Saturday, January 31, 2009

Our first "Superbowl"

Tomorrow is the big day. The Steelers play the Cards. This Superbowl is the first one for George the Younger. Since returning to the States, US football is one of the things that just rings his bell.

I wonder, of late, whether his love of the game is a "genes by osmosis" kind of thing for him. I come from a HUGE football family. Thanksgiving dinners were planned and executed with game times being the most critical work-around obstacle. Nary a bird would be carved nor a cranberry consumed if there was a pigskin on the move. God forbid the man holding the electric carving knife got over excited by a play. Fingers could be lost, families shattered. Most Americans have heartwarming memories of the Thanksgiving feast (oyster stuffing or no?), the familial conversations (how's school, look how short you've gotten), the extended family enveloping them (three, count them three great-grandmothers at one table!). These are profoundly woven in to the warp and woof of my own thanksgiving memories, but so is the sight and sound of all of my uncles rising up in unison and screaming, "RUN you son-of-a-bitch...RUN!!"

To further illustrate the family love of both football and, specifically the Steelers (since I suspect that many Turkey dinners are served at odd hours thanks to fluctuating time zones and game times), my family owned a "Steeler Vehicle". Yup, they had an RV for the sole and singular use of tailgating at the Steeler home games. Or at least that's that way I remember it. Dem Steeler fans really take their pre-games seriously. And since it's pretty dang cold in Pittsburgh - - why, of course it makes sense to have the necessary vehicle in which to enjoy hanging out in a massive asphalt parking lot while maintaining the appropriate body temperature without having to rely strictly on alcohol consumption. To my knowledge, this vehicle was never used for anything but driving the 20 miles to Three Rivers and for housing the necessary vittles and libations to last until kick-off.

If George the Younger were to have lived during this past-history-time of my life, he would be existing in a world that simply couldn't get any better. A group of people who not only share his new love of the game, but also buy vehicles in which to transport themselves to the games. Simply heaven.

And so, George-the-younger-now-extreme-lover-of-football waits for kick-off tomorrow afternoon. Conveniently, this will happen a little earlier for us on the West Coast than for most of my family in the East. We don't have nearly as long to wait, or as many nachos to consume until the Steelers have the opportunity to beat the living crap out of those pansy Cardinals.

And you know what's somewhat ironic about this? I don't really follow football. I grew up with it having great weight and meaning. It's likely that I will lose some points with the fam when I confess that I don't get what the whole big thing is during the regular season. I have never owned, nor will I ever own a piece of football logo gear. But, there's something about the Steelers that brings back wondrous memories of home - and so I'm jumping in with both feet for this game. Further, I know that if I don't start showing a modicum of enthusiasm for the game that my son adores, who obviously got them game-lovin'-genes from my uncles in some amazing non-biological DNA transfer, he will think I'm a real loser. Can't have that happening. So - I'm waving that terrible towel and it wouldn't be a total shock if George-the-Younger just happened to get a Steeler's jersey in the near future.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Living overseas for many years breeds some quirky hankerings and habits. I've known folks who want nothing more than to get a box of Kraft Mac 'n'Cheese - -and they never ate it before, nor would really want to eat it again. There were times in Tokyo when we actually paid some absurd sum of money for a can of Manwich. Yes, Manwich. Sloppy-joe in a can has some weird appeal when it is as expensive as kobe beef and not nearly as accessible. I developed an odd yearning for things like Almond Joys, a desire to read The National Enquirer and a real jones for Hellman's mayo.

Notwithstanding anything else to read in English, I once paid 2,000 yen ($20) to buy a Readers Digest. It was at that point that George informed me that we just couldn't continue to afford my "magazine habit." One Readers Digest was unquestionably the first baby-step on a slippery slope to paying a king's ransom to having People Magazine delivered to me no matter what country I was in. Oddly, George ended up being right. I stopped buying R.D. in Tokyo, but I did continue to pay extravagantly to have People sent to me. It was crack. Crack in bite-sized US pop culture nuggets.

Expatriates also often suffer minor personality disorders associated with hording. We make lists before we travel back to the US, and can often be found with more than 10 boxes of Special K in our pantries. Tuna, flour, the aforementioned Mayo and red licorice were always found in copious amounts in my own cupboard. The other thing we always had were drugs. Lots of modern pharmaceuticals.

Sudafed, Motrin, baby aspirin, Advil, Milk of Magnesia, stuff to clog and other stuff to unclog - - the whole nine yards. Take a stroll through your neighborhood pharmacy, think of the things that you could possibly use in a year and imagine buying some of each to stock your own mini-Walgreens. God forbid you had to treat some ailment with Japanese or German medicine. Not a real confidence builder.

Tonight I decided to finally take some medicine to clear up the the copious amounts of snot inside my face. I trip up the stairs to get me some drugs in my own little pharmacy. But, you know what? I didn't have a single unclogger that didn't expire 12 months ago. Hmmm, one of those sure signs that you are not an expatriate any more, but haven't relearned the necessary life skills to fully adapt to US living. Weirdly, I didn't even think to go out and get something when I discovered the cupboard was bare. It only occurred to me as I was writing this, that there are these fabulously cutting edge places called 24-hour pharmacies in the good old us-of-a. What a concept. Oh, and I still eye those Almond Joys with a sense of awe.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I have a head cold. Nothing that a few days of tea and sleep won't fix, but alas, I feel like my head is filled with great green globs of greasy grimy gopher guts. It's one of those colds where you can actually feel the slime moving in between your sinuses when you shift positions. Frightening where all the crap comes from.

