Monday, December 31, 2001

A long December... the story of Geoff and 2001

"a long december and there's reason to believe
maybe this year will be better than the last.
i can't remember all the times i tried to tell myself
to hold on to these moments as they pass..."

As Adam sang, it's certainly been a long December. It's been a long, hard year.

I've had a lot of long Decembers in my life. The most memorable and painful is the year I was expecting Geoffrey. The song quoted here meant a lot to me at that time. Means a lot to me now.

I didn't intend to write this today. But... it's on my mind, so sure. Why not. I have no new years resolutions to bore you with and then whine about breaking. I'd intended to write about my take on the Fellowship of the Ring. But I'll save that for later when I am more in the mood to play Ebert and Roper (note, I left Siskel out. May he rest in peace).

A quick recap for those who don't know the story.

Flashback to December 1995, I'm sitting in a bar in Salem Massachusetts with Brian Doser (musician, and recording producer/mixer/super god) seeing our friend Jon Svekey's band "The Loomers" perform.

Brian leans over to me close and yellingly (cause it's kinda loud) asks me if I have any new years resolutions.

My answer -- have a baby before I turn 30, in 11 months. He laughs and says "Sorry, I can't help you with that but I wish you the best of luck with seeing that happen!!" We toast each other and have a good laugh.

I sit there remembering the past two Decembers, which had sucked for us. Long, dreary, depressing, full of misery.

December 22, 1993 we'd lost a baby, a miscarriage in my fourth month of pregnancy, which just doesn't happen too often. [sidebar note: My doctor was a bitch and shrugged it off as a kind of "shit happens" situation, but I suspected that there was more to it than she wanted to find out. 95% of all miscarriages happen before the 10 week mark, and I was almost 15 weeks pregnant. Statistically I had a better chance of being struck by lightning.

The following Christmas, 1994, our Landlord and Dear Friend Tony passed away suddenly. So here I was, getting through Christmas 1995 without the stench of death hanging around me, and feeling rather optimistic.

So right there on the spot when Doser asked me what my 1996 resolution was, I whipped that one out. Another baby.

I'd always wanted 2 kids, exactly 2 years apart. Seeing as the baby I lost in 1993 was DUE on Jessica's second birthday (no lie) I figured that wasn't the plan for me, there was another one lined up... and if I wanted that second kid before I was too old and crotchety, I'd better get on my bike, as it were.

In the spring we got pregnant... making Geoff's due date January 20th, 1997, right before Doug's birthday and 2 full months AFTER my 30th birthday.

Hey, I tried.

So there I was, expecting a baby, happy. Wanting this and ready to have an infant in the house again. I changed doctors after my bad experience in 1993, and the new practice I was going to put me on a watch to make sure I didn't have any preterm release (ie... labor or miscarriage) symptoms. I didn't. Things went well.

I joked around a lot with my doctor that I wanted to have Geoff by December 31 so I could write him off on that year's tax return, because we'd also bought a house and we'd get a humongous refund if the two of them were on the same return. He told me to be careful what I wished for. It was a great pregnancy, until the day after my 30th birthday.

In November, for my 30th birthday, I took myself out. I went to see the aforementioned Loomers in the same bar in Salem, MA., this time about 7 months pregnant. It was a riot. I sat and read a book, ate buffalo fingers, drank non-alcoholic beer, and enjoyed Jon, Everett and the boys greatly.

The next night I had a lot of tightening across the top of my belly, but didn't think anything of it. I thought they were Braxton-Hicks contractions. I had an appointment on that Friday to see the doctor. I'd ask him then.

Well, I asked him about the tightening, and mentioned that I thought I may have a yeast infection or something because I had a heavy, mucousy discharge. He decided to do a sample to test just as a precaution. He had me recline on the table so he could do his doctory thing (all women who have had a "sample" taken for yeast or a pap smear, you can cringe now) and told me NOT to move, breathe or sit up.

I was 5-6 centimeters dilated.

The amniotic fluid sack was presenting full and bulging and was about to break.

I still had 9 weeks to go in my pregnancy. He thought I was going to deliver right then and there. He called an ambulance, and rushed me to St. Elizabeth's hospital in Brighton MA. They hooked me up to IVs, injected me with medicine. They put me on a monitor and couldn't believe I wasn't feeling the contractions that were happening 1 1/2 minutes apart. I was in full blown labor.

The four doctors in the new practice that I was going to had suspected after reading my files that I was perhaps victim of an incompetent cervix, and that's why I'd lost the last baby. This time, we'd managed to keep the kid in there for a long time, and had monthly peek ins to make sure everything looked right, but here we were, early. Way too early for him to come out.

So they stopped my labor.

They kept me in hospital for four weeks.

It was the longest December EVER. I felt very alone and depressed, and Doug was in school in Boston, and there was Jessica to think about. My inlaws dropped everything came up from Pittsburgh and brought Jessica home with them to keep her with family and allow Doug the space to get his studies done (he was in his first year of grad school) and go to work at night, and visit me. During those particular two weeks, I missed her so badly I'd cry myself to sleep at night. The one person who could make me feel joy by doing some interpretive dance at the foot of my bed, was in Pittsburgh.

Everyone was super helpful, beautiful and wonderful, but I felt just so lost and sad and devistated, and so dark. So empty.

The Counting Crows had recently released that song, and the video was full of haunting, sad visions of a forelorn Adam and sad wispy Courteney Cox. A long December, and everyone is sad...

"The smell of hospitals in winter
and the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters,
but no pearls..."

After two weeks at St. Elizabeths, they willingly transfered me up to Beverly where my doctors were based, and closer to home. This allowed for visitors to access me more readily (when I was in Boston, my Aunt Carole and cousin Debi came to see me, and my pastor, and Bonnie, and my boss. That was it).

In Beverly though, no one but Carrie came to visit... and Doug. Even though I was closer to home, no one came to see me. And Beverly doesn't have a lying in area apart from the regular maternity area, so I was trapped in a room, by myself, surrounded by zillions of women who were post-partum.

I would lie in my bed and hear the babies crying, and women complaining about their babies in the rooms around me. I spent days just staring at the wall, praying for the day to end so the next day would come and we'd be one more day closer to getting Geoff out safe and healthy, with good lungs and no long term impact on his body.

TBS ran "A Christmas Story," non stop for those 2 weeks.
I must have watched it 6 times a day for 2 whole weeks. THAT was the best part of being there in the hospital.

