Monday, April 27, 2009

Easy V-Z

I had to drive Rosie down to her soccer game in Dover on Sunday, about an hour and a half from home. Fred set up my VZ Navigator on my phone prior to the trip for me (I hadn't used it before) so I could find my way more easily.

I faithfully followed her instructions on the way down, but I have to say I wasn't all that impressed. I thought Veezy (I say her name like Weezy) took me kind of a long way around. Plus she took me through Newark right in the middle of a March-of-Dimes Walk-a-Thon and I had to wait not once but twice for masses of people to cross the street. Not her fault, mind you, because how could she have known, but I'm just sayin'.

So on the way home I set her up to direct me back, but decided I might tweak things a bit and try a few tricks of my own. She was not pleased. Here is the playback:

VZ: Prepare to turn left in .... point .... 4 .... miles.
VZ: Turn left now.
Me (continuing straight)
VZ: ..... Recalculating route.
VZ: Prepare to turn right in ......point ..... two ..... miles.
Me (turning left)
VZ: ..... Recalculating route.
VZ: Prepare to exit in .... point ..... three ...... miles.
VZ: Exit now.
Me (continuing straight)
VZ (through clenched teeth): ......Recalculating route.

This went on for awhile, with me doing my own thing, and Veezy getting increasingly more irritated with me. I finally noticed that I wasn't getting any more verbal instructions and I looked down at the screen. It said: "You are off route. Would you like to start a new route?"

That's right. She had stopped speaking to me. Reckon I pissed her off. I guess it could have been worse, she could have gotten nasty with me. Prepare to go to hell ..... now.
Bottom line, I got home in way better time than she got me down to Dover.
Maybe I should get her some chocolate in case I need her to help me out again in the future. But I probably shouldn't hold my breath.

Holy Communion, Batman!

Daniel celebrated his First Holy Communion on Saturday 4/25. It was a beautiful day, and the event was attended by his godparents (Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary) as well as his Aunt Ronnie and Uncle Jamie, Aunt Donna and cousin Megan. Despite being nervous, Daniel did great. The church is still standing and not one head spun around the entire time.
Good job, Daniel!

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Mom. You're so old".

My kids so enjoy reminding me of my antiquity. Sometimes I feel even older than they think I am, but other times I feel like a spring chicken (OK, maybe a summer chicken). But am I indeed OLD?

I've decided to make up a short quiz to help me figure out if my kids are right about me. Feel free to take it yourself to see where you rate on the age-o-meter:

1) Do you believe the waistband of your pants should be worn at your waist?
2) Have you ever thought you needed a bikini wax to wear a pair of jeans purchased at the mall?
3) Have you ever had a conversation with your friends or spouse in which you discussed fiber, gums, or your colon?
4) Have you ever had a banana seat or thought of committing a felony to get one?
5) Are you old enough to be the parent of any of your kids' teachers?
6) Have you ever uttered any of the following phrases:

* "You'll poke your eye out"
* "Because I said so"
* "You'll catch your death"
* "Turn that down"
* "No, you cannot get that pierced"
* "Not till you're 30"

7) Do you still have some old cassette tapes lying around?
8) Are any of them Olivia Newton John?
9) Do you remember watching the following movies as an annual event:

* Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang
* The Wizard of Oz
* Rudolph
* seasonal Charlie Brown specials

10)For these movies, do you remember having popcorn that was made on the stove?
11)Did you ever watch the same movie 35 times in a week when HBO first came on the scene?
12)When playing Atari Pong, did you think things just couldn't get any better?
13)Was there a time in your life when "wings" was a hairstyle term and not a maxi-pad feature?
14)Do you know the words to the elevator music?
15)Have you ever purchased anything for a penny?

To calculate your score, add up the number of 'yes' responses. If
0: What are you doing reading this, it's past your bedtime.
1 - 5: You probably still hold your breath when driving past a cemetery.
6 - 10: You've probably priced plots in a cemetery. Stop dragging your feet and commit to buying one already.
11+: Time to outfit your plot with wireless and get comfy.

Oh my God. My kids are right.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Love Your Mother

Lucky for Mother Earth, she is very "in" right now. When I took my girls shopping the other day I noticed how popular she, and her good friend "Peace" were on t-shirts, sweatpants, the backs of short-shorts, and every accessory known to teen-kind. While I know this is not much more than a fashion trend, I can't help getting excited because I know that any press is good press. The more people are bombarded by images of Earth, nature, green, peace, the more we will benefit, both locally and globally.

