Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Anya's Got a Posse

Y'all. Just so you know. I have the best co-workers and friends on earth. This afternoon, my girl C and my girl MB and I were talking about Keri and Anya and Nastia (see my entry from 2 days ago) as we were filling out our checks to donate to the Bring Anya Home Fund.

I said that I wanted to do a fundraiser or something -- something more substantial than look in my bank account and say "hey, I have some money to spare, so I will."

The other day in email discussions, Amy had suggested the King Hooper mansion in Marblehead as a location. Someone on the BN dot net discussion board had the idea of doing a wine tasting as a fundraiser (thank you, if you're reading, DaWezl). That would be classy and nice. But I'd need to know someone who is a wine expert, and my guess is that Steven Page from Barenaked Ladies would not be available to come and oversee the event as the special expert guest. I don't know a qualified sommelier who would be willing to bring their talents to the table.

MB and C both started throwing out suggestions. MB said that Hooper and wine would be way classy but it wouldn't bring in "the crowd" that loves to go to crap like this in Marblehead. She suggested getting more townie than fancy. She said the Gerry 5 VFA in Marblehead, and said it costs next to nothing to rent it. And it is big. She knows some guys in a local band who are into doing stuff like this. This person can build baskets, and we can get gift certificates from this place and that place, and we can do raffles for this and that. And we can... and we can...

Next thing you know we've got ideas and are planning a plan. The planniest plan that ever was planned. We're a committee. We're a fundraiser planning committee. Holy crap we're a planning committee!!!!!

My head started spinning. A clear sign that it is about to explode. The girls were forwarding an email I had written to everyone I know to everyone THEY know.

And the thing that started to almost make me cry, is that MB and C haven't ever met Keri. They don't know her. They just saw the picture of the girls and read an article I gave them in the Boston Globe. And they're there getting fired up with me.

Amy also had sent out an email to all her friends telling them about Keri and pointing them to my journal entry. And people on her recipient list sent money into the fund.

You guys. Not only do I have the coolest co-workers ever, I have the coolest FRIENDS and extended network of friends, between Amy's mail and MB and C -- there are people out there now reading and learning and we'll reach a bunch and make it so.

And it almost brings me to tears. I can't imagine what it would do to Keri. Or Anya. Or Nastia.

You guys. There's a little girl who is 15 who needs to be adopted by summer's end. She's got a window of extension based on the fact that Keri already has adopted her sister, and has until she is 18 to get her adopted and out of Siberia. But. Keri's goal is to have her adopted and home by the end of summer 2007 because she no longer can live in the orphanage after she turns 16.

Pondering these things. My daughter will be 15 in June. Can you imagine putting her out on the street and saying "okay! good luck to you!" at age 16 next year?

No. Holy crap no. Anya deserves better. Especially seeing that there is already someone waiting and working on making it happen.

In case you need further information on whether or not this is a true story, check here:

I am so effing fired up right now. And I know this kind of righteous anger sometimes can fizzle into disappointment and regret -- things don't always work out, things fall apart. The proverbial and metaphorical bed does get shat upon... but damn. I'm gonna try. I'm not going to let my inner pessimist do nothing and sit back and say "well, it was bound to fail anyway."

Hells no. And I've got a posse. Actually, we're Anya's Posse. Saddle up and represent, bitches.

Join Anya's Posse and let's ride.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Tracks and Trails

This was a busy weekend. So much so that I feel like I need a weekend from my weekend.

Friday afternoon we finished up Geoff's car for Pinewood Derby and I took it over to be weighed. Because we knew the rules better this year (there are a lot of 8 geoffunwrittens that I need to talk to our cubmaster about -- I think it would be helpful if they were on a webpage or a handout but I digress) I managed to do the car right and have it at the perfect weight.

Last year we had to glue coins to the car at the weigh-in to get it to the right weight. This year I had Doug drill holes in the bottom and I glued weights in. Long story short, it worked out much better and Geoff came in 5th place in a field of 15. Not too bad.

We had a lot of fun. I even got all the badges and patches and stuff sewn on to his new tan shirt, so he's looking more Webelo-ish by the minute.

Saturday afternoon Geoff went to a friend's house to work on a project for school. Let's just say -- this will be rather interesting when the boys are done.

Sunday I got up early and went to the grocery store. I am sick of stopping at the market on the way home, or hoping that Doug will stop at the market... and more often than not lately we've ended up with take out or stuff thrown together and it just isn't good.

I thought since it was so nice yesterday we could take the dogs for another long walk in the woods. It was about 35 degrees with no wind, and a light coating of snow. Perfect for a long woods walk and maybe a geocache.

Doug had other plans. Doug wanted for us to go to Boston to walk part of the Freedom Trail and have a nice day out. Okay. Sure. Sorry dogs -- you lose.

boston freedom trail perspective on feetWe all got in the car and headed out, parking at Government Center. We walked through the Holocaust Memorial and then over to the North End to the Paul Revere statue and mall, and the Old North Church.

We went up to the Copps Hill burial ground, where neither of us had been, and enjoyed the views from there. Then, down the hill and over the bridge to Charlestown to the Navy Yard and the USS Constitution.

I think I'd been to the Constitution once in my life, maybe when I was very, very young. Not sure. Doug had never been. I think Jess had done a field trip there way back in the day. Suffice to say, this was a touristy spot that was so close yet something we'd never gone to see. I kind of liken it to me growing up just outside NYC and never EVER going up to the top of the Statue of Liberty until I brought Doug to NY for the first time in 1987.

It just isn't something you do when you live there.

We must have looked like tourists too. We were crossing the bridge and a guy comes walking towards us heading into Boston. "The Constitution is right around the corner," he says to us, pointing across the marina. "You can see it when you get down the way, and then turn right and follow the trail and you'll get there."