I didn't enjoy the overall experience.

They released me to go home on December 22, 1996 and told me they thought I'd be back there that night. I wasn't. We went through the rest of December, and with periodic check ups, my doctor marveled at my body, and told me I had an amniotic "sack of steel" or something because I was defying all the textbooks AND the laws of gravity by not breaking water.

We got to January 6th, and my doctor estimated Geoff would weigh over 9 lbs on that day, over 10lbs if I made it to my due date. He told me that it was safe for him to be born 2 full weeks before his due date and told me to come back the next day, he'd break the water, we'd have the baby.

So we did. And that's how Geoff came to be on January 7, 1997. In one hour, 45 minutes.

It was a long December, and a quick start to the new year, which indeed was better than the last.

I remember walking Geoffrey around in the middle of the night in our very cold livingroom (we had to put a new furnace in and hadn't gotten to it, and that January was bitter cold)... He was all bundled in sleepers and jammies and a blanket and was doing the usual baby crying in the middle of the night thing, and I'd sing "Long December" to him.

If he gets married some day, I'd like to dance with him at his wedding to that song. He'll be so tall, blonde, and beautiful, and I'll dance with my baby. And only a few people will know why we have that song as the mother/son dance at his wedding.


It's been a long December. There is a lot of pain in a lot of people's hearts with September 11th, job losses, war... and I ask myself if there really IS reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last.

I can only hope, and tell myself to hold on to these moments as they pass...

Happy New Year to you all.

Friday, December 28, 2001

Freaky Tiki update

We are getting our place ready for the freaky tiki weekend. We'll be doing some shopping this weekend for coconut bras and grass skirts and scary tiki face cups. I am so looking forward to behaving like an idiot for a few hours. After all, staying home and being safe and acting stupid and doing limbo... who could ask for anything more.

We'll have the kids at the house, so it won't be a total drunkfest barf-o-rama or anything. Don't want to set a bad example. Doug has an alcohol free punch called "Bora Bora Punch" for the kiddies, so they'll get to tiki cup slurp and have fun with us. Only we'll be drinking from the adult punch.

We've got it all planned out for a night of silly fun. I love staying home for New Years. It is SO much safer, and so much more cozy and warm! Screw First Night celebrations! Damn! Uh, um. Oh! If you are fond of those kinds of things, however, you simply MUST go to to see Amy, Adeel, Shah and Taunia in their All About Buford First Night Providence Holiday Rocking Out Like Friggin Madmen Extravaganzafest! Yahoo! Yay for First Night! Wooo Hooo! Go out and enjoy yourself!!!!

On another note... Two New Year's Eves ago, when we were motoring from 1999 to the Aughts, Doug and I were home alone with the kids. Geoff went to bed early and Jessie insisted she was going to stay up until Midnight to see the 99s melt into the 00s and watch all the millennial celebrations that were being broadcast across the big blue marble.

She fell asleep at 11:45. We couldn't wake her up no matter how hard we tried. Oh well. But the funny part was to come.

We had not been drinking very heavily, seeing as we don't usually, ever, [well... when Aaron is around we do]. But when it is just us we have a couple drinks and it's all mellow. No drinking to get pukey shitfaced or anything. But at 11pm Doug said "Ya know, we oughta pound a couple down so we can be good and goofy once midnight hits, why the hell not!"

I laughed at him and he made me a lynchburg lemonade with some lime coloring in it... the lime coloring sank to the bottom so it looked like something right out of a sci fi movie... some wicked scary alien drink! It was funny, and we each had two. I didn't realize how much vodka he put in there, because the lemonade was super sweet, the lime stuff was wacky sour, and the vodka was almost invisible. We were trashed after two of them.

So we're watching the big light ball creep slowly down its post from its apex in Time Square, laughing our asses off, having a great time, and there is this billboard in Times Square that they keep panning past. It has a phone number on it.

And they keep panning around, and there's this billboard... and the phone number. And we can't resist.

Doug picks up the phone and dials the number. It's an advertising agency in Manhattan that specializes in ... billboards.

So he of course gets the voicemail for the company, it being midnight almost and all. So he leaves this message. He's all drunk, and he says something like: "Wooooooooo hhoooooooooo!!!!!!!! Hey, hey there advertising guys. Happy New Year !!! Woooooo! I'm watching TV and getting my ASS kicked by some SKYY Vodka, and your number is on this billboard, and I'm all about wishing everyone a happy new year, and they keep showing me your number, so I figgered, what the hell, right! Hey! Hey man, have a happy new year. There's no need to call me back or anything. I'm in Massachusetts and I wish you the best year ever! Woooooooo!"

And I'm laughing my ass off to the point of peeing my pants almost.

We are so juvenile.

Anyway, I'm sure as hell that we aren't the only people who called this poor company. I'm sure that other drunken assholes did the same thing. I just hope ours put a smile on their faces. It was friggin funny. It was at the time, and I'm smiling just thinking about how funny it still is to me.

I got email from a reader who had this to say about my Troll Family pictures in yesterday's edition:

"Not to be gross or anything, but, being a mom of a 4 yr. old with an itchy but [sic], I couldn't help but notice the kid on the left in the underwear picture. Someone needs to bleach those things!!!!"

I hadn't noticed, but yeah. Those skivvies could use a visit from Mr. Clorox. Thanks for making me feel grossed out, not just for putting a picture up of some mystery kid in his underoos but that they aren't exactly pristine. I might just have to put one of those "censored" bars across their fannies. But then, people might think they're nekkid under the bar, and then I'll look really bad!

Oh what to do.

Well. I've got to work. I'll be in Monday and I'm sure I'll have a nice little something to write about the weekend, new pictures (with that digicam!) and new year's well wishes for all of you, my ten readers!

Thursday, December 27, 2001

Post Christmas Wrapup

The pageant -- awesome. Geoff delivered his line flawlessly but quietly. He was the bomb in his star of Bethlehem suit. I swear. So cute and funny. I have to finish off the roll of film so I can prove it to you.

Jessica delivered her lines well, but messed up her last one and made her costar laugh. Instead of just letting it go, the costar corrected her. She needs to learn a little something about winging it in a live performance.

