Friday, May 29, 2009

Springtime fun in 4th Grade

At the beginning of the week I received an email from Henry's teacher that this week was going to be the week that the fourth graders had their two day talk on puberty. Actually it wasn't officially entitled "WARNING!!!", but the effect of the email was just the same. It allowed a smallish group of parents to make a few phone calls wanting to know exactly what was going to be covered (and for the record, surprisingly they did not cover such locally relevant topics as homosexual sex or indeed the creative usage of vibrators for girls or strawberry lubricant for our budding boys - go figure??). I don't know where these folks went to Elementary school, but I can assure you that the "puberty" talk in Greensburg PA pretty much just covered the basics. Obviously, my imagination is limited. It just never occurred to me that anything other than periods, erections and body odor/acne would be covered. (oh, and I'm exaggerating. No one really asked anything about lubricant or pocket rockets - just woulda been funny, yeh?)

The thing about fourth grade is that the amount of knowledge about puberty per child is not evenly distributed. I know that there are girls who already have gotten their periods and I also know that there are boys (like Henry) who's give-a-shit level about the facts of life is well - - nil. Zip, zero. This is a little weird since Henry has a more than healthy general curiosity quotient. For some reason sex-ed doesn't hold any interest. We are a tad concerned. Have thought about placing Playboy magazines strategically around the house just to pique his inquiring mind. But then I would probably get some calls from fellow parents about why we thought it would be good idea for our son to learn that this month's centerfold had a PHD in Neuroscience and liked butterscotch pudding.

The two days have since come and gone. I asked Henry how it went yesterday. His monosyllabic answer was, as expected, "fine". I asked him if he had any questions. He raised his head up (I had the unbounded gall to ask him this question when he was trying to read a new Warriors Book) and just sighed. So much for the Mom follow-up. Georgie reports that he did have a couple of questions for him earlier in the day. I guess when you have a big brother to carry on the tradition of misinformation - - why would you need a Mom?

We did get a "follow-up" email from the teacher today assuring us that the discussions were a success. It was reported that the children had an opportunity to write down anonymous questions near the end of the second day. After reading some of them, I am wondering exactly what it was that was covered:

  • Does your voice HAVE to change? (I suspect that this is from the member of the class who is the in SF Boys Chorus. The end of an illustrious career is at hand)
  • Will my shoulders come next to my head? (huh?)
  • What causes an erection? (obviously, they missed the "teaching moment" here of explaining that ANYTHING can cause an erection -- and sometimes this lasts long after puberty - - say like for life...)
  • What things do you need if you're a girl and you're having your period? (Again, beyond the obvious absorbent products -- perhaps it's time to start teaching them that there is nothing wrong with pharmaceuticals - and in the absence of that, that eating the entire contents of the fridge is not necessarily a Bad Thing)

Intriguingly nearly 20% of the total questions asked were about food:

  • Will your taste buds change? Why do they change?
  • Do you eat different things?
  • Do you like to eat different things when you are older?

Actually, not so intriguing as you might imagine. It has been noticed throughout the year that this particular fourth grade class LOVES to eat. And, it seems that their love of eating surpasses their curiosity about sex. I say - - let's keep a close eye on these kids. Is this a sign of their obese asexual future? I doubt it, but it'd be fun to get some parents whipped up about this.

And finally, the best question of the bunch. I don't know who wrote it, but I can imagine the look, the presence and the rolling of the eyes - -

  • Are we going to keep studying this in the 5th grade and middle school????

Answer: We are going to keep studying this for the rest of our lives. Hell, when you're almost 50 you'll still be writing a blog about it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

To breath or not to breath

I mentioned awhile ago that I have a strange fascination with reading obituaries. This isn't a new fixation, but in the past years it has taken on new appeal.

Certainly as I get older, the first thing I scan the notices for are those recently deceased souls that are close to my own age. Lately, I have noticed that there are a few more of those folks than I would like. But then again, when you're 30 and checking out the death notices of those newly departed at the age of 70 that seems pretty darn far away. Now that I'm riding hard on 50 it seems a little too close for comfort. This is only going to get worse.

The second morbid fascination is with the general circumstances of death. I get comfort from seeing people pass away "surrounded by friends and family". I don't particularly cotton towards the ones that say things like "entered in to rest". Why? Like a realtor's description of a property that says "cozy" when what they really mean is "big enough for a family consisting of a single garden gnome", "entered in to rest" is translated in my mind to mean "died in a nursing home, surrounded by the faint smell of urine and found three days later". Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it has more to do with total word count and how much money is left to pay for the longer obit. Who knows?

