Monday, December 29, 2008

Helena & Hermia

I hope everyone's holiday was lovely. Ours was good, more on that later. I had a virus, as did my PC. I currently have my original PC pulled aside to take to someone to give it a jolly good workover. Amy's old PC is here, running and taking care of our Internet and Blogging Needs. Hurrah. The one thing we're lacking is a better video card in her PC to run "Spore" and keep Doug and Geoff happy. But they'll live. As long as I can use Facebook and write in the journal, I'm content. I'll address the video card thing later, once the original PC is healed, and I get a network going to get the second PC online.


All told, from the date of the last entry to now it's been busy and chaotic here. The usual stuff that I'm sure all of you have dealt with as well in your own lives. I was sick with a horrible cold and absolutely no gumption (funny how colds just wipe the gumption out of your system) and I had to wait until I got a couple of checks from my parents and Doug's parents so we had money to even go buy presents. Those, of course, came on the Saturday before Christmas.

I didn't even get out to go Christmas shopping until Monday the 22nd. That was actually okay. I went to Best Buy and Target... and the crowds were huge, but manageable.

GHWT 1I got an assortment of gifts for the kidlins. I spent more time standing on line than I did looking for what I wanted.

Geoff got Guitar Hero World Tour, which he's been wanting since the day it was released. We got the version with the drum set and the microphone. So we can have four players at once. Drums, bass, guitar and vocals. It's pretty fun... there are a few songs that just flat out suck. I have no idea why "Shiver" by Coldplay is on there and "Clocks" isn't. Who the hell wants to sing "Shiver" anyway? I hate it.

We didn't see Geoff for a couple of days.

Jess didn't want anything, as she's been reading a lot of Emerson and Tolstoy and is very anti-materialistic and down on the whole hype of consumerist culture. I got her iTunes gift cards, her one indulgence is her music, so she was thrilled to have that but played it down low-key.

And I got Spore for Geoff, but more for Doug because I knew he would want it.

I felt that our gift giving was spotty and weak, mostly due to money and just not having any sort of inspiration. Geoff wants a new camera, but I don't want to spend money on something decent and nice for him (especially after what he pulled this morning on me with MY camera. I'm rather pissed at him and don't want to give him anything worth more than two dollars right now). There was one thing I felt would make Christmas extra super special.

On the way home from work on Christmas Eve, I stopped at the pet store. I felt it was time for a new guinea pig.

After Gordon's passing, we knew that Geoff would be doing a Pet Care badge for Boy Scouts and needed to maintain a log for 4 months on his pet care duties. There's a Dog Care badge, and we noticed that his duties for Dog Care couldn't be duplicated for the Pet Care badge. So, I figured it was time. I'd been looking for a few weeks, and everywhere I went the pigs were male, and huge. I kind of wanted something tiny and young, and female... So as a last ditch effort, I went to one last pet store and walked in to find a display of 18 female guinea pigs, all babies. Wow. My lucky day.

The girl said she had two others out back, that they were much smaller than these ones and a couple weeks younger, around 8 weeks old. She kept them apart because she felt they were too small to compete for the food. She brought them out to me and I ended up buying both of them, because I felt badly about breaking them up. One is black and white (Yes. I know. I have a lot of monochromatic pets). And the other is tortoise with a funny little cowlick on top of her head. I called Jess and asked her to set up the guinea pig cage, clean it up and put it in the brown room, and have it ready for the new arrivals.

She obliged, and I brought them home and snuck them into the house. Quite by accident, Geoff discovered me in my quiet sneaky state. I'd wanted him to come down on Christmas morning and meet them, and be surprised... but he saw what I was doing and turned on his heel to march away quickly with "I see nothing! I SEE NOTHING!" kind of spirit. I called him back and showed him and wished him a merry Christmas.

He helped set the cage up, and put the very terrified and squeeley pigs into the cage. He decided to name them Helena and Hermia, from "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Doug wanted him to name them Twigs and Berries, or Cheddar and Monterrey, but Geoff was having none of that.

guineapigs 4 guineapigs 5

Helena is the black and white one... the one who would perceive herself as plain and un-special, but she really is beautiful. Hermia is the tortoise one with the fancy hairdoo. She is fancy and special and all the guys like her... I love how he applied what the characters in the play are like to the actual guinea pigs, and their looks.

