Henry was multitasking by also playing gameboy. The commercial for Viagra came on (for the millionth time) and he just starting singing along with "Viva Viagra!" to the tune of Viva Las Vegas. I nearly had tea come shooting out my nose. I am hopeful that he will not break in to this tune in the middle of math class tomorrow. Georgie, with only the innocence that the young can embody, then told his Dad that he should get some of that stuff so he would be a better dancer. Mambo everyone!

And finally, Henry had an audition with a new violin teacher this afternoon. He was pretty nervous - and consequently so was I. Good news is that he did well and was accepted as a new student of Calvin Morisaki. So, for the low, low price of $80 a lesson, he will mold young Henry in to the next Cambodian virtuoso. Oh, and we also need to get him a new violin as his is a) too small and b) not a high quality instrument. I'm thinking that for this kind of investment I now have the obligation to become one of those "hollywood moms" and I can nag him endlessly about his potential with immunity. "Henry William Wisniewski, get in here and practice your violin!!!"

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I live with boys

Friday night, in our house, is Pizza and a Movie Night. We've held this tradition for some number of years through good pizza and bad pizza - - o.k. mostly bad pizza. We are happy to be back in the land of pizza and have found a good local joint that delivers.

Last night the boys and I decided to head down to West Portal to order our pizza from the actual shop and to visit our neighborhood video joint to become a member and rent a couple of flicks.

The boys' choices were "Run Fat Boy Run" and "Meet the Spartans". For those of you who have seen "Meet the Spartans", there is really no need to finish reading this post. You are already aware of the insane number of gonad jokes that are creatively crammed in to a 90 minute movie. I was going to write "film", but I realized that that would be just plain wrong.

Luckily, we chose to eat our pizza before turning on the movie. The sheer number of puss, snot, and other viscous fluid shots would have negatively impacted the eating experience for me. The boys wouldn't have cared an iota.

The three boys pretty much snickered, snorted, guffawed and laughed through the entire movie. They slapped knees, rolled their eyes in glee and learned new descriptive ways to talk about their packages. Thanks to a scene involving a "your mommas so fat." joke battle, I have a whole new generation of comedians in my house. Goodie goodie!

I grow misty-eyed remembering those nights when we sat and watched family friendly G rated flicks. Oh Toy Story where have you gone? I am out numbered by men and fear that my life of watching bad satires is just beginning.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Butter snob

I have managed to raise food snobs. We had had a conversation the other night at dinner regarding the quality of the butter I was serving with corn bread. Henry related that he thought that the taste and texture of the butter in the "gold" wrapper was superior to the butter in the paper wrapper. The gold was some fancy schmancy imported butter, the paper was your run of the mill Land-o-lakes. I thought he was just spewing his usual know-it-all kind of Henry-ism. I mean really - doesn't the flavor of corn bread just call for the yummy moisture that butter provides regardless of the kind of butter? I guess not.

This morning at breakfast I made the boys waffles. Don't get too excited, I just popped Eggo's in the toaster and reached for the butter and syrup. Henry's breakfast was sitting at his seat before he arrived downstairs (please refer to earlier post about Henry's dawdling issues). Because I think that the butter on waffles should soften before it's spread, I had already put some butter on his waffles and put the container away. He takes one bite of his waffle and says accusingly, "You used the cheap butter, didn't you?" He then proceeded to get up and toast himself another waffle and ate it sans butter. Whilst doing so, he opined that he would rather have no butter on his Eggo, than be forced to eat the "bad stuff".

What's next? A revolt against juice in the container versus fresh squeezed. Good night nurse!!

And on a final note - - we were watching the playoff game last night between Boston and LA. I must not have been paying attention at the Giants' game we attended, but what is the deal with the players of the winning team heading out to the field to "congratulate" themselves for winning? They line up like kids do at the end of any little league sport to say "good game" to each other by slapping hands with the opposing team -- 'cept that apparently in professional baseball you only have to say "good game" to yourselves. What a bunch of hokey.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Attractive Nuisance??

Today I took the car to a really nifty car-wash. You get out of your car, let them vacuum and clean it, all the while you hang out on a nice comfy bench in the sun. I thought this was really nice. This could be entirely normal in the whole of the US civilized world, but I've never done this. In Germany it is illegal to wash your car in front of your house. You have to go to an authorized car wash - just one of those ones that you stay in the car while your auto gets sprayed with stinky recycled water. In London I think that you could wash your own, but we also used one of those little ones where you drive your car in to the stall and then back it out when it's done.

But, the point is -- after I took the car to the car wash and enjoyed my moment in the sun, I went to pick up the boys from school. Henry gets in the car and immediately says, "What happened to my Ipod?" All that remained of his Ipod were the ear buds dangling obviously out of the little webbed pocket in front of his seat. Big DRAG! We headed back over to the car wash and reported our loss. They were really nice, and I guess they will work with their employees to find out what the heck happened to Henry's Ipod. There's a part of me that feels like I abetted the crime for not remembering that it was there in the first place. I left an attractive nuisance and expected someone to be able to manage their impulses. I was wrong.

The incident reminded me of a time about 25 years ago when Shannon was about 3. We got in to our car one morning to find that someone had broken in to our car. All that was left of our radio were the severed wires hanging out of the dashboard. She just sat in her car seat and stared at the hole. Finally she said, "Why would somebody want to steal our music??" in the way that only an innocent 3 year old could say. She didn't get that someone stole the hardware. To her, they just took her music. So sweet.