Thursday, December 29, 2005
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Not really!! We had a very nice Christmas ... now we just need to wade through all the detritus and find the floor. The kids had all their Christmas wishes come true, and we had a nice family time together. Mom and I hit the sales yesterday. I was going to take something back at Target, but didn't think I wanted to stand in line for an hour.
Anyway ... that's the short report; the long report will follow.
Here's a picture of little me at the aforementioned lifeboat drill. I didn't know we had picture of my terror!!
Happy New Year!
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Back home from the Big City ... and having major post-New York-blues. I don't know what it is about that place; I always feel happy when I'm there. Whether I'm strolling down a street past eclectic shops, or checking out the extravagant street decorations, there is just something about New York City that lifts my spirits. Part of it is because everyone is accepted there; normal, abnormal, grunge, punk, rich old lady with a full-length fur coat being pushed in a wheelchair by a nurse; faces of every color and eye shape and dress, be it Orthodox Jew or Arab woman in a burka ... it's just such a melting pot, and that kind of confluence of the world just makes me happy. The pulse of the city is just so enlivening ... okay, enough already.
We had an absolute bash ... we danced, we ate, we laughed, we cried. We shopped. Oh my goodness, there's nothing left in the city and my kids are having a VERY nice Christmas this year. My mom wanted something from Barney's of New York ... well, she's going to get a really nice shopping bag, because I couldn't afford anything there! Yikes. And between you and me, the place is a dump. An expensive dump. Dunno what the big deal is.
What I really want Santa to bring me is that Coach vest ... black, and trimmed with rabbit fur, the softest thing I have ever put my hands on. Ever. It was only $998.00! I'm feeling it as I'm listening to the prima donna on her cell phone yelling at the dry cleaners or something, "I really need that ski jacket! And when will my mink be ready?" Sheesh-a-roni. What a different planet.
We pressed our noses to the window of the "Today" Show set ... swam through the mobs of people around the three at Rockefeller Plaza. Went to Burberry's where we contemplated buying $125.00 earmuffs (just for a nanosecond) and noted that there is a Starbucks on every freakin' corner of the entire city!
Anyway ... countdown to Christmas. Mom and Dad will arrive tomorrow and I need to get some serious wrapping done. Move the kids out of the basement so Mom & Dad can have a little apartment to themselves. Schools' out, let the vegetating begin!!
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Still neaux sneaux, but last night a system blew through Charlotte bringing freezing rain and ice. Unfortunately, Colin still had school, though David decided to work from home, and drove him to school. The other kids were on a 2 hour delay, but right as we were getting ready to leave, we got a phone call that school was cancelled due to the power being out. Yippee! We went and got haircuts and did a little shopping, then the spent the afternoon at Natalia's house. Meanwhile, I puttered about in the freezing rain for a few Christmas gifts, and made a huge delivery to MailBoxes, Etc. with gifts for the out-of-town relatives. Boudreaux is such a sissy dog; he won't go out when it's cold and rainy.
Off to New York tomorrow evening for a weekend with girlfriends. Unfortunately there are rumors of a transit strike, so we may be limited as to what we can do. No sweat ... even if we just hang out in our jammies, it will be fun. We're thinking about hiring a limo to schlep us around in Manhattan, sounds like fun to me. I still need stocking stuffers and whatnot, so perhaps I can finish that there.
I had two parties this week ... one at a friend's house, and one HERE. It was nice to have my lunch ladies over for our Christmas brunch ... got the house all fixed up nice and all that. The party the night before went on until 12:30, so I was running on 4 hours of sleep ... but managed to get some rest in the afternoon.
Friday, December 9, 2005
Poor kids ... we live in that "in between" geographic area which is the cut-off between the snow and the "no snow". Either that or it will snow to the south or north of us, but we won't get any. We're in a weird "bowl" that is protected by the mountains to the west, so the severe weather goes over or around us. Which can be a good thing, but when a bunch of little kids are praying for snow, they are often sorely disappointed. So, here we are, a rainy Friday morning, and the temperature is around 34 ... cold, but too warm to snow. Pretty gloomy and soggy if you ask me. Pottery Barn is making another attempt to deliver me a couch this morning ... news at 11.
Yesterday was Melanie's little preschool Christmas program. I of course did the crazy parent thing: kneeling on the floor to get a good picture of her ... took a small mpg of them singing and ran out of space on my memory card! She was scanning the audience for me, and once she saw me, she yelled, at the top of her lungs, "HI MOM! HI MOM!" over and over, and everyone was laughing. It was too sweet. They sang a song about bells, and had these little bell shaker things. When the song was over, they were supposed to put them on the floor. Melanie put hers down, then told everyone around her to put theirs down. Can you say "bossy"?
Right before the show, as I was driving to the church, I came across a terrible accident ... there was a fatality, and it was very sad to think about a family with such a loss so close to the holidays. I was 12 years old when my older sister, Lisa, was killed in a car accident around Thanksgiving ... it was a long, horrible road to normalcy for my family, and I always grieve for anyone who loses a loved one, at any time, of course, but especially during the holidays.
Last night we were at Hopewell High School for the Foreign Language festival. Colin has been studying Japanese for the last two years, and they had lots of sushi and other Japanese foods ... and they sang Christmas carols in Japanese. "Jing-u ber-oos" was a favorite! Of course Christmas isn't a big holiday there, being a Shinto and Buddhist country, but they have imported all of the secular Christmas icons, like Santa and such. As a child in Japan, I remember going to these big glitzy banquets with colleagues of my dad's, on Christmas Eve. It was more like New Years' Eve, with confetti and noisemakers and silly hats, and a cheesy orchestra. It was torture for us, of course, because it went on pretty late in the evening, and Santa couldn't come until we were home and in bed. It was fun, yeah, but a little nerve wracking!
Right before we had moved to Japan, our dachsund, Punch, was hit by a police car, and we were all pretty torn up about it. So one Christmas morning in Tokyo, a nice Japanese man delivered a little dachsund with a red bow on his collar! We named him Oscar. A year or so later, when we were transferred back to the States, Oscar came down with distemper, and we spent thousands of dollars on vet bills. He recovered nicely, only to be run over by a truck near our house in Connecticut. Sheesh. That was our last dachsund; we figured our luck had run out. Later on we had two schnauzers that actually lived to old age, something I thought dogs never did; they just all got mowed down.
Tuesday, December 6, 2005
Monday, December 5, 2005
I think our tree is cursed. First a stowaway grasshopper, then TIMBER ... it fell over. Saturday morning ... we're all sitting around in our jammies doing what people usually do on Saturday mornings. All of a sudden, it just toppled over. Bam ... crash ... tinkle! No one was near it, so it was completely spontaneous. Luckily, not too many ornaments were broken ... no important ones, anyway. Except one of my "Twelve Days of Christmas" ornaments that my mother-in-law gives me every year (I think we're up to 10 Lords-a-Leaping). The six geese-a-laying are broken, but I think with a little superglue they'll be good as new. Of course all the water from the basin spewed all over the floor, so we had a really nice time cleaning it up.
Quentin had gone to Saturday School (aka detenion) for not turning in his progress report on time. Seems a little harsh, but dem's the rules. They had to sit there for 2 hours doing nothing. The philosophy is you waste our time, we waste your time. Seems fair.
The fence is not finished yet. The fence guy showed up on Sunday and explained that his Mother-in-law was very ill and they were headed to Florida. He did finish the fence part, but there are no gates or chicken wire. Ugh ...
It's cold and rainy today, and Melanie's speech was cancelled. We're hunkered down ...
Friday, December 2, 2005
Okay, DO fence in my back yard. Please. The fence guys are here right now, getting some post holes dug. Boudreaux is going to be one happy dog; and his parents are going to be happy people. Every night we get ready for bed, and one of us slaps our foreheads and remembers that we have to take the dog for a walk. These frosty evenings have made the chore even more of a pain. Of course, the exercise isn't hurting us any. Usually I walk the kids to the bus stop in the mornings and then take off with Boudreaux for a nice brisk walk. I know I'll get lazy and throw him out in the yard once the fence is built. And seeing as my cholesterol report just came in yesterday I really need to keep up the exercising.
I just found Melanie with a box of fudge-covered Oreos that she had snuck upstairs and had for breakfast. Well there were 5 left. Sneaky little thing.
When I was five years old my dad was transferred to Tokyo, Japan (is there another Tokyo somewhere? That's like saying "Milwaukee Wisconsin") to open an office there. My mom has always had a fear of flying; she usually started out flights with a glass of Scotch and two Valiums. On our first trip to Japan, my dad noticed that the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese in Louisiana (where we had lived) was on the plane! Mom was relieved somewhat, (thinking maybe that the Bishop's presence would protect us?) but flying was still difficult for her. (Ironically several years later, this same Bishop was killed in a plane crash in New York). Mom took it on herself to try and find alternative ways of getting across the Pacific. She found out that some cargo ships will take a few passengers. After our first summer home leave in the States, we left from San Francisco on the MM Dant. The crossing took about 8 days, and believe me it was no Carnival Cruise. There were two families on the whole ship, and there was no floor show or cruise director. It was booo-ring. The other family had children, too, and so we kids would put on plays for the adults (Rumpelstiltskin was one, I remember coloring 1000 sheets of paper yellow for the "gold") We would always eat dinner with the captain. But the most frightening thing of all for me was the lifeboat drills. There we were in the middle of the largest body of water on earth, which is the deepest, darkest color of blue you've ever seen. The ship's horn would be blasting, and we would all have to put on our lifejackets and stand next to the railing, where they would let the lifeboats down almost to the water (all this while we're moving along at 10,000 knots per hour, or however you describe speed in ship lingo). I was scared to death that we were actually sinking -- I missed the memo about it only being a drill. Hey, I was only 6 years old! All I could think of was how dark that water was, and that there wasn't a body of land within 1000 miles of us. Talk about fear!