In two days, it is likely that George the Elder will also become afflicted with this cold. It will be blamed directly on me. George does not get a cold virus randomly from the external population. He ONLY gets colds that are apparently diabolically manufactured by me. Yup, I am a mad scientist who's only objective is to design and infect George with the nastiest little cold virus I can muster up.

In case you haven't seen this video on You Tube - - you need to watch this. It is called Man Cold. Hands down one of the funniest things I have witnessed. It is hysterical to all women. It is hysterical in that "been there done that kind of way."

We were in Bhutan a couple of years ago. I managed to get a nasty head cold and suffered through this for a couple of days. Those couple of days were spent uncomfortably at some 12,000+ ft above sea level and the nights in a freezing cold tent lying not more than 2.5 feet from my dear husband. Interestingly, when George came down with the same cold a couple of days later, he could barely move from the back seat of the van AND he was lucky enough to have to endure his cold back in a semi-heated hotel. When I chastised him about being such a baby, reminding him that I had had the same cold just days before - - he responded (and I kid you not): "What??? You were sick???" Observant guy.

Right now my voice sounds like someone who has had WAY too much bourbon and far too many cigarettes. It might actually be a great voice if I were employed as a phone sex operator. All that mouth breathing and everything. Oh yeah, except that I am physically unable to successfully pronounce any hard consonants. Drat, there goes that bright idea for new employment possibilities.

I've been talking like this since I picked the boys up from school 4 hours ago. Two minutes ago I blew my nose for probably the 20
th time in an hour. Henry finally just looked over and said, "Are you sick??" Smart kid. It only took him 4 hours.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Conundrum Complete

At exactly 9:04 pm on Friday January 23rd, the Theme from Rocky, the Theme from 2001 a Space Odyssey and Fanfare for the Common Man began to ring out simultaneously in my head as I boldly wiggled the last piece of my Stave Puzzle in place! Arms were raised in triumph and a loud "YOP!" could be heard for miles around. I scared the dog.

As promised, here is a photo of this bad boy. Disappointingly, it doesn't look quite as complex assembled as it did when all the pieces where scattered randomly around. So, it's likely you're scratching your head wondering what all the fuss is about. No matter. I'm the one who put the friggin' thing together and only I must endure the memories of the mental battlefield that was once a but a mustering troop of diabolical puzzle pieces.

I tried to capture some of the insanity in this close-up of the dragon's heads, but again, it looks easy. If I told you that the ruffled edge along the top was merciless, would you believe me? Or am I just a whiny wimp?

Wimp or no wimp - - the journey is over. And upon this milestone, another problem rears its ugly head. At what point can I take the puzzle apart and remove the "puzzling table" from my living room? Honestly, I would like to gaze upon my accomplishment at least for a couple of days. But, really, how lame is that? A grown woman who wants to look at her finished puzzle for a couple of days? Does this have "get a new life / hobby/ pedicure appointment" written all over it or what?

Well, I could always frame it and put it up in the guest bathroom. Nothing says "What's wrong with your hostess?" like framed puzzles in the loo.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Things I Never Heard at Robert F. Nicely

Ages ago, I went to elementary school. I actually had the excitement of going to a brand spankin' new school that was constructed in 19-something-late-middle when I was in third grade. It was truly state-of-the-art with a cool "multi-purpose room" that had these cool foldy-up tables so that you could eat lunch AND have gym in the same place. The design of the school possessed these cool grade "pods". Circular buildings were separated in to five or so pie shaped slices with movable walls. We all said the Pledge of Allegiance together in the morning and then tried to focus on what was going on inside our slices versus the more interesting antics of Mrs. Burkheart's class in the adjacent one. And, while it was brandy-new, it still had mimeograph machines (loved that smell), film strip projectors and lunch trays with tiny milk boxes with the pictures of the presidents - - how else would I know who Woodrow Wilson was? In other words, it was the 60's

I was thinking about this the other evening after I heard Henry make a comment at dinner that made me laugh out loud. It was then that it occurred to me in a dead-on certain way, that there are things that Henry says about 4th grade that I would never have heard during my time at Robert F. Nicely Elementary:
  • In response to the question "where is the lost and found?" - -"You know Mom -- it's right near the compost pile beside the school."
  • "Of course we play dodge ball!! We play with Nerf Balls and the little kids get to play too!"
  • "Mom, you can't put M&Ms in those cookies. Elliot is allergic to artificial coloring."
  • "Jumbo, Jumbo Bwana, Habai gami, mzuri sana" (Kenyan folksong - -unofficial school Alma mater)
  • "I really hope that Obama wins tomorrow. If not, three of my classmates are leaving the country."

So, I hearken back to the olden days when the compost pile was called the dumpster; where big strong kids whipped hard red playground balls at each other and little kids were excluded unless they were willing to take the risk of those faint bruises that appeared when you didn't "dodge" quickly enough; where the only allergies that we knew of were those kids that blew up like balloons when they got stung by bees; where we sang American the Beautiful in the morning right after the Pledge; and where no 4th grader knew very much about politics and certainly not enough to decide that they were potentially going to leave the country if things didn't go their way.

I have no opinion which was better or worse. The point is - - it's just different. I suspect that some folks probably had compost piles in the 60's. But certainly not with the enthusiasm and sense of public purpose that our kids (at least in SF) do. Hell, Henry chastised me the other day for putting a paper napkin in the regular garbage. He said, "Mom that's not very responsible or earth-friendly."

