Wednesday, April 30, 2008


And there was much rejoicing. Jess is home, the night wasn't without frustration and controversy though. If anyone wants to meet me in a field and put down some fists and baseball bats of punishment on an Epson Photo 820 printer, I'll bring the Office Space Soundtrack and we can whoop ass. Damn, don't it feel good to be a gangsta.

When I got to work yesterday, Gretchen and Courtney wanted to know what we were calling our action plan for getting Jess, seeing as getting Geoff was GRAP (Geoffrey Retrieval Action Plan). I hadn't thought of it... JRAP just didn't sound right. So I said that we could call it Girl Retrieval Action Plan... so that stood. GRAP II. All day I did my work, checked the Virgin Atlantic Website, did some previewing, checked the Virgin Atlantic Website... stalked my child as she flew across the ocean. I'm glad they didn't have an animated airplane flying across the ocean page that showed the exact lat and long of the plane... I may have gotten lost in watching that.

I left work around 4:15 and went to the airport. I'm not sure how it only took me a half an hour from door to gate, but it was pretty sweet. The flight was slated to land at 5:18. It landed at 5, and at 5:30 we were all still standing around waiting. The kids took forever getting out of the baggage area and all the parents were abuzz with "have you heard from anyone this week?" "did he call you?" "do you know how their performances went?" We were all rather hopeful and giddy, having been without our charges for so long. I talked to one parent who grew up in South Africa and we talked about Jess and Germany and eating foreign food that isn't packaged up for American Tastes in restaurants here... how the kids reacted to the food (her son texted her and said the food was awful, but it was Passover and his choices were limited by his trying to be as close to the plan as possible).

Finally they came out. Jess was one of the last and there was a sea of humans between us. I just smiled and waved... and she was beaming and joyful. And I was so happy to have her back, even though I couldn't hug her.

Immediately came the stories from all the kids... I heard about crazy times in the British Museum, Henry being her dog for her monologue (Launce from Two Gentlemen), the constant "Oh my God, you guys! _____" insert some major exciting awareness here. Ross told me that his bank card didn't work either for pulling money out for Jess or for himself, so he gave me a big "I'm sorry!" and a hug and we commiserated over the problems with the ATM cards that a lot of the kids had. Lesson learned. Some of the kids had NO problem at all, so we need to regroup as parents and make sure that all our kids have THAT kinda card if they go next year. Our lessons are the legacy for future Rebel Shakespeare Travelers.

From the moment I got her, all through dinner (we stopped and had a mom-girl dinner on the way home), to Staples to get ink and posterboard (see below), to the front door at 8:30pm, I don't think she shut up once.

And it was amazing.

I loved her stories. I asked her questions. She told me about all the practical jokes, and how Keri is the reigning queen of playing jokes... ghosts in hallways, boys too scared to go to their rooms at night because of the ghosts (convenient excuse!), superlatives and awards bestowed upon one another. I read her journal, the parts she let me read at least, where the kids all wrote to her about her... they all swapped journals and wrote "love notes" to one another before getting on the plane. Some of it made me cry a little, knowing that people out there love her that much.

Oh my God, you guys! My daughter is home.

And then comes the unfun part.

She had a project due Monday that she got an extension on. Which made it due today... I knew it would be tough on her... but she set to work on it after she showed me a few of the thingies that she got. I went to bed at 10 and was exhausted and she was typing away and preparing her stuff for the posterboard. At about 12:30 she came and woke me up saying "Mom, the printer won't print and I've tried everything."

Usually, she's tried everything just short of the one thing that she needed to do to make it print. But this time? That puppy was whacked. Paperjams when there were no paper jams. Printing obscure strange characters. Printing all crooked and stupid. Shut down the PC, clear the memory/cache/whatever. Reprint. Ghostly shadows around the text on every page, more crooked printing than before. She's freaking out now. It is 1am. I'm doing printer maintenance... head cleaning and alignment stuff. We changed the ink because it was just about all out before she even went away.

At about 2am she had just what she needed printed out but man, did it look like absolute shite. She went from "I'm not letting this beat me," to "I'm not going to school and turning this in," to "I don't care what grade I get on this. Screw it," to "Oh my God, you guys, Mrs. L is going to flunk me so bad," to "Mom? Can I cry now," to "WHATEVER!"

It broke my heart and I kicked myself for taking her out to dinner and keeping her from getting in here to work on the stupid thing... I emailed her teacher at about 2:45am and said "look, don't fault her on this. If she had one more day I would have known about the printer snafu and we could have printed it elsewhere, like my office or at school or something..." so hopefully her teacher will see the time stamp, have an ounce of mercy (Jess says she won't, but ... we'll see) and Jess insists that whatever grade she gets, it was worth every second of taking her spring break and going to London. So there.

Give me an F. I went to London. Ha!

In reference to the little league lights and PA entry from the other day, several people have contacted the organizer of the program. People who actually abut the property, I'm across the street. We'll see what happens. And, honestly Carrie -- there's nothing wrong with "Sweet Caroline" in theory. I just don't see what it has to do with the Red Sox, ever. I never GOT why that was played. But I do think of YOU when I hear it instead of baseball.

