Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Conversations With My 97.5 Year Old Grandfather (Gramp): Guest Post!

From Lloyd:

I called my grandfather today to see what he was up to. He lives in Maine where he was born and raised. In fact he has never lived outside of a 6 mile radius of the town of Thomaston. Anyway when I asked him what was new, he said “Well, I’ve been eye-balling the big birch tree that I planted next to the house 70 years ago and decided that if a strong enough west wind ever blew it could push that old buzzard into my house”. I pretty much expected to hear what came out next knowing that old coot as well as I do. He went on to say “So I grabbed my ladder and a rope and climbed up the side of the tree and tied off the rope about 2/3 of the way up and then tied the other end of the rope to a spruce tree about 50’ away. Then I grabbed my come-along and got some pretty good tension on that rope. Then I grabbed my chainsaw and after cutting about half way through I went back over to the spruce tree and gave that come-along a couple more cranks. Finally I finished cutting and that tree landed exactly where I wanted it to. I cut it up into 16” pieces for firewood and tried to split it with a maul but the darn stuff was too damn gnarly so I had to use a hydraulic splitter.”

With that I asked him what else was new and he said “The grackles are getting pretty thick and I may have to declare war on them again,” which means picking them off with his .22 rifle out the window. Finally, it was time to end this short conversation so I asked him, “What are you doing tomorrow” he said “Well, I thought I would drive the truck over to Wes’s house (his 72 year old son) and give him a hand splitting the 10 cord of fire wood sitting in his back yard”.

Before we hung up he told me to “keep my powder dry” and to “hang in there boy” and “I love you and Anna, Weston , Shane, and Tori”. With that I hung up the phone realizing that this guy has seriously skewed the life-cycle “Bell Curve” and hoped to see him in 9 months.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


These are all open jars and bottles that came out of our refrigerator this morning. Two mayos, two molasses (molassi?), four ketchups and three salsas. I'm not even sure I got them all because the fridge is a little bit messy today. Okay, fine, it's always a total catastrophe and I could lose the Titanic in there. Whatever. I would like to point out that perhaps if there was not such a huge volume of nearly empty condiment containers, I would be able to swipe the sticky shelves with a dirty dishcloth once every six months or so. That would be MUCH better.

I am not a picky girl, but this drives me insane. Lloyd claims he gets out a new one because he can't find the one that's already open. I don't buy it, though. If he can't find the old one in the fridge, how come he's so Johnny-on-the-spot with the new one in the cupboard? Let's face it, the cabinets aren't any tidier than the refrigerator, despite my brief flirtation with organization back in 2008. He also claims that the preposterous number of duplicates is not all his doing, and he further states that after I took this picture, I left the bottles and jars on the counter until he put them away. Did I say WHATEVER yet? No? Good, because that is SO overused.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Today was our big sod-busting party at the garden. The weather was beautiful and we had a great turnout. There were lots of intriguing things buried in the garden: worms, bug larvae, construction materials and bullets. Too bad we're not trying to grow machine guns.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Usually when I sit down to write a post, I have some idea of what it's going to be about. And sometimes, a point. There's no shortage of points tumbling around in my head. It's dangerous, really, when you think about it.

This morning, I just plopped myself down in my dumpy thrift store computer chair because I felt like writing. You can be entirely sure there are plenty of other things I could be doing:

Breastfeeding Support Group will be here this morning and there is popcorn, potting soil and sandwich bags all over the kitchen floor. Shane is sitting about four inches from the television screen watching Blue's Clues, still in his nighttime diaper. Weston is grumbling loudly in his room because he can't make his plastic horn set do what he wants. My computer is acting VERY strangely and I should be backing up my files before it implodes. The Scouts on base are having a sod-busting party at the garden tomorrow morning and no preparations have been made. And, most importantly, I have an inviting stack of new-to-me magazines. Yet, here I sit, leisurely clicking away and feeling pretty good about it. Ow! I think one of those points just hit me.

In some other pointless categories, my back is improving. Good thing, too, because it's going to be quite the job hauling my new Mac home from the BX. And, we are starting to look at some alternatives for where we might be going next winter. We had a plan, but now, not so much.Ow! Dangit, not again! That one's going to leave a mark.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Moving on

I really appreciate all your supportive comments about 'Shafted'. I feel ever so much better, thanks! And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Spring has sprung here in Korea, and with it has gone my back. This picture is of my three new best friends:

This one shows how the living room looks because I can't bend down to pick anything up:

Actually that's a lie; it would probably look a lot like that anyway. But I wouldn't admit it, and I definitely wouldn't post a picture. I don't think the photo adequately shows all the filthy details, like the potato chip crumbs scattered willy-nilly over the carpet.

