Friday, August 27, 2010


Disclaimer: I'm not a good book reviewer, because I either tell too much, or it is so scrambled that people think "Why would I ever read that book?" But here is what I can tell you:

What: Mockingjay (Book 3 of The Hunger Games Trilogy - The Hunger Games #1 and Catching Fire #2)

Who: I would say from Junior High up. They are classified as Young Adult, but every Old Adult that I have coerced into reading them has loved them.

Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, but don't let that scare you. It's not aliens and witches and vampires. It's only classified that way because it is set in what's left of a post-apocalyptic world. The author describes it as inspired by a mix between the Minotaur myth (sending children in to the labyrinth as tributes) and Spartacus (slave uprising)

I picked up The Hunger Games based on an inspiring book review. I finished The Hunger Games in total awe...and immediately sought out Catching Fire. That was last November and I have been patiently waiting for Mockingjay which came out this Tuesday. Due to life...I was only able to get to page 80 as of yesterday afternoon.

But for some reason the girls were in an accommodating mood that allowed me to read on the back porch while they played, which got me to about 140. And then I got them to bed on time.

That was it. With an occasional glance up when Scott turned on House Hunters...I made it through to page 389 a little before midnight. There was just no way I was going to bed before I knew.

It's a story about war and especially its effect on the children caught in the middle. And its a story about standing up for yourself and others that are weaker than you to fight for what is right, no matter the cost. (Almost sounded like Billie Jean, there.)

This is not Harry Potter. This is certainly not Twilight. It's not even His Dark Materials (which is another excellent Young Adult series). This is like nothing I have read in a LONG time. I don't think I've cried this hard over literary characters since Beth died in Little Women. (not counting animals, because spiders Charlotte's Web and rabid dogs Old Yeller are bound to tear your heart strings out.)

And that's not a spoiler...I cried over many things in this story that did not involve people dying. (Although, you have to know that people die in wars.) And you might wonder why I'm telling you to read a book that so obviously full of depressing subject matter.

But that's just it. I should be totally depressed by this story, but instead it's inspiring. Every single one of Collins' characters is beautifully drawn through their actions. Not easy to do, when a book is written in the first person.

And while dialog is always the toughest sell in a book (I think Stephen King once said to only use dialog if you can think of no other way to get the point across.) Collins is never wrong when she uses it, making the book flow along at the pace of the action.

And since I am trying desperately not to give away any spoilers, I will use the following words and you can come back to them after you read the books for yourself and make your own judgement. (Because how could you not read them after what I just told you?)

Prim's name announced.
The burnt loaves of bread.
Rue and the Mockingjay.
Katniss cries "Peeta!" after an announcement during the first Hunger Games.
Visit to District 8.
Gale's punishment.
Haymitch's promise to Katniss.
The hovercraft appears in the arena.
The white rose in District 12.
Katniss's demands to agree to Mockingjay.
The "hijacking".
Katniss and Joanna's training.
Peeta and Gale's conversation in the Capitol.
"I'm with the Mockingjay."
Buttercup's return.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In My World the Books Would be Nothing But Pictures - Road To Kindergarten - Mommy Rampage

Scott will be rolling his eyes that I'm fired up enough to blog about this. But if I don't write it down I will stay bitter for far longer. This is my release.

Announcement 1
"Dear Parents,
Normandy School Open House will be on Tuesday, August 24, for you to meet your child's teacher before school begins...This is a time for parents and the teacher. Please do not bring any children to the Open House. You may bring your child's supplies so they will not have to carry them on the first day of school...."

Announcement 2
"Dear Parents,
...You can help your child transition to school by attending the Kindergarten Orientation on August 26. A parent or guardian must attend with the child and provide transportation..."

IN MY WORLD...."open house" means "please drop in while my house is open from this time to that time". It does not mean "show up at the start time and listen to me deliver a presentation based on my one page agenda".

IN MY WORLD..."orientation" would be the correct descriptive noun used to indicate there will be a lot of important information for you to understand in order for your child to succeed in this classroom.

Disclaimer - I do not fault the teacher, who is very sweet and didn't seem to care that we walked in 30 minutes after the start time. It's the school that called it an Open House. there some secret code in Bay Village that I am not aware of? Because how is it possible that I was the only one that didn't understand that Open House meant "you will be here from 5:30 - 6:15 or you will look like an ass in front of the parents of your child's future classmates?"