That entry got picked up by Universal Hub, so thank you Adam... and a couple days prior Nance mentioned me telling her to go to Rogers Sale in Ohio, so she went and wrote up a big ole review with pictures and stuff. Probably the most comprehensive coverage Rogers Sale has ever gotten. Ever. So my hit counter went well over 100 both days. Which is funny. No one ever sticks around and comes back repeatedly off of those "Colbert Bumps" as it were... sigh.

But it did rain for a couple of days and the lights at the field were off, so it was nice to sit in my livingroom and not be blinded for a night while watching TV.

Alright -- so I got like 4 hours of sleep and now I'm late for work. Gotta get a shower and out the door and stuff. More later!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Don't take me out to the ball game

"I want to live on a dead end street. I want the traffic to be just my car.
I want the crack of a stickball bat. I want to hear the big dogs,
hear the big dogs bark."
-Jon Svetkey

I confess, I'm not the biggest baseball fan there is. I'm not even really a fair weather fan. When the Red Sox are doing well, that's nice. I don't get my panties in a bunch the way I do about the Patriots, the Steelers, or Brett Favre fading into history and destiny with his storied career.

Saturday was the start of Little League Season here in our town. Our house is adjacent to the ball park. On the whole, little league doesn't bother me. It's nice. It gives the kids something to do. I like hearing the crowd over there, I like hearing that aluminum bat whack a ball so hard you think the stitching is going to rip off of it as it sails all the way over here to my house (a ball has yet to make it all the way over here to my house, but sometimes I hear that sound and imagine it coming right for me. Where's my mitt!) I like hearing the cheer of all the parents and kids as that strike sends that sphere skyward. It's a nice sound and feeling.


Last year they put up BLAZING lights that are brighter than God's own sun. The philosophy behind them is "what if a game goes LATE and it gets DARK and the boys can't see?"

Um, dude? It's still light out at 7:30 pm and it's only April. In August, it is light until like 9pm. Honestly, if your games are going that late there is something WRONG with how the games are being scheduled, played and run. They start early, many teams play through the day, and there is no way game day should run 12 hours into the darkness of night. It isn't winter. It is spring and summer.

But. They put up the lights. And last summer we lived with them. It was the suck.

Even when there is no game or practice, the lights are on. Probably someone doing grounds is over there working on stuff wicked late, and the lights are on, blazing into my livingroom and blinding the hell out of me, until 9:30 at night or later.


Who should ever be out there at 9:30 at night. Go the hell home, people!

Two nights ago I went over there and not a living human soul was around. But the mini-Apollo's chariot of a lighting system blazed on into the night. All for naught.

My guess is the lights are on timer. But if someone is over there and say finished with what all he needs to do, there should be the ability for him to shut the damn lights off before he leaves.

I'll throw the "it's a waste of energy and not Earth Friendly" and "My freakin' tax dollars pay for this" card on the table on this one.

It is especially nice in August when every bug in the northeastern region of Massachusetts is flying around the lights at night, and those buggies too lazy to make it to the big bright lights hang out in my yard. That's awesome.

This year they got a PA system.

Oh Joy. Doug and I were out there and he turns to me and says "Oh PLEASE tell me they're not going to do this all summer long?"

"Honey, of course they are. What, do you think they are just going to do it TODAY?"

We could hear it in the house with all the windows and doors closed. Our dogs were FREAKING out because of it. Eventually we took them swimming because I just could not deal with them barking and freaking the hell out all day. This is nice. I am so looking forward to all summer.

Before anyone snarkily comments "Well, why'd you buy a house so close to the ball field then, stupid?!" I will let you know now that when we bought this house there was no blazing light force, no PA System. It was Just Right. The niceness of little league, the aforementioned sounds of bat on ball and cheering family. Now, not so much. And I'm irritated.

Especially because I don't want to hear the stupid songs they play between innings. I swear if they play "Sweet Caroline" I'm going to go over there with my own aluminum bat and put an end to that. Someone needs to Stop The Stupid Sweet Caroline Crap Already. Enough.

The only saving grace is that all the PA dude is doing is announcing the at-bat names and numbers, and introducing the team and coaches at the beginning. If he starts doing play by play color I'm going to extra super freak out.

Oh dear God help me, I will freak out.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

When Do We Begin?

"I used to sit and watch the pouring rain, I used to wish to be back home again
I hadn’t the strength then, I hadn’t the chance to reveal it
But it’s all in your hands."

No news from London: Land of Money Woes and Sadness. Actually, it is no news from Stratford because that's where they are now. So my fingers are crossed that there is happiness and joy and money and Jess is having a wonderful time. This morning they were supposed to go to a Shakespeare Mass at the big church, and I hope Jess went, just to say she went... not because it is church. It is something to behold and enjoy, and I would hope she opted for it and didn't blow it off.

This coming for the woman who completely overslept church this morning. Duh.

Over here, we got Geoff from my parents on Thursday. He came back with many sheets of stamps from Grandpa's stamp album and they're with his collection now. It is raining this morning and cold and gross so I may pitch the idea that we work on transferring what he has received off of the sheets and into his album. But I have a lot of other things to do and he's not begging me to do it so I think maybe it is better if we just leave that for another rainy day.