I didn't go to the late service at 9, I was too wiped. I knew I wouldn't get back until almost 11 and still had some wrapping to do that couldn't be done with kids around, and I had to play Santa. The kids put out a plate of cookies and I encouraged them to put out a small cup of orange juice instead of milk. I told Jessica Santa could probably use some vitamin C what with darting around the globe at night in the cold. She acquiesced.

Christmas morning found Doug asleep on the couch. He woke up at 3 or so and couldn't fall back asleep, so he went on the couch. Watched TV.

Jessie was up before 7 but politely sat on the couch next to him waiting for the rest of us. At about 7:30 she went to wake up Geoff but didn't do it forcefully enough. Kid sleeps like he's dead.

I heard her and Doug laughing at something on TV (VH1 was showing puppies playing in front of a TV broadcasting videos... the puppies were undeniably funny) and I got up. It was about 8am. Geoff was still asleep so I decided he needed woken up fast. I kicked in his door and yelled "Oh my GOD!!! Santa came here last night, you gotta come see this!!!" and he tore ass out of bed. I told Jessie that if she wants to ever wake him up again on Christmas morning, that's the way to do it.

(pictured here, our tree, with Jessica's Chanukah hat on top... how wonderfully Judeo-Christian of us, and our unfinished ceiling is visible to the world as well).

They made short work of the wrappings and trimmings. They loved everything they got, Jessica's only complaint was she didn't get a stereo/boombox thing. I didn't know she wanted one per se, so I told her next time to take my requests for what she wants for Christmas more seriously. But she loved the alarm clock Santa brought her (cough) from Radio Shack, and the Jimmy Neutron Orb Racer that Geoff got has been a hit with everyone. They played like crazy, and played well together. We had a great roast beef dinner. Went into a coma for a few hours. Watched "A Christmas Story" at least three times. All told -- a very good holiday.

My gifts weren't the washout that I feared they were gonna be. Doug did get me a digital camera. He bought a Sony which does mpeg movies and jpg stills, but no sound. That's okay with me because I doubt I will be doing many movies with this. Possibly a couple. I don't see it as the kind of thing I want to do. I enjoy still photography, plus, the file sizes are nice and small for the web. And I am ever so proud of him for picking it out. He did good.

The best thing is, even though this was all I got (I am sure it wasn't cheap so I ain't complaining!) is that it was a return to the store. So you know what that means... the previous owners took pictures!

Yessire bob.

They took pictures and didn't erase them.

Well, none were pornographic, too darn bad because it would have been a friggin RIOT! They were all pretty much just pictures. Pictures of silly dopey people. But, the fact that these people were silly and dopey enough to do this made my day. I laughed and laughed...

I had taken about 6 pictures when the camera told me it was out of memory space. I couldn't figure out how 6 pictures could possibly take up 8mb of memory stick (yes, I am upgrading). So I went to download them and found about 20 pictures on the camera. I instantly started laughing.

These are the previous owners:

Argh! Interlopers!

Be Afraid! I am the Troll Woman of Planet Mattress. I am not a morning person. Please do not annoy me or I will taunt you by sticking my tongue out! You do not take me seriously??? Well! You give me no recourse! See what you have brought upon yourself??? I am sticking my tongue out at you!!!!

Isn't my hair beauteous? Don't you want to worship me? I am troll woman! Blearch! Mgflfghph!!!

Oh now you've asked for it! You've caused me to arise from my quilty comfort! My bed planet is urging me to kick your ass.

Don't I look like I want to kick your ass. Don't you love my bleach job?

Relax Troll Woman! It is I, Billy Crystal! I have come to rescue you from the intruders who rouse you from your golden slumber!

Begone or I will .... attempt to be humorous in your presence. I will tell stories about hosting awards shows! I will regale you with tales of my drunken cocaine filled escapades with Robin Williams!

Blearghgghhhhhh! I am the spawn of Troll Woman and Billy Crystal! I come to lick your face and frighten you with my excessive saliva-filled mouth pouches. Blrearrugggghhh!!!! Fear me more than my mother! Fear me more than my father! For I have weird droopy eyes and make Blearugghhheeeegah! noises. Prepare to be masticated!

Oh isn't this just lovely.

Some kids in their skivvies lounging around watching TV.

Parents or child pornographers!? You be the judge!

Too scary! Yet, cannot, avert, gaze. Quick --- Scottie! Full power. Beam, me, up... save, your captain from, the doom of Planet Mattress!!!

Alright, that's quite enough.

I swear if I ever ran into these people in real life, I'd crap my pants laughing. But the chances of that happening are very slim. The camera was purchased in Plaistow, NH, so they could be from anywhere in northeast Mass., Southern NH. Maine even. Who knows.

I sure hope you enjoyed your visit to planet mattress.

Okay, now that I've picked on total strangers... here's my family.

Doug looks kind of surprised. This is the very first picture I took with my new camera. Nice vest there buddy! Yup. Gift from me.

Geoff plays on the computer and models his Levon Kirkland jersey. Big Ole Numbah 99 himself. He loved it. Whipped it on the minute he took it out of the box. "Football!!!!" yelled the beast. Yes darlin. Football.

I didn't get a chance to stick a hat on Kinger, unlike Missy who was hatted this time last year. (moment of silence please.) He was slightly bemused with our doings.

Megan came over to check out Jessica's Christmas Hoardings, here are the pals themselves. My girls!!!

Scott and Sarita visited from Chicago, by way of Connecticut, yesterday. They spent about 6 hours with us. It was fun seeing them, catching up, ragging on each other. Sarita is so nice and it was good to spend time with her, seeing as the only time I ever met her was her own wedding and like how well can you get to know someone when you're the bride and you have to entertain the masses.

Scott is Scott and will always BE Scott, as if Scott can be a verb. He just is... Scott.

Aaron and Michelle called us from the road, they were on their way to Southeastern Connecticut to A's parents to spend a few post-christmas days and hang out. So they were driving down the highway about 15 miles from our house and thought they'd say hi. We invited them over, they opted to pass just so they could get down there and relax... but they called back 5 minutes later and said they were stopping in after all. They brought beer. We mixed friends. A&M had never met S&S before... the meeting went well. Lots of talk about Connecticut, the Simpsons, Potato Guns (Doug and A have been wanting to build a potato gun forever now...) and it was a good time. They (S&S) were tolerant of both dogs being all over them. At one point Gonzo (the one who put my eye out) was standing in Scott's lap with his ASS in Scott's face... I thought Sarita was gonna pass out. I quickly took the dog off his lap, but Scott, ever so funny, made wise cracks about that being special and wondering if it was gonna cost him extra...

