Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Melanie Goes to School

...and David paints.  And I helped!!  (It's Shake & Bake!)  He nearly broke his back doing the ceiling ... Nothing much else has happened this week.  The George team came by to fix some spots on the ceiling on Monday, but other than that, it's been quiet.  The floor guy was *supposed* to come do the patching this week, but as of yet, no word from him.

Yesterday Melanie's new teachers came to the house (what service!) to meet her, and to have me fill out some forms.  I really liked them both, and feel that this program will do Melanie a lot of good.  Today M. and I went to the school to look around, see her new classroom and where she'll eat and play.  We also met her speech therapist, who I really liked a lot.  Melanie seemed right at home and school will start for her on Tuesday of next week.  She'll have 15 kids in her class ...

Right now a huge thunderstorm is blowing through so I guess I should get off this thing before I become a human shish-ke-bab.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Even This Shall Pass Away

My dad is a very wise man.  He always had pearls of wisdom to cast on all of my ups and downs in life.  He rarely lost his temper when we were young.  He is a treasure trove of stories; his travels around the world as an international businessman could probably fill volumes.  Now he is enjoying his retirement, although I think his physical ailments (lingering effects of non-Hodgkins' lymphoma a few years ago) prevent him from being the athlete that he used to be.  He used to run 1/2 marathons in his late 60's and early 70's.  If only I had inherited that athlete gene!!  I got the curly hair gene.  (It's okay dad .. I really don't mind!)

His job took us to Japan, Belgium, the Philippines and Singapore.  He left his family in Pampa, Texas to join the US Navy at the end of WWII (it ended while he was in boot camp) and served his time on a mine sweeper in the Pacific.  He tells stories about sitting on the bridge, looking for mines.  When they saw one, they would shoot at it with a rifle and detonate it.  He studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas on the G.I. Bill .. where he met my mother.  His one and only job was straight out of college with a company called Ethyl Corporation (they used to make tetraethyl lead additives for gasoline).  In 1965 he was assigned to open an office in Tokyo, where we lived for 3 years.  His job was director of sales & marketing, although later in his career I think he used his engineering skills to design "blending units" for offloaded crude oil.  He spent many years negotiating with the completely corrupt Indonesian government and oversaw the building of a terminal on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines.  He used to go to countries behind the Iron Curtain when you just simply didn't do that!  He scared us to death with his story about crossing the border into Romania on foot in the early 1970's on New Year's Eve.  I think my dad was James Bond.  There was tragedy, as well ... the time that several men in Taiwan climbed into a railroad tank car that had been filled with an extremely toxic chemical, to clean it.  They all died from the fumes.  He tells the story of his first time in India ... arriving in Calcutta in the middle of the night, and being so moved by the abject poverty and filth.  I used to marvel at his passport, which had about 20 inserts that folded out intolong strips to accommodate all of his visas.

Every time I hit a bump in the road, he would tell me, "Just remember the lesson that you have learned."  He never yelled at me in frustration .. just sat back and let me live my life.  One of his favorite poems is this one, which I share with you today.  Its refrain has been the mantra of my life for a very long time.  It was written by a Theodore Tilton. Happy (belated) 79th Birthday, Dad!

Once in Persia reigned a king, who upon his signet ring Graved a maxim true and wise, Which if held before the eyes, Gave him counsel at a glance, Fit for every change and chance.  Solemn words, and these are they:  "Even this shall pass away".

Trains of camels through the sand Brought him gems from Samarcand; Fleets of galleys through the seas, Brought him pearls to match with these.  But he counted not his gain Treasures of the mine or main; "What is wealth?" the king would say; "Even this shall pass away".

In the revels of his court At the zenith of his sport, When the palms of all his guests Burned with clapping at his jests; He amid his figs and wine, Cried, "Oh, loving friends of mine!  Pleasure comes but not to stay; Even this shall pass away."

Fighting on a furious field, Once a javelin pierced his shield;  Soldiers with a loud lament Bore him bleeding to his tent; Groaning from his tortured side, "Pain is hard to bear," he cried,  "But with patience, day by day, -- Even this shall pass away."

Towering in the public square, Twenty cubits in the air, Rose his statue, carved in stone, Then the king, disguised, unknown, Stood before his sculptured name.  Musing meekly, "What is fame?  Fame is but a slow decay.  Even this shall pass away."