We made several crossings in the three years we lived in Japan, mostly on the Presidents Line, where each ship was named after a President (go figure). One was the McKinley, but I can't remember the others. Once mom and I did it alone, while my two sisters got to fly home alone - that was a big deal. It was so boring that to this day, I know about 1000 ways to play solitaire, because that's about all there was to do. On one ship there was a huge world map on the wall, and mom would send me off to find the capital of country after country (probably to keep me out of her hair). This is why I always did pretty well in geography, I think.
But for some reason I have always been afraid of the ocean. Probably because of those blasted lifeboat drills, and the day after interminable day of being on those ships. It wasn't all bad, though, it was a unique experience, for sure ... I remember the humming of the ship's engine that would put me to sleep at night, and the excitement of going to bed at sea and waking up the next morning in port. The way the steward went around banging on a little xylophone to announce that dinner was ready. Learning about ships in general. One interesting thing my dad told me about was that they put these round metal "discs" on the ropes that tie the ship to the pier. That is to keep the rats off the ship that climb up the ropes onto the ships. (I'm sure you could have gone another day without knowing that!) The way the ship would rock from side to side in heavy weather and scare the dickens out of me. One time Dad saw mom and me off at Yokohama, and we waved to him as the ship pulled away. I remember throwing an apple over the railing to him, as he was hungry and had a long drive back home. I saw flying fish around the prow of the boat, and porpoises would follow us, prancing and jumping around the boat.
But to this day, I have never been comfortable at the beach or even at a lake. I am a pretty good swimmer, but give me a nice swimming pool any day. Poor David missed the memo and took me to Hawaii on our honeymoon. I tried to put on a good face, and really did enjoy hiking through the mountains overlooking Hanalei Bay, but he didn't see me putting my toes in the ocean too much.
I don't mind ships ... we went on a cruise several years ago with the kids and there was no fear ... but I get chills just thinking about being IN the water.
Thursday, December 1, 2005
For the first time, we have a two-story living room in this house. So, I sent David out last night with the kids to get a Christmas tree. He wanted "tall and skinny" ... with the emphasis on TALL. Man, I need a cherry picker to decorate this thing! It's huge! I think it's about 15 feet tall. It's Christian's turn to put the star on top, but I think he may have to take his life into his hands to do it. I think I'm going to leave the higher branches to David, due to my life-long fear of heights. (And the ocean ... but that's a story for another day).
Last night we were watching TV, kicked back and looking at the new (as yet undecorated) tree. I swear I saw something "jump" out of the tree out of the corner of my eye, but didn't see anything on the floor. I had visions of a bug-infested tree in my living room, which gave rise to another phobia in my life, bugs*. Later on we heard Boudreaux scratching around in the corner, and he knocked a porcelain bowl off a shelf. Upon investigation, we found a HUGE grasshopper who had stowed away on the tree. I hope that he came alone!
*Scary bug story: when we lived in the Philippines (all four years of high school for me), we got used to cockroaches the size of small chihuahuas. (Okay, I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea). In high school I took English horse-back riding lessons for a while ... yes, complete with jodphurs and boots and fancy-ass helmet. (Can I say "ass" on this blog?) The boots were very tight, and had to be put on with "pullers" these hook-like things that you attached to loops inside the boots, with wooden handles that you then pulled with all your might to get the boot on. Needless to say, you could NOT take the things off without help from a second person. Well, one day I was getting ready for my lesson, and pulled my boots on. I suddenly felt a little "flutter" in the inside bottom of one of the boots. All the blood rushed out of my head as I realized that there was a giganto cockroach in very close quarters with my foot. Of course, my mom was on the other side of the (very large) house, but I'm sure she and half the population of Manila heard my blood curdling scream. I came hopping out of my room hollering like I was being eaten alive, and it was only after some heavy tugging that my mom got the boot off and shook out the perpetrator. The thing was the granddaddy of all roaches. (Maybe it has grown in my imagination over the years, but still!) Ever since then, I have scrupulously inspected all footwear before putting it on. UGH, I get sick every time I think of it. Stay tuned ... I'll tell you the reason I have a phobia of the ocean in my next blog!
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Finally .. a good photo of my kitchen.
The deer were back yesterday, and brought all their relatives who were in town visiting for Thanksgiving. I was taking Boudreaux out and a whole passel of them ran away into the woods.
On the health front, my back is much better, if only the cold would take a hike, everything would be peachy. David has been a prince and a half taking care of me the last few days; he's a keeper. (And they said it wouldn't last!)
Friday, November 25, 2005
Okay, here's the story: David's dad (Granddaddy) had an episode with his heart last week. They did a heart cath. on Monday and found significant blockage where they put in a stent about 7 years ago, when he had a major MI. They went in on Wednesday with another cath to see if they could clear the blockage that way, but they could not. Surgery is not an option ... he's too frail. Now they have him on medication to see if they can get the heart to compensate for the blockage by "growing" extra vessels around the blockage. They have been trying to get him out of the Cardiac Unit, but when they pulled his IV's out, he started having pain again. Right now things are up in the air ... other than plans to use some kind of therapy where the blood is forced up into his heart to see if that will spur the heart into growing the new vessels, along with the medication.
David left with Colin (who has a special bond with Granddaddy) on Tuesday, driving to Jackson. On Wednesday, all but a plague of locusts hit my house. Somehow, while taking the trash bag out of the can, I felt something go "Splersh" in my back. Not a pop, but an ooze of pain that started in my back and radiated out on both sides. At the same time I felt a cold coming on, with sore throat and other accompaniments thereto. The pain in my back got worse as the night wore on, and woke me up every time I rolled over. By the time I woke up Thursday morning I was in agony and barely able to walk. This is where the new hardwood floors came in handy ... I could sit and push/slide myself around on the floor!
Now, I am NOT one to rush to the ER every time I feel a twinge, but pain that is so bad that I am in tears, crying out, and scaring the poop out of my kids, makes me go to the ER. I managed to drive myself there, (it's just around the block) and hobble into the lobby. I said, "Is this the right place to be if I'm in PAIN?" and proceeded to blubber like a little baby. Apparently a stupid little move that ordinarily would go unnoticed can often cause ligaments to be pulled along the spine. See if I ever empty the trash again!
Armed with Valium and Hydrocodone, I headed home and to bed with an ice bag. I lay on my bed of pain (in the back and in the head) thinking about ordering pizza for Thanksgiving dinner ... but I couldn't stand the thought of my kids having no Thanksgiving. Quentin helped me put the turkey (already prepared the night before) into the oven, and leaning against a stool I was able to make all the fixin's ... smashed 'taters, sweet 'taters, cornbread dressin', green beans, and rolls. Oh and cranberry sauce out of the can .. gotta love it. We all looked so pitiful sitting around the table ... our small little group.
I wasn't feeling too sorry for myself ... okay, I'm lying; yes I was, I was miserable. Sometimes Life really sucks. My mom tells the story of the Christmas when my dad was in a hospital in Dallas, recovering from surgery, and she was home alone (in Louisiana) with three little kids. Someone called her from Dad's hospital room and a bunch of his co-workers were having a big old party up there, whooping & hollering. She said she had never felt so low in her life ... so lots of sympathy from there!
I know that there are so many people out there who have it so much worse than I. I have so much to be thankful for ... honest. But I guess I wouldn't be human if I didn't have just a little pity party!! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Saturday, November 19, 2005
I'm watching David and the irrigation man out the front window as I type. Our yard has been feeling really spongy, and we thought perhaps we had a leak in the in-ground irrigation system. Well, we DO have a leak, which would explain the small swampy, muddy pond-like area in the yard where the shut-off valve is, but the rest of the yard is invaded by some kind of critters which are eating grubs from the yard. Grubs which, if not eaten, will eventually be Japanese beetles. Hm .. learn something new every day! Not to worry, though, apparently if we treat for grubs in the spring, we eliminate the critters' food supply, and off they go to a different buffet.
We ordered a beautiful couch from Pottery Barn about a month ago, a sectional which is to die for ... you just sink into it. I was so excited about it, and they finally called to say it would be delivered on Tuesday. I was just thrilled, since our living room has been pretty bare since we moved in. The men unloaded it from the truck, brought it in the house .. and it's the WRONG CONFIGURATION. With our living room, the "L" has to co from right to left, and they sent a left to right. This after I made the saleslady check and double check that she was ordering the right configuration. I was beyond bummed. I called customer service, and the poor girl who took my call got an earful. Since the couches are made-to-order, it will be another FIVE WEEKS before I get the new one. UGHGHGHGH!!!!!
I have rarely been driven to write letters to Presidents of companies, but I sat right down and banged one out to the President of Pottery Barn Brands (isn't the internet a great thing?? Search for the annual report, and voila! The name and address of Madame President. I marched right down to Mail Boxes, Etc. and sent it certified mail!!! Stay tuned ... I wonder if anything will happen.
