Tuesday, July 31, 2007

HP And Me

Harry Potter and I have the same birthday (=today). For years I've thought I was soooo much older than Harry - but I was wrong! I just finished the seventh book and it turns out that we are only a couple of years apart. Weird. I have no idea how he's planning to celebrate his day, but mine is jam packed with fun, adventure, and KIDS! St. Ann, John the Magnificent, and their five children are visiting. If you do the math, you will discover that we have TEN children and five adults in the house. Have you ever tried to coordinate activities for 15? St. Joseph's valium for children would come in handy, but sadly I think they stopped making that. Barring that, we've been using our entire bag of tricks to keep us all entertained. My godson (and one of the cutest babies on the planet, as I'm sure you'll agree) has been the one thing guaranteed to make everyone smile. (I can hear St. Ann pointing out mildly that Baby Z is not particularly smile inducing at 3 am.) Still! He's DARLING the rest of the time. So easy going. Cooing and drooling. Amused by makeshift toys like the top of the chips bag. Not even complaining when we turn his toy into a hat for his enormous head! How can you beat that for entertainment?

If you see Harry, let him know that we've started the party without him. Peace.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

If You Give A Mom A Muffin

He was very patient while the old kitchen was packed up for a month but the second the boxes were sort of unpacked at the new kitchen, he was rarin' to cook! His first project (orange glazed muffins) were such a hit that the entire dozen disappeared immediately.
His next project was an entire dinner: stuffed shells, salad, and fruit for dessert. The brothers (even Chaos - who looks grumpy in this picture but wasn't in real life) gobbled it all up. They told Havoc that if he kept cooking food this good then he should start doubling his recipes.

Havoc LOVES the whole process. He pores over the recipe books; he makes the shopping list; he cooks the food (with supervision); and he basks in the praise. The kitchen is his kingdom and he is a happy king. The rest of the house, however, is still a shambles. I can't seem to make any headway. I swear the boxes are replicating in the dark of the night. Linus has been out of town all week but Bet and I work all day unpacking and the next morning there is even more than there was before still left to unpack! Good thing Havoc knows how to bake yummy muffins to keep our energy up.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Zombie Proofing The House

In today's installment of "My Kids Are Weird" I'm going to tell you my boys' first reaction to their new home which was, "We'd never survive a zombie attack in this house. There are way too many doors and windows!!" They then spent the next 10 minutes scouting out appropriate shelter/hiding spots in case the zombies converged even before we managed to get the moving trucks unloaded. I had no idea my kids were so worried about zombies.

Of course, it has been made clear to me in the past few days (while being trapped in the car with the boys for hours and hours and hours) that I have zero understanding of how their brains work. Even 8 year old Havoc thinks bizarre thoughts that I would never, ever just happen to think. As Havoc floated dreamily in the hotel pool the other afternoon he said, "You know what would really suck? Drowning in your own blood." Uh, yeah. Ok. And ick!

I'd worry more except they are all in great moods. I keep checking in with them, making sure they know we're not to busy to talk. I've cut each one of them out of the herd a couple of times to see if the good mood is a mob mentality kind of phenomenon - but it doesn't seem to be. They all have healthy appetites and have been kinder with each other than normal. They are having fun puttering in their rooms, arranging miniatures and computer parts. Bug and Chaos do want to paint their room black. Mayhem and Havoc want the airplane decals off their walls. Joey and Thaxton want to stay. The biggest thing on their wants and needs list? All of them want me to hurry up and find a different place for the old table. Currently it's blocking their only access to the best zombie proof closet.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Goodbye old house! This is the crew we traveled with (minus my mom, second from the right - next to Chaos in the back row - she and VBGF's mom were there to see us off.) Who's Who - (L-->R) Thaxton*, Bug, Joey*, Mayhem, Uncle Richard, Marmie (my mom), Chaos - then SH, Wasabi, Havoc above him, Me, VBGF. Is now a good time to say that I'm tired of using initials? Names are so much easier. Will it confuse you terribly to switch to Linus and Bet instead of SH and VBGF? I'll write a new thing for the sidebar soon, really my poor blog is long overdue for it, but it will have to wait. First I must deforest the cardboard jungle that is currently growing in my new home. See?
Bikes. In the library. Hmmmm. Not a good long-term plan I think. Upside down couch. Difficult to sit upon. Must. Rethink. Library.