We did a ton of yard work yesterday. Everyone else in the neighborhood has their yards in ship-shape but for the past couple of weeks we've been too busy to touch ours. This weekend we had the chance. Doug got rid of all the leaves out back and raked out front. The only thing he missed was our open lean-to shed which over the winter got filled with leaves. I went and got all sorts of pansies to plant along the front fence, and 4 buckets of daffodil because I'd like to build a Wordsworthesque daffodil patch on the island beside our driveway. Just fill it with daffodil and maybe some phlox in between and bits, or something. So four buckets for 20 bucks is a wee start, but each year I will add to it and before you know it we'll be wandering lonely as a cloud and LO! our hearts will soar as they dance! Hurrah.

I'm silly, yes.

Okay, many of you have been looking for an Anya update.

Last thing I told you was that in February she'd be here. The date was pushed back to I believe June, which works out great for Keri because she would have had no time to prepare the kids and do everything she needed to do for the Rebel trip to London if the adoption took place in February.

Essentially, she has to spend a month in Siberia to solidify the adoption, and she'd be bringing an 18 year old home to the USA to only turn around and leave her with virtual strangers (grandmothers, aunts, uncles etc...) while she took the London trip. She didn't like that idea, and had really wanted the December date so there would be some good acclimating time for Anya to learn the family and realize she isn't being abandoned for 10 days when Keri leaves.

The push back of the date buys her some time to do some fundraising. We're looking at throwing a shindig with silent auctions and stuff... I am going to set her up with paypal for the folks who can't come from far. Once she gets back from London and can breathe for a minute...

Like I said, she will have to go to Siberia for about a month (and June is so much better than February anyway, right!), which will be a huge pain for her but when she gets back she'll have some bonding time before the summer program starts up. Anya will hopefully be immersed in enough English that she can meet people and be comfortable. Nastia will have to be "the big sister" and teach her things that she needs to know. Hopefully they will be joyful to be with one another. Nastia has become rather American, so I hope she will be a great guide and teacher to her big sister.

So yeah, it's still a go... the date just has been pushed back... and I am hoping that everything is going to work out just fine.

Cross your fingers and continue to pray for Anya. She is confused and sad that the adoption hasn't happened yet, but Keri says she isn't in crisis the way she was in December when Keri actually feared for her mental and spiritual stability. She seems okay, and understands... Hopefully when she arrives here it will be a dream come true and a happily ever after.

ChrissieDooMarkieDooIn other news, a good friend of mine from college who now lives in Beaver Falls PA lost his house this week in a fire. You can read the story here if you like. His wife and 2 kids were home at the time and were saved by a neighborhood boy who alerted them to the fire, which is amazing and wonderful even in the sadness.

My sister in law is friends with them (small world, innit?) because they go to the same church. They didn't know their mutual connection for quite some time because D's married name is different, and he never would have connected her to my last name if she didn't say something to him one day and they made the connection to our college ... and she realized the overlap years with me and asked him if he knew me. We were incredibly close back in the day, out of all the people he could have known at ole GC, for her to be my sister in law was totally random. I had no idea where he'd ended up. I thought he was in Chicago at the time, so when he contacted me and told me this, it was a cool discovery. He is a professor at Geneva now, and she's an alumni.

D says they lost everything in the fire and that the Red Cross is putting them up until insurance money comes in. I'm not sure where Mrs. Mark is from, but Mark grew up here close to our college. His parents were faculty members there when I was a student. So having immediate family to help out is something missing... If Mrs. Mark isn't from the area they don't have grandparents to hand the babies off to, and it is probably a huge stress to be staying in a hotel with babies for an extended period of time.

My heart soars that the neighborhood boy and some other neighbors rushed into the house and rescued not just the humans but their dog. I'm so glad they are safe. But the loss of everything is just horrifying to me. I'm going to contact the Red Cross in Beaver Falls to see what I can do to help. Send money, boxes of baby clothes. Whatever I can.

I haven't seen Mark in about 3 years. This photo was taken in 2004. Not seeing someone for a long time and butting up against a sad event really hits me hard. I miss him. I'm wondering if he lost his bagpipes in the fire. That would be sad.

Anyway, I've pissed away the day so far and have a couple indoor projects I can do so I ought to get on them. More later.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Electronic money is the new route of all evil

Jess seems to be having fun in London. A few emails from her and she's happily going along. The one problem is that her bank card that we got set up for her doesn't seem to work at all anywhere in all of England.

She took $100 over with her which translates to £50. (By the way, I've always wanted to HTML up some Pound symbol action. That's hot!)

That went pretty quickly. Her bank card has $700 on it and she's not a big spender so we figured she could withdraw £100 and that would be a nice amount of spending money and wouldn't drain her account and would leave lots of money for her trip to Germany.

The bank gave her a debit savings account, even though we wanted a checking account with the little Visa logo on the card, because that's accepted inside shops and is accepted pretty much everywhere. But due to her age they told us she couldn't HAVE one of those accounts. They assured us that she was all set for international banking at ATMs all over Europe with this perfectly cromulent account, and they got her ATM card to her in plenty of time. We tested it here, she withdrew money, she learned how to use it. Doug educated her on making sure she didn't use it in shops and didn't try to use it as a checking account withdrawal. She understood and merrily went on her way.

