Friday, October 29, 2010

one small step for man

The winter of 1992, Charlie and I went to New York City.

We toured the sights and took the ferry over to Ellis Island. We walked around and then, went in to the Statue of Liberty. Our plan was to climb the stairs all the way to the torch and seeing as it was a rather foggy day and the crowds were light, we thought this would be an easy enough task.

And it was.

Until we started going up the staircase and the wide steps became narrower and narrower. Until they were so narrow that the thin steps going UP in to the torch were intertwined with the thin steps that were coming DOWN from the torch and if you looked over the iron banister that came up to the middle of your thigh, you'd see that the only thing between you and a several hundred foot drop was a thin metal pipe.

Charlie had been in front of me and we were keeping a very good pace up the stairs. Until, my husband made the mistake of looking over the edge. And that's when he came to a sudden and complete stop and I actually ran in to his backside. Very seriously he said, "JEN. Turn around. Go down." I thought he was joking. "Yeah right!" I laughed. "Keep going! We're almost there!!"

He didn't budge. He was totally frozen. "JEN." He said again. "TURN AROUND AND GO DOWN." Then he added, "I AM NOT KIDDING TURN AROUND AND GO DOWN RIGHT NOW BEFORE I THROW UP."

And that's when I realized that the man who would become my husband has a fear of heights. So, I turned around and went back down the stairs and we never discussed it again. Except when we're at dinner parties and the conversation starts to lag. That's when I'll pull out, "Did we ever tell you about the time we climbed the Statue of Liberty?" and Charlie will always shoot me a glance that says, "OH WOULD YOU BE QUIET, WOMAN!"

So. We bought a new house. Right?

And in that house there is this entry way that is at least 15 feet tall and inaccessible with any of our current ladders. The challenge with this entry way isn't just that's it's 15 feet tall, it's that there are a flight of stairs beneath it. So the simple act of getting up there to take down wallpaper, change a light bulb or paint, is a formidable challenge in and of itself.

This last weekend, we went out and bought a 20-foot extension ladder. We justified the $200.00 cost because we believe that we'll be needing this ladder not only to access the entry way for painting and light bulb replacement, but also, to clean out gutters and hang Christmas lights and in doing so, hopefully NOT re-enact the ladder scene from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

When we got our new ladder home, we set it up in the stairwell and my husband, stood for a moment, surveying the activity before him. That activity being, he needed to climb to the very top of the ceiling and sand off the glue that had been holding the wallpaper in place for the past 50 years. It took him several minutes of self-encouragement and motivation before he even set foot on the ladder.


And once he made it up a few steps...


He turned around and came down again.


"There is absolutely no way in HELL I can do that." He said. "HO NO. HELLS NO WAY, HELLS NO HOW."

So, being the supportive wife that I am, I grabbed the sandpaper, and my camera, and scurried to the top of the ladder. OK, I'll admit, standing on a ladder ABOVE a flight of stairs was a little sketchy. But once I took this picture of my husband standing at the base of the ladder, he said, "You're going to post that on your blog, aren't you?"


And I might have said, "Of course!"

And he might have said, "GET DOWN, WOMAN."

So I gladly did because if I fell off that ladder I most surely would have broken numerous bones and/or died. And then, my husband, who moments later was telling me that he was ready to return the ladder and hire a professional, actually sprinted up the ladder.


He sanded the walls.


He painted the ceiling.


And the very next day, he climbed the ladder again and painted the entire entryway, not once but TWICE.


"Do not talk to me. I am focused on not DYING."


So the moral of this story is, posting about fears in a public forum is one sure-fire way to dispel them. Oh and also? The next time we go to the Statue of Liberty, I'm bringing my camera.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

my little linguist

Next week, our children have a "Cultural Festival" at school where they'll need to perform in front of an audience.


The kindergarten class is celebrating French culture, the first graders Hispanic, the second graders Russian, and so on and so on.

As part of our children's performance, they'll be singing the well known song,"Frère Jacques."

Tonight, as we were sitting down to dinner, they were practicing their verses. Assuming that since they are responsible for representing "France" during this performance, they've been taught a little bit about the country, I asked the children what language was Frère Jacques?

They hesitated for a moment and then replied, "English!"

"No," I said. "It's not English. What other language might it be?"

The only other language that they know by name is Spanish, so they all shouted, "SPANISH!"

"No," I continued. "It's not Spanish." When they gave me puzzled looks, I thought that perhaps they needed a prompt so I offered, "The song you're singing is in Fr.... Fr.... Fr...."

I looked at them hopefully, when William excitedly said, "Oh that's right! It's in FRPANISH!"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

the fruit of life

Last weekend, we hopped in the car and we drove to the country.


It was a spectacular fall day and we decided that our time would best be spent apple picking.



Or, apple hunting and gathering...


Since most of the low lying fruit was just out of grasp for little hands.


Unless, you happened to have a good reach.


Or, were a good climber.


Or, your father scored an apple picker and was able to pluck all the fruit off the top branches.




We picked a lot of apples.


