Sunday, July 31, 2005

My Big Annual Scavenger Hunt

This morning, I went out for school supplies.

This may sound strange, but I find shopping for school supplies to be a lot of fun. It’s like a scavenger hunt to me. First of all, even the supply lists that I get from school are interesting reading. K9 is in elementary school; I12 is in middle. Normally the lists that come from our middle school are really easy and nonspecific, something like this:

A few pens
A bunch of pencils
Some markers or something
Pencil pouch to carry all that stuff in
Some sort of binder
Lots of notebook paper

Whereas the elementary school gets really creative with their lists. They like to specify colors and brands, and use capital letters a lot, like in this example:

41 sharpened pencils
Folders with prongs, with a pocket on front and ABSOLUTELY NO pockets on the back:
- three red
- four green
- five blue
- two yellow
- fourteen octarine
- one any color you want
One large red, white and blue, 137 page notebook by SchoolThingamajigies, Inc. (MAKE SURE YOU BUY THE CORRECT BRAND!!)
One large green box of tissues
One box of gallon-size Ziploc baggies
Seven rolls of two-ply toilet paper with butterfly pattern

And so on. You get the general idea.

I have to tell you, my first years with this stuff were a challenge. I12 started school a year after we came to America. We knew we had to move into the right neighborhood and buy him a book bag, but no one ever told us about the school supplies, so, when the list came in the mail, I was beyond puzzled. I spent the next two weeks wandering the school supply departments of various stores with the list in hand and a “WTF is this list saying?” expression on my face. Then after a year or two, just as I got the hang of it, K9 started kindergarten and I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume.

By now, I’ve been doing it for seven years (this is the eighth) and I’m proud to tell you that I got it down to an art. Here’s how I did it this year.

I have to warn you that there is a ton of practical advice coming up, so, unless you are another Mom in search of school supplies, you may get bored.

First of all, the school supply scavenger hunt doesn’t start a day before school begins. There’ll be nothing left in the good stores by then and you’ll have to resort to upscale places like OfficeMax. Neither does it start when you get the supply list in the mail, or when the Back To School sections open in the stores. No, it starts on the last day of school of the previous school year. On that day, your school sends home with your kid all of the supplies he has not used during the year. Sort through them; set aside anything that is in good condition, pens that still work, etcetera (a lot of stuff will actually come home in its original cover, unopened). Stash that in a safe place and wait.

Sometime in late July – early August, you get the list (or at least, I did). First thing I did was, I sat down with my two lists and wrote everything down on a separate sheet of paper, broken down by category; and by “category” I mean “the order in which school supplies are displayed in the store”. Such as “pens/pencils”, “markers/crayons”, “notebooks/paper”, and so on, ending with “other” (this is where you put your Kleenex and your TP). After that’s done, pull out your secret stash. Go through your list and cross out what you already have. What’s left is your shopping list. You are now ready to begin the Great Scavenger Hunt.

I always start at Marc’s. I don’t know if your place has a Marc’s or its equivalent. If it doesn’t, this probably means you are living in a wealthy neighborhood, and more power to you! This place is like an outlet where they sell everything that they normally would at a grocery store, plus a few random household items and sometimes even small furniture. And they sell it really, really cheap. During our first few years in the country, I was a regular at Marc’s; then I started to notice that the place has its down sides, such as: lines that stretch well into the next century; shabby customer service; and the general low reliability of their merchandise. Marc’s only takes cash or checks, no credit. You are not allowed to return what you bought, unless you paid in cash (something I learned the hard way). Without going into anymore detail, let me just say that these days, I only visit this fine establishment once a year – during the Scavenger Hunt. Other days, I avoid it like plague. I hate this place with a passion. I hate it like a parent of young kids hates Chuck E. Cheese’s. But there is one day each year when I have no other choice but to walk through its doors.

I used to come there after work, but the lines were killing me. So this year, I decided to try Sunday morning. That worked great. I still got caught in a bit of a line at the checkout, but at least the isles weren’t crowded as they are in the evenings, and I was able to get in and out relatively quickly.

My next stop was (and always is) Walmart. I know a lot of people here do not like it, but, after Marc’s, it feels like an upscale mall (as far as I can guess; never been to one). The first thing I buy at Walmart is sharpened pencils, as Marc’s does not carry them. I used to just grab the cheapest box of pencils and go. Then, after one year when I had to sharpen fifty pencils, I started buying them sharpened.

I got stuck in a small line at Walmart as well, behind someone that didn’t know how to use the self-checkout.

Normally, by the time I come out of Walmart, there are only two or three really exotic items remaining on my list. Today, it was:
- vis-à-vis markers
- dry-liner white-outs, NO LIQUID
- ring for index cards, and
- three-ring binder hole puncher

This is when I know it’s OfficeMax time. Another thing I buy at OfficeMax is binders for I12. Last year, I got him the cheap kind, and they fell apart before it was even Christmas. Like a true teen boy, I12 is brutal with his school equipment.

While I’m at it, I’ll add another thing that I have learned I need to spend top dollar on, and that is bookbags. Up until last year, I used to buy them for $3 at (what else!) Marc’s. Then a week after I12 started 6th grade, his bookbag fell apart right as he was walking down a hallway. Can’t blame him; he now has to carry fifteen pounds of stuff in that thing. I went out and got him a Jansport. No visible damage so far.

Back to the Scavenger Hunt. This year, I have set a personal record. If you have beat it, please let me know in the comments, so I have something to aspire to next year. Here’s how I did on this year’s hunt that required school supplies for a 7-grader and a 4-grader.

I left home at 11:00 AM (“But, Goldie, you said you went shopping on Sunday morning!” - well, guys, there was a party at our house last night, so 11AM was as close to morning as I could get today).
Left Marc’s at 11:50 AM; spent $80.
Left Walmart at 12:25 PM; spent $44.60.
Left Officemax at 12:50 PM; spent $29.82.
Came back home at 12:55 PM and spent a total of 1hour 55 minutes and $155. The total could have been less, but I got a few spares at Marc’s – pens, folders, that kind of stuff – so I don’t have to go back there again until next August.

Can you beat that?

The Goldie has spoken at 6:42 PM

Thursday, July 28, 2005

K9 Has an Unusual Wish

A few days ago, Mr. Goldie has bought an MP3 player for K9 on eBay.

We haven't received it yet. Needless to say, K9 checks the mail every other hour.

Yesterday, as soon as I got home, he rushed to me, asking:

"Mom, where's Dad?"

"Why, K9, it's his bowling night. He won't be home before ten."

(in a desperate voice) "He has a package. I need to see it!"


"K9, you perv!"

(I12 and I rolling on the floor laughing, K9 shouting indignantly: "It's not funny! It's not funny!")

That's what I like about life in my family - it's never boring.