"oh. Okay. Thanks." I replied.

"Bunker Hill monument is that building up there," he says, gesturing to Boston's own statuesque phallus. "But you can't go to the top. It's closed. But that's what it is."

Dude, I know. I'm FROM here.... is what I was thinking. But I held my tongue, and felt just for one second, a bit of thanks.

This guy obviously mistook this very northeastern from-around-here family for a family of folks "from away" as they say in Maine. And he took a second to become a self-appointed helper guy, an ambassador of Charlestown. He could have walked past us sneering. But no -- he took the time to be kind and point out to the possibly not-too-familiar where they were headed.

So, thanks random walking guy for being kind. Good on you and good reflection on Boston. If I were from away, it would have impressed me greatly in this world of not too much kindness. Thumbs up. Thanks.

Anyway -- we got over to the Constitution and went to the museum. Then we went on the boat (where 11 federal employees in a quonset hut go through your stuff and x-ray you and metal detect you. Eleven of them. We need ELEVEN people to do this job. Thank you terrorists... you keep the hacks employed!) and we thought we'd just walk about and gawk like the tourists we obviously were.

31 our tour guideBut a Naval Airman was on board getting ready to give a tour. And it was a really small group... so he took us places he normally doesn't take tours. We got to go down to the surgery and check that out, and crawl about in the captain's quarters. It was really cool, and he was charming and sweet and really really tall. I felt for him in all his six foot six glory when we were down in the surgery, which is maybe 5 ft high if that.

He asked if anyone would want to be a cook on the ship and Geoff raised his hands eagerly. The guy laughed and said "that's the worst job, but you can have it buddy. I'll go do something fun like rig sails and swab decks."

It was a cool tour and a lot of fun. I'm glad we went...

We walked back to Fanieul Hall area, and then went to the Union Oyster House for dinner. It was a lot more expensive than we'd planned for to have dinner... but it was good and the beer was tasty and life was good.

We were home before 7pm, but it felt like midnight.

And now -- I'm off. Gotta do a quick blowdry of the hairs and be on my way. Have a great day y'all.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Bring Anya Home

"Imagine finally seeing the sister you had only dreamed of? Imagine finally knowing she is a real, living person, with eyes like you, and a smile just like yours? I am so happy for these sisters I could burst."
-Keri Cahill

I have a wonderful friend from college. Some of you who attended Gordon with me at the same time may remember Keri Cahill. Keri was (and still is) an actress, a poet, a dark-eyed, long haired Irish princess with a keen sense of humor and quick smile. She shone upon the stage in many plays at Gordon, and today shares the love of theatre with kids in teaching them Shakespeare in the summertime.

A few years ago I ran into her after a long absence of her presence in my life. She was on her way to Russia to adopt a little girl. Anastasia, or Nastia, would be coming home that summer and would be her daughter to love and hold and cherish for eternity. Shortly thereafter, Keri found out that Nastia has a sister from whom she had been separated when they were put into the orphanages.

Keri wants to adopt her daughter's sister, and make them a family again.

What follows here is reproduced with permission from her Myspace.com blog. I wanted to share it with the few of you who read here and ask for your help. I normally don't do things like this.

Keri has a heart as large as the Hoover Dam, which is bursting and flooding the desserts below. Keri needs our help and is too proud to really ask. She feels as if she's asked a lot from the greater community for the past couple of years. Her home flooded this May (twice) and she lost all of the theatre props and costumes that she had stored there. Most of it was unsalvageable because it was flooded not just by the flash floods that hit the north shore of Boston, but by sewerage that flowed into her home from the surrounding pipes that couldn't handle the sudden surge. She received some press and attention for that, and now she sits here trying to figure out what to do to speed up the process and the ghastly sum of money it will take to get Anya out of Siberia.

Anya is nearing the age where she will not be able to be adopted any longer, where she will "age out" of the orphanage system.

And if she cannot be adopted, she will be stuck in Siberia. End of conversation. She won't be eligible to come into the United States to become a child of our country, to enjoy her sister, to live with the woman who wishes to be her mother. She'll be stuck. And it isn't a good life. Far from it. It is a horrible and dangerous life.

So many of us talk about the importance of the family, and how families should be supported. Anya and Nastia are a family... divided by time, circumstances, bureuracracy.

Can you imagine a town where there are six orphanages? Are there six orphanages in your small city??? I don't think so. But all over Siberia there are orphanages -- there are millions of kids who sit and rot and languish because their parents turned to drugs or crime. There aren't family members to step in. There aren't Foster Homes. There is little or no chance for reuniting with Mom and Dad. These kids are cattle. They become waste products of a society that just can't deal with anything. And for all the bitching we do about how our society works and treats children, honey -- I assure you. I promise you... it is a whole hell of a lot better than Siberia.

I have followed her story since the day I ran into her by chance at a Starbucks in Marblehead. She spoke fluent Russian for me and blew me away. She is driven, she is proud, she is confident, she is trying. She is bending over backwards, she is jumping through flaming hoops. She is pushing a large rock up a very big hill. And I don't want her to be Sisyphus. Sisyphus had no help with his boulder. But I want to be the hand that helps push the rock up the big assed hill so it rolls down the other side.

And it occurs to me -- I want you to help too if you can. I have about 50 unique readers each day or so. If each of you sent 10 bucks to Keri, it would help so damn much... If you sent more than that it would blow her mind.

And if you can't send money, you can pray. I beseech you to do so. With fervor. You can ask for God's hand to intervene in the process and really build a family. Lift your hearts and voices and thoughts, and ask for help from the heavens for these three women.

Trust me -- this isn't some sort of internet scam. She's not taking the money to get a face lift and fake boobies. I know this woman. I can vouch for her situation and her kindness and her efforts. I know the one child. I want to know her sister. I want to make them be a family together.