We ate a lot of apples.


This is how you eat an apple when you have a loose tooth on one side of your mouth that you don't want to disturb.


And this is how you eat an apple when you have an awesome sister.


The next day, we washed all of our apples...


And then set about making our favorite fall dessert.


The kids are at an age where they can help with this activity and it was a great experience to spend an entire afternoon chatting with them while they sliced and placed and sprinkled.



We didn't cook the Crisps, but instead, covered them with tinfoil ...


And then we loaded up our wagon and cruised around the neighborhood dropping them off to our new peeps. It was a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.


And an even better way to meet our new neighbors.


So I guess this is just proof that the real reason my expense reports aren't done...


Is because I'm too busy enjoying the fruit of life.

Monday, October 25, 2010

nice ascot

I've been meaning to write for ... let's see ... June, July, August, September, October ... almost five months now, about Toy Story 3.


On the day when it debuted, the trio were in summer camp. And interestingly enough, they had very little desire to see the movie. Unlike their brother who is all about Buzz Lightyear, every day, all the time.


On that fateful day ... June 18, 2010 ... Charlie and I loaded up little Henry and we were FIRST in line at the movie theater. We procured our 3D glasses and popcorn and settled in to our seats while wondering, when exactly was the last time we ate popcorn at 9:30 AM?


The movie was wonderful.

It was everything and more that we thought it would be.

I wept through much of it. Partly because I was feeling very emotional at that juncture, but mostly because the movie was just THAT good. I wept at the beginning when Andy is a young man packing his room for college because Whoa! Wait a minute!

Wasn't Andy just a little boy, yesterday?

It was difficult to ignore the little boy sitting next to me, with his 3D glasses, because at that moment, I could actually see the future flying past us.


It was suddenly very easy to imagine the day that my babies were packing up their belongings for college. The start of a new life for them. The start, but also an end, to a life for me.

Choke. Choke. Gasp.

In typical Toy Story fashion, there were a lot of hilarious scenes. But the end packed both Charlie and I punch we didn't expect. One minute we're laughing ... hahahahahaha! ... and the next minute, Andy is bringing his beloved toys to Bonnie's house and he's clutching Woody and telling him how much he loves him and appreciates how he's always been there for him and ... and ... and ....


That was it for me. And for my husband.

We both gasped and started weeping at the same exact moment.

Once the movie was over, we went out for pizza and Charlie dazzled us with his sketching skills.


A week later, I went back to see the movie again, this time with the triplets, and I cried through it a second time. The kids couldn't understand why. And for the life of me, I couldn't explain in a cohesive manner that children GROW UP and move away and please children! Please, don't ever, ever leave your parents. You can live at home FOREVER.


Unfortunately, when lemonade was spilled over Charlie's computer this past July and we lost his entire hard drive, we also lost pictures of Henry's birthday party. Namely, the Buzz Lightyear cake that me, his doting mother, created for him.

It's really too bad I don't have that picture to share because it was hilariously awful. I most certainly DO NOT have my cousin Anne Marie's cake decorating gene. If I recall correctly, my children's exact words upon seeing the cake were, "Mommy, how come Buzz's wings are coming out of his HEAD?"

(In lieu of a cake photo, here's a photo of the Buzz ice cream that went with the cake. Lemon ice cream? It tasted almost as bad as my cake looked.)


This past weekend, we went to see the Disney on Ice production of Toy Story 3.

It was a fantastic show.


Although, in hindsight, we shouldn't have arrived an hour and a half before the show started because we had a solid 90 minutes, to tell the children WHY we wouldn't buy them the $20.00 piece of cheap plastic (insert whatever object here) with a picture of Buzz on the front.


During intermission, we caved and bought each of the kids a Toy Story-esque gadget. And then, we shelled out an additional $20.00 for two lemonades (in low-quality plastic collector cups!) and another $10.00 on a tub of popcorn.


What is it about Disney that does that to me?


At first, my logic is intact and I'm questioning the $45.00 per price tickets. But once I'm inside, I lose all reason as I start specking out the $150.00 seats and contemplating how NEXT TIME, we need to upgrade to the first row and leave our binoculars at home!


So what if a 100-minute show costs us the equivalent of groceries for a MONTH?


That's the Disney Experience. It's just a matter of time, before I am swept up in the "magic" of it all and without blinking ....


Will swiftly drop $200.00 on matching Mickey Mouse ears for the WHOLE family.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

administrivia (with an edit @ the end)

I'm trying to organize all of our paperwork since moving in to this house, and my organizational skills are being severely challenged. It seriously feels like I'm drowning in paper and administrative tasks to complete. I need a secretary. Or a wife.

Or both.


I need to submit an expense report for several of the inspections that were part of our home buying experience, and which are fully reimbursable, I just need to track down all of those receipts and make sure we haven't lost anything. This sounds simple enough, but it will probably consume several hours of my day. So, I haven't done it yet and the longer I wait, the more difficult this task becomes.