PS. No, it was not the MP3 player, so we're still waiting...

The Goldie has spoken at 11:32 AM

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Education, It’s Overrated

I have come across this review on Amazon. How? – long story.

The review is for Hillary Clinton’s book “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child”. I was hoping to gather some information about the book. However, I stumbled upon more than I’d been looking for. Forget Hillary. Listen to this reviewer.

The review is on this page. There is no direct link.

It takes a child to raze a village., January 25, 2004
Reviewer: Reginleif II (Everett, MA United States) - See all my reviews

I'd agree with the reviewer who pointed out Clinton's emphasis on the word "invest." Hillary and her ilk don't really want the village to *raise* children...they want it to *subsidize* child-raising. Don't believe me? Next time you see a poorly disciplined child in a supermarket doing something remarkably obnoxious, hoist it over your knee and give it a well-deserved spanking. Or even say a sharp word to it.

“It”? “It puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again”? Whatever.

Think its breeder ("parent" isn't the appropriate word in most of these situations) will appreciate your trying to do its job for it, perhaps imposing the only discipline the kid has ever received? Think again.

You’ve got that right, Reginleif II. Call me a breeder, but if you try to hit my child for doing something you deem “remarkably obnoxious”, you can count on me calling the cops. Are you saying you expected the parent to thank you for it? You for real?

Now comes the best part.

'Round these parts last year, an upscale 'burb rejected a property tax increase designed to give the schools more money. Those who voted yea were overwhelmingly wealthy yuppies who'd moved into that 'burb in the last few decades, making it upscale. Those who voted nay were overwhelmingly middle-class and working-class folks who could barely afford to hang onto their houses anymore.

Now this hits close to home.

I live in a “good-school” neighborhood. Take it from me, the schools really are good.

Last year, we had a levy. You know why? Because we are a heavy commercial area, and the businesses got a tax cut, resulting in less money for the schools. So we, the residents, were asked to pick up the tab for the businesses in our area. Which I personally didn’t mind doing, because, hey, my kids attend these schools, and I’m satisfied with them. I like the teachers my kids have, and I didn’t want to see them laid off… you know? Neither did I want to see the gifted program shut down, or any of the other good stuff that was scheduled to take place if the levy had failed. It passed, but barely.

By the way, I assume the reviewer understands that the increase was going to be several times higher for the “wealthy yuppies” than for the “working-class folks”? So it’s not like the yuppies stood to profit from it.

After the tax increase was slapped down, some woman actually wrote to the local paper, "The village has failed my children!"

Ah, so it was slapped down. How many teachers lost their jobs as a result? How come the reviewer feels no sympathy for them? Were they wealthy yuppies too?

The street address she gave was in what is possibly *the* nicest neighborhood of that town. And when I drove down her street a few months later, I noticed that her house was nearly 200 years old, with a historical marker on the front, no less! Obviously someone who could have afforded to provide her three kids with tutors to make up for anything they were no longer getting in school.

Wait, wait… hold it right there… yes, she could have afforded the tutors, but what about the working-class parents that couldn’t? Does the reviewer mean to say that the working-class children can do with mediocre quality education?

But I guess the new SUV was more important, so "the village" was obligated to pick up the tab for, you know, the trivial stuff.

I must have missed the part where this rich woman got somehow exempted from paying property taxes. Wouldn’t the tax increase have affected her in the first place?

As a person who's childfree by choice,

Oh. This explains a lot. This doesn’t, however, explain one thing.

How can a person that calls himself or herself “childfree by choice” consider himself/herself enough of an expert to review a book on parenting? Let me give you an example.

I am not a cat person (please forgive me, Vicki). I don’t have cats. I am catfree by choice. Have I ever blogged about pet care? Have I ever reviewed a book on pet care? Nope. You know why? Because I don’t know squat about pet care, that’s why. I do not want to make ignorant observations on a subject I have no clue about that I will be later ashamed of. That is why.

I'm heartily sick of the emphasis on "OUR children." You'd think they were all destined from birth to grow up to be the future Mozarts, Albert Schweitzers, and Winston Churchills, rather than the next generation's Anna Nicole Smiths, Scott Petersons, or Slobodan Milosevics.

While not all of them will grow up to be Winston Churchills or Slobodan Milosevics, the overwhelming majority of them will be working, creating products and offering services, when the reviewer (and myself) are no longer able to do it; and will be paying the reviewer’s Social Security, if it (the Social Security; I’m not calling the reviewer “it”, Heaven forbid) doesn’t die a natural death by then. If SS does die, then the majority of these children will be contributing to charities that the reviewer will most likely benefit from when he or she can no longer work.

Even if you really don’t like kids, even if the little brats make you sick to the stomach, this, IMO, should be reason enough to push for quality education.

Public, not private.

Trust me, you do NOT want kids from disadvantaged families to fall out of the system. This happened in my home country, and now the crime rate is through the roof. Those kids are making their living the best way they know how – the criminal way.

And as a libertarian, I'm equally tired of the communitarian delusion that we're all one big happy family, obligated to share our money -- and, worse, our time -- with one another, regardless of whether we actually like or approve of each other. This book will go down in history for introducing a particularly noxious, and potent, distillation of those attitudes into American political discourse.

Well, well, well. I’ve read this far and I haven’t learned anything new about Hillary or her book. But I sure have learned a lot about Reginleif II.

If you enjoyed this review, you may also like Reginleif II’s review on (of all things) attachment parenting. Here’s a quick quote:

This ridiculous child-rearing philosophy can be summed up thusly: never leave the kids alone for a minute, even to go to the toilet, because separation from their parents might permanently sear their fragile little psyches….

Get a clue, attachment "parents": Rousseau was wrong. Children are not perfect little packages from God or The Goddess or what have you, but little savages who need to be civilized.

Thank you for staying with me this far. I’m off to review a book on cats.

The Goldie has spoken at 3:29 PM

Monday, July 25, 2005

What God Thinks About…

In the last week, I’ve been following a story that reminded me of a group of people I know.

I met a small part of the group five years ago, when we bowled on the same league, and they introduced me to everyone else. I didn’t really fit all the way in, because Mr. Goldie and I already have our close circle of friends that we spend time with, and there are only 24 hours in the day. Plus, it’s tough being the only immigrant in a crowd. Plus, these guys have known each other forever. Most of them went to high school together, and then went on to college together. You can only imagine how close they are to one another.

Under a different set of circumstances, though, I would have definitely enjoyed being a part of this group. They are my kind of guys and gals. Allow me to illustrate. Like I said, most of the group went to HS together. They’re the class of ’84. Which means they’re pushing forty. They are highly educated professionals, respected in their places of work. With that in mind… we met when they brought the “Creepy Susie” book to the bowling alley. I liked the book, and asked if I could look at it; turned out, it was one of their all-time favorites; thus began our friendship.