They're quite happy little pigs. Helena is quiet and sweet. Geoff takes her out the most. Hermia is fast and noisy. When we try and take her out of the cage she screams like we're going to kill her. And then snuggles right in for a good cuddle.

Geoff is tracking his care, and doing the feeding and cleaning. I think this is my favorite gift this year. They're really cute and sweet... and much better than a DS game or Guitar Hero. Really.

In the meantime, the office was very quiet this week.

A lot of people on vacation, and a lot of peace and productivity. I'm scheduled out to the end of January, and feel relaxed and organized. That's a nice way to start the new year. Or end the current one, I guess.

My girl C was laid off, which broke my heart. I will miss her walking into my office every day and saying "What up, bitches!" and flopping down into the chair by TJ's desk. I inherited on part of her job, and it's kept me busy, getting the feel of how she did things and figuring out all the ins and outs of her process. The first week I had to do it, it took me 15 hours to get the job done. This week I had it done in 4 hours... and was happy at how it made the afternoon fly.

I took today off, and this afternoon am taking a group of Rebel Shakespeare kids to perform at the Beverly First Night celebrations. We have about 7 kids who are on the docket for the afternoon and I'm wondering if others will just show up if they feel like it. They can be fickle.

The plan is to perform in the street for an hour, and then we have an indoor performance space for 45 minutes where the kids can do scenes, monologues, sonnets. I may even do "Blow, blow thou winter wind" myself. Who knows. It's amazing what you can remember from high school choir. Sing high-ho the holly.

It's a good thing we have indoor space... initially we were supposed to be 100% outdoors, but the coordinator wanted to give us space to perform so she worked it out. If it goes well, hopefully this can be an annual thing. It's a heck of a kick-off to the 20th anniversary year for Rebel though.

We're looking at about 8 inches of snow today. So that kind of sucks for the performing out-of-doors portion of the program. Hopefully the kids will be able to make good of it and have high spirits. At least not give up and blow it off, not showing up because of the weather would suck.

Right then. On that note. I am off for more coffee and perhaps a bagel. If you're in the area, come to First Night Beverly. Don't be shy or scared of the snow. And if we don't see you ... Happy New Year. Hopefully it'll be a good one. I'll give you a little link here to Barenaked Ladies singing "Auld Lang Syne..." it's a windows media file, so hopefully you can play it. I don't have it as an MP3. If you can hear it, great... if not. Oh well, I tried.

Be well, and we'll chat next year. Okay?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oh little town... About Philips Brooks and his little hymn.

Earlier this week at church we had a carol sing. Just a casual night of singing the greatest hits of Christmas. People who know me well know that the one song that "gets to me" is "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem."

I looked at the hymnal as we got ready to sing this song and saw the author's name for the very first time. Phillips Brooks.

Phillips Brooks? Really now.

I was suddenly struck with recognition of the name. I pass a statue of him every time I drive through North Andover, Massachusetts and the green there. Phillips Brooks.

I tied the name on the statue in my head to the man, and figured there couldn't be any OTHER Phillips Brooks running around out there who might have something to do with North Andover, Massachusetts or Hymns of the Christian Church. There had to be some interesting history, something to think about there.

I did a little digging into who the man was behind the hymn. Wikipedia is the most fun source. Finding out that his grandfather founded Phillips Academy (and he was named after the man) and that Endicott Peabody (two names that are entrenched in the history of northeatern Massachusetts) named Brooks School for him, which is a couple miles away from my house were interesting facts.

I had no idea that he was the bishop of the Episcopal Church of Massachusetts. I had no idea that he was a heavyweight in philosophical and religious identity here in Massachusetts, opposing slavery and strongly siding with Lincoln in the abolitionist movements in American History. When he died, thousands of mourners poured out to grieve him and celebrate his life. And to me, he was just a name on a statue that I drove past.