Besides the basic facts like birth and death dates, and the aforementioned general statement regarding the circumstances - the SF obits are nice brief commentaries that reflect on the meaning of the deceased person's life. Seems to me that lots of San Franciscan's enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and composting and growing victory gardens. Moreover, Sf dead folks are frequently described as "pioneers". Does everyone in San Fran who dies have to had pioneered something? If so, I'd better get started blazing my own new invention in the environmental sector. Time is obviously running out.

I sometimes think about obits in odd times. Odd, if you consider that most of those times have to do when pondering my own demise. Take last night for instance. There I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep while my nose was so stuffed up that I could not inhale a single molecule of oxygen. I'm not kidding. Not a single particle of life sustaining gas could pass through those nose holes. (yes, I am suffering from another cold...) I was waiting patiently for the 1200 mg of guaifenesin to do it's advertised job and blow that snot clot to kingdom come, when it occurred to me that should a burglar break in to the house and should he, in the process of subduing the dwellers, decide to seal our mouths shut with duct tape - well I would be a goner. Dead gone. Suffocated in my own nose goo. What does an obituary say about something like that?

Of course, the pharmaceuticals did finally kick in. In fact they kicked in so dramatically well that in the middle of the night I had to consider my own expiration once again. I woke up with what can only be described as the biggest mack daddy case of cotton mouth ever experienced in the history of mankind. I fell asleep practically drowning myself in liquid boogers, and woke up unable to get my own tongue unstuck from the roof of my mouth. Just a few more moments of sleep in that state without an IV infusion of liquids and I would have just entirely shriveled up and died by my own parched tongue blocking my throat. So, at three in the morning I was considering the choice between the obituary that said "victim of robbery gone awry" or "closet drug abuser take one too many extended-release decongestant".

I managed to make it through the night and have lived to see another day. I have also managed achieved a workable balance between too much and too little hydration overall. In fact, I was able to read today's obits without mouth-breathing or smacking my dry lips trying to scrounge some moisture out of my chalk dry mouth. Luckily, I was able to do this since I am now convinced that not only do I have to be a pioneer in something, but I need to be an artisan. Three of seven dead today were artisans of some sort. I gotta a lotta work to do.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What's in the News?

This week I had the good fortune to visit one of San Fran's premier news stations in conjunction with a field trip with Henry's class. Before the details of the field trip, I've gotta confess that it was probably the most ideal field trip chaperoning experience in my life. Why? Cause I didn't have to do much chaperoning. I only attended the trip because Henry was getting his braces on that morning, so I needed to drive him to meet up with his class. The rest of the class was taking the public bus from the school to the station. Me? I got to ride in the comfort of my car (20 minutes from home to station), experience the engrossing world of a broadcast news station, and then return home in my car (20 minutes). The rest of class took the public bus (1 hour and 20 minutes), experienced the entralling wonders of broadcast news, and then returned to school using public transportation (1 hour and 40 minutes - including an unexpectedly long walk when they discovered that the place the bus dropped them off was not, in fact, the same place it would pick them up). Perfect for me, too bad for them.

The trip was cool beans indeed. Got to tour the buzzing newsroom where all manner of local Bay area news is digested and prioritized for interest. Lots of nifty police scanners going, TVs and monitors of all shapes and sizes capturing so many images of so many things it made me kinda dizzy to walk around. We all got to witness the actual airing of the 11:00 a.m. news right there in the studio. Did you know that the cameras are all remote operated from outside the studio? I didn't and it shocked the daylights out of me when the one in front of me started to move of its own accord. Just like a little starwars r2d2. Crazy. The stage manager says that they have kill-switches on the base. According to him there have been at least several times when they go nutso of their own accord and just start roaming around the studio at top speed wrecking in to things. A little eerie if you ask me.

The kids actually got to be on the local news - - we had no idea that this was going to happen. A friend says that she recorded it -- will have to get the clip one of these days. And finally we got to poke around the studio, play with the green screen and talk to the set manager, the weather man and the two anchors.

During the questioning, there was a lot of interest in the clothes and make-up worn by the two female anchors. It was especially interesting to hear that while the station tells them what they want them to wear, they do not have a corresponding budget for purchasing said clothes. What a rip. They also do not get a make-up artist or hair stylist. They are on their own. So much for what you see in the movies. Another myth busted.