I almost did write a letter to the President of Northworst ... er ... Northwest Airlines when I got thrown off a plane in Detroit (en route from Minneapolis to Charlotte) and had to sleep -- literally --on the floor of the airport. I was there for 12 hours with no blanket or food vouchers. They offered me a hotel room in the seediest, grungiest hotel I have ever seen in west podunk Detroit, but they couldn't get me back to the airport in time for my flight. Gee, that's good old American efficiency for ya!! But I was so glad to get home, I never followed up. <sigh> Think it would have been spitting into the wind anyway.
The floral wallpaper in the kitchen is gone, gone, gone! Hallelujah. A local couple that we know, who also adopted through World Partners Adoption, have a painting business here. Their master painter, Henry, did a fantastic job and I'm sooo pleased. It's a very pale yellow, which I think complements the cobalt blue & white backsplash. I have been on a "blue & white" search and found some really pretty accent pieces. My mom accuses me of being stuck on blue ... whenever I shop and pick out something blue, she'll fuss at me ... I guess I am a creature of habit.
I've been cooking for a friend who is recovering from surgery, and the kitchen is a disaster area, but I'll try and shoot a pic soon.
Wednesday, November 9, 2005
Friday, November 4, 2005
Colin had a miserable day yesterday. Towards later in the afternoon he had an "exorcist moment" (his words) which I will not describe in detail. Suffice it to say it was pretty traumatic for everyone involved. At the time that it happened, I had put my iron skillet on the stove to dry after washing. I was urgently summoned downstairs, forgetting about the skillet. After spending a lot of time in the basement with my mop and Lysol, I started to smell something "not right". You guessed, it ... the skillet! It was glowing red and smoking quite a bit. Yikes! I thought some ice would cool it down pretty quickly, but I ended up with a sputtering mess.
At 7:30 Quentin announces that he needs a book by Ray Bradbury for school tomorrow. Now I have quite a collection of books ... (imagine the fun we had moving all of them!) and have just about every author imaginable ... except Ray Bradbury. I have a vague memory of taking a Science Fiction class in high school and of reading Fahrenheit 451, but of course don't have a copy. So off we went for an emergency Barnes & Noble run.
Needless to say I was running ragged last night and simply could not wait to lay my head on my pillow. I set up the baby monitor in Colin's room in case he needed me in the night, but he slept straight through. However, Christian was somewhat upset by Colin's, er, illness, that he was crying and ended up sleeping wtih me. I woke up several times with a head on my ribs. This morning Colin is downstairs playing on the computer, so I think he's definitely on the mend. I'd say he's had a pretty easy time of it. He has some swelling on the side with the ankylosed tooth, but is overall doing okay.
Dad home tonight ...
Thursday, November 3, 2005
Colin had four wisdom teeth and an ankylosed molar extracted this morning. It was so hard to see my tall, almost-grown son staggering around in his loopy stage after the anesthesia. When we got home I had to halfway carry him up the stairs. I went to get his pain meds (percoset!) and when I got home he was just in agony. He was crying, I was crying. I called the office and cried some more. Gave him a pill, but it took a full 30 -45 minutes to kick in. He finally slept, and I dozed on the couch beside his bed. Melanie went to school after his procedure, and I just picked her up. She fell asleep in the car on the way home, so she's out for a while. The house is quiet ...
After a 4 hour nap, Colin woke up and had a Wendy's Frosty, and seems more "together". I gave him another percoset, and wrapped his face up in a towel filled with frozen peas, and he's off in dreamland again.
Last night the funniest thing happened. You'll probably think I'm obsessed with deer, but this one was totally not my doing. We were on the way to Blockbuster to pick up some movies (David is in Maine). I jokingly suggested that we rent "The Sound of Music" but Quentin explained that the puppet scene freaks him out with all the googly-eyed marionettes, etc. At that very moment, a DEER jumped out of the trees and in front of my car. I had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting him, and the kids all screamed. I think I said a bad word. Anyway ... he ran around in a circle for a minute, then off into the woods across the street. Quentin laughed and said, "DOH!" like Homer Simpson, and I said, "A DEER!" and he said, "A FEMALE DEER!" It was just so ironic that I had just been talking about The Sound of Music. Weird. I feel like I'm living in a deer time warp or something ...
Tuesday, November 1, 2005
The deer were back yesterday morning. Well, two of them anyway. I've decided they are a nuclear family of mom and two kids. Mom apparently was sleeping in ... you see, these things happen in nature as well! I've named the two babies "Yes" and "Frankly My" ... think about it!
Last night, of course was Halloween. We went to our old neighborhood to trick-or-treat. Our neighbors over there were so much fun. Too bad we couldn't just pick this house up and plop it on our old street. There were scads and scads of people, so it was like a big block party. It was very strange to knock on the door of our old house and see some new furniture in it! I'm sure once we get settled we'll start meeting the new neighbors and fitting right in.
Hard to believe that it was exactly one year ago that we flew home with Miss Melanie. She has come so far ... now has long hair, no more Baby House Chop haircut. She was right in the thick of things, running from house to house. She got one piece of candy and wanted to sit down right there and eat it. Lisa & Christian were LSU cheerleader and football player.
Quentin dressed up as Monty Python's "Mr Gumby" -- perfect typecasting! Ha ha. He ended up with a bunch of girls from school ... he has a way with the ladies!
Sunday, October 30, 2005
I was getting ready for church this morning and something caught my eye through the bathroom window. I looked again, and it was two deer helping themselves to the acorns in our back yard. (Or was it the bird seed on the ground?) I ran into the kitchen to alert the kids, and they all scrambled to the window. Christian yelled, "There are THREE!" and sure enough, another one ambled into the yard. We watched them for a long time (and were late to church, ack) just awed. I got a great picture through the bathroom window, even though I was shooting right into the sun. Next time we have a sighting, I'll shoot through the bedroom window, which has no screen.
Am I being a nut for getting so excited about a few deer? I feel like the proverbial city girl in the country for the first time. Bear with me!
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
I was taking Boudreaux out back for a "business trip". I looked back into the woods to see my first backyard deer! He (or she) took one look at us and pranced away into the thicket (is that what it's called? I remember that word from Bambi). Boudreaux of course was quite interested in following our deer friend, and took off running and sniffing in the brush, tugging at the leash. (We gotta get a fence ... soon!) It was so cool to see a deer up close and personal-like (and not on the front bumper or in the windshield). I know they are really pests, and can do some damage to your flora, but I'm a back to nature type gal and love to see nature in my back yard.
Several years ago, in our old house, before a huge subdivision was built around us, I looked out our back window to see a fawn ... a real Bambi with spots on his back and everything. I watched him for several minutes, while he walked up our driveway, across the street and between the two houses across the street. I was spellbound.
Monday, October 24, 2005
I love North Carolina ... we have four distinct seasons, although sometimes they don't fall at the right times. Usually the really cold winter doesn't set in until after January. But this week it seems that the fall weather is here, at last! The socks are out, and where are those darn winter jackets? The walk to the bus stop can be a little crisp these days.
David has absconded with the camera for a business trip (more spotted owls?) so the virtual tour of the new house I was planning will have to wait. But it is in very good shape now! We even "christened" the house with a sleepover (Quentin's) on Friday night. We had 13 teenage boys in the basement, and to their credit, we never heard a sound! They were very good, well behaved and respectable. I was so proud!
Lisa went to a birthday party on Saturday at a house by the lake. I have to stop getting my curiosity piqued by "for sale" signs, which has been my habit over the past year or so. We are NOT in the market for a new house, even if it's on the water and marked down. We weren't actively looking for a house, but knew that if one "fell in our laps" (which this one practically did) we would look into it. So whenever I saw a sign, I found myself driving down streets and checking them out. I found one within walking distance of the kids' school. Wow that would have been awesome! But here we are, and I am perfectly content!
Not much on the schedule for this week, other than playgroup here Wednesday. Of course the big Halloween thing next Monday. Lisa is an LSU cheerleader, and Christian an LSU football player. Colin's decided he's too old for trick-or-treat and I think this is Quentin's last year. Melanie will be a clown or a dinosaur, both costumes I have from years past. Poor youngest child always gets the leftovers!
Off to speech!
Friday, October 14, 2005
Okay, okay ... I'm back. Let's see, recapping the past week and a few days ... Mom arrived Thursday night. Friday morning I had to take Melanie to Charlotte Rehab for Dr. Matthews' Cleft Palate clinic. It was an ordeal of about 3-1/2 hours. We sat in a small room while different specialists came in one at a time to look at Melanie. Speech ... audiology ... surgeon ... orthodontist ... dentist ... ENT. Melanie did NOT appreciate Dr. Matthews looking at her mouth, and she promptly fell asleep after he left. (Luckily the room had a bed). While we were waiting, the clock was ticking; we were planning to leave for Atlanta after the clinic for the WPA annual reunion. We finished around 3:30, and after getting the oil changed, getting home to pack, got on the road around 6.
Driving through the rain, we arrived in Atlanta around 11. For the umpteenth time we have requested adjoining rooms and after being reassured, "Yes, no problem", we have gotten rooms that are not adjoining. "I'm sorry there are just NO MORE rooms left in the hotel!"
(Reminds me of an old joke from my childhood. If the President of the United States were to show up, would you have a room for him? Why, yes, of course. Well, I know for certain that he is NOT coming tonight, so you can just give me HIS room!)
