Saturday, September 29, 2007


Alright, so here I am writing about stuff that happened on September 15 and 16, and it is already the 29th. The title is a word invented by Doug. He was waiting for me to say goodbye to people after my sister's post-wedding brunch a couple of weeks ago, and when I got to the car he sighed "Gefinallich!" Which he says is German for "Finally." But it isn't. It's just Doug being Doug. And we all had a good laugh and it has become a part of our interior silly-speak here at (a)musingsland.

I'm not sure who did what with the past couple of weeks, but I feel they've zipped by shockingly fast. Our GES has returned home, and I miss her horribly. I will do my best to record the thoughts and feelings after New York, which all seem a blur at this point.

After we got back from our New York trip, the following days were filled with work and work and catching up and work. I got home at 7pm pretty much nightly. I was actively cursing my commute because I was missing out on spending time with the GES, and I knew we'd be losing her shortly. I didn't want her to feel like we were never home during the week, but it seems that way to me sometimes.

I made dinner each night, we had candle light meals and joked that we do this allllllll the time. We talked at the dining table for a long time after the meal was over. Geoff was starting to warm up to her, what with five days left to her visit. So it was nice to see him trying to interact and think of things to say and ask.

On Saturday, we went on a whale watch out of Rye NH. We saw, auf Deutsch, "Zwei Wale, einmal. Oder. Ein Wal, zweimal." Auf English, "Two whales, one time. Or. One whale, two times."

It all depends on whether or not you're an optimist or a pessimist.

We met two German college students who were studying French in Montreal, who were visiting New Hampshire on a weekend trip. When we met them, Geoff told the girl "oh, my adopted sister is from Germany. Would you like me to get her so you can meet her?"

He retrieved the GES and Jess, and we stood at the bow of the boat on the way back into the harbor chatting about international travel, living overseas, and the whole exchange scene. I thought Geoff was so cute, for as aloof as he'd been up to that point and as detached as he was to the experience, referring to her as his "adopted sister" really made me smile.

It made seeing one whale two times, or two whales one time worth it.

We had a great dinner in Portsmouth NH at The Rusty Hammer. On the way back to the car the kids were way ahead of us, and ran into Carrie and Mark walking down the street. It was kind of weird looking up ahead and seeing Jess talking to people, and not realizing who they were... and I had to laugh when we got close enough.

I felt like ... wow. We know people all over the place, don't we. I would have stayed to talk longer, but Geoff was totally out of gas and way worn out and angry (we wouldn't let him have too much soda with dinner so he was pissed) so we split. I think our GES was kind of surprised a little bit that we know people wandering around towns far from our house.

Normally we don't... but it was kind of cool to give the impression that we're hip and have friends. Heh.

Sunday my parents came up to go to Geoff's football game. The team lost and Geoff pitched a complete fit... which is an entry that I'll write in and of itself because I have thoughts and feelings surrounding his reaction to losing that I want to really sort out, and here is as good a place as any to do so.

Needless to say, his freakingoutness grounded him for the afternoon. The GESes and their host families were having a party that afternoon, so I quickly wrapped Scallops in Bacon and roasted them, and ran the girls over to the party.

I stayed, which I didn't intend to do because I was unshowered and headachey, but the party was great fun and the kids were a riot. We brought balloons home for Geoff to inhale the helium out of and talk funny, and that cheered him up. Then we let him play with our neighbor Thane, which always cheers him up thoroughly... and he went on a long walk with Thane and his mom with the dogs and ended up having a much better evening than he had a morning.

On Monday morning, our GES and her traveling buddies all piled in a van (or, as she calls it, a "Wan") and drove up to Bar Harbor. They returned on Wednesday afternoon. I think it was nice they got to go, but it cut into our time with her and heck, we could have done that... taken her up there, stayed with friends... done that for the weekend instead of the whale watch and the party thing... but they did it on their own and that's part of the experience too.

I told her she had to tell her teacher that they needed to go see the sunset on Cadillac Mountain. Instead, they all got up really early on Wednesday morning and drove up to see the sunrise. She said it was spectacular... and she did something I've never done and wouldn't have given her while she was here.

We went out to dinner in Newburyport on Wednesday night after Geoff's football practice... the power went out in town, and I guess that dozens of GESes and host families were in town eating at all different restaurants, so we all had the same story to tell. Seriously, about 20 families were out to eat that night in the same town. We chose Indian food, and were the only people in our restaurant. I guess that all the others were at the seafood places on the river... so we ended up having the whole place to ourselves because our food came out just as the power went out... and we ate by candlelight and enjoyed having the run of the place... no one else was there. It was really nice.

After we came home, she went to her room and packed. She had stuff everywhere... and I offered to box stuff up and ship it home for her, but she managed to get herself organized to the one suitcase and backpack, and we crossed our fingers and hoped that customs/homeland security didn't open that thing and try to repack it... because there was NO way they'd be able to redo it. Horrors. We had a good laugh, and Gonzo slept in the bed with her (my dogs really loved her). And I knew in 24 hours we'd be at Logan dropping her off so she could go home.

Indeed, I rushed home to have a few minutes with her and Jess before we'd have to go to the airport. Doug had kidnapped them and taken them to Haverhill to walk around and get dinner.

She made a scrapbook for us and gave it to us before we got in the car to leave. It was all pictures of her from home... pictures of her with her family, and her town, and the things she does for fun. She rides horses. She rides a unicycle (which I didn't know and thought was totally awesome). She included pictures of her cousins, and Koln Germany, which is nearby as their big city like Boston is for us. She put in pictures of their family vacation to Australia, and all the cool things they saw. Even though the pictures were from this past winter, she looked like a little kid... not like the girl that was standing in front of me in my livingroom at that moment.

Pointing to the last pages, she said "and these blank pages are for you to put in pictures of me from here. I left them for you."

Can someone hand me a tissue? I'm gonna cry.