They all said that the switch to HD was brutal. HD shows every little nook and cranny of your complexion - - so make-up techniques had to change and color palates had to be adjusted. Which they also had to pay for. New tones of clothes, new kinds of make-up - - all for the beauty of the news. It also turns out that a few other things needed to be adjusted to meet the demands of the local SF news broadcast.

The older female anchor has been on the news since 1986. That's a good long time. Certainly long enough that in order to preserve her seat at the news table, as well as to combat the complexion-under-a-microscope-brutality of the HD lens -- something else needed to be preserved as well. That would be her face.

When you see her from afar (or on the news), she looks dewy faced and youngish. When you get up closer - - you see a woman who's had some pretty serious work done including face lift, lip plumping, eye work, botox and copious layers of make-up. I'm no expert on spotting plastic surgery - but if she hasn't had it I'll eat my hat and munch on yours too. Dismally, this is what she must do to stay on the news in our youth obsessed society (more so for woman than men, although this is changing). In the absence of this, she would be off the air and replaced by the fresher, au courant, hip asian co-anchor that sits beside her (and has likely got her eye on the chair to her left).

Post-field trip, my erudite observations can be summarized as follows: Female newscasters do not make as much money in local markets than they do in national markets. Both anchors stated that they were in it for "the love of the news". This is translated effectively in to "we make scratch". The money that they do make is diminished by the need to purchase wardrobe, make-up and on-going hair maintenance. The money is further reduced by the cost of maintaining a never ending fresh-faced screen presence and subsequent financial support of plastic surgeons. The female newscaster's worth is not so much determined on how well she can research and present the news, but how she looks while she is doing it. This applies even if she can't keep the drool from escaping her filler-injected-plump lips, replete with a botox chaser, that makes it so she can't even pucker up to drink from a straw. Oh and last, and the cameras in the news room are remote controlled. Was there something else I was supposed to be learning while I was there???

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Grille" The Third Adventure

Tuesday came none to soon for the third child of mine to have little chunks of metal attached to his teeth. Unlike my prior two orthodontic experiences, Henry counted down the time until Tuesday first by weeks and then by days and finally Monday night was counting down the hours. What a strange little grape he is!

When we arrived he was enthralled by the pre-band and wire video where he was lulled in to the notion that he was going to be the best little orthodontic dental patient - learning all about how to care for his soon to be affixed hardware. This is interesting since on a typical day, the brushing of teeth is not ever on Henry's top 10 hit parade. In fact, without parental intervention (generally including threats of bodily harm, forced early bedtime or other similar portents of peril), brushing is simply not done.
Upon the insertion of the giant plastic mouth opener - H was practically humming with excitement. They were really, really going through with it. HE was GOING to HAVE BRACES! There was a brief moment of unhappiness when he discovered that they were only going to put on the top braces this time - WHAT? No full metal jacket? But, he recovered quickly, justifying that it would still look like he had braces. Top teeth were obviously better than no teeth at all.
As for me, I was fascinated by the potential daily application of the giant plastic mouth opener. I wondered if it was possible for me to secretly jack one of these bad johnnies for myself. Imagined the endless use it would get at home. Kids getting a little sassy? Pop in the plastic mouth stretcher for 30 minutes and buy yourself some tranquility. You would never have to revert to the timeless punishment (and negative ecological impacts) of washing your child's mouth out with soap. Nope, this little parental punitive device would be not only effective, but green. No more wasting of water or soap. Use it 100 times with no problems. Yes, a regular comeuppance gem, if you will.
In the end, I didn't pilfer the stretcher. It may have had something to do with not having enough time to formulate and implement the perfect plan to grab the sucker without being noticed. H was done and dusted - replete with new upper braces in exactly 45 minutes start-to-finish. The orthodontist has apparently done this a few times before.
Good news is that the information from the video has stuck with him for at least the past 24 hours. Teeth have been summarily brushed with only a gentle push both Tuesday and Wednesday nights. He even has flossed and used the itsy bitsy conical bottle brush implement to get in between the wires and those giant dominoes he calls his teeth. Having said this, he has already discarded using the personal dental mirror, the fluoride mouthwash and the tiny pink chewy tablets that leave telltale debris where you have missed brushing. Dollars to donuts we will be threatening him to "brush his teeth or else" in little more than 72 hours. Maybe I should go back and get the mouth stretchy thing... I could insert it, brush his damn teeth myself and protect my $6,000 investment. I'll start planning the heist now. New follow visit is scheduled for July 7th. That should give me enough time.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lethal Brothers and Balls

Yesterday dawned brutal hot for the residents of San Francisco. First thing on the agenda for the day...heading off to an early morning game of family dodge ball. Is there much improvement necessary when parents stand on one side of the court facing their 4th grade sons and, without a single hint of potential child services intervention, have the ability to whip semi-dense Nerf balls at your child's head? I don't think so.