What I am trying to say is, in spite of their busy lives, families and professional careers, the guys manage to maintain a certain level of immaturity and irreverence in their lives, and that is what we have in common.

The group also happens to consist entirely of Cleveland Indians fans. Each year, they buy season tickets. A few years ago, in a desperate attempt to fit in with the group, Mr. Goldie and I bought a pair of tickets to one of the games.

We met with the group at a nearby bar, and after a few drinks, went on to see the game. Right in front of the stadium, the leader of our group was stopped by a guy, who handed him two brochures, conveniently named “What God Thinks About Homosexuality” and “What God Thinks About Pot”.

Our leader (I hope he won’t mind if I’ll call him Matt – I figure that’s as good a name as any, right?) is, again, a highly-educated professional in the middle of a successful career. The guy has amazing people skills. Instead of telling the dude on the street to get lost, he thanked him, and took the booklets. We went inside, and the game started.

Imagine my reaction when, at the first slow moment in the game, Matt stands up, and, in a really loud voice, starts reading from “What God Thinks About Pot”.

When the game picked up, Matt stopped and sat down. But, next time things got slow, he stood back up and went on reading.

This was my first time out with the group, and I’ll be honest with you – I was scared. A lot of really big guys were sitting around us, and they didn’t look very happy with what Matt was doing. At some point, I was seriously afraid we might get beaten up.

Then the unbelievable happened.

The audience started warming up.

It helped immensely that the booklet was, well, hysterical.

By the time Matt got to “God has also created poison ivy, but He didn’t intend for us to smoke it”, our entire section of the stadium was howling with laughter.

Friendly conversations and bonding ensued. People were thanking us for the fun. By that time, Matt was done with the booklet. He tried the same thing with “What God Thinks About Homosexuality”, but it was too explicit so Matt decided against it.

One of the best memories I had of that summer was of Matt reading that booklet. How could he pull it off at a stadium full of total strangers?

Some days I wish I had Matt's charisma.

Other days, I reminisce on the guy that was standing in front of the Jacobs Field, handing those booklets out to people going to a ball game. What in the world was he thinking? Was it his own idea, or was he on assignment from somewhere? We will never find out.

But he made our day.

The Goldie has spoken at 12:03 PM

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Do You Clog?

I12 has brought my attention to this post on Maddox. I highly recommend it.

Maddox presents a new and original (I guess) view of the blogging community. Go on, read it, it’s hysterical. There is even a screenshot of a typical blog.

There is also a dictionary. Here are a few good examples.

Blogging: If minds had anuses, blogging would be what your mind would do when it had to take a dump.

Blogged: What you call a trivial or largely inconsequential topic once bloggers have processed through every tired detail. For more on this, look into: every minor news story.

Blogosphere: The "blogosphere" is the new buzz word that has replaced "information super highway." It's what idiots like to call a collection of "blogs," otherwise known as a tragedy.

Blogroll: A long list of links that nobody will ever click on. Bloggers not only link to their friends and fellow bloggers, but their eventual goal is to link to every linkable document on the Internet. Most "blog rolls" are so full of links that it can bring even the mightiest of search engines to a crawl as they sort through all the frivolous bullshit bloggers link to.

Thankfully, since most blogs are shallow in content, it won't take you long to load, and in turn, to close the browser quickly if you're duped into clicking one of these links. If you shut down quickly enough, you may be able to avoid downloading the mandatory 2 gigs of political banners on every blogger's website.

And in conclusion:

In observation of all these shitty phrases and acronyms, I've decided to coin another phrase that can be used for "blog" called: comment-log or CLOG for short. What users do is labor over documenting their inconsequential lives, trivializing man's greatest invention, the microprocessor, until the Internet is so CLOGGED that commerce comes to a screeching halt. Anyone contributing to the congestion would be known as a CLOGGER. I hate blogs.

I really liked this post. A lot of it is true. Although I find it ironical that Maddox has put it on his own b… oh, nevermind. I still love the guy.

I think I’m gonna go add him to my blogroll now. Enjoy your Sunday, all.

The Goldie has spoken at 1:35 PM

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Top Two Percent

Yesterday, I did it again. I had dinner with a bunch of our local Mensa members. I do this a couple times a year.

In reality, the reason I went yesterday was to say good-bye to everybody. I had been thinking about quitting, i.e. not renewing when the time comes.

I joined two years ago, because of I12. He was young and inquisitive, and I thought that, if I could take him to the events, he’d benefit from it. Fast forward two years, I12 is a teenager, and doesn’t want to go to any events. And I cannot really blame him, given that the average age of our local mensan is somewhere between forty-five and fifty-five, in my estimation.

So, he refuses to go. Ever. That kinda defeats the purpose of me being a member. So I figured I’d go ahead and quit. But, at yesterday’s dinner, I met so many interesting people, I decided to give it another shot.

When I came in yesterday, the first people I saw were the regular bunch. The “In” Crowd.

Don’t get me wrong, I have all sorts of respect for the “In” crowd. They run the local chapter, they plan the functions, they volunteer all over the place, and basically keep the whole thing going. But, if you’re not one of them, well for one thing, they won’t sit with you at dinner.

Last year at a similar dinner, Mr. Goldie and I got seated across the table from three little kids age eight, five, and three. The “In” crowd sat at a different table, while we were trying to make adult conversation over the kids’ heads.

Yesterday, I come in, and miraculously, I’m told that I can sit with the “In” crowd. “Here’s a seat for you”. “Wait a minute, we’ve got to move because we want to sit together”. Several people shuffle around, and, like magic, my free spot disappears. Instead, I’m told to go sit at a small table in the corner.

At that point, I really felt like leaving. I even walked out, saying I’d left something in my car. Once outside, I gave myself a pep talk. I was able to convince myself to be a bigger person, go back, and say my good-byes like I had planned to. I took a deep breath, and went back inside, to sit in the far corner with five total strangers.

Well guess what. We ended up being the fun table. We had a choice selection of people in our far corner.

Successful business couple – a couple where each spouse runs their own, highly successful, business.

Well-organized woman – we’ve got to thank her for the fact that we had five times as much fun as everyone else. She quickly got us all introduced to one another, and kept the conversation going all evening. Okay, a couple of times she did come across as patronizing, but that’s to be expected when you are so well organized. I can live with that. In fact, I’m very experienced at living with that. I get training from my parents every day.

Nice guy – he was there with WOW. Nice guy. Good listener. I like that in a man.

Geeky kid – well, not technically a kid, the guy is in his 20's, but you know the type I mean. I swear, I felt like I was having dinner with I12. I liked that, though. I have a soft spot for geeky guys, since one of my kids, half of my friends, and about ninety percent of my coworkers are exactly that. Get a load of this - the kid joined Mensa so he could meet girls. Hold this thought. Now scroll up to where I say what the average age is. Poor guy. He’s got no chances, unless he’s into elderly ladies, which would be really sick and I don’t even want to visualize that, so I’ll let it go.

