Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The End (of the Move) is Near...

A rainy day afforded Sarah and me the opportunity to get a lot of the remaining chores done for packing. Since nearly all the furniture is gone
now, Mattias and I spent a hour watching from his window perch, the "digger" work across the street. The dump trucks would pull up on the
street directly in front of us waiting their turn to go around the corner and get filled up with dirt. The digger kept digging out from underneath him - how he doesn't create a sink hole to fall into I do not understand.

While Mattias napped Sarah ran a few errands and then loaded my car with her computer table and chair which we would be delivering later (unfortunately during Vancouver rush hour traffic - no fun). The new owner of the bed called around 3 pm and asked if he could pick it up then and we had to wake Mattias from his very long nap as mom had literally sold the bed out from under him!

Then it was off to play group. I doubt that Mattias had any understanding at all that this was probably the last time he would be seeing many of his buddies but it gave Sarah a chance to connect one last time with the friends she'd made there.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Celebrate This Week!

Still in Vancouver - still helping with the move, although I must say the end really does appear to be in sight now. Gerry came up for the weekend to help move/deliver the bigger furniture so that all that remains in the apartment now are boxes, their bed (which will move upstairs to its new owner this afternoon), the computer table/chair /other assorted miscellaneous items (which I think are schedule to be delivered to new owners as well today or tomorrow). Tonight Sarah & family will move to the Vancouver TrendWest for a couple of nights to finalize the cleaning of the apartment.

All these are mundane tasks so I thought I would take a little time to keep you up-to-speed on what you might want to celebrate this week:
  • Monday, March 30th: This is National Hot Dog Week - please pass the mustard!
  • Thursday, April 2nd: St. Urban's Day - the traditional day to take a spring tonic (if anyone figures out what a spring tonic is, please let me know!)
  • Friday, April 3rd: National Chocolate Mousse Day - I plan on celebrating this in a big way (and I'm marking this one on my calendar so I NEVER miss it again!)

Of course, you'll want to watch out for any gremlins on Wednesday, April 1st!


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Vancouver - the Sparkling Jewel of British Columbia

Vancouver, even amidst all its construction (prep work for next February's Olympics - most buildings/roads/etc. have signs that promise a completion date of January 2010), is really beautiful. Of course it was a bit more difficult to tell these past couple of days because (like Seattle) is drizzled or rained or at least was cloudy and damp. But late yesterday afternoon the sun poked out its head with a promise of blue skies and the rain completely disappeared exactly when we needed it to (in order to deliver Sarah's white couch to its new owner), so I'm not going to complain about the weather again (today anyway).

The Juno Awards (Canada's version of the Grammys) is taking place this weekend (apparently this entire weekend). The actual ceremony is going to be tonight (or possibly late this afternoon since we are on the west coast) but limos and party-goers have been arriving since last week. One might think that since we are on the 24th floor we would be pretty much immune to all the revelry, however, there is no AC in the building and unless you keep the windows open it gets pretty stuffy in here. The bars apparently close at 2:00 am but it would seem some guests are possibly asked to leave a bit earlier. Unfortunately they don't seem to have anywhere else to go or taxi service is very slow at that particular time of the day/night, so they hang around outside the bar (directly under our windows as near as I can tell) discussing various topics (plans for the future, possibly sharing information about their parentage - or more likely guessing about others). I can't imagine what it would be like to actually stand near one of these individuals, but here on the 24th floor, it's plenty loud.

Yesterday, we worked on packing up Sarah's kitchen - designating things to be sent to storage in Redmond (I think that means our place) and things that will eventually get sent or taken to Sweden (setting up a kitchen from scratch is expensive work). Mattias thought it was an unusual game. At first he thought mommy would pack, he should unpack. That wasn't working so much for us! Then he figured out that with all this stuff on the floor he had a whole bunch of new-found toys (to replace those that seem to be mysteriously disappearing into boxes no doubt).

This was once of his favorites: Mom's hand-held mixer.

What I particularly love about little boys is how they are born with the ability to imitate any mechanical object. They just KNOW how to make a car sound, what sound the bus makes and how a mixer should sound. This little guy surprised us by knowing exactly what the beaters were for and how to attach them to the mixer. He was a bit surprised when he accidentally, at first, found the button that released the beaters.