After calmly expressing his displeasure at the front desk, David got them to give us a nice corner suite with ... <gasp!> adjoining rooms! Amazing how they just seem to appear from thin air.
WPA picnic on Saturday was amazing. We missed last year because we were in Kazakhstan. It was so cool to see the faces that I know only from websites. All the kids were happy and running around, not a meltdown in sight. I have pictures on my camera ... but the camera is ... MIA. **NOTE: Got this email from David this afternoon .. mystery solved!
Just read the blog....FYI -- camera was removed from your purse by Miss Melanie, which was promptly removed from Melanie by Dad and placed in the cupboard over the kitchen desk....
Mom took care of the dog and the older boys (who chose to stay home). When we got home, she forced me to unpack boxes and hang pictures (*thank you MOM!) so I feel somewhat more settled than I was last week. But there is still much to be done. I haven't found my "rhythm" yet ... I'm still looking for missing stuff (like our stainless!! It's just NOT HERE! I finally broke down and bought another set .. naturally it will turn up now and we will have service for 40!)
This morning we have a guy coming to clean and cap the chimney, since we have a large extended family of birds living in there. Boudreaux is perplexed. Apparently there is a plethora of wildlife living in our back yard too .. I have seen evidence of deer and small woodland animals. Very cool.
Oops ... left Boudreaux outside on his chain. He acts so humiliated that he has to be on a chain, but the other night I took him outside without a leash and he took off into the woods after ... who knows? And me in my pajamas and no shoes. But we squeaked his squeaky ball and eventually he came back. Scared the pattooty out of me though.
Tuesday, October 4, 2005
But man does it feel like jet lag. Can't get enough sleep, always tired, feel like I'm underwater. Ugh. There is still so much to be done; I know some people who have the house unpacked and settled in 5 days. Well, that just ain't me. I just am not wired that way. It will get done. After all, after 8 years in the other house, I managed to get things put away.
Today was weird ... I had a conference with Colin's teachers this afternoon. Earlier this morning I had to go to the public library to print something off on the computer for the conference. (Our printer is still in the garage!) Lisa and Christian browsed through the kids' books while I did my thing (Melanie was at preschool), and then we set off to get into the car. I looked behind me to see a lady (library employee) following us. I smiled as if to say, "Yes? Can I help you?" thinking I had accidently brought out a book without checking it out? She said, "Is that your daughter? Are you together? Are you sure?" and other "third degree" questions. Well, um ... yeah, I think I know my daughter when I see her. Let's see, let me check if I got the wrong kid here, who is happily skipping after me and climbing into her car seat.
I know what she was thinking: that I was in the process of kidnapping this child from the public library. But it seems to me that if that were the case, Lisa would be screaming in fear, and I would be running faster, or have her in a burlap sack or something.
I mean, I know that people want to err on the side of caution. I just thought it was sad that since Lisa doesn't "match" us, that someone would assume the worst. The rest of the morning, in Target and Lowe's I felt like someone was watching me. Then I freaked out when, on the way to Colin's school, I ran into a random drivers' license check road block. Man ... was I creeped out. But then I thought what a good laugh the police would have down at the station house when I showed them Lisa's adoption papers. (Of course that didn't happen. It was just odd that I would run into the first road block I've seen in my life on the same day someone ran after me thinking I had kidnapped my daughter!)
Saturday, October 1, 2005
David thought hooking my computer up tonight might cheer me up. Bless his heart! It has been a bear of a couple of days. Moving a mile down the road has been harder than a move 300 miles away. We said, "Oh, don't worry about that pile, we'll move it later" about 100 times, so naturally, we needed another moving van for the stuff we said "Don't worry about that" about. Poor David was up until 4 a.m. Thursday night finishing up. Thursday night I had the car backed up to the front door, and all the kids carting stuff out the front door and into the car. We had to have made about 16 trips to the new house. It was unbelievable!!! At one point in my life, I could fit all that I owned into a Chevette. What has happened??? Where did all this stuff come from??? Crikey!!
Nevertheless, it is all behind us now, and we are LOVING our new house. It is huge ... the Everready House .. it keeps going ... and going ... I am loving it already (even if the kitchen needs to be gutted .. there's time for that later). We are all exhausted and emotionally drained. But we're happy.
Monday, September 26, 2005
Let's see ... last night we ate a beautiful, soul-filling, gorging-ourselves steak dinner. I had two glasses of wine with dinner, so when we got home, I promptly went to bed at around 9:30 and had what is probably going to be my last full nights' sleep for a while. This morning I got Melanie up and she felt hot. Yep ... a little fever (though you wouldn't know it, she's still her chipper happy self!) I had cancelled her speech session (which had already been cancelled by her therapist, since she was flying in from NY --duh) Before I could turn around the doorbell rings and it's the home inpsectors back for a re-inspection. Ack ... they ask where the receipts are for all the work we had done. HUH? First of all, I didn't know you were coming today, I thought it was Thursday ... and hang on, can I get out of my pajamas and into some clothes?? Rush upstairs to pick up any dirty underwear or other objectionable items that may be on the bathroom floor. Scramble around to find the handy man's phone number, where is it? ... call my realtor; she's at a golf tournament (huh?) Call the realty office and the receptionist keeps calling me "Hon" and being very rude, so I am this close to tears. No they don't have a number for the handy man, don't you know they all keep their own files??? Um, no, bite me! Then I hear the inspection folks holler from the other room, "Oh, don't worry! We don't need the receipts until closing!" Oh gee, thanks. For Pete's sake .. give a girl a break ... I haven't even brushed my teeth yet, much less had a cup of coffee. I can't handle high blood pressure this early in the morning.
We did a lot over the weekend ... bought a new refrigerator (cool .. French door thing, with freezer on the bottom .. excellent!) took down the swingset, packed the kitchen (good golly Moses I have a lot of useless junk!) David started on the garage ... guess what we'll be doing tonight?? There's just so much stuff you can't do until the day you move ... It will happen ... this too shall pass ... maybe in between breakdowns I can get excited about my new house!!
Saturday, September 17, 2005
..."ain't got time to take a fast train ..." Got my sweetie back yesterday. Poor guy was exhausted and still had to take Christian to baseball practice last night. (Whose idea was it to practice on Friday night? That's our going out dancing and partying night.) It was a long week, for him and for us. I did manage to pack up Lisa's room last night, all but the closet (which really should count as another room entirely!) and Melanie's closet, which is really the guest room. Ack .. we have so much to do! Isn't this just the most fascinating post???
Here are some really neat pictures from David's week in Northern California (near Reading). Many people ask what David does for a living ... this will give you a glimpse. His company invests in the paper and forest products industry, and he travels a lot looking at timber used as collateral. This time he had a chance to get up close & personal with some spotted owls ... you know, the famous spotted owl that caused all the ruckus on the West Coast. Enjoy!
The Mold Hunter is doing something to our new house where he will "suck" the air out of the house and then put "new" air in it. Then he will re-test it to check for mold spores. We are definitely going to buy a de-humidifier for the basement ...
Today we are having our family mug shot taken for the church directory.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
The closing on our new house is in two weeks (Sept. 27). The closing on the old house is on the 30th. Things are really picking up ... inspections, punch lists, repairmen, carpet men, mold inspections (welcome to the world of basements!). Unfortunately the mold hunter (yeah, that's what he's called ... "crikey! Look at those teeth!") found a spore of black mold in the basement of the new house, so we're working on what needs to be done to fix that. There was also a trench under the carpet in the basement, so we were over there last night with the carpet guy who pulled up the rug and found a gap in the padding. Filled it in, duct taped it, and we're done! Quentin had never seen the new house; every time we looked at it, he was busy or gone. Last night he got a look. His words: "Cool!" He's thinking he has a pretty nifty bachelor pad down in that basement, complete with living room, bathroom and game room. What a life. Let's just hope it's mold free!
David is surfing out in California this week ... just kidding! He's out there for meetings and timber cruising. Today I think they were going to see some redwoods. When I told someone he was going to be gone all week, they said, "For work?" and I said, "Jeepers, it'd BETTER be for work!!" I did get the playroom packed and started on Lisa's room. Once I get started, it's kind of satisfying to see the stack of boxes. Making progress, making progress!
Melanie had a great day at preschool yesterday. She really seems to thrive on it! Christian's got a baseball game tonight ... sorry no pictures lately. David swiped the camera and took it to CA with him.
Friday, September 9, 2005
I've been chided for not blogging for a week. In the words of the chick who used to work at Bob Newhart's Vermont Inn, "sorry, sorry sorry!" I guess it's a combination of numbness over New Orleans, numbness at all the ^&#$@ I have to pack to move. There were a few days this week when I was packing like a crazy woman. Got the china done, some of the dining room, most of the books upstairs. But then there were days when I was on the road (like yesterday, when we did a marathon at the dentist ... Lisa: 4 fillings and sealants, Christian: 1 filling). I had to do my juggling act: leave Lisa at dentist, take Melanie home, throw her into the bed, wait for Colin to come home, go back to dentist, sit while Christian gets drilled. We no longer have a babysitter, as Kathleen has taken a job at an animal hospital. Melanie's speech therapist is back, so we have started that again.
Went to see "The Constant Gardener" ... with my favorite actor, Ralph Fiennes. Very good movie, disturbing, but good. But I have to read the book now, because I didn't "get" some parts of it.
Other than that, my dear Watson ... not much is going on in our little sphere of influence!