I'm in for a bunch of money. Who's with me?

Without further preaching or adieu, here is Keri's journal entry.

Two Orphaned Sisters Reuniting- with your help
Here is the story of my girls...one is home, one still waits in an orphanage. Please keep us in your prayers. We want Anya home now!

The First Miracle
Nastia Cahill, my daughter, spoke with her sister Anya_________ for the first time in her life on Thanksgiving Day, 2005. It had been about eleven years since they had last seen one other, having been separated when Nastia was only about 18 months old. Anastasia (Nastia) & Anya _________ had been taken from their birth mother in 1994 for abuse and neglect and placed in a hospital for one year. While at the hospital, a neighbor of their birthfather came and claimed Anya, leaving Nastia behind. Nastia was placed in the first of two orphanages, four hours to the south. Anya, to her best recollection, was passed around to numerous neighbors and friends of her family until she was 10 years old. She never attended school and recounts years of abuse and neglect by her varying caretakers. In 2001 the police were notified of a child who was being neglected and was not attending school. Anya remembers the police pushing the door open and forcibly removing her from the apartment she was in. They handed over to an orphanage in Kemerovo. There, she attended school for the first time. When she turned 13, her orphanage closed down, and she was moved to her current orphanage.

All these years, Anya remembered her little sister and longed to see her again. Once she entered the orphanage system, she asked for help in finding her sister, but was denied. When she finally entered her current orphanage, she found a sympathetic ear in the new director. After many months, Anya was able to secure a possible address and wrote her little sister a letter. Sadly, the letter was lost soon after reaching Nastia and Anya never received a reply.

All this time, Nastia nurtured a dim memory of an older sister for years, not knowing if it were a true memory or just a fantasy she had dreamed up during her years as an orphan. She would play "sisters" at the orphanage, and ask her best friend Julia to play her big sister. It was a constant game during her childhood at the orphanage. When she received the letter from Anya, her dream was confirmed. She did have a sister! However, the letter went missing the day it arrived and Nastia was never able to contact her sister.

Fast Forward
In March of 2005 I walked into Detsky Dom #5 in southern Kemerovo Oblast and met my daughter Anastasia. She was cautious and very defensive, but her intelligence and big heart shone through her tough exterior. Within months we were home and creating a new life together. Almost immediately Nastia started to tell me of her sister. Just before I adopted her, she told me, she had received a letter from a girl named Anya claiming to be her sister. In her letter, she told Nastia all about their birth parents and early life together. She wanted her sister to know she loved her and wanted to see her. It had taken her quite a bit of time to track Nastia down. Nastia was overjoyed at the news. She told me she packed a little bag of the few toys she owned so that when her sister came to "get" her, she could leave immediately. Sadly, someone at Nastia's orphanage had misplaced Anya's letter and Nastia was unable to respond to her sister. When I adopted her, her first wish was to find this sister.

While in Kemerovo for our final court date, we tried to locate Anya, but it was a lost cause. No one would give us any information, and we were due to leave within a few days. I promised her that, once home in America, I would get to work on finding her. An online friend, Lindsay Wilson, had recommended I join a sibling search group run by a woman named Mary Kirkpatrick.(www.RussianFamilySearch.com) Armed with only the name of the birthmother, I contacted Mary, who got Alex Chizenock in Russia on the job. Alex is a television journalist who assists in finding family members of adopted children in his spare time. Meanwhile, I started researching orphanages in Kemerovo, assuming that Anya was likely there as it was her birthplace.

Within days Mary Kirkpatrick emailed the news that Alex had located the birthmother in a Siberian prison. The birthmother confirmed that Anya was indeed in a Kemerovo orphanage…number six, she thought. With this critical information, Nastia jumped on the computer, frantic to find a phone number for this orphanage. She located it via an online database, and called. She spoke briefly to someone and then put down the phone, sobbing. Orphanage number six had closed years ago. This number was not for the orphanage anymore, and they had no idea who she should contact. What could she do? I tried to console her and told her we would find a way to locate her, it would just take time. My determined daughter decided she had waited long enough. She looked up all twenty-two listed orphanages in the Kemerovo area and vowed to call every one of them that night. " God, please you find me my sister." she said before dialing. She then called one of the 22 numbers at random and a woman answered. In Russian Nastia explained, " I hope you can help me. I am trying to locate my sister. I think she was in Children's Home #6 in Kemerovo, but it has been closed. I wondered if you knew where the children from this orphanage were sent."

The woman responded, asking the name of the child Nastia was searching for." Anya _________." The woman told her to wait a moment. Nastia waited, and then suddenly I saw her face beaming. " Mama, she is there! She is there! My sister!" The woman on the phone told Nastia that her sister was indeed a resident of THIS orphanage she had called at random! She asked Nastia to wait while she tried to locate her. After 10 minutes she came back on the phone and said she was obviously out of the building and Nastia should try back later. We were in shock. What are the chances that her sister was in the ONE home Nastia had called? What are the chances that they would even allow them to talk? We were overjoyed. When we called back a few hours later, Anya answered the phone herself. Her voice was so sweet and quiet! The two reunited sisters talked for 20 minutes. I did not dare interrupt, and so I'm not sure of everything that was spoken, but I know both of their hearts were over-full, and their lives were forever changed.

A few weeks later we received photos of Anya from Alex Chizenock who secured permission to visit her in Kemerovo. Nastia was very pensive when she saw her sister's photo for the first time. She took it to her room and closed the door. An hour later I saw her holding up her sister's photo to her face, looking in the bathroom mirror. I think the gift of seeing someone who looked like her was almost too much for her to comprehend.