A&M had to split to complete their journey, another 2 hours south... S&S wanted to be on the road by 6 at the latest, but we wanted to hog them to ourselves so we dragged their asses out into the cold over to Newburyport, and we took a walk on the pier and went to the Grog for dinner. Great dinner. Great fun. Geoff took to Sarita instantly, kidnapping her and making her come play on the computer with him. He sat across from her at dinner and held her hands. Romantically. And he called her honey when she left. He even said "You gonna eat that?" to her. He'll make a great boyfriend/husband someday.

S&S got on the road later than they intended, and Doug brought them to I-95 thinking they'd have to drive north one exit to get to I-495 but in reality they should have just followed us through another traffic light to get there... So they headed northbound and probably ended up in New Hampshire. Fuck. So we felt guilty and prayed they'd figure it out pretty quickly to get off at the next exit, turn around and come back because the 95/495 split is all highway based when you are southbound. Northbound you have to get off of 95 and take 110 through Amesbury, where we were. Darn. They will probably never speak to us again. Something like this is a friendship destroyer. Kidding. I know they figured it out... I hope they figured it out. Crap I'm worried now.

A&M will be back at our house on Saturday. For the tiki-fest. We found a store in the area that sells all kinds of plastic luau themed crap like lawn torches and tiki cups and grass skirts and leis. I am so glad I have this digicam. This should rock. Rock hard.

Okay. Back to work. I actually have a pantload of stuff to work on for the next two days... so I should make a huge dent in the content. Au Revoir. More tomorrow. Then the post new years eve tiki report. It'll be 2002 before we know it kids.

Monday, December 24, 2001

Merry, merry

I'm reading and hearing a lot about the Lord of The Rings, installment one -- The Fellowship of the Ring. I am a huge Tolkien fan, just re-read the entire trilogy for the umpteenth time this fall. So I have been looking forward to it for some time now.

My friend Jon, a very learned, intellectual person who is versed deeply in the Scholarship of the Ring, went to see the movie and expressed his issues with the film, he being of mind that the story should have been told correctly instead of skipping over stuff for the sake of time. But, he added, it was an amazing film... one of the best movies he's ever seen. So that kind of endorsement excites me, as I am just a simple Tolkien fan, not someone who holds a degree in his work.

I recognize that Peter Jackson had to cut stuff out, gloss over things, to get the film made for the time period he needed it to cover. But I think expanding roles to make it something for everyone (ie Arwen's love for Aragorn etc...) just wasn't necessary. Why "Titanic" a film that is a story of such epic proportions that it doesn't NEED any additional story lines expounded upon.

It is a tale of Good Vs. Evil. Darkness defeated by Light. Why does there need to be romance. Isn't the defeat of evil enough?

In the books the concept of this love isn't introduced strongly until the third book. It is hinted upon in the first. So why it has to be thrown into this first film out of order of the tale pisses me off. Ah well.

I do think that it is important to note that the love between Arwen and Aragorn is a great story... but should never overshadow or take attention away from Frodo's Quest (sniff. sniff. is it smelling nerdy in here?? YES! IT IS!!!). Arwen knows that upon the destruction of the One Ring, the age of magic in middle earth will come to an end, and so will the age of her people. The age of man will begin... and her world, Rivendell, Lothlorien, the elven ways, will be destroyed. The wonderful cities, the magic, the ways of life.

She chooses to become Aragorn's queen -- knowing that trading her elven immortality for human love is her only option for staying alive in middle earth. It is the stuff of Greek mythology-a love so great, so powerful, that a sacrifice is made that many people could never even fathom. So it is a great story, but a substory in the third book.

Frodo's mission is scarier by far. And what he goes through up to that point and faces after that point... well. See the movies. I wish to hell they weren't being released so far apart. A year is a long time to wait for a movie that is already in the can. It should have been 6 months apart. This first one now, the next in June, the culmination in December 2002.


Anyway. Christmas shopping is done except for the stocking stuffers which I will pick up today. We got great Santa gifts for the kids. Geoff is SO into Santa right now. We have a nativity scene on the porch of our church and he was playing with the animals before service yesterday. After church he came out onto the porch and said "Here's the baby Jesus... where's Santa?" So Jessica chastised him and told him Santa didn't come to the manger. Geoff is confused. Rightly so. It is hard to blend the concepts and think they can keep the two separate. Jessica gets it, but then again I don't know if she believes in Santa really. She plays along well. If she doesn't believe, you wouldn't know it.

Her 11 year old best friend talks about Santa still. I think between the two of them they are keeping up a united front for Geoff. But I am not sure. Something in their voices tells me they still think it is true.

I'm not sure when or if I will bring the subject up with Jessica. I don't want her finding out the way I found out -- on the playground at school. I was heartbroken when I found out Santa didn't exist... but I didn't see the good side of it, that my parents were Santa, and Santa is in all our hearts... the spirit of giving. The spirit of love. So I'm torn.

And with Geoff, he's a firm believer. All you have to do is tell him the elves are watching and he snaps into shape.

We got our tree yesterday after church and put it up. In order to put the tree up though, we had to do a lot of work.

So we procrastinated quite a bit. Not wanting to work and being sick for weeks, it took us quite a while to get to this weekend where if we were going to do it we HAD to do it.

Normally we would have had it a whole week ago. Or more. Here's what we had to do:

  • We had to rearrange the living room. Yup. In May we had our living room expanded by knocking a wall out from between the living room and a small room that we weren't really using. So now we have a huge room.
  • We also got a sectional sofa in June, so part of it was in Jessica's room. So when we moved the couch down to the far end of the room we brought in that extra piece so it could be in the right place
  • We have a sliding doored closet that I want to turn into a built-in entertainment center either by buying a piece of furniture or building in the shelves, so a hole had to be drilled for the cable line to come up through the floor to the right spot.
  • Jessica has a huge walk in closet that used to be a beer cooler when our house was a liquor store (yup, it was!) and it was a DISASTER!!!! So to get the Christmas decorations out from the back of the closet, the closet had to be cleaned. All year long Jessica has thrown stuff in there.
  • Our air conditioner was sitting in the middle of the living room and had to be put away so the room could be rearranged for the sofa, and that couldn't be put away until the closet was cleaned and the ornaments removed... so you see how it all fits together.