Then it was time to help Grandpa pack the mixer and beaters back in their little container and put it in the big box. Helping Grandpa is serious work.
After dinner it was time to deliver a couch, two bookcases and a plant to their new owners. Mattias was getting pretty tired (and a bit cranky) so I tried to keep him amused or at least out of the way while the others negotiated the furniture down to the truck. It was so cute - Mattias waved "bye bye" to the couch and the bookcase, but when Fredrik took the large plant that Mattias had played with his entire life, it proved just too much for the little guy and he sobbed. He's really getting confused by things disappearing but at least the promise of a ride in Grandpa's truck cheered him up last night. I'm not sure what will happen when the rest of his bedroom furniture goes "bye bye" today with Grandpa (although I'm pretty sure since he doesn't seem to spend too much time in his bed that he will most likely miss Grandpa's truck more!)

Friday, March 27, 2009

When the "Wheels" Fell Off the Bus!

Yesterday was my day to watch the little guy while Sarah got some moving tasks (those that aren't possible with a 1 1/2 year old attached) accomplished.

Mattias showed me his favorite thing on the dator (Swedish for computer - he translates for you if need be). He likes to watch "Alfons". It's a series of short videos (no more than 10 minutes at a time) about a little guy who is much like Mattias. And even if you don't understand the language of Alfons (I believe that it is Swedish...but mine is so rusty, it could easily be anything else!), you still understand the story. Yesterday's was about trying to get little Alfons to go to bed and Alfons' desire NOT to go to bed. The tricks employed by small children appear to be universal - I want a story, I want a drink, I want to know that poppa is there...

When it was over, I looked at Sarah's listing of YouTube videos she has saved on her computer and saw that there were kiddie songs that they apparently enjoyed together. I selected the first one "The Wheels on the Bus" and that's exactly where those wheels fell off the bus...!

Once you click/view one YouTube video, it finds others that are similar that you might also enjoy. Mattias and I sampled about 30 different variations (who knew?) of "The Wheels on the Bus" (there were a scary number more available) before Mattias settled on the one he liked the best.

At this point, I should share with you a story I heard years ago about the Disney Company and its then chairman, Michael Eisner. This was about the time that VHS was becoming the dominant player in video recording/playback and movie studios were just beginning to release their movies on VHS for sale to video rental companies. Disney execs were discussing whether there was any potential in marketing to the home consumer. Most argued "Who would want to watch the same thing over and over again?" and (as I imagine it) it was right about then that Eisner got that glint in his eye..."yes, who indeed would want to watch something over and over and over again?" he thought, anticipating the profits of this venture. Any parent of a pre-schooler knows the answer to that question!

The times...they are NOT a-changing! Mattias and I watched "Wheels" many, many, MANY times yesterday. If we were able to distract him briefly (going for lunch, getting dressed, etc) he was quick to say "Chair" and "Bus" which meant he wanted to sit in the big computer chair and was "Wheels" again...and again. He started getting good at the motions - the wheels go "round", the horn "beeps", the wipers "swish" and the baby says "Waa!"

Finally it was time for dinner and I set up the song (one more time) for Mattias to watch and sing while I went to help Sarah set the table. We could hear the song finish and we anticipated the appearance of Mattias asking one of us to "walk" to the computer for "chair" and "bus" time. Instead, we were surprised to hear the song begin again. He had figured out how to get it to "replay"!

I'm going to try to get a video of him singing along today, but in case you know someone who'd like to join in here's the link to Mattias' favorite "Wheels on the Bus!" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnupL42gmF4 (currently with nearly 400,000 views - most of them no doubt Mattias!)


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oh Canada!

My first "official" travel post!

I am in Canada - allegedly here to assist Sarah with the final push to complete packing/disposing of everything to facilitate their move to Sweden. I think I'm here to play with Mattias (or "Prince" as he seems to think his name is). Yesterday I brought with me a little "digger" truck. I didn't know when I purchased it that it comes complete with sound effects and sound/lights turns out to be much more fun to operate than merely pushing the truck around on the floor. Grandma has other "treats" to dole out during the week so I'm pretty sure we will have a good time.

For those contemplating a drive north from Seattle to visit Vancouver for next year's Olympics I have a couple of tips: 1) Start now. I really can't stress this enough. While I only had a 3 minute wait in the main line (I could have used my Nexus pass and zipped through in a mere minute but with the construction it's a little confusing on how to even access the Nexus line. Without a co-pilot I figured the lines were short enough to wait the additional 2 minutes.) The entire border is obviously going to be lovely...if it ever gets done and right now the projected completion date is sometime in March 2010. Unfortunately, the Olympics (and therefore the major traffic increase) will be over by then (or still waiting at the border). 2) USE YOUR CRUISE CONTROL! I cannot emphasize this enough. In a 1/2 mile stretch I saw at least 6 cars pulled over by police in all manner of vehicles (my favorite was either the mini-van that looked like it was being driven by a soccer mom or the car that looked kind of like a clunker - nobody would suspect either of those as being patrol cars!) 3) Bring something (legal) to occupy your time in line - books (if you've always wanted to read War & Peace this is probably the time) or board (bored?) games (get to know your fellow "wait"ers).