At the airport... it was quite a noisy scene, and I was thinking of the poor travelers who would be stuck on the airplane with these kids on their way to Paris for the next six or so hours... they were all rowdy, singing German drinking songs and TV theme songs from the USA... we were laughing and hugging and just generally dreading the time they'd have to go through security to go to their gate. We took group pictures with our families, pictures of the kids together, and just horsed around for about an hour and a half.

Our GES started to cry. She hugged us some more and we didn't have words other than "thank you." It was time to go... the teachers rounded them up and all the American kids followed in a pack. They (and us parents) stood a ways away from the gate and watched as they were coralled into the security routine. We waited and watched and waved, smiling weakly for a while. When I saw her smiling again at the person next to her making some jokes I figured that was as good a time to turn and walk on as any. We left with the thought of the smiles instead of the crying.

To get out of the terminal, we had to go downstairs to the lower level, and there is a kinetic machine down there that has been at the airport for years and years and years... it is one that we love dearly. So we sat and watched and enjoyed and decompressed from our sadness for a little bit. And we headed home.

And she's gone. Poof. Like that. The 14 year old stranger that landed in our midst for a few weeks, gone. I miss her. I miss the way she speaks English and how she'd laugh at my husband when he would speak German. I miss the way she would answer "um, a little bit" when we'd ask if she was hungry or tired or bored. Just the way she'd say it. I miss talking about Harry Potter with her. I miss how she was willing to just do whatever, eat whatever, go wherever, without an argument or a question or pushing back... her willingness to just experience what we had to offer. And that was the best part.

I can hope that my daughter is just as kind and willing when she goes to GES's house in June of 2008, and they'll feel half this way about her when she leaves them to come back to the US. I can only hope.

Anyway. I've got to get ready for Geoff's football game. I'll write later about what happened last Sunday with him, and other great adventures we have had in the last busy weeks... have a good day.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Prüfung Tonio K des Unrechtes, Teil zwei

Day two in NYC with our German exchange student began with breakfast at the hotel. Another thing to love about the Hampton Inn we stayed at was the continental breakfast ... it was better than just some danishes on a tray and watery coffee. Building your own Egg McMuffins is fun. And Geoff ate the equivalent of four breakfasts, to my horror. His philosophy was "It's free, so I'm going to fill up." My retort was "It's free, but no excuse to make a hugeassed pig of yourself dude!"

We packed up our stuff and concierged it at the hotel. Our car was in the bowels of the parking garage below us, and there was no returning to it until it was time to leave, so, we were psyched they offered this service. Seeing as checkout was at noon and we really didn't need to leave the city until 6pm if we didn't want to, it would have been a huge burden to schlep around our belongings for the day. Hurrah for the Hampton Inn.

Walking down the street, GES told us that she wanted to get some T-shirts for her family. We hit a stand for five "I Heart NY" t-shirts for ten dollars. Can't beat that. She wanted to mix and match colors, but the guy wanted 13 bucks for two black and three white. I haggled with him "what, just because she is changing colors of shirts you want to rip her off...???" The guy wouldn't budge so we stuck with the white. While arguing the price change fact with the dude, I realized that he was hardly "ripping her off" for three bucks when she's buying five T-shirts for ten bucks. Where else can you get five T-shirts for under 50 bucks... but he had no sign up saying that if you mix colors you have to pay more... yadda yadda, and so I thought that was not right.

I think she was disappointed, so I may have to get her a black one when I'm there next and send it to her. She bought postcards and we talked about why New York City is called The Big Apple, and what other nicknames there are for cities in America. She told me that there aren't any "pet" names for cities in Germany. I read her postcard she wrote to her parents and it was cute that she explained why the front of the card says "The Big Apple."

Walking into Times Square at 8:30 am is a lot different than at 8:30 at night. Everything is subdued and grey, the bright lights unable to compete with the light of day no matter how hard they try. Business men and tourists wander slowly through the street, replacing the night before's revelers. GES was surprised to see the difference in look and feel. We walked past the ABC morning show, where all the tourists were assembled wearing their fanny packs and waving their signs.

GES wanted to go to the Hard Rock Cafe because that's where the school tour group had been the day before for lunch, and she wanted to stick to some of their itinerary... I saw Doug cringe a little when she brought it up as a destination, because we're all "above" going to trendy touristy supertraps like that. We're snotty that way. The last place on earth I really wanted to visit was the Hard Rock.

I've always been of the philosophy that when you're given the opportunity to pick between Bubba Gump, Hard Rock Cafe and Virgil's... Your ass is going to Virgil's for Ribs. Because Virgil's is just Virgil's. It isn't a "philosophy" or a "concept." It is what it is, and because it just IS, it is the best. There isn't an effort to homogenize experiences across the board so that your meal at THIS Cracker Barrel is the same as the one in the other state you just left.


But ... we were hosting her, and wanted her to experience things that she could go back and discuss with the other kids, even if she wasn't there on the exact same day. She'd have the same overall experience, plus some. A wedding, and some other unique and different and beautiful things as only Doug could package them up for her.

1 nyc2So we went to the Hard Rock at 9am on Monday morning.

She was shocked at the prices of the T-shirts, after seeing five for ten bucks at the stand outside. Thirty bucks for a Hard Rock NY T-shirt...She was kind of crestfallen. Up to that point she hadn't said it, I think she wanted a T-shirt from there more than anything else on the trip itself.

I offered to buy it or go halvsies with her... but she said no and started looking at refrigerator magnets and other trinkets. She ended up finding a kids size extra large T-shirt marked down to 12 bucks on the clearance rack and was thrilled. It looked like it would fit her perfectly (she's very thin) and was excited to buy it. The smile on her face at scoring exactly what she wanted for a lot less than she thought she'd have to pay was priceless. I would have bought the adult sized shirt for her if she let me... my kids didn't want one, so buying one shirt for one person who really wants it would be okay with me. If all three of them wanted one it would have been a different story.

