Tuesday, July 28, 2009


The last of my three boys, Otto, went to doggie camp today. It is for the best all.

Otto suffers from OCD. It is tragic, but he is able to live a happy life in spite of this - - although certain special kindnesses must be shown him by the rest of the family members to ease the impact of things-that-bother-the-dog. These include, but are not limited to:

  • No rustling of paper or plastic bags within the house
  • No movement of large pieces of furniture from their assigned location
  • No placement of unusual objects in any part of the floor space (including grocery bags or frankly anything that does not belong in the previously unoccupied floor space)
  • No leaving of the vacuum cleaner anywhere except in the far western corner of the dining room AND it must be left in the position that the canister is on it's wheels and floor brush thingy is stuck in to the back.
  • No screen-saver activity can be viewed by the dog - no computer, no TV, NO SCREENSAVERS!

If these niceties are not performed, Otto will bark, pace, back-up like he is being chased by a frothing pit bull and become generally increasingly agitated because, "THERE IS SOMETHING TERRIBLE GOING ON AND IT MUST BE RIGHTED IMMEDIATELY". (yes, the end of the world as we know it thanks to a fluttering un-reusable plastic target bag. Umhmmm).

As you can imagine, moving causes great stress. Nearly all of the above mentioned niceties must be forfeited. This results in much growling, the inability to walk in to rooms where things-are-not-right. some generalized whimpering and copious shedding. Camp is the best option.

From a personal standpoint - I miss Otto right now. I do not miss the barking, I do not miss the growling, I do not miss the need to vacuum up abundant dog hair on practically an hourly basis (and then ensuring that the vacuum in put away properly), I do not miss having to constantly reassure him as in "shut the hell up Otto! It's just a friggin pile of books for heaven's sake!!!". What I do miss is the ability to talk to myself and fool myself in to believing that I am "just talking to Otto".

Just a few moments ago, I recited my to-do-count-down list of particulars to insure that I am ready to greet the movers tomorrow morning with a sense of calm and organization. I did this aloud. I did this "talking to Otto". I did this before I realized that Otto is not here and I am just a tad bit bonkers. It won't surprise me that I will likely do this for the next three days. I'm just going to have to embrace my lunacy until my "excuse" returns on Friday or whenever I deem that the level of paper-crinkling in his near vicinity will not cause any long term mental impacts.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Quid Pro Quo

Again, picture and handwriting quality not withstanding - - here is the response:
Dear Mom. Everything is nice with a bit of rain. Today we watched the movie The Goonies till the middle (best part) and we had to go back. I hate when they do that. Now SEND MY BOOKS
We have a loving and thoughtful son. This is known as "be careful for what you wish for..."

Friday, July 24, 2009

NH Agrees with Them

Just wanted to post a couple photos of the boys while they are at camp enjoying all things sports and nature and manly.

The first is a rare photo of Henry smiling at camp. I am attached to this photo as it is proof in my mind that he just smiles and smiles and smiles the whole time he is at camp. This is a blatant lie since most photos show Henry with his trademark look of staidness and solemnity. But it makes me feel better to see this one.

George the Younger, on the other hand, really does smile in all his photos. Here is the best one so far. He is acting as "mini" chief of his tribe, the Beavers. There's nothing like a summer filled with guys painting things on their bodies and then dancing around a campfire. It's so primal.

As for communication, we have been getting letters from the boys. George has been uncharacteristically verbose in the sense of what he typically writes. This year, letters can contain as many as three to four nearly complete sentences! A veritable tome of information - mainly pertaining to the number of home runs that he has hit playing whiffle ball or the fact that "it sucks" that there is no Iron Man competition at Winaukee this summer.