And while I know that he is right (the little wise-acre), there's a part of me that just doesn't want to scrutinize the recyclable properties of everything that I need to get rid of. Food? Paper? Food soiled paper? What kind of little triangular recycling thing is that? Can someone please find my glasses so I can see what number is inside the little triangular recycling symbol??? What I sometimes really want to do is just throw it away where it is then hauled to the dumpster. You know, the dumpster. The place where the school bullies used to skulk around, smoke cigarettes and count the lunch money that they stole. You know - - the place where the compost pile is now located. You know - - the compost pile that is ecologically breaking down our bio-degradable Nerf balls and finger-painted "Yes We Can" posters.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Beelzebub in a Box

Several years ago, George started a sort of on-again, off-again tradition of buying me really cool puzzles for Christmas. They are beautiful works of art. You can find them on the web at I'm not kidding when I say that these are beautiful works of art. Beautiful works of art that are hand cut in to tiny little pieces sent directly from Satan headquartered in the netherworld. They are amazingly frustrating, yet oddly compelling. Even the owner of the place describes himself as Chief Tormentor. He hires little she and he-devils to help him.

They arrive in these cute little blue boxes - - kinda like the blue of Tiffany's - - but without the shiny baubles inside. There is no photo. Beyond hitting the web-site to figure out what you are about to attempt to construct (which is verboten in the puzzling world), you haven't a single clue what you are doing. You simply dump the pieces out and start to see what fits together.

There is no "flat side vs curvy side" to get you started. The key, and only, strategy is to start with one piece and try it against every other single piece. One by miserable one, by miserable one, by miserable one. After many hours of "puzzling" (the euphemistic term that the ardent fans of Stave Puzzles use to describe the hellish action of trying to construct the unknown), you are rewarded by getting two morsels to fit together. Clouds part, angels sing and you look for someone nearby to fist-bump cause you're so damn thrilled. What's really crazy about it is that you keep on doing it. Hour after hour. Hence, the oddly compelling part of it.

My newest cherry wood conundrum is 270 pieces of swirly red/white/orange pieces. There is some variation of color which you think would help. It doesn't. I dumped it out the day after Christmas. I am still not finished. Sadly, and somewhat embarrassingly, I pulled an old card table up from the basement and put the puzzle on it. Now my living room looks like some old lady's that builds puzzles of kittens and porpoises frolicking in the ocean. I also, embarrassingly, tend to drink a lot of hot tea while I am "working" on it. What has become of me?

BUT, I have not yet given up despite the social ramifications of being known as a person with a puzzling card table in their living room. And, more importantly, Henry's initial prediction that it would take me 140 days to put it together (assuming the two pieces per day average in the beginning), I have only about 50 devilish little chunks of befuddlement to fit together. It goes a bit faster now that there are only 50 fragments to try at a time.

When it is done I will take a photo of it. According to the website, if I send in the photo of my finished puzzle, I earn Stave Points towards my next purchase. This seems wrong. I should earn Stave Points towards either a) psychiatric counseling to determine why I would want to do it the first time, let alone repeat the puzzle, or b) a week long visit to a spa that does massages and serves drinks.

In the end, one thing continues to nag at me. As I said, I get these from George. What do you figure he is trying to punish me for? When I am "puzzling" he sometimes strolls by, or looks up from the couch and just laughs quietly. The laugh has the Mwa-ha-ha of Dr. Evil sound to it. I think I even heard him mutter under his breath something about "idle hands, devil's play thing." What's up with that?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Did you ever see that movie "Dave" that starred Kevin Kline and was about the doppelganger who posed as the president married to Sigourney Weaver? (Wow - - doppelganger and Sigourney both in one sentence - - a spelling challenge). But, back to the question. Did you ever see that movie?

In one scene sequence, Dave invites his accountant buddy, played by Charles Grodin, to help him come and look at the country's books to squeeze out some money for a homeless shelter. In then end, they cull some of the pork and voila! they have funding for a shelter.

While I was reading the SF Chronicle today, I had a "Dave" moment. On the front page was the typical blather about how CA doesn't yet have a signed budget and that Schwarzenegger (yet one more 25cent word) is going to try to get it together by making dramatic cuts in education funding. CA is already ranked 47th in total student spending - - less than Tennessee!! Yes, please let's cut the education funding. This makes sense???

This kind of stuck with me as I traversed the rest of the paper and headed towards the "Bay Area" section. This section is most often where I find the stories that bring a smile to my face. Not because the are traditionally funny, but because they are so illustrative of some of the absolute stupidity that can make up the daily news in SF. Beyond that, there are the obits and I have a thing for reading those (a question for another day). In any event, today in the Bay it was reported that there were only 34 suicides in '08 off the Golden Gate bridge. This was slightly higher than in past years, but given the economic conditions of the state and the country - - are we not surprised that this number wasn't higher? Yet, I digress.

The connection here is that the tiny little blurb on page B3 reminded us Californians that we were going to be doing something to stem this flow of jumpers. We were going to help our fellow humans. Yes! We are going to spend $50 million dollars to build a snazzy little safety net under the bridge to catch those poor souls that wish to leave their earthly bounds sooner rather than later. $50 million. $50 million!!!!

So, in my "Dave" moment - - I thought - - $50 million to build a net to catch 34 people (and possibly not all of them California Residents as I could imagine that to some out-of-state suicidal folks there might be some last ditch poetry in making a final pilgrimage to the Golden Gate and going out in style).??? OR, here's a thought - - how about we forgo the net and, oh I don't know, do something better with the $50mil. Like, hmmmm, what? Give it to the damn schools.