Struck with palsy, sere and old, Waiting at the gates of gold, Said he with his dying breath, "Life is done, but what is death?"  Then, in answer to the king, Fell a sunbeam on his ring, Showing by a heavenly way, "Even this shall pass away."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

If These Walls Could Talk

We have walls!!  The "George Team" put up the sheetrock yesterday (very quickly, I might add) and today they are putting up the joint compound.  They will do three coats of mud, over the next few days, then sand.  After that we just need to wait for the window and door to arrive.  The floor guy is coming this afternoon to see how much patching he'll have to do.  Of course, there's the gap where the knee wall used to be, and the place where the pantry used to be.  When the floor is done, it's just a matter of waiting for the cabinets.  I bought the sink the other day, and need to go pay for my granite slab.  Tile backsplash is the very last thing to think about, but I already have some ideas.

 I'm learning so much about home building and remodeling, just watching them at work.  It's amazing how all the details seem to fall into place.

We had a successful shopping trip to get dress shoes, belts, socks, etc. for the big "Dress Uniform Day" today.  Now that Quentin's in high school he has to wear a blazer and a tie, and looks very handsome!  Rats, should have taken pictures but I was in a sleep deprived state this morning.  David got in from Minnesota after 11, and of course it took him a couple of hours to wind down.  He's been gone since last Thursday, so it's good to have him home!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Let There Be Lights!

We have cannister lights!  The wiring is almost complete!  We still have no sheetrock!  By the end of the week, we should have it!  In the meantime, we seemed to have settled into a routine.  I've learned to cook around the mess, and put up more shelves in the dining room to make more room.  The dust is there, but my lungs seem to have gotten used to it.  I'm posting some more pictures of the great crew who is taking care of us.

In the meantime, we have Colin's open house today ... will he really be a junior in high school?  Melanie is all set to go to the Bright Beginnings Preschool on Sept. 5.  She'll go from 7:30 - 1:45 every day.  On Sept. 12 she'll have her nasal endoscopy (what fun!) and I suppose after that Dr. Matthews will let us know what (if any) surgery will be needed to get her that closure.  Her speech is still not really clear, although now & then she'll say something clear as a bell (like "LET GO!" or "STOP IT!")  I know she knows all the words, she is quite fluent in English, that's not a problem.  It's all mechanics from this point.  Bless her heart.

The other three seem to have settled into their school routine; except that Christian announced last night (Sunday!) at 8:30 that he had some homework to do.  ARKGHGH!!!!  Oh well, he got it done in 30 minutes.  He seems really happy to go to school, as does Lisa.  Quentin is slogging through Homer's "The Odyssey".  I have to say I never read that in all my years of education, although I did once have to read "The Brothers Karamazov" over Christmas break.  What agony that was!  For my part, I have just finised "Flags of My Fathers" about the Iwo Jima folks.  It was so good, now David is reading it.  I came across a book called "Waltzing With a Dictator" about the US foreign policy during the Marcos regime in the Philippines.  It's somewhat dated, written in 1987, before the bases were shut down, but it's a fascinating read for someone who lived her tender teenage years there (me).  Amazing to know all the stuff that was going on.  Lots of discussion about Ambassador Sullivan, who lived down the street from us, literally, and who went to our church.  I'm such a history geek ... I really, really need to go back to school.  Hello UNCC?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mess to the Nth Degree

Well, the fun has started!  The contractor started demolishing our kitchen on Monday.  After two days I'm ready to call it quits!  But I suppose it's a little like being in labor; once you get started, there's no going back.  I guess I'll just have to get used to the taste of sheetrock dust in the back of my throat, and the feeling of it on the bottoms of my feet.  The rest of the house is covered with dust; should I dust every day?  Or is that a losing battle?  Ack ack ack. 

On the positive side, the men who are doing the work are such nice folks.  Very pleasant and dedicated -- it's a man and his three sons ... a really nice family, all around.

They are doing the "prep" work ... sheetrocking, running electrical lines, plumbing, etc. (since we are moving the refrigerator from one spot to another, and the dishwasher will move too).   When they're done, the floor guys will come and patch the wood floor (we pulled up a knee wall and the island, so there are some gaps) and refinish it.  That will require a three day vacation of the house.  The cabinets are scheduled for mid to late September, so we'll be camping out for a while.