In fact, all this buzz about going green has gotten me to examine my life to see if I could be doing things a little more eco-friendly. And you know what? I found that by tweaking a few small things here and there, I can make a difference. It's a minuscule difference, given that I'm one of about 6 billion people in the world, but it's a difference nonetheless. And if the 2.3 people who read this blog can also make a small change, well then I've done something here, haven't I?

With that in mind, here is a short list of simple things you can do to make this world a more habitable, sustainable, everyone-hold-hands-and-sing-kumbaya - able kinda place:

Do Something Drastic, Cut the Plastic
Buy yourself a bunch of those canvas bags and keep them in the trunk of your car. Whenever you go shopping use these in place of the plastic grocery bags for bagging your food. Keep one or two folded up in your purse for times when you run into a department store but forgot to bring your bags with you. I estimate that by using canvas instead of plastic, I will keep about 1000 plastic bags out of our landfills and oceans every year. If you want more info on how harmful plastic bags are to our world, check this out:

Just Say No To Disposable Plastic Water Bottles
About a year ago I decided I was throwing my money away buying plastic water bottles when I have water flowing like water from my kitchen tap. My hat is off to the guy that got the world to fall for that one. Not only is it a waste of money, but those bottles are a HUGE problem that won't go away. Remember all the trash that Wall-E had to clean up? That's what's coming if we keep piling water bottles in our landfills. Plus now they're saying the bottles have some kind of chemical that gives you some kind of cancer of some kind of organ, and who needs that? If you're thinking to yourself that you can't live without water bottles, go back in your mind to when you were a kid. What did you do when you got thirsty? Filled a glass at the tap? You can do that again, I promise. When I was a girl, I don't remember the streets being filled with people who dropped dead of dehydration. When we were thirsty, we got a glass of water, no big deal. For times when we're out at a sports activity or we're taking a roadtrip, I have bought water bottles from Wal-Mart that are dishwasher safe. That's right, they can be used more than once! You think your kids need to drink the bottles of vitamin water you buy them? Here's a thought, give them a vitamin and a glass of water. NO MORE PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES!

Buy Fresh, Buy Local
By buying food that is in season and produced locally, not only do we support local farmers, but we cut back on how much food is transported by diesel-fed behemoths across the country. So wait till spring to eat your asparagus, and then buy it from a farmer's market or look for a "locally grown" section in your produce aisle. No need to be eating fresh asparagus in January that's been imported from Chile.

Reduce the amount of stuff you buy and clutter up your home with, because eventually you'll get tired of looking at it and want to throw it away (I'm talking about impulse purchases, not spouses).
Before you throw it away, ask yourself if it can be "repurposed". Ricotta cheese and Cool-Whip containers make great Tupperware. Old school worksheets can be cut into quarters and used as scratch paper for taking phone messages. Pause before you pitch and see if you can get creative.
Recycling. Just do it. Don't doom your cardboard, paper, glass and plastic to a life in the landfill. Give them new life by tossing them in your recycle bins. Who knows what they'll be reincarnated into?
Stop the Stuff
Remember when I said you eventually get tired of looking at the stuff you buy and it ends up in the trash? Wow. You were paying attention.
That's the problem with 'stuff'. We all have way too much of it and it ends up in a landfill because it's too small, too old, too last-year, too boring or broken. So first, stop buying so much crap for yourself, your house, your kids, because you just don't need it. Second, come gift-giving time, instead of buying stuff to give someone, consider some alternatives:
*A donation in their name to a charity like Heifer International, Habitat for Humanity, Nothing But Nets, etc. There are a million good causes out there in desperate need of funds and there are countless gifts we have to give throughout the year. So let's kill two birds with one stone here.
*A gift of something to do out in the wide world such as gift cards to the movies or miniature golf, a family membership to a zoo or museum, a pottery class or pony rides.

Get up. Get out the door. Live life. Discover our world.

It's a good place.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Chaperone

Between the French toast for breakfast and the peanut butter sandwiches for school lunches, I was working through my 2nd loaf of bread by 6:30 in the morning. My mind was busy dealing with society-fed mental stress: too many carbs for my kids. Plus, what kind of fat is in the peanut butter? Is it that bad kind everyone's talking about -- tranny? No, transparent? No, trans fat. Does peanut butter have trans-fat? Since the kids eat it with gusto, I'm guessing it's loaded with the stuff.