I am not off to a good start, so I will be making up for it be volunteering for all sorts of nightmarish duties.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Paid Time Off - Part Two

No, you didn’t miss Part One. I’ll get back to it.

Total sidebar with no bearing on the following narrative: Turns out I wore my underwear inside-out today. This is what happens when you get dressed in the dark after having slept squished between your 5-year-old and your husband without access to a pillow for the last half of the night. Now back to the regularly scheduled blog.

Notice I didn’t use the term “vacation”. I did not go on “vacation” this year. I had Paid Time Off (PTO) from the bank. Most of which was spent at home alone with the girls (hence no “vacation”), but we did go to Chicago this past weekend.

Yes, we took our two little girls to the bustling city of Chicago, known for its shopping, tallest building, art museum, universities, and…beluga whales.

Let us not make the mistake of thinking we were going there with anything other than the sole purpose of watching those white “canaries of the sea.” Considering all the hype I gave it, it was destined to fail miserably, but for once in my life, I actually came through.
Beluga’s were a hit and the highlight of the trip, although I was a little concerned when I saw what they had to measure up to once we got to the hotel.
“Hey, there’s a bathtub if we get dirty! And a garbage can!! Our own bed!” Those are actual quotes, by the way. I’m not making that up. And the best, “This is better than our house!”
Thanks, Fairfield Inn and Suites.
Other than the belugas, there was no real plan, so Friday afternoon (after Zoe’s third change of clothes from spilling beverages in her car seat) we walked the Navy Pier, which did not impress the girls, because it was A.) too warm and B.) we had to walk there (except Zoe who enjoyed the lap of luxury in her Jeep stroller the whole trip).

We decided to go to Chinatown for dinner. Kids like chicken and rice (don't they?) and we figured there would be lots of interesting things to look at. It wasn’t until we got on the subway that I vaguely remember my Fodor’s Top 10 telling me to stay away from the South Loop in the evening.
Actually, it was fine. Our main problem was, once we got there, we had no idea where we should eat, so we wandered around aimlessly. Never good for the child we are forcing to walk.
And because we are ignorant, everything looks like a Chinese restaurant until you get up close and realize it’s a grocery or a jeweler or salon. By the time we stopped, everyone was starved.
Guess what…kids are not as fond of chicken and rice when it comes fried with peas and other vegetables. On the other hand, my sesame chicken, despite the fact that it was in a sauce the color of nothing known to the natural world, was a big hit. In fact Morgan proclaimed loudly that she “likes China food.”
On Saturday, the hotel scored big again because they had powdered donuts in their continental breakfast. Then an equally fascinating bus ride to the Museum Campus (if all else fails, throw a kid on public transportation, it's like the Emerald City to them).

We got there pretty early, plus we had the aforementioned Jeep, which meant we got to use the side entrance and didn't end up in the ungodly lines that even the Will Call people had to stand in. And I luckily knew from looking on line that I could cut the 4-D experience out and save $4 dollars a ticket from the lowest price they had posted on the wall. Take that, Shedd!

We spent almost three hours there with no melt downs and only $30 in souvenirs, mostly related to...beluga whales (and one sea lion for Zoe).

Here's the synopsis of the rest of the trip. Potbelly's lunch (awesome PB&J). Subway and long walk to Lincoln Park Zoo (finally something that's free!).

Ride on the endangered species carousel (and there may be a new seal obsession in the family).

Playing on the beach (while watching weird people wade into water - 15 degrees colder than Lake Erie - fully clothed - wtf?).

Even longer walk back to hotel (sneaking past the huge Disney store). Bath (see below). Chicago-style pizza delivered to the room by 9 pm (which is actually 10 pm in Cleveland, so can't be good for the girls' digestion). In the car by 9 the next morning.

"Bath Story" by Morgan

I'm going to make another Jaws movie, but I will have to wait until I'm grown up, because I'm going to need a lot of people to help me and I can't talk to strangers until I'm grown up. And this time there will be five people that get eaten, because it will be the fifth Jaws movie.