5 nyc2The staff told us we could go down and wander through the restaurant if we wanted. I had no idea it would be open, but it is New York afterall, and why not have buffalo wings at 9am if you have the chance...

We had eaten the breakfast of champions for free back at the hotel so hunger wasn't an issue, but we did want to see the decor. We spent a great deal of time reading all the little plaques and talking with GES about what the Filmore East and Filmore West are, who Jerry Garcia is, what a Jam Band is... Jess was very informative and it's nice to see she has been paying attention.

We laughed at a lot of the Beck memorabilia, not because Beck is funny but because he was on Futurama and GES had just seen the episode at our house. "Bending in the Wind" is one of our favorites.

She took a picture of a guitar from Linkin Park and Doug thought that was funny. "I've heard of them," she told him. So of all the stuff down there, she knew The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Linkin Park.

For me, the most poignant thing there was a portrait of Kurt Cobain from when he was probably six or seven. I've written here over the past few years about my thoughts on Nirvana and how sad I think his whole life turned out to be. Looking at that portrait made me just start crying... the look in his eyes and knowing about the man he turned out to be, it really struck a cord in me, very viscerally, very deep, and I felt my heart break on the spot looking into those little blue eyes.

I had to walk away.

Doug and I recently had a whole huge discussion about art and whether or not the backstory to the piece (painting, music etc...) adds to a depth or dimension of understanding for the listener. I thought to myself as I walked away crying from Kurt Cobain's portrait... why does he make me cry so hard when I find his music overrated? What is it about him, about this photo, about how I see his life that devastates me so? Do I see my own son in his face, the blue eyes, the blonde hair, the not quite right-ness that Geoff so exhibits... or do I mourn for that little boy himself without projecting my own thoughts as a mom onto him?


11 nyc2 - 365After a good cry to myself as I wandered around the relics, we continued to enjoy the place greatly. Much to my shock and amazement.

I went in there saying "Please and pish posh! Yet another Tourist Trap!" but have to say that I loved the interior, loved the layout, loved the design, loved the memorabilia, and had a much better time than I thought I would have had ever.

I actually think I would go back to try the food. What I saw being brought out to the dozen or so tables occupied by eaters looked pretty damn good. So yeah. I'd have buffalo wings for breakfast one of these days for sure. Even if they cost an arm and a leg... just to do it.

We left the Hard Rock and walked East on 42nd street. We got over to the NY NY Public Library - kids and a lionPublic Library and enjoyed some time between the lions (heh, PBS TV reference) and watched people mulling around and talking and enjoying the unbelievably beautiful September day.

We walked down Library Walk, enjoying the plaques in the ground and their quotes. We laughed at Robert Pinsky, not because he's funny but because he was on The Simpsons (you know my family cannot go one day without connecting to something from The Simpsons and Futurama, and in one day, nay -- in one hour -- we had two things to quote and laugh about). Because we were walking in reverse of the plaques, we had to stop, turn around, read them... and then proceed. This, I'm sure, annoyed the regulars. Heh. But... a poem or quote not stopped and read when stomped upon or tread does not appreciate itself. And we had a lot of fun.

Doug had wanted to go to Grand Central Station. The last time I was there I had to stand the whole time because every bench surface in the place smelled of piss. So I stood for three hours with my suitcase resting on the tops of my sneakers, so it wouldn't absorb any piss stench through the bottom.

What a difference.

The place was and is amazing... That's all I can say. Simply gorgeous. We stood beneath the gorgeous constellation sky, marveled at the beauty of the place... loved the downstairs restaurant concourse and seating area... it washed away all of the prior experiences and memories I had of this place.

We came out through the Met Life building and walked a couple of blocks until we got to a famous statue of a man hailing a taxi. Doug had seen it in his NYC guide and thought since we were nearby we'd check it out. Then, he stood in a position making it appear as if the man's finger was picking his nose. GES thought this was funny, so I got her to do it too.

Anna fits right in with our family.

Isn't that just spectacular?

We walked up to St. Patrick's Cathedral and didn't go into Rockefeller Center because Doug really couldn't see the point. The area was mobbed with tourists, and it was just too incredibly tight with people... all to ... stand and look at the NBC building and a golden statue. Boring! After St. Patricks, we walked down the street to St. Thomas' Episcopal Church. Contrasted with the gaudy touristy chaos at St. Patrick's, St. Thomas' was just about empty, and infinitely more beautiful, peaceful, quiet, dark, lovely... serene. And I'm not saying that to catholic bash -- don't get me wrong. St. Patrick's is lovely. But I think it is woefully overrated compared to other churches, Catholic or otherwise, in the city.

We didn't go all the way up to 110th to St. John The Divine. If we had more time, we would have. I like the contrast between St. Patrick's and St. John the Divine, and have written about it here before.

All said and done, I think the Episcopal Church in Manhattan has the better buildings. Nuff said.

Continuing on, we went to the southern fringes of Central Park and took a nice little walk through the lower end of that city oasis... enjoying the silence, looking at wedding photographers doing a shoot for some engagement photos, some fashion photographers (or students... who knows...) doing some shots of skinny girls in fall clothing silhouetted against the trees and skyline.

The accidental favorite shot everWe emerged by Columbus Circle with Geoffrey weeping that he was starving to death (hardly) and we spent a few minutes hanging around on the Columbus Circle Statue, just watching people and traffic and enjoying the moment. Here's where I snapped my favorite picture of the entire trip.

This photo was a complete accident.

I was trying to take pictures of the pigeons at the foot of the figure on the statue. They were talking to me, and cooing nicely. I figured, I'll take the shot, and crop it down.

When I got home and opened it up, I was so pleased to discover what I'd caught, and screw the pigeons, I'm not cropping this one down. It came out so nicely, contrast of statue and building, stone and glass, and blue sky. The way the building looks to tilt inward while the statue figure tilts inward as well. And my pigeons are at the bottom of the shot. I didn't cut them out...