The kids, in their defense, are actually good at this game. They get to practice on a regular basis. But when push came to shove and several parents got smacked with some well aimed balls, the gloves were off. One of the Mom's actually gave a warrior's whooping shout as she rocketed the ball toward her son! It was glorious. Just goes to show that there's a bit of pent up aggression in today's parents. Hell, back in the good old days you could just swat your kid when the spirit moved you (or they shoved you towards the spirit). Now, we gotta arrange dodge ball games.

George the Younger was supposed to attend the family dodge ball game, but was sidelined at the last minute and stayed home. He is officially a budding (bursting, erupting, exploding) teenager. We're 3 months from 13 - and sometimes his mouth works without any help from his brain. After a pre-game altercation where he was asked to take a picture with his brother before Grammy left that morning (this photo entailed a heinous act of potentially having bodily contact with the deadly poisonous skin of his brother) and the ensuing lecture from George the Elder and I about doing things that you should do even when you don't feel like doing them - he decided to answer the question of "what do you think you should have done this morning??" with the brainless nincompoop snappy repartee of (and please feel free to add pre-teen-smart-ass-tone to this in HEAVY doses), "I shoulda taken the frickin picture!"

Alas, George the Younger was summarily grounded and left home to contemplate his revised answer to the question. He's damn lucky that's all he was left contemplating. Upon reflection of our decision to ground him at home, and our subsequent attendance at the dodge ball game, there's a part of me that thinks we should have brought him along. I have a vision of him standing alone and shaking on the opposite side of all the parents who are holding not just those semi-friendly Nerfs - - but the real live red playground balls that we used to endure. Kind of like a firing squad, but less permanent. Frickin picture? Well, we'll show you....

Upon our return home, George the Younger was prepared to apologize (although technically he forgot the question he was supposed to be reconsidering the answer to - no shock or surprise). He and Henry (yes, the one with the ultra deadly touch) took to the sprinklers in the front yard. It seems that George the Younger cannot seem to remember when Henry's touch can burn him beyond recognition. Perhaps the sprinklers are a neutralizing force? They had fun, the yard got some needed moisture, I got some photos of the boys at a time when they were loving having each other for the day - - and poor Otto (who was initially invited to play, but decided that sprinklers were not his thing) watched from the window. Blue streak behind him is indeed the ocean. Said ocean today is un-viewable thanks to the fog.

And, yes, for the curious... by the time breakfast time arrived this morning Henry's toxic and gruesome touch was once again in full force. I believe the H came close to physically grazing George the Younger this morning at the kitchen counter. Thankfully Henry did not get close enough to cause any irreparable damage. George the Younger made it school still alive and breathing.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Where ya been?

Got a couple of pokes over the past couple o' days basically berating me for not posting. Sorry 'bout that. Had my sis and Mom in visiting. Sis stayed a short time, Mom a little longer. Unfortunately, it wasn't much of a vacation for either of them. It's weird when you get visitors during your "regular" life - i.e. I am not on vacation but just slumping through your basic week where kids go to school and I juggle the schedule.

This week was especially interesting. Sunday (mother's day) was baseball, where, thankfully, the Reds were victorious. Felt badly for the moms on the other team. At the age of 12 the loss of a baseball game can have serious ramifications to the general demeanor of said 12 year old for the remainder of the day. We were graced by a happy child basking in the glow of sweet victory. It was grand. The day started with the boys making me breakfast in bed - since they're not allowed use the oven breakfast consisted of cold cereal and milk, but it did come replete with hot tea. Which, in my morning routine is the liquid sent from the Gods. Good deal.

The rest of the week was spent seeing all things musical. Tuesday night the big girls went to see Wicked at the Orpheum. Damn fine show all around. Wednesday and Thursday brought the boys' Spring concerts - damn fine shows as well, but on an entirely different standard of musicality.