After we each had a couple of drinks, there was much bonding at the table. Turns out, we all live relatively close to one another. The women were giving Geeky Kid advice on finding the right girl. That was so very touching. Of course, right after Geeky Kid left, these same women said that he didn’t have a chance. I have to disagree. I liked Geeky Kid. He’s nice. He has potential. He just needs to give it some time. You know, mature a little.

Heck, I have a buddy who is, by far, the biggest geek in the universe, and he’s getting married next month. Good things do come to geeks who wait.

At the end, we decided that we should all come to the events and sit together. I said I’d come if the events are held on our side of town.

That means I’ve gone back on my decision to quit.

Now I’ve gone and confused myself. I no longer know if I should quit or stay.

The original reason why I joined (I12) is no longer valid. I could remain a member for the sake of my own entertainment, but I do not have this kind of time. I have work, family, friends, my second circle of friends, and this blog, which is, as you all know from your own experience, a major time hog. I’ve got to start volunteering at my church already, I’ve been a member for eight years and I barely volunteer at all. I’ve got to start volunteering at I12’s school, because I like it. If, after all that, I still have some free time left, then I should get a dog, because K9 is dying to have one. Bottom line is, I don’t really have the time to be a member.

Besides, I may be wrong, but the organizations seems sort of pointless to me. So this group of people get together and try to get along with each other on the assumption that they are all like-minded because hey, they all have roughly the same IQ. So they play board games together sometimes. I still don’t get it. I think that for a group to stick together, there has to be a common interest. It has to be built around a common hobby or something. Like a bowling league, for instance. I do bowl on a league. There are about fifty of us, and we all have something in common. What do random Mensa members have in common, I still haven’t figured out.

Or else the organization needs to be doing some outreach work or some such. That also is a great bonding experience. I don’t see much of that either. Yet, anyway.

So, essentially, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t quit. But then I come to a random gathering and end up meeting these really neat people, and now I feel like sticking around because, what if I run into them again? I really liked the business couple, and the WOW, and the Nice Guy, and the Geeky Kid. It would be fun to meet them again in the future. Of course, I’ll probably never be a part of the "In" crowd, but at this point, it seems like a good rather than a bad thing.

This is getting really confusing. If anybody’s reading this, feel free to give me some advice. Should I quit or should I stay? It’s $60 per year. Your thoughts?

The Goldie has spoken at 12:59 AM

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Nocturnal Teen

I was late for work today, because I overslept. And I overslept because I couldn’t get any sleep at night.

Was it users calling from work? No. It was worse.

My 12yo came out of his lair for food twice last night – at 1:30 and at 5:00. Both times, he turned on every light he could get his hands on, banged the fridge doors, and all around made more noise than a herd of woolly mammoths (if the woolly mammoths would still be alive, that is).

Needless to say, each time he did it, he woke me up, and I had to drag my sleepy butt into the kitchen and tell him to cease and desist.

I have to get up at 6AM, 6:30 tops. Instead, I woke up at 6:50. I went to I12’s room and found him asleep on the floor.

The room, by the way, looks like Dennis and Emily had wild hurricane sex in it. Somehow, I12 has decided it would be a good idea to build something out of empty soda cans. As a result, there are cut-up soda cans and masking tape covering every surface in the room.

We don’t buy soda and generally don’t allow it in our house. However, I12 has his own money and plenty of time. Every two or three days, he walks to a nearby Walmart and buys himself a 12-pack. Like a good mother, I greet him at the door, leave him two or three cans, and hide the rest.

Once, I failed to do it. He drank the whole thing and was up all night.

Then again, I hid the darn pop yesterday and I12 was up all night anyway. Maybe it’s just the way teens operate while on summer break.

K9, on the other hand, is on a normal human schedule, since he goes to a summer camp. He has been meeting new kids at camp, and bringing them home.

The kids and their parents firmly believe that K9 is an only child. When I tell them that there is, in fact, another kid in the house, they nod and smile, but it doesn’t look like they really believe me.

I12 is five foot ten and still going through a growth spurt. Therefore, he eats a lot.

I spend most of my free time either grocery shopping for I12 or cooking for him. Even Mr. Goldie has joined in and cooked this. I12 went through an eight-liter pot in three days, and is asking for more.

Yesterday, I12 discovered the wonder of the modern American cuisine that is Ramen noodles. I bought a 24-pack at Costco a while ago, but they were causing me to gain weight, so I had to stop eating them. I12 went through five cups yesterday. At least, somebody’s going to finish that thing off.

Ironically, the kid weighs 125 pounds. How can you eat everything that moves and still weigh that little? I used to be like that when I was a teen. That, too, shall pass.

I feel like I’m sharing the house with an alien from outer space.

Is it normal?

The Goldie has spoken at 12:14 PM

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Our Trip: K9 Hunts For Wild Animals

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of the trip stories, so this will likely be the last one.

That said, I have tons of really exciting trip stories, but I cannot post them here. Too personal. Sorry guys. What I’m trying to say is, the trip was not as boring as it may seem from my posts. I met a lot of people; I asked a lot of questions; and I sure got a lot of answers.

Anyway, on to K9.

If you asked K9 to name two things on the trip he liked least, he would say “crappy pop music” and “annoying little kids”. Although, I suspect he would be lying about the last one. In reality, K9 got along pretty well with the older kids, and he even seemed to really enjoy taking care of his youngest, 2.5yo, cousin (especially after I mentioned that, after he gets enough practice with her, he can get a job babysitting other people’s small kids).

If you asked K9 to name two things on the trip he liked most, stray cats would probably be somewhere on the list. K9 had never seen a stray cat before, or a housecat running all around the street. Our local housecats tend to stay inside their owners’ houses, or, at most, on their owners’ property. Whereas in Ukraine, the streets are full of cats. K9 was fascinated.

He tried talking to the cats – not in English, not in Russian, but in cat: “Meow, meow”. A few of the cats actually talked back, but most looked at K9 like he had three heads, and scurried into the nearest hole.

On our first trip to the dacha (the one where we lost I12), the kids found a small, grey, adorable kitten. They were so happy! They played with him; they took turns holding him; they kept sneaking food from our table and feeding it to him; they even gave him a name: Murlyka.

Then, we had to go home and leave Murlyka behind.

Ever since then, K9 kept asking everybody when we were going to go back so he could play with Murlyka again. Finally, about a week later, we did indeed have to go back. We get to our inlaws’ property; Murlyka is nowhere in sight, having either run off or perished from indigestion because of all the food the kids had given him.

K9 was devastated, and asked me if he could go look for the cat. I said, “sure”, and started for the road with K9.