And, the worst part is that there are surely a million other stupid projects like this going on all over California - - not to mention the US as a whole. Makes you wonder how the folks righteously serving these projects justify taking money from education to fund their absurdities. Like the new project that will study why the regular alligator at the SF zoo randomly attacked the Albino alligator and bit his toe. We're gonna spend a few hundred thousand to come up with the following: "because he's an alligator". Surely that's worth spending the money as opposed to buying text books for second graders? Go us.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

San Fran Drivers

I have been noodling something since I moved back to California. I have been wondering why, at least here in San Francisco, there seems to be a total disconnect between actual traffic laws, commonly known standard driving practices and the way that these are interpreted and applied here in San Francisco. As I recently had to take my written test to be awarded a California Driver's license (and as aside, I look like an oopma-loompa in my picture - - for some reason I am entirely orange tinted - - sort of like Magda in "There's Something About Mary") - perhaps I am a little more aware of the actual laws, since I did study for my exam.

Still, one would think that generally common sense would apply to most driving situations, but that appears to be absent here. A few examples:

  1. San Franciscans are flummoxed by stop signs. Oddly, I have always thought stop signs were simple. Big Red Sign. Stop, and I mean completely stop, look all ways and proceed with caution. The SF application means, see big red sign - - sort of pause and continue driving. There's no need to look any where - - just keep your eyes straight ahead, it takes less time. This makes crossing the street for pedestrians kind of tricky - but hey this is California, so if you get hit, you just sue the driver for a cool few million and then also sue the government for not painting the sign red enough.
  2. San Franciscans are outright CONFUSED by four-way or three-way stop signs. Again, easy enough. Come up to the stop sign. Note who is already there or approaching. Person there first gets to go - - if you all arrive at the same time - - yield to the right. I would like to add at this juncture that there are about a bazillion stop signs in SF. We like stop signs more than we like traffic lights, so the daily application of navigating them is significant. You'd think they'd get it right. Hell NO! It's a friggin free for all. Either someone is overly aggressive (i.e. applying the skills of #1 "pause and proceed") or they are so confused by the other cars and the progression of who goes first, that they just sit there until you either honk your horn or frantically wave at them from in your car. I have tried the giving-up-in-exasperation technique and just proceeding, but dollars to donuts, as soon as you move off the mark, they also start to go. Is it just a game?
  3. San Franciscans do not have any idea what the lever is to the left of the steering column. IT IS A TURN SIGNAL FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE. Know it. Use it. And, more importantly, if you do use it - - use it to signal the actual way you are turning. You know - - left for left, right for right. Oh, and when someone has their signals on - it means that they are GOING to turn. Sheeeeesh~
  4. San Franciscans always have the right of way. Example. You are driving on a road. A parked or standing car is blocking your lane. Common sense would indicate that you should slow down, or at least look to see if there is either on-coming traffic coming towards you in the open lane, or if you are on a one-way street or 4 lane road, you should look before changing lanes. Nope. That's not the way it works. In SF, if there is something in your way, you immediately enter the other lane - regardless of whether it is occupied - - you shift to the right or left as if some magical lane modifier were there. The vehicle in the other lane, must somehow anticipate this magical lane shift and also swerve to avoid striking the car that is avoiding the obstacle in the lane. It's as if they think that the whole damn road just bends to their wills. Fascinatingly dangerous.
  5. San Franciscans believe that changing lanes on a Freeway can be done the absolute moment the spirit moves them. See #3 - - turn signals are not used. The rear view mirror is a place to check to see if your sun glasses, or lipstick is applied properly. It is not a tool to be used to look behind you for approaching traffic. Side view mirrors just make the car look cool. You don't use these either. If you are in the far left lane and want to exit within the next 50 yards -- just head on over there - you can make it!!! Whenever I hear of an accident on one of SF freeways, I am never amazed. I am far more shocked that there isn't a 10 car pile-up every single moment of every single day.

I know that there is more to say about this, but just writing it down makes me crazy. Not too long ago, I witnessed the strangest and most confounding thing. A minivan (nuff said right there, but I will continue) paused at a stop sign right in front of me. At the next light I sidled up to said minivan where the driver was talking on her cell phone (yes this is illegal in SF). Simultaneously, she was checking her make-up in the rear view mirror and wildly gesticulating along with her obviously important conversation. At the next light I was in front of her. When I checked her out in the rear view mirror, she was still talking on the phone but now squeezing a zit on her forehead. Yeesh. And finally, when I checked my rear view mirror again between the next two lights, her van was still moving forward, but SHE WAS COMPLETELY MISSING. The driver's seat was empty as far as I could tell. A couple of seconds later, she popped up. She must have been looking for something in the passenger side floor well. Her mascara? Her cell phone? Her brain????

The new Grill

Yesterday was a milestone in the life of my budding adolescent. That age-old right of passage where we embark on cementing little pieces of metal on the front of all his teeth and begin the arduous and sometimes painful process of creating the perfect American smile. Yes, we Americans do place high value on the straightness of our teeth. There have been at least three times when we have been in foreign countries and met people who commented that they knew we were American before we even introduced ourselves. How? Cause of our straight and clean teeth.

Georgie headed to the Ortho yesterday morning at 9:00 and by 10:45 was completely outfitted with the tortuous brackets. Here is he with his last "before" smile...

Here is my favorite picture. I promised him that I wouldn't show this to anyone - - I lied. For those of you who know Georgie, you know that he has a big mouth. Not in the sense that he talks a lot, for those of you who know him also know he is a man of few words. His mouth is large in the sense that he will be the guy that we all knew in college who could actually either fit his entire fist or a can of beer in his mouth. Obviously, this little party trick is entirely genetic. As this photo shows, and as the ortho-technician pointed out, they didn't have any problem accessing any of George's teeth. Go figure.

And finally, the finished product. It's not nearly as glaring as I thought it would be. Given the square footage of Georgie's smile, I was practically certain that I was going to have to squint to avoid the brightness of the new rails. But, thanks to modern dentistry, it's a whole lot less metal than I had anticipated.