Friday, September 2, 2005
My last entry sounded a bit flippant, and I apologize. There I was, worried about my mom and dad having a few limbs down in their yard ... and I sit, numb and aghast at what is going on in New Orleans. I used to work for a law firm in Baton Rouge, in my single days, and took road trips to New Orleans often. I would take I-10 until it curved around towards Slidell, then get off at Poydras, where you come down to a light next to the Superdome. Then I would complete my job, at either the Federal Reserve, a few blocks on the right, or the Federal Courthouse, further down. One time I walked into the crowd of people and media coming out of the courthouse during the trial of Edwin Edwards, the infamous former Louisiana governor. At one point on Poydras, St. Charles Avenue crosses over it, with its trolley tracks, and you had to be careful not to stop on the tracks. Driving down St. Charles was even more interesting, especially if you had to make a U-turn across the neutral ground, where the trolleys ran. It was scary.
We used to drive down St. Charles and ooh and aah at all the beautiful houses, and imagine living there. We would stand in line for 30 minutes to eat breakfast at the Camellia Grill at the end of St. Charles, where it met the levee. My sister used to live in a beautiful yellow house on 8th street off of St. Charles. My roommate in college was from New Orleans, and I spent many a time with her at her parents' house in the Garden District.
And now ... all those memories are just that ... memories. I am wistful about all that, and I never even lived there, I was just a frequent visitor, even though I knew my way around the city like the back of my hand... think about how more devastated people are who actually lived there, like David. I can't fathom what is happening in his mind, thinking about his hometown. He saw a picture of the stadium at City Park, filled with water. He used to run track there.
My sister also lived in Metairie, off of Bonnabel Avenue. When I drove down from Baton Rouge to visit her, I would get off I-10 right where the "staging area" is right now ... the pictures of the 100's of people milling around there, waiting for -- something, anything -- make me sick at my stomach.
And while I am sick, I am SO ANGRY. Angry that these people have been stripped of their dignity, their humanity. Not even a toilet to use, for God's sake! Women giving BIRTH on the side of I-10, where I used to drive. Elderly people DYING in lawn chairs, with not even a morgue to go to. Babies with no water, much less food ... can you imagine the hell of not having anything to give your crying, dehydrated baby? One woman was getting on a bus with her 2 year old. She handed the baby to someone on the bus so she could get on. Then someone pushed her out of the way. The bus left with the baby, and now she has NO IDEA where her baby is. Who is taking care of the baby?
This is UNFORGIVABLE .. in this country, the world power, to which other people turn in times of tragedy. The shoemaker's children truly have no shoes.
Baton Rouge, where Mom and Dad and sister Debi, and niece Mariah live, is overrun with refugees who were fortunate enough to get there. FEMA has its staging area there. Such as it is ... I see on various news sources that there was NO FEMA presence in New Orleans ... only the local police who were so overcome they sat sobbing in their patrol cars at their inability to maintain any type of order.
Where is the outrage? Yes, The President can put all kinds of fundraising together, but the people in New Orleans don't want funds right now .. they just want OUT. NOW, right this minute.
And the looters? Well, I can only chalk that up to human nature. These poor people have been trod upon all their lives. They have been reduced to an animal existance and they are angry, frustrated, outraged, delirious. At first it pissed me off that they were stealing plasma TV's and then guns ... but that is the only power they understand. The power of being armed. People listen when they are armed, unlike any other time in their lives. They are at the end of a rope and it is frayed. They are irrational ... shooting at helicopters will get them nowhere, but what else can they do? It's just lunacy ... insanity. I keep hearing the voice of the guy who was reporting on the landing of the Hindenburg all those years ago ... "Oh the humanity! The humanity!"
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
..I'm walking on sunshine ... woo woo ... Man, what a nightmare. My folks live 90 miles north of New Orleans, so of course I had some worried moments. However, Katrina performed a miracle for New Orleans by taking her slight right turn. Good for N.O., bad for Biloxi, Pass Christian, Gulfport, all places that I know and love. It's just catastrophic .. awful. My parents and sister have no power, and my in-laws in Jackson, Mississippi are in the dark as well. I have tried to call my sister all day, but all circuits are busy. I talked to them all yesterday so I know they're fine; they only got winds and very little rain. Ugh.
I walk around the house looking at all the stuff we have and get sick just thinking about packing it all up. I'm giving myself until Sept. 1 to be lazy about it, then we have 29 days to get our act in gear. I'm seriously thinking about renting a huge dumpster and throwing away 90% of what is in our house. Seriously. And in light of the events on the coast, it's just stuff ... it's almost shameful how much we have, and it could all be blown away, just like that. Sorry this isn't a cheery and upbeat entry ...
Thursday, August 25, 2005
...we got an offer on our house! Very reasonable offer, we're very happy with it. No more showings! Wahoo. Now the "real" fun starts: packing!
Not much else to report ... Colin started back to school today .. no longer at the bottom of the heap, now he's a sophomore! Maybe that would explain his sophomoric behavior. Just KIDDING!
Monday, August 22, 2005
1. Both of the houses that were for sale on our street have sold. The showings have slowed to a trickle. We (I) have decluttered and decluttered and we're still hearing "declutter"!
2. Christian decided to use one of the kitchen cabinet doors as a swing and it split down the middle. I heard cuss words from David that I've never heard before! But we were happy that Christian was honest and apologetic about it, and weren't too angry with him.
3. David goes to Lowe's to pick out the myriad of hardware that he needed to fix the cabinet door and some other things. After an hour of meticulously combing through the aisles and finally assembling his "kit", he turned to look at something, and a helpful Lowe's employee took his shopping cart away and started re-shelving everything. More cuss words. I think we're a Home Depot family now.
4. Melanie decides to put an obstacle course with a step stool up for mom, just to see if she's paying attention. Well of course, she wasn't, so down she goes, face planting into the (thank goodness) carpet. Unfortunately, the glasses are DOA.
5. We completely forgot to take Christian to "skills day" for the fall baseball season yesterday. Guess he'll have to settle for being the bat boy. (NOT!)
6. We still have our sense of humor.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Thought I would share the proofs for Melanie's Louisiana photo shoot in July. (And no, that's not our dog ... it's the photographer's standard poodle, Cody). Every time Melanie sees a dog she goes ape, and shouts, "Ai Ai! Ai Ai!" She absolutely loves them. Even looking at a magazine she can spot the dogs. I need to work on her about approaching dogs she doesn't know ...
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Thanks to all who have expressed concern about my dad (Grandpa). I called the hospital yesterday morning, expecting to get mom, and Dad answered the phone! He sounded just like his old self. He had just returned from a CAT scan, and reported that there were no cats in there. His sense of humor is still intact, so I know he's doing better. All tests have ruled out any type of "event" (stroke or heart) so the conclusion is that he just tripped and fell, and unfortunately fell on something very hard. My sister said that seeing him there on the ground, she thought for sure he was dead, and now he's asking for his robe so he can walk around the hospital! Wow ...
Meanwhile, back at the ranch ... still trying to keep the house looking pristine (no easy task), and getting back into the homework groove. Melanie and I continue to go to speech therapy (well, Melanie does) 3X a week. Quentin is pushing the envelope with his long hair. We did have it cut the day before school started, but the principal "suggested" that he have it cut more. Quentin is trying to see how long it will take before the suggestion becomes an order. Way to get in the principal's good graces, "Cleem". (Nickname from the Kaz trip.)
Sunday, August 14, 2005
Tuesday, August 9, 2005
This was a tough weekend, with the guys recovering from jet lag, and having to stay out of the house due to showings. I dragged Quentin and David around the mall while they were half-asleep. I mean, it was tax-free weekend! We had to "save" some money!
Quentin had a great trip, as did David, of course. Q. has to finish his summer reading at warp speed, as school starts tomorrow, and he's a little behind. He said he knew it would bite him on the .. ahem ..
In the meantime, we have had to have some carpet replaced in the study, which involved moving some very heavy furniture. Today I have some stuff to put away, go to the kids' school to meet their teachers, and we have company coming tonight.
Lisa, Christian and Colin arrived home safely last night. They had a great time with their grandparents ... thanks again Grandmama for taking such good care of them. Christian was a little homesick for you last night ... he really enjoyed his stay.
Tomorrow, on top of it being the first day of school (tomorrow morning will be ugly!!) our realtors are having a "realtor's luncheon" at the house (where they invite all the realtors from the area to see the house and provide feedback) so Melanie and I will have to be scarce at that time. I'm scouting out all the places that we can go when we have to be away from home. Hoping that some of them don't involve spending money, but I'm not holding my breath. Last Saturday I had to vacate the premises with 30 minutes' notice and found myself putting on my makeup in the parking lot of McDonald's.
Well, it's time to get my act in gear ... I'm afraid the phone will ring at any moment with a showing scheduled. Ack!
Saturday, August 6, 2005
mother of all home runs because they bumped us up to BUSINESS CLASS!
England was fun. We didn't get to go to the gory London Dungeon majibber I
wanted to go but we did get to go on the London eye. It was the CN Tower all
over again but I did it!
Also, we ate some fish&chips and went sightseeing. We saw Big Ben and
Parliament. We didn't go inside anything but we managed a lot in 4 hours.
Be home soon,
Friday, August 5, 2005
Just a few pictures of the boys from Pat's letters to the Ohio paper. Quentin ought to be excited that he was in the paper, even if it was in Ohio!