Well. It doesn't work.

The system says her account doesn't exist. She emails, I call bank. Bank says she tried to access Checking according to their records, which, as mentioned, she doesn't have. Her account is a Savings account. So I email her back tell her "you silly goose, pick savings" and figure it is all done there.

Still the bank card does not work. Bank says there is nothing they can do, everything is set up just right on her end. She goes INTO a bank, asks for help. They tell her that her card doesn't work, call her bank.

We looked into wiring her money via Western Union but the fees were just stupidly outrageous. She is now moneyless. Which could be worse, she could be traveling alone... but her meals and hotel and tickets to shows and all are completely paid for. She just doesn't have any shopping/fun money. So she's frustrated.

Doug and I both bemoaned the fact we didn't hand her money and have her change it over there. I didn't trust her not to lose her fat wad o'lolly somewhere on the streets of London. I pictured her taking photos of something and some Oliver Twist bastard sneaking up and pinching her wallet from her bag. Hey! Come back here! You filthy orphan! Street urchin! Bastard!

We should have just trusted her with the dosh. But no. We had to be all "this is better and if you lose it, we can cancel it before anyone uses it blah blah blah." Dumb bunnies we were.

Keri ended up loaning her $300, and on the same day I went over to one of her fellow traveler's parents' house and gave the mom $300 so she could put it in her son's account and her son could give Jess £150.

So now I guess I get my $300 back from Bank Of Ross and give it to Keri.

I felt frustrated and angry for the better part of four days. I can only imagine how Jessica felt... which then made me feel panic and fear. Which provided no sleep and rest for me. I do hope she's having a spectacular time, because I'm a headachy ball of stress right now.

I'll be happy when she's home.

Geoff will be coming home this evening or tomorrow morning, depending on how he answers our email to grandma. We decided to let him make the decision. Do you want to come home tonight or do you want to come home tomorrow morning. We'll see what he picks.

Grandma took him to see Gammy down the Cape and they went to a stamp collecting store to get more sheets for his book. I got him a freecycle book for stamp collecting and it had 3 sheets in it. Turns out those are coin sheets, but Geoff filled the slots with stamps. He likes them where they are so he kept the stamps in the coin sheets, and now has the official stamp sheets to fill up.

When he brought his collection down to my parents he had filled up all the sheets but still had about 200 stamps that needed homes. He needed to soak and peel and dry them, and I told him that he should do that when he was bored instead of playing video games. He showed my dad his collection, and my dad went out to the shed and pulled out these two huge binder books filled with stamps. He'd pulled them out of the trash in the early 1970s back in NY when he was at the dump one day. There are all these Hitler stamps and all kinds of crazy pre-WWII stamps. It is quite the collection. So my entire childhood he had these books, and I had no idea! The fact that he kept them and moved them up here with him is extra funny. After like 30 some odd years, he still has them.

Funny what you can learn about your parents.

So the week without children is almost over. I've not done anything productive or interesting with my kid free time. Doug and I did go out to dinner last night when I got home. That's about it.

It is weird not having them here and it occurs to me that in 10 years this is most likely what my life will be like all the time. The house will be way too big for us, we'll probably have fewer dogs so maybe we can buy a great condo in Newburyport and live there what with all our fabulous wealth... so it is a little disconcerting for me to start thinking along those lines. Who knows, perhaps I'll need to keep this house and make a room downstairs for one of my parents if the other should pass and one needs kept here. I don't know.

Don't hardly necessarily want to think about it either really. Right then. Off to work.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

And, they're off

"I have noseal issues."
- Geoff

Last night we dropped Jess off at the airport. She and the Rebels are off to London for the first of her two big trips. She'll be in London and Stratford-upon-Avon for ten days. And then in June she'll be in Germany for three weeks. Quite the world traveler she is in this her 10th year of school.

rebels to londonFunny kids and good times, I'm sure, will abound. Geoff is only minorly (cough) jealous of his sister.

In fact, he only tried to escape the airport twice, and only picked one flight (to Amsterdam) to stow away upon.

All told, that's a pretty good outing.

It was hard for him to watch her and know that she was going overseas. No amount of "when I was 15 I didn't go overseas, and my parents only took me on vacation to my aunt's house..." would assuage his jealousy and envy. We saw the kids off, and we let him pick where we wanted to go out for dinner. He's in charge this week and even though we're not going away and having fun, I'm hoping he'll enjoy his time as an "only child."

jessicaI, on the other hand, pine for the girl. On the way home from the airport I started to realize a few things.

I knew this morning no one would greet me in LOLcat speak. No one would regale me with tales of what Eric and Lizzy did in school each afternoon. No one would complain about "Catcher in the Rye," because she hates it.

In church this morning, no one leaned her head over onto my shoulder during the sermon or during prayer. The pew was strangely huge and wide and spacious, and Geoff seemed a million miles away sitting in his corner of the pew box while I sat by Doug for the first time since we got married and we had no little kids sitting betwixt.

It was strangely overwhelming. I can't imagine what I'll feel like when she leaves for college in a few years and don't want to really ponder that at this point.

Moving on.