In the end, it all got done on Saturday. And we were exhausted by Saturday evening. So we went and got the tree yesterday. See how it all works?

We are exhausted now... I'm glad all that work was done, now all I have to do is wrap a couple presents tonight after the kids go to bed. Huzzah!

We got the tree at this place called Pearsons in Byfield, right on I-95 there. They charge 14 bucks a tree, no matter what the size.

Sometimes you go there and the place is mobbed beyond belief... like the last two years. This year we went and there was one other car there and us. The woman had a Mercedes, and her daughter and her pit bull with her. The pit bull was brindle in color and had a full long tail and a great disposition. When we saw her running around, we asked if she was friendly. The woman told us that she was indeed and loved kids so we called her over instead of us approaching her. Having been the owner of a dog most people would run away from, we were sure to do things the right way.

She came right over, tail wagging and eyes bright. The kids loved her and patted her and ran all over the place with her while Doug picked out a tree. Geoff kept calling the dog over to him, "Hey come get this tree dog!" It was a riot. We picked a 6 foot tree and got it home, set it up, let it open, strung the lights and put the ornaments on. Geoff dropped an ornament that Megan had made for Jessica last year. It was ceramic and broke clean in half. I may be able to salvage it. We ran out of bulb hooks, but the tree is quite well decorated and it is slender... not a big full tree like we've had in years past, so I'm happy with the way it looks.

I spent a lot of time and effort this year on the kids and on Doug, not to mention friends and cards and pictures. I'm worn out from it. And I have a horrible feeling I'm getting little in return from my family. Doug likes to pick out some jewelry for me, which is always pretty, but I don't wear a lot of jewelry, so it kind of seems... like a lazy way of shopping for me. I bought him stuff I know he would like and want... I got him a great set of cutlery for the kitchen so he can play Chef Douglas. Our knives suck, old knives that we got as a wedding gift back in the day. They don't cut for shit and they have wood handles, and the little pegs are falling out so the blades don't hold tightly in the handles... so I invested for him. I also got him a nice fleece vest and two really nice longsleeved henley shirts.

I'll get something he picked out online.

He asked me what I wanted. I told him a bathrobe, a digital camera, and a bottle of Crabtree & Evelyn "Sonoma Valley" perfume.

I'll get none of that because they require effort. The nearest Crabtree & Evelyn is in Burlington, although it is something you can order online at their site... but he won't do that I am sure. Bathrobe -- forget about it. And he told me I could go pick out a digital camera because I know more about that stuff than he does.

Merry Christmas to me.

Anyway. I'm feeling kind of worn out and tired. I can't wait for this all to be over with so I can get my complete disappointment out of the way. I'm looking forward to tonight's pageant because Geoff is going to be so cute and Jessica knows all her lines by heart and acts them out. She doesn't just recite the part, she and the girl she is with -- Ashley -- both have the shepherdess roles down pat. They huddle together with their staffs, rub their arms, point to the sky, herd the four little sheep kids they have around. They are the best part.

Geoff has the last line in the play... "I become light in the world so whoever believes in me will not be in darkness." He messes it up everytime, but in the cutest ways. As long as he doesn't say anything about burping or butts (his new thing is "wanna see my butt?") I'll be a happy mom.

Well, I'm going to do the last of my shopping for lunch time here. Merry Christmas to all. I'm sure I'll have pictures of Geoff and Jess from their pageant, and Christmas morning for you.

May God bless each of you with one very special memory this Christmas. Talk to you Thursday.

Friday, December 21, 2001

Babies and Christmas

So the baby was born. Remember the baby shower from a month ago? Well, here she is. This is who we showered. First pictures from the hospital.

Her name is Chloe (just like Bonnie's Baby) and she came to be on the 18th in the afternoon. I put these pictures together because there are two things that strike me. First of all, my friend the mommie, looks SPECTACULAR. Look at how clean and soft and pretty her hair is. And her skin looks so pretty. She's a beautiful girl. And I hate her. I looked like someone put a burlap bag over my head and beat me with a sack of doorknobs by the time I was done having both babies. Death. She holds her girl with such self-assurednesses and strength. This is her second baby, and I think that she looks the role, ready. Centered. Satisfied.

The second thing that I love here is the picture of daddy. Look at his hands. I think that when I look at pictures of men holding their babies, the hands are what strikes me the most and it melts me to the core.

One big, grown up mitt gently cushioning that little melon, trying not to bend her neck forward too far, but not wanting to let her movements and gravity cause her injury. The other lifting, supporting, cradling the backend. I adore the hands of a father on a child. And this picture shows me all I love of it.

I wish them both the best of joy and health and happiness here with this wonderful gift. I wish Christine's daughter Sam (age 8) nothing but joy as well in now having a little sister.

And that's what I want to write about today.
Having a little sister. At Christmas.

About the same time in the year, only back in 1969, something similar happened to me. I was a lot younger than Samantha when I got a sister, I was three. My mother gave birth to Linda Jean on December 21, and brought her home Christmas Day.

I don't remember any of it. Being three, I don't think my memory kicked in until like 4 or so... I have a picture in my mind, which I am unsure whether or not it comes from an actual picture or a memory, of me looking at her in the stocking she was put into and placed by the tree. Check this picture out of me holding her... mangling her face. The helpful adult hands on either side are my mom's and my grandmother's. I cropped them both out so you can get the full Chrissie Mangling Baby impact here.

My life would be forever changed. And it wasn't until I was in college that I really realized it was forever blessed.

I recall childhood moments when my mother foisted her upon me, demanding that I play with her or take her someplace with me. I remember being livid that I couldn't cross the road to go to the playground until I was like 20 but she could at like 5. That pissed me off (that's an incredible exaggeration but my mom did sin in the realm of letting the youngest do stuff sooner in life than you let the first born because she realized it wasn't as dangerous as she thought...)

I remember thinking my sister was a bratty pain in the ass, and was sick of her fighting with my mother, and I was so relieved to run away to college at age 17 and leave her and my parents behind never to return for any serious length of time.

On phone calls, mom would regale me of stories of fights she and Linda would have and I would hang after the discussion so relieved that I wasn't there to see or hear any of it.

While I was in college, I invited her up to visit. I found her to be a funny and pleasant person to be around. Who the hell was this person? This 15 year old smartass with the quick, intelligent wit and the dazzling smile and blue eyes? Where did the bratty little boogernose tag-along hemorrhoid of a sibling go?