I don't attribute magic to things, but I smile to myself and thank them for calling to me, getting my attention, and bringing me to take this shot. I love it, and I can stare at it all day. That's why I put it in here in the larger size... but if you click on it you can go to flickr and see the shot I uploaded and enjoy that as well in larger format.

We wandered down 9th Avenue instead of 8th... Doug felt that 9th was closer to the "real" New York than 8th, which would still be full of clothing stores and chain restaurants. We were looking for somewhere to eat that wasn't a Bubba Gumps or Pizzaria Uno, or another Ray's Original Pizza. We found a little Thai restaurant about three blocks north of the street we'd have to turn down to get to our hotel. The food was great, the Singha cold, and the rest for having tromped all over the city was well deserved. We ate spicy hot delicious curry and pad thai and rices and soups and satay and springrolls.

Stradling the border between satiated and food-coma, we rolled ourselves down to the hotel where we retrieved the car. Geoff thought it was awesome that our car got to ride an elevator. We hit the road at about 4pm, realizing that we didn't really know how to get out of Manhattan to go anywhere other than Long Island or New Jersey. We drove north and cut east on 125th Street, which is the "heart" of Harlem. It's a very different city, but from my memory of "back in the day" it was a lot nicer and built up than it was at one time, in the 1980s. The Triboro bridge was right ahead of us, so we just rolled on through the traffic lights (Doug was not happy with how long it was taking us to make eastward progress) and crossed the bridge, got out of town and began the trek home. We got home in about 5 hours, which is par for the course with Connecticut commuters being in our way all the way to New Haven.

It was a great trip, and I'd do it again.

Things we didn't get to do but wanted to do: Jess wanted to go to Yellow Rat Bastard and shop for shirts. Chinatown/Little Italy. St. John The Divine. The UN building. But... those were spread too far apart for where we were at any given time, and we'll just have to visit the city again sometime...

I think GES enjoyed herself, and she took one million pictures of the city and everything in it. It was a lot of fun, and I wish we had one other day there to spend... at least, so I could have soaked in the hotel hot tub that night, because boy -- was I sore for five days after the trip.

Alright. Enough babble... gotta get Geoff out the door to school. More later.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Proving Tonio K Wrong

"yes and new york may be the new world
but she's still a filthy concrete bitch without a soul."
-Tonio K.

Picking up where we left off in our last entry. The wedding finished up. I packed up the laptop and instead of going on the party bus chose to ride in the car because Geoff wanted me to come with him.

Luckily Jess knew where I was, because everyone on the party bus was slightly confused as to where I had gone off to. I missed a moment on the bus that my mom related to me. As they were riding back, Ronnie's 4 year old nephew took off his shoes and dumped them out on the floor. He had about nine tons of sand in his shoes. His mother was aghast. But to be honest, I'm sure the bus company can handle a little sand. After all, any bus with a stripper pole in the back must get some funky stuff on the floor, so I'm sure it has seen a LOT worse.

I'm glad I was in the car, because I started to not feel well. And if I had been on the party bus with the way that woman was driving on the way TO the wedding, I doubt sand would have been the only thing on the floor.

Geoff had taken the front seat, so I was in the back... and as Doug was driving up the highway I really started to feel sick. I wasn't trashed drunk... to be honest, I had only 1 beer at the cocktail hour (had to drink one of Ronnie's favorites) and then 4 glasses of wine the entire evening... which for me is nothing.

Longtime readers know I'm a total wino.

The combination of being unbearably tired, somewhat buzzed, sitting in the back seat of the car... all started to converge upon me. We got back to the hotel, and I was dizzy and uncomfortable. I got in the shower to wash the 98 gallons of salon hair product out of my hair, and ended up throwing up. A lot. I got out of the shower and got into bed... it was about 10pm.

I woke up at 5am, and missed the entire wedding after party at the bar in the hotel... d'oh. Guess I can't hang like I used to back in the day, yo.

We all got ready to go to brunch, Geoff had a good swim at the hotel pool. Brunch was lovely and delicious and we all were tired, it was obvious. It was nice to see everyone and say goodbye. But we needed to hit the ground running. No relaxing Lazy Sunday for us!

We packed up and went to my sister's to use her computer to get a hotel room in the city for that night. We had to go to my sister's house because the stupid thing about the Sheraton we were staying at... they nickel and dime guests all the live long day.

Walking into the room there were two large bottles of Poland Spring water set up, waiting for the tired and thirsty... but if you open them they charge your room FOUR dollars. Four. For a bottle of water you can get at the gas station across the street for $1.19. I wanted to take a sharpie and write "What a Rip Off" across the label but restrained myself. Geoff wanted the water but we finally convinced him that a scoop of ice from the plastic container and tap water were FREE and he should do that instead. Internet access was fifty cents a page load in the business center. Surfing for a hotel deal on Orbitz would have cost us about seventy bucks when all was said and done at that rate. The connection to link up my laptop in the room on a fee basis... and the stupid fancy keyboard surf the web on your TV thing didn't work in our room, my parents' room or my aunt's room... and THAT was an extra charge...

So we went to Linda's and got hooked up with a hotel, and got to pet the dog. And say good bye again to Linda and Ronnie.

And then we were off to NYC to begin the second leg of our adventurous weekend.

1 NYCday1We drove straight in, as there is hardly any traffic at noon on a Sunday... perfect time to go.

We hit South Street Seaport and parked the car there, enjoying the view to the Brooklyn Bridge from where we were situated.

After walking around the seaport, we did some investigating about a ride on the ferry to Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty. Since 9/11, no one has been allowed up inside the Statue of Liberty, and to be honest... why bother going to Liberty Island if you can't go upstairs into her crown? You can go into the base, but not up top. Doug and I figured that was kind of a rip off, to just go in there, stand in the base, probably be subjected to some sort of multimedia presentation and a LOT of invasive security measures... so we opted for a little hour long tour up the Hudson to about midtown, and down around Liberty, Ellis and Governor's Island on the Zephyr.

