Thursday, December 29, 2005

Random News

Went to the doctor today. LilProgrammer has a bad case of "chest penomia". Hopefully Zithromax will kick in by New Year's Eve and he will feel better by then.

Go say hi to Holley. She just had a new baby boy and he's adorable! Welcome to Moms of Two Boys club, Holley, and enjoy the ride!

I just found out that my good virtual friend Easy had to shut down his blog. Personally I think this was all just a big misunderstanding that will clear up soon. Go tell Easy that we miss him.

ChinchillaBoy has developed a new interest in board games. I have played more board games this week than I have in the entire last year. I am getting really addicted to Fluxx. For the New Year's party, we're bringing "Apples to Apples". This is a really cool game that has everyone rolling on the floor laughing, but there have to be more than two players.

Also, ChinchillaBoy has started a blog today, but I don't know where it is or whether it has any posts. I'll keep you updated.

This is all the news I have for today. My blog is still in vacation mode. I promise I will do better next year.

The Goldie has spoken at 6:13 PM

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

So Tired

So, how's everybody doing?

How was your guys' Christmas? Got any cool presents? Hey, how about we play a little game. If there's anyone in here whose kid had spiked a 104 fever during the Christmas party, raise your hands.

If your hand is up, yay! Welcome to the club.

(It was LilProgrammer. He's feeling better now.)

So, our Christmas Eve consisted of, first, eating and drinking and having fun with our friends; and then, for the next few hours, of running around like a pair of chickens with their heads cut off, trying to decide whether to take LilProgrammer to the ER or wait till morning. (Mr. Goldie managed to scare me into sobriety by saying "high fever causes brain damage".) We don't know if any brain damage did, in fact, occur, but LilProgrammer has hooked himself back up to the Internet, and has spent the last two days reading Maddox. Should we worry?

I spent Christmas Day in front of the TV, recovering from the whole thing. And I cannot tell you what we did yesterday, but it involved the NiceGuys, all the rest of our friends, and a fair amount of physical work (which I personally needed anyway, after all the good stuff I had eaten at holiday parties). So, I'm kind of tired right now. I just wasted all the energy I had on nominating a bunch of cool blogs for the BOBs. (Hey, that was the only way I could get my name to appear on that site.) I think they said we have ten days left to nominate our nominees, so I would get on with the nominating if I were you. Go there and do it!

ChinchillaBoy's best friend has come over. I think they're going through our candy stash, so I guess I have to go now. Take care, all!

The Goldie has spoken at 1:15 PM

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas to All!

If the blogosphere has been anything like our office this week, then things must be very quiet around here. And that's the way it should be around the holidays - away from the Internet, and close to our families. (Unless our families are also on the Internet 24x7.)

Today, our office is closed, but being on call, I have a few odds and ends to pick up. (Just my luck...) Tonight, however, everything closes for the holidays in our company, so, starting tonight, I am officially on vacation until 2006! (Insert happy dance of your choice here...) There will be a lot of partying and drinking and hanging out with friends, and, I have reasons to believe, my presence in the blogosphere will be spotty. But, before I go, I would like to wish my readers (all three and a half of them!) Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

When I entered the blogosphere this year, I hadn't realized that I would meet really cool people, and find new online friends. I will be thinking of you during my vacation - heck, I'll probably even be reading you, little by little. I hope you all enjoy your holidays with your families and friends. In fact, what are you still doing on teh Interweb? Go give your kids a hug NOW!...

... but not before you read the post below. It's a very sad story about a girl looking for her long-lost friend. The girl is going on forty now, but she's still looking. Let's hope that she manages to find him, this Christmas season.

Happy Holidays to you all.

The Goldie has spoken at 11:43 AM

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas Stories III – Jingle All The Way!

This is the last of my Christmas Stories. It actually took place, not on Christmas, but on New Year’s Eve.

Allow me to give you a brief overview of the Russian, or should I say Soviet, holiday traditions that we experienced growing up. As you are probably aware, religion was expressly forbidden in the Soviet Union, as were, naturally, religious holidays. So we didn’t have Christmas or Easter. (A lot of people celebrated discreetly in the privacy of their own homes, but my family, being of Jewish descent, of course didn’t.) Instead of Christmas, we celebrated New Year, and it was just as big as Christmas is here, with all the same attribute – except, of course, for a small detail that is the birth of Jesus, but, hey, no one remembers that part in America, either. We decorated trees, had parties, sent cards, and exchanged presents. Schools closed for winter break, and our parents got a few days off work. The night of the New Year’s Eve itself was the night of major celebrations, music, dancing, fireworks, and generous amounts of alcohol. (It still is one of my favorite holidays.)