The middle school concert lasted from 7:00 until 9:30. Yup. That's 2.5 hours. And while I deeply and truly appreciate the gold standard of the music program at the SF School - - is it really necessary for each class to play an entire CDs worth of songs on orff instruments? (Note - Orff instruments are tone bar instruments - sort of like a whole slew of wooden xylophones ranging tiny to big...) If I had kids in each middle school grade I would have been rapt and engaged through the entire 2.5 hours. Reality is that I have one 6th grader who goes on FIRST. Once he's off the stage, these concerts do lose a little in the way of excitement.

H went on Thursday night. Blessedly, the concert was slightly truncated and lasted only two solid hours. It goes without saying that kids are momentously cuter at this age. What's not fun about watching a bunch of 6 year old children being musical??

Interestingly, over the two nights of performances it was fascinating to watch each class perform in succession. It gives you an amazing visual trip through the waning enthusiasm and increased self awareness that accompanies growing older. The first through third graders are just so damn happy to be there. They bound up on stage, they smile, they wave, they wiggle unselfconsciously - in a nutshell these guys are THRILLED! The fourth graders take a little more time getting up on the stage, they smile frequently (but not quite as broadly), they take pride in the "perfection" of the performance yet still are fairly accepting of the mistakes that they make. Using the same nutshell, they are EXCITED. Next come the 5th graders. Moving ever more slowly, smiling a bit, but you can tell that they are now thinking, "I'm up here playing this instrument, but people are reeeaallly watching me AND they are making judgements about how I am doing and how I look." 5th grade is clearly the grade where you make the realization that the external world may not be the warm cocoon that you thought it was in 4th grade. Nutshell analogy: They are middling happy to be there.

This brings us to the middle school. Not but a smattering of smiles - but the execution is significantly improved. At this point they believe that they are being honestly assessed by the crowd for their ability to implement the assigned pieces. Their classmates are appraising each other. Their parents are surveying their skill. And, the girls are wondering if their hair is right and the red t-shirt is the right shade. It's hell up there in pre-teen land. But, from a audience member's perspective - the music is more complex and these kids for the most part have been playing these little wooden instruments for the past 10 years. They've really got some skill.

In the end, my Mom waded through the concerts, and the week, with true grandmother skill. She smiled and said it was fabulous. That's what grandmothers are for....

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mystery Revealed

Last night at dinner George the Younger grew tired of maintaining the ruse regarding the mysteriously wet cell phone. After some cajoling (Are you SURE that you have NO IDEA how your phone got wet? I mean are you absolutely completely entirely SURE?? Look at me when you answer...), he admitted that maybe he knew what had happened. He finally spilled and said, "If I tell you this, you will be sorry that you touched it."

Turns out that he had the phone in his sweatshirt pocket and inadvertently dropped it in to the toilet at school. Trust me when I say that this was better news that I had hoped for after his comment! But then I remembered that my kids do not like public restrooms. In their opinion these are places were heinous super germs dwell. These unseen microsopic organisms are powerful enough to burn out your eyes and shrivel up your penis within minutes. Hell, Henry will hold it for some markedly unbelievable amount of time before he can get home to his own comfort zone! Although, with Henry this fear may also have something to do with him having to completely strip down naked for his constitution. It's challenging to get completely undressed in the school lav. My thoughts wander to when he will finally outgrow this odd behavior. It's gonna be pretty awkward for him when he goes away to college.

What's weird is that our kids have traveled to some pretty out of the way places. Places where hovering is required. Places where toilet paper consists of a bucket and a ladle. Places where a "bathroom" literally means a hiding place behind a nearby tree. And, I can say with some degree of assurance that when the spirit moved them in those locals they couldn't wait 10 days to get back to the bathroom at the Four Seasons. They took what they could get. Don't we all? But, given the proximity of getting home from school or the grocery store or Target, they are more inclined to wait.

Anywho - - looks like I will need to go out and buy him a new phone today. The rice has succeeded, but only marginally. There is a very, very faint picture on the LCD screen. I suspect that, unlike most of us who understand that "time is of the essence" when their phones begin sinking in the bowl, he was not as aggressive in reaching in to grab it quickly. Surely there were at least a few minutes of "Awe MAN that's disgusting! There's no way I'm reaching in there!!" It's most likely that it sat that the bottom of the bowl taking on water until he could figure out a tool with which to fish it out. And while I haven't specifically asked him, there's a possibility that once it was retrieved, it may have then been rinsed off in the sink for good measure. Like that would help.

