Friday, September 29, 2006

Questions On My Mind Today

1. When Husband and I and Lana land in the US from our trip back from Vietnam, will all three of us be able to enter the US through the “US Citizens” line at immigration/customs, or will we have to walk Lana through the “non-US Citizens” line first and THEN come through Immigrations ourselves through the separate line?
My understanding is that Lana will technically BE a US Citizen once she lands on US soil, but, she will be entering the US on a Vietnamese passport with an IR-3 or IR-4 visa (which ever visa they issue when both parents have traveled and the adoption has been completed overseas.) (Yes, I know I am a lawyer and should know these things, but, I don’t know off the top of my head, and, I don’t have the time or energy to look it up since I have to leave in a minute to go evict a woman whose little boy is dying of cancer and I am feeling like the biggest schmuck this side of the Mississippi River.) Anyway, I want to know how coming through customs/immigration will work. Anybody reading this whose been-there-done-that? We will probably be entering the US at Detroit via Tokyo, but, also possible we will be coming to San Francisco via Taipai…

2. What is up with my sister’s snake?????
(I know that’s a weird thing to be wondering about.) More specifically, it’s my niece J~’s snake. Poor J~ is violently allergic to cats AND dogs and guinea pigs and most other animals. She is also violently allergic to eggs and soy. (She has an extremely limited diet (you try to find bread with no eggs or soy products in it – Aunt Millie’s makes one or two varieties, but, if she cannot find those, she cannot eat bread) and a limited social life, due to the fact that she cannot go to anyone’s home that has a dog or a cat, which is something like 60% of the households in the United States.) Anyway, despite this, she loves animals, so, my sister got her a snake. It’s a King snake, which is a kind of snake that eats other snakes. They are creepy looking, at least this one is. (Farmer’s like them, because the eat pest-type snakes. Also, they eat rattle snakes, and I remember being traumatized as a child visiting my great-grandparents rice farm in central Arkansas, by a king snake, and screaming for my great-grandmother to come outside because I was sure I was going to DIE. My great-grandma came running out with a garden hoe, ready to KILL THE SNAKE that was threatening one of her grandbabies, only to find I was screaming my head off about a King snake, and I was then told that if I had “a lick of sense in that Yankee head” I would learn to tell the difference between “a good snake and a bad snake.” And then I spent the afternoon shucking black-eyed peas on the porch, because I could not be trusted to walk around.) (Incidently, my great-grandmother is still alive and still killing rattle snakes in central Arkansas with a garden hoe at the age of 97. She really hates it when they hide under her rosebushes.) Anyway, my sister’s home is near the river, and she and her five children usually go for a walk in the evening in the park that runs along the river, and often will catch garden snakes to bring home and feed to the King snake, which is JUST DARN CREEPY if you ask me. (And, it think it would probably surprise people that my sister is 5’0” and a size 4 and dressed to the nines with her nails nicely done, while she is on the hunt for a WILD SNAKE to feed to her PET SNAKE.) But, in the last month or so, they haven’t been able to find any snakes to feed to Milly (the pet snake), so, my sister bought a mouse at the pet store. She put the mouse in the snake’s cage, and, three weeks into this arrangement, the mouse and the snake are getting along famously. The snake is not eating the mouse. My sister says, sometimes the MOUSE bites the SNAKE. This is JUST NOT NORMAL. Mice and snakes do not live happily together. So, that is what leads me to wonder, just what, exactly, is going on with my sister’s snake?

3. Why doesn’t the Hershey company make a Special Dark Mr. Goodbar? I mean, think about it – all the rich dark, velvety goodness of the Special Dark Bar, melted and formed with the peanut-y goodness of the Mr. Goodbar? True, the Special Dark Bar and the Mr. Goodbar are both find candybars, in their own right, but IMAGINE the possibility of PUTTING THE PEANUTS IN THE SPECIAL DARK BAR. It makes my knees weak, people. I think we should all email the Hershey company and ask them to consider this. Immediately.

That’s all for now. I have to go play Ebeneezer Scrooge at housing court.

Evidently, I am a Midwesterner

Your Linguistic Profile:
65% General American English
25% Upper Midwestern
5% Midwestern
0% Dixie
0% Yankee
What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Where is the Justice?

I recently had to be sworn into a new Federal Court in which I had not previously practiced. (Attorneys take the Bar in the state in which they wish to practice. If they pass the Bar, they are "sworn in" for the first time, in a nice ceremony, in front of a judge or judges. In my case, I was sworn in, along with almost two hundred other new lawyers, in front of the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. That was three years ago. This enabled me to practice law in any trial court in any county in Ohio.

Then, I had to take 6 hours of Continuing Legal Ed, and was sworn into Federal Court for my district. (Northern District). But, I recently needed to do something in Federal Court in the Southern District, which required me to be sworn in in that district. And since I was already admitted to practice in State Court and one district of Federal Court, it was a pretty quick affair.)

I raised my right hand and took my "oath of office" and swore to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and to protect it from enemies known and unknown, and to faithfully represent my clients to ensure that Justice is served.

These are not the precise words, which I have just spent the last 15 minutes searching for and cannot find online. I'm sure they are out there, somewhere. The point is, and perhaps this may surprise some people who may have a low opinion of attorneys, I took that oath with tremendous seriousness. I raised my hand, and I meant every word - to protect the Constitution, against enemies both known and unknown. To serve the causes of Justice.

I said it and I meant it. And today, I am frustrated by it. Because despite my best efforts in a particular matter, I am afraid that the outcome of a situation is going to be entirely unjust.

It is not that I have not tried to represent my client. I have tried, and it seems that I have failed. Some situations arise in which what looks black and white is NOT black and white. Sometimes, the party who has more money has more influence to change people's perceptions of what took place. I wish I could say more, but, to say more would violate another part of the oath - to keep my client's secrets.

I'm angry. I'm frustrated. The other side is motivated by greed and cruelty and spitefulness and, quite frankly, the expected outcome is simply not fair. Not just. And as much as I have railed against and fought against this is what it is.

I suppose I should remind myself, that I cannot undo actions that occurred in the past, and as such, I cannot make it "right" in the here and now.

I was going to say that the situation is breaking my heart, but, that's not really correct - maybe it would be better to say, it breaks my spirit, it breaks my resolve, it chips away at my belief that justice is makes me SAD.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Summer's End Melancholy

It's fall, which is usually my favorite season. I love the way fall smells, I love the autumn blue of the sky and the crispness of the air and being able to have a fire in the fireplace. I love corn mazes and carving pumpkins and sugar cookies frosted orange in the shape of pumpkins. I love all these things.

But, yesterday, we had to close our pool for the winter, and, honestly, it was worse than taking down the Christmas tree for bringing on melancholy.

Before we closed, I sat on the diving board in sweat pants and a long sleeved t-shirt, with my bare feet dangling in the cold water, looking at the perfect blue rectangle that encompasses almost all of our backyard.

Husband came out and said, "you look sad, disraught, and depressed." And I said, "I am." And he said, "Why?"

And I said, "I don't know. This makes me sad, but, that's not all of it."

And Husband said, "Well, of course, THIS is sad. This is worse than taking down the Christmas tree." (I know, I'm repeating a theme, here.)

And then I said, "It's weird, by the time we open the pool again in May, we won't be a family of three anymore...we'll be four." And Husband said, "that should make you happy, not sad." "True that." I said. "But, right now, it all seems so unreal. What if she hates to swim? And I don't want to cover the pool. I want to live somewhere warm where we don't have to cover the pool half the year."

Yes, I know that makes no sense, especially considering the only places I've ever expressed a desire to move to are Montreal and Chicago. Neither of which are warm enough for year round pools - honestly, I think you'd be hard pressed to find an outdoor pool ANYWHERE in Montreal. So, it made no sense for me to say that. Also, it's not like I could pluck our home and pool out of the ground and put it down in Arizona or New Mexico. And I've LIVED in Tucson, Arizona, and it is unbelievably HOT there, in the summer. And part of spring. And part of fall. It's HOT. Like, 109 degrees. Really really mind-bendingly hot is what I am saying. I don't really want to move back there. (Although, I did LIKE living there, at the time. It's a nice city. Just, you know, HOT.)