This is why Zoe refuses to get in the tub.
Author's Note: Seriously, blogger friends, how can I get my much-loved negative space when I post photos in my blog. It ALWAYS screws it up.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Band of Brothers and True Blood Update

No, it's not HBO.

Scott had to miss his triathlon today because he may have pulled both hamstrings while running after kids half his age. Score one for Phil and Jack.

And, it is HBO.

How is it possible that this season of "True Blood" was made by the same people as last season? The same people who brought us "Six Feet Under?" I'll admit, I wasn't avid fan in the first season, but last season was amazing. And I was all excited that they were using real wolves for the werewolves and not showing them morphing, because it cannot be done to my satisfaction.

Then they pull this crap!

B-movie gore for the vampire deaths? (When we all know from Buffy that they merely turn to dust.)

Porn for the sake of porn. (That's why we invented Cinemax.)

This dreamland fiasco that the alleged faeries live in. (Quite frankly, it reeks of being thought of by a man uncomfortable with that part of Harris's storyline, so why didn't he bring on some consultants or something? It's HBO for crying out loud.)

Erik turning from a complete bad ass into a squishy thing with...feelings...he's almost human. Yuck!

The only thing good about this season was Alcide and he's already gone. I will now go watch "Underworld" to cleanse my palette from this plate of bullshit. Bring on the lycans.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Band of Brothers

Have I mentioned how big soccer is in Bay Village? This is the first year Scott has participated in the Alumni game. Basically, if you played soccer for Bay High, you are always invited back to play the game against the upcoming varsity team.

Here is Scott (1993) pre-game with Matt "Z" Zastudil (1994). For those of you who enjoy minor celebrity sitings, Z is the brother of the Cleveland Browns punter. But to me, he's that goofy guy I worked with at Ernst & Young that's going to make partner in a couple years while I'm trying to get a cost of living raise.
I would say half the alumni team, if not more, is made up of guys that graduated in the last ten years. But there were a few out there from the late 70's (Morgan's first soccer coach being one of them) and early 80's. Z and his friend Chip (inducted into the Bay High Soccer Hall of Fame this year) were the closest to Scott's age, as his "friends" were too big of pussy's to join him (This means you, Phil and Jack.). They look good, don't they?

And here comes the competition. Yikes. These kids are wiry little bastards. I told Scott I don't remember us being so small in high school. Weren't we supposed to be full grown by then? Contrary to what this looks like, they are not line dancing. They were a highly choreographed fountain of energy.

They're good. But these old farts have gone on to play college soccer, maybe even more. We're talking about guys that have never even practiced together before tonight but could pass a ball down half the field with an accuracy that would frighten a special team sniper. And they could do it with their heads! I'm forever impressed. Morgan's former coach (the guy from the 70's) was one of the goalies and he had a few saves that you may have seen recently in the World Cup.
I mean look at the athleticism. Okay, my camera does not actually pick up athleticism well. Look at him run in a blurred fashion.

Scott let me in on some of the pre-game chatter from the coaches, one of whom organizes this event every year, as he addressed the alumni - many of whom were state champions in their day.
"Yes, those guys are younger, but you know you guys wouldn't be here if you weren't the best. So do me a favor...don't slide tackle them."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Things I have lied about recently.

I did not minor in English.

Recently, someone asked me for feedback on some instructions they were going to give out to certain employees that needed to complete a survey. I think he was looking more for content feedback, but I red lined the whole thing. I re-ordered things. I rearranged sentences. Then I felt bad. I mean, I was basically telling him his writing sucked and I've never even met him in person. So for some reason I thought it would be less painful if I told him I had a minor in English and couldn't control my editing impulses and that he could disregard them if he wished.

It should be noted that today he finally sent out the survey, and it was my version of the instructions.

Papa Leo is not necessarily going to buy a new pony for everyone. (Although he might if we bug him long enough.)

My brothers' and my families were recently at my parents for my dad's birthday. (Wow, that was a mouthful.) When my nephew Ben arrived, he overheard that we were planning on selling Scott's thoroughbred Sid. I came out the door to say hello to him, and he looked me in the face with tears welling up in his eyes. "How can you sell Sid? That's not fair."

I cannot watch other people cry. I was immediately in tears and told him that Papa was going to buy another horse that everyone could ride, since nobody other than Scott and I could ride Sid and we didn't have time.