They made it to London, and to their hotel room. They were going out to prowl, but a lot of the things they wanted to do were closed (it was already 5 p.m.) I'm sure there is some night life there, and I'm hoping to get a full report. They will fly home tomorrow at 3 in the afternoon.
Thursday, August 4, 2005
Just time for a quick update. We arrived in Almaty on Wednesday afternoon, and went to a group dinner at the American Bar with all the WPA families in country...some just arriving and some with children waiting to go home. We had a huge crowd, and it was fun to visit with everyone. Yesterday (Thursday morning) we went to the zoo so Sarah Reed could see a camel. Then we went shopping for the necessary souveniers. Last night, the three Altynbaev sisters hosted our team for a celebration dinner at a local Uzbek restaurant, which was complete with a show including circus performers and belly dancers. We all had a lot of fun for our last night. Some of the group flew out early am, and we are heading to the airport right now. We will hopefully wrap up the story when we return home. Love to all....David
Quentin Says: Well we ate at the Uzbek Restaraunt last night, which was a very exotic and entertaining restaraunt. But the food sucked. Every time I took a bite of lamb rib My throat would burn for 10 minutes. All I ate actually was some cow tongue, which actually tasted pretty good, but you're thinking about what you're eating...bluhh... Luckily I got sick on the last day, the bad news is, I got sick and am not looking forward to the last day. At least we went out with a bang in Taldy Korgan. Not so much in Almaty, Almaty was more like a fuse.
Dateline Taldy…Tuesday update.
Well, everything is finished. We finished the holes on Sunday afternoon, and yesterday (Monday), the concrete truck showed up on time (which actually surprised us!). However, when I say concrete truck, what I mean is a dump truck filled with concrete, which proceeded to dump it on a tarp on the ground, and we had to "wheelbarrow" it to where it was needed. However, I must say that it really did come in handy, and it would have taken a lot of concrete mixed by hand to fill the holes for the two swingsets.
While all of this was going on, Gulnara and the Babyhouse Director went shopping to purchase items for the baby house with the money donated by several of the families here. They wanted to purchase some medical equipment, but were told that there was none in Kaz to be purchased. So, they ended up purchasing 10 cribs, 10 baby cribs, two double stollers, a Little Tykes play house (indoor) and slide, and two tricycles. So today (Tuesday) we spent finishing the playground (hanging the swings and putting the sand out) and put together all of the cribs, etc. We have the official ceremony with all of the local officials this afternoon at 5 pm, but we had an "unofficial" luncheon with the director and doctors of the babyhouse where they expressed their gratitude for all that was given. What was really neat was when the director pulled out all of the letters and pictures that had been sent in by the families that were there (us, Ameling, Reed, Douglas, and Schmidt), and said how grateful they were that we still cared enough to send back information about our children, and that it really meant a lot to everyone at the babyhouse. She was also thrilled that several of us brought their children (Reeds and Ameling) or brought siblings back to Taldy Korgan.
We also had a grand tour of the babyhouse by the doctors and director, and it was really interesting to see parts of the babyhouse that we have never seen before (kitchen, laundry, swimming pool and sauna, etc.). We also visited the groups where our adopted kids came from, but it was naptime for Melanie’s group, so we could only peek in, but didn’t get a chance to play.
At 5 pm, we returned to the babyhouse for a ceremonial dinner with some local officials and BH staff. There was a lot of toasting, etc., but it was really nice. The staff made homemade monty for the meal, and it was really delicious. After the speechifying was completed, we went out to the playground and got a chance to play with the kids.
Plans are to head back to Almaty tomorrow (Wednesday), and then we fly out on Friday morning for home.
See everyone soon!
Love..David & Quentin
Quentin Says: Last Night at dinner, we ate a restaurant called Shagala (Seagull.) It took literally 2 ½ hours to get our food. Although I had a really good chicken steak, I had already filled up on chicken noodle soup, filled with dill... The Baby House director couldn’t pronounce my name so she started calling me Klim (Pronounced KLEEM) which just so happens to be a brand of powdered milk… I still think it’s cool.
Tuesday, August 2, 2005
Hope Pat doesn't mind, but I'm stealing these pictures to put on here. They are just too precious ... these are closeups of the "Bye Bye Buggies" that WPA sent to the baby houses, the 6-seater strollers that most daycares in the US have. Call them "Baby Limos" if you will ... in Taldy Korgan we observed the caregivers strapping two (delapidated) strollers together with rope, with a baby in each. The rest of the kids who could walk were instructed to put a hand on the strollers and follow along as they walked on the grounds of the Baby House. Sort of like a herd of babies. Of course every few steps one of the kids would fall down or trip, and the herd would have to stop and calm tears before carrying on with the slow laps around the building.
With the Bye Bye Buggies, the kids can go on walks in style!
No letter from David yet, but stay tuned. They were supposed to have the dedication of the new playground today in Taldy.
Monday, August 1, 2005
Thanks to Pat Ameling for forwarding this to me. They must have their own internet connection ... oh, and thanks, Pat, for picking the dill off of Quentin's pelmini so he would eat it, and thanks for getting the dirt out of his eye! You always need a mom around, don't you?
Well, we arrived in Taldy-Korgan on Saturday afternoon, and went straight to the babyhouse to unload the truck, which went very quickly as we knew everything had to come off. We then went to the hotel to check in and get settled, and then went back to the babyhouse to start working. Given that the temperature is hotter here than in Almaty, an executive decision was made by the group to work early morning and late afternoon, and take a long lunch break in between. So we started building Saturday evening around 5:00 pm, and actually finished the playset by 7:00 pm. The babyhouse director was also there, so we discussed where to place the other items (tot-tree and other animals) for about an hour – moving everything around here and there – and eventually ended up right where we started….go figure.
Anyway, we left the hotel around 8 am on Sunday morning to start work (while it was slightly cooler and there was some shade in the courtyard), and by lunchtime (which is when I’m writing this) all the holes for the benches, animals, and one swingset were finished, so all we have left is the finish the other swingset. The problem is that given the space limitations in the courtyard, we are installing a different type of swingset which has just one central pole at each side, and then the pole the swings attach to on top. Thus, the holes for these have to be 3 feet deep and two feet wide. Unfortunately, it appears that this babyhouse was built on the site of an old airport, and the area we are trying to dig is full of rocks (most quite large), which has slowed us down somewhat.
Given the amount of concrete that will be required, we have ordered a truck to come on Monday, as trying to mix the concrete by hand would take a long time. We have asked that the truck arrive at 10 am, so hopefully it will come somewhere near that time. In Almaty, the dumptrucks with the sand were supposed to be there at 9 am, and arrived at 4 pm. So, we’ll see.
Quentin Says: Today was probably the most boring day so far because all we’ve done is dig holes. I am not able to help with that so I slept on the slide. Although I did get to climb into the hole we were digging to pick up rocks. I want to eat some horse because apparently it tastes like lamb. We ate goat and some shasleek (is that spelled right?) It was good. We went to visit Melanie’s old baby house group yesterday, and I must say it was weird because the kids were all half-naked and running up to you. Yasmine and Aida remembered dad. When we get the cement and the sand we will finish pretty quickly.
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Still no notes from the guys. I did speak to David this evening; I interruped a banquet of sorts ... the entire team, with the local folks, an intimate group of 25 or so, were at a restaurant having a feast of bisparmak. Quentin said the horse tasted like a cross between pot roast and roast beef. (Okay...) David did say that he had a letter all typed up to send, with pictures, but no internet to send it on. I waggled my finger (through the phone) at Aida and told her to get on the stick and get David to an internet cafe. So perhaps tomorrow. He did say that they dug holes and were hoping to pour concrete tomorrow. Quentin said he didn't do much. The holes are 3 feet deep, and he's only 5 feet tall, so, well ... you do the math!
In the meantime, I have been dusting bookshelves and scrubbing grout in our bathroom. (Isn't that exciting??!!) Our grout never looked so gleaming white. Whoever buys this house will be sold on the grout alone, I'm sure. Yesterday we emptied out the garage and it never looked better. I am now sore in places that I never knew could be sore.
The three older kids (Lisa, Christian and Colin) are flying to Mississippi (very early) tomorrow morning to visit their grandparents. We haven't really seen them since Christmas, so I know they will be glad to see the kids. Melanie and I will keep the home fires burning.
Ahhh .. I love the smell of Clorox in the morning ...
Saturday, July 30, 2005
The team arrived in Taldy-Korgan this morning. Unfortunately the internet connections there are a tad more primitive than Almaty, so David wasn't able to forward me a note. Their hotel is across the street from an internet cafe, though, and he is hoping to send pictures from there. Their hotel is more spartan ... no air conditioning and no hot water, but hey! It's shelter and a bed.
As of a few minutes ago, they had already unloaded the truck and put together the playset. They were calling from the courtyard of the Baby House. I could hear the sounds of happy children playing in the background ... Tomorrow they are going to do some hole-drilling and concrete setting. Sorry I'm not sure of any more details than that.
When my phone rang this morning, I heard "Hello Liz this is Aida calling!" Aida was our interpreter in Taldy Korgan last fall, and she became a dear friend, which has also happened to many of the families who adopt from T-K. (Guess when you spend every day with someone for a month that happens!) Aida speaks fluent English, and even grasps the nuances of English humor and idioms, no easy task! She is ebullient and funny, and we love her to death. She used to call me her big sister, and I called her "sistronka" (little sister). However, she referred to David as her "second husband".... hmmm, something isn't right with that! Ha ha. I was so choked up talking to her again, and so sad that I wasn't there with them.