So, I was unreasonably sad and melancholy while we blew water out of the lines, and filled the lines with pool safe antifreeze, and capped and plugged and shocked and poured in winter algaecide (which stinks to high heaven), and finally pulled the safety cover over the top and secured it with 4o some odd springs, so, it now looks like I have a strange green and black tennis court in my back yard.

The weekend was otherwise okay. Saturday evening we spent with a family we met through FCC, who have a biological daughter the same age age Gabriel, and a daughter adopted from China who is 6 months younger than Lana. They have been home with her about a year, and we had a really nice evening with them, making pizza and chatting, and laughing about a very funny story about how they managed to get a gigantic stringed instrument (I would say this instrument is twice as long as a guitar, and about as wide) home from China.

Not much else to report,

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Tonsils and Family Math

I spent Thursday morning at the Ear Nose and Throat Specialist with Gabriel. Our family doctor sent both of us to see the ENT for a variety of reasons. I am still having trouble with my right ear - it hasn't been right since my ear drum ruptured last Thanksgiving. I no longer have ringing or hissing in that ear, but, it still hurts and I cannot hear things correctly on that side of my head.

Gabriel has had a runny nose, basically, for six months. And he snores like a lumberjack, which is weird in a slightly underweight child. So, off we went to the ENT.

The ENT looked in my ear and told me that I need to take sudaphed 3 times a day for the fluid in that ear and I should be fine. Also, he scheduled me for a hearing test.

But, he looked in Gabriel's throat, and he said, "Oh MY!" And I said, "Are his tonsils unusually large?" And the doctor said, "By unusually large, do you mean, "large enough for me to write a journal article about them?" or "Large enough for me to find them surprising?" Because they are not quite going to make the next issue of JAMA, but, they are surprising in their size."

He did some other stuff to Gabriel's head, and announced that his ears were full of fluid, because of the size of his tonsils and his adenoids. (At least, this is what I understood he was saying. Then, he sent him for an "immediate" hearing test, because he was concerned about how much fluid was in his ears.

Anyway, it turns out that Gabe has so much fluid backed up behind his eardrums that he has "no timpanic function" on his left side, and "minimal timpanic funtion" on his right side. His coqulear function is fine. But, because of the fluid, he has hearing loss on both sides of his head. This means that they are "probably" going to put tubes in his ears when they remove his tonsils and his adenoids, but, the doctor won't know for sure about the tubes until he is "in his head". Oy.


In adopt-y type news that made me all verklempt, I found a homework paper in Gabriel's backpack called, "Family Math."

The paper had pictures of an eye, a foot, and a hand, and underneath it said,

There are __ eyes in my family.
______ has __ eyes
_______ has ___ eyes
_________ has __ eyes,

etc. etc., and the same for HANDS and FEET.

This is what I found, it actually brought tears to my eyes:

There are 8 eyes in my family.
Daddy has 2 eyes.
Mommy has 2 eyes.
Gabriel has 2 eyes.
Lene has 2 eyes.

There are 8 hands in my family.
Daddy has 2 hands.
Mommy has 2 hands.
Gabriel has 2 hands.
Lene has 2 hands.

There are 8 feet in my family.
Daddy has 2 feet.
Mommy has 2 feet.
Gabriel has 2 feet.
Lene has 2 feet.

It was just too too adorable.

Now I clearly need to teach him how to spell his sister's name.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cub-Scout-O-Rama, or How I Spent My Honeymoon

I have just returned from Gabriel's first Tiger Cub Scout meeting, and it has brought back a barrage of memories of the first weeks of my marriage.

Allow me to explain myself: I spent my honeymoon at Boy Scout Camp. Working. As a Camp Counselor/Camp First Aid Officer/Arts & Crafts Director/Water Front Director.

No, I am REALLY REALLY not making this up. Would I lie about the Boy Scouts of America? Come on, you people know me better than that.

It was the summer of 1995. Husband and I had been hired by the AEON Intercultural Corporation to relocate to Japan and teach English as a Second Language. AEON wanted Husband arrive in Tokyo on August 21, and me to arrive in Osaka on September 15 of that year. And (they were extremely explicit about this requirement) we had BETTER BE MARRIED. Because there would be NO UNMARRIED COUPLES working together and living together (or even NOT living together) for the AEON Intercultural Corporation. (At least not at that time - it seems AEON may have changed its rules about that since '95). Since we were planning on getting married anyway, and had in fact gotten engaged on Thanksgiving Day of 1994, this was not a problem. (Originally, we wanted to get married on New Years Eve of '94. When I mentioned this to my mother, that Thanksgiving Day of my engagement, she turned 12 shades of pale and said, "Unless you are bloody well pregnant we are NOT putting together a wedding in six weeks time."*)

At any rate, Husband (then Fiance) and I returned to Tucson for the second half of my fruitless year of graduate school at the University of Arizona's Department of Sociology, and my mother and I planned my wedding during the winter and spring of '95, while we were 2000 miles apart. Or maybe 3000. A whole lot of miles between Ohio and Arizona is my point. Before email or the Internet were really taking off.

We packed up our apartment and said goodbye to Tucson at the end of May of '95, and drove home. (That drive, in and itself, is a story that deserves its own post.) And we got married in mid-June, and we needed SOMETHING to do with ourselves from mid-June to August, when David would have to get on a plane for Tokyo.

Living with either set of our parents, as newlyweds, seemed wrong. We didn't have enough money for a short term apartment rental. We needed to make enough money so that we could A. pay for our plane tickets to Japan and B. feed ourselves for the first month we were there, since AEON only pays its employees once a month. (Note, this is not a complaint about the AEON Corporation, just a statement of fact. It was not unusual, in Japan, at that time, to be paid once a month.)

So, where could we go, for eight weeks, where we could live for free, and make $2000? (Two thousand dollars being the magic number we needed - $1200 for plane tickets, and $800 to have some money to eat, etc. during our first month in Japan.)

Answer: Boy Scout Camp (Isn't that the answer that jumped instantly into YOUR heads?)

We had both worked the previous summer at Boy Scout Camp, me as the Arts and Crafts Director and Husband as the Nature Director. (Husband actually arranged for me to be hired as the Arts and Crafts Director when the original Arts and Crafts Director was arrested. Not making that up either.) We had had a great time the summer before -so, we thought, why not? Let's do it again.

Except that in 1995, the camp was understaffed, and my Husband ended up in the position of Camp Director and I ended up as Camp Counselor/Camp First Aid Officer/Arts & Crafts Director/Water Front Director. I am not going to mention which particular camp this was, because, um...I have no formal medical training and I am not licensed as a life guard. (Before you run screaming and tearing your hair out and determine never to send your children to scout camp, I will say that I am a very competent at bandaging wounds and taking temperatures and keeping track of different childrens' medications and making sure that they take them on time. And I had life guards WORKING at the water front FOR me. It's just that they were all 16 and 17 year old boys, and the state required a person over 18 to actually be "director" of the "water front".

The Camp was supposed to provide a "trailer or cabin" for Husband and I to live in together.

Let me just say that the Camp failed miserably on this front.

Their first attempt was a 1960's era Airstream Trailer that had not been opened up in about 12 years. It was on a secluded area of camp, and when we opened the door to our first home, on the 1st full day of wedded bliss, the door fell off and three mice jumped out the door. Everything inside was rotted and falling to pieces, smelled like 12 years of neglect, and it had no water hookup. I sat down on the ground and started crying.

We told the "powers that were" that there would be different accomadation or there would be no Camp Director and no Camp Counselor/Camp First Aid Officer/Arts & Crafts Director/Water Front Director. The cabin in which we had lived (in separate rooms, I might add) the summer before, had been turned into staff housing for the 15-17 year old boys who were the "junior staff."