It was a really nice cruise, really fun, and we had great views of the Statue of Liberty and didn't have to stand and crane our necks upward to look at it.

40 NYCday1

I've never gone on a harbor cruise of Manhattan. Doug and I have talked about doing it several times. Last year when we were in the city we were going to do it but you had to buy tickets in advance and plan on BEING there... and when it comes to us, it isn't like we CAN'T commit to being there, it's just more like ... we might be doing something more fascinating and interesting and would hate to have to drop it and dash to get to the pier on time...

We got some really pretty views of the city from the water, and because it was afternoon and the light was favorable, the city was gorgeous... not a "filthy concrete bitch without a soul." It was a shining beacon... and very lovely to behold. I'd do it again, and recommend it to others. For sure.

47 NYCday1After the cruise, we walked up Fulton to the WTC site. St. Paul's was closed and locked, which disappointed me because it is my favorite thing about visiting that area, going inside the church that didn't fall when the towers went... the church that didn't lose a pane of glass.

St. Paul's is like Harry Potter to me. The Boy Who Lived... The Church That Withstood... The most horrible of horrors, and it survived.

We walked down to Trinity, and it too was closed... disappointingly. I would at least have liked to have walked the grounds, but that wasn't to be.

Over to the NYSE, where we took pictures of the kids acting like Power Mad Titans Of Industry and had a good laugh... Anna let us take a picture of her too, which was great... she seems to get our humor, and that's a blessing. I would hate to have someone with us who looked at us like we were ... freaks or something.

61 NYCday1We walked down to the historic district, and found ourselves once again at Ulysses, which at our visit last year I deemed to be the bar I'd hang out in if I lived in Manhattan. We ate out on the street and had the sweetest waitress ever... she was kind and funny and really liked Geoff.

Last year, Doug was disappointed that we had missed the Oyster festival by arriving to stay a week too late. This year, we were two weeks too early.

Next year, Douglas... Next year.

We enjoyed a great meal and a good rest. Afterwards, we walked back to where our car was parked to retrieve it, and drive up to Times Square. We were treated to Brooklyn glowing like it was on fire as the sun was setting across from the Seaport. Truly a nice afternoon spent goofing around Southern Manhattan...

We drove up the West Side Highway and cut across to our hotel. Doug had scored rooms at The Hampton Inn for $179 a night. Which, for Times Square, is more than pretty sweet. I was afraid the hotel would suck, but the place was stupendous... wonderful... fantastic! A block north and a block west of Times Square proper, it was the perfect location for us at the absolute best price. We unloaded our stuff and just as the sun had pretty much set, we made our way into Times Square. 74 NYCday1Doug had warned Anna that it was pretty much like nothing she'd ever seen in her entire life, and he was right. Our joke the entire time was "Jeesh. I feel the uncontrollable desire to buy M&Ms and see an ABC Television premier. Oh. After I buy an Elvis Reeses' Peanut Butter Cup."

The group of Germans and Americans from our school were in NYC on Friday and Saturday, so Anna had an itinerary of where the trip was going. We'd fulfilled the Statue of Liberty and Ground Zero portion, and now we were in Times Square. Next, we needed to hit the Empire State Building.

We walked down the 13 or so blocks south and 2 blocks east it takes to get there. I was afraid we'd get there too late and be screwed... but we got there just in time, the only problem was we were behind a huge tour group from Canada and none of them spoke English. They were all confused about the security, and the security guys were getting really irritated with their lack of response or their total disregard for what they were being asked to do. I finally heard one of them say "Didn't these guys bring a freakin' translator with them to help out or do they just expect US to get it through their thick heads?"


Seriously, Canada? If your Francophones come down here, they are more than welcome. It's nice to have our friends from the north come check out our sites. But wouldya please send someone who speaks English down with them to be the go between, please?

I was pleased that the line was not very long, even with the confused Canadians. Only a 20 minute wait to get up. Last time we tried to go up there the line came down the escalators into the lobby. Screw that!

81 NYCday1It was about 9pm, and we got up onto the observation deck and Doug took Anna around and described all the little white twinkly lights. I think seeing it during the day is better if you want a scope of what you're actually looking at, but at night the sea of tiny lights is amazing to behold.

Geoff had pretty much had it, so we squished a penny for him in the squish a penny machine (and one for Anna) and headed out back to the hotel. We contemplated the five of us in a taxi, and opted against. We hoofed it back, with Geoff whining that he was tired and hungry. It was about 11:30pm at that point, so Doug ducked into a pizza joint across the street from the hotel and I got the kids upstairs and situated. There we were at midnight, chowing down on the best tasting meatball pizza I've ever had in my life.

I slept like the dead. Seriously, if a little kid hadn't been out in the hallway crying his heart out at 8am, I think I'd still be asleep there a week later. The room was so quiet, so comfortable, the everything was just right... I loved it and I'd stay there again.

Okay. Enough for this entry -- I'll stop here and pick up with day two in NYC later.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The long anticipated Wedding Wrap Up

"This is true love - you think this happens every day?"

So I am finally starting this entry and thinking back on the events of last weekend and smiling. There was a lot of fun had, and surprisingly... I didn't cry when my sister and Ronnie said "I do."

First and foremost -- if you've tried to call me on my cell this past week, I lost it. I left it either at the reception or dropped it at the hotel. The caterer and the hotel staff have been contacted and no one has turned in a phone. So... I have to go get a new one, and finding a minute to do that is difficult. So... I'm sans cell right now. Apologies if you've attempted, or if I have been meaning to call you and your number is in my phone, not in my brain. I will let you know when I have the new one so you can call me and I can get your number into the phone.

Second, photos from the wedding portion of the weekend are here. Photos from the NYC portion of the weekend are here. You can refer to them throughout the entry, and I will be picking a shot here and thereto include here below that kind of sums up the action.