Quentin says he likes T-K even better than Almaty .. he is really getting an insiders' view of Kazakhstan. What a lucky duck. He is determined to try the Kazakh delicacy, "bisparmak" which is horse meat. I tried it last fall, and it tastes a lot like a cross of roast beef and lamb. Quite good! (Sorry for you PETA people ... you know that really stands for People Eating Tasty Animals). Quentin just wants to hear the squeals of his friends at school, especially the girls who are really into horseback riding.
I will post more from the boys when I can! Liz
Friday, July 29, 2005
Well, we finished the playground at Almaty BH #2 today. Emil showed up with the part from Taldy, and it was the one we needed. While some of us finished the Kid Play set, others mixed the concrete for the animals and the benches. We were all finished by mid-afternoon, and after lunch, we came back and spent some time (unofficially, of course) breaking in the new equipment with the kids. The smiles and laughter was just priceless to hear! We are supposed to have the "official" dedication when we get back to Almaty from Taldy, but we could'nt wait to play with the kids (and I don't think they could wait either!). Tomorrow (Saturday) we will be leaving Almaty and driving to Taldy. We hope to arrive sometime mid-afternoon so that we can meet the truck and unload all of the equipment at the BH. We will probably start building on Sunday morning, and hope to complete in 2 days....(unless, of course, we have left a part we need in Almaty....) Hope you enjoy some of the pictures, which, of course, speak louder than words anyway.... Love to all....David & Quentin
Quentin says: I have decided to write down any "Engrish" that I find. I haven't found much but It's there. I'm not looking forward to Taldy Korgan. (No Air conditioning? AUGH!) I'm glad we got the playground done today. Right now I'm so tired I'm about to fall on my face, so I'm done.
Editor's note: "Engrish" is funny translations of English by non-English speakers.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Well...it appears that Emil had to go to Taldy today to pick up a family, so he came by and took some information regarding the missing playset piece we needed this morning and left. Unfortunately, we won't get the piece until tomorrow, so all we had left to do today was complete the swings and finish the holes for the animals and caregiver benches. Piece of cake - right? Not.....it seems that we were especially lucky to decide to locate the animals and benches on top of a rock pile. It took forever to dig the holes, as most had to be started by hand until we got through the "rock layer", and then the power auger would be effective. But, everybody pitched in and took turns, and eventually all 24 holes (avg depth of 3 feet) were completed. We were able to procure some cement today, but the sand will not be delivered until tomorrow, so we were not able to complete everything today. But, we should complete everything tomorrow, including spreading all of the sand (I think Sasha ordered 4 dump truck loads to be delivered tomorow), which has to be hauled and spread by hand. We ate lunch in a non-yurt type restaurant today, and I had lagman and Quentin had something that translated as "red chicken" and some small meat dumplings (like potstickers). Tonight, we went to a chinese restaurant that is several blocks from our hotel, and it seems like we ate for 2 hours. They would bring the orders out one at a time, so something kept showing up at the table every 10 minutes....we are full as ticks, and I don't know if I'm going to get Quentin to bed as he drank a whole litre of coke by himself.... Love to all....David
Quentin says: Didn't quite finish the playground yet, hopefully Emil will get the right part (He will be smacked if he doesn't...) And Hopefully we'll get it done by tomorrow. Apparently the food we have back home sucks noodles compared to the food here, because everything I've tried has been delicious. Most of what we eat here is cooked fresh and what we eat back home is all processed in a waste treatment plant. Oh yeah and the reason I'm not gonna sleep tonight is not because of the coke alone. It's how much I'll be going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
From Mom: Gee thanks for that glowing review of my cooking, Quentin!
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Wooden poles connect the lattice-work on the bottom of the yurt to the shangrak (the hole in the middle of the tent for the smoke to escape). This wood frame (kerege) is then covered with felt and then usually with canvas.
Mongolian Ger; 2003 picture by Robert Matthews
The shangrak itself is emblematic in many Central Asian cultures. A stylized version of the shangrak forms the main image on the flag of Kyrgyzstan. In old Kazakh communities, the yurt itself would often be repaired and rebuilt, but the shangrak would remain intact, passed from father to son upon the father's death. A family's depth of heritage could be measured by the accumulation of stains on the shangrak from generations of smoke passing through it.
Followers of the New Age religion have used the name "yurts" for some their huts as well. Although those structures may be copied to some extent from the originals found in Central Asia, they have been greatly changed and adapted and are in most cases very different.
In Europe, most yurt makers are making adaptations of Mongolian and Turkic style yurts from local hardwoods and canvas. Unlike many US manufacturers these yurts are very similar to those found in central Asia. In Holland one yurt maker makes exact replicas of Mongolian Gers.
Well, we have finished day 1 of playground building here in Almaty...and have already run into one snag. Since both playgrounds were shipped in one container, we had to unload the Almaty equipment this morning so the truck could proceed on to Taldy to unload there. Even though we triple checked, etc., it appears that one panel we need to attach a slide did not get unloaded, and is now in Taldy. We are drawing straws to see who has to drive to Taldy tomorrow to chase that panel down and bring it back to Almaty (...a little more complicated than traveling from Uralsk BH#2 and Zhas Dauren, like my last trip). But we did get alot accomplished, and should be able to finish most everything (if the missing panel is located) by tomorrow. We worked all morning, and went to lunch around 3 pm, and found a restaurant around the corner with a yurt. Well, we all looked at each other (given the temperature is around 85-90 degrees, and the hostess assured us that the yurt had air conditioning....well, it did, but it seemed to only cool one spot in the yurt where Joe was sitting, and the rest of us were roasting. Anyway, the food was good, and Quentin wants to buy a yurt for our new backyard (its only $20,000 US for a full size one). I have also attached some pictures...as you can see, Quentin is thrilled to have his picture taken by his father...but I promise that he did pose in each picture, and it is not just a digital enhancement pasted in to various backgrounds.... Tell everyone we said "Hey".... Love, David & Quentin
PS: Quentin Says: No need to worry about me starving to death. The food here is actually quite good, and the juice is delicious. I'm actually having a lot of fun (You'd be surprised how entertaining a fork and a toothpick are.) Also I may not look like the happiest guy in the world in those pictures but I was smiling if you look real close and squint...
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
My men made it safely to Almaty. There was no driver to meet them, but always efficient David still had the cell phone number for Gulnara, our facilitator in October, in his address book. A quick call to her (catching her on the way to Taldy Korgan for court) and our wonderful friend and driver, Emil, showed up to whisk them to their hotel. The airport in Almaty has installed an automated pay parking system that apparently was on the fritz today, and it took them nearly an hour to get out of the &^*#% parking lot!! As Emil said, it took longer to get out of there than it took to drive to the hotel!! They are staying at the Hotel Almaty or Almaty Hotel (can't remember) and amazingly I was able to punch in a few numbers and have David on the phone .. with no delay or echo! Quentin is doing great; he got lots of sleep on the flights; David can't sleep on planes. They bought the British version of "Harry Potter" in London, but David is being cruel and making Quentin finish his summer reading book for school before he can have HP. Tough love! I think today was pretty much rest and recuperate day. The rest of the team should arrive in Almaty late tonight.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I'm packing boxes ... packing ... and packing ... and sweltering. It's supposed to be 101 tomorrow ...
Sunday, July 24, 2005
David and Quentin leave tonight for Kazakhstan. I think Quentin won't know what hit him. He's in for some major culture shock. Yesterday we argued about spending money on a new journal, when we already had a perfectly good one. We compromised by agreeing to let him journal on the laptop. I realized how his mindset is so "American" and materialistic; just spend some money and voila, there you go -- luxuries abound! I really try not to pull the "starving children in China" card, but having seen the starving children myself makes it a little less abstract and more real. I hope he comes away with more of an understanding of how fortunate and rich we are in this country.
Of course I'm a little concerned about the situation in London. They are just passing through this time, but will be spending the night there coming home August 6. Sometimes you just have to give up your worries ...
Another family who are going on the playground trip are writing articles for the newspaper where they live in Ohio ... the link is http://www.ohio.com/mld/ohio/ for another perspective on the trip. They are already there, visiting friends. Pat is the one who spearheaded the funding for this trip.
In the meantime, I will be at home raking out closets and getting this house in shape. I have finished the downstairs declutter mission, and have until August 1 to do the upstairs. Actually it feels kind of good to be rid of a lot of the detritus that has accumulated here over the past 8 years. And by the way, we have equalled our record of time lived in one place ... we were in Mississippi for 8 years. It looks like we will be here far longer, I hope. After last week in the pea soup humidity of Louisiana, I'm staying put in lovely North Carolina. Previous to that, I had lived in so many different places I've lost count. My peripatetic days are over, I hope!
Friday, July 22, 2005
Don't know why I wrote that ... just like how it sounds and looks! "Life through rose colored glasses", in a way. Just brought the kids home from camp .. they all had a blast! The were very chatty on the drive home, until they fell dead asleep! They had eaten nothing but healthy, nourishing food all week, and had junk food cravings, so we ran through McDonald's.
Had a nice visit to Louisiana ... helped to celebrate my parents' 54th anniversary. We also went to visit Sage, our favorite photographer who got a few shots of Melanie, with Sage's dog Cody. The trip home was uneventful until we got to Charlotte ... imagine a bus to the satellite lot packed like a can of sardines, 100 degrees outside, and add a screaming, exhausted baby. You get the picture.