I refused to spend a single night in the Airstream Extravaganza of Mice and Dust, so, we spent the first week of our married life sleeping on separate couches in the trailer living room of a couple from Texas who had been coming to work at this camp every summer for 10 years. They were a lovely couple who had three boys (all of whom were living in the Junior Staff cabin), and a ten year old daughter. While they had a roomy and modern trailer that they had driven up from Dallas, it was, um, not exactly the most romantic circumstances for a honeymoon - separate couches in a trailer living room, with a nice couple and their ten year old daughter. Oh, and two cats that hated eachother (one ours, one theirs.) Oh, and 300 campers and 100 leaders who were replaced by new campers and leaders every four days. Good times. Good, good times.

Next, they asked us to consider a "rustic" cabin at the edge of camp. Next to an outhouse. With a raccoon problem. Um...Nope.

Finally, a clean and reasonable trailer was obtained, and, altough it did not have a functional toilet, it DID have a water hookup that allowed us to shower and have running water to make coffee, etc. And, they agreed to move it very close to the only "real" women's bathroom on camp. It still meant hiking up a hill to use the potty, but, it was better than the rustic cabin next to the outhouse. With a raccoon problem.

We stuck it out for the whole eight weeks. Eight weeks of lousy camp food and poison ivy and working crazy hours and only have 8 days off during that whole 8 week period. And can I tell you, what made it worthwhile (aside from being crazy-in-love-newlyweds) was the campers themselves. We were working in "Weebelo" Camp, which was 7-9 year old boys. And I decided that, really, that was nothing sweeter than an eight-year-old-boy covered in melted marshmellow and chocolate from campfire, walking hand and hand with his dad as they headed back to their tents. Nothing sweeter than an eight-year-old boy making a birdhouse to take home to his mom. Generally speaking, there is something still young and innocent about little boys at that age, poking around in puddles looking for frogs, and so so excited to be at real "sleep away camp" for the first time. There is nothing like an eight year old boy.

(There is also nothing like spending one's honeymoon with 300 eight year old boys to make a couple REALLY THINK LONG AND HARD before procreating. (Hence the reason why we were married five years before Gabriel joined us!))

And so, it was for the sake of those memories and the knowledge of what "Boy Scout Camp" meant to those little boys 11 years ago, that I put on my coat and shivered through my first Tiger Cub meeting. With seventeen other 6 year old boys. Seventeen! Loud! Giggly! Boys!

Oh, and if you're wondering if I volunteered the information that I was an experienced Boy Scouts of America camp leader to the rest of the Tiger Cub Parents? NOT ON YOUR LIFE. That's the kind of info that gets a person put in charge of something. Like planning a camping trip. YIKES! So, keep this info under your hats. ;-)


*True to her word, several years later, when ONE of my siblings, who shall remain nameless, ahem, found himself and his fiance in JUST THAT PREDICAMENT, I will say that my mother put together a very nice wedding in just six weeks time.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Update Received

We received an update from our agency yesterday, which included new photos and height and weight of Lana. I have posted the pictures at my other (benign, boring) blog at

Lan has gained 1/2 a kilo, so, she is now at 15.5 kilos or 34.1 lbs, and she is 101 cm tall or 39.8 inches. (This places her in the 50th percentile for weight and the 70th percentile for height, so, it sounds like she is tall and thin.) The update also tells us that she likes singing songs and that her favorite food right now is noodle soup. On Sundays she likes going to visit the neighbors to play with her friends. She often tells her foster mother stories about her friends from school, and enjoys using "tracing paper" to "make objects or letters."

It also says (and this is my favorite part)

"Permanency Plan: Bich Lan has been being assigned to the W~ family." .


Monday, September 18, 2006


The last few days I have been questioning my ability to be the right kind of mother for Lana. I worry that I am not “enough” of a mother or the kind of mother who will perceive what her needs are, the kind of mom who will be able to differentiate if she is doing something normal if she is doing something that indicates that I am fully not meeting her peculiar needs as a trans-racially adopted older child. In truth, there is a part of me that resists viewing her needs as peculiar – it’s the part that is screaming, “this is just the way we were choosing to grow our family and I am not going to buy into any school of thought that says I should parent her any differently than I parent Gabriel because to do so would be to show her that I love her less than my biological child.” And then there is another part of me screaming, “what in the h*ll are you thinking, f**king with this child’s life in this radical way? You MUST parent her differently than Gabriel because you didn’t pluck Gabriel out of his native culture and language and plop him down in the middle of low-lying-flat-corn-growing-middle-America, and you are going to have to bend over backwards before this child ever feels at home here.”

Gabriel was an extremely difficult child in terms of sleep issues, however, he has not been a difficult child in really any other significant way. He does not have trouble learning things. He does not have trouble communicating with me. He is not cruel or unkind or prone to throwing fits for no reason. (He does throw fits now and then – it’s just that I can normally determine WHY he is throwing a fit. And if not, I can shut him in his room until he is ready to talk to me.) I am not suggesting (not by a long shot) that we have a perfect relationship – because there are certainly things that he does that make me crazy, it’s just that I feel comfortable in my shoes that are labeled “Gabe’s mom” and increasingly panicked about the shoes labeled “Gabe and Lana’s mom”. Forgive me for pushing a metaphor here, but, it’s like my “Gabe’s mom” shoes are comfy-ugly wide leather Bjorns, and I’m worried that my “Gabe and Lana’s mom shoes” are 3-inch stiletto heels that will cause me to fall over and break my damn neck.

I know part of this is fear of the unknown. Everything I know about this child I know from a file full of pieces of paper, photographs, and two 10-minute video tapes taken more than 2 years ago. How am I supposed to KNOW how to parent her when I haven't gotten to know her yet?

I recognize that I had no real idea how to parent Gabriel when he first arrived, either. I once read an essay that described becoming a mother in terms of traveling to foreign country, where not only do you not speak the language and have terrible jet lag, but, you’re not allowed to sleep for more than 90 minutes at a time and you are completely responsible for a creature who doesn’t speak your language and cannot teach you his. (I tried to find that essay again this morning, and I couldn’t locate it online. I know it’s out there somewhere.) And even though I felt lost and overwhelmed and completely unprepared, eventually I got my mothering legs underneath me. I’m just concerned that they are not the mothering legs that Lana needs. And I also think about all the girlfriends who surrounded me when I was learning how to be Gabe’s mom, and how they showed up at my house with food and comfort and advice and let me cry on their shoulders (ahem, some of you are probably reading this right now and if I never said “thank you for being there” – I’m saying it now), and while I know that the arms and shoulders and comfort of my girlfriends is readily available, I worry that no one is going to be able to give me advice on how to parent a 4-year-old-Vietnamese child, except other people who have adopted four-year-olds, and can I just say that the number of those people in low-lying-flat-corn-growing-middle-America is extremely limited?

Yesterday, my friend M~ expressed a certain degree of surprise that I had joined a group here in town called “FCC” or “Families with Children from China (and other parts of Asia)” – because, quoting M~, ‘you don’t really enjoy organized group activities that much, and your husband really hates them.’ M~ wasn’t being mean, she was just being matter-of-fact. And it’s true – I don’t really enjoy organized group activities that much. So I said, “I need to have contact with people who have done this, because I’m afraid I won’t do it right.” And M~ said, “it’s probably good then, to have a support group.”

I know that there are support groups for mothers of newborns, and I didn’t feel a need to join one of those, but, I think, honestly, that I had a “natural” or informal support group in my sisters and girlfriends who had children themselves. But, I feel a need to seek out others who have done this, because my mothering legs are getting ready to jump on unfamiliar ground in three inch heels and, quite honestly, I might be a little bit scared to death.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

So so disturbing!!

I just read this article and I am so so disturbed:

A 21 year old mother of a one week old baby was stabbed and her throat slashed and her baby was stolen by a stranger who came to the door asking to use her phone. Evidently there was a sign in the yard celebrating the child's birth. What a crazy, terrifying, completely insane situation.

In other really scary news, I am sure everyone has already heard this, but, if you have fresh spinach in your fridge, throw it away!