Cook? Can you even see the fridge? Not sure we'll be making home-cooked meals anytime soon. Yet, I can't believe we brought even more cardboard into the house by ordering pizza!

Here we are! Homeowners! Bet, Linus, and Lilymane (me). Do you see our one key? One. key. For a family of eight - in a house that has FOUR doors. (I will not say bad things about the previous owners. I will not say bad things about the previous owners. I will not ...)
This is a bumper sticker we saw in the parking lot of the closing attorney's office. I had already decided I liked these people when I saw "Coexist" on one car, something funny and anti-Bush on another, and two HRC stickers, but when Linus saw the one above, he said he was never living anywhere else. (And if you don't understand it, it's ok - it's a Dungeons and Dragons (or general d20 RPG) reference.)

I suppose I'd best get up and dig into some of those boxes!

*Thaxton and Joey are both only children who have been friends with my kids for years (five years? four?) They are part of the junior troll boy contingent who game(d) at the house every Wednesday night. When we moved I told both of their mothers that I wanted visitation rights. They are such good sports! They agreed to let their boys move with us for the first week. We have to send them back on Sunday but it has been such an incredible help to have them with us. Aside from the fact that they have hauled more than their fair share of stuff in and out of U-haul trucks, they are helping my boys set up their rooms, explore the new neighborhood, and adjust without losing their friends. They are more precious than gold to me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's The Little Things That Get You

Despite the fact that I have been fixing to move for well nigh three months now, it's a whole different thing to actually BE MOVING. There is a part of me that just hasn't caught up. (This is the exact same part of me that opened the skinny middle desk drawer into my pregnant tummy twelve times a day while I was carrying Chaos. It didn't matter that 99.999% of my brain was obsessed with being pregnant, having a baby, thinking about the baby, etc. That .001% was not only not obsessed with my pregnancy but it actively refused to make any allowances whatsoever.)

Yesterday morning VBGF and I went to the convenience store next to the hotel to buy some Dramamine for Havoc. (Havoc, bless his heart, had puked the minute he got out of the car the night before.) The chewable Dramamine comes in small, one dose packets. I picked one up and then said to VBGF, "I know he only needs the one dose for today since we'll only be in the car for a couple of hours, but do you think I should get another one to have on hand for the drive back?" She gave me a funny look and said, "Drive back? This is a move." RIGHT. Move. Not vacation. Not a visit. A permanent move. To another state.

The slow fraction of my brain hates being caught out. For a moment all was shaky and a little teary. Then there was some mental wagon circling and some internal cluckings of "There, there" and "It'll be alright." The rest of me got back in the driver's seat. I think we're all onboard now - slow bits and all. I'm hoping we're even all buckled up, because this next part is a doozie. Closing. In an hour. With crazy* people involved. Cross those fingers!!

*I know, I know. Pot, kettle and all that. But really, these folks (<-- our sellers) are a piece of work. I would avoid all of Chicago if I were you because that's where they live now! Travel to the Windy City at your own risk.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mid Point

Greetings from East Asheville! We're a traveling circus - we have four adults, six mostly teenage boys, a dog, two U-Haul trucks (one of them towing my 12 year old Rodeo), and two VW's all trekking east on I-40. Our closing took about 10 minutes (and most of that was chat!) Our realtor gave us a huge canvas bag stuffed with goodies. She laughed and said she tried to put some healthy stuff in there. Her ratio? 40 lbs of junk topped with a two peanut butter crackers and a token bag of trail mix. I think we'd gone about thirty miles before all of the cookies, the M&M's, the jelly beans, and one of the peanut butter crackers were gone. The trail mix and the vitamin fortified water bottles were all that was left. Yep - Lindy the listing agent rocks the house!! Smartest gal on the planet! What else can I say about someone who sells my house in two days and then gives me the perfect present to appease a car full of teenage stomachs??