I have been taking any number of questionable shortcuts. Diaper changes are particularly challenging, even though I have temporarily succumbed to the siren's call of paper diapers. Shane does not enjoy being changed and it almost always requires coercion of some kind. Usually I try to play a game on the floor with him until I maneuver him into changing position. Yesterday, I bribed him with ice cream four times.

Fortunately, the boys have not yet figured out that they can do whatever they want on the floor and unless they are eating broken glass that has been dipped in cyanide, there is nothing whatsoever that I will do about it. Except maybe offer them ice cream to cut it out. And take a picture:

I'm not sure how long we can function like this, so let me know if you have any double-top secret remedies. I'll try anything once. Please hurry. They'll be on to me soon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


As promised, here is my sad tale:

I was recently nominated for Volunteer of the Year for Osan. A lot of people worked very hard on the nomination paperwork, and I am very appreciative (it's an honor just to be nominated, doncha know?). The form required 16 'bullets' or accomplishments, and the highlight of my form was the Newman's Own Award we won, and the garden and other projects implemented with the money. The Newman's Own Award is very prestigious, and the garden is fabulous. The rest of the form was filled with my more minor volunteer activities (thrift store, OSC board and etc.)

I got all dressed up for the ceremony, with tights and shiny shoes and everything, got a babysitter, and met Lloyd there. The presenter introduced each nominee and read a short description of his or her volunteer highlights. When she got to me, she mentioned two of my lesser volunteer posts, and then finished up, smirking, with my volunteer stint at the Air Show last fall where I staffed the Lost Children Booth. People LAUGHED at this last one. There was nary a mention of the Osan Parent Network, the $5,000 from the award that has been plowed back into Osan Air Base, or the brand new garden, or the other things on my form. I felt like I looked stupid, like I didn't even deserve to have been nominated, and my feelings were hurt.

I didn't win, of course. It would have been NICE to win, but I didn't really EXPECT to win. People like me don't win things like that, which is a sad story for another day (or not, because it's probably not even the worth the wear on my keyboard). No, I am demoralized for two reasons:

1. 'They' made me look stupid and hurt my feelings; and

2. It's possible for 'them' to even get to me like that. It's not like I expect anything better after all this time, and yet, I guess I did.

Funny, I feel better now. I'm just glad I didn't waste any lipstick on that shaftstravaganza.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Here's the entry for 'demoralized' from Dictionary.com:


1. to deprive (a person or persons) of spirit, courage, discipline, etc.; destroy the morale of: The continuous barrage demoralized the infantry.

to throw (a person) into disorder or confusion; bewilder: We were so demoralized by that one wrong turn that we were lost for hours.

Isn't that a great word? It also has another definition- to corrupt or undermine the morals of (as in, 'Jack demoralized Weston, resulting in an unauthorized elevator trip'), but that definition doesn't really apply to me today so I left it out.

I will spare you all the gory, whiny details. For today. Tomorrow, you might not be so lucky. Coming Soon: 'Shafted: Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose'. Or not.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Conversations with Weston II: I should tell them

Weston: Why doesn't Mercury or Uranus or Neptune have water?
Me: I don't know.
Weston: We should look in my space books.
Me: We can look, but there's a lot of things about the planets the scientists who wrote the books don't know.
Weston: I know all about the planets! I should tell them.

Conversations with Weston: I don't always tell the truth

I just told Weston a story about an 8-foot tall man with bright green hair named Mr. Pixie. In the story, Mr. Pixie wants to go to Jupiter but is too tall to fit in Weston's rocket ship. Weston and his friends Pippi, Mr. Nilsson, Tom, Jerry and George are retrofitting the rocket so Mr. Pixie can go on an intergalactic cruise. Weston's mom calls him for dinner but he tells her that he needs to keep working so Mr. Pixie can fit in the rocket, and she says okay.

Weston: Does she know Mr. Pixie?
Me: No.
Weston: Then why does she believe he's real?
Me: Because Weston told her, and she knows he tells the truth.
Weston: I don't always tell the truth.
Me: What do you mean?
Weston: Sometimes I tell you I washed my hands but it's not the truth.
Me: Why would you do that? It's important to tell me the truth.
Weston (very matter-of-factly): Because I don't like to wash my hands.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Artistic talent runs in my family

Seriously, it's true. If you have ever seen me try to draw or craft anything, you can be forgiven for thinking that perhaps I come from a family of egg-headed left-brained engineers. Except that they would probably be much more tidy and organized than I am. Also, that is very insulting to engineers, and believe it or not, I am actually very fond of many some two engineers. And, oh yeah, I am not nearly smart enough to make someone think I might be related to any eggheads. So, hmmm, that is just a bad analogy. Help me think of a better one. Let's see, who is notoriously uncreative, not too bright, and also messy and disorganized? Oh, I've got it now: chickens!