Once you get to Vancouver you'll realize that it has such a familiar feel to it. That's because (just like home) every other road is undergoing major reconstruction/revision. Allow plenty of time to travel within the city and if you figure out the traffic light system, please share! It's enough to cause a seizure - flashing red/green/yellow lights and pedestrians attempting a life & death version of frogger. I would recommend driving with at least one "spotter" to keep you from hitting them!

More later!


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's Always Been All About Her

I have refrained from jumping on the "Octo-Mom Bandwagon"...until now. Nadya Suleman has now fired the non-profit group "Angels in Waiting" and is refusing their in-home assistance for her family. (This is the group that Dr. Phil negotiated with in getting her free, and more importantly, extremely well-qualified 24/7 nursing staff.) These nurses were what made it possible for Nadya to bring home the first four octuplets this month. Without them in place, it is doubtful that the hospital would have released the infants at all.

So many people have expressed concern and serious doubts that any family could support and nurture a family of this size. To think that this woman, unemployed without demonstrable assets or income, who continually says it all about the children but whose actions just as clearly prove that it's all about her, would be remotely capable of this feat is unimaginable at best.

Nadya hasn't worked in years and has relied on the proceeds of a legal settlement for her existence. Despite this, she found the resources to fulfill HER wishes of having a LARGE family. Without regard for the six children at home (three of whom are identified as having special needs), she insisted on becoming pregnant yet again and with her doctor's assistance even defied recommended practices by insisting on being implanted all remaining (we can only hope) embryos resulting in octuplets.

The needs have all been hers - SHE wanted to have a family; SHE wanted to have a large family; SHE wanted to become pregnant again; SHE wanted to try for multiple births (for what other reason would she insist on ALL remaining embryos being implanted? She is relatively young and certainly future pregnancies were still an option.); SHE wanted to bring these children home and raise them completely by herself (unless someone wants to donate "TO THE CHILDREN" - "NOTHING FOR ME" she says. Certainly no one would need to contribute anything to her wants - she is quite capable of acquiring anything SHE WANTS.)

I watched part of the interview on the Dr. Phil show earlier this month. I like Dr. Phil. I do believe that he wants to help, albeit in a high profile manner (especially since March is "sweeps" month on tv), but that he was taken in by this woman. I found her to be disingenuous and enjoying the fact that the limelight is clearly focused on her. I'm no psychiatrist but I think this woman needs help. And the fact that she keeps refusing genuine assistance which would do nothing more than allow her to keep her family together in a safe and child-centered manner, in my mind is only more evidence of her mental imbalance.

I fear for these 14 children - I fear for their physical safety and well-being; I fear for their chances of mental and emotional stability. I hope that Nadya gets and ACCEPTS help soon for everyone's sake.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Only 33 Days Until Cruising!

And then the vacation posts will officially begin...

But until that time, I will continue "practicing" my blogging with emphasis on the "Musings" part (whilst dreaming of the "Travels" content!)

Today, two items of notice that you might not have seen:

  • "Unusual marriage ends in death-by-exercise" http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29791289/ Initially I thought this article was going to totally support my belief that one is only granted so many heartbeats in this life and I'm pretty much of the opinion that I don't want to use them all up with exercising (that being said, I'm at 80+ days on my WiiFit!) Turns out this 30-something married a 70-something and then forced him to literally swim himself to death in order to get his inheritance. Whew! That's one way I don't have to worry about going - a) I don't really have anything that Gerry would inherit from me (not that it would take me very long to be exercised to death) and b) it won't work the other way because Gerry's in phenomenal shape (well physically anyway :0) ) and I'd die of old age waiting for him to exercise to death!
  • Those of you looking for new job opportunities given the current economic climate might consider relocating to Rhode Island: "Pole positions: Strip club holds job fair - ‘Foxy Lady’ club in R.I. looks to fill openings in bad economy" http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29791612/ The owner is looking to fill 30 positions - bartenders, waitresses (only attractive ones need apply), floor hosts, managers, and disc jockeys. He's hoping that the downturn in economy will make prospective employees less prudish about shedding their clothes to make a buck. I guess it's all in a day's (or in this case night's) work...


Thursday, March 19, 2009

There But For the Grace of God...