Our Visit
In the months that followed, God moved mountains. Our seeming-hopeless dream of meeting Anya was realized through a series of fortunate events. A Russian television station, hearing of the story, wanted to film a documentary of their reunion: could we come to Russia? They would secure all the necessary permits, documents, regional approval, etc. They would provide our transportation in country, etc. What would take me over a year to accomplish, they could do in a month. We said yes. On April 23rd 2006, my brother and I watched as Anya and Nastia were reunited at Kemerovo Regional Airport in Siberia. For the next six days, these sisters were inseperable. We laid as much groundwork as we could for Anya's eventual adoption while we were there, and secured the support of the orphanage director and staff, which will come in very handy when we eventually go to court! Saying goodbye was painful. But I assured both girls that we would move heaven and earth to bring them together permanently.

Where We Are Now
With tremendous help from Adoption Advocate and Lobbyist Maureen Flatley, we are plugging away at publicizing the story, raising money , and completing the required mountain of paperwork to adopt Anya. As of January 1st 2007, we have raised nearly $12,000 of the needed $25,000. For those of you who know very little about international adoption, the cost may seem utterly shameful. Yes, it is. It is shameful. But sadly there is not much we can do to change that before Anya's time runs out. Once we get Anya home it is my hope to join Maureen Flatley, SOS and the hundreds of adoptive parents in my shoes who seek to change the laws that regulate foreign adoptions so that it may be affordable for future parents. But that's another battle for another day.

For now, I concentrate on "my girls". Anya and Nastia have changed markedly since finding one another. It's as if their puzzle has been complete. They are positively radiant. Imagine finally seeing the sister you had only dreamed of? Imagine finally knowing she is a real, living person, with eyes like you, and a smile just like yours? I am so happy for these sisters I could burst.

And so now we move onto part two of this wonderful story: getting Anya home. We are working with a wonderful agency now, and hope to finish raising the funds to pay for her adoption. Thank you for your interest in our journey. Your kindness is joined with others' and will soon make it possible for Anya to have a family to call her own. Thank you!

The Bring Anya Home Fund
c/o National Grand Bank
91 Pleasant Street
Marblehead, MA 01945

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Maybe Peyton Manning's Team, Maybe?

I'm a little late in talking about this. Because I'm lazy. The New England Patriots blew the sweetest lead ever on Sunday and now Peyton Manning finally gets to stop crying that he is the world's greatest quarterback ever and can take his team to the Super Bowl. I have a feeling Brian Urlacher smells blood and likes the taste of flesh and Peyton may not know what hit him on Super Bowl Sunday. We'll see.

At the beginning of the season, my husband said that the law of averages and statistics would keep Peyton out of the Super Bowl just so long. And he was right. I'm sorry that the Pats had to go down in flames in such a tremendously trainwrecky fashion, but it is what it is.

I have said it here many times over the last five years. I love football. And I'm pleased that there are two teams going to the Super Bowl that I enjoy watching. I don't think I would have cared at all if it were say, the Chargers going for the AFC and the Cowboys representing for the NFC. I like the Bears, and I like the Colts even though they spanked Brady and even though Peyton is a shill for any product that will pay him money and he cries and whines when he loses. At least they're good. Sometimes teams make it to the finals and to the Super Bowl and you sit there and scratch your head and go, what the hell is up with THAT? How'd THEY get here? This time, it's great that good teams made it.

The one thing I do have to say is that it only took 24 hours of mourning and whining to shut the Boston area sports jerks from talking about the Patriots. It is as if they are the only team that exists on the planet in the eyes of the media. And that annoys the hell out of me. Well, not just the media but everyone around here.

Last year when the Steelers were in the Super Bowl (and they won, thank you very much) I went to the Huge Conglomorate Sports Store in search of a jersey or a These Two Teams Are In The Super Bowl T-shirt for Doug for his birthday.


There were no Steelers jerseys. No Seahawks jerseys. There was a Brett Favre jersey, and a Michael Vick jersey, and a couple of NY Jets and Giants jerseys on the shelves. But they only had Patriots jerseys in the stores. I asked the guy behind the counter at one of the stores if they were getting any Super Bowl t-shirts in and he said "No, they're not sending any here because the Patriots aren't playing."

"Well, did it dawn on anyone at your corporate HQ that maybe people like the Steelers or just like Football in general and a shirt or two would actually sell in the store if they stocked them?"

"I guess not. I guess you could just use the Internet and go to the Steelers' website. We just stock the local team here."

And let me tell you -- last January they were selling like hotcakes (not). And this January the same thing -- I bet they're hanging and waving in the wind yet again.

Indeed. Thank God for the Internet.

So I just love how the sports talking head jerks on the news aren't even talking about Miami and the Super Bowl and the Bears and Colts. No mention at all of pigskin. They may bring it up the day before the game with an "Oh! the Super Bowl is today. That's right..."

But because the local team is out of it, why bother mentioning it. Let's talk about baseball!!! That starts in... 75 days.

It is this attitude that makes Greater Boston and New England Patriots fans look shitty. We end up looking a lot like Yankees fans. Hearken back to the playoffs when I sat in a bar full of New Yorkers who weren't even watching the game anymore because their team was losing. They didn't care at all, no investment. The "oh well" attitude and "our team has 26 championships so they'll get another one next year so let's just ignore them losing" kind of atmosphere was pretty amazing.

One of the links above takes you to The Sports Guy Bill Simmons' article where he talks about New England being like the Yankees of football. And he analyzes his hopes and dreams for that game day this Sunday past when the Pats actually lost in the end. I have to share my favorite part:

I can't believe how many readers predicted the following ending of the Pats-Colts game: Vinatieri shanks the game-winning field goal, rips off his jersey to reveal a Pats jersey, then runs across to the Pats sideline and jumps into Belichick's arms as Jim Nantz screams "Noooooooooo! Noooooooooo!" and Peyton Manning breaks out the greatest Manning Face of all-time. Would I sacrifice three months of my life for this to happen? Yeah, probably.