We left on Friday morning after getting an oil change and running a few minor errands. Thursday evening I had picked my dress up. I still wasn't happy with the top, but my arms moved and I could reach for things. We drove down to New London, racing against time after getting stuck in traffic. Doug wanted to get the 1pm ferry. We missed that because we were still in Worcester. We stopped to grab a quick lunch (Doug will not pay the money the ferry asks for their paltry fare) and it took a LOT longer than it should have. So we missed the 1:30 ferry because we were eating.

2 ferry anna jessSomehow, against all hope, we wanted to get the 2pm ferry. And we made it by the skin of our teeth. The ferry was still at the dock when we pulled up, and the guy waved us in. Miracle upon miracles...

Had we missed it, the next one wasn't until 3pm, and that would have sucked...

Anyway -- we enjoyed our ride across the sound. There was a man behind us playing his mandolin. Our GES was amused that there was such entertainment on a ferry ride... I told her that was out of the ordinary.

We breezed across the north fork and all the way to our hotel, checked in, and connected with some of the relatives who had arrived before us.

12 rehearsalMy parents were there, so we chatted with them for a little bit. We got ready for the rehearsal dinner, and that was an awesome time. The food was good, the company entertaining...

We let Geoff try decaf coffee, which was probably the funniest thing I've seen in a long time. He insisted and begged and pleaded until Doug told him he could have decaf, but not regular, coffee. He thought he was so suave and debonair... he added cream and sugar, stirred it, and immediately took a huge sip like one would drink water.

Shocked at the temperature, he still managed to swallow it instead of spit it across the table at his father, who probably would have killed him.

I could hear in that split second Geoff making a life decision... "spit it out and hit dad and get KILLED on the spot as a result, or swallow and sear my esophagus. Hmmm. What to do, what to do?"

Nonplused, he set the cup down and said "I like it. It's a bit hot. I should add more cream and cool it down..."

Doug cautioned him that a tiny creamer would make little difference, but he didn't seem to care. He finished the cup, making a few faces here and there. I don't think he really liked it but he totally needed to "save face" as it were and get through the cup after making such a to do about having it in the first place.

Please note, he hasn't asked for more since.

10 rehearsalAfter the dinner that night, Doug took Geoff back to the hotel and Jess and I went to Linda's to help out.

Linda couldn't get the programs to print at home, the lines were messed up and it just wasn't working. So I went, printed, and used up all her black ink. At about 2am, I'm sitting there trying to convince the printer to let me take out the empty black cartridge... but it will not give it to me. Ginger, the maid of honor, said to me "I think God is telling us that we are done and it is time to go to bed now."

I had 50 sheets printed on one side... and had to leave them there. It broke my heart, but I had 50 in my bag for the 170 plus guests... and it would just have to do. Meh. Sadness. I even looked up the nearest Fedex/Kinkos to see if they were 24 hours (unfortunately, they weren't) because I would have gone over there and paid to have them printed.

This was done last minute for all the right reasons, but it should have been printed and folded and stored away the week prior. Oh well. 50 programs it is. Ginger and I (and Jess, who had fallen asleep on the couch) decided instead of just crashing at Linda's we'd go back to the hotel. We had Linda's car, so we headed out... and missed a turn. We were driving alllll over Long Island at like 3am. Nice. We got gas (which was mandatory as there was absolutely none in the car when we got in) and finally found the highway to head to the hotel. I got to bed at like 3:30. Splendid.

The alarm went off and Jess and I needed to go to the salon for hair and makeup. The morning was drippy and poury and horrible... which, of course, is just our luck. Watching the weather report that week it was little tiles of Mon:Sunny. Tues:Sunny. Wed:Sunny. Thurs: Sunny. Fri:Sunny. Sat: Rain. Sun:Sunny. Mon:Sunny etc.... We were pampered, preened, painted, curled, crimped and colored, and that was interesting. I'm not a salon kind of girl... and when asked what I wanted done, I pretty much didn't have an idea. In the end, my hair was cute, full of "product" enough to keep it from moving for 100 days, and Jess' hair was cute as hell and we left all girled up.

At 11am, it was pretty much drippy and nasty, and my heart was breaking. It's hard to do portraits in the drippy rain, much less have a wedding with like 170 plus people milling around at the beach in that kind of weather.

18 leaving hotel bus rideLinda had rented a party bus, and at the appointed time we were all in it, waiting for Ronnie and one of his Groomsmen... we were supposed to be at the beach at noon but there we are at like 12:30 waiting... waiting...

Linda on the verge of going Bridezilla. Me on the verge of going Bridesmaidzilla. Eventually, everyone was accounted for and our party ride cruised to the beach.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, the sky lightened. One of the girls on the bus said "OH! look at the sky! It's the SUN!" and we all turned around to gape. Indeed, just like some sort of silly fairy tale, the sky broke. The grey vanished. The blue won the battle.

And the wind picked up.

Oh dear God was it windy... we got to the beach and unloaded the bus and set to work on getting things set up. We thought we'd have like 2.5 hours for setting up and photos... but there was really only about 70 minutes!

We didn't have time for a rehearsal, but all of us (except Jess and Alex) had been in weddings before so we figured we knew the drill and would instruct the rookies on how to do it. The staff at the beach were awesome (seriously -- getting married on Long Island? Go to Sunken Meadow). Anything we wanted, they helped. Anything we needed, there was a person there to assist.

13 before ceremony

for the funniest picture of the day, click here.

The plan had been for the wedding to take place on the beach itself, like the website photos show... but the wind would take down the arbor and kill us all. That would be bad. So they set it up inside the party tent beside the pavilion. We got stuff set up, did our photo thing, and the guests started to arrive. So we didn't have time to max and relax inside the party bus the way we'd planned... keeping the bride hidden from view until it was time. We were a lot more casual about it -- Linda milling around, Ronnie milling around... saying hi, giving kisses... being there and enjoying the time before the short walk to the arbor.