Poor Robbie the Realtor on the other side. She is working probably four times as hard for not nearly so much joy. We will all breathe a huge sigh of relief when we get through the closing on the new house. The people selling us our new house are ... crazy. Like ape shit crazy. From the first week of weird negotiations with them where they ended up not even being able to accept their own offered price, we've known they weren't right. The house is perfect for us or we would have walked away at about the third obstacle. I no longer buy the excuse that they are young, don't know what they're doing, and have stressful jobs in Chicago. Normal people, even young, inexperienced ones with stressful jobs in Chicago can figure this stuff out. I would add that they have their own realtor to help them through the process but I don't know if she's speaking to them anymore.

We knew they wouldn't do any repairs. They have no money. Integrity seems to be in short supply with them too. Emotions, however, they have in spades. They have bitched and whined about how we're taking advantage of them by buying their house at the list price. We have received more than one letter accusing us of "taking advantage of a marketing strategy" by purchasing the home they've been trying to sell for months and months (with several agents and more than one agency). Ok fine. They are crazy, but we can work with crazy for a limited time. Let's just get through this!

We say to them - we hear you, no repairs, but please provide us with the building permits for the work you had done as the inspection shows that there are some code violations which we will need to address. They refused. Not only did they refuse but their response was a "how dare you ask for such a thing" type of letter. They blathered on about how they'd had licensed professionals do the work - NOT day laborers (a strange defense since we'd not even thought of that - we just wanted the papers to cover our butts about the permits). According to our sellers, they'd paid good money (here we were treated to yet another digression about how we had NO IDEA what kind of deal we were getting on the house) and the work was done flawlessly (despite our evil inspector's malicious observations to the contrary). They will not be providing documentation of any description - not even the name of the (supposedly licensed) contractor who did the (provably not flawless) work.

Sometimes I really don't understand how people work. Do they expect us to believe what they say even when it makes no sense? Do they have friends who listen sympathetically to their woes and say, "There, there. Your buyers are just whacked. It will all be over soon"? That's all neither here nor there. We have in writing what we need legally to cover ourselves. Our inspector gave us detailed instructions on what needs to be done to make everything right. We're ready to close and be done with these jokers.

Then on Friday our realtor lets us know that there's a teeny, tiny little problem that affects them, not us, and as far as she knows we are still set to close on Wednesday morning. This infitesimally small issue turns out to be nothing other than a LIEN against the house, a dispute with the neighbors, and a pending court case. Poor Robbie had to tell us (yet again) that she's never had anything like this happen in her 20+ years in real estate. It's the third never-before-seen thing these people have achieved. I think it is a remarkable act of faith that we launched ourselves out on this journey with so little assurance of a successful end. Granted, we hadn't many options considering our homelessness as of 8:30 a.m. yesterday. Might as well launch and hope for the best, eh? Of course it wouldn't hurt if all of you out there, my lovely internet friends, would hope for the best for us too! Maybe that will tip the cosmic scales and the universe will allow Wednesday to proceed without a hitch. A girl can dream, can't she?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

In The Midst

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear SH, happy birthday to you.
Nothing like getting lost in the moving shuffle! We did celebrate - and mostly his present is the PS3 he's had since December - but it was a bit "Oh, hey, it's your birthday. Have some cookie and let's talk about moving some more!"

Monday. We leave Monday morning. It might not seem quite so overwhelming if I didn't have a wedding to go to on Saturday. And not just any wedding - it's one of those where the save the date cards went out last summer. It's in South Carolina. I know! I leave tomorrow to drive 10 hours to South Carolina, go to the wedding on Saturday, drive 10 hours back on Sunday - help finish the packing up, sell the house, and drive 500 miles back to NORTH Carolina on Monday. C-R-A-Z-Y! But that's the way we're going to do it.

Recently I saw the PODS commercial where the people stand by and all their stuff marches itself into the storage container. I made some comment about how wouldn't that be nice if it would all just load itself - and the response I got was that from my perspective that's exactly what will happen. Right! Lucky me! Only I'm OCD enough that the thought that people will be moving my stuff around while I'm gone completely stresses me out!!!! Oh well!