Yesterday before the airport, I took Geoff to a merit badge workshop on Stamp Collecting at the Spellman Museum at Regis College. I hear the collective yawn and groan of you, my dear five readers. But seriously, it was a lot of fun.

The workshop runs pretty much for 4 hours with a small lunch break. Oh yes, darlings. Four hours of philatelist chat and action!

The presentation is geared specifically to the merit badge, so it is an easy win for the guys. One day -- badge done. End of conversation. It is a great first badge to do, and the 8 kids who were there were totally into it.

The instructor taught them about the history of stamps, perforated and non-perforated, how mail got around the world, from NY to San Francisco and how whaling ships used tiny islands in the south Atlantic as postal drops. He taught them how to soak the stamps to remove the paper, how to use a chemical solvent to reveal watermarks on old samples.

The boys brought their fledgling collections. Some of them had WWII era stamps from their grandfathers and great-uncles. We talked about the history of mail and stamps and devaluation of stamps and currency during WWII, which was information that was new to me.

We learned about the Scott Catalog and how to find the value of stamps, and how to read the catalog numbers. When I had mentioned to the instructor that Jess was going to London with the Shakespeares, he sent me up to the shop to get number 1250. A USA Shakespeare stamp from 1963. Ten cents each. I bought a dozen. Gave a couple away to the boys, have some reserved for Jess and Keri, and Geoff keeps the rest.

The instructor addressed an envelope to himself on a board that went through who he was, where he was, the US, the Western Hemisphere, the planet the universe etc... and the boys thought that was cool. I blew up his spot though and said "That's from Our Town, innit? Thornton Wilder and whatnot?" And he looked crestfallen. "In seven years, you're the second person to point that out. Yes. I stole it from Thornton Wilder." So we laughed and talked about how even as small and insignificant we feel sometimes in the universe, we still are somewhere, and someone can find us. With the right amount of postage.

So Geoff is totally insanely into his stamp collecting now. He filled up his binder with stamps that we've been saving for weeks, and some we bought that day in the museum shop. He needed 100 stamps from one country -- and we were about 30 shy on the USA stamps, so he picked a pack from Belgium. All the other boys wanted stamps from England.

"Hopefully my sister will send me a post card from England, so I have some from her there."

Yes, truthfully, I do hope she remembers to send you something this week. Sigh.

Anyway. In my last entry an ACW (Apple Cinnamon Waffle) watch was requested. We were successful in achieving our goal, or, I should say Geoff was successful and he got his due.

He still needs to apologize to our neighbor and his friend for being a colossal jackass over the past few weeks. But the ACW achievement was a big one. Our next goal item is a capo for the guitar. Seven days, great behavior... it could take a month, or it could take 7 days. His choice.

In yet other news, we went out to do gardening and discovered that our yard is chock full of bees in the ground. It looks like anthills everywhere, but there are bees coming and going from inside them. Nice. So, we won't be gardening where we thought we would... just yet. Doug will be going on a ground bee eradication plan. Wish him luck. And those of you who know me know that I do NOT like bees. No way. No how. I'll be watching from here. Far, far away.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Apple Cinnamon Waffles

The other night Geoff threw out his dinner because he didn't want it. Just threw it in the trash. So Doug and I freaked out and he got in deep trouble for it. Hours of wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued but we didn't back down.

The following morning he asked for scrambled eggs for breakfast, which is something he never asks for. I complied, because ... hey. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. He ate a little of it and said "I don't like this."

Now, mind you, I make good scrambled eggs. There's nothing not to like if you like eggs.

"Why'd you ask for them then, and why did I waste my time making them for you?"

"Well, I liked the idea of scrambled eggs."

"Well, enjoy the reality of scrambled eggs and eat them. You aren't throwing them away, and you aren't getting away with wasting my time on having me prepare food that you don't want, so eat them and be done with it. No more arguing."

"Well, you guys never buy food that I like or want. You always buy food that YOU like and want."

"Are you kidding me? You love fish. You ask for it all the time. Dad bought fish. You threw it out. What is the deal with that?"

"I didn't like how he made it. He didn't make it right."

"Well, there are thousands of ways to make fish, and I'm sorry that you're some sort of culinary snob or picky eater that you didn't enjoy au gratin and tomatoes and stuff, but all you had to do was pick the top off, not eat the tomatoes, and just EAT the fish. Not pitch the whole plate into the trash. We buy you food that you like and you eat it. In fact, you eat ALL the food in the house sometimes and then we run out of food. So don't sit here telling me that we don't buy you food you like."

Then as he sullenly picked at (and ate) his eggs, I asked "What is it you feel you are lacking, what is it that you WANT more than anything."

He looks at me and says "Apple Cinnamon Waffles from Eggo. I saw them in the grocery store with Dad the other day, and he wouldn't buy them for me."

Aha! That's what this is about. Doug wouldn't buy him something he wanted so he fully rejected something Doug cooked. It's a spite issue.

"Why do you think you want Apple Cinnamon Waffles from Eggo?"

"Well, I love anything Apple Cinnamon," he says... and this is news to me. I had no idea he liked it that much. "I love Apple Cinnamon anything. Apple Cinnamon muffins, Apple Cinnamon bread for toast, Apple Cinnamon oatmeal..."