I'm typically not a procrastinator, but I also need to submit an expense report for goods that were damaged during the move. Thus far, our list includes the boys' bunk bed, our media center, three lamps, two curtain rods, several pictures, a bicycle and my psyche.

There are expense reports that need to be submitted for duplicate housing expenses that were incurred during the time that we were living in hotels and still paying a mortgage on our California house. In order to complete these expense reports, I need to go dig up all of our mortgage statements, utility bills, hotel receipts, food receipts, and a host of other things which also sounds simple enough, but will take me the latter part of two days and result in much cursing. My new "substitution" word is SNAP!

I learned it from William.


There is DMV paperwork to fill out for securing our licenses in Virginia. We also need to get new license plates. We need to revisit our auto insurance and life insurance and wills and find new doctors for the family. These things constitute To-Do Items #40 through #47, respectively.

Then there are the mounds upon mounds (upon MOUNDS) of paper that my children are bringing home from school. God bless the man that I married, when the children return home from school each day, he takes everything out of their backpacks and piles it up in the middle of the kitchen table. So, the management of school paperwork has been falling under my realm. Now, I've "mentioned" one or two times how my husband might better "assist" with this effort. It usually starts with me saying, "GAH. FOR PETE'S SAKE" and typically ends with, "MUST I DO EVERYTHING AROUND HERE?"

But then I remember that my husband is a huge contributor the success of this household and I most definitely don't do everything around here. Not by a looooonng shot. If I did indeed do everything around here, we'd still be driving cross-country. Stuck somewhere in probably Oklahoma. Warding off fire ants.

However, when I'm buried in paperwork up to my eyeballs and my husband is leisurely folding laundry while watching a football game, I tend to go a little blind with those feelings of OVERWHELMED.

Now, back to the topic surrounding the oceans of paper the school sends home everyday...

This is where some of my greatest frustrations lie. Because everything looks important - and in my quest to be an involved parent - I feel like I should review each piece in great detail. But then, when I review these slips of paper, each one requires that I actually DO something.


And then, I'm stuck on what to do?

Do I have one of the little pictures that my children drew in class, transformed in to an Original Artwork creation that will benefit the PTA?

If so, what do I order?

The mug, the apron, the trivet, the magnet or the Christmas tree ornament?

(Times three.)

I completely neglected to send money to school on picture day and now the proofs are back.

Do I order their Kindergarten pictures?

If so, what set should I order?

The 1-8x10, 2-5x7 and 8-billfolds? Or, do I just toss the whole lot of it out, scan the image and store what I want on my computer? Who, other than a child's mother, really keeps their Kindergarten pictures? Do I honestly need more than ONE photo?

The children are going to participate in a Turkey Trot for their school. The entry is $25.00 per child, with all proceeds benefiting the PTA. So, the question becomes, do I send the children around door-to-door asking that everyone sponsor their run, OR, do I fork over the $25.00 per child and be done with it?

These are the things that I think about when I should be doing expense reports.

My calendar is booking up faster than I can believe because I've signed up for various volunteer activities in my quest to be a part of this whole "school" experience.

Although, oddly enough, most of the activities that I'm partaking in, in no way involve my children. For example, I'm volunteering for two hours, once every six weeks, to help school children make sandwiches for local homeless shelters. It wasn't until after I signed up, that I learned my children won't participate in this activity until NEXT year.

Apparently, the homeless shelters don't want sandwiches made by Kindergartners.


Gee. I can't imagine why?


I'm also baking several dozen muffins for the teachers on one of the days that we have parent-teacher conferences. I'm also volunteering at a book fair. And chaperoning a field trip. The good news with the field trip is that it's actually FOR my children's class. The bad news is that I'll have Henry there which means I'll spend much of the time chasing after a three-year-old, who has received the green-light to attend this particular outing.

Does that sound negative?

It really wasn't meant to. I just think that it's important to dispel the image that it's a carefree jaunt to chaperon a kindergarten field trip when you also happen to directly supervise a three-year-old who runs around ROARING and routinely throws himself on the ground while kicking his feet and yelling, "I NOT DO IT! I NOT, NOT, NOT!"


Charlie would probably contend the strength required to remain sane when outing with Henry, is comparable to the strength necessary to remain sane whilst being married to me.


And I'm afraid he might be right.


Speaking of Administrivia and things on my To-Do list, tonight as I was once again unintentionally postponing my expense reporting I created a spreadsheet with all of the generous contributors to my 3-Day walk and ran the total number through Random.Org.

The winner of the PBK bean bag chair is Ms. Stephanie A. This came as little surprise to me since she donated close to 10% of my fundraising total. Which, by the way, exceeded my goal by close to $500.00. So again, a HUGE thank you to everyone that contributed to such a critical cause.

For those people that wrote they'd like a bracelet, I'll get them in the mail to you as soon as I can. (Soon as I can = January?)

Stephanie, please drop me a line when you have a chance and let me know: 1) What color beanbag chair you'd like and 2) The initials or name that you'd like monogrammed.

Yay!! One more thing is off my To-Do list.

Snap!! Expense reports are still outstanding.