We even had a special Soviet Santa that visited the children on New Year’s Eve, left them presents under the tree, and made their New Year wishes come true. He was called Father Frost. Also an older, bright-cheeked man with a long white beard hauling from North Pole, he didn’t, however, have reindeer or Mrs. Claus. Instead, he traveled with his young and very pretty granddaughter, Snegurochka (“Snow Maiden?”) I remember trying to explain the concept of Father Frost to my coworkers during my first year in America. They seemed to be following pretty well, until I got to the part where “Father Frost always comes with a young woman”.

I also remember, in my first job after college, how a group of my coworkers was unsuccessfully trying to convince a guy from our department to be Father Frost for the year. His job would have been to visit the children of our plant’s employees and bring them New Year presents (provided by the plant management). He was a short, stocky, prematurely balding guy that looked remarkably like George Costanza. He had almost agreed to take the job, when my 23-year-old self blurted out, “Yeah, and I can be Snegurochka. This’ll be a sight the kids will never forget”. The poor guy looked at my five-foot-nine frame, said, “I’m not doing it”, and walked out. Everyone else thought it was a really good joke. In retrospect, I was pretty brutal in my younger days. Today, I’d never say anything that would humiliate a nice guy just for the sake of a good laugh. Okay, maybe I would, but only to my family behind closed doors, where no one else can hear.

But I digress.

The story that I’m about to tell you happened on a New Year’s Eve four years ago, when ChinchillaBoy was in kindergarten and LilProgrammer in third grade. The day before, we got a phone call from our friends, very nice people, who I will call Mr. and Mrs. NiceGuy. The NiceGuys invited us to their house for a New Year celebration. There were going to be a lot of children our kids’ age, so the NiceGuys actually planned something for the kids.

In fact, Mrs. NiceGuy told me that Father Frost was going to pay a visit, and give presents to the children. She said that it was up to us to get presents for our children, wrap and label them, and give them to Father Frost to be handed out to our kids later.

She also said something about a kids’ concert, but I wasn’t listening. I had to run out and get my kids’ New Year’s presents. I hadn’t counted on that, and had nothing at all to give them.

The kids and I ran out to Target and got some transformers or toy cars or whatever it was they liked to play with back in those days. At home, I wrapped the two transformers/toy cars/whatever, and told the kids that Father Frost was going to give it to them at the next day’s party.

Next day at the party, we were happy to see our friends the NiceGuys and their various friends and relatives, among them our acquaintances SoccerMom and SoccerDad. I don’t believe the SoccerChildren played, per se, soccer, but they were definitely the type. You know the one I mean – overachieving kids with over-ambitious parents. I always felt uncomfortable talking to SoccerParents. It became easier when LilProgrammer got into the gifted program – now, at least technically, I met the requirements. But of course, there was still a lot to be desired. My older son was weird, my younger son was chubby, and my both kids swore like sailors and watched South Park, while SoccerMom expressly forbade her children to read Judy Blume books, because in them, the author used unacceptable words like “stupid”.

Then again, SoccerChildren really are very talented and nice kids, and SoccerParents are indeed extremely hardworking parents and nice people. So maybe I’m just jealous.

SoccerMom greeted me with an affectionate:

“Wow, ChinchillaBoy has gotten BIG”.

She was right – ChinchillaBoy had packed on a lot of weight that year, I just didn’t particularly enjoy talking about it. I smiled and said thank you.

“No! I mean, he’s gotten BIG!” – and she showed exactly how big with her hands.

The night was off to an interesting start. But, in a company, the right amount of good food and alcohol can release almost any tension. After a while, even SoccerMom eased up and started laughing and playing party games. We were all enjoying ourselves immensely when SoccerDad disappeared from the room. He came back a few minutes later dressed up as Father Frost. Mrs. NiceGuy called for the children to come over from wherever they had been playing.

“Hello there, children!” – said Father Frost… no, really, I don’t remember what he said. But the point of it was, “let’s see what you have prepared for me”.

The concert.

I had forgotten all about it.

The parents all gathered round to watch the kids perform. I felt a freezing sensation in my stomach, but kept smiling as if everything was going exactly according to plan.

The SoccerChildren were the first to perform. They played a very nice piece on the electronic keyboard and the violin, and received their presents.

NiceGuy kid was next. He walked up to the keyboard, switched to “Demo” mode, and selected a song. The keyboard played “Jingle Bells”, and the NiceGuys’ son sang along in what turned out to be a very good singing voice.

My two children were the only ones left. Father Frost was sitting in front of them, their presents in his lap.