He ventured to school yesterday right after he had his requisite ice cream (even though his teeth didn't hurt). It took him about 30 minutes to brush and floss last night. Or, let me rephrase, it took him 15 minutes to brush and it took ME 15 minutes to floss. He has mitts for hands and he can't navigate the floss threader thingy. so I had to help him. I am hoping that he gets more proficient at the little floss threader thing, as I really don't want to spend the next two years flossing his teeth for him.

This morning he did have a lot of pain and asked for apple sauce for lunch. I suggested that taking a couple of aspirin might also help a little. You'd have thought I asked him if he wanted to take some heroin or something. The kid does not like to take medicine. But I finally convinced him that, thanks to the effectiveness of modern medicine, he actually didn't have to power through the pain. Aspirin would really work. He still can't swallow a pill, so the irony was that his painful mouth had to chew through the Motrin. This may just be the catalyst needed to get him to master the skill of pill swallowing.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

10 Years Old and still my baby

Henry had kind of a crappy birthday this year. Since his b-day is the 2nd of September and we had just moved here - - the poor miserable bloke didn't have any friends to invite to a party. Luckily, since the beginning of the year, H has made some buddies. It was those new buddies who, of their own volition, asked Henry to share in their birthday party this past Friday. How great is that??

So, we gathered all the boys in the class - - all 13 of them - - and celebrated the birthdays of 3 of them. We headed downtown to one of the Mom's offices and took over their really cool space to eat pizza, watch "Get Smart" and eat the most delicious German Chocolate Cake. Good times. "Get Smart" got some pretty crappy reviews this year, but I can tell you that in the world of your average 11 year old, it would be nominated for an Oscar. The perfect combination of people doing stupid things, car chases, weapons and potty humor. A-One.

In other news, we have had B-E-A-utiful weather here in the Bay area. Saturday and today were both near 70 and sunny. Loving January. We took the boys to the SF zoo yesterday. It's a grand total of 10 minutes driving from the house. I think it took longer to find parking and to walk to the entrance than it did to make the car trip. We had heard lots of crappy things about the SF zoo. Bad management, poor funding, too expensive, blah, blah, blah. Last year a guy got killed by a tiger that got loose on Christmas day. It was blamed on the zoo management. (Note: All of the early 20-something guys involved in the mauling incident are in jail now on other charges and most had already spent some time in our finer penal institutions. Basically, they were partying, hopped the fence, provoked the cat and are now suing the zoo for millions of dollars for the "trauma" they experienced. Frankly, in my opinion, the gene pool was nicely and rightfully culled.)

But, our experience yesterday was great. Sure it would have been better if it was free (we miss you National Zoo!!) But, it's a nice little zoo. They have a large Serengeti area since our weather apparently is quite similar. So, beautiful giraffes and okapis. Also, they had a cool little insect house - lots of hidey insects and fair number of large scary spiders. And, most importantly, you could buy Churros. A sure sign of an exemplary zoo.

We also made note that there's still a lot of "little boy" in our Henry. They have a little steam engine choo-choo train that goes around a moderate sized track in the zoo. He and I took a ride together. The Georges declined and sat around to wave at us as we went past. He held my hand, commented that we were going "pretty fast" and was enthralled by how the steam engine worked. I know I will loose my baby soon enough, but yesterday I got to spend a few moments with him.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What's for Dinner???

Of all the things that I have had difficulty with in the transition from Manager to Mom (and please, for all the Mom's out there who will say - - but I AM also a manager - - tuck away your righteous indignation - - I know that you are also a manager, as well as a number of other titles. But, for the purposes of this particular missive - - assume "Manager" is the working-out-of-the-house-title. Kay??), the most troubling is the burdensome, arduous and irritating task of deciding what to have for dinner. I won't even get in to the whole finding time to actually shop and cook said meal. That part is just the sickly sugary icing on the proverbial pain-in-the-ass cake of "what are we eating tonight?".

In the olden days, before I had a wife that took care of things like dinner (which occurred sometime in 2000 when we moved to Japan, where having a Philippine wife was considered commonplace and, well, necessary and accepted), I used to cook dinner. I did this the whole time Shannon was growing up and I was working at the same time. So, assuming that Shannon was born in 1980 - I cooked and planned dinners for 20 damn years before I took a 6 year break when I didn't really cook at all. That's 20 years of making the Dinner Decision. I know I made stuff. I know I put stuff on plates. I know I often pondered over the "three things" on a plate dilemma - - you know: Meat, Starch, Veggie. I know this because Shannon did not starve to death nor become a victim of scurvy or rickets. She is alive and well, has all her teeth, and I am assuming she is now planning her own dinners.

So, what happened in the six years when my wife planned dinner? Two things. First, I came to realize that when your husband/significant other/kids respond "I don't care" to the question of "What do you want for dinner?", they are not just bullshitting you. They really don't care. I know that I didn't. All I cared about was that when I came home from work, there was stuff to eat. It was hot, it was usually some Philippine speciality, and I honestly was grateful to have it there. It is likely that I still don't care what is for dinner and this may be contributing to the overarching issue. Second, it is glaringly evident that the part of my brain that houses both ideas for dinner and the expertise to execute the preparation of dinners was somehow adversely affected over that 6 year period. Basically, that part of my cerebellum disintegrated or atrophied or some such medical problem.

Lest you think that I am not resourceful - -I read Real Simple, I know how to google, I have (or to be clear George has) dozens of cookbooks. In fact, George has invested in a couple of new cookbooks since I have taken over the main responsibility of food planning and preparation. These are "easy" cookbooks with titles like "How to Cook Everything Well" or "A Trillion Easy Recipes That Require No Real Skill". The access to resources is not the issue.