Then I allowed myself to be talked into giving rides on Leo, even though it was 90 degrees out and the horseflies abounded. (I had a personal kill record of six in one hour.)

Yes, our horses names are Sid and Leo. Just picture two little old men sharing a New York apartment.

I could have gotten Morgan in for a test shot.

Yesterday - my one day off in the week - I got a call from Talent Group. They wanted her to come in so they could take a test shot for American Greetings. I had plenty of time, but I told them I could not get down there and back before Morgan's kindergarten screening, and by the time she was done, I would not have time to get there before they closed.

Because here is the deal on the test's not guaranteed that they get the gig. In fact, in no cases where we went in for the test shot, has she gotten it.

So no, I am not going to drive a half hour across town so you can take a picture of her LEGS. That's right, her head was not even going to be in the shot. It's a card where she would wear a tutu and sit on a giant present with her legs dangling and you would see her from waist down.

So he let me take the "test shot" myself and send it to him. I had to laugh, because Morgan has as much grace as I do and therefore her shins are bruised to hell. I hope the guy airbrushed it before he sent it in, but I do not expect a call-back.

Authors Note: Why can't I get the damn spacing to work between my paragraphs. Everytime I add a photo it screws it up. Ugh!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Home Sweet Home

(From the City of Bay Village website – except I fixed the spelling and grammatical errors. Come on, people.)
Land Area. Bay Village is 4.52 square miles in area.
Population. Bay Village was home to an estimated 16,087 people during 2000.
Educated Population. Bay Village has a highly educated population. Almost 1/2 of the population age 25 and older in 1990 had a bachelor or graduate degree.
Professional Community. The high education level is reflected in the occupational makeup of the community. Over 50% of the employed population, age 16 and older, in 1990 were employed as managers or professionals.
Housing Stock. Over 1/3 of Bay Village's housing units were built in the 1950's. Another 28% of the City's housing stock was developed before 1950.
Weather. Bay Village enjoys a four season climate and is affected by the temperature and winds over Lake Erie. Due to Bay Village's location, winter snowfall is much less than suburbs to the east of Cleveland.

In other words…a small, lakeside town that doesn’t see much action besides the people we bust for speeding as they pass through.

Cut to this morning. Drop the girls off at the sitter, who lives in a very quiet neighborhood of small ranch homes. Head back out towards the main Lake Road. As I’m driving, I vaguely acknowledge more cars than usual parked in the street. I slow down some more for a car coming the other direction and notice two of the parked cars are patrol cars and they are parked facing each other on the same side. Weird.

I look up to see some uniforms in the driveway – one speaking into his walkie-talkie (because that’s what I call them. I am ten.). I notice the other has a vest over his white shirt. So I look at the house where I see two more officers, backs against the home on either side of the front picture window with guns drawn. Big guns – not, I-just-un-holstered-this-sidearm-for-the-first-time-in-my-life, but rifle-like weapons (of which I know nothing about).

This all played out in the two seconds it took me to pass the house without drawing attention to the fact that I was slowing down to stare. But really…we’re talking about a town whose police see so little action that all three on-duty squad cars showed up when my friend got in a fender-bender in front of my house.

Just yesterday I found out that a man from Strongsville pulled up to a 14-year-old girl by the Nature Center and demanded she get in his car. She luckily ran away and was able to describe him and his car to the police who picked him up 10 minutes later in the next park over.

There has been a rash of car break-ins for the last year. (Well, this actually makes sense, because why wouldn’t you come to the town described above and break into our cars.)

What is happening?

This is Patricia Heaton’s hometown, damnit. We’re above all this.

Oh wait, we did have that nasty Sheppard murder in the 50’s that The Fugitive was allegedly based on…and, I guess the Mihaljevic disappearance and subsequent murder in the 80’s…

Wait…why do we live here? Oh yeah, the schools are excellent!

(Kidding, I love our town!)

Author's note: There wasn't any further news of the incident this morning, so I will assume they were answering someones home alarm that was on vacation. Or maybe just playing "cops and robbers" with Rocky River PD.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Road to Kindergarten, Vol. 12

(Synopsis for those just joining: we live in PM kindergarten zone, sitter lives in AM, transportation department wouldn't agree to pick her up so I've spent the summer awaiting the return of the principal to plead my case.)