We walked down the aisle to Peter Gabriel's "Book of Love," which almost made me cry. We all took our places... My dad walked my baby sister down to her husband...4 ceremony and that was it. Game on!

The ceremony was very nice... very Celtic, very nontraditional. They did handfasting and drank from the traditional quaich, or Loving Cup, and declared one another Anam Cara.

They were declared before all witnesses and God himself and the universe as husband and wife, and we all walked back up the aisle to "Morning Ride" from the move The Princess Bride. Wuv. Twue Wuv.

The reception was a lot of fun, the kids played in the sand on the beach, the adults mingled and wandered and enjoyed cocktail hour and open bar and lots of frivolity. Linda and Ronnie danced to a song by The Pogues, title of which I cannot recall right this instant. The entire reception was great. Geoff broke a glass while banging the edge of his knife against it so Linda and Ronnie would kiss. Heh. Chaos! And me with bare feet. Not to fear, an easy clean up and a promise not to pound glass with such zeal and we continued with the fun.

Ronnie's good friend Cherry had set up a plan. She wanted them to go on a honeymoon. They weren't planning on it. They were using all their money and more money borrowed to pay for the wedding.

Maybe, just maybe... February, they thought. We'll go away in February.

So Cherry didn't think that was right. She told Linda that she wanted a horse & carriage to come to the reception in the evening and whisk them away to go to the airport to go on honeymoon.

Linda told her that was "inconceivable!" because she was hosting brunch the following morning.

Well... how about Sunday night? Would you like a hot air balloon to swoop in and take you away!

Nope -- Linda has to be at work Monday morning to do payroll.

27 apres weddingCherry was not to be deterred by things such as work and stupid payroll. She pitched the idea to me and I told her that really, if it were anything, it would have to be the weekend following. Linda would have to arrange for time off from work. They'd have to arrange for someone to come dog sit. It wasn't like they didn't appreciate the thought really...I'm sure!

I mean, someone goes to the effort to get a horse and carriage out there for ya and you're psyched... but there are arrangements that need to be made.

So I gave Linda a heads up that something would be happening, and encouraged her to get her ducks in a row. Cherry made me swear not to tell her WHERE they were going to be sent, and I kept that promise. I did tell her the dates, but not the where.

At the reception after the Best Man's toast, Cherry got up and delivered the news. She'd taken up a collection from friends and family and got them a little spending money. She bought tickets and made bed and breakfast reservations in Niagara On The Lake, Canada. They are there now, enjoying their honeymoon and folding money... and twue wuv.

Cherry is pictured here above, guarding "the nuclear football" as we started calling it. A card, with info on where they were headed, the money gifts... essentially she's holding the honeymoon in her hands. And she was quite the little mastermind and loved doing it. You can tell, can't you!

20 apres weddingAll through the evening, the storm clouds continued to thin, the sun set and gave us a glorious backdrop to the reception. The entire night was great fun. And I'm glad to have been a part of it.

During the reception, I realized that I had forgotten to put out the 50 programs that I had printed and folded the night before. They were in the laptop case (the powerpoint presentation was running and a lot of people totally loved watching it... laughing at our bride and groom all the while). I snuck the programs onto the table where the place card setting thingies were, and people took them all... I guess that after the fact is better than not at all. Heh.

Alright. Enough from me tonight. I've been trying to get this entry posted for days now, and have been way too busy to sit down and write. This is what you get for now.

Next entry... brunch and New York City! Woot to the woo woo woo.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Oh, hai. Can I has foot massage?

"I don't get many things right the first time. In fact, I am told that a lot.
Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls
Brought me here..."
-Ben Folds

Right then. I'm just posting a quick note to say that I went to a very nice wedding for some chick, and some dude. And I went to some giant city and walked about 80 blocks and my back hurts... and I have 300 pictures to sort through... but... all told. You Know It Is A Party Once The Devil Horns Fly...

Wow. Weekend. Fun.

And 100,000 of you will be eagerly hitting the site tomorrow as soon as you get to your desks (I know you, dear readers) first thing in the morning because you know I'm back.

We got home just before 9, ate pizza, unloaded the car, and rebonded with the dogs. I will write more at length this week, possibly tomorrow if I can. In the mean time. Say Hi to "Mrs. Ronniw."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

So so much to say

It sure has been quite the week here at (a)musingsland. Wedding stuff, football, more football, even more football, arrival of the GES, trips to Marblehead and Salisbury beach, cleaning ... enough to make your head spin and heart palpitate when you pause to think about it.

There hasn't been an opportunity for an update, even though I've been on the computer without ceasing for several days straight. I'm building a powerpoint presentation for Linda's wedding, and it kicks ass. So while I had the opportunities here, I focused on getting that done. I just need a laptop with powerpoint on it to play the thing... so wish me luck in procuring one...

Over the last week or two, as you know we been cleaning our entire house. It looks like when we moved in... only without boxes and me crying on the livingroom floor.

I didn't clean Geoff's room, which is a lost cause at the moment with all the other things I need to focus on. I figure... he's a 10 year old boy. Chaos is to be expected. I'm not sure what our GES thinks about that though.

anna - willkommenShe arrived on Friday afternoon, and by the time she got here she was rather exhausted. Can't say as I blame her. It's a long trip from Dusseldorf. They instructed us to keep her awake until 8pm at the earliest, to balance out the jet lag and time differences. So we did.

We ordered pizza and spent a little time sitting around together chatting at the dining table. She was very shy (not just tired) and for our gregarious and loud family, we had to do some adjusting to our approach.

After dinner, Doug was watching Kenneth Brannagh's version of Frankenstein, so we all joined in. GES sat focused on the movie and listening to the dialogue, which was fast paced and well executed by the likes of Mr. Brannagh, Robert DeNiro and Helena Bonham Carter... all of whom were pretty darn good. I found fault with the movie, but for the most part it was enjoyable.