The problem is that I have some kind of a mind-stall affliction going on when it comes to daily application of deciding on meals.
It is as if when the thought first comes in to my head, when the slightest hint of the internal inquiry of "what I am going to make for dinner?" pops in to my mind, the part of my brain that houses and stores delicious epicurean ideas and memories of things that I have made in the past becomes frozen. Honestly. A loud humming noise takes up all consciousness and my ears starting ringing.

There are two exceptions to this. Weirdly, the things that come to mind are 1) Chili and Cornbread, and 2) Various shapes of pasta with red sauce. And while these are both delicious choices, it wouldn't be cool or nutritiously balanced if I served these every night.

I have tried to coerce my family in to helping with my affliction. I figured that since there are 4 of us, and Friday is pizza night, I would utilize my prior "Managerial Skills" and delegate this decision. Each family member in the house would be responsible for suggesting something for dinner for one night a week. This worked for about 2 weeks. All Henry wanted was Sushi - not applicable unless his night included heading down to Sushi-Mania. George the Younger wanted Pasta with red Sauce (see above paragraph. I KNOW this one) and George the Elder didn't really want to play the game. Something about his job was to work and my job was to... you know the rest.

I am now thinking of creating a "Things for Dinner" jar. Said jar would contain all the recipes that I know, plus a few Wild Cards that pointed me to the recent issues of Sauveur and would say something like - - Try Something New and Complicated You Lazy Woman This Is Your Job. I envision reaching in to said jar on days when I am experiencing the Brain-Stall. This would be most days. I am skeptical that this will solve the problem. What if the affliction is so severe that even trying to write the things I know on little slips of paper will invoke the stall?

Whatever. Right now, I need to run and start the water for our pasta. I spiced things up a bit and pan fried some sausage to add to the red sauce. Go me. (Note: I am a big fat liar. I did plan for the sausage. I even bought it at the store. When I got home, George the Elder was already here. He fried up the sausage. Now we all know who really cooks around here. His job is to work AND cook.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

We are Problem Solving People

After the chemical weaponry used last night on Henry's head, I check his hair this morning. There were still a fair number of little white nits in various locations. I spent about 30 minutes riffling through his beautiful black hair and snipping out the offensive bits. Georgie told me I looked like a Mama Monkey. I responded that that might be so, but at least I wasn't eating what I was picking....

We headed off to school to get an "all clear" from the school nurse - - but alas we were rejected as she was able to spot a few more lice eggs on Hen's head. We walked dejectedly to the car. What now? Then I said to Henry (remembering that HE LOVES school and can't stand to miss a minute - - freaky, I know...) you have two choices. First choice, we can got home, wet your hair and spend the next several hours, and perhaps days, working through getting the rest of the nits out of your head. Second choice, we head to Target, buy a hair clipper and shave your head. Henry recognized that Choice One could mean that he missed more school - - and so, we headed to Target.

By 10:30, we were shaved, showered and back to school. Problem Solved. (With the exception of the 10 loads of laundry that need to be done on "Sanitize" which takes 2 hours per load). Georgie will not need a head shave since he already keeps his hair really short. In this particular circumstance, I am happy to have boys. Problem with hair - - shave it off. End of Problem.

Henry didn't seem to mind getting his head shaved. In fact, he had a little bit of celebrity for the first few minutes of getting to school. In Henry's mind, he will justify that it was worth getting tiny little hair munching creatures for his 10 minutes of being the center of attention at school. As for me, I know the problem is solved, I actually feel like we did the right thing, but I am going to miss his silky black hair for the next several months.

Oh, and the school seems to think that he actually may have gotten the lice at school. It takes 10 days for the first live lice to appear after being infested. So, it's likely that he did get it there and I just didn't notice that he had bugs in his head until now. That's a comforting thought (?) and obviously a real nod towards my stellar mothering capabilities. What bugs? I didn't notice any bugs....

Last, I was told by my sister that it was a pain to make comments on this blog - - that you had to be a member or have a google account or promise to deliver your first born grandchild or something like that. I have since solved this problem as well, and no one's head had to be shaved in the process. I was just being dopey about managing my blog/comments. So, now everyone can post away their comments. Would love to hear from you - - especially if you yourself have ever had to deal with the dreaded lice....

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Head Lights

When Georgie was in the second grade in Germany, he came home from school and announced that they had a presentation on Head Lights during class. I wondered - -what in blazes could be interesting or educational for second graders under the topic of Head Lights? It wasn't until the next day when I was driving in the car by myself when the penny dropped. They didn't get a presentation on Head LIGHTS -- they got a lecture on Head LICE. Yish.

Luckily, for the past five years, we have been able to escape the reality that comes from the weekly announcements from schools in Germany, London and the US. That is - - until this afternoon.

This afternoon Henry announced upon coming home from school that his friend "Bob" had gotten lice over Christmas break. Then, he blithely announced that it was really weird cause his head itched too. Thinking that I had nothing to worry about - - I mean honestly! School just started yesterday! - - I half heartedly checked Henry's hair and YIKES YIKES YIKES!! There he was - - one nasty little ish of a creature in my lovely son's hair.

An immediate trip to Walgreens to purchase the right chemical arsenal, the perfect comb for nits and we rushed right home to start the ultimate cleansing process. Henry got nuked first. Step one: apply highly nasty smelling chemical compound. Step two: Lather said compound. Step three: Shampoo out nasty compound. Step Four: Remove all clothing, bedding, towels and the beloved teddy bear and wash them on "Sanitize." (Oddly, this is actually a setting on my washing machine. Briefly pondered whether the lice epidemic was so pervasive in the US that washing machines come with this cycle option. Sanitize???) Step 5: Repeat process for George the Younger. Even though he has no outward signs of the infestation - I thought it best to lather him with chemicals too. You can never be too cavalier about skittering little creatures that attach themselves willy-nilly to one's hair shaft.