But the truth is, everyone in my family is very clever that way, except for me. You might almost think I was switched at birth and somewhere, a family of chickens with a gorgeously decorated coop is desperately looking for me. Hey, wait a minute! But, no, that is probably not the case. It's much more likely that I am just the black sheep color blind chicken in a family of crafty cows.

For proof that I am the family mutant, I offer the latest Jennifer Art. Jennifer is my sister, and she has several very cool new things out. Jen11 is eleven artists named Jennifer talking about their Jeneration. And, she is on the cover of Exhale this month. Praise Jennifer and pass the mash!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Garden Party

Today was a fabulous day here at Osan. We had the big Garden-Breaking Party for our brand new kids community garden. The muckety-mucks all came out with their shovels, only to find themselves outnumbered by the mini-gardeners who had thoroughly pre-tossed the ceremonial dirt.

The whole thing was wonderful and very exciting. But here's the very best part: just as we were getting ready to leave, a single orange and black butterfly fluttered in landed on the ground right in the center of the garden space. It is definitely not butterfly season yet so the presence of the butterfly is somewhat unfathomable, and you all know how I love a mystery. I like to think it's a sign that the garden will be a smashing success. Maybe it just heard us talking about the butterfly garden and can't wait to move in. Or, perhaps it was simply attracted to the colorful flowers planted in potties.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday Night

Saturday night is not all right, all right, all right. Here it is, Saturday night in the booming metropolis of Osan and this is what I've done (not necessarily in order):

-maneuvered a small piece of fish-shaped wood out from behind the dryer with Weston's grabbing tool Shane-smacker because I thought it was an actual fish that disappeared from our tank in October. Regrettably, the mystery of the missing fish remains unsolved.

-commented on my friend Lauren's blog after she mocked my parenting practices. And not for the first time, I might add. Now I'm thinking I should write another one and be way meaner. Maybe even bring up the whole dog-tail incident.

-painstakingly mended a hole in the foot of Weston's favorite space sleeper, only to be told at bedtime that the insect pajamas he'd been wearing for two days were 'way cuter' and he needed to keep wearing them.

-read several chapters of 'French Women Don't Get Fat'. Geez, what an annoying book. Now I'm looking for one called 'American Women Don't Get Snotty and Pretentious'.

-clipped 36 little boy toenails and fingernails.

Whew, all that excitement has really done me in. I better hit the sack, because guess what! Tomorrow is SUNDAY and the pleasures that await me are sure to be indescribable. If you're lucky, anyway.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Odds and Ends

Ins and outs, bits and pieces, this and that. Sometimes you get the flowers, sometimes you're in the.... potty. Behold, 24 hours' worth of Stories from Korea:

1. I actually said this today: 'Sure, you can have a graham cracker. Did you finish your chocolate?'

2. Weston opened the front door for Shane this morning. By the time I heard the door slam and raced out there, he was scribbling on the elevator door with a blue crayon wearing nothing but his pj bottoms. Thankfully, there were no ajimas in sight.

3. We still have not left the house after the BX episode.

4. We've decided that we need to test Weston's navigation skills, just in case he 'forgets' the no elevator rule. Results of the time trials to follow.

5. I discovered a large volume of a mushy dark brown substance all over one of our 'Thomas' books. Mercifully, it turned out to be banana.

6. I just spent the better part of twenty minutes trying to explain mitosis to Weston after he asked if germs have babies. I do not recommend this.

7. I accidentally sent a payment to the wrong credit card a few weeks ago. Before it was even 30 days past due and before I even discovered my mistake, the neglected company sent me a nasty-gram threatening to cut off the card unless they received their lousy $63.27. Boo hoo, I say, but I remember the good old days, not so very long ago, when you could rack up thousands and not hear a thing about it for at least 90 days. Or so I have heard from folks who are not quite so fiscally responsible as moi. I guess it's true what they say: Things are tough all over.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Conversations with Weston: I didn't think you'd find out!

This afternoon, Weston had a friend over. Yes, the infamous Jack again. When Jack comes over the boys love to play in the hallway. This works out nicely since we are never leaving home again after yesterday's foray to the BX. Jack is older than Weston and is allowed to go in the elevator by himself. Jack had dropped a toy on the way to our house, and wanted to go look for it.