Henry has been significantly less bombastic in his letters. Case in point: Dear Mom. Everything is Great. Love, Henry" Shannon reports that last year she got one from him that said "Dear Shannon. Write Back. Love, Henry". There has been one exception to this. Yesterday George the Elder and I received a fairly long letter in Henry's scrawl:

If you cannot read this, do not be alarmed. The photo is kind of bad - - but it likely has more to do with H's erratic penmanship. What is interesting is that this letter, the longest of his camping experience to date, reads exactly like a letter to Amazon.com. Here is my response to him:

Hi Beans! Thanks for the long letter that we got today. Dad and I were wondering whether or not you were writing to us to tell us what you were doing at camp or whether you were writing to us thinking we were Amazon.com? Tell you what. I will send the books after you write me a real letter. That seems a fair trade, don't you think? I'm really looking forward to hearing from you!! You write me and Dad a real letter and I'll pop those books in the mail to you, o.k.? I get the letter first.

See how well I know my son? Quid Pro Quo. Gets him every time. Do I feel badly about holding his books hostage until I get a letter. Ummmm. Nope. Not a single shred of guilt.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Is it possible to love a cordless screw driver? Yes, I believe it is. Today while I watched the plumber install new copper runners and listened to the termite guy drill holes in concrete, I removed all miscellaneous prior window treatment bits and bobs with my handy dandy cordless screw driver. A former gift from my romantic husband. He buys me contractor books AND power tools. It's a little like being showered with rose petals and diamonds. Except it's not. (but, he does buy me those things too - - they're just not as functional as books and gismos to perform mini home improvements with and besides, you could never remove the world's ugliest light fixture from your over illuminated pink kitchen with an emerald cut no matter how hard it was)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It's an Art

Organizing. This has been on my mind constantly lately. The Art of Organizing.

As you know we are moving. We are not only going to be moving once this year, but it is likely that over the next 12 months we will move three times. Three miserable organizational milestones lurking in my future. Of course, we hire "professionals" to come and do the grind of the heavy lifting - - but that does not alleviate the need to organize before they get here.

The first move is going to be the most challenging. This is the one that is happening in exactly 8 days. Yes, 8 days to when the wheat will be separated from the chaff. 8 days until 80% of my shit gets put in to a deep dark space where I cannot access it for the duration until the house is finished and there is a home to put it in.

Now, for those in the know, moving is not a new thing for the family. In fact, I believe that we could single handedly support a moving company given the amount of relocating that we do. One of the positive things of this is that for the past three years I have "organized" my crap to move it. I am an excellent purger. I could probably be the guest host of some HGTV get-rid-of-your-crap special. Given this, one might think that another move less than 12 months from the previous move might not require any organizing at all. One would be wrong. I already have an entire bed covered with crap that is being sent to the Salvation Army. I have already gotten rid of 2 chairs, 2 stools and a rug on Craigslist-Free (LOVE that site). I still have another storage area to get through. Where did this stuff come from??? I just purged 11 months ago. It is breeding, I am sure of it.

Over the past two days I have also spent considerable time re-organizing. What does one need for one year exactly? Clothes, furniture, kitchen miscellany, holiday decorations and whatnot. It's the whatnot that gets you. How do you control the amount of whatnot that is essential while balancing that with the fact that you will need to relocate said whatnot several times. Further, one must also consider that real living will go on during the period of limited whatnot and it is important the the kids feel like they are living in a regular environment instead of one that just has a couch, a chair, a TV and the remote.

Here are some whatnot items that are troublesome:
Knick-knacks: Actual status: Not necessary for living. Reality: Semi-important to make it look like it's your house and not a semi-furnished hotel room. Moving Difficulty: pain in the ass to pack and move.
Throw Pillows: Actual status: Not necessary for living. Reality: Semi-important to make laying on the couch while reposing a more comfortable proposition. Moving Difficulty: Space hog in boxes / bags
Boys Toys: Actual Status: Not all are necessary for living. Reality: This is what they use from time to time. The challenge is deciding what will be used from time to time. The whole box of Legos? The game of Risk? All Balls, Bats, Lacrosse Equipment, All Board Games?? What?? Moving Difficulty: "All" is a LOT of CRAP. "Some" may be a dangerous compromise.