He starts sounding like Benjamin Buford 'Bubba' Blue talking about all the different ways to prepare shrimp on Captain Dan's boat. I'm trying not to laugh at him as he is wistfully rattling off all his favorite Apple Cinnamon combinations, and I realize I'm finding something that can work to my advantage. Possibly.

"So, you really like all that stuff and you really want some waffles, eh?"

"Yes! But you never buy things like that for me. It's always plain toast, or raisin bran cereal or stuff I don't want!"

That is patently untrue, have you seen my son? Yeah. Boy eats healthy and likes what he eats.

I proposed something to him. He would have to earn the Apple Cinnamon waffles. I laid out a plan that over the next five days, counting the weekend, not just school days, he would have to BE GOOD.

I had his attention, eye contact, acknowledgment, and this all was sounding kind of good to him. Geoff always looks for loopholes of things that could possibly fail on him. He asked "Do I have to be good for five consecutive days?"

"No. If you're good for two days, and then you blow it on day three, I am not going to reset the clock at zero. Those two days, you earned them. You keep them. That's an achievement. But, if day three is a screwed up, messed up, horrible, very bad, no good day... then it doesn't count. It's up to you. This could take you five days, or it could take you a month."

"Or longer."

"Right. But if it is taking longer, we'll have to revisit it and see if this is even worthwhile."

"I'll never be able to do it! I'm doomed to a life with no Apple Cinnamon Waffles from Eggo!"

I told him I believed he could do it.

We took and index card. I wrote on it all the things he is not allowed/supposed to do. I told him that if he didn't do these things, I could pretty much guarantee a really good day. I also made a list of GREAT things he could do, but told him he didn't really NEED that list. By simply not doing the bad things on the first card, the second ones would just happen by themselves.

I had him put them in his pocket. I told him "If you doubt how you should act or what you should do, just look at the cards."

Thursday I got an email from his teacher saying he was having a great day. Thursday night he said he had a great boy scout meeting and his scout master affirmed that in an email when I asked him. Same on Friday. A great day.

Now I ask you, you poor, dear who has read this far ... If any of us knew that Apple Cinnamon Eggo Waffles were the key to good behavior, the answer to world peace, wow. We should have served some up sooner. I'll keep you posted on the Apple Cinnamon reward front.

Okay, on that note... I hope you enjoyed the story. I talked to Aaron last night and he always makes me feel better. He makes me believe I'm a great parent and a good person and that Geoff is just a boy. He tells me things he lived through (and laughs about them) and the horrors that it caused his family. He told me that all boys hit rough patches, and all boys do stuff that Geoff is doing... and this too shall pass. So it was good to hear from him and have a good laugh.

And he's right. This too shall pass.

Monday, April 07, 2008

On belay, Belay on.

Last Saturday, this is the entry I wanted to write. And my last entry needed to stand on its own, without all the other events and observations that I have had recently buried as a sidebar note at the bottom. When I got up on Saturday morning, I knew I'd be chaperoning a trip for the boy scout troop to a local rock climbing joint. I had no idea at the end of the day that I'd have a fledgling new skill under my belt... or, perhaps I should say around my waist.

We got to the rock climbing place and the scout master had four chaperones with him so they needed everyone to belay.

"Have you ever belayed?" The staff at the front desk asked me.

"Uh, I could tell you yes or no if I knew what that meant."

So. Obviously not. They handed me a stack of paperwork releases and medical form things and a harness.

"Is this thing going to fit over my fat ass?" I asked.

"That'll fit ya. If it doesn't I've got bigger. But that one will be fine."

"Um. Okay. I guess."

Sure enough it fit me and I'm standing there wearing a harness for the first time in my 41 years of life thinking "okay... how'd you get yourself into this mess?"

Next, they sent me over to the "school" where a heavily pierced and crazy-haircutted scary looking dude named Lee taught me everything I needed to know in 20 minutes.

After the initial surprise of a guy with a huge hole in the inside of his nose that a cable could have fit through had passed, I found Lee to be gentle, kind, supportive, nonjudgmental (I mean honestly, some 250 pound fat chick shows up and needs to learn how to do this thing... he must have cringed upon sight of me like I cringed upon sight of him). I learned how to tie the knots. How to talk to the guys for when they were ready, and I was ready, so the climbing could begin. He brought me to the wall and showed me how to tie in, and then told me "Fetch a boy."

Yes. Fetch a boy.

I went and found my own son, figuring he was the most likely boy to start with. Lee taught Geoff some things, which he misheard and decided to ask me "Andelay?" Which Lee and I both laughed at and got all Speedy Gonzalez about... We corrected Geoff that he is to ask me "On belay?" and I am to respond "Belay on." And then he can climb.

He didn't get very far. The footholds were way too small. I looked at the other belayers in our group and their kids were in the rafters... Geoff was trying, and trying really hard. vertdreams4He worked up a heck of a sweat to get 2 feet off the ground.

Eventually he said "I like the boulder wall better. There are a lot of places to stick my feet." So I untied him from the super magical knot that a mere hour before I had no idea how to tie, and instructed him to send me another victim. Nick came over, and we did the "On Belay?" "Belay On" thing... and he got about 5 feet up before quitting. I was feeling as if my belaying would not be put to use.