It is a really funny article, especially because he picked the Pats and the Saints to both win.

I love the Sports Guy. He's funny enough to just read even though you don't like sports. There is a lot of pop culture, and a lot of talking about his wife, The Sports Gal. They both crack me up.

Here's another favorite part of that article:

I can't believe how annoying David Spade's little dance was in the commercial for that CBS show that won't last for more than six weeks; I can't believe Dan Dierdorf didn't recognize who Puddy from "Seinfeld" was, then claimed that he watches a ton of TV; and I can't believe I took the time to write all of that down when it happened.

Ha. My husband hates Dan Dierdorf so that made me laugh a lot. Enough with the football. May the best team win.

Doug's birthday was this week. We went out for indian food and had the whole little restaurant to ourselves. They gave us free dessert. Geoff was fascinated in learning about what we studied in college. He wanted to know what one does when one studies Philosophy and English. So we enlightened him and he said it sounded really interesting but that he is going to study Chemistry. He asked Jess what she was planning on studying in college, and she said she didn't know. Nice to know she's planning.

I bet she does know. I bet she's got her life planned out for decades to come but just didn't want to talk about it with her bratty brother.

At school, Geoff signed up for a day of after-school program even though he doesn't need to go. He was passionate about the topic - TV news. So he's been watching the news and taking notes. If Doug, Jess or I scoff at the news story he gets mad. "This is SERIOUS!" he yells at us, so we have to settle down and let him really soak in the seriousness of the news.

I thought news reporters were serious back in the 50s and 60s. I think now they editorialize, make faces, tell you how they feel about stuff. I hate Katie Couric because she isn't a news anchor. She's a news interpreter and opinion giver. News isn't about reporting anymore, it's about telling you, the viewer, what to think.

The fact that Geoff takes it very seriously almost makes me laugh harder when I listen to news reports of "Tonight, we examine how many germs are on that doorknob in your office! What you don't know could KILL YOU!"

I'm glad he takes something seriously.

readyman 5 - heimlichThis past weekend we spent about 4 hours with a million Webelo cub scouts at a Readyman Badge clinic.

For those unfamiliar, Readyman is one of the rank requirements for cub scouts to progress to the next level. It is all about first aid and safety. Being prepared... being... "Ready, man!"

Earning these badges or rank requirements is rather time-consuming. There are several things that one needs to do, and often sitting and doing them all in one fell swoop is a near impossibility.

This past summer, Geoff's den mother took her son and a couple other boys camping and realized that the could knock off the Aquanaut badge because they were at a pond with a measured swimming line, and with PFDs so they could learn all about those and take a swim test. So they were able to pull that one off. We did part of it but need to do the measured swimming in order for Geoff to finish that one up.

So far, his den has completed all of the basic Webelo requirements, so Geoff is all set even though he hasn't finished Aquanaut. Basically, they're done with this rank.

They can now start working on the requirements for moving on to Boy Scouts... even though they've got another full year and a half of Webelos. So they've got plenty of time in this next academic year to work on Arrow of Light.

Wolf CubGeoff is keenly interested in continuing with scouting. He likes it a lot, and really enjoys what he is learning. I'm really glad. Knowing that Geoff's learning disabilities make things hard for him, for the most part he really applies himself to learning what he needs to know to pass muster on the ranks.

Most boys finish Webelos and then quit. That's what Doug did. So we'll see if Geoff continues after bridging over to the Boy Scouts. My little wolf cub has come a long way in two years.

What happens with Boy Scouts is that the dads start to play a much more serious part in the training. I don't think Moms do as much, the way we do with the Cub Scouts. So my major concern is Doug being interested in pursuing this with Geoff. The boys basically run their own meetings, and there is a more independent feel after the first couple of years. I watch the boys of our Boy Scout troop manage stuff for the cubs and do things and am constantly impressed with them. I hope to see that kind of self control and that kind of dedication coming from my son

This weekend is the Pinewood Derby, so we have to get our car worked up and ready for weigh in tomorrow night. Wish us luck.

We got our first traces of snow this past week or so. Some of it is still on the ground on our patio. I can't believe we've made it through this winter so far with less than 3 inches of snow total. Thank you El Nino.

Anyway -- I have to get ready for work now. Just wanted to get an entry out the door sometime this week. Aren't you relieved?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Excessive Use of the Whammy Bar

"Can you be sent to Rock and Roll Jail for excessive use of the Whammy Bar?"
-Jessica (critiquing Geoff's Guitar Hero playing)

You guys, I'm sorry. I've neglected you yet again. All week long when I got home from work it was whip something quick up for dinner and then rock until bedtime (usually 9:30). But the rock was substantial, satisfying and beyond fun. Not that blogging isn't satisfying. But kicking the hell out of a Primus song that you've never ever heard of is a good time. Trust me.

whammy bar Geoff has mastered a couple of the easy level songs.

With a 98% note hit rate, that's pretty good. He's even got rock and roll moves, which are hysterical. Because of Guitar Hero II, Geoff is now into Kansas. Which is awesome. I bought him some iTunes, and he is loving Carry On, Wayward Son and Point of Know Return. Rock on, Geoff. Rock on.

The quote of the moment is courtesy of Jess, who sat here the other day getting mad at him because he rocks the Whammy Bar on the guitar every single chance he gets. The purpose of the Whammy Bar on the Guitar Hero controller is to increase the consumption of "star power" on certain long notes. Not all long notes are full of star power, they're just long notes. But Geoff doesn't care. He'll whammy any long note he can get his whammy onto all the whammy day long. And Jess thinks it is just plain wrong. So she wants to send him to Rock and Roll Jail. I dunno. Jimi Hendrix and many surf bands would be in there too if it were up to her. I disagree with her damnation of excessive whammy use.