Bella broke my reverie by popping up beside me to remind me I'm chaperoning her field trip today. I told her, "Darlin, I keep telling you. I said I could chaperone, but I never heard from Miss R that I was selected and I never sent any money, so she must have picked a different Mom."
"But Mom", cried Bella, "she said I'm in your group."

Hold the phone. I have a GROUP? That doesn't sound like wishful thinkin, that sounds real.

A momentary surge of adrenaline jerked my head up and I assessed my reflection in the mirror before me. I was clad top to tail in my blue pajamas. The ones with the feathers all over them. Think chicken in distress. I was wearing my fuzzy brown slippers that go ksh, ksh, ksh on the floor. My uncombed hair was sprouting from a ponytail on the top of my head that resembled a Venus Fly-Trap. My unwashed face was still puffy with sleep and a schmear of peanut butter on my chin completed the look.

My mental stress took a giant leap from carbs and trans fats to how'm I gonna pull this off? I remembered my Lamaze from years gone by and decided breathing might be a good thing. After I did that for a while I moved into action. Finished getting the kids ready for school and onto the bus. Dashed off an e-mail to Miss R to verify if I was, indeed, supposed to chaperone.

I was, indeed.

I looked in my checkbook and told her I had paid for Julie and Bella but not for myself. She informed me I had paid in cash. I'm not remembering any of this.

But I showered and dressed and made myself as presentable as was possible and hurried off to school. The buses were pulling out of the parking lot when I arrived and so I fell into line behind them. I followed them down the highway to our destination, all the while frantically calling everyone I know so I can still pull off my afternoon appointment for Daniel out in Wilmington.

By the time I arrived at Longwood Gardens I can proudly say I had caused no traffic accidents by dialing and driving, but neither had I resolved my afternoon dilemma. I rushed over to Miss R to apologize for my screw-up, but as we got to talking we pieced together the puzzle. Turns out Bella, in the hopes of "surprising me", had paid my chaperone fees with her own money and then kept the confirmation paper from me. Bless her soul, I didn't know whether to strangle her or hug her.

Then with my Mommy Vision, I saw behind me Bella's best friend's Mom, who was also chaperoning. Without a shred of dignity I threw myself at the woman's feet and begged her to take my girls home with her after the field trip. She agreed, then peeled me off her legs to go round up her kids.

OK, so now the day was starting to look up. I gathered up the kids assigned to me, then met with the two other chaperones in my group. Both women were blondes with highlights and fashionable boots. Two Barbies and an "It's OK To Be Me Doll". Of the 14 fourth graders in our group, six of them were in my care. There are 350 acres at Longwood, but because it was a nasty cold drizzly day we spent most of our six hours inside. The guides were wonderful. But holy goat berries, they were trying to teach the kids how to read a map and how to measure. We actually measured the same bench 17 times. I'm not lying to you, 17 times. The kids' eyes all had that same glazed-over look you've likely noticed in road-kill.

We finally reached the end of the structured lessons and it was "free-time". Though the kids were all begging to run off to the treehouses, we decided it would be best to let the kids play in the indoor children's garden in the hopes of keeping them dry. Five minutes later more than 100 nine and ten year olds were soaking wet from playing in all the "please touch" water fountains. Brilliant idea, those fountains. So we threw our hands up in surrender and took them out to the treehouses, trudging through the mucky mulch and cold drizzle. As all the parents stood trembling in the rain, the kids climbed over the treehouses like termites. A couple children came to me to report one of the boys had peed over the railing. "No habla ingles" I replied.

The announcement came that it was time to load the kids on the bus, thank sweet baby Jesus. I said goodbye to my girls, then drove the 20 miles home in about 10 minutes. Picked up Daniel (and Rosie too, 'cuz she wanted to come along), then drove back out past Longwood again and on out to Wilmington. After Daniel's appointment we drove back, stopping to pick up first fast food for dinner, then the girls from their friend's house. Got home, threw burgers at everyone and told Bella to grab her skate bag and jump back in the car to get out to her ice skating lesson. Sat in the cold. Again. Got home about 9pm and got Bella tucked in, did some laundry, then headed down to have some quality time with Fred. Quality time, of course, meaning we both stared blankly at the TV for about an hour and then crawled into bed.

I'm sure I'll be called on again in the future to be a chaperone. Today's guidelines are stricter than ever, requiring child abuse clearances, criminal record clearances, and fingerprints run and approved by the FBI. I think the next step planned in the process is retinal scans and DNA analysis. Those of us who hand all that into the school are the few, the proud. The stupid.