I keep telling myself that it will be beautiful when they're done, this is only temporary.  And then I remind myself of the folks who are living in FEMA trailers at a FEMA camp ... for a year now.  And how about the people in Iraq?  A little sheetrock dust is nothing compared to sand.  I'm so spoiled.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Well, Melanie has joined the club of little kids who, at or around the age of four, decide they have had enough of their present hairstyle, and take a pair of scissors to their tresses.  Quentin did the same thing at age four, on the very day we were scheduled to have our family portrait taken for the church directory.  At least for him it was only his bangs.  Melanie, on the other hand, did a fine job of chopping one entire side of her head to scalp length.  I couldn't decide whether to laugh, cry or take pictures. 

In the Baby Houses, they keep all the little kids' hair very short; many of the boys are buzzed cleanly bald.  The little girls at least have a little hair.  When Melanie came to us, her hair was shorter than a bob (see Oct. 2004 archives for photos!)  In the past 18 months or so, Melanie has finally had hair long enough to put into ponytails ... and such beautiful hair she has too!  Shiny and black and soft.

After a trip to the Hair Cuttery this morning, we are back to Baby House short.  I will have to go heavy on the pink dresses and pink bows to make sure that her "girlness" is still there.

Oh well, it's only hair.  It will grow back.  And I can still run my fingers through Lisa's long beautiful hair!

Friday, August 4, 2006


I absolutely hate it when bloggers (or journalers, whatever I'm called) don't add entries for day upon day.  The main reason I haven't posted is that most people aren't particularly interested in my forays to Staples to buy school supplies, or taking kids to get haircuts, or to the uniform shop.  Blah blah blah.  But that pretty much sums up the past week or so.  Oh, okay, Quentin did get his braces off yesterday, and got his mop-top ... er, hair cut yesterday, and he looks like a completely different person.  Talk about extreme makeover.  I love his haircut, but it's still a little long, I'm hoping that the school (which is very ticky about hair length) will accept it, cause I don't want to take him for another cut and listen to him gripe about it.  That's what you get when you go to a private school.  I keep telling him he can go to Colin's school (public .. free) and he can grow his hair down to his waist if he so chooses.  But no, he's very happy at Southlake, and will probably be there for the duration (unless David decides he's had it with corporate life and quits his job to live on a commune and grow tomatoes.  Which is probably as likely as monkeys flying out of the proverbial ... well, you know ... this is a family blog after all!)

It's going to be ugly next week.  Southlake starts back on Wednesday.  The days of sleeping until noon (or later, in Quentin's case) are soon to be over, and it won't be pretty re-setting their body clocks.  Quentin still has to read and write about a C.S. Lewis book, and write about "The Chosen" by Chaim Potok.  (I love saying his name out loud!)  Christian has to finish "The Trumpet of the Swan" ... so we've been lying on my big bed reading together.  I've been reading "Flags of Our Fathers" by James Bradley.  I couldn't put the darn book down ... it's about the battle of Iwo Jima, the famous "photograph" of the flag raising, and the post-war lives of the men who were in the photo.  (Soon to be a major motion picture with Ryan Philippe ... coming October 20 and supposedly better than Saving Private Ryan!)  I know, I'm a geek.  I don't like fiction at all, and for some reason I'm fascinated with WWII (how many girls do you know are interested in THAT?)  I also read "Flyboys" by the same author.  George Bush the First was there, and narrowly escaped becoming a Japanese POW (which pretty much meant death ... the death rate of US soldiers in Japanese camps was 37% whereas in Europe it was more like 1%).  Didn't know that.  Then I picked up "The Greatest Generation" by Tom Brokaw, but sorry, I don't like the way Tom writes.  He should stick to broadcasting. 

Having lived in the Philippines, of course, I was interested in reading about the battles there.  Corregidor, Bataan ... places that I lived very near to (or is it "near to which I once lived" ... never end a sentence with a preposition, right mom?)  For some reason my mom and dad never took me around to these places while we were there ... probably because my dad was away on business, and my mom was so miserable being in Manila (she HATED it) that she didn't care to take me on field trips.  Manila was her least favorite overseas post ... unlike Tokyo and Brussels, I think she just doesn't like being hot.  Ironic, since I loved Manila ... as it was the prime of my life (high school) up to that point and it was enchanting to live there.  Dad did have something to do with building a refinery on the Bataan peninsula, but that's as close as I got to an actual battlefield in the Philippines.  Okay, there was the American cemetery at Fort Bonifacio (is that right?  Twenty some-odd years of time and cobwebs may have messed up my memory), with the acres and acres of white crosses.  Our house wasn't far from there, and we drove through it from time to time.  But I don't think we ever got out to look closely at the names on the tombstones.

So I didn't think I had anything to write about.