GES looked like she was at the precipice of keeling over at about 7:30pm, so we told her to go on upstairs and get to sleep. She did... sleeping until about 8:30 the following morning.

I thought she might wake up at 6am or something, so I got up early (and pounded away at that powerpoint presentation... so I made good for the time I had) but she continued sleeping and sleeping. Once the girls were up, dressed, and had breakfast, I took them both to Marblehead. I figured it would be a good bonding time for them. No Geoffrey, no me trying to be cruise director... just the two of them. GES is from a town near Koln, so I figured she'd like to see the ocean. Jess walked her from the information booth to Crocker park, down to the Landing, down to Fort Sewall. They circled back around and went to Abbott Hall and ended up at Atomic Cafe where I picked them up at noon thirty.

We then rushed over to Geoff's first football game. It was 97 degrees on the field... and Geoff only got to play in one down. Not a whole series, but just one down. On the one hand, it was kind of frustrating to see him not play... but on the other I was relieved because of how brutally evil hot it was. He was disappointed too, but Doug gave him the whole talk... and he sprung back after a cool shower and some fruit.

The Germans and the Americans!Saturday night, my neighbor Nancy and her family hosted a barbecue, her daughter Emily has a GES and so Emily invited her friends all over to meet and greet.

We came and a bunch of other GESes with their host kids. Geoff swam in the pool, and Thane sat in the middle of the party and soaked it all in. He was really funny.

Halfway through the party, while our American kids are acting loud, obnoxious and dancing to Justin Timberlake songs, I tapped my GES on the shoulder. She was standing with three others of her ilk, and they all turned to me.

"Anna, I'm so sorry," I said to her with a look of severe sadness on my face. She looked at me with the "but why?" expression.

"I'm so sorry that they are so crazy."

One of the other girls, Astrid (the GES belonging to Emily, who was at this point rapping and flashing a wad of $1 bills and pretending she had gold teeth) busted out laughing and almost fell down.

"Seriously, Anna, and all of you. On behalf of America. I'm so incredibly sorry that they are insane." Our GES cracked a smile and said "It's okay." I think I've said "Anna, I'm so sorry" about 40 times since then, either because of my son or other kids or something on TV. And, I bet I'll have opportunity to say it a million more times. She laughs and tells me it's alright.

Let's just hope I don't ever have to MEAN it. It's funnier when I apologize with mock concern.

Saturday night ended up with me doing powerpoint, Jess and GES going with the raving hoard to our annual town bonfire, and then to Friendly's for more sugar to fuel the insanity further. They got home at midnight and crashed out.

We let them sleep on Sunday. It was pouring out, and we weren't doing much. Doug wanted to go hiking but it just wasn't in the cards. GES and Doug watched football (while I did powerpoint) and I think she gets what the boys were trying to do. NFL Europe was big in Germany so she was familiar with the look and style of the game. Doug talked with her about sports and what she watches and likes to do, and what other people like to watch and play in Germany.

doug walks with the girlsI took the girls to the market to buy some stuff for dinner and to just get out of the house. I was sick to death of powerpoint at this time.

The rain cleared up enough for us to go to Salisbury beach and have a nice walk and take photos, and play in the arcade. Anna liked skee ball, but like me she lacks mad skill. Jess is really good at it, so she showed off her talents. We had a really nice time. I played with a cattle dog who was a relentless frisbee catcher. Our dogs like to fetch, but fight over the object and rarely end up bringing it all the way back to the thrower so it is frustrating. This dog I played with was a great jumper, catcher and bringer-backer.

There were horses on the beach, and one of them decided she HAD to come say hi to me. I was a little worried that the rider didn't have dominion over the beast, but he told me that she excited to see people and wanted to say hi... so... I'm a whore horses4for other people's pets (it's known the world round) and this horse and I had a nice visit.

The rider was from our neighboring town and this was the first day the beach was open to horses this season. I had no idea they were allowed on the beach in the first place so that came as a pleasant surprise.

It was fun to watch them trotting away, his horse (my new best friend, pictured here) running in gentle circles around the other one. I worried about the running in sand thing... worried they'd snap their ankles and be damaged. But they seemed to be totally into the terrain and ... well, rode off into the sunset as it were (towards Newburyport, where the sun doesn't set but ... it's just a nice cliché to throw in).

The girls went to school yesterday morning. I asked Anna what classes they went to. I like the way she says "Algebra." Jess filled me in on the chaos of the German class. Where once there were 18 students there are now ... 30. So they played games and had fun.

GES told me they don't have busses but they ride bikes to school. Which is great in my opinion... our kids aren't allowed to ride bikes to school because the morning commute is "too dangerous" for them to be riding. Geoff would gladly bike ride to school (we live a mile and a quarter away from his elementary school) but he is totally not allowed. Some parents get really upset by this, others think it is best for the children... so we talked about that at dinner.

Our GES is still a little shy, but seems to be coming out. I'm prodding her.. "PLEASE tell me what you like or don't like. If you hate dinner and want something different... PLEASSEEEE tell me what you like at the market and I'll buy it for you. I'll feed you anything. I want you to be happy and comfortable..."

To whit she just says "it's okay."

So far we haven't fed her anything she's refused or gotten disgusted by. We had chili last night that she and Jess cooked while I was at work. Tonight I think we'll have swordfish kabobs and rice. I think I have enough for five, seeing as I bought for 4.

I think she'll have fun at the wedding. She seems to like to enjoy watching people. She didn't hate the football game and want to leave... I offered to take her home and she said she wanted to stay. She clapped and cheered (quietly). And so far I think things are going really well.

Geoff just took Gonzo for a walk, the girls just left for the bus, and I am going to get ready for work. I woke up at 6 this morning... just so I could fill you in on the details over here.

I'll see if I can save my powerpoint for the web, so you can watch it and enjoy. Gotta maybe resize some of the pictures. It's huge.

More later.