Then, it occurred to me -- she wasn't a problem person. Our home life sucked pretty bad sometimes (we weren't abused, our mom and dad just had their issues, and it was a small place, and this impact on us at the time was far greater than they could have imagined...) Instead of banding together against the common travails of childhood, I locked myself in my room and locked her out of my life. My way of dealing with problems was to retreat into good books and better music, and to just barricade the door against any infiltration, even a great ally in the course of battle.

Which left her out, dealing with things in very different ways.

I could have been there for her, but chose to be alone for me.

And there we were -- out of the house, in a new, safe, fresh environment. And the personalities could be what they were supposed to be. It was a time not only for me to discover life outside of my home, but to discover a person who lived in my home for years... who I never really got to know.

It became a joy to know her.

When Doug and I got married, I asked her to be in my wedding party. She was shocked. True, to that point in our lives we weren't close, but I knew at that point what I wished I had known my whole life...

that she didn't suck, she wasn't a pain in the ass. She was a wonderful person and one whom I wanted to have a better relationship with for the rest of my life.

I have stated before in this journal that I think it sucks when you are stupid when you're younger. Some of the incredibly retarded, stupid attitudes and thoughts I had when I was growing up, the things I wanted and the things that I didn't want, I wish I could do them over.

Thing is, that these stupid asinine and childish thoughts help turn you into the adult you become. Sometimes you learn from them and look back and say "What the hell was I thinking? What was my problem???"

You grow and change because of them and the epiphany point you hit that sends bolts of enlightenment through you.

Sometimes you never learn.

In my case I sure did. And I learned that I love this girl. Wouldn't have it any other way.

The older we got, the more I realized we had in common. We like all the same comedy, most of the same music. We have similar aesthetic tastes, and we both are sardonic, and sometimes nasty evil when being "funny." We deal with stress differently. I laugh it off, she internalizes... but in the end, we have each other to turn to.

That's what matters the most.

The thing that now strikes me is that she's pretty good with my kids. Not the same person she was when Jessica was first born, when we'd come visit and she'd go visit friends instead of hanging out with us. Now, she spends time, and plays the Auntie Lee Lee role very well. My kids get on her last nerve, especially that boy... but she weathers it wonderfully and with increasing good humor.

She is kind, giving... sometimes to excess.

She has had tough times, but always seems to be there for other people when they are in need, and puts her own problems aside.

She is sensitive and soft at times, even though she sometimes puts forth what Christopher Kelly referred to as her "steely New York Bitch" facade.

People ask her a lot "why don't you smile?" because she seems to have this mean face on when she's going about her business. Because she's focused and determined. When Linda was in Highschool and after high school she worked at a restaurant. She'd walk around and be very efficient, but didn't smile much. Doug referred to it as her "Friendly Face," a play on the name of the restaurant where she was enslaved. But it wasn't that she was pissed to be there... she's just so serious most of the time. It became kind of this joke among us.

Next time you are at a restaurant and your waitress is walking around grinning like a freak, just be aware she may be friendly but I guarantee she's not efficient.

Which do you want more?

I have some good Linda anecdotes, and lyrics to a song that my uncle Ken made up about her when she was very small... but I won't embarrass her that way here. Anyway, I have promised not to sing the song. Or reveal said lyrics. Ever.

It's the poor girl's birthday.

And the point of this entry is for me to say that I love and adore her. And Christmas 1969 changed my life for good.

For the rest of my life, no matter how old I am, or if we're not in contact, she will be one of the first things on my mind every Christmas morning.

And the fact that God gave me such a gift, twice, the gift of his Son and the gift of my sister -- I am forever thankful for the holiday season.

And my wish for Samantha is that she'll love Chloe the same way. That early in her life she'll learn how wonderful it is to be a big sister. I try to impress this on my daughter as the first born, to love and take care of her brother and get to know him and help him grow into a good human instead of pushing him away. Perhaps she'll have the same experience as me and will wake up one day and say, "Wow, this person, this snotty brother... he rocks!"

I can only hope.

Merry Christmas, happy birthday, I love you Linda.

Thursday, December 20, 2001

Doug went out to the car this morning to get his travel coffeemug and warm the beast up for the commute, and discovered he had a flat. Initially our plan was I would drive him to work, but then we realized I'd work until 5:30 and he'd be out at like 3. So he'd have to figure out a ride back home, and not be able to pick up Geoff, so I'd have to weasel out of work at like 4:30 to pick him up before daycare closed... so we opted for him to drop me off and take Rudy the Saturn.

I hate not having a car while I am here. Especially when it's cold and rainy. To make matters worse, I have to go to the post office at some point, buy 8 million stamps, ship three boxes which SO aren't going to reach their destinations before Christmas Eve... I suck.

So I'm lazy and look like a loser. What else is new in the world... it isn't headline material, this overwhelming fact that I wait until the very last minute to send out my Christmas Cards and boxes... Last year I think I mailed them after Geoff's Birthday (1/7) so the fact they might just be postmarked before Christmas eve is a small victory. Isn't life just full of small victories? I mean, in the greater scheme of things, big huge failures vs. small victories -- I strive for the latter. Usually I'm trying to achieve the big victory. If the adjective is different, it's still okay with me.

We had choir practice last night for the Christmas services that we will be having in the next several days. So we had to practice for this coming Sunday, 2 services, Monday, a service, Tuesday a service and two Sundays from now, two services.

That's a lot of music to cram into one night. we were there for 90 minutes. Some of it is old hat, except for the new alto we picked up. And I'm still unsure of some of the alto lines I have to sing because I've been making shit up for years that just sounds good but isn't what is in the sheet music. One of the benefits of being able to learn by ear but also one of the problems of never really grasping the concepts of reading music.

The one thing that absolutely thrilled me is that one of the hymns we are singing was done by Sting on the 1987 "A very special christmas" album, Gabriel's Message. The hymn is of course slightly different than the way he does it, but the harmonies are thrilling. If we only had a tenor. How pathetic is that -- a 6 person choir. But we do a decent job. And our choir director has faith in us. I'm very happy we are doing a lot of the traditional hymns. A couple years ago, before I joined up, the choices for hymns were all wacky crap that no one recognized or knew. I mean we didn't even sing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" fer chrissake, and what is Christmas without that?