As LilProgrammer told me later, neither of them had any intention of performing in the concert, but they were afraid that, if they didn’t, then Father Frost wouldn’t give them their presents back. And they really, really wanted to get their presents back.

ChinchillaBoy went first.

“So what’re you going to do?” asked Mrs. NiceGuy, very nicely.

“I’m going to sing “Jingle Bells”, offered ChinchillaBoy.

The parents giggled. SoccerMom seemed to find it especially amusing.

All in all, it was decent. ChinchillaBoy has a nice singing voice, can hit the notes most of the time, and he knew over 50% of the words. He received his present and scuttled off to play with it.

LilProgrammer stood up. I already knew what was coming, and was praying for a quick death.

“I’m gonna sing Jingle Bells”, announced LilProgrammer.

That was it. Every adult in the room was howling with laughter. SoccerMom was about to collapse from the hilarity of it all. Even I couldn’t help cracking up.

No one heard a word of what LilProgrammer was singing, but he still got his present.

It took SoccerMom two years to stop bringing this incident up.

Dear parents, please don’t be like me. If you’re told there’s going to be a children’s concert, take your time and train your children to do at least a small and simple performance. Even if all it includes is a one-digit salute in the direction of an overly ambitious member of the audience, in order to cool them off a little. It’s still better than nothing.

The Goldie has spoken at 7:21 AM

Monday, December 19, 2005

Lucky There’s A Man Who Positively Can Do

I don’t care much for politics, or TV. I hardly ever follow the news, and I watch very few select shows.

Last night, as ChinchillaBoy and I sat down to watch the new Family Guy, I noticed that Peter had lost weight. Not only that, he was also wearing a suit and a tie. Then I took a closer look and said to myself, Wait a minute.

That’s not Peter!

In fact, I don’t think this is Family Guy at all!

What can I say? That’s one way to get a large audience that will hang on to your every word and won’t go anywhere… because it’s waiting for the new Family Guy episode to begin!

Why, some of them may even cover your speech in real time. Check out this thread on Newgrounds BBS (voice of the future generation… the forum population is 90% male and most members are less than sixteen years old):

HAcoreRD Posted: 12/18/05 09:05 PM
turn on channel 5 and listen to his speech. Bush stole family guy from America!

Minion777 Posted: 12/18/05 09:09 PM
Thats it. Hes not getting my vote this time.

-Mooperty- Posted: 12/18/05 09:13 PM
Are YOU a defeatist?

-wwwyzzerdd- Posted: 12/18/05 09:16 PM
"Now I'd like to speak to you who oppose my decision to send troops into Iraq..."

OMG OMG OMG he's talking to me!!!
: k, act cool.

_Joe_ Posted: 12/18/05 09:28 PM
Notice how they didn't interrupt The War At Home or American Dad?

The_Christmas_Hippy Posted: 12/18/05 09:31 PM
I'm a republican,but you don't mess with Family Guy.

pepeatumi Posted: 12/18/05 09:39 PM
yeah Bush stepped over the line tonight starting a war is one thing but trying to take Family guy away from us that's too much.

Read the full coverage here

Seeing as I’m not into politics, I won’t comment on the address itself, except maybe to say this. The way I understood it, we’re not going to pull out of Iraq in foreseeable future, simply because real men don’t pull out, period, end of story. I have to disagree here. As far as I’m aware, real men do pull out very rapidly, as soon as they realize they’re in the wrong hole. There’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of here.

See? I told you I don’t know squat about politics. So I better shut up now.

The Goldie has spoken at 9:30 AM

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Chronicles of Narnia – The Movie

ChinchillaBoy and I went to see this movie last weekend. CB really wanted to see it, because he had just finished re-reading the book and “wanted to see how they screwed it up”.

As always, a joint review.

CB: If you want to see a good movie, DON’T SEE THIS ONE! Words do not express how boring the movie was. It felt like I was watching a documentary about corn. All they did was just take a book, get a bunch of actors, add in a lot of computer animation, and call it a movie. They shoved in a bunch of lies that didn’t take place in the book. It’s a huge disappointment to Narnia fans like myself. In other words; don’t see the movie. I was bored out of my mind from the second it started. Wait…there was one good part, the credits and walking out of that dumb movie. At least they tried…a little.

Goldie: You can probably tell how much fun it was sitting next to ChinchillaBoy in the theater! I think his mistake was that he just went in there expecting too much. As for me, I never expect too much from a movie version of a book, so I was quite satisfied. The movie is very close to the book; a few of the actors are really good (I liked Tilda Swinton as the White Witch, James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus, Skandar Keynes as Edmund, and of course the irresistible Georgie Henley as Lucy); the animation