All four other kids followed us.

Now, that wasn’t in my plans. I didn’t want to take all of the kids out in the middle of nowhere. That’s just too much responsibility for me. What if something happens? What if all four kids run in different directions, which one do I follow? How am I supposed to hold them by the hand so they don’t get lost, I only have two hands?

I turned back and told K9 that the search party was cancelled.

That didn’t go over well with K9. He got mad.

After much arguing, a search party of five set out. K9, myself, and three kids, age six, five, and three and a half. At least the two-year-old stayed behind.

The kids, to my surprise, turned out to be very compliant and followed directions well. But they were walking too slowly and getting distracted every minute. K9 did not appreciate that.

When the kids stopped by a pond to look for the frogs, he walked off, saying,

“Nobody’s helping me find the cat, so I’m going alone.”

We yelled at him to stop, but he just kept plowing ahead. I had no choice but to grab the kids by their hands and follow.

The kids, again, did a great job walking with me and watching out for cars and periodically hollering at K9 to come back. That only made him go faster. I, on the other hand, could only walk as fast as the youngest kid I had with me… the three-and-a-half-year-old.

K9 turned a corner, than another, and we lost him.

I had just lost my kid in a strange country, in the countryside in the middle of nowhere. There were no people around. I had three little kids with me, so I couldn’t run ahead and look for him.

I was positive Mr. Goldie would kill me when I got back. However, there was nothing else to do. I told the kids that I was taking them back to the dacha, so I could then go off and search for K9 alone.

The kids were totally understanding. I wish mine were that mature.

At the dacha, I dropped the kids off and turned around to go back, saying,

“K9 has gone off looking for a cat, I’m gonna go find him.”

That got even more reaction than I had been afraid it would.

At least, no one was mad at me.

My BIL, bless his heart, went with me to look for K9. We were gone for exactly two minutes. As soon as we hit the road, we saw the prodigal son coming back our way.

Here’s what K9 said:

“No, I haven’t found the cat. In fact, I knew there would be no cat. I just wanted to teach my Mom a lesson, because she didn’t want to go with me.”

While we were all trying to think of a good punishment for K9, his 6yo cousin walked up to him and spanked him on the butt. Judging by K9’s reaction, that was punishment enough.

So we left it at that.

The Goldie has spoken at 12:28 PM

Monday, July 18, 2005

Harry Potter and The Newgrounds Of Doom

My kids got me hooked on the Newgrounds BBS.

I have to confess that I started checking the forum because I wanted to snoop on I12. He’s very reserved, and you know how it is our parental responsibility to stay on top of what our kids are doing, yada yada yada.

He knows that I’m reading his posts.

K9 is also a member, but I never told you that. You need to be 13 to join the forum.

Most kids that post on the forum are, in my estimation, well under 13.

90% of the forum members are boys.

I have come to like the forum because, in my opinion, it gives a fair picture of today’s preteen and teenage boy population. And man, do I need to have that picture!

I have to warn you, the forum is not for the faint of heart. Do not read it if you are allergic to fart jokes.

I’ve seen forum members ask for advice, and get replies that fell strictly into two categories: “Take a wank right now” and, “You probably shouldn’t take a wank right now”.

You have been warned.

With that in mind, I was pleased to find on the forum some really good, comprehensive (it gets too comprehensive at times) coverage of the latest Harry Potter book and all developments associated with its recent release.

It’s interesting to see our kids’ take on the whole thing. It is one thing to hear the parents say, “Our kids have started to read because of the HP books”. Hearing what the said kids think, has been to me a lot more interesting. It’s like getting an insider’s opinion.

I have been able, again, to divide the forum population strictly into two categories:

1) hardcore HP fans
2) people who enjoy poking fun at hardcore HP fans

It has been highly entertaining to watch the two groups interact.

Enjoy, unless you don’t want to see the spoilers. In that case, don’t read these posts. There is really only one spoiler, but it’s all over the place.

Here are some of the HP threads I have found:

I owned a Harry Potter fan - this is good, a must read! – spoiler alert, though

Here's the first post... brilliant

last nigt when my family we're getting the booki went out today i saw a line at waterstones 4 the book.....i felt like getting a humor book and this kid wearing hp style glasses and a cloak went apeshit just cos i went in shop

"omg get in line for harry potter"
i was like lolno
and he got angry
"get in line if u want the book"
this kid was like 12 and i said
"im not getting harry potter"
"omg then why are you going into bookstore"
"to get a different book"
"what book!?" i was pretty confused when he said this.....just cos kids read a book doesnt make then any dumber. i was like there are different books
"ur cutting in line arnt you" he said in an angry way pushing me which just moved me a i said something that would shut him up
"[spoiler removed by Goldie]"(sry if i spoiled it, but hey ppl make [spoiler removed] post every hour)

i walked into the shop and got myself a nice book called "101 reason not to do anything: qoutes of cynical people" and as i passed the kid he had that owned look on his face with a tear in his eye

HP 6

HP Book Six

Whos Buying Harry Potter Tonight?

Harry Potter - the most popular nerd

How Do I Get Into Hogwarts?

HP Spoilers, Read On!!!

Man Kills Self Over Potter Spoiler

HP Error

There was more, but I got tired after a while...

So there you have it.

The Goldie has spoken at 11:34 AM

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Obnoxious Ethnic Dude: Is This Position Open?

I have a question to Comedy Central fans (such as myself).

What do you think of this new show, Mind of Mencia? I like it. I think he’s funny.

That said, does it strike anyone else as odd that Mind of Mencia shows at the exact same time when Chappelle’s Show used to run?

And they sound kind of the same?

I can only imagine that conversation at the Comedy Central HQ.

Emergency meeting.

“Gentlemen, we have a problem. As you may know, Mr. Chappelle has voluntarily terminated his employment with our company and relocated to South Africa. This means we need to fill our Obnoxious Ethnic Dude slot, and fill it ASAP. Our stakeholders are counting on it. Any suggestions?”

“Sure, sir, we’ll just use our backup OED. What was his name, Carmen something?”

“Good, call him and let him know he’s starting as our OED effective immediately. This meeting is over, thanks for your time, everyone.”

I’m not sure if that’s how it went, but this is certainly what it looks like.

I say, if Carlos bails, Comedy Central should hire my son, K9. He’s been dying to do an OED act for years. He actually practices. He walks around the house going,

“So, I grew up in this Russian family…”

Give him a chance. He’ll be a huge success. I can be his agent.

We sure will appreciate the extra cash.

Thank you in advance, Comedy Central, for your prompt attention to this.


The Goldie has spoken at 11:27 AM

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Tribute To A Mango

“There’s some things I shall miss,” she said. “But it gets thin, you know. Life, I’m referring to. You can’t trust your body any more, and it’s time to move on. I reckon it’s about time I tried something else.”