Here is the mandatory Christmas Hymn List, in my bossy opinion:

1. Hark the Herald Angels Sing
2. The First Noel
3. Silent Night
4. O Little Town of Bethlehem
5. Joy to the World
6. Angels We Have Heard on High

Anything else is ... okay but not mandatory. I am not a big fan of Greensleves/What Child is this, but we are singing it. It has a great harmony line, so that makes it more fun. I hate Away in a Manger. I've never liked that one. Meh. And now we can add Gabriel's Message to the mix. And now that I know the harmony line to "In David's Royal City" which I had never heard before coming to this church, I can tolerate it.

Our choir director is British, and the pastor Australian, so that makes for an influx of weird english traditional wackiness for some of the holidays and it kind of confuses me. Doug definately doesn't dig the Anglification of his holidays... but he should be happy with the hymn selection this year.

We brought home the costumes for the kids for the pageant. Geoff tried his on. I have to stitch the shoulder a little tiny bit, but he looks a riot. He is The Star of Bethlehem. Bwa ha ha ha! He liked the costume a lot and stood and delivered his line in the living room, then demanded the costume be put away because he wants to be a shepherd. So this might take some convincing Monday night to get him to do his thing. We shall see.

Okay. Tomorrow's edition -- Linda Linda Linda. Happy birthday to Linda beano... and an entry as a gift to the girl. Until then, adieu.

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

cookie swap

I must vent here though for a minute... in watching the news coverage on our local NBC affiliate, the stupid talking head doing the story kept referring to Christian church services as "mass." In the Episcopal church, and many others, it's not "mass" that is "celebrated," it's called a "service."

"Mass" is pretty much the Catholic thing. Please make a note of it.

Something that I hate about news coverage in this area is they focus on Catholics. Every Christmas story or Easter story is about Cardinal Law and the Catholic Diocese and what they are doing and celebrating... no one ever goes to a Congregational or Methodist Church to interview the pastors there... video tape the parishioners there. Boston news agencies seem to think that Catholics are the only Christians in the neighborhood.

For the record, most of what Catholics believe/practice is really different from what Protestants do. So it just kinda irks me that they make no effort to look into other sects of Christianity.


I wanted to talk a bit about a cookie swap story, and how appalled I was when I heard this. Just to illustrate how completely whacked rich people are.

One of my coworkers lives in the wealthy, tony and chichi hamlet of Andover (you can smell the snobbery from here), She got invited to her neighbor's house for the annual Christmas Cookie Swap. She baked 50 molasses sugar cookies, 50 as instructed, put them in a Tupperware container, and walked next door to the party.

She was greeted at the door by the caterer, who took her cookie container and was shocked that it was Tupperware. The caterer ran and got the hostess.

The hostess came to see her in .... a cocktail dress, wearing heels, pearls... and holding an elegant champagne glass in her hand. She was greeted and given the visual once over.

Obviously the hostess neglected to tell my coworker that it was a hoity toity dress up affair. All the women there were in evening dresses and gowns, pearls, diamonds, fancy crap that most normal people don't even own.

My friend... jeans and a wool dress jacket and turtleneck.

Who hosts a catered cookie swap with jumbo shrimp, finger sandwiches and champagne?

Who doesn't TELL the first time visitor that there are certain dress up expectations?

Who does this shit? What is wrong with that woman!!!!

Cookie swap is cookie swap. A mess of friends getting together for some eggnog (sometimes spiked) and mulled cider, swapping cookies and joking around.

So anyway, my friend is ushered in, and there is a big assed table with these gorgeous large silver and tin trays of cookies. Elaborate cookies. Luminously glowing in Christmassy goodness.

Cookies that look like ornaments or works of art. Slap some shellac on those suckers and hang them on your tree kinda cookies. Encase them in glass and display them for the ages kinda cookies.

One woman made cookies that were shaped like pairs of ice skates, with little laces strung between them and tied in a bow so they looked as if they were ready to be draped across a tiny shoulder on the way to the pond. The blades were silver. SILVER. She must have melted those little silver topping beaddy things down and dipped the skate blades in.

Beside each tray was a printed index card displayed on a little spear outlining what was in the cookie, and how long they took to make, and who made them.

The cookies were to be judged by the well dressed attendees.

And my friend's molasses cookies were sitting at the end, in their Tupperware. No index card.

She ended up having a drink with the other guests, and then got an emergency phone call and had to run home. She didn't plan the emergency call, it just sort of came upon itself like a gift from God to get her out of the most uncomfortable social situation of her life.

She hasn't told me yet if she went back to retrieve her 50 cookies... and I bet you one million dollars she isn't invited back next year. And if by some fat chance she is, after they've spent the year laughing at her behind her back as the obscenely rich Andover better than everyone else on earth bitches that they are, she won't accept.

I want to have a cookie swap next year. Beer, cookies, bawdy jokes, belching and wedgies. Hiking boots and sneakers required. Big baggy assed sweaters mandatory. No catering -- just my husband whipping up some of his Doug specialities and making everyone smile. That's my plan.

And I'll invite my friend's neighbor. Have her show up at the way out inn in her best Chanel spaghetti strap slip dress with sequins along the seams and her stockings and 700 dollar shoes.

And we will laugh at her.

The day after tomorrow is my sister's birthday. She will be 32, for the record. I'm 35. I plan on writing an entry tomorrow just about her. I have some pictures I want to scan of her, and put them up. I want to make her BAWL LIKE A BABY!!!!! Revisit her emotive self from 1969 when they brought her into the world.

We bought our boss a nice bracelet today at lunchtime. One of my co-workers and I ran out to pick it up. We knew what we kind of wanted and bingo -- there it was sitting in the case, looking at us. 44 bucks, split 4 ways... reaction: priceless. We put it on her desk when she went out for a cigarette -- and when she came back she was THRILLED. Big hugs, surprised reaction. I like that kind of thing...

The bracelet itself is comprised of little silver bobbly things that have simple script written on each one -- love, friendship, happiness, health, wealth, luck -- and then it clasps. The picture here doesn't have the same words on it as the one we bought...

We told her that's our wish for her for next year, to attain each one of those items. She laughed -- love being the first one, that's been kind of hard for her as of late. So she spread the vibe out saying these concepts/goals are for any one of us who touched the bracelet. I thought that was sweet.

Aside from wealth really, all those things are great. Wealth makes you have fancy cookie parties. Obscene wealth is something I honestly don't understand and actually despise.