And I didn't realize his connection to something very close to my heart. This man wrote the one song that brings me to deep and profound ponderances and tears during Christmas.

"The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight."

That one line always makes me cry. The concepts of what was crouching towards Bethlehem that Christmas night. The journey that Joseph made with his not-yet wife but knocked-up fiance Mary. The fears. The confusion. The uncertainty. The "you've got to be kidding me" kinds of concepts surrounding the birth of a once and future king.

And Phillips Brooks sums it all up for us all in one little hymn. The darkest and saddest of the Christmas songs. Not the trumpeting angels of "Joy to the World" and "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing." The anticipation and confusion of the holiday and impending birth of the savior are summed up so amazingly in this one little song.

Wow. What a sudden epiphany for me this late in life, to suddenly connect a statue of a man that I drive past on a green to the song that speaks most strongly to me during the Advent Season.

It brings me to tears. It rocks my world. That one little hymn, carol, Christmas song, means so much to me that I cannot explain why. And I am so glad to finally and quite accidentally learn about its author.

At this late point in the Advent Season... on this cold and snow, dark and quiet night, I ponder deeply the meaning of what is happening at this time of year. Preparing my own heart for the welcoming of the Christ Child, I ask you to look at your life, and consider what the hopes and fears of all the years are right now for you.

Are you afraid for you job?

Afraid of money problems? Losing your home?

Are you sad, do you feel deeply lonely and lost?

Yes. We all do. We really do. But there was, and I do believe this deeply, there was a young lady who had a baby and instead of having him in a hospital she had him in a stable. And on that dark and quiet night, that sad and lonely moment, the world changed.

Lives changed.

Your life changed.

And the hopes and fears of all the years were focused upon that one little city, that one little shed. And we all prepare for that moment this time of year.

Forget everything else. Just think about that hymn. This hymn. That song, this moment.

Happy Advent. May your heart begin to be filled. Make your heart meek. Receive.

Happy Advent indeed.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortlas sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth.

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav'n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem! descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I have the plague, and my PC does too

It's been a while since I've had a good bone rattlin' "-itis." This year I've maintained a good track record of being cold and flu and illness free. Aside from some minor allergies in the spring, I think a headache or two is all I've had to fell me.

So of course, the weekend before Christmas I come down with a massive cold that whips me like a rented mule and leaves me for dead by the side of the road.

It started on Tuesday afternoon, I felt it coming, grinding my throat and making it sore. Hot water and honey made it feel a little better but the water could just never be hot enough, no matter how hot I made it, and I started to fade fast.

On Thursday, I called out sick and after taking Geoff to school came home, fired up the DVR and watched "Red Eye" (which is actually quite funny) and slept the entire day. At about 4pm I realized that Geoff had a date with the boy scouts to go do laser tag, and I'd agreed to chaperone.

Oh yeah, that's great. I feel like someone should be putting me onto a cart and wheeling me out of town while hollering "Bring out your dead!" and I'm going to go herd cats at a laser tag facility.

Um, Doug? Can you meet me there and take over for me? Kthxbi.

Doug reluctantly did come and take my place, and I was grateful... I knew I couldn't bear to be there for too long.

As part of the trade off, I agreed to make a trip to the grocery store. Which, as you know turned into me having to fight the mongrel hoards pillaging for all the milk, bread and eggs they possibly could due to the encroaching category four killstorm that was expected to arrive on Friday. The grocery store was packed, I was in a cold sweat, but I made it out alive and was curled up on the couch with a box of tissues before the boys were home from laser tag.

At work yesterday we had our holiday party and they released us at 1pm because of the aforementioned category four killstorm. I ended up working until 2:30, wrapping something up that came in last minute, that I really could have used another hour or two with, and drove home in a daze.

Unlike the massive category four killstorm we had last year at about this time, neither Doug nor I got stuck in traffic, and it didn't take seven hours to get home. I was home in a little more than an hour, and curled up on the couch by the fire comfortably before I knew it. I went up to lay down at 6pm, and slept until 9:30 this morning.

I still don't feel right or good or better. It's all in my nose and throat and head, which is the worst place for it to be, until I cough and I sound like someone who would be rejected at Ellis Island if I were trying to enter the country as an immigrant. Hopefully this will wrap up quickly.

I've written here before that I am forever grateful to the dirtbags of the world who figured out how to melt down over the counter medicines and extract their properties to make speed, so now whenever I buy some cold medicine it is as effective and helpful as a kick in the teeth. Thanks, meth heads! you've made my life better! Jerks.

I have a lot to do. And by a lot I mean everything.

I stopped and bought a Christmas tree on the way home yesterday. Yes, yesterday. At one place I stopped I knew the woman running the place. She works for the company my office used to be located next door to. She had these horrible Charlie Brown christmas trees and wanted $25 for them. None of them were taller than four feet, and they were threadbare and sad. I felt bad walking away, but there was no way I was going to pay that for ... that.

Near our house there is a greenhouse, and I scored a very pretty little tree for $40, twenty bucks off the asking price. Doug said I paid too much, but after seeing the $25 Charlie Brown trees I think I got my money's worth. And I wanted to tell him to shove it because hell, I stopped and bought the damn thing. You're welcome.

To be honest I wouldn't do anything at all if Geoff weren't so gung ho into it.

I honestly couldn't be arsed to put up a tree this year. But the boy just wants that whole happy shiny tree thing. It's really hard to be in the spirit these days except for him... Sometimes that's a blessing, other times a burden.

I sat down here this morning and discovered that there is some sort of something happening virus-wise on the PC. Whenever I'm surfing the web all sorts of web browser windows will just start opening up randomly, with and and and all sorts of other websites on them... but the URL in the toolbar doesn't match the page it is bringing up. I guess my virus protection wasn't doing what it was supposed to be doing. Has anyone else had any experience with this?

I've scanned and rescanned and downloaded some extra scanning stuff, and it is still happening so it is bothering me greatly. For five hours today I've been running scans and it is still happening. And I just want to pitch the damn PC out the window into the snow.

Speaking of the snow, I have no idea how much we got, whether it is six inches or a foot. It's hard to tell. The fence top looks like two inches but I guess that's because the wind blew the snow off, and the yard looks plenty deep because Brodie is sure having a fun time running through the snow as it comes up to her middle. Doug went out and did the snow removal, I suppose I could ask him, but he's got a headache and is napping...

I think it is his turn with the -itis.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Satellite Ice

There is a state of emergency in Massachusetts this morning. And a state of emergency in our house. Overnight we had an ice storm. And our Satellite Dish is out of alignment so we're without DirecTv and our roof is covered with ice so Doug can't get up there to fix it. Oh noes!

It was raining yesterday afternoon and evening, but overnight the cold just froze everything up. A lot of people have no power, the kids have no school, and before you know it it'll be 50 degrees and it will be like this never happened. Except for the downed trees and powerlines that are still snaking along the ground.

I'm going into work late so Jess can sleep for a little while this morning. We didn't anticipate that it would be a day of school cancellation. Jess was supposed to have callbacks for the spring musical ("Bye, Bye, Birdie") so she's relieved that she doesn't have to go do that. I'm more than caught up with work right now, and plan on going in tomorrow to make up time from taking Wednesday afternoon off, so an extra hour tomorrow won't be a big deal.

All I have to say is thank God for the woodstove, coffee and beautiful Christmas Carols from "Sixpence None The Richer" this morning. It makes me feel nice inside.

On Wednesday we had a little windstorm blow through. Our satellite dish went out of alignment. In our last house, we never had this problem. Here, it happens once every couple of months. Doug's got the recovery method down to a science, which is good, but not when there is ice to deal with.

Fortunately, we've got a little TV up here by the computer that gets very basic cable (local channels and Comcast 8 and NECN). When I signed up for Comcast for the internet when we moved in here, it was 10 dollars LESS a month if we hooked up a TV. Which I thought was stupid but ... it's a good thing we have it so we can follow the news.

Living without the DirecTv is a drag though. How am I going to know how "Charm School" is going! I couldn't watch last night's football game. I'm not sure when Doug is going to be able to safely scale the roof. I'd rather have an uninjured husband than TV though, so I'm willing to wait.

It's kind of nice to have no TV though. The evenings at home have been relaxing, and aside from everyone trying to get a turn on the PC there have been no conflicts. I kind of like it. But I'm looking forward to Doug fixing this by Sunday so we can watch the football games and whatnot.

Tonight we have a Christmas carol sing-along at church. If you are anywhere near Newburyport, MA come to Old South Church at 7pm and join in. Come and go, be late or on time... there is no mandatory be there by time. It should be really nice. And if you're not familiar with the church, it is one of the oldest in Massachusetts, and Christmas in the sanctuary sure is pretty.

Last night (thank you no TV, which made it so that we had no distractions or excuses to be lazy) Geoff and I made cookies to bring to the event tonight (Jessica actually helped, which was nice). Geoff wanted to make some really cool cookies from a cookbook that we have but I don't have a candy thermometer or a food processor. All of the recipes were a little more complicated than the equipment I have on hand can handle, so we improvised.

We made traditional Toll House cookies with a twist ... we crushed candy canes up and mixed them in the dough. Some of the candy cane pieces were pulverized, others were chunky... I was afraid the candy cane pieces would burn, but Jessica taught me about processed sugar and how these wouldn't burn but melt. (I said "thank you Alton Brown" and she said "um, no. thank you physics.")

She was right -- they did melt and crystallize into an almost glassy substance. So there were pools of molten candy cane sugary goodness in the middles of the cookies! Some of it leached out onto the cookie sheet, which made getting them off the sheet fun.

When they cooled, they were minty and chocolatey and just really good. It was a good time.

So this morning we've got the ice storm, the state of emergency, I'm not looking forward to driving into work but I understand that just south of here in Danvers and Peabody it's just rain, no ice. So we're right on the line. Facebook updates from the high school kids up this way indicate a lot of them have no power, so I hope ours stays on.

Hopefully by where you are it is not a state of emergency, and if it is, you're hanging in. Have a good day.

Friday, December 05, 2008

All shall be well...

Hello friends... I have good news. Geoff managed to get through a whole week at school without me having to get a phone call from the office saying "Please come get your boy." And for that, I'm exceedingly thankful and proud of him.

geoff and nigelI haven't been writing a lot, or any, lately.

Geoff has had me under such immense stress that I can't hardly deal with day-to-day activities like doing laundry, cleaning myself, going to work. I've been a mess.

A bunch of you have dropped emails and comments and asked what gives, but hey. Sometimes I have to stick my head in the sand (or up my ass!) and hide.

Combine The Boy with money issues, some stress stuff at work which I have no control over and can't talk about here for all the good reasons, Doug's job search, I just have had the worst time for the past couple of months and it really started to get totally out of hand right before we went to Pittsburgh for the wedding.

I won't get into any of some of the stuff Geoff has done or said because I want to actually forget it, not put it down for posterity's sake. I want to forget things ever happened and just move on with my life.

So getting through a week without seeing the school's number on my cell phone, wow. That's amazing. And a relief.

Praise God for the little victories, right?

I will write about this. One of the things we had to do this week was something I didn't WANT to do and I've been fighting against since the beginning of the school year.

We put Geoff in a special education van transport instead of letting him ride the bus.

As many of you know, Geoff has a rough time on the bus. His own behavior, his inability to deal with the other kids' behavior, his misinterpretation of what is said to him, the noise, the unsupervised environment, the fact that the end of day is just a time where he's out of control and can't self-regulate... all these things have led to critical mass where he can't be on the bus in the afternoon. So the school made it clear to us it was time, and we had to comply.

Break down and comply.

Because we have not been able to get him to get it and do what is required of him.

There are a lot of pros and cons to this.


  • Geoff now has a much shorter bus commute of around four minutes instead of almost twenty.
  • There are a lot fewer people (bus driver, Geoff and 2 other boys)
  • There is music instead of rowdiness.
  • When he turns 12, he can actually ride in the front seat, which is pretty boss.
  • He gets dismissed 5 minutes before the rest of the class, so he avoids the abject chaos of dismissal time which seems to start him on a downward spiral into uncontrolled insanity.
  • He knows the bus driver. In fact, I had no idea she would be his driver until the day after he delivered Boy Scout Wreaths that she ordered from him to her house. I'm hoping that the connection they have will result in him being a little more respectful and understanding.


  • He's afraid that he'll be seen as a "retard." He thinks the other kids are going to laugh at him, and that he is socially ostracised from his peers. But in reality, the other kids don't really know unless he tells them. Which if he does, he'll have to deal with their reaction. Kids aren't as brutal as they were when I was 11. Most of them don't give a damn whether you ride a van home or you get a ride home with your mom. They just don't care.
  • He feels he is being punished and he wants a second chance. He feels that his behavior ON the bus has been great, which it has... but his behavior at the bus circle at release time is what got him into this situation.

There are a couple hundred kids out there, and Geoff running around like crazy and after 10 chances he just doesn't get it that he is going to be hurt or hurt someone else by his actions. He's not retarded. He is just immature, and right now his immaturity is going to result in injury.

So he feels he's being "punished" when really what is being put in place is a stop gap solution until he has the maturity to line up and act normal. Which will hopefully be next year at middle school.

He begged me not to do this to him. Begged for a "second chance." He said "Okay, I get it. I totally get it! I will behave at dismissal. I will behave in the bus circle. Please don't do this to me..." and he cried.

And he pushed me to crying, in front of the assistant principal.

I had to tell him that he had more than a second chance. He's had 50 chances... we can't give him a 51.

He accused me of doing this to "make life easier for the school teachers and administration." He's one smart cookie, isn't he.

Thing is, he is right. A lot of times schools refuse services or force people into things because, yeah... it's easier on the school and not really in the best interest of the child. But in this case -- it was and is in Geoff's best interest.

I think, whether he realizes it or not, this is the best for him and for others and ... for me.

I cannot afford private transportation. I don't have family who live in town who can swing by and go pick him up. I'm about 40 minutes away at dismissal time due to traffic, and I can't leave work every day at 2pm to go up and get him. I don't have the kind of job where I can work the rest of my 3 hours of work day at home. I wanted that, I never got it, and I'm never going to. That's the end of that. And unless I don't work there, which will of course result in us losing our house, there is no other option.

He wants to walk home from school... it's a doable option... but thing is it's winter almost and there is no way I'm going to have him walk a mile and a quarter in the cold. Maybe in the spring. Maybe then we'll set it up so he can walk home. I also don't want him walking alone. I want him walking with a buddy or two. So I'm going to check out a few people who live nearby who may be likeminded. Last year my friend Suzanne's son walked 2 miles to and from school with his best friend in the spring because they wanted more exercise. I think it's a great idea. Geoff thinks I think he's a little baby. I don't -- I just don't want him alone.

It isn't that I don't trust him, I don't trust the rest of the world.

So yeah. It's been a hell of a ride here since the end of football season. And I'm hoping things start to brighten.

If this week is any indication, I think it is.

In conclusion, I know this is probably flat out boring yawn fest to some of you. "That's what you get for being a breeder," right? Yeah. That's what I get. I know. I wanted kids. I love my kids. And whinging about them on the intertoobs is hardly entertaining. So apologies to those of you who come here for something insightful or interesting. Our regular programming will resume eventually.

It also may explain to some of you who feel I'm always there for you why I haven't been. Yes, your lives suck. Suck really bad. And yes, I'm usually the one who will hold your hand and tell you that it's going to be okay. I honestly believe it will. But if I've been distant, or unsupportive and you feel I've been kind of a bitch or cold, well... my perfect fucking life isn't exactly perfect. Is it. No. So be patient with me. It'll get better and soo enough I'll be there to listen a little harder, answer more emails, give that shoulder and possibly make you laugh. It's not about me not liking you or wanting to be with you. It is just about me needing to fix some things here. Please don't take it personally.

I'll leave you with this:

And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well...

That's a mantra I've stolen from Keri. And one I will be repeating to myself. Make it your ongoing prayer, apply it, and hang in there. Okay?

More later.