This is an E-coli-157 outbreak - very dangerous, and can cause kidney failure. You cannot destroy the E-coli by washing the spinach - probably because it is actually in the leaves of spinach. This happened in Japan while we were living there with bean sprouts - the sprouts sucked up the contaminated water, so, the sprouts themselves actually became contaminated with the e-coli, as opposed to the e-coli just sitting on the vegetable. Bottom line - NO SPINACH FOR YOU!! Throw it away!


Friday, September 15, 2006

More Good Adoption News

I just got off the phone with D~, from my agency.

Our dossier has been approved by the Ministry of Justice, which is a centralized government agency (as near as I can determine, at any rate) in Viet Nam. The dossier was actually approved three days ago, on September 12, 2006.

Our documents have now been sent to the provincial authorities in Da Nang, Viet Nam, which is the province where Lan is living with her foster mom and foster grandmother and foster sister.

We are now in the longest waiting period so far - the wait for the provincial authorities to approve Lan's documents, and send them to the Ministry of Justice together with our family dossier. The quickest that this has happened for a family with our agency is 1.5 months, and the longest it has taken for a family with our agency is 6 months.

So, we celebrate a milestone, and we wait for another.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

First Grade Homework

Yesterday evening felt particularly busy and rushed. Husband had a board meeting (he is on the board of the NAEYC daycare where Gabriel spent the first six years of his life, and where, hopefully, there will be a spot for Lana come January. I don't know what I will do if there isn't a spot, because I cannot imagine leaving my child anywhere else.)

Anyway, Husband was at his meeting, and I needed to get some grocery shopping done, as well as pick up Gabe's prescription for Zyrtec, because, evidently, the doctor feels that the reason he has been coughing up a lung the last 12 days is "allergies". (Oh, and can I complain that the pharmacist would not dispense pediatric Zyrtec in its chewable pill form, because the doctor had written the presciption for the liquid version? And no, pediatric Zyrtec does not come in a coated caplet because, according to the pharmacist, "most children under 10 cannot swallow pills." Gabe hates liquid medicine, and is not a huge fan of chewables, but, he can swallow a pill. I guess he's the only six year old on the planet like that. BUT, I ask you, if the doctor prescribes Zyrtec, while the hell won't he give me the chewables instead of the liquid? How is this a material or significant change in the prescription? I digress). It took a long time to get the prescription filled, and all the groceries purchased.

When we got home, it was 7:30, and I told Gabe he could play outside for 45 minutes. I used this time to lay on the couch doing nothing (er...watching an episode of Without a Trace and calling Verizon to upgrade to DSL internet service, because the dial-up is just not working.)

When Gabe came inside, it was 8:30 and we settled down to look at homework.

The night before homework had ended in tears. TEARS. Because the idiot assignment was this:

1. Find all the thermometers in your house. (Okay, I understand the point of this - there are things in our homes that measure temperature. So, we counted - the thermometer in the pool (not techinically in the house, but, in our yard), the oven thermometer, the meat thermometer, and two ear thermometers. Done. 5 thermometers in our house. (I'm sure there are more, but, honestly, I felt five was enough).

2. DRAW the thermometers. Draw them. WTF?? This is where the homework turned to tears of hysteria, when he couldn't get the ear thermometer in his picture to "look right". WHO EXPECTS THAT A SIX YEAR OLD COULD DRAW AN EAR THERMOMETER? WHO??

I must confess...I drew the ear thermometer. It was 9:15 and my child had been to soccer AND cubscouts and everyone in our house needed to go to bed. I wrote underneath my masterpiece stilllife, "Ear thermometer on Table by Gabe's Mom."

Last night, the homework was to "find or draw a picture of a group of things or people."

I am sure that there must be some sense to this, but, I cannot fathom what it is. I cut a picture from my pottery barn kids catalogue of four babies sitting in a circle and I told Gabe to tape it to the paper.

The bottom half of the page was a completely normal math assignment - i.e. write the number that comes before these numbers, and write the number that come after these numbers. Gabe did that on his own, no problem.

I guess I am feeling pissy and resentful, but, I feel like I spend half of Gabe's homework time participating in ridiculous activities that serve only to upset Gabe and annoy me. For what purpose?

My child can read and do basic math. He likes to draw, except when he is forced to draw ear thermometers for Pete's sake.

I'm not even sure what the point of this post is, except to bitch about the fact that First Grade Homework is reducing my first grader to tears, and not over things like math or spelling words (he does fine with those) but with these stupid piddly ridiculous assignments.


Okay, I am sure that there are some elementary school teachers reading this who are not happy with me right now, and you have every right to be upset that I am not having a good attitude about my child's homework. Feel free to beat me about the head with a rubber chicken.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Shameless Neglect of Adverbs Must Stop!

I have been walking by an advertisement for a law firm every day for the past week, on the way to the courthouse.

I will not name the firm (because, a. my firm does not advertise and b. there is still some controversy in the legal profession about advertising, and c. I am complaining about them and don't really want to incur their wrath), but, I will give you the tag line of their ad:

"We take your personal injury...PERSONAL!"

I want to scream every time I see it. I want to deface the ad with a giant red sharpie marker and change it to add the appropriate "LY" on the end.

One cannot TAKE someone's injury PERSONAL. It must be taken PERSONALLY. The word is being used to describe or modify a VERB. A word used to describe or modify a VERB is an ADVERB. "Personal" is not an adverb. "Personally" is an adverb. Anyone who has successfully completed 8th grade English KNOWS THIS.

Anyone who watched Saturday morning TV in the 70s KNOWS THIS. (HELLO! SCHOOL HOUSE ROCK!! Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here and all that jazz.

The last time I checked, successful completion of 8th grade English was a prerequisite for admission to law school.

Perhaps I am over-reacting. I know that I often have many typos and omissions in my diary entries here. BUT I AM NOT PUTTING my diary entries on a city bench. You can bet if I was publishing an entry on a city bus bench, I would figure out how to make Blogger's spell check work for me.

I contemplated calling this entry, Stop Adverb Abuse, but, then I couldn't decide if failure to use adverbs, and using adjectives instead, was abuse of Adverbs or abuse of Adjectives. But, I decided, either way, it was adverb neglect.

That is all,

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Vietnamese is Hard

I've been attempting to teach myself Vietnamese through a book for the past several months, on and off. I've given up on that effort, because the phoenetic rules governing the Vietnamese language make little or no sense to me. (I think this may have something to do with the fact that I have trouble with the phoenetic rules of English, as well, sometimes.)

I purchased a CD set of beginning Vietnamese, hoping that I could learn by listening. This is, after all, how children learn to speak a language.

Vietnamese is a tonal language (meaning, that the tone in which you prounounce a word defines it's meaning, so, the "ma" can have six meanings, depending on the tone you use when you say it.) It is very very hard. They also have some sound combinations, such as "ng" that occur in English only at the ends of words, but occur in Vietnamese at the beginning. This is a hard sound for English speakers to make.

The bottom line is: It is hard. Very very hard. I've been listening to the tapes for an hour for the last two days. I can now say "excuse me" and "I don't understand" and "Do you speak English". I can see that I am going to need these three phrases A LOT since I am pretty sure I will be not understanding much!

I've always been good at aquiring language skills, but, French, German and Japanese have NOTHING on this language. (Well, spoken Japanese. I never even tried to learn how to read Japanese.) I want to be able to talk to my daugther, I want to be prepared to at least understand some of what she is saying. I know that, based on her age, learning English will be infinitely easier for her than learning Vietnamese will be for me, but, it's still really important for me, to learn this, at least a little bit.


In other news, I am confused at my apparent inability to accomplish what should be a very simple thing.

I want a DVR. I want to be able to record the shows I want to watch, and not have to monkey with the VCR, which is as old as my marriage (11 years) and holding up much less graciously than my marriage is. (I.e. my marriage doesn't go all funny and crinkly and put lines across Anthony Bourdain's face.) I want to be able to skip over the commercials in the shows that my son watches because they are filling his head with all kinds of stuff. (Example: "Mom, do you know that if you go to Weight Watchers On-line you could lose weight and you don't even have to go to the meetings?") (To clarify, Gabe doesn't like it when I go to WW meetings, and I can't really put my finger on why. I think it is because they are on Saturday mornings, but, I'm not 100% sure.)