Likely I won't blog from the wedding or from the in transit portion of the move! Next you hear from me I hope to be able to thrill you with fascinating accounts of ...unpacking. Woo hoo!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

We Needed That Extra Dash Of Stress

One week from today we will be in transit - halfway between homes. There is so much to do that I get the screaming heebie jeebies if I think about it too long. I want to navigate this transition as smoothly as possible for my kids. We are having fun with many aspects of it all, but there are distinctly hard parts to it. On top of that there has been additional emotional drama. One example is that the Ninja Princessa was forbidden to open a myspace account - clearly, expressly, and with lots of explanations as to why. In ongoing revelations coming from her mother's home in Colorado, we have been finding out that not only did she try to sneak in getting permission to open one there with her mother's blessing, but after her mom presented a united front with SH and said no - the Princessa did it anyway. Only now it turns out that she didn't just do it - that she opened her account in April and lied about it directly on several occasions. Not only that but upon reading email that has been sent to her - there is at least one troll that has sent her pornographic email. I suppose she gets credit for deleting that email - but it is disturbing that when she was faced with evidence of exactly what we'd told her we did not want her exposed to - that she covered that up and proceeded with her own agenda. It is not surprising in the sense that it is completely normal for kids her age and in her situation to push these boundaries, to try to sneak this type of thing past, and to learn about the consequences of lying. Just because it's normal does not make it easy. Adolescents experiment with a vast array of risky behavior. As parents, we expect it. We prepare as much as we can - forearming our kids with information and empowering them to make the best choices. We keep ourselves informed and on alert to detect what we can - knowing we'll miss something, knowing there are dangers that we can't even imagine, knowing that in some ways it's a total crapshoot. Somewhere out there - there is a kid who has done things a thousand times worse than anything our kid will ever think about and that kid (against ridiculous odds) is fine - maybe even stronger for having walked that particular road. Somewhere out there is also a kid who did nothing - or did something very minorly risky and that kid is dead or traumatized for life. Parenting is about staying open to information without becoming paralyzed by frightful possibilities. Somehow we frantically try to shepherd our kids through the Scylla and Charybdis of adolescence.

And for some of us - we are trying to do that while being attacked, evaluated, judged, and found lacking in our parental abilities. I am having some fun with my mom and my ex - can you tell?


Friday, July 06, 2007

Hire Me, I'm Irish?

Yet another example of marketing I don't understand:
We saw a huge white truck with shamrocks painted all over it with the slogan "Gaelic Gutter" and then some small print about never having to clean leaves out of your gutters again.

What does the Gaelic have to do with anything? Are there that many people out there that would make a choice of gutter guards based primarily on ethnic affiliation? Is it a move to distinguish this company from the crowded field of gutter guard installation by making it memorable? I. don't. get. it. (Seems to me that if I were trying to make a point about leaves not getting in the gutter I wouldn't necessarily think a truck with giant, green leaves painted all over it would do the trick. Maybe it's just me.)

After the move, I think I'm going to have to start looking for a paying job. I think I should take marketing specialist off my list of possible career fields. What do you think?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Wasabi's New Name

SH gave Wasabi a bath today. Because Wasabi doesn't shed, he has to be bathed and brushed often. His fluffy, fluffy fur holds LOTS of water. No matter how much you towel him off at the end, when you let him loose to do his allover body shake - TONS of water goes flying. And he looks like a hairy, scraggly mess until he dries off and fluffs back up. I wish I'd taken a picture of him today but SH now calls him "Sponge Dog Hair Pants."

PS - Happy 4th of July (to those in the States). Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday. Catch back up with you when the fireworks are over.

Grownup By Degrees

Until recently, I have always been one of the youngest in my crowd of friends. I have also always looked significantly younger than I am. (That used to make me sad and often frustrated - like when I was in the Navy and got carded for BUYING GAS for my car on my 19th birthday. Now? I kind of like it.)