Managable wealth, so all your debts are clear and you can be generous with friends when they are in need, and living without fear in your old age -- that's the kind of wealth I think I wish for people.

And for you.

Monday, December 17, 2001

Toaster Fire

Yesterday evening I was toasting English Muffins for dinner.

Sounds like we live in a culinary vacuum, but we don't. Honest. We'd had a huge assed lunch with Aaron & Michelle, so none of us were too hungry for dinner. 8pm was suddenly upon us and I got a little peckish, as did my son. I made Geoff a muffin, and before I brought him his I popped mine in the toaster oven to start, thinking of the gooey peanutbuttery goodness I would soon be enjoying..

I came back into the kitchen to find the toaster oven in spurting flames, smoke belching out of the back and the front. I whipped it open to see if it was an electrical or a residual combustion, and slammed it closed again when the conflagration grew with the influx of precious oxygen.

Unplugging the damned thing and hoping it would start to sort of smother itself, I called for Doug to come help me. He came in and threw baking soda into the incinerated Black And Decker, and said "okay. Let it cool down and we'll wash it out."

The entire counter top was hot, so I didn't want to "let it cool down and wash it out" as it were, so I called him back and asked him to take it out of the house, while I whipped open windows and prayed the counter top wouldn't suddenly flare up.

I lost my English Muffin to boot.


So Doug took the crusty burned appliance out to the deck and dumped it. This morning it looked horrible. Thinking of washing it out wasn't an option. We're getting a new toaster oven.

We've had this one since we got married. It was a bridal shower gift. Not entirely sure who gave it to me, but that thing served us so well over the years. God rest you, Loyal to the end... Dying in the line of duty, O, Toaster of Bread and min-pizzas... you will live forever in our hearts. Sniff.

The weekend was great. Aaron and Michelle came. We had tons of fun. I so enjoy hanging with them. I spent the morning on Saturday shopping at Kittery as described in the last entry.

I didn't find anything for my boss... look though I might. The two ideas we had (bracelet or dining table things) either were way too expensive or they were ... tacky. So we'll go out this week and shop for her.

I bought stuff for the kids, mostly winter fun related... some games... umbrellas (they so need them). Jessica still needs a new winter coat and I have to think of some extra stuff for Geoffrey. Pokemon related I guess. Linda got him the one thin he's been jonesing for - Pop up Mr. Potato Head.

And I got Doug a bunch of stuff but won't confess here as to what they are because I am not sure if he reads the journal. I don't think he does. But I'm not going to make a big mistake and blurt out what he's getting.

Shopping was a lot of fun. I enjoy spending time with Marcia and I am rather irked with myself that time wasn't better spent when they lived here close to us. Damn. But the good thing about them living farther away is that plans are more concrete, there isn't a fly by the seat of your pants element to getting together, and when we go up there we stay overnight... thus making for a longer, more meaningful visit. And the kids get to spend hours upon hours being together, doing very bad things... like our last visit.

I am not sure why, but Geoff does weird stuff when he's there at the Hyde-A-Way. Last time he took their cat food and put it in the laundry chute. This time he took all their toothbrushes and put them in the dryer. From one bathroom upstairs, to another bathroom downstairs, all the toothbrushes... the daily use ones and the backup stash. All went into the dryer. Marcia told me they were wet too, so she thinks he either put them all in the toilet or he put them all in the sink and got them wet. I was mortified. I owe them like 10 toothbrushes.

It cracked me up though. What the hell was he thinking?

Before I met Marcia in Kittery I had to go to the post office. I had dragged my feet on shipping my sister's digital camera to her for three reasons: 1) I was having too much fun with it and did not wish to relinquish control, 2) I am a fat lazy slob and 3) I couldn't find Grandma, the little happy meal figurine we use to do the Grandma webpages.

I had brought her back with me from the Atlantic City trip, and meant to send everything back to Linda so she could take Grandma with her to Florida and Las Vegas. With all the best intentions, I got a box, and stuff to wrap it all up in, and then... couldn't find Grandma.

Jessica found her for me. I put her up in the cabinet above the computer for safe keeping. That was late Friday afternoon, so Saturday at 8 am I find myself waiting in line at the Portsmouth NH post office, to ship a digital camera, a priceless doll, and a santa hat. I figured the Santa hat would be a nice touch.

I couldn't ship it to NY to my sister, for two reasons: 1) the postal service in their area is notorious for losing stuff, mangling stuff, breaking stuff and totally delivering stuff 5 days after the "next fucking day delivery" that you specify and pay for and 2) Linda is leaving TOMORROW (Tuesday) so I figured Saturday to Tuesday wasn't going to get it to her, so I had to ship the box to the Florida Destination and S&V's house there... I hope to God that they get the box in time. They are leaving for Vegas on Wednesday, and the postal lady said the box should reach them Tuesday at the absolute latest.

By the way, the staff at the Portsmouth USPS office is the second friendliest Post Office staff I've ever met or seen in my life. I was floored. I'd live in Portsmouth JUST to go there to the post office. I was treated with great respect. I was given eye contact. I was smiled at.

Aside from the post office in Torrey, Utah, where they put your name on the wall when it's your birthday (This month's birthdays are Joan Stevens and Micah Williams). In a town of about 100 year round residents, that's kind of a cute touch. And, Doug said the clerk there was the nicest post office guy ever.

So, Portsmouth gets thumbs up from me.

The kids are in the Christmas Pageant this year again... seeing as we are staying home and not traveling to points far. Last year, Geoff was a shepherd. He was very naughty. Jessica was one of the 3 wise men, and she did a great job.

This year Geoff is the Star of Bethlehem and gets to wear the coolest costume ever, and Jessica is one of 2 shepherds. Pictures will follow, of course.

I like that we are staying home. I am liking the fact that we are starting to put together our own family traditions. I don't like being on the road at Christmas, having to deal with kenneling the dog or getting him dog sat, dealing with the presents and the toys in the car. I like being home. And aside from the fact that I almost burned home down with a Thomas' nooks and crannies death bomb, it's a great place to be.

It snowed earlier today, big fat heavy flakes of snow. That stopped a couple hours ago and I hear it is now icy conditions out there. Crap. I hate driving in the dark on roads that are potentially deadly. So I'm heading home. If I never post again, and I don't answer your emails... well... you'll know what happened. Otherwise, more updates to come!