And again, I say... Rock on, Geoff. Rock on.

My migraine situation cleared up my Monday night. I ended up staying home and cleaning the study. I could see well enough and there wasn't any pain, so I got a great deal done. I still felt like crap for a day or so. But I tell ya -- my office is nice and organized. I knocked about 20 boxes down to a pile of what will be three or four smaller boxes for storage. And I organized the computer desk with stacking files, and just generally made it a much nicer place to hang out. Huzzah for me.

On Wednesday I got a fever blister. I felt it starting on my drive to work, a tingle and a ping! ping! ping! By that night it was a huge lump. Thursday it looked like I had flesh eating bacteria consuming my face. Friday I thought I would die.

I got some Abreva on Thursday night. That crap is expensive, but I tell you what -- it works really well. I also started taking acidophilus pills and a lot of extra B complex vitamins. I know that acidophilus is normally for canker sores, and fever blisters are viral, but I figure it couldn't hurt... right?

So between the Abreva and the supplements, the stupid blister is being beaten back. Hopefully it'll be gone in the next day or two.

By the way, if you want a good laugh at a very very unnecessary website, off of the Abreva site there is this button for "Hot Tips From Tina." She's young, she's hip, and she hates cold sores. So go to her webpage and learn all about this cold sore hating hot young babe! What an annoyingly unnecessary waste of webspace. Jeeesh.

Not to get into a TMI kind of situation, now my eyes are sticky when I wake up in the morning, and sore throughout the day. My eyelids feel like sandpaper. I thought it was because I was feeling over tired, so I went to bed Friday night at some ungodly early hour (cutting short my Guitar Hero playtime) and it still hasn't helped. I don't have bloodshot eyes... so I doubt it is pink eye. Maybe it is styes or something. Bleurgh.

Anyway, not much else to tell. We took the dogs for a nice long walk yesterday and today it is sleeting. So that sucks. We haven't been walking enough, for ourselves or for them. And it isn't just Guitar Hero's fault. It is pitch black when I get home from work, and you just try getting my ass out of bed before 7am for ANYthing much less a walk.

So yesterday felt wonderful, getting out for a nice long walk and watching Gonzo run like a freaking maniac everywhere. Wish I could do it today. Sigh.

Finally, this week is the week of the Barenaked Ladies and Guster "Ships and Dip" cruise to Turks and Caicos.

And we're not on it. Sadly.

Last year when Barenaked Ladies announced they were doing this, Jess and I were all gung ho to go. Then, we had to go and sell the house, tie up all our money, get things in a situation where buying cruise tickets for over a thousand bucks round trip (with airfare and all that jazz) would have been a literal impossibility for us financially, even if it was only Jess and I that went. I didn't want to go without Doug. We're not in that kind of a relationship where entire vacations are spent apart... that just isn't right. One night away is one thing. A cruise is another.

Doug put his foot down when we begged. I can't say as I blame him. But when they announced Guster was going on the cruise as well, I thought my head would explode.

I wanted to win tickets, win the lottery, do something that would get my pale white sorry lame ass on that cruise.

But that never did come to pass. And the ship sails tomorrow from Ft. Lauderdale, and I know people who have flown down or who are flying down today so they can be on board when the cruise gets under weigh.

There will be Guitar Hero contests with Ed Robertson and Wine Tasting with Steven Page. There will be Guster. Aaah, the Thundergod aboard a cruise ship. There will be fun, there will be merriments unimaginable. I hang my head sadly.

The one thing aside from money that Doug had an issue with when it comes to this cruise was that Jess (and Geoff if he went) would have to miss school. Doug is huge about the kids not missing school unless they are dying. Which is why my daughter has the work ethic she does, and can get herself out of bed for the 7am bus after a rock concert the night before.

This week upcoming is Midterms for Jess. They have special schedules. They have three hour long tests. They have papers due, they are in hell.

And I had no idea (nothing of this is mentioned on the district calendar) that this was the week for that. So could you imagine what it would have been like for me to take her out of school this week? Impossible. Literally. Impossible.

Schools in the area are actually beginning to penalize students for missing school for non-medical or non-family death related absences, and our district is one of them. I'm not sure what they do, but if she came back tan and rested (or tan and bleary eyed from all the excessive ROCK she would be subjected to on the cruise) I think they'd come down on her. And, I'd probably have to lie to get her out of school (but you remember what telling the truth did for me back in October when Conourtney was late to school after the BNL concert... it got her a day's detention and me mortified).

The school's philosophy is we give you a week in December, a week in February, and a week in April. Go on vacation THEN.

The problem is, for certain, that 89,000,000 kids have vacation those weeks, and just you try to go somewhere on vacation other than your backyard those three weeks. Just you try it. You can't, unless you crap money and think nothing of it.

We looked into going to Florida by plane in February. The kids have off Feb 19th through the 23rd.

If we wanted to fly out the 17th and come back the 24th, it would be 400 bucks a person... EACH WAY. If we wanted to go the week after or the week before, it would be 98 bucks a person each way.

So we decided we'd go to Arizona instead. Go see Amy and Bob again. Go see the Super Desert. Go south to see my Aunt Margie in Tuscon. Same thing. Flights were four times the amount they are that week than the week before or after.

Supply and demand. Consumers will pay it, if they crap bricks of money and think nothing of it. But we sure as hell can't afford to pay eight hundred dollars a person to fly, and then pay for a hotel room and a rental car. We're not that kind of family.

The cruise would cost less in the long run, even with buying passports and whatnot.