Further, the only means we have for getting local channels is through an antenna, since, at the time we signed up for Dish Network, they didn't offer local channels in our area. As a result, our local channels are kind of fuzzy, and we do not get the WB or UPN. Which is now the CW. The point is, in order to watch Gilmore Girls, I have to go to my friend M~'s house. Which is fine and all, but, I just need a different tv situation in my life.

Direct TV is offering some deals for new subscribers. All I have to do is call Dish Network and express that I don't want them anymore, and arrange for Direct TV to come out and install a system. And yet, I am paralyzed and don't seem to be able to get this accomplished. I have the coupon. I have the telephone numbers. Why don't I call? Why?

I suspect it is because I think that Dish will give me a hard time about canceling. And what am I supposed to do with the hardware? We've had the receiver for six years and the current "dish" itself for two years - do you suppose they want them back? Do you suppose they will charge me an exhorbitant disconnection fee?

It's ridiculous of me to sit here, wanting to do this, and not doing it. And embarrassing for me to admit that I am shirking away from telling a service provider that I either want upgraded service or I'm going to another service provider who will provide me with that service. I am an ATTORNEY for cripes sake. I make proposals for other people ALL DAY LONG. Why can't I switch my own damn tv service?

Oy. And Gah. And Harumph.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Daniel McNeal

In March of 2002, I celebrated my 30th birthday.

I was still reeling from the horrifying year that had been 2001 – the accidental death of a beloved friend, TTT, in July of that year, the death of my grandpa in November, 2001, and, of course, September 11.

I was struggling with writing my law review paper. I was slowly losing my sanity because my two year old baby still was not sleeping. I think, truly, that I, like so many other Americans, was experiencing some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder.

I was depressed on that day in March that was my 30th birthday. When my mother called to wish me “Happy Birthday,” I gloomily told her that I “so depressed.”

Instead of responding as one might expect that she would (i.e. “You’re depressed? I’m the one who’s old enough to have a daughter who is THIRTY”) she instead said, “Think about the people who didn’t get to turn 30 today.”

I said, “What?” And she said, “Think about the people who WOULD have been 30 today, but for 9/11 or car accidents or leukemia or what have you. You should celebrate turning 30 today, because the alternative, is NOT EVER turning 30. You see?”

I fixated on this question, of who was not turning 30, and through some quick research via the Social Security Death Index (an index of people who are dead, who had social security numbers), I found that the answer was EIGHTY-SIX. Eight-six people, who had U.S. social security numbers, who shared my exact birthday, did not get to turn 30 in 2002. (It’s likely that there were some other Americans, who shared my exact birthday, who passed away before adulthood, and they are not listed in the Social Security Death Index, as they did not have social security numbers. Unlike today, not all children born in the 1970s got social security number the same year they were born. At that time, the IRS didn’t require social security numbers to claim a dependent on their taxes. This did not happen until 1988, and, as a matter of curiosity, on April 15, 1988, some 7 million American children disappeared, due to the fact that they never existed at all:

One of those eighty-six people who in particular stood out, to me, was a man named Daniel McNeal.

I didn’t know Daniel McNeal, and it’s unlikely that our paths would ever have crossed. But, he was born on the same day as me, in 1972, and he died, five years ago today, on the bright sunny morning that was September 11, 2001. While I sat in a lecture on Trust and Estate Law at a small Midwestern law school, Daniel McNeal was on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center Tower 2. He had recently been promoted to a position of Vice-President. And while it appears that he did attempt to escape from his office on the 104th floor, he did not make it out of the tower alive. Daniel McNeal will forever be 29.

I think, in a way, Daniel McNeal makes this day that much more horrifying for me. His is an identity for my collective grief. I didn’t know him, but, we shared something – the day we both came into this world. And Daniel, who should have celebrated his 30th birthday in March of 2002, on the same day as me, did not get to blow out those thirty candles. He didn’t get his “free birthday dessert” at any number of chain restaurants. His mother didn’t get to call him on the day she gave birth to him thirty years earlier. He didn’t get any of those things. And hey, maybe if 9/11 hadn’t happened, it’s wholly possible that Daniel McNeal would have met his end in any other myriad of ways in the five years that have passed since that horrible morning. But maybe, just maybe, but for Osama Bin Laden, Daniel McNeal would be just fine this morning. Maybe he would have had a cup of coffee and some raisin bran and hopped on the subway to the World Trade Center station. And the rest of us 260 million Americans would not have the occasion to be caught up in the grief of remembrance today…

I think of this man, this man I did not know, this man whose name I WISH I had never come to know - because the fact that I know it is solely because he is no longer walking among us - each year now, on my birthday, and again on September 11.

Daniel McNeal, I wish I could tell you, five years after your death, that we caught the man who stole your 30th (and all subsequent) birthday from you. I wish I could give you that piece of information, and I can’t. But, I hope you rest peacefully, Daniel McNeal.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Law Mommy fails as Soccer Mommy

Gabriel had his first soccer game with the local "recreational league" soccer program on Saturday.

I had not attended his practices on Tuesday or Thursday, as Husband is the assistant coach of his team, and, really, what help could I possibly have been?

Let me preface this by saying, I am not much of a sports fan. I attend one Detroit Pistons game a year when my aunt gets "club tickets" - this means I get to go and eat fancy food and drink good beer and watch the Pistons from very nice seats, and at half-time go back to the "club" area and eat three kinds of chocolate desserts, which takes up most of the third quarter, and I have to say I do enjoy that yearly basketball outing, although I spend most of my time scanning the crowd to see if any famous people (aside from the players themselves) are there - like, Kid Rock or Eminem.

And, I will attend a live baseball game on occasion, either at the local Toledo MudHens stadium, or, as I previously posted, at the Tigers Stadium.

But, in terms of actual on-going interest in so much. I like the Winter Olympics...and I like to play tennis, but, not so much watch it.

So, I arrived Saturday morning at the soccer field, and set up my folding chair in some shade by the field, and cracked open my diet Coke, and TRIED to pay attention to the game. This was hard, since, evidently, I was SUPPOSED to put my chair along the actual SIDELINES of the soccer field, which was where all the OTHER parents set up. Thus, giving me an obstructed view of the field. And I kept thinking, WHY are all these other parents sitting right along side of the field when there is this lovely shade just 10 feet away?

I guess this is where I fail as a soccer mommy.

The game started, and I TRIED to pay attention, but, my mind wandered. I began to imagine absurd soap-operatic life stories for the people around me which could have rivaled the Frisco/Felecia story-line on General Hospital in the 80s...that kept me entertained for quite a while, and then I began to talking to another mom who had rolled her 18 month old daughter's stoller over to my shady-spot.

I talked to her for so long, that, when we looked back up at the field, the game was over and neither of us knew who had won.

One of the apparently "veteran" soccer dads for the opposing teams was smugly screaming and yelling "great job" and "way to go Austin" - so, I assumed that Gabe's team had lost. (I also wondered why so many people in the Midwest have named their children after a city in Texas...I don't have an answer for that...)

Gabe came bounding over to me and asking, "did you see me, Mom? Did you see me playing?"

"Yes, Gabe. Of course. You guys did great!"

"We lost, mom. But we tried hard. That's what matters, right?"

I looked over at smug veteran soccer dad, and I turned to my smart, funny, kind child, and I said, "Yep. That's all that matters, Gabe. That you played fair and you tried hard."

And I wondered how long my sweet little boy would believe it.

Failed soccer mother,

Friday, September 08, 2006

Adoption News

My agency called me today and told me that our dossier has finished being translated and has been submitted to the Ministry of Justice for approval today, September 8, 2006. So, now we wait one to two weeks for THAT approval.

One more step down, several more to go!