This list could go on and on. What about family photos? We have already decided not to take any art work for the walls. Good stuff is going to art storage, cheap stuff to regular storage. Just another thing to "organize" before we go.

I guess the one saving grace is that if something gets put in the wrong whatnot pile (Take versus Store), I always have the option of purchasing said whatnot for use in the interim. This means that in 12 months (or however long this little home remodel project takes), I will have another opportunity to purge. Hmmm. Maybe organization is not an art. It's more like a science project that goes on and on and on. Damn.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Wing and A Prayer

"Every day, unsuspecting people wander into construction projects like babes in the woods, and they come out wondering what the heck happened in there..." And so begins the introduction to the book "What Your Contractor Can't Tell You".

This little gem of a book arrived yesterday from Amazon. A gift from George the Elder to me. The man is a genuine romantic. My question is - - why is the gift for me? Is this perchance a not so subtle hint that I'd better bone up on all-things-remodel so when the shit hits the fan I'm in the cross hairs? Me thinks this is a bit of a set-up. Get the unsuspecting girl to read said informational reading material providing boy with the ability to shout (when things go wrong) "Why weren't you prepared for this? I GAVE you the BOOK!!!"

I'm not saying this is his fundamental motivation. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was just trying to help. On the other hand, I'm also considering the worst case scenario and am thusly preparing myself for that potential time in the not so far future where George the Elder blurts out - "What the hell? Didn't you read the chapter entitled Tick Tock: How Time = Money on a Construction Project??" Hop to Hop Sing. Time is MONEY!!

So, I will read the book. The first chapter says that prior planning prevents piss poor performance - - words to live by in any event (see previous paragraph). So, I will head out to my local book store and purchase all manner of design magazines (of which there are many) and begin to cut out pages of appurtenances and accouterments that my dream kitchen will possess. Big picture, I'm thinking that it should have a stove and a fridge and a sink. But maybe the Book will give me some other ideas - like including a built-in chef instead. Now that'd be something useful.

Oh, and I guess I should bone up on the difference between a back hoe and a front hoe (if there is such a thing). Since we will be excavating a basement, it may be useful to get another book entitled "How to Manage Your Insurance Provider When the House Caves In". Prior planning and all....

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dulcet Tones

On Tuesday I was driving to the airport to pick up our friends who are visiting from Tokyo. I am listening to NPR and my mind is wandering as various politicos try to get information / reactions from Sotomayer. I decide that I've had enough of listening to the dems blow sweet smelling clove smoke up her butt while tossing her compliments not so cleverly disguised as questions, and the reps making snide commentary and criticisms while asking insanely badly worded questions to try to get her to blurt out the next sound bite that they will use in all the newspapers to illustrate her ineptitude as the next supreme court justice. So I change the station to listen to some music.

This music is kind of nice because the boys are at camp and I do not have to listen to Lady Gaga over and over again - - no matter how much George the Younger likes to sing about taking a ride on his disco stick. I do not have to shudder at the thought that I know the lyrics to Echo and Blame it on the Alcohol (or whatever the real name of that song is). I get to listen to what I want to listen to. Boring, stupid pop songs. I want to hear Plain White Tees. But that's not where I'm headed.

I start listening to some woman singing. I don't know who she is. I don't know the name of the song. This has always been a shortcoming of mine. It makes singing karaoke very challenging. You get the BIG book of songs listed both by song title and by artist so that you can pick the "Best" song to sing in front of friends and strangers. Problem is - I don't know the names of songs or the names of artists who sing them. So I just leaf through the book wishing that I had thought of this earlier and made some kind of a list before being confronted with the 10 inch thick volume of possible choices. Finally, someone else will get up and sing and I will be pissed off because I KNOW THAT SONG. I just can't find it in the book. So I end up singing My Way or something by Cyndi Lauper 'cause for some unknown damn reason I remember her. But that's not where I'm headed either.