Now the question is - - should I treat myself? I haven't done it yet, but I have visions of last night. Henry was having a tough time settling himself to sleep so, being the good mom / source of comfort that I am - - what did I do? I crawled right in to bed with him for a good cuddle to help him off to sleep. My hallmark commercial moment has now been altered with the reality that while I was snuggling and comforting, my sweet son was most likely transferring vermin from his head to mine. Sort of takes the beauty out of the moment, eh?

I will go up and do it in a moment. Not because I really think I have lice, but because I have been plagued with phantom itching since the moment at 3:36 this afternoon when I found the first creature on Henry's head.

The last question is - - where, oh yes where, would he have gotten lice over the past two weeks? We did not virtually leave the house during our Christmas break. (Insert pregnant pause...)...Except to go to the movies twice. Actually Henry saw three movies over break. I have always been suspect of movie theater seats - - now I am virtually certain that I will be taking some kind of seat cover with me and possibly making every one in my family wear shower caps to the next one. Imagine, there you are enjoying what the reviewers say is a sure thing for best picture of the year and as a little added bonus you get head hitch-hikers. (On second thought, imagine going to the movies where the entire family sitting next to you is wearing elasticized plastic headwear. That'd be a "hmmmm?" moment wouldn't it?)

And finally, you have to ask yourself this one last question. Is your head itching yet????

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year's Eve

What do we do for fun on New Year's eve?? We put hats on dogs. Not every family can dream of such wonders on the last night of the year - - but hey, we say, dream big or don't dream at all.

For the record, both boys, including Henry, stayed up with us to usher in 2009. We thought we would play dominoes, but in the end we were fascinated with the Rockin' New Year's eve extravaganza with Dick Clark and Ryan what's-his-name.

I feel badly saying this but when we saw Dick for the first time - - both of the boys wanted to know if this was supposed to be a funny characterization of someone. In their exact words, "Who is he trying to be?" It took George and I a minute to decide for ourselves if this was a joke or reality. Then we remembered that poor Dick had suffered a stroke. Not to be disrespectful, but it is clear that the stroke did affect his speech, but had no effect whatsoever on whatever laminate/plastic filler/spackel that he has been using for the past three decades hundred to pickle his face. I might even go as far as to say that whoever is working on Uncle Ho Chi Minh (among other preserved dictators) must have a hand in whatever is keeping Dick preserved. Makes you wonder if "going out with a bang" is the better alternative to "hanging on forever by the last of his manicured pinkie nails."

And speaking of Pickles...a final note on the rockin new year's eve show. I don't know who Kelly Picker/Pickles/Pinhead is. I suspect she is some kind of country music phenom. An ex-idol or something? No matter. She has a speaking voice that makes the scraping of fingernails across a blackboard sound melodious. I was shocked that the people who had been waiting in the cold frigid NYC temps for the better part of 23 hours did not ban together, procure a large blunt force object and beat the tar out of her right then and there. If I could have reached through the TV I would have done it myself. Yap. Yap. Yap. And sparkly eye shadow to boot. What the???

New Years day dawned rainy and cold - - the perfect foil for staying inside and doing not-a-thing. At least that's what the boys did. I use the first day of the year to take down all the Christmas stuff. It's a much longer, and to be honest, much more boring task than putting it up. The only modicum of excitement is the thrill that you get when you fit everything back in to fewer boxes than what you took them out of. For someone who moves as often as we do - - fewer boxes is a meaningful measurement. I did finally create a box for the salvation army of Christmas things that I don't use, or ever intend to use again. Those things that you look at several years after you bought them and think - - "What in the WORLD was I thinking when I thought this was going to be a future family heirloom?" I pray for the one-man's-trash-is-another-man's-treasure theory. If not, I have just contributed a few bright green things to California's landfills.

And finally, the saga of the Roast Pork. If you want to see what we attempted it can be found at It's the prettiest damn pork roast you ever did see. Did ours actually look like this? You're going to have to trust me on this one, but in fact, YES it did. It looked like this going in to the oven. It looked like this while it was roasting. It looked like this when it was roasting some more. It looked like this when it was roasting and roasting and roasting and roasting.

The recipe says that this bad boy was supposed to roast beautifully in somewhere between 60 and 70 minutes. (Cue the loud, evil sounding laughter - Mwah, ha ha!!!) And like all large meals, one plans the rest of the sides around the anticipated gorgeous slab of meat. So, there we were - - delicious mashed potatoes with real cream and butter, new years sauerkraut with white wine and peppercorns, pan fried green beans with garlic, and homemade succulent corn bread all sitting there getting room temperature while the roast kept on roasting.

We waited and waited. We waited for another hour past when the roast was supposed to be done. We finally took it out of the oven after 2.5 hours. We carved into it to find - - raw pink pork. Bad. Bad. Bad. Oh no! Was our new years pork luck going to dessert us? It appeared so. But George the Elder saved the day. We sliced the roast, scooped out the cornbread dressing and George sauteed the new little loins up. Crisis Avoided. In the end, it was quite possibly the absolute best New Year's dinner we have ever eaten, let alone rescued from imminent disaster.

So in summary, we put hats on dogs, watched a pickled music icon, stowed away many glass orbs and made a silk purse out of a pigs butt. All in all, an excellent start to 2009. Happy New Year!!!!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008 End of Year Questionairre...

Here's a list of questions that a fellow blogger put together - -thought I would take the time to answer them. I will get to our New Years celebration tomorrow or the next day. Suffice to say that we made it until midnight and all were summarily tucked in and asleep by 12:15!

Now on to the answers...

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?