So, we're going to DRIVE to Florida. Yes we are. We're insane, I should say - Doug is insane. I'd much rather make a hotel reservation somewhere near here for two nights and just sit and drink by the pool while Geoff swims. But ... Doug wants to go where it is warm.

Hindsight being what it is. I'm relieved we didn't get the tickets. And I'm looking forward to the drive to Florida. I may buy a portable DVD player for the kids to use in the back, and I will check with the school to see what consequences are if we take the kids out of school on Thursday so we can get going before the rest of the entire North East Corridor.

We've got a free place to stay, so we'll save money with that. And I hope it doesn't snow.

Well, back to the BNL and Guster cruise topic (I kind of went off on a tangent there with the whole February vacation thing...) For the friends who read this who are cruising -- I wish them well. Avoid the Norwalk Virus. Take tons and tons of pictures. Remember the Flickr Pool. And I look forward to reports of your exploits upon your return. Wear your sunscreen. Say hi to the Thundergod for me.

Alright -- more later. I'm off to do dishes, stack firewood and watch football. I think Laundry needs to be done too. And I'll watch the sleet and freezing rain and hope it doesn't ruin anyone's flights out of here today (Abbey and CMM -- that means you).

Monday, January 08, 2007

Seeing is Believing

I called out sick today. I have had a visual migraine for about 7 hours now. it blocks the vision in my right eye. Which is bad because I can sort of see, but can't see to drive, and can't really see out in front of me too far. I have my head turned all the way to the right so my left eye is doing all the work, which makes tyiping easy but not perfect.

I'm sure there will be typos like mad in this entry, and I will return and fix them later when my right eyeball works. For nothing else other than my foolish pride.

It has been a while since I've had a migraine without pain. I've had a couple doozies in the past several months, and I think my major trigger is dehydration.

Saturday I don't think I drank any liquid, aside from the two cups of coffee I had that morning and a gingerale with my (very salty) pizza. Sunday I was parched and drank water like mad but I think the damage was done. and today I am in recovery mode. So I've got my water by my side, and will go lay down on the bed and hope this starts to abate.

Suffice to say, if I can't see I can't drive or play Guitar Hero. Rats. What good is staying home sick if one cannot play video games. Sigh. Oh well. I can see to bring some boxes down to start taking ornaments off of the tree... perhaps that is what I'll do to feel like I've accomplished something today.

It was funny how this one started. I was actually fast asleep and I saw visions under my eyelids. I've written here before how I usually get this frosted glass kind of sensation on my periphery, and this was the same... only I was dreaming while it was happening and so it was a lot like being awake and having it happen. Kind of hard to explain, but when my eyes are open, when I am awake, it creeps in from the sides to block my vision.

It did it to my dream too. I remember saying in my dream that "I think I'm getting a migraine and better go take my medication" to whomever it was I was talking with (dream details often don't stick for me) and then woke up. Or, I should say my very wise Brain woke me up so I could go get to the bathroom and get medicine.

It took me a few seconds to realize where I was. That I wasn't outside in the sunshine talking with a friend. I was in bed and it was dark, and night, and I'd been sleeping.

So I wondered if I was just having a dream about a migraine. I got up and went to the bathroom and looked up at the bathroom wall, and there it was ... the frosted glass. Creeping in.

Kind of cool in a weird stupid way. Thank you, Brain, for waking me up in time to take meds. I think that taking them right then is what prevented the pain part of this one from kicking in. And I like that.

Now I just need to get my vision back.

Project Backdoor is almost complete. Between a death in my contractor's family right after Thanksgiving, and the holidays themselves, this has taken a little longer than I'd hoped. My big wish was that he would get the doors in so we wouldn't freeze to death, and the time that he installed the doors was actually the coldest period of time so far this winter, so we've been lucky.

He came on Friday and installed the awning to stop the water from running down the roof and straight down the wall and doors, which was a big part of the job. There isn't enough space for a gutter, and we had a diverter up there but it just wasn't enough... Unfortunately, now there is water coming down between the awning and the doors, so I'm hoping he will come back today, just to see it. I don't know that he can fix it in the rain, but if he can see it in action that'll be good.

Last week he came and stained the wood trim inside and painted the doors a dark burgundy and they look great. There used to be white doors there, and now they look wicked nice and colonial and dark and pretty. I love the color that Doug picked. It is really beautiful with all the wood in the room.

He laid down the tile for the floor inside the doors. It doesn't cover as big an area as I initially wanted, but he made an executive decision to keep from cutting into the next bit of pine flooring and jigsawing the tiles in. He made a good decision -- It looks awesome and now just needs to be grouted. And then the interior work is done.

The more work he does inside, the more I hate the colors on the walls in the room where there is color and not wood. It is almost a tropical or bermuda kind of teal-ish green, with some pinstripe wallpaper to match on some walls. Meh. I knew I wasn't in love with it when we bought the house, but now I'm totally not in love with it at all in any way, shape or form. Must get out the colonial design book and pick a new color. The background color on this page would be nice, but Doug vetoed it flat out. I think it will end up really dark green. That's okay by me.

Anyway. I guess that is about it. I'm going to go hit the bed. Fold some laundry. Lay back and just rest this brain. Maybe a little more sleep will fix things. And hopefully I won't keep myself a wake writing lists in my head of all the things I could be doing while at home.

Oh -- and I will come back and fix any errors in typing here. I can't quite see, and am amazed I've gotten this far wit han entry today.

Yay me and my blind ass self.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I got blisters on me fingers!

"But in the seasons of wither we'll stand and deliver!
Be strong and laugh and Shout! Shout! Shout! Shout at the Devil!"
-Motley Crue

Boy Birthday Party = raging success. It started out a little slow. It was just Geoff and four friends. At one point one boy whipped out his Nintendo DS, so Geoff opened his and they started playing together, leaving the other three to sit there.