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Scenes from a New Jersey Interfaith Wedding: ACT III

ACT III: Enter the Whack-Job, aka Grandma

Scene 1: A hotel hospitality suite, around 9:30 PM on Saturday night (after Brother J~ and Lawmommy’s great massage chair coup)

I am having a conversation with my cousin A~’s new girlfriend, S~, who lives in Montreal. I have expressed my undying love for her city, and for the culinary masterpiece that is poutine, and my deep desire to move my family to Montreal and my frustration in that they (the government of Quebec) will not allow me to practice law in Quebec.*

The Whack-Job enters, stage left, with her hearing aid turned off. She manages to get me into a corner and goes on, ad nauseum, about how I need to sue the State of Ohio on her behalf, and about the nefarious and treacherous employee at the Department of Motor Vehicles stole her driver’s license away from her maliciously and vindictively. She tells me (again) how her hairdresser warned her not to go for her test at that particular DMV office, and how her hairdresser has seen so many other people have their licenses pulled by this same spiteful and underhanded civil servant. “I should have listened to my hairdresser,” she is screaming at me, because, with her hearing aid turned off, she cannot hear anything, including her own voice. “You should interview my hairdresser,” she screeches in a decibel that makes my hair curl. (Yes, the unassailable expert testimony of the hairdresser – THAT’S THE KIND OF EVIDENCE I NEED to prove malice on the part of the State of Ohio.) Grandma’s inability to hear even herself also means that she cannot hear me, but, it’s kind of irrelevant in that she doesn’t really want to hear anything I have to say, unless it’s “yes, of course I will sue the State for you and get your driver’s license back.” (Not. Gonna. Happen.) At the point that she tells me the whole thing is my brother J~’s fault, because, she alleges, J~ wrote a letter to the State and told them that she doesn’t have any friends (what???!!) and that is what caused the police officer to pull her over and take her license away (not, um, the fact that she drove over the median of a divided highway), I begin to suspect that my head will actually explode if I have to listen to another minute of her demented ramblings, and I tell her I have to find the ladies room and sneak off to my hotel room, where I watch Law and Order and resent the hell out of the fact that I cannot visit with my cousins, because the second she sees me again she will begin to rant and rave about her driver’s license.

Scene 2: A hotel breakfast atrium on Sunday morning

I am attempting to eat a waffle and some over cooked-scrambled eggs in peace with my mother. Neither of us are morning people, and we are both quietly nursing cups of coffee. My mother and I have a deep and meaningful relationship that does not require mindless breakfast chatter and we appreciate this about each other. Enter the whack-job, from the elevator. She comes over and sits down and starts in. AGAIN with the driver’s license. After about 10 minutes, I lie and say that I am full (not even close, but, she is ruining my appetite for the free breakfast buffet.) My step-father asks if J~ and I are coming with him and my mom to go see where Washington crossed the Delaware on Christmas Day of 1776, which is widely considered to be the turning point in the Revolutionary War (my step-father being an American history buff.) J~ and I discuss our options (sit at the hotel or go out sight-seeing) and decide to go along. Somehow, magically, considering that she so rarely has her hearing aid on, Grandma overhears this and says, “Well, I think I will come along with you. Tell R~.” (R~ being the family member who actually traveled to New Jersey with the Whack-Job, and I feel very sorry for him having been stuck on a plane with her for 2 hours, because the woman does not know the meaning of the term “companionable silence.” And her voice could frigging break glass.) I contemplate inventing a stomach ache to avoid riding in a car anywhere with this woman, but, settle instead, on sitting in the last seat in the van in the very back, and insisting that she ride in the front seat.

Scene 3: At Washington Crossing State Park, New Jersey

The Whack-Job corners a New Jersey state park ranger and proceeds to tell him, “You know, the Jews are basically responsible for all the evil in the world.” NO. I am not making that up. I wish. I wish I was. I am sure the park ranger wishes I was, too.

Scene 4: After sightseeing, sitting outside a Target in Princeton, New Jersey while my mother and brother J~ run inside to try to find some last minute things that are needed for the wedding, which they are doing at the request of the BRIDE and her PARENTS.

Whack-job to Lawmommy: “Why can’t your mother get her shopping done on her own time??”

Scene 5: A Sunday Afternoon Interfaith Wedding

The service is gorgeous. My mother does an amazing job. The bride (my cousin M~) is absolutely stunning in a slivery-grey sheath wedding gown. The groom is beaming in a stunning tuxedo. All the men have pinned silvery-grey yarmulkes on their heads. (The ones who didn’t come wearing their own yarmulkes anyway.) The bride circles the groom seven times. The ketubah is read. Episcopal vows are exchanged. My cousin Gwen does an incredibly moving reading from Song of Songs. My mother gives a homily about true love and finding peace in each other and what it means to find one’s other half. My mother sings a Hebrew blessing over the wine, and the bride and groom drink from one cup. A Navajo blessing is read (no, no one in the wedding party is Navajo. They just thought it was pretty.) Rings are exchanged, with the phrase, “my beloved is mine, and I am my beloved’s.” As Anglican tradition sometimes calls for, my mother ties the bride and groom’s left hands together with her shawl. Bach is played by a string quartet. The bride and groom kiss. The groom smashed a glass beneath his foot, and we all call out, “Mazel Tov.” Lots of guests are all teary eyed. It’s lovely. The bride and groom walk back down the aisle.

Whack-job turns to me and says, “her grandfather [meaning M~’s grandfather, who was an Episcopal priest] is rolling over in his grave with all this Jewish stuff at M~’s wedding. And why is everyone wearing those stupid hats??”

I begin to sing a mantra silently to myself, “It is wrong to hate the mentally ill, it is wrong to hate the mentally ill.”

Scene 6: A Chinese Restaurant that has set up a banquet for the 80 wedding guests. All other patrons of the restaurant are Chinese.

I have blessedly been placed at a table FAR AWAY from the Whack Job. I am sitting with my brother and some distant cousins and having a great time eating 20 amazing (very tiny) courses of mouth-watering food – ranging from dumplings (two kinds) to noodles to prawns to scallops to pork with black bean sauce. I was unimpressed with the pig intestine and also the tapioca soup, but, beyond that, every morsel is delicious. I get up to use the ladies room, halfway through the meal, and I am stopped on the way back to my table by the whack-job, who asks me, “Are you eating all this gook food?” GOOK. (Oh, how I wish I was making that up.) Again with my mantra, “it is wrong to hate the mentally ill. Wrong.”

Scene 7: A Wedding Reception

We dance the horah, and the funky chicken. We lift the bride and groom on chairs above our heads and dance around with them. (The bride looks like she might throw up from this.) I turn around and I realize that THE WHACK JOB HAS A PIECE OF WEDDING CAKE. She has cut the WEDDING CAKE. BEFORE THE BRIDE AND GROOM. The wedding cake is from a very famous bakery in Manhattan. It is a masterpiece of dark chocolate and Grand Marnier (sadly….for me, anyway…I hate Grand Marnier and I hate the flavor orange with chocolate, but, it’s a stunning chocolate spectacle). Another family confronts the Whack-Job about cutting the cake, and she states, “I couldn’t eat any of that gook food and I was hungry.” !!!!!!!!

Scene 8: Later, at the Wedding Reception

Someone has given the Whack-Job a glass of red wine. (WHO?!! Who would do that?? White wine ONLY for crazy people! White wine! Who doesn’t know that rule?!?!?) She promptly dumps the red wine on a guest who is wearing cream colored silk.

Scene 9: Later still, at the wedding reception

Whack-job approaches the groom, who is a professor at Princeton. “You know,” Whack-job says, “Princeton is a nice school, but, it’s no Harvard. We’d be real proud to have a Harvard man in the family.” (Again, nope, NOT MAKING THAT UP.) Amazingly enough, the groom merely gives her a funny look and introduces her the best man, who, curiously enough, teaches at Harvard. (The collective IQ of the wedding guests was probably staggering. I don’t think I have ever scene so many physicists in one place at one time.)