And finally, it's hard to be upset with him about this. I, for one, can admit that I too have heard the sickening kerplunk of the phone in to the toilet. Hate that sound. And it does make you kinda of embarrassed to admit that you were stupid enough to let it happen. Especially when you are 12 and don't want anyone to know you were a blockhead. Lucky for us, most of us know that 12 year old boys are just simply walking blockheads. That's why we love them.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cell Phone on Rice

George the Younger has spent CONSIDERABLE time in the last couple of weeks lamenting that he NEEDS a new cell phone. Whine, whine, whine - I-want-one-of-those-cool-phones-that-everyone-else-has-with-a-full-key-board-and-all-the-other-super-hecka-cool-features-that-I-see-on-commercials. Keyrist Almighty....

Funny thing is that he has owned this particular cell phone for the grand total of exactly 8 months. When we bought this one it was the one-that-he-absolutely-had-to-have-cause-that's-the-one-that-all-the-kids-had. He was so excited. Now, not so much.

I have explained to him that buying cell phones is just "one of those things." One of those things where as soon as you buy one, the very next moment they release something cooler and smaller with a bigger camera and the ability to receive messages from aliens or some such nonsense.

I have further explained to him that some kids will get new cell phones all the time - but HE is not going to be one of those kids. I used the following sayings:
  • You're lucky you have a cell phone at all. You're 12 for heavens sake. Who is the world is it, besides me, that you really really really need to call/text/take a video of?
  • You gotta a lotta "want", Mr. Got No Job, Got No Prospects
  • Children in Bhutan do not get new cell phones, they get new herds of cows to herd
  • Do you think Dad is made of money? Does he look green and papery to you?
  • Your cell phone is perfectly fine. Isn't it what you begged for lo those 8 months ago?

And yet, every time he sees a commercial for a new phone or hears a commercial on the radio, I get a little piece of whine. Sometimes I just get a "meaningful look" that says "you are the meanest, cheapest mom on the planet earth. I am SO abused." Yea, right buddy. Sticks and Stones...

Yesterday, George the Younger announces that, wonder upon wonders, his existing cell phone is broken. Yup, convenient time for the hated phone to go kaput. I told him to go plug it in thinking that perhaps it was just the battery. But, no dice. The display is all cafloogy. You could see the excitement on his little angel face. A balloon popped up over his head. His inner thoughts were visible: Broke cell phone = NEW cool nifty full keyboard cell phone!!! I reached over and popped that little bubble. I said I would take it to the AT&T store to either exchange it or get it repaired. That little balloon went fizzing all around the kitchen with a dejected trajectory.

Today I went to the AT&T store. Why doesn't the phone work, I ask. Turns out the phone doesn't work because the whole thing has gotten very wet somehow. The phone is wet. The battery is wet. It seems that the cell phone manufacturers have a little litmus test inside the phone. Pink = wet.

Advice from the sales person is to try to put the phone in an air-tight container covered in rice. He says that sometimes this solves the problem. Obviously, sometimes it doesn't. So, right now, George the Younger's miserably outdated cell phone is marinating in a Tupperware container of jasmine rice. I wondered briefly if it mattered what kind of rice it was - - long or short grain. But I went with what I had.

Picked up George the Younger with an expectant face waiting to see his NEW cell phone. Alas, his disappointment was palpable when I told him that the phone was being dried out. What? No new phone?? Arghhhh. Which made me wonder (not for the first time) whether the phone got wet accidentally or was a victim of some clever sabotage???? When subtlety questioned, George the Younger maintained his innocence, and I was unable to detect that tell-tale look that only the guilty possess when being caught in an act of underhanded treachery. Either he's telling the truth, or he's getting to be a credible liar (there's an oxymoron for you, eh?).

So, while the phone dries out, George the Younger is going to start looking on ebay for new phones. Turns out that when you drench your cell phone, you are not eligible for any of the great financial deals out there in cell phone land. You gotta bite the bullet and pay retail (i.e. we will pay $100 for a few pieces of plastic and LCD screen that cost a whopping $2). Hate that.

So, George the Younger will continue to hang on the the thinnest thread of hope that he may still be the owner of a new model cell phone. Part of me wants to just go and get him a new one that looks just like the old one - - you know, just for sport. It's good to be the mean mean Mom. Mwahahahaha....