Terry Pratchett, “Mort”


As you may have noticed, I don’t get around much in the blogosphere. There are only a few folks that I actually read.

So, I was really upset to find out that recently, one of them has ended his blog.

I respect his decision, but I was slightly bummed out. I like the guy.

Not in that way, of course. He’s already taken.

I will definitely miss his stories. His opinion pieces. Like the one he posted on SC&A a few months ago. The one on God and organized religion. That was good. I was looking forward to more of that stuff.

I have a confession to make, though. While feeling bummed over the loss of a good blog, I felt, at the same time, slightly jealous. I mean, who here hasn’t ever thought of walking out on the whole blogging thing?

It’s time-consuming. Most of the time, it’s thankless. And kind of pointless.

Last time I checked the ecosystem, I was evolving backwards. You know, losing my tail, crawling back into the water, disintegrating into millions of single-cell organisms.

Who needs this kind of punishment? Screw that.

But let’s get real. Who here will really quit? Not me. I’ve met a few really cool people that I want to stay in touch with. And, to do that, I need to keep my blog going, and continue checking theirs.

The ecosystem is irrelevant. As are all other kinds of stats. The links are not important, it’s the people behind the links that count.

And because of those people, I am staying.

Oops, this wasn’t supposed to be about me.

You guys think Mango will come back? We’ll see.

For now, he will be missed.

The Goldie has spoken at 9:41 PM

Our Trip – I12 Comes Of Age

I know. I’m so far behind on my trip stories, it isn’t even funny.

The Russian version has been up for a while now.

Now I’m going to try and tell you the same stories in English, starting with my firstborn.

I12 will categorically deny it, but I think he enjoyed the trip, and here’s why – because he had more freedom than a kid his age normally gets in an American suburb; and because everyone treated him like an adult. Unfortunately he didn’t speak any Russian, but, he managed.

I12 goes to Kyiv

On our second day in Ukraine, we all went to Mr. Goldie’s parents’ dacha. This is a Russian term meaning “a summer house”. In their case, it is basically a really small cabin in the middle of an (also small) vegetable garden. We had to walk there and it is about 40 minutes away. We spent a few hours there, and were walking back, when I12 got ahead of everybody and started getting farther and farther away from us. We all took turns yelling for him to slow down and let us catch up, but he just kept going in those great strides, and soon enough we lost sight of our I12. He was on his own, without any money or ID, in a strange town, in a place where he couldn’t speak the native language.

Strangely, no one was worried except myself. Even I kept holding out hope. We had told I12 the night before to look for the cathedral if he ever got lost. Maybe he would meet us by the cathedral. We keep walking, we get to the cathedral – no such luck. We go over to our apartment building – no signs of I12. We go up to the apartment – still no I12. By that time, it was getting dark and now all of us were worried to death, so the kids went into the apartment with my SIL, while the rest of the adults split and went on to search the town for I12.

Thirty minutes later, we met back at the apartment building. None of us had found him. Just as we were about to panic, who would walk around the corner but our beloved I12! Relieved, we took him up to the apartment and gave him dinner. After dinner, I felt it was time to question my son.

“Why did you walk off, I12? We were all worried! You could’ve got lost? What would you have done then, lost in a strange country with no language?”

“I had a plan.

I was going to walk to the airport in Kyiv.

I figured it would take me two weeks, so I’d get there just in time for our plane to leave, and meet you guys up there.”

“Walking to Kyiv, are you out of your mind? What were you going to eat, you have no money?”

“Grass, leaves.”

“What if a bad guy caught you? You know, a kid alone on the road at night.”

“I was going to sleep in the ditches, this way no one would see me.”

“But tell me, I12, how were you going to even
get to Kyiv if you don’t know the way?”

“Yes I do. When we rode here on the bus, I kept looking out the window for the entire six hours, and memorized the way.”

Having no more questions, I looked around for a hard alcoholic drink. I really needed one.

I12 and the inflatable rubber boat

One of the highlights of our trip was when we all (and by “we all” I mean the whole family – parents, brothers, their wives and kids) went to the lake. It is in fact a camping area, with cabins and water bikes and fishing piers and all the good stuff. To add to the fun, we brought an inflatable rubber boat with one oar (the other one was lost a long time ago).

One of the guys got into the boat with all the kids, and took them out a bit. The kids loved it, but, with six children in the boat, ranging from two and a half to twelve years, it just wasn’t safe to stay around for long, so the guy went back to the shore and let the kids out. All except my two.

I12 and K9 rowed around for a while, then K9 got out and paddled to the shore. I12, on the other hand, remained in the boat, and, oar in hand, headed out to the deep waters. We all sat on the shore watching. It was a good show and we weren’t going to miss it. Besides, we were on the lookout in case something happened to I12.

Our man, however, seemed to hold his own, even after, out in the deep waters, his boat caught into the wind, and started moving along the shore, away from us. I12 tried to row against the current, but no go. What would he do?

He got out of the boat, and tried to swim and push the boat towards the shore at the same time. By that time, we were all fascinated. Sure enough, it didn’t work. Did I12 abandon the boat? Did he cry for help?

If you said yes to any of these questions, you don’t know my son. He climbed back into the boat… on the fourth try. Once in, he picked up the oar and started rowing again.

At that point, my BIL swam to rescue I12 and the boat, and rowed them both to safety.

On the shore, I12 was greeted with cheers. You could tell everyone was impressed, although a little weak from too much laughing.

I12 saves the day

The night before we left, we went to have dinner at my MIL’s next door neighbors’ apartment. From where we were staying, it was a ten- or fifteen-minute walk. You had to cross a few streets, including the main street, with relatively heavy traffic. The kids mainly stayed at the MIL’s apartment, but my boys, at one point, came over next door, and were offered dinner. I12 was again treated like an adult, of which he was awfully proud.

Next day, K9 woke up to find his Gameboy missing. He quickly panicked, as we were getting ready to leave for home, and the Gameboy was nowhere to be found. There was a lot of whining and wailing and he had the whole family looking for the darn thing. The whole family, that was, except his brother.

While we were all looking, I12, unbeknownst to us, had a private conversation with K9, where he pointed out that the Gameboy was probably at their Grandma's. K9 refused to listen, and kept on with the mourning. I12 asked him, “If I find it for you, would you shut up?” and K9, apparently, said yes.

In the meantime, we gave up on the search, and started getting ready to go to Grandma’s. Getting three small kids ready for a walk can be very time-consuming. At some point, someone said that I12 wasn’t in the apartment. We decided that he was probably waiting for us outside, as we were taking a while getting ready.

Finally, when everyone was dressed and ready to go, the phone rang. It was Grandma.

She was calling to say that I12 was over at her place.