Then, I got Stephen.

I could not keep up with him. He climbed the wall four, five times... wanting to move to different sections (which meant me tying and untying him five times). I was afraid I was making mistakes in my rhythm, and I felt the rope slacken a lot as he just spider pigged his way up the wall... terrifying me. He was the dream climber, completely willing to just go, slow down when I needed him to. I had a blast. And my arms and my back were killing me. My hands were blistering. I was laughing as he was almost to the top at one point going "what do I do? Where do I go!?" and I was making suggestions like "Grab the brain shaped thingie on your left. NO! further up! yes! You can do it!"

I had a blast. I was wearing a harness that I didn't think would fit. I felt blisters forming and it didn't bother me. All told, a good time was had by all...

Except for Mr. Pretentious Zenmaster.

Boy Scouts, on the whole, are a lot better behaved than Cub Scouts. We had four adults and twenty kids. Most of the adults were belaying, and some of the kids preferred the boulder area, where they ran around, climbed, jumped, ran around... wash, rinse, repeat.

After I was pretty much done belaying, and the troop was getting near ready to leave, the boys were using those final moments to get the most out of the joint. Which means some horsing around. They weren't horsing around ON the wall, just on the squishy open area that leads to the wall.

There was this dude there, taking it way too super seriously dude. He was visibly annoyed with the mere presence of these rambunctious young lads.

How do I know he was taking it way too super seriously? Well... he would take his shoes off and sit a ways away from the wall that jutted out at an angle toward him. He had a book of something, and would read a few passages, put the book down, and stare at the fake rock wall. Then, he'd close his eyes for a while, put his shoes back on, approach the wall and scale it with his hands and feet like Spiderman. He'd get the 10 feet up, drop down, walk back to his spot, and repeat the process. Shoes off. Read. Stare. Meditate. Shoes on. Climb.

Dude was an awesome climber, I give him credit for his amazing talents. But his overall ... aura, if you will, was one of such incredible pretentiousness. He was surrounded by families and little kids, not just our boy scouts, and he was behaving as if he was worshiping at the cliff faces at some Arizona or Utah desert shrine to climbing.

Initially, I felt a little badly for him at first but then it dawned on me... this is an indoor fake fake fake rock wall. Not... you know. Not. Just relax yourself, dude or come when no other humans are here.

A few times, he gave GLARING looks at kids, not just our boys, but other little kids like this adorable little black girl who kept SQUEALING at the top of her lungs when she climbed up over five feet without someone holding her.

My buddy Charlie and I were sitting there watching him. We were indeed impressed with his skill, no denying we could never in a million years do what he was doing. We watched him repeatedly hand climb up a wall that had him at points climbing upside down. Dude was awesome.

But Charlie said "Dude needs to get over his pretentious self. He's at a fake indoor rock wall. Jeeesh," so I knew that I wasn't the only person in the room who noticed his rock climbing superiority complex.

We decided to take a group shot of the boys, and lined them all up. Dude was nearby and picked up all of his things and STORMED OFF. How long does a picture take? Seconds. Can you just relax your ass? Obviously not.

I wondered what this guy's interpersonal relationships with other humans might be like... especially women. He looked so easily annoyed and put off, unless there was a crevasse to shove his toes into. I think if he has an equally focused and similarly minded woman (or man, whatever) in his life he may be happy. But wow. I really was amazed to watch him and his outright loathing for other humans.

Dude needs to move to Zion or someplace where he can be one with the boulders instead of living in freezing cold New Hampshire and resorting to catch his Zen wave indoors with ... kids.

Anyway, all told we had a tremendous time and it was even fun watching the dude. I'd do it again for sure.

Right. So it's been like a week since my last entry. Geoff seems to be doing a little better. At least as evidenced by the fact I have not received any phone calls from the principal, complaints from our neighbor friend, or any other signs that all is not well in Denmark. Hopefully this is all sinking in. Hopefully. Thanks for your suggestions and continued prayers for him for support. He's had a pretty good week. We've had some really serious and deep discussions.

I just wish wish wish that the person he shows himself to be to me would be the person who appears when he is dealing with the outside world. My son is aces, yo. He's amazing. He's thoughtful and insightful. I'm continually amazed by him.

Perhaps I may just have to look at him like Mr. taking it way too super seriously rock wall climbing dude and meditate, read, be focused and scale the wall of Geoff... the most challenging rock wall there is.

Alright - more later. Cheers.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Define the word "suck"

"Yeah Moe, that team sure did suck last night. They just plain sucked. I've seen teams suck before, but they were the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked."
-Homer Simpson

I have tried to sit down and start this entry about 10 times and am always interrupted and annoyed and don't get to finish it. I plan on making sure that I do so tonight. Because there's a lot on my mind. And after all, a blog is the place where you vomit upon the blogosphere all of your inner demons in hopes of just getting them out of your system for the word to look at and point and laugh accordingly, or pour sympathy over until you feel a little less cruddy. Right?

We've been having a rough time here at the Way Out Inn with our boy Geoff.

Long time readers know Geoff's not your average bear. He's got learning disabilities that we really try hard to work with. Lately, I'm not sure what the deal is but he's going to make my head explode and I'm not able to really deal with what is going on.