Scene 10: Lawmommy deeply engrossed in conversation about Vietnamese adoption and Norwegian fiancés with cousin Gwen (Gwen is engaged to a man from Norway).
Enter the whack-job. AGAIN with the driver’s license. Over and over. AGAIN. I down the glass of Pimm’s punch that I am drinking and head out searching for more. I am AGAIN sought out, for further discussion of the *&$%$*(* driver’s license, and further discussion about why Whack-Job is upset about “all this Jewish stuff”. Unable to stand anymore without my head actually flying off and spinning around and monkeys subsequently flying out of my a**, and also tired and tipsy from the hastily downed punch, I take the shuttle back to the hotel.

Scene 11: A van headed back for Ohio, Monday morning

Lawmommy, Brother J~, mom and step-dad, get in the van and head west, off into the Sunset. Exhausted, we watch 18 consecutive episodes of Arrested Development, which is a good way to pass 9.5 hours stuck in a car.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this production of “Scenes from a New Jersey Interfaith Wedding.” Copyright 2006 by Lawmommy Productions. J

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Act II: Scenes from a New Jersey Interfaith Wedding

Act II: Lawmommy and Brother J~ visit Manhattan, as does Hurricane Ernesto

Scene 1: Saturday morning in a hotel room.

The day dawned gray and gloomy and rainy. Brother J~ asks me if I seriously want to go into the City in the rain. I respond, “what else are we going to do? Look at Aaron Burr’s grave in the rain?” (Much ado had been made among certain relatives that a trip to Princeton, NJ would not be complete without a trip to the Princeton Cemetery. Where, evidently, Aaron Burr is interred. Also some other important dead people.) Brother J~ says, “what the hey. Let’s go.” (I should note that my brother, who formerly worked in broadcasting, before he figured out that there is more money to be made in other pursuits, has been to New York City many, many times. I had only been one other time, about 18 months ago.)

Scene 2: After breakfast, same hotel room

Lawmommy telephones her cousin Gwen, who is, allegedly, doing a show on Saturday. This is the same cousin Gwen whose show was reviewed a while back in the New York Times, who said that she “might be a genius.” (You can read my post about it, with a link the to the Times article, here Gwen answers the phone and says that, yes, she is doing a show, but, it’s in the Hamptons, two hours north of the city. Then she says, “You and J~ are seriously coming into the city today?” And I said, “Yes.” Gwen laughs, “You want to go to China Town don’t you?” (This refers to the fact that the last time I came to New York, I really wanted to go to China Town, and was thwarted at every attempt. When Gwen dropped Husband and I off at a cab stand to take us to the airport to go home, she said, ‘I promise, next time, we’ll make sure you get to go to China Town.”) So, I said, “Yes, come hell or high water, I’m going to China Town.” Gwen is quiet for a second and says, “Um…bring an umbrella and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Scene 3: A New Jersey Transit Train into Manhattan

It is raining. Hard. Brother J~ is listening to his MP3 player. I am looking through a 2001 AAA Guide to NYC that was found in the back of our van, and pointing out that it still has a listing for the World Trade Center observation deck. This gives me the creepy chills.

Scene 4: Penn Station

One of the things I really really really want to do in New York is go to a restaurant at W. 49th Street between 6th and 7th Ave, called Sapporo. According to my vast internet research on the topic of authentic ramen shops in the US, Sapporo is supposed to be THE most authentic ramen shop in North America. (Or, at least the most authentic ramen shop in North America, west of Seattle.) (Ramen shops in Japan are ubiquitous, and, some of the most delicious food ever. It is not dissimilar to the 12 cent packages of ramen available in the grocery store in the same way that Spaghetti-Os are not dissimilar to the best homemade spaghetti your grandma makes, or, if your grandma makes lousy spaghetti, like the grandma of an Italian family you know makes – you get my drift. Not so much the same, is the point I am trying to make.) For reasons that I do not understand, Japanese restaurants in the Midwest do not serve ramen soups on their menus. Which is a crying shame. Imagine a huge huge steaming bowl of wonderful-smelling soup, brimming with vegetables and pork and long fabulous noodles…I crave this, I long for this, my favorite meal from my year in Japan, and it’s something that I CANNOT obtain in my town, or anywhere near it. The closest place I know of is a place in Chicago – which is a six hour drive from my house. The point is, I WANTED RAMEN. REAL, AUTHENTIC, MISO RAMEN. And I wanted it in a BIG BIG WAY. My quest for ramen had been thwarted the last time I was in New York City by my attendance at a party in Harlem. (Really really long story.) The point is, I didn’t see China Town and I didn’t eat Ramen that last time I was in NYC, and I was DETERMINED to do both on Saturday.)

We leave Penn Station and get on a red-line train for 50th Street. When we exited the subway at 50th street, it was still raining, but, not terribly hard. I have been talking to J~ about how wonderful real ramen is, and how he is not going to be sorry about coming into the city, even in the rain, because lunch is going to be SO SO SO delicious, when he says, “Hey, there is it. Sapporo.” We see the sign and we hurry down the street, where we are confronted by a paper notice, in both English and Japanese, that says, “Sorry for the Inconvenience. We are closed for remodeling from August 25 to Sept 7. Please join us for our grand re-opening on September 8 and receive a free drink with any entrée.” NO, I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. Outside the ramen shop, there is a group of four people speaking Japanese to each other. From what I gather of their conversation, they are also disappointed about the restaurant being closed, so, I turned to them and said, “Eigo o hanasemasuka?” which means, “Do you speak English?” They all turned and looked at me. Silently, and with eyes that got huge. Like they thought maybe I was a crazy person. Crazy, Japanese-speaking blonde woman in the rain… I asked again, and again they were silent. (Let me stress that they were SPEAKING JAPANESE only moments before – it’s not like I had approached a group of people speaking Mandarin or Cantonese or Malai or something and started talking to them in Japanese – THEY WERE JAPANESE!! I SWEAR!) Finally, I said, in English, “are any of you living here in New York? Because I am looking for an authentic ramen shop.” All of them pointed, in unison, to the shop in front of us, and said, in sad voices, “is closed now.” “No others?” I asked. “We don’t know any others, but, very good sushi over there” said one of them (as she pointed to a place up the street). “Arigato.” I said. “Sayonara,” she said, as I walked away.

I didn’t want sushi. I WANTED RAMEN!!! I pouted. J~ laughed and said, “that, is IRONY. If you looked irony up in the dictionary, this whole scene would be there. Let’s go get some pizza, they have the best pizza in New York.” We went into a place two doors down, and I will say, they had the best pizza I have ever eaten, hands down. But, it wasn’t ramen…

Scene 5: Rockefeller Center and Fifth Avenue

J~ and I wander around happily, as the rain has let up for a brief period. The backstage door to Radio City Music Hall is open, and we peek in, as the stage hands haul curious looking equipment inside. We try to peek into the Today Show studios, but, the windows are covered. We look into the windows of the stores on 5th Avenue that are full of items so expensive it boggles our minds. (We look like tourists and we know it, but, hey, we were tourists!) We go into a store on 5th Avenue called Takashimaya, and goggle at a pair of $165 gardening shears and $1000 sheets for a queen sized bed. $1000. FOR SHEETS. (They were really really soft, I have to say…)

After wandering for about 2 hours, the rain starts coming down harder. “Let’s take the subway to China Town” I say. We walk down into the subway and head for a blue line train downtown. As we approach the track, I notice a RAT, the size of a GUINEA PIG, sitting on the tracks. “OH MY GOD,” I say. J~ shushes me, ‘Geez, do you want everyone to know we are TOURISTS?? Stop it.” The train is an unusually long time in coming, and J~ and I are both eavesdropping on the conversation of two unusual people next to us. They were both very very nicely dressed – the boy, about 16, was wearing a three piece suit and was holding a beautiful briefcase. It was just a gorgeous brief case, far nicer than any brief case I own, and I was thinking, “what does a 16 year old boy need a briefcase for in the first place? And especially a brief case that NICE? And why is he wearing a three piece suit? On a Saturday??” The mother was also dressed up. They were arguing about the fact that the boy wouldn’t put the mother’s copy of the New York Times in his brief case. “It won’t fit, MOTHER, there isn't enough ROOM in there," he kept saying. Then, the boy said to his mother, ‘You know, it is going to cost us $4.00 dollars more to go this way. FOUR DOLLARS. We should have taken the way I wanted to go. It would have saved us four dollars” Nonsensically, this was followed a few minutes later by THIS exchange:

Son: I can’t believe dad won’t let me have that turtleneck.
Mother: He thinks $1500 is too much to spend on a turtleneck.
Son: I agree, $1500 is A LOT for a turtleneck. But, it’s a beautiful turtleneck. The stitching is just gorgeous. It’s a beautiful turtleneck.
Mother: Well, there’s no arguing with your father once he’s made up his mind about something.