Conversation not heard by me:

Jack: I have to find my toy!
Jack's mom: Okay, but Weston can't go in the elevator.
Weston: I can go!

Jack's mom was then distracted by some other brewing disaster and I was none the wiser until I heard the door slam and then:

Weston: We went on ALL the floors!
Me: You went on the elevator?
Weston (giggling with excitement): Yes! On all the floors!
Me: You know you're not old enough to go on the elevator with Jack, right?
Weston: Yes.
Me: Then why did you go?
Weston: I didn't think you'd find out!
Me: We'll talk about this later.

And, here's one more. I was just finishing this while Weston watches Land Before Time #458734, and he had to go to the bathroom.

Weston: Sometime, can we get a television in the bathroom?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Why do I have a picture of my sandals and sock clad feet on the top of my blog? Say, I'm glad you asked! I'd love to tell you. Today was another beautiful Osan day. Clear and sunny, and just a little bit windy. We decided to meet some of our lovely friends at the garden and packed up the stroller with just the necessities: Plastic bus, two inflatable balls, O ball, football, stuffed frog, stuffed cat and a bag of m&m's. I put the plastic cover on the stroller to keep the wind out and we hit the road. Since we were just going to the garden to play in the grass and dirt I wore the footwear and green sweatpants you see in the picture, along with a very bright orange but stained sweater. I topped this ensemble off with a black coat and a not-quite-neon orange backpack.

We cavorted in the slightly chilly arctic wind for a while, then Helen wisely decided she had had enough fun for one day. Janelle and I, not being so bright, decided to undertake the eleventy jillion 1/4 mile trek to the BX to play in the play place there. Unfortunately, the play area does not feature a containment system, but I am guessing that after today the management is seriously considering a very powerful electric fence. Many, many unsuspecting observers were treated to the spectacle of me in my colorful attire trucking through the BX to collect Shane each of the 87 times he exited the play area at mach 5. The return trips were slower, but accompanied by a very loud soundtrack.

Shane finally decided that perhaps the play area was not actually a primary color themed torture device, just in time for Weston to decide that he was starving and had to leave right that instant. Sadly, the m&m's had been devoured long ago and I have a standing policy against food court pizza every night, so I loaded up all the crap and put Shane in the stroller. There is no word or phrase that can adequately convey what this looked and sounded like. Picture the beautiful outfit. And the sheer volume of stuff. And the screaming. Add flailing and the dull red burning of my face and you might be able to imagine a small fraction of the experience. And that's when the situation started to deteriorate.

As I attempted to push the stroller out of the BX, Shane was screaming and yanking against the stroller straps with his body. He lifted the plastic off the stroller and repeatedly tried to lunge out. No lie, every single person we passed gaped at us in slack-jawed wonder. This was not helpful. Just a handy tip: when you pass someone like me, do not look at her or speak to her unless you have a large bottle of downers to share.

Shane was practically hysterical and I have 'SUCKER' tatooed across my chest, so I took him out and started carrying him while pushing the stroller. I had progressed about 100 yards, to the front of the library, when one of the inflatable balls flew out of the stroller and across the road, forcing a cabdriver to slam on his brakes and rendering Weston inconsolable. If it had been a smidge warmer, I would have curled up on the sidewalk and waited for someone to identify me and call Lloyd to come and get me. When it warms up I am thinking of writing his cell number on my arm with a permanent marker. Since vanishing into thin air did not appear to be one of my few options, I mom-handled Shane back into the stroller, retrieved the ball from a chortling but helpful passerby and went home, studiously avoiding eye contact and ignoring whatever detritus might have been flying off the stroller.

Home now. Not leaving again. Ever. Where were you this afternoon, ever-so-helpful ajimas? Hmmmm? And while I'm asking questions, here's one for Phil & Ted: The wind/rain and UV stroller covers are super great, thanks, but where the hell is the soundproof one? Now, THAT would be useful.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Is it weird that I'm so excited about compost?

Yes, but in a good way, right? These are pictures taken at our newly constructed kids community garden. I dumped the inaugural eggshells, carrot peelings and coffee grounds yesterday and was ridiculously thrilled.

The garden was funded by the 2008 Newman's Own Award that we won last fall. We received $5,000 for the garden, some playgroup improvements and a parenting library. The garden is HUGE, and will have veggies, herbs, a butterfly garden, a rain water collection system, and some outdoor toys. There will be tons of nature projects for the kids, and a place to just dig in the dirt for buried treasure.