I think the connection between how old you look and how old you act is strong - and not necessarily straight forward. Perceptions about age and aging shift subtly. Our ideas of what we think a certain age is going to be like are often very different from the way it seems to us when we get there. On my thirteenth birthday I wondered when I'd feel like a teenager. Confusing cultural messages about what age signifies abound. Uplifting slogans like "You're only as old as you feel!" and admonishments like "Act your age!" war with the next generation's comeback of "If my music is too loud, then you're too old!" Our mile markers along the journey are not precise. When are we "grown up"? When we make our first paycheck? Get a driver's license? Vote? Serve our country? Get shitfaced (legally) for the first time? Get married? Have a baby?

For me I'd done all of those things and still didn't FEEL grown up until I was trying to prove to my 6 year old cousin and my 2 year old son that it was possible to eat brussel sprouts without gagging. At 25, I'd never actually managed to eat brussel sprouts (and keep them down) before but I was highly motivated by an article I'd just read. This article seemed to imply that my child would die of malnutrition if I could not find a way to instill an appreciation of all things vegetable in him IMMEDIATELY. Apparently, moms can DESTROY a kid's chances of ever liking healthy food by failing to provide enticing, nutritious food during a critical developmental window lasting approximately three weeks in toddlerhood. I put on a jolly face. I made vegetables EXCITING and INTERESTING. Earlier in the week I had tackled the easier ones - sweet potatoes and carrots (with brown sugar!), peas (roly poly!) , squash and pumpkin (fun with gourds!), broccoli (with cheese), green beans (with dipping sauces!) and the like. I worked my way down the list and was stumped by brussel sprouts. Egad - do people still eat those? They were not only on the list but STARRED (meaning that if you were on a desert island this vegetable was soooo good for you that you should choose to be stranded with it above all.) I didn't even know how to fix brussel sprouts. I ended up buying frozen, buttered, baby sprouts with the jolly green giant on the box, figuring the big, green, leafy guy was more fun than the Kroger brand. I admit I was grasping at straws. MUCH to my surprise, I gulped down the first one and realized it was not horrid. I even chewed the next bite and LIKED it. It dawned on me somewhere in the middle of that second bite, that I must well and truly be a grown up now. Despite my vegetable epiphany, the brussel sprouts were not a hit with the pre-school crowd. I was too freaked out to worry about it. I kept thinking to myself that somehow I'd become a grown up and not even noticed it! I think I spent the next three days eating cheetos and drinking coke for breakfast.

Today I again feel like I turned a significant corner in the aging process without noticing. Somehow I've become middle aged without meaning to!! I've just come back from our first meeting with a financial planner. We PAID someone lots of money to spend an hour or two talking to us about insurance, wills, retirement accounts, and estate planning - and it was ENJOYABLE! It was affirming to find out we've been on the right track; it was interesting to learn more; it was exciting to think about what the next five years are going to be like. LISTEN TO ME! Insurance, budgets, IRA's - interesting and exciting?!!

Oh my god - I don't think coke and cheetos are going to soothe me this time! Quick somebody throw a keg party!!


Monday, July 02, 2007


Two weeks from today we sell our house. For 48 hours we'll be in transit and then we'll be in our new home. All with the caveat of "God willing and the creek don't rise." Well that and if Mr. Tapioca Head doesn't find a way to take me back to court and ruin things. YES - it was that kind of a fun weekend. But I'm not going to talk about it. I'm going to talk about way more fun stuff.

What I want to say is "Yay me!" for starting to run again and for playing tennis this morning for the first time in almost two years. VBGF joined the USTA (US Tennis Association) purely to get the shirt to wear while she watches Wimbledon. Unlike me, she cannot watch Wimbledon without being completely motivated to go out and play some tennis herself. Now she's busy infecting her closest friends with her tennis enthusiasm. She bought a racket for me to use (mine being packed already - who knew I would play tennis the last 14 days I'm here??) and dragged me out on the court this morning. We had a ball! It was warm but breezy. Clear skies. Perfect tennis weather. I love being active. I love being outside. I love being around other active people. Especially ones who are having as much fun as VBGF has on the tennis court.

After two consecutive days of exercise and crazy amounts of adrenaline, I feel justified in spending the afternoon on the couch watching other people exert themselves. If you're not going to watch Wimbledon, I hope you do something to enjoy the summer day!