This woman singing has a beautiful voice. Like angelically lovely. So I thought it's pity that everyone can't sing like that. Which led me on this little daisy chain of thinking that since most humans (at least those who are not unfortunately deaf or mute) have the capacity to make and mimic noise - why can't we all sing well? Now I know that all humans cannot sign well especially since my own husband, George the Elder, cannot carry a tune on a shovel. In fact, last Saturday morning he rose before me and headed in to the adjacent room to catch up on the family finances and to surf the web for whatever he searches for. He put on his head phones to listen to music while I continued my morning of sleeping in resulting from the absence of children in my home. The problem was I kept being jolted awake by what can only be described as a keening noise akin to that of a banshee. It was George "singing" along to whatever he was listening to. He was singing and I was frightened awake thinking a small animal was caught in a trap or something. But that's not where I was headed either....

Where I WAS headed in my weird little daisy chain of logic was whether or not some birds are worse singers than others. I hear them chirping and warbling, but is what I hear the same as what other birds of that species hear? Is it possible that there are some tone deaf song birds who are relentlessly ridiculed by their song bird peers because, they too, can't carry a tune on a tiny little bird shovel. I'm no ornithologist - so what do I know. I was just wondering.

My own wondering got me to wondering even further... why was I wondering about this at all? There I was starting off my day being all in-the-current-event-mode trying to decipher whether or not some woman was the right choice for supreme court justice and I end up wondering whether some talentless Chestnut-backed Chicka-dee is cursedly mocked by his chicka-dee friends. You are most certainly wondering the same damn thing.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

And they're off

Boys were successfully transported from San Francisco to New Hampshire yesterday via American Airlines. To confirm their receipt on the other end, I have gotten one call from the camp who retrieved them at the Boston Logan last evening and I have photographic proof that at least George the Younger is actually at camp. He was playing basketball. I do not have photographic proof that Henry is there, but I feel I can safely assume that if only one had arrived instead of two, I might have gotten a text message at least.

Since a large part of my day was spent at San Francisco International Airport, let's talk about US airports for just a moment. We should be ashamed of ourselves. Really ashamed. What a miserable experience travel is. And, for the lion's share of it, we need to blame the people that are responsible for it.

I had a little observational experiment yesterday. I wanted to see if there was one single person who I encountered during my visit to the SF airport who (and I set the bar pretty low) could actually muster up a smile while they were working. Not surprisingly, the number of people who were able to squeak out a grin was only one solitary individual - - the waitress who served us lunch. And, I am nearly ready to disqualify her from the experiment, since she actually sort of prostitutes herself trying to get tips - therefore the smile is not a sincere gesture. The smile was there in mouth only. It did not affect any other part of her face. How sad is this? What a bunch of grumpy, displeasing people are there to provide "send off". And they wonder why stewardesses get punched in the face? I propose that the poor thing is just the final no-cutomer-service straw to a wretched travel experience that began the minute that person pulled up to the white curb that was for loading and unloading only.