Now, people: if this doesn't convince you to come to Korea for a lengthy visit, you are a cold-hearted garden-hating wretch. Come on, I promise I won't post any embarrassing stories about you!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Conversations with Weston: You can do it yesterday

Is it Friday yet? Oh, it is? Hurray! It has been a crazy week here at Osan, with much upheaval and bizarre happenings. Collective spring fever? Crazy pills in the water supply? I have no idea.

This morning, I heaved a massive sigh while cleaning up 23 lasagnas worth of parmesan cheese shreds off the floor, and this conversation ensued:

Weston: That sounded like a sad sigh.
Me: Well, not sad. Tired maybe.
Weston: Why?
Me: Oh, I have a lot of things to do and it makes me tired sometimes, just thinking about all of it.
Weston (shrugging and using an eminently reasonable tone): Well, you don't have to do all that stuff today. You could do some of it tomorrow, or yesterday. Or tomorrow yesterday. Then you wouldn't be so tired.

Now, why didn't I think of that? I should totally do it yesterday. In fact, I just did. Wow, that's like magic; you wouldn't believe how much more quickly things get done when you do them yesterday!

Thursday, March 5, 2009


That's what it's called when you're too terrified to leave your house, right? We have these lovely ajimas, or Korean housekeeping ladies, who mop the hallways and keep the common areas tidy. They are sweet, soft-spoken women with a nod and smile for all. Doesn't sound too scary, does it?

But they have another, more sinister, self-appointed duty and they take it very seriously indeed. If you step outside your door, they're on you like white on rice, especially if you are accompanied by your aigee, or baby. And they have very definite ideas about acceptable clothing choices. Going outside without gloves on your kids? Not so fast, sister! Wait for your scolding: 'Baby cold! Baby cold!' in a tone I would reserve to tell someone her baby had burst into flames. Then you may proceed as she finishes clucking fretfully behind your back.

Sadly and scarily for me, my particular 'baby' is getting onto two now, and has apparently decided clothes are the devil. I, on the other hand, am very confident that the ear piercing howls that result from him not getting his way are the devil, or at least a reasonable facsimile, so I just let him run around with a diaper on, as long as we are not leaving the building. He would prefer going totally commando but I do have some standards, you know. Maybe I should start calling them substandards. Whatever they're called, believe me when I say mine do not meet with ajimapproval. So, I am reduced to crouching behind my door, peering out the peephole until the coast is clear, and then we run, run like the wind.
Catch us if you can, ajimazis!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Conversations with Weston: Tastes like chicken!

Weston: Shane nurses because he's still a baby. I'm a big boy and I don't nurse anymore.
Me: That's true.
Weston: I remember what nursies taste like, though.
Me (very curious): Really? What do they taste like?
Weston: Like chicken! The pink kind (the sliced lunch meat).

Weston: I'm a volcano!
Me: Really? What do you do?
Weston: I pee lava and poop smoke!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Wax on, wax off

Perhaps you remember the story about how we got our turtle. I am not a huge fan of the turtle, but Lloyd really likes it and is already working up an adoption plan for when we're forced to leave the turtle here in Korea (turtle + long international flight=contraband). Now, don't get me wrong; I like turtles fine. I just don't think they belong on my kitchen counter in a filthy tank, eating dried bugs and staring at me every time I go by with those big 'help-me' eyes. You wouldn't think a turtle would be able to communicate, but I swear this one knows what's going on. The thing throws itself against the tank and bangs the rocks in the tank around to get attention, and then waits for you to get it bugs. It's pretty smart; at least smart enough to get elected to the Governor's office in the great state of Alaska, and I hear they're letting reptiles run now. That would be so awesome if it could support itself; dried bugs don't grow on trees, you know. Plus, I understand there is a very generous per diem arrangement.

The turtle tank gets so disgusting from the bugs and the generous supply of turtle poop that it is appalling even to me, and my standards are LOW. This morning I set out a bowl of water to dechlorinate so we could clean the tank and supply the turtle with fresh water. This is a quick job, and it's a good thing, because the turtle is at the very bottom of my priority list until it actually is elected to office. I walked into the kitchen to see Lloyd painstakingly cleaning and polishing the turtle's shell. With a dishcloth. He then asked me if we had any turtle wax. I would like to think he was totally kidding but the truth is I'm not quite sure.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, there was laundry piled in the hallway, goldfish crackers crushed into the carpet, and pencil marks all over the bathtub. But at least the turtle will be presentable for the inauguration, right? Hey, after that maybe I can afford that English-speaking ajima I've been wanting!