He had slipped out, walked all the way over to Grandma’s, and used all the Russian-speaking skills he had to tell them that he had come to look for K9’s stuff. He then went inside and found the missing Gameboy.

Coming up next: K9’s Ukrainian adventures.

The Goldie has spoken at 5:44 PM

Monday, July 11, 2005

Our Trip In Pictures!

Sooo… the pictures are in!


As I may have told you before, on June 19, the Goldie family has arrived at Mr. Goldie’s hometown. We were tired but enthusiastic about the upcoming vacation.

We stayed at my BIL’s apartment next to a very nice church

and cathedral

We met Mr. Goldie’s small, but friendly family

His parents were happy to see us.

And the kids were excited to meet their cousins!

The town had well-developed public transportation

so when the kids got bored sitting in the apartment

we just took them to the riverside

I spent some quality time with my kids

and they paid me back with innocent love and trust (whoever took this picture is gonna get it from me!!! – I suspect Mr. Goldie)

My kids’ favorite thing to do on the trip was playing with their little cousins

Finally, it was time to get our butts out of the comfy chairs and fly back home, but, we will be back!

See it in more detail

The Goldie has spoken at 1:53 PM

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Our Trip: The Town; What We Did On The Trip

We stayed with Mr. Goldie’s family in a small town in the middle of nowhere in Western Ukraine. The town is pretty unique in that it has been built around a nuclear power plant, and most of the town’s populace work there, including one of my BILs. The work is extremely hard and stressful (his stories made me feel a lot better about my own job!), but the pay is good, for those parts anyway, and puts him into the “fairly well-off” category (kind of like our family here – nothing spectacular, but more than enough to cover all expenses and then have some left over).

The power plant, i.e. I guess the management, takes good care of its employees, and consequently of the town as a whole. The town is very clean, green, there are a lot of really nice playgrounds for the kids, and quite a few daycare centers. Daycare is free of charge. Before you die of envy, I’ll tell you why it is so – it’s because the town officially belongs to the third level of the Chernobyl zone (the area that was affected by radiation when the Chernobyl plant blew up in ’86). All education is in Ukrainian, which is a tad inconvenient as at least 50% of the town’s population are ethnic Russians that came from Russia or other former Soviet republics to work at the plant (that includes Mr. Goldie’s family). But at least, people are used to the fact that their kids don’t speak Russian at home, or to each other, and so were not fazed when they saw my English-speaking kids. The quality of education, I haven’t figured out yet, because my oldest niece is just starting school. I’ll tell you in a few years. One thing for sure, she won’t be spending her first year of school learning about the “Letter People” at the rate of one letter person per week – because she already knows how to read and write, as apparently do a lot of kids over there when they start school.

The town is small, so there is no public transportation, so we walked everywhere (even to the dacha, which is about 40 minutes away). K9 also found out that he’s afraid of elevators there, because they are so small and old-looking and he was afraid they’d get stuck, so we always took the stairs to our 5th floor. That was a lot of exercise and we really enjoyed it, and have a hard time trying to keep it up now.

There wasn’t much to do in the town, so we spent a lot of our time outdoors – we went to the dacha, to the river, the guys (including my kids) went fishing, and one day, we rented a mini-bus for a 30-minute ride to the White Lake, which is sort of a resort area for the plant workers, as well as everyone else. They have cabins, but we just camped out at the shore for one day. The lake is famous for its clean water, rumored to have healing qualities, and rich in glycerine. The story has it that, during WWII, the Germans used to ship this lake water to their Faterland in cisterns. We had a great day at the lake.

A few hours after us, another group arrived at the lake, and parked their new Japanese minivan next to where we were. Out came about half a dozen guys and three women. The guys quickly stripped to their Speedos and ran into the water to play some water polo; but the women, in their long skirts, long-sleeved shirts, and head covers, stayed on the shore watching the guys. I asked my SILs about the group and found out that they were the shtundists – a branch of Protestantism popular in those parts. In the 90s, a lot of shtundists emigrated to America, but now, they are coming back.

The local swimming attire gave K9 a culture shock. First, he pulled me aside and asked me how come his cousins – girls age 6, 5, and 2.5 – weren’t wearing any bras. I told him that it is the custom, girls don’t wear bras until they actually grow something bra-worthy; and added that, in my day, kids under age of 5-6 used to run around the beach naked, so K9 should consider himself lucky. Sure enough, soon, K9 and I ran into a family – Dad, Mom, and two girls about 5-6 years old, - where the girls weren’t, in fact, wearing anything. My poor kid looked away with a muffled “ewww”. Neither was he able to get over the Speedos that all the guys were wearing. In fact, I did see a few teen boys in longer trunks, but where they got those from, I have no idea – all you can buy at the market is Speedos, and bikini suits for the women. The women do use cover-ups.

The lake itself was gorgeous, cool, clean water, and best of all, no limitations on how far you are allowed to swim. Of course, no lifeguards means that you’re on your own, but that didn’t bother me – I’m a good swimmer, and besides, I could always count on Mr. Goldie and his brothers to rescue me if something went wrong. In fact, one time, when I got too far away from the shore, he sent a rescue party after me. Poor Mr. Goldie had never seen me swim farther than fifty yards away from the shore (in our parts, if you try to get any farther, the lifeguard starts whistling and yelling at you to turn around and swim back), so, even though technically he knew I’d grown up by the sea, he didn’t know I could swim farther than that.

No matter how much I tell you about the lake, I won’t be able to hide the fact that in general, the trip was pretty boring, and that really brought our family together. We all shared a small room, so the kids had no other choice but to stay there and talk to me, or to each other. This was especially true of I12. Poor I12 couldn’t speak any Russian and was, besides, too old to play with his cousins, so the only people he could talk to were myself, Mr. Goldie, and K9. He spent a lot of time goofing around with K9; brotherly love abound.

On top of that, we all read a lot. I brought three Terry Pratchett book on the trip (The Color of Magic; Equal Rites; and Mort). I was going to read them myself, but then to my surprise I12 decided to try them too, and finished two of them before the trip was even over (he didn’t like Equal Rites). Before, I had never seen I12 reading a fiction book that wasn’t a school assignment. Of course, now he swears that I’ll never see him reading fiction again, now that he’s got the Internet back. As for me, I’m now hooked on Pratchett, and have ordered a few more books.

I know you’re all bored by now, and asking yourselves, “where the heck are the funny kid stories?” Those will be in the next installment. I am also told that the pictures are on their way. Mr. Goldie just needs to resize and balance them. Please be patient.

The Goldie has spoken at 3:26 PM

I12 Questions the National Anthem

This, very emotional, speech was given by I12 at some point during our trip (when he was deprived of the Internet and therefore forced to talk to us).

(delivered in a highly sarcastic voice)

The Star-Spangled Banner is politically incorrect.