Morgan is officially an AM student. I got the call this morning, and he was very kind. Of course he reiterated several times how he was bending the rules for me and only doing it because he could tell how important it was to me.

Well, I would say needing transportation is little more important than someone asking to switch so Suzy and Sally could be in the same classroom. But that's just me.

Not to mention, I was perfectly willing to take the PM slot as long as they ran the bus out there, so let's not go over the top with the martyrdom.

On the other hand, it is impossible not to like this man. He looks quite a bit like dear old Mr. Magoo when he loses his glasses, but doesn't seem to have the same eyesight trouble.

When we went to sign our form, he came out from his office and introduced himself to Morgan. Then he asked her if he could show her some things in the school. Ended up taking us out to the aquarium, then around to the courtyard to look at the gold fish pool, and through the gymnasium.

Morgan giggled the whole time, and I can only imagine it was because she was picturing him trying to go up the down escalator because he got on the wrong one. Or maybe that was just me. Does anyone else remember Mr. Magoo? Where did he go? week is the Kindergarten Screening and Morgan does not do well under pressure, so we'll see how that goes. I only wish they asked for an oral presentation on the different whale species or how to survive a shark attack. At the very least she could do a recitation of the Jabberwocky poem.

I mean, really...who has to know how to match upper and lower case letters these days?

And this week Zoe has become terrified of the bath tub. I'm talking blood curdling screams the entire time it takes to wash her hair and body, while she make desperate attempts at escape. The culprit? That dang drain. After almost 2 and a half years, she's decided she could possibly go down it with the water. Oh, this is fun!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Murphy's Law Wedding Edition (with Illustration)

My college roommate Allison got married on Friday in Cincinnati. And before I become my usual cynical self, I will take a moment to say how happy I am for her.

Though our actual conversations are few and far between, she is one of those people in my life that when I do finally touch base, it feels like we never skipped a beat. And that's the mark of the truest of friends.

Whenever I'm asked to do one of those little "get to know you" questionnaires and I'm asked to name a person I most admire, it is usually her. I should probably tell her that someday.

We know each other so well that when we got together earlier this spring, we both started talking about "Glee" before even asking if the other one watched it. It was just a given.

Being that Scott and I were out-of-towners that weren't friends with any of the other guests, she could have stuffed us at a back table with somebody their parents forced them to invite, but instead she made room for us up front with her hometown friends. What grace.

I wish her and Drew the very best of everything! Even though we almost didn't get there...

Zoe decided to throw up Friday morning...TWICE. (no photos available, sorry) And then started a fever. I pathetically offered (without out right saying it) to my mom that Scott could maybe possibly stay home, while quietly hoping and all the while knowing that my mom would graciously put herself in harms way to watch over her grand daughters.

Scott is officially allergic to something that comes around at 3 in the afternoon, as that is the precise time that he started his sneezing fit (also no photos available, because I didn't yet know I should be documenting for posterity) in the car, which is roughly what time it started on the way to Columbus the previous weekend.
Due to MAJOR traffic delays around Cincinnati, in spite of the best of intentions, we were 15 minutes late to the ceremony. Which was made only more noticeable when the priest's homily began with some analogy about the view from the front of the church and how he sees everything, including people that are late to mass. Thanks, man.

The one picture that I get to take with the bride... eyes are closed.

The shoes that successfully saw me through 2 other weddings with no issues, caused me to hobble from our car to the hotel room.

The Miami Inn's air conditioning went down. But in an anti-Murphy's Law chain of events, they moved us to the Marcum Conference Center, where we were upgraded to a semi-suite and got the only balcony in the whole building (which we used only to take this picture).

For those unfamiliar with Miami should be known that there is an air of slight personal competition similar to "keeping up with the Joneses" that has a tendency to linger post graduation. So just when you think you have your shit together you realize...'re the only one not driving a Porsche ("poor-shuh" - Joey Tribiani). Welcome Porsche Enthusiasts. This explains the weird presence of multiple Porsche in the hotel parking lot the previous night.

And especially for the Stanton Hall girls...

..."Paging Dylan there a Dylan McKay here?"