Sunday, May 3, 2009

To Stage or not to Stage

As I mentioned a few entries ago, George the Elder and I may (or may not) have to change dwellings again over the summer. We won't know for a few weeks, but we are taking the bull by the horns and starting to look around.

We've been to our share of open houses for stuff that's for sale. I don't know whether or not this happens in other markets, but here they "stage" houses for sale. Staging, for the unaware or uninformed, is the part of marketing your home in SF where you get to put all your belongings in storage and move out of the property, find other digs and allow the "stagers" to move all their own stuff in to the house. This effectively removes any iota of personality from the place - thus allowing prospective purchasers greater ease in imagining their own stuff in the de-personalized rooms. Yes, properties for sale here have been homogenized and pasteurized thanks to the efforts of the professional stagers.

There are a few things afoot here. First, prospective buyers here in SF are obviously off put by other people's belongings and therefore cannot mentally move their own furniture in to rooms that contain anything but a neutral sofa, leopard print throw pillows and a grand total of knick-knacks not to exceed 10. This number includes all books or plants. Second, in the mind's eye of a "Stager" no one actually owns or uses any electrical appliances including a TV or stereo. These are removed during the staging process and even cool hip facsimiles (such as a nifty coveted flat screen) are not included in the finished pre-sale decor. So, while the average prospective purchaser cannot imagine their furniture in a house they are considering purchasing, they CAN imagine where the TV will go even if they are not prompted to remember it by the "fake" TV in the room. Last, "stagers" un-clutter and redecorate the kitchen. But, forget about anything that one might normally put on their counters (like dreaded and unforgivable things like canisters, coffee makers or toasters). Stagers place more decorative items on kitchen counters like ikea glass funnels full of multicolored wooden balls or a basket full of ginormous lacquered nuts and shells. So, it logically follows that the prospective buyers also need to be able to imagine their lives without all the necessary clutter that, oh I don't know, actually makes your kitchen function as a place to say, um, cook food. If regular kitchen stuff were left there, they would be unable to imagine this. Go figure.

Having said this - the neutralization of properties for sale here (while nonsensical and expensive for the seller) - does have some benefits. These benefits become a more transparent when you start to look at rental properties. These gems are
absolutely not staged. Some of them really really ought to be. Here are some nuggets of advice that may come in handy for people trying to rent their properties:

  • When you say that your property has 4 bedrooms the people looking at the place are going to be looking for 4 bedrooms. "Rooms" should not have been heretofore used as broom closets or underground storage bunkers. The existence of exposed sewage pipes in a bedroom can be a tab disturbing.
  • When you make an appointment to show your property for rent, you should endeavor to clean up the dog shit on the floor before opening the door to welcome in your prospective tenants. It doesn't matter that the crap is in the laundry room.
  • If you are going to continue residing in the house WITH the prospective tenants this should be disclosed in the advertisement. Some people just don't want to share one of the bedrooms or the back door with you no matter how un-serial-killer you may describe yourself as being.
  • If you advertise your kitchen as being "updated" it is preferable that you also mention that said update was done during the presidential campaign of Woodrow Wilson and that the seventeen layers of paint (5 of them likely containing enough lead to make a full set of water pipes) slapped on the kitchen cabinets inhibit the actual closing of all cabinets and drawers.
  • A "family room" in the basement is not defined by the existence of a concrete floor, spider webs and small grubby window near the ceiling. Not unless the family you are talking about is a family of rats.
  • "Easy entrance in to the house" from the garage should not be a bullet point in the advertisement if you need to hire a Sherpa and use climbing gear to get from the parking places up in to the house.
  • There is a little known appliance called a vacuum cleaner. Know it. Use it. Be the vacuum cleaner.
Bottom line is that we have not successfully found the perfect home for our perfect family. We have seen some interesting things - as in interesting for us to live in not interesting as in has-the-department-of-health-services-been-called-in-to-see-this-4-bedroom-property-for-$6000-a-month-you've-got-to-be-shitting-me. But, we have some time and we still have our fingers crossed that our current wonderful landlords will see things our way and decide that we are the best tenants they have ever had and that selling the property is the biggest mistake they could make in a lifetime. Until they come to their senses, we will continue to look. Something tells me that there's gonna be a few more "observations" before we are done.