It's offensive to the blind people.

"Oh, say, can you see"?! No, they can't! And this question hurts their feelings!

The Goldie has spoken at 1:31 PM

Night Shift

I don’t normally write about my work, but this is so good, I just cannot pass it up. As you may know, I am on call 24x7, two weeks on, four weeks off. This is my week, and so far the weekend has been eventful – I get calls every night. This time, though, our helpdesk has gone out of their way to make my night work more enjoyable.

Second runner-up

On Saturday morning, they call me at 2AM telling me about a plant that is down and so they cannot run their night shift. I fixed the problem, but, when I tried calling the plant to confirm that they are, indeed, fine, my cell wouldn’t connect. So, I call the helpdesk for some, well, help.

Me: I am calling about ticket number XXX, I fixed the problem, but I cannot get hold of the user. Can you please call him for me, and put us on a 3-way?
HD guy: Are you sure the user isn’t sleeping?
Me: Pardon?
HD guy: How do you know the user is awake?
Me: He better be, he’s running production.

First runner-up

This morning, their automated paging system was down, so at 5AM, they page me manually… they send me a numeric page… with somebody else’s phone number. Then, while I’m listening to the poor guy’s answering machine (“This is Ken…”), they page me again, this time with the correct number… they were one digit off the first time around.

I’m really sorry, Ken. I really am.

The winner

The winner is actually me. A few months ago, I came up with a snafu that it will take years for our helpdesk to beat. Here’s what happened on March 14th (the date is important).

At three in the morning, I get a call about a plant here in our area that is down because of a production problem. I am given the ticket number (the format is seven-digit number-dash-creation date, as in 1234567-0314), and the last four digits of the shift leader’s phone number (he’s in our area, so his area code and the first three digits are the same as mine – (123) 456-XXXX).

I proceed to give my user a call, but, since my brain is not awake yet, I end up dialing “March 14th” instead of the last four digits of his number… as in (123) 456-0314. Having no clue about what I have just done, I patiently wait for a user named Douglas to answer the phone. Instead, I get an irate woman.

IW (mad already): Hello?!?!

Me (thinking as fast as I can with my brain still asleep): Why does Doug have a female voice all of a sudden? Hmm, it’s been a while since I talked to Doug. Maybe he does have a high-pitched voice. Maybe it is him. I should probably answer him by now.

Me again (incredulously): Doug??

IW (really mad now, yelling on top of her lungs): It’s three in the morning!!!!

Me (scared out of my mind, still half asleep, hang up on a reflex).

Then, of course, I checked my cell phone logs, realized what I’d done, and, chuckling, proceeded to call the real Doug and work on the problem.

So, as you can see, working in the middle of the night can be so fun! You should hear us swapping last night’s anecdotes in the office each morning, laughing our butts off (the “0314” story was a huge success and I had to tell it several times). Do you want to try? Please drop me an email, and I’ll let you cover for me… every night if you want to!

The Goldie has spoken at 10:51 AM

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Our Trip: Intro

When you take a break from blogging, one of the downsides is that you get used to it. I find it very difficult to start back up. In the meantime, I’ve read a few of you guys and you’re great as usual! Catt is on the roll; John is trying to switch from Walmart to Target with unsuccessful results; Holley, congrats!!! and I got your pet meme… although, I don’t have a pet. But I’ll think of something.

With that, I have a lot of stories to tell about our recent trip. Contrary to what we’d expected, it went well. The kids got a world of good out of it. Even I learned a lot about living in Mr. Goldie’s home town, and also a few things about the family that I cannot share here (you can only imagine). The weather was good, the food was delicious, as evidenced by the fact that I have gained seven friggin pounds. Now I have to find a way to get them off while simultaneously partying and camping with our friends. This is going to be a challenge.

Mr. Goldie, this world-famous procrastinator, is in charge of the pictures, so, if all goes well, you should expect to see them shortly before Christmas.

The travel was relatively uneventful, and took 24 hours one way. We flew to Kyiv, with one connection (in a calm and peaceful city of London), then my BILs hired a mini-bus to take us to the destination. It takes six hours on the bus, the ride is very comfy, except that on our way back to Kyiv, the driver kept nodding off and actually falling asleep behind the wheel, but luckily nothing bad came out of it. Somebody at the airplane companies must be reading my blog, because at each of the four flights, we got seats right next to the bathroom. No doubt, that was done so we could take a break from the “nine people, one toilet” arrangement.

We came with a lot of gifts, and left with a lot of souvenirs. For the kids, I bought the latest and greatest magnetic construction sets. I also ordered rubber bracelets for the kids, but they never came (the bracelets, not the kids), so I’m going to ask for my money back. And, Mr. Goldie and I picked up some nice kids’ clothes at Kohl’s. My MIL was asking for a hooded sports jacket, which are now conveniently out of season. I searched high and low and found an Adidas jacket for her at Marshall’s (they only had one). On top of that, Mr. Goldie ran out at the last minute and grabbed a few Barbie dolls and some of those little metal cars. Guess what was the biggest hit with the kids. The Barbie dolls and the metal cars. Forget the magnetic sets; Barbies are more important. What is this world coming to? It also turned out that my MIL really wanted a windbreaker, so we gave her I12’s. It is in good shape, as I12 has only worn it twice in his life. For the rest of the winter, he carried the windbreaker in his bookbag, to prove to the world that he is a tough, cold-resistant guy. His name is written on the label in big letters, but MIL either didn’t notice or else she does not mind.

It seems as though we could have put a lot less work into picking out our gifts. The ones that were the easiest to find, proved to be the best. Go figure.

When we were leaving, the family surprised and embarrassed us by giving us tons of gifts. Plus we bought a few on our own. We now have all kinds of authentic, hand-made-in-Ukraine stuff like vases, ceramic figurines, etc; a rushnik that our neighbor personally embroidered; a “walnut” cookie mold that I had tried to find for eight years; a kazan, which can be described as a “Middle-Asian wok”; a couple shawls; and lots and lots of blanket covers (sorry, I’m afraid we’ll never learn to sleep under the sheets! – it’s a Russian/Soviet thing!)

I also really wanted to buy a book that I had seen on a Baptist book stand (no offense to any of the Baptists present), but I didn’t buy it at once, and, when I came back, the entire book stand was gone. On the cover, there is a picture of two teenage girls, and then the title goes like this:




These are not three different topics… nope, the book teaches high-school girls how they should go about finding a husband during their adolescent years! Priceless.

More on our trip later – I’m off to continue going through my blog roll and catching up on things…

The Goldie has spoken at 3:27 PM

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

We're Back!!

Greetings everyone, we got back on Sunday.

I am still very tired, but will try to post something shortly. Thanks to everyone who kept checking in all these days!

The Goldie has spoken at 5:22 PM

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