The big news is that we have bought a house! It is in the same neighborhood that we are in now, just a different part, and it has room to swing a few cats and for five kids not to be living on top of each other. Now we have to get this house in shape to sell, and poor David has been toiling like a madman, painting rooms and trim, removing 8 years worth of fingerprints and what-have-you from doors. My job next week: de-clutter. I have visions of a U-Haul truck in my immediate future, and a bunch of junk in a storage shed. Keeping the house in showing condition at all times will definitely be a challenge!
Kazakhstan in 48 hours!
Monday, July 18, 2005
Oops ... just put my hands on the disk with the beach pictures on it. Voila!!
The older four kids are successfully and happily (I hope) at Camp Granada ... (hello muddah, hello fadduh ... here I am at ... Camp Granada) No really, it's Camp Harrison, and it's simply beautiful. Even the cabins are air conditioned. Poor things, they're really roughing it. Lisa was the only one a little teary when we left. The others were great. They will have a great time. Check out the website ... www.campharrison.org.
Melanie and I are off to Baton Rouge this afternoon. David will be home painting ... as it looks like we may be moving to a bigger house in our neighborhood soon. Hate to leave a cliff-hanger, but more information will be forthcoming as the situation develops. Toodles!
Monday, July 11, 2005
Melanie learned how to climb out of her crib today. Or maybe she's known all along how to do it, and was secretly plotting all these months to show us when our guard was down. A few days ago she mastered door knobs and dead bolt locks (was found in the front yard by a neighbor -- I won't say which parent was neglectful in not keeping an eye on her) so out the crib she goes, and then out the door. Luckily we were around and noticed before any trouble was gotten into.
This afternoon she found a paint set of Lisa's (we won't go into the details of how Lisa got a paint set or the reasons it was left at Melanie-level) and decorated the study carpet, the desk, the filing cabinet and the big easy chair with a rainbow of colors. The person who once again let Melanie fall off his or her radar shall remain nameless. Suffice it to say that from this day on, Melanie has a pair of eyes on her at all times.
Lisa & Christian are enjoying Vacation Bible School at their friend Natalia's church this week. As we have been anticipating for several months, they are all four off to camp this Sunday through Friday. I don't know who is more excited ... them or me! I fly out on Monday to Louisiana with Melanie, leaving David to "bach" it, and to be on standby for any camp emergencies. Actually he has a gig playing the drums for a group one or two of the nights we are gone (at a church, don't get your dander up ... no sleazy bars for him!) so he shouldn't get too lonely.
Branch ... out!
Monday, July 4, 2005
Happy Birthday to my sister, Debi! Born on the Fourth of July ... la la la. My grandfather hung his flag with a pink bow on the top the day she was born; she was also the first grandchild.
We are back home safe & sound ... I am procrastinating big time getting unpacked and clothes washed. We had a wonderful time; relaxing mornings on the deck with coffee and a good book. (I finished reading "Dove" -- written by a boy who sailed around the world alone, starting at age 16 ... makes me want to chuck everything and buy a boat and sail to the South Seas ..) and some "beach smut" by Jude Devereaux.
David spent the kids' college funds on fireworks for tonight ... should be quite a show.
For now I'll share some pictures from the beach.
Friday, June 24, 2005
...if not for all the sand. We're off for Ocean Isle beach tomorrow morning. David is playing in a golf tournament in the morning, so will be down when he's done. I'm just glad he's able to get away for a little R&R.
The latest news on the trip to Kazakhstan is that they will leave July 26. That means Quentin can go to camp (will get home on Saturday, and fly out on Monday ...) David is still rassling with the travel agents to get seats. Apparently the summer season has made them few and far between. Right now they are holding tickets through Amsterdam.
In the meantime, life goes on. We go to speech, we go to the pool, we go to lunch. Yesterday the little kids and I went to McDonald's. Today it was the older kids' turn, and we went to eat with my friend Jan, and her son Kyle, whom we have been friends with since Colin was in 2nd grade. They all go to different schools, but have remained friends all along. Then we browsed through Barnes & Noble, one of my favorite pastimes. I could spend hours in there (and mega bucks!)
I just finished "The Kitchen Boy" ... about a fictional boy who worked for the last Tsar of Russia, and was there when they were executed. Very interesting twist at the end. My summer beach reading: Gulag ... and the Falls, by Joyce Carol Oates. She is one enigmatic author!
I don't know about internet connections at the beach, so see you in a week!
Monday, June 20, 2005
Happy Dad's day to all you dads out there. We hoisted our dad up on the pedestal in a big way ... with cards galore (some store-bought, some home-made). After church, we (well, David) grilled steaks for lunch and he sat in what I fondly call the "butt magnet" all day switching between the US Open and the NASCAR race (wherever that was, remember how much of a NASCAR fan I am ...) There were some major thunderstorms in the area; one of the lightning strikes landed right in our living room (so it seems) followed immediately by a clap of thunder that hit 5.0 on the Richter scale.
His birthday is on Tuesday ... he always jokes that he gets ripped off having his birthday so close to Fathers' Day. But I feel his pain; my birthday is right around Mothers' Day.
David is one of the most extraordinary men that I know. He is compassionate, giving (and forgiving), kind, of unwavering integrity and faith, fortitude and patience. He is the Dad of all Dads ... a role model for our children. He follows the "Andy Griffith" school of parenting ... which I think beats Dr. Spock hands down. We are all so blessed to have him in our lives ... as our dad, and as my husband. I am truly, truly privileged to have him as my partner.
Okay, gushing over. Happy Fathers' Day, David!
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Bad, to not so bad news. The playground trip has been postponed, due to a delay in the delivery of the playground set. What took 28 days last year is turning into 60 this year, and it has just left Riga, Latvia, today, on a train to Almaty. The best guess is that it will be another 14-16 days until it gets there. Inconvenient, but not insurmountable. David will get to come to the beach with us! Look at the bright side. On the other hand, the trip may interfere with YMCA camp that all four kids are scheduled to go to in July. Oh well, so Quentin won't go. No biggie. Such is life in the former Soviet Union.
Our week has been busy, as usual. Speech MWTh, movies (Batman -- very good! and Shark Boy & Lava Girl -- don't bother) Lisa at cheerleading camp every day. This means wake-up call at 7:30, but I can't complain. It sure beats 5:00. Lisa and Colin went to play bingo with Kathleen that night ... it's getting to be a Tuesday routine! And every time Lisa goes with her, Kathleen seems to win. Lucky charm.
Tuesday night we had visitors ... two friends, Chis and her mother, Judith, whom we met on our trip to adopt Lisa, back in 2001, were in the area and came for dinner with their little girl, Aliya. Aliya was barely 6 months old when Chris adopted her, and now she is a vibrant, adorable little 4 year old. We had a very nice visit, and the girls enjoyed playing with each other.
Took Melanie to the pool for the first time on Sunday. She clung to me like glue, but really liked the baby pool, it's just her size. I think we'll need to hang out there some more this summer. Not that she needs to work on her tan or anything!
Saturday, June 11, 2005
The thunderstorms stayed away and it was actually a pleasant night for a baseball game! Early on in the game it looked like we had the game in the bag, and we got a little cocky. The Tigers rallied significantly, and it looked like it was going to be close. But we made 5 runs in the top of the last inning, and the game was ours. Christian batted great ... 5 for 5, but was put out at first, and flied out once. He had a great attitude, was always happy and just content to be playing. This is Christian's last game in the Coach Pitch league, and will move up to "kid pitch" in the fall. I walked over to watch a kid pitch game for a while last night, and it is intense! It will be an adjustment for sure!
Thursday, June 9, 2005
The game that was rained out on Saturday was played on Sunday afternoon. After sitting all season wrapped in blankets because we were freezing, we literally BAKED at this game. 90+ degrees, 1000% humidity. Christian did great ... caught some pop flies, made some put-outs at first. And we won .. sending the Twins to the semi-finals. The Semi game was played Wednesday night ... as we watched the thunderclouds approach, then veer off, thank goodness. Made for quite a pleasant evening. We triumphed over the Cubs ... after starting off with a terrible inning: bat ... out ... bat ... out. But we came back and won decisively over a very tough team that had some great batters and even better defensive players. But we have some real power hitters on our team.
Tonight: the championship game. It started off with the ominous thunderclouds again, but we felt optimistic. Until the start of the bottom of the 1st inning ... when the bottom fell out! Literally! The boys continued to play for a little while, as we all hurriedly gathered our chairs and stuff and ran for the shelter. Then we sat in the shelter and watched the fields slowly get covered with water. No game tonight!
It's a shame, because we were batting to beat the band ... lots of balls were sent way out into the outfield, and between the legs of the outfielders. I think I saw a look of "ho boy" on the coaches for the other team. Christian was able to get to a sleepover earlier, though ... I had also hauled out the entire Branch family to watch the game! Well, we can haul 'em out again tomorrow!! Melanie enjoyed running around in the rain ...
David & Quentin leave in less than 2 weeks for Kazakhstan. I have decided to book a condo at the beach for a week while they are gone, so we're not wandering around the empty house, missing them!!
Other than all the baseball excitement, it's been a quiet week. Colin finally out of school, and we're all catching up on the sleep we've lost over the past 10 months!