But, listed in no particular order were the other things that plagued me yesterday:
  • I COULD NOT manage to get a luggage cart. At least not one in the "honest way" that you are supposed to. "Honest", meaning that I got a brand new one out of the little cart dispenser. In most international airports (and I'm trying to think of an exception, cause I am sure there is one, but...) luggage carts are free. Yes, free. What an amazing convenience concept. In SFO, they cost $4 - that is, they cost $4 if the machine will actually accept your bills. The two that I tried would not accept any bills, not even the pristine non-wrinkly kind. They didn't take cards either. The second one I tried was occupied with a nice Spanish lady who was practically in tears when the machine repeatedly spit out every single bill she inserted. She was talking to the machine in what I can only assume where Spanish curse words. I backed away just in case she should turn her frustrations on me, the only American in sight. In the end, I trolled the parking lot looking for an abandoned cart. I found one hidden between two SUVs. I think people though I was looking for a car to steal.
  • I had to deal with a nasty "red coat". In my vernacular, a Red Coat is the guy who first greets you and tries to determine how to "help" you on behalf of the airline. It dawned on me yesterday that there must have been a change to this job description. I will check wikipedia. My experience went like this: We approach the check-in line. I have two boys and a luggage cart with two large rolling duffel bags and two large stuff sacks on the stolen cart. Red Coat says, "Go to Kiosk" (just that, nothing like good morning, please or nuttin). I say, "I need to fill out some paperwork so that they can fly unaccompanied". The Red Coat says again, "Go to Kiosk" and points in that direction. I respond with "I am already checked in, but the children need to fill out some paperwork REQUIRED by American Airlines" And then the Red Coat(no kidding) responds with an audible sigh of disgust/revulsion/annoyance and just points to the other line. An American Airlines customer service hallmark moment.
  • We wait in undesirable line. We are handed paperwork to fill out while we are waiting. A flimsy form in quadruplicate with no pen and no surface to fill it out on. Boys finally get checked in by James. James does not make eye contact or murmur any conversational tidbits such as "welcome to AA, can I help you?" Basically he held his hand out for the e-tickets, the flimsy red and white unaccompanied paperwork and the passports. I think Henry wanted to know if he was a mute. After some sour faced punching of buttons, and the single request of "how many bags?", he did (without looking up from his 9 keyed keyboard) ask for my credit card to pay the $100 unaccompanied minor fee and $40 each for the boys extra bags. Mr. Charming. I'm gonna request him specifically next time I make it past the red coat kiosk Nazi. Please send me right over to the sullen, aphonic ticket guy...he's a regular feel-good-kinda-man....
  • We get our boarding passes with out a single bit of information on them - as in what gate are they leaving out of or what time they are boarding. Must have been the specific kind of ticket that is issued to parents bringing their children to fly unaccompanied. You know, just the airline's special way of making an already stressful situation a little more so. I heart them.
  • Finally a 30 minute wait in the security line and we are right up to the x-ray machine. Boys are shoving their stuff in to the bins and when this stewardess (I know you are supposed to call them flight attendants - but what a crock...they are still waitresses in the sky who have been trained to inflate slides) butts right in between us. Slaps her suitcase on the belt and,without a "how do you do" or a snide smile, inserts herself in between me and boys and just sails through the electronic gateway that obviously can determine whether or not you have any items necessary to take down a 747. I get that they should have the "right" to cut in line. I mean honestly, can you imagine standing in the security line every time you want to go to work (although, come to think of it I have never seen an Orange Julius worker have the right to cut the line, but maybe I just didn't notice them in their uniforms and they do it all the time). Still, what I don't get is the absence of those two little words of common courtesy...EXCUSE ME. Man that's a tough one to enunciate. Easy to get why she didn't say it. George the Younger says that if she was on his flight he thought it would be funny to spill his coke on her "by accident"! See what I mean? To a 13 year old, it would be funny to spill a coke. To someone older - a punch in the face might seem reasonable. I'm just saying it's not too hard to imagine this happening or having oodles of empathy for the person that did it.

I suspect that every one complains about their airports. The foreigners probably do it too - it's just that you can't always understand what they are saying, and of course everything sounds better in a foreign language that you can't understand. But, when you are there and the carts are free - well at least you've got that going for you.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Done, Still Walking and Beans

I am posting this photo because I am allllmmoooossttt done painting the porch furniture. In fact, I am so alllmmmooossst done painting it, that it is possible (probable, likely, almost balls-on-certainty) that this may be as good as it gets.

See the pretty BRIGHT yellow (this color is best yelled in a loud and excited voice). This professionally applied four coats of very thick rust preventative paint is so peachy-keen that it makes these bad boys look nearly brand spankin' new. The proverbial fly in the soup is that the four coats of very thick rust preventative paint are only on the glider and the chair (as seen in the representative photo). There are only three coats of very thick rust preventative paint on the second chair/rocker (the arm of which is noted in the representative photo). I ran out of steam. I just couldn't bring myself to apply one more coat with the words "wax-on-wax-off" running a continual loop in my brain.