My heart truly goes out to the family of Natasha Richardson. Falling down on the beginner slope seems like such an innocuous thing to do it is nearly impossible to believe it can have serious consequences. Just blowing my knee on the "bunny hill" I was extremely lucky! By all accounts it appears that we have not only lost a wonderful actress but a great human being all too young.

On to other news...

A high school in Dallas, Texas has come up with a rather unique way of having its students settle their differences (and simulataneously provide the staff with entertainment): "Texas high school held cage fights, records say - Staff allegedly staged 'gladiator-style' brawls for troubled students." http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29774152/

The school maintained a mesh cage in the boys' basketball locker room which "security monitors" would have students settle their differences...all while allowing the staff to enjoy this "gladiator entertainment".

And we wonder why kids are bringing/using guns in school?????


Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy Bithday to Me!

Saturday (March 14th) was the official beginning of my birthday weekend!

I love celebrations! I'm Irish and we Irish can turn any occasion into a celebration (think "wakes") but seriously we will celebrate anything - so a birthday such as mine (so close to St. Paddy's Day) has double party potential! It's never been about getting presents and such - I just love getting together with family and friends for festive food, great conversations, the occasional playing of games and lots of laughs. Nothing beats it!

Sarah, Fredrik & Mattias came down from Canada for the weekend. In fact, Mattias helped make crepes for my birthday breakfast. He is such a bundle of joy (and energy!) and continually delights. But this morning I was far more taken by watching the amazing young woman and mother my daughter has become. I'm proud and astounded by the loving patience she demonstrates with little Mattias. Without hesitation she got right down on the floor with him so that he could be "mommy's helper" and because of this year and half of love and devotion, he in turn has become an intelligent, thoughtful, loving 18-month old boy who adores his parents. I'd like to think she learned some of that from me but since I've yet to see her ever get frustrated with him (despite the 18 months of sleep deprivation!) I really rather doubt it! :)

Saturday afternoon and evening was spent celebrating St. Paddy's Day with the traditional corned beef & cabbage dinner accompanied by not one, not two but actually three jello salads (lovely to see that someone has been reading my posts and was desperate to show me that jello is achievable). The menu was rounded out with Marne's fabulous (and traditional now!) Irish Soda Bread and Michael's Guinness Chocolate Cake. Gerry provided bartending services with his famous (and perfectly poured!) "Black & Tans":

Naturally a St. Paddy's celebration wouldn't be complete without those souls brave enough to try the annual "Irish Car Bomb" drink. It involves dropping a shot glass filled with 1/2 Irish Whiskey and 1/2 Irish Creme into a 1/2 pint of Guinness (that's the easy part!) and then drinking it down....quickly (this ain't no sipping drink!). The tricky part is keeping the shot glass from knocking your front teeth out! This year we had 4 participants:

First Michael showed them how it was done. Then it was Mark's turn to belly up to the bar. Next came Gerry clearly attempting to save his teeth. Finally it was Chris's turn (no doubt his first) and he showed them that it could be done in only a matter of a few seconds!

I have my own version of this tradition - it involves a 1/2 pt. of Irish Creme with a shot glass filled with 1/2 Irish Whiskey and 1/2 Guinness. I drink the Irish Creme and just look at the shot glass - much tastier!
The day was completed with birthday phone calls from Jenny and my sister Margo and the weekend topped off with a delicious brunch in Seattle followed by some serious "couch time" (aka snoozing) in the afternoon - a completely enjoyable weekend. I'll never understand why all people don't love birthdays as much as I do!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thanks, But No Thanks

Dear President Obama,

I see that you have proposed lengthening the school year as part of your education plan.

I believe that you mean well. Education in this country is a travesty, however, increasing the number of days our kids spend there is not the answer. Instead I propose you consider how the time in school is spent.

In my local school district, educators spend far too much time on what we will call "non-teaching" items - complying with state requirements for "seat time" but not really fulfilling any educational goals. Our state mandates 180 days of education for our children. But I wonder how many adults realize that this "day" of education is defined by only a few actual hours, meaning that you could send your child to school at 8:30 am and have that same child home after a FULL DAY of school by 11:00 am! It's not the number of days that's the problem - it's the definition of DAY itself!

And then let's look at those 180 "days" - due to union negotiation and district mandates, our teachers are required to complete, attend or in some cases just have time off for lesson planning or "personal" days. This means that we have an unusally large number of "sub" days - days in which a substitute teacher is there for some or all of the day. While many teachers do prepare a lesson plan for their subs to follow, I think we can all recognize that a day with a substitute is going to result, optimally, in less than a full day of education for these students and, more often, is a complete waste of a day while the kids spend time watching videos, dvds, reading or in study hall. The problem here isn't the number of days - it's the quality of the days spent in school.