I've written about his use of incorrect language, being "clean" in a metaphorical and physical sense. We spend forever and a day every day going over correct language use and how to behave... He got suspended from the bus recently for swearing a lot, getting into arguments with the guys, and for writing on the bus seat "You Suck." Not only did he do that, he announced to the guys on the bus "Hey, I'm going to write 'you suck' on the bus seat!"

Someone narked on him. Serves him right.

Who sucks? Well, Geoff says the school sucks, the bus sucks, everyone sucks. They're the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked, I guess.

Day after day, week after week, I'm trying to deal with him and not kill him outright when I get a daily call from the school that he did this that and the other thing, or my neighbor approaches me and tells me that her son reports that Geoff offered to show everyone the tattoo on his penis.

Yeah, you read that right.

We lecture, we punish. We confront and say "Did you do this?" And he freaks out that someone told on him. "Who is spying on me! HOW DO YOU KNOW THIS!"

I have my sources.

So we make it clear. Don't do this, or you're in trouble. Each day he repeats back to me that he understands. He tells me "this is the right way to act, the way I'm supposed to act. I understand. I comprehend..." and then he walks out my door and is all "suck" this "suck" that, you "suck" he "sucks"... "suck my dick."

Yeah, you read that right too.

Now, for me, the word "suck" is not a swear. It's crude and it's not really a great word, but this isn't 1950 anymore. I say it all the time, instead of the other silver dollar words in the swear continuum.

My commute sucked, my day sucked, that ballgame sucked, this song by that band is the suck. But I kind of leave it at that.

Geoff goes right from "that sucks" to "suck my Dick" faster than a supercharged VW can hit 60mph on the Autobahn. It's like a gateway word for him... opening the floodgates to all the other great words. So I haven't let it bother me up until he crossed that invisible line where jokingly saying "you suck" or "your mom sucks" to that "suck my balls" kind of attitude.

And it's not just "suck," it is a lot of other things like "I'm going to kill you" which are getting him into a lot of trouble. We're done. Done with that. End of conversation.

I've met with parents of the other kids involved, I've met with the assistant principal. I've taken Geoff to therapy to talk about this with his therapist. I have no solutions, no answers. But every day he says "I'll be good." And then he goes out and he's as bad as he can be. And I'm not dealing very well with it anymore.

I'm kind of on that little edge, where I am either going to explode and beat the ever loving sweet merciful daylights out of him or I'm going to crawl back into bed and never ever come out again.

Not sure which way we'll be going.

Pray for him, and for me. And, of course, advice from parents and other experts is appreciated. Especially places to hide his body later. Ha! I kid. You know I do. (looks around to see if DSS is listening).

We've not been without our successes with Geoff. He's really enjoying boy scouts, he's playing his guitar (he wrote a song called "Spring Cleaning for Your Face" and thinks Tay Zonday is awesome and he wants to be the next You Tube sensation). He has been working hard at school and wrote two very good papers for History and did a big presentation on JFK where he had to dress up like him and do a first person biographical presentation in front of the whole class. There have been some funny moments where we've laughed hysterically.

I'm not feeling like all is lost... I just want him to like... not be a jerk and get in trouble all the damn time.

Especially because one of the people he's offending and hurting happens to be a good friend, a really good kid, and one who has decided he's just not going to stand for Geoff or any of the other kids being raunchy on the back of the bus.

I love this kid. It takes a lot to stand up to the other guys... He's a boy of great conviction and deep kindness and honesty. He's a really wonderful person. I want Geoff to model his behavior on this friend... not push him away or get to the point where they can't be friends or associate with one another because the other kid flat out refuses.

I know that if it GOT to that point, Geoff would suddenly have that Big Epiphany™ and say "Oh No! I've lost a great friend!" and he'll break down and be all sorry. But the damage may be done and beyond repair. Part of me believes that this other kid is a good enough person that he'll forgive Geoff... but I know that in the back of his mind he'll harbor that feeling that Geoff can't be trusted to be a good, clean friend. And I never want it to get to that point with them. Even if it is rock bottom and sometimes the only way to make things better with Geoff is when he breaks entirely.

Another thing is that Geoff's mouth is going to get his ass kicked one of these days too, I think. Again, part of me thinks that might be a good thing. I've heard tales told of boys this age who get their comeuppance in a good asswhoopin' and they sin no more because they know that they got beat.

Geoff's got a social disability that makes it so that he just can't wrap his head around a lot of social skills. He's like the girl in the song "Round Here" by the Counting Crows, "she knows she's more than just a little misunderstood; she has trouble acting normal when she's nervous." He isn't sure what to say so he blurts the dumbest things out. When people are joking, he doesn't see that they're joking and he takes it seriously and freaks out. What he thinks is funny, is not. What he thinks is serious is usually a joke. It's impossible to TEACH him the difference.

And through experience I can only hope that someday he gets it before he or someone else is really badly hurt.


How's that for throwing up on the internet?

Well, for now this is going to have to do. I've got dishes and laundry and whatnot to hit. I'm tired. I need to go to bed at a decent hour and not toss and turn all night.

I'll keep you posted, all four of you, on how we progress. Until later kids, be good.