Um…NO. I AM NOT MAKING THAT UP EITHER. I don’t think I have the kind of imagination that could conjure up the image of a $1500 turtleneck. What could it possibly have been made of? Cashmere and diamonds?? Plutonium?

Scene 6: Canal Street

We exit the subway at Canal Street, and the sky has opened up and buckets of rain are falling - it is the wrath of the remnants of Hurricane Ernesto. Two steps out of the subway station and we are soaked through, dripping wet. My umbrella, which was fairly useless against what appeared to be horizontal rain, is gathered up in a gust of wind and turned inside out. J~ and I look at eachother. “Let’s go back to Princeton,” I say. “Good idea,” says J.

We head back to Penn Station and board a train bound for Princeton. Halfway through the trip, it is RAINING INSIDE THE TRAIN. And we are inexplicably stopped. Not moving. With enormous raindrops falling through the ceiling of the train. Eventually, the conductor made an announcement that a tree had fallen over the tracks and we would delayed. We sat for a LONG time. Eventually the train started moving again. Not until we exit the train at Princeton does J~ say to me, “did you notice the downed power line sitting in the puddle on the tracks next to the place we were stopped for so long?” “No!” I say. “Yeah, I didn’t want to point it out to you, while were sitting there next to it. I’m just, uh, glad we got off the train alive.” And I said, “Me too...and I cannot believe, that I still haven’t seen China Town.”

Scene 7: At the Mall Next to Our Hotel

J~ and I have come out to find some dinner at the mall next to our hotel, as we were not invited to the rehearsal dinner. We have no car, so, we have no choices other than the mall next to the hotel. We choose Big Fish (a resturant about which I am sorely tempted to complain loudly and longwindedly, but, I will spare you the sage of the lobster bisque), where we have a ridiculously overpriced meal that we are both ticked off about. We are wandering through the mall when we see a Brookstone store, with four massage chairs in the window. J~ looks at me and slyly says, “hey…free massages.” We each sat in a massage chair and “tried them out” – and then we tried all the other chairs out. We spent about 30 minutes, sitting in different massage chairs in Brookstone, getting massages. And laughing about what goobers we were being, which put us in a much better mood after our dinner at Big Fish. We decided the best massages came from the $4200 dollar chair. So, if you are ever in the market for a massage chair, and you have $4200 to spend, I highly recommend the deluxe model from Brookstone.

Much relaxed, we head back to the hotel, for the post rehearsal dinner party in one of the hotel’s suites.

Check back next time for Act III – Enter the Whack-Job.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Scenes from a New Jersey Interfaith Wedding

I contemplated calling these posts, “Driving Around Jersey with a Crazy Person” or possibly, “Travels with a Complete Whack-Job”, but, I decided against it.

Act I: Before the Whack Job's Arrival, A Happy Family Sets Out for New Jersey

Scene 1:

Lawmommy sleeps in her childhood bedroom for the first time in probably six years. (When you live only 25 minutes from the house you grew up in, there is not much call for you to spend the night. But, I spent the night in my old bedroom on Thursday night, because we were, allegedly, leaving at 6:30 in the morning.) The house I grew up in sits just beneath the Ohio Turnpike, which means that for all of my childhood, I would lie in bed and watch the truck fly over my house. (For a brief period of time, my younger brothers actually believed that trucks flew. Like airplanes - just lower to the ground. No, I am not making that up.) The house itself pre-dates the turnpike by several decades (having been built in 1901), and was probably lucky to have survived construction of that thru-way, as many other houses were knocked down to make room. At any rate, my childhood lullaby was the loud “wrrrrrrrrhhh” and “woooooooshhh” of all those trucks.

Can I tell you, I SLEPT LIKE A BABY. And by this, no, I do not mean that I slept fitfully and woke up screaming for milk every 20 minutes. No, I mean this in the way that it is usually meant, and by which I should probably say, “I slept like a sloth” or, “I slept like a log.” I slept, gosh darn it, for SEVEN STRAIGHT HOURS AND DID NOT WAKE UP ONCE TO PEE. For those of you for whom that is not a staggering feat, you are surely not impressed. But, as for me, it was incredible - I don’t remember that happening at all since Gabe was born six and half years ago.

I shared the news of my miraculous seven hour sleep with my brother J~ when we picked up him at his house (less than five minutes from my mom and step-dad’s house) at 8:15. (See, we didn’t actually leave at 6:30 AM. Did anybody really believe that we would?) He said, ‘it’s the trucks. The sound of the trucks at night all through our childhood ruins sleep in any other normal sleep environment. You should make a tape of the trucks and play it in your room at home. Then, maybe you would sleep.” (Perhaps my brother is on to something – however, I am pretty sure Husband would then NOT be able to sleep. Such a catch-22…)

Scene 2:

Three hours into the trip. My brother and I have watched Grosse Pointe Blank and are bemoaning the fact that John and Joan Cusack and Minnie Driver did not make a sequel to that fabulous film.

Scene 3:

Five hours into the trip. We have watched several episodes of the first season of Arrested Development, and are bemoaning the fact that FOX cancelled this show after only three seasons. DAMN YOU FOX TELEVISION! Canceling and ruining several other fabulous television shows over the years, including Brimstone and Millennium!

Scene 4:

Six hours in the car. Everyone is a little slap happy. Step-father realizes that he has lost his American Express card, SOMEWHERE in OHIO or PENNSYLVANIA. Without the card, we cannot call the 800-number. This is followed, somewhat nonsensically, by a Deep Discussion about how many flavors of Tic-Tacs actually exist.

Scene 5:

We arrive in Princeton, New Jersey after almost 9 hours of driving. We check into the hotel, and make our way to our room. We call Husband at my house and ask him to look up the telephone number for American Express Customer Service. Also, to open the drawer in the kitchen that contains my large stash of Tic-Tacs and tell us what the white tic-tacs are actually called, since, in our previous discussion and observation of tic-tac containers actually IN MY PURSE, we determined that they were neither Peppermint nor Wintergreen. Also not Orange, but, we were not surprised by that. Husband calls back with the number for AmEx and with the news that white tic-tacs are, in fact, “Freshmint”. AmEx is called, and informs my step-father that a worker in a Taco Bell in Pennsylvania has called to say that the AmEx was found in their restaurant. It must have fallen out of step-father’s wallet when we had lunch.

Scene 6:

We attempt to find dinner. We are surrounded by malls, and a Macaroni Grill, an On the Border and a TGI Friday’s, all of which have a one hour wait, because it is Friday night at 7:30 PM. We are all starving and cannot wait for an hour. We make our way to a mall food court, where a very nice Greek man who speaks very little English makes us an AMAZING sausage and mushroom pizza.

Scene 7: Stuffed with amazing pizza, brother J~ and I head to the bar at On the Border with other family members who have arrived in town for the wedding, while my mother and step-dad go to meet with the bride and groom to discuss the ceremony and assist in setting up a tent of some sort. Lawmommy and Brother J~ consume too many margaritas, being purchased by our Uncle the Dentist. Who knew a dentist could be such a corrupting influence?

End of Act I, look forward to Act II, in which Law Mommy and Brother J~ take Manhattan by, rather, take Manhattan IN A STORM...

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