Finally (at least for this post), let's look at the actual number of days in school. Because we typically start after Labor Day and have now had to allow for "snow days" (thank you globally warming!) our schools are "in session" until mid-to-late June. Everyone - teachers, students and parents - are ready for school to end by that time...or earlier. Teachers are only paid until the end of the day the last day of the school year. They aren't staying any longer than what they are paid for so in order to get everything accomplished to physically close the building, students are released after only 1/2 day (of course this still counts as their 180th full day of education).

Having those few precious hours without students is not nearly enough time to get everything done, so students are actually released the entire week after 1/2 day of education (and they are actually ENCOURAGED not to attend at all) while high school seniors are actually given a full week off before everyone else!

Still this is not enough time to get everything packed away for the summer so teachers collect all textbooks around the 1st of June! While I don't believe all learning must be done via textbooks, apparently the teachers do and so our students pretty much spend the entire month of June without any educational instruction taking place. The number of days isn't the problem - it's our expectations for the teachers in our schools that needs to be addressed.

President Obama, nobody could possibly agree with you more than I when you say that our schools are failing. We need a total overhaul of the system - not a cosmetic repair - to make certain that our children get the quality of education that is going to make them competitive, productive employees and innovators for the future. The education process demands the same focused attention and revision that is going to re-invent our economic system and our health care system. Anything else is merely a rearrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic and is not going to stop this ship from sinking.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Go Zags!

That was certainly an interesting victory - the game was over before it ever began as Gonzaga led 1-0 before the tip off! I was unaware of the "dunking" rule and even Gerry (fount of all sports related arcane knowledge and trivia) was surprised. It seems you can't dunk the ball in warm-up, a fact that one St. Mary's player will NEVER forget. One of the refs was standing right there, spotted the infraction and charged a technical foul against St. Mary's BEFORE the game!

From that point on it was classic Gonzaga ball - the players spend the first 15 minutes of the 1st half finishing their warm-up and then it's game over for their opponent. Fun stuff!



Sunday, March 8, 2009

Uh....Not This Granny!

What to do when your mother (grandmother to your children) turns 84? Carol Brown of Lake Okeechobee, Florida came up with a rather unique gift idea - certainly one that is "unreturnable" and most likely "un-re-giftable".

Carol wanted to give her mom the chance to once again "ride on the back of a boy's motorcycle" like she had done in the 30's. She advertised on craigslist for someone to "Come Give Granny A Ride On Your Hog" and Ron Borowski of nearby Palm Beach County said "you bet."

See June Brown has cancer and the doctor has told her and her husband of 64 years that she doesn't have much longer. This may well be her last birthday and it certainly was one to remember. Carol was afraid her mother would be frightened if a stranger rode up on his Harley so she waited until the day before the big event to even tell her mother about her gift. June spent the remainder of that day calling everyone she knew to tell them about it!

The next day she paced up and down the block, waiting for the sound of the motorcycle. When Ron showed up they spent quite a bit of time making small talk before he asked if she'd like to go for a ride. At first she said no but with some coaxing and assistance from her three daughters, she was eased onto the back of bike and off they went.

It was a memory neither she nor her family will ever forget! http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29568715/

Now as a grandmother of an 18-month old and soon-to-be grandmother to another grandson, I'm all about creating memories. I'm just hoping that my kids remember that the only time I rode on the back of a boy's motorcycle when I was a kid I burned my leg on the exhaust (I think - I've studiously avoided all things "motorcycle" since that time!) and I'm not looking to recreate that memory at all! (But I wouldn't turn down a nice cruise!)


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Okay I must admit - the news this week has been, to say the least, interesting. I mean I passed on commenting on "Octo-Mom" (that's just too easy a target) and on the guy who tried to propose to his girlfriend by putting the engagement ring in her Wendy's Frosty (in her defense, there's just no way to eat that thing thru a straw!). I haven't even joined in on the latest "A-Rod" bash fest!

But today..."Blaine guard won't say 'please', sprays driver" http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29533580/

Apparently, the driver is a "frequent flyer" who crosses the border several times per week and in nearly every case, the border guard is courteous. In this particular instance, however, the border guard asked the driver to turn off his engine. When the driver asked him to "say please" first, the guard sensing immediate danger and an international terrorist, grabbed his pepper spray and shot the driver in the face...welcome to America!

This definitely bodes well for the increased trafficking that will occur less than a year from now when all the world is trying to get to/from Canada via "The International PEACE Arch".

We are doomed...