Not fair or nice... so Doug got the PS2 out.

We knew would need it later anyway, so he got them started early. And they seemed to like that a lot. 10 year old boys don't like to sit and chat the way girls do, telling funny anecdotes about other people and/or school. Boys like something to keep them distracted, and we gave them that.

They played Rayman Raging Rabbids. Let me tell you folks, there is nothing like soda, cake, pizza and cartoon sadism to fuel a fun time for a bunch of 10 year old boys.

They had a great time and laughed their heads off. The party began to get really loud and funny with lots of witty slams and insults against one another's skill in shooting crazed cartoon rabbits with plungers. They all seemed in a good mood and were very lively. It wasn't as insane crazy as I thought it would be, I think Geoff invited the most mellow of his friends over and that, in the end, made for a rather easy going bunch. I was thinking how different the dynamic would be if there was one other boy there, and immediately thanked my lucky stars that Geoff didn't ask him to come over.

guitar heroGeoff opened his presents next. As you know from yesterday's entry, Doug had purchased Guitar Hero II and a wireless controller (Linda -- they were out of Guitar Hero I, so I'm actually going to go to buy it online, or you can, whichever works -- we can meh about that tomorrow) ...

Geoff's head exploded with sheer joy. Ka-Boom. And pictured here is the face of a boy who totally digs his birthday gift.

The boys were so psyched and couldn't wait to play. They were cheering and freaking out. Doug set the wireless guitar controller up, and Jacob gave us a quick tutorial on how the controller worked. He has Guitar Hero I at home so he was the seasoned professional, the master teacher, the mentor, the rock legend. In showing us how to play, he declared that he didn't like the songs on this second version, so after he taught us he backed down on playing and sat and watched...

I think he got irritated because none of the songs were familiar to him, and he finds it easier when he knows the songs and knows what to expect. I really don't care, because you don't need to know the songs, you just need to know when to press green or yellow or red or whatever...

The rest of the kids pretty much agreed with my assessment. None of them knew "Shout at the Devil" by Motley Crue, "Mother" by Danzig (I mean, really. When was the last time you heard Danzig and you're over 30, right?) or "Woman" by Wolfmother.

They all knew "Message in a Bottle" by the Police and sang along with it for the whole song. It quickly became the favorite because it is relatively easy (until you get to the end) and they all could get into singing along with the song while the guitar wielder rocked out.

The boys heartily booed one another as their "Rock" meter ran down into the red. They cheered when people got great scores. They made a rule that if your performance failed miserably you got a second turn. They all shared and no one fought. It was really cool and I was proud of them. Usually a soda, pizza, cake and ice cream fueled gathering turns to fisticuffs over such things as a wicked cool wireless guitar controller. But this crowd was way cool.

One by one boys were picked up and moms and dads came in to gaze upon the marvel of their sons rocking out to songs like "Heart Shaped Box" by Nirvana. By about 9:30 it was down to Geoff and his sleepover guest, E.

Jess had been patiently biding her time, hoping to get a turn and finally her patience paid off. She got her turn to play and was immediately addicted.

Geoff, E and Jess played for hours while Doug and I watched some football upstairs. I was proud of Jess, considering initially she didn't want to be here at all for this party and decided she was sleeping at Lizzy's. At the last minute she decided to stay and I think that even though there was a hoard of 10 year old boys hanging around, she had a great time in the end.

I went down after the football game (Ha ha, Dallas. You suck!) and got a turn or two and got the hang of it. The Easy setting is for me -- the Medium setting proved to be too complicated and I embarrassed myself by even trying. It was shameful. Really, really shameful.

At about midnight, Jess decided she was done and ready for bed. I tried to get the boys to go to bed but they were having none of that. All Guitar Hero, All The Time. That was their motto. I think E played "Message in a Bottle" 800 times. In fact, if he ever hears the song on the radio he'll sing "yellow, green, red, green. Yellow, green, red, green..."

Finally at about 2am I said that was enough, it was bedtime fer cryin' out loud. E couldn't even use the controller anymore. He asked me to press buttons while he hit the other thingie to make the notes play.

I told him that when a rockstar gets to the point where he needs his friend's mom to finger the frets, the show should be declared "over."

They both reluctantly agreed and went up to the futon.

I put an Avatar: The Last Airbender DVD on the computer so they could watch that if they didn't want to fall immediately asleep... at least they'd be in bed and horizontal. I figured it wouldn't be long before they were asleep. E said he doesn't remember anything past the intro monologue. I think Geoff stayed up later because Disk 2 was put into the computer at some point and I heard him walking down the hall to the bathroom at one point.

I had decided to go to bed on the couch downstairs. Our bedroom was roasting Africa hot as it was 72 damn degrees yesterday (Okay, Al Gore - I'll concede. You were right. Global Warming Blah Blah Blah). All our storm windows are down and windows winterized, and I'd put all the fans away in the attic thinking they wouldn't be needed.... so there wasn't a chance I'd be able to cool the bedroom off. The woodstove room proved to be a lot cooler a place to sleep. I think I finally fell fully asleep around 4am.

E's mom had to pick him up at 8:45 this morning, so we all were up at about 8:10, playing Guitar Hero again and eating breakfast. It is 11 am now and Doug and Geoff are still playing. I think I may go put myself back in bed and see if I can fall asleep. I want to be able to get some things done this afternoon and enjoy some football (Go Pats!)

Today is Geoff's actual birthday, so I think he told Doug he wants to go get a hair cut and maybe go out for dinner again. We'll take him somewhere of his choosing this time instead of force Indian Food on him.

Once he's done playing Guitar Hero for the day.