In truth, what really happened is that I just plain old got fed up with not being able to put the car in the garage. I am a spoiled brat. I like to open the door from the house and get directly in the car without being subjected to the elements. With the porch furniture in the garage I was forced to open the front door and walk an exhausting 50-60 feet to the car. It was unbearable. A veritable living hell. Oh, and besides that we were having guests over for dinner, so I wanted to have somewhere to sit and watch the sunset.

I wanted to post this photo of the kids on our Golden Gate bike adventure. I know I griped about it yesterday as something that just took up time and put a dent in my otherwise placid life. But, we really did have some grins. Yes, I seriously considered having an aneurysm at least twice while huffing up some hills and I had a couple of out of body experiences wondering "will I be able to physically propel myself forward tomorrow when I get up and my legs are made of noodles?" And yes, for those interested - - I indeed have been able to walk. Good deal.

And last, a question that has been plaguing me for many years and I keep forgetting to ask it. What are kidney beans packed in when they are canned that makes them froth up like they are full of dishwasher soap when you rinse them in water? What is this viscus liquid that leaves gloop in the bottom of the can and yet creates mountains and mountains of bubbles when confronted with common tap water? Just a question.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It turns out

Turns out that children not in school take up an inordinate amount of time. I knew this several weeks ago (on some level) when I posted about what-the-hell-were-u.s.-schools-thinking-with-the-loooong-summer-break thing. What I clearly wasn't prepared for was the actual absoludicrous amount of time they truly require. Like tons. Like every damn minute.

Typically, I can blast out a blog every couple o'days about the basic insipid vapid pestrian aspects of my life. But with the cruise ship schedule of the every other day "field trips of entertainment" combined with my need to keep the house spanking clean - - stick a fork in me. I am done.

To add some more stuff on my to-do list, Shannon arrived last week for a quick visit on her way to Beijing and, you guessed it, she takes up scads of time too! She's lovely, wonderful and fabulous to have here. It's just that she needs to get stuff done and we want to do stuff while she's here. Over the past five days we have: shopped for all things needed that can't be had in China, we biked over the Golden Gate Bridge and had a lovely over-priced lunch in Sausalito, we went to a 4th of July bbq, we saw the Giants lose miserably to the Astros, and much to George the Elder's chagrin, we squeezed in a Sunday evening shopping trip to Union Square (where Shannon bought some traveling clothes and I dished out 28 smackers for a pair of underwear that I have been searching for since leaving Tokyo and now it appears that Shannon has heisted them and taken them with her to China - what a brat. And even after I bought her the most expensive fish and chips I've ever seen in any country!).

Before Shannon arrived - and after we returned from Vashon Island, I took the boys to the Exploratorium for an afternoon, made the boys go shopping at Target for a sundry of things that they need for camp, made arrangements for two estimates for landscape architects, made the final selection for our "regular" architect, contracted a plumber, made an appointment with a roofer, make and kept two orthodontic appointments, and tried to find another mover to make another estimate since now we are going move not only once, but twice before the year is out. Even typing this makes me want to take a nap.

In other news, Shannon left this morning and the boys leave for camp on Friday. Perhaps I can get on with the business of getting everything else done that I usually get done - but maybe not. Perhaps I will just sleep through the entire weekend once I put the boys on the plane.

And speaking of the plane, when I made their reservations to head back to NH for their camping adventure, I felt certain that I was going to be fine with putting them on the plane alone. Lately, I have been having second thoughts (think Air France) and feeling highly anxious about it. Today, I put Shannon on a place to Beijing. I felt a little squidgy about that too and she's 28. Guess it doesn't matter whether they're young enough to need to red and white striped ID tags draped around their necks to fly or whether they're old enough to buy those tiny bottles of Jim Beam as in-flight entertainment. Still nervous at any age.

In other words, my life is complexicated by the whirling vortex of boys-not-occupied-with-learning, older daughter-making-rapid-fire-visit-on-way-to-foreign-country and purchase-of-what-could-potentially-be-a-giant-money-sucker-project. Can anyone say Nob Hill Spa day? Come on say it with me....SPA DAY PLEASE!!!