Hmmm, starts with a toughie. I guess move BACK to the US is something I'd never done before, but that's pretty obvious. Oh, I went to Dollywood. Never done that before.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Unfortunately, I am boring and don't make new year's resolutions. So, obviously, I won't be making any this year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My neighbor in London had a darling little girl named Beatrix.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No. It was a very lucky year.

5. What countries did you visit?

Sri Lanka, France, Germany, Great Britian (lived there too!) and Thailand.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

Stability in our living arrangements. This whole moving thing has me knackered and I'd like to stay put for a while. Plus, stability in George's employment. The credit crisis sucks the big wazoo.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

August 1st, the day we moved to SF. November for the election - great to be back in the US for that one.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Moving and setting up house AGAIN. Also, didn't gain any weight (hardy har har har).

9. What was your biggest failure?

Trying to be a better mother, cook and housewife. The transition from working to stay at home working isn't always a bed a roses for me.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Oddly enough - - no.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A pair of red patent leather shoes. Great new measuring cups.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

The boys both deserve a big fist bump for making the transition to SF fairly seamlessly. It seems no matter what country we throw at them, they end up fitting in like they had never lived anywhere else. They are a resilient duo.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The US political machine. I was embarrassed to witness so much low brow politics from both sides. Further, as a republican, I was embarrassed for my party's candidate. I honestly believe that had John McCain ran for president as the guy he always was - - he would have made a better showing - - and earned my vote.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Down the stock market drain/vortex/black hole. Glug, glug, glug.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Watching Henry perform in the school play. Watching Georgie play in his first "real" basketball game. Going to In & Out burger for the first time in years. There's one right down the street from us. Can you say, "Double-Double???"

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?

Apple Bottom Jeans by TPain. It's not something I would choose to be played in my funereal song list, but the boys LOVE that song and play it endlessly. It's sort of like the "Knock Three Times" of 2008 for me.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?
b) thinner or fatter?
c) richer or poorer?

a) I am usually happy, so I am no happier or sadder. b)I am exactly the same weight wise. Although I wish I were thinner, I am getting used to me being this size. Plus, if I don't do anything about it - - I can't bitch about it. Further - -see about In & Out comment... c) Poorer. Thanks to the credit crisis. Damn. There goes the nest egg.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Gone out with George on dates. Gotten more frequent pedicures.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Cleaned. I am getting better at my little o/c cleaning problem, but I wish I could do less of it and still be happy in my house. Cannot get rid of the "dust is the devil's snow" mantra in my head.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At home for the first time in a few years. It was nice being here in SF with my two believers. It was a quiet day of opening gifts, going out for GREAT chinese, and watching the boys hone their mercenary skills. Top notch.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?

Nope. Already did that a while ago. It's still sticking.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

I still can't get used to watching US television - - i.e. knowing when shows are on and managing my schedule around them. We watched Mad Men on DVD and LOVED it!! Also watched the first season of the Tudors and loved that too.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Not much of a hater by trade. Still hate my father's widow, but that's a grudge I need to let go of. 18 years is a long time. Give it up already.

24. What was the best book you read?

I read a lot of books and then summarily forget the titles. Still, my favorite book in that last few years has been "The Shadow of the Wind". Great book. Good reading. Oh and for shear reading pleasure without any sort of mental gymnastics I will take anything from Jodi Picoult or Elizabeth Berg. Oh yeah and for any one with kids that wants the shit scared out of them, I would suggest reading "the price of priviledge" it will make you stop doing everything that you are doing.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

That I cannot manage any ipod or musical device. Al the boys have them. I feel flummoxed. Plus, I don't like wearing ear buds. Paranoia that someone will sneak up on me.

However, I am loving having access to US radio stations again and can submerge myself nicely there for hours.

26. What did you want and get?

I wanted a house in SF and I got that.

27. What did you want and not get?

I did not want to move away from London. I got that.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

So many unforgettable films. But, the one that gave me the greatest enjoyment (which I am embarassed to say) was Mama Mia. I went by myself on the weekend before the boys got home from camp after several weekends of moving and moving and moving to SF. It was the perfect release, toe tapping mindless blather that I needed at that very moment. I imagine that it would not have the same effect if it wasn't surrounded by all the chaos.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 49 years old. I had a nice date with my husband at a great Italian restaurant and ate lots of white truffles and drank really grand champagne.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Staying in London. A healthier economy. Knowing that I could get a better kabob in SF - miss those damn things. Bring on the garlic sauce.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

Used to be I had two sets of clothes - - "Working" and "Dead T-Shirt and Jeans." The transition to cool outfits for people who don't work any more has been dreadful. Am trying to find the balance between boring and expected (aka lots of black. that's the ticket) versus the whole "outfit" thing which required something in prints and the inclusion of colors not found in nature.

32. What kept you sane?

My husband. Although conversely, he also makes me insane sometimes. But he puts up with me pretty well.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I'm a McDreamy fan - so cute. Great hair. Not such a great actor, but I am only looking at him.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Hmmmmm, that's a toughie. Let's see - - OH, how about the number of US senators/mayors/congressmen who have been brought up on charges of acting inappropriately - - money, sex, prostitutes, affairs.... Naw, let's go with the election.

35. Who did you miss?

Lots and lots and lots of people. We move too much, And after all these years, I still miss my Dad. Wish he would have known George and the boys and watched Shannon grow up.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

A few folks in London. Monique comes to mind first.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.

Life is what happens when you're busy making plans. But then, I already knew that.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Can't even think about that one. "Row, row, row your boat??"

O.K. - now for the rest of you.... go ahead and answer these yourself. A good exercise to reflect. Something I don't do too often. Hence, "the Queen of Denial".