I just hope that the next time I'm scheduled to chaperone, I will know about it more than 30 minutes in advance.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Bunny Day

First comes decorating the Easter baskets ....

Next comes dying the eggs....

Looks like the Easter Bunny exploded. This is what Easter baskets for 10 looks like.

Happy Easter, Julie!

The hunt is on ....

So kids, let Mommy explain to you all about Easter. Jesus died on the cross for your sins.
Well, no, I know you weren't around back then, not your sins specifically. But He just did.
Then He rose from the dead.
No, not like a zombie.
He just did.
We decorate Easter baskets and dye eggs real pretty to symbolize springtime and new life.
Yes, I know Jesus was born on Christmas, but we celebrate new life at Easter. After He died.
We just do.
We eat chocolate eggs because .....
Well I don't know why exactly, but aren't they yummy? Don't touch that, you've got chocolate all over your hands.
OK, now let's all go outside and find the candy-filled Easter eggs that the Easter Bunny hid in the yard. Hmmmm? He's a giant bunny that brings candy to good boys and girls. No, honey, don't look afraid, he's a good giant bunny. No, he didn't rise from the dead. No, he's not related to Jesus.
Here, have some more chocolate and let Mommy go lie down for a little while.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

3 Months Down, A Lifetime To Go .....

Today marks the day that James and Julie have been home with us three months.

Jan 9th: picked up two Russian-speaking children from the airport. One had recently finished getting sick on the airplane but was all smiles and bounce. The other wore a reserved smile.

April 9th: Two English-speaking children with thick Russian accents run around my house alongside their brothers and sisters and a few friends that are over. They are both all smiles and laughter. They pitch in with chores as well as complain about them. They laugh and play, but they also squabble. James will eat anything but Julie's a bit picky. They're as different as night and day, but they're more alike that they would ever admit. They have cracked the shell enough that I have an inkling of the trauma they've experienced in their lives, but the time has not yet come for them to crack it wide open and cry on my shoulder about it. When they're ready, I'll be here for them. I'll be here the rest of my life ....

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Little Culture Never Hurt No One ....

Took the kids to the Brandywine River Art Museum. Got to show them a lot of Wyeth works and explain to the kids how the Wyeths are from this area and much of their subject matter is stuff they see when driving down the road. Saw paintings of the Brandywine Battlefield of the Revolutionary War, which took place a stone's throw from the museum.

One would think that kids that are a product of this generation, kids who have grown up with eyes glued to a glowing screen of one kind or another would have no interest in looking at paintings of hayfields and barns. But not only were they pretty well behaved, but I actually heard the occasional oooh and ahhh from them.

No matter, the security guard took one look at my crew walking in the door and we had our own personal escort tailing us throughout our tour of the museum. I think he actually looked a little disappointed when my kids didn't break anything. We gave this kindly octagenarian no excuse to throw us out on our kiesters.

Maybe next time ....

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Skating Her Way to First Place

Bella was in her first skating show on Saturday and she had a blast! Julie, myself, and Bella's friend Anastasia was there to cheer her on. She had never done anything like this before and was nervous, but she did great, taking 1st place in one event and 4th in a pairs event.

She really is a thing of beauty and grace to watch on the ice, so I'm really happy that she was able to do well in spite of the nerves.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

From Detsky Dom in Ust-K to My House in Oxford, PA

It's kinda giving me goosebumps, but the 4 kids in the picture above all lived together in the Detsky Dom (Children's House) in Ust-Kamenogorsk Kazakhstan years ago. And here they are standing in my kitchen. The blonde girl is Bella's friend Anastasia. They were friends at the Detsky Dom and were adopted about 2 mths apart and now live about an hour and a half away from each other.

Isn't it a weird, strange universe?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wedding Bliss

The big day finally arrived; the first of our four weddings this year. It was my baby sister's big day and it all went off without a hitch, both on her end and ours. She looked gorgeous. Her new husband was beaming and handsome. My kids cleaned up pretty well, too and behaved themselves perfectly.

I was a proud Mama, a proud sister.

We all had a blast at the reception and the kids danced the night away. James and Julie made two new friends. The minister that performed the ceremony is a good friend of my sister's, and she and her husband live in LA and work in movie production. J and J were entranced by them and it seemed the feeling was mutual.

Of course, more than a week later I still haven't finished unpacking. Probably no sooner will I get it all put away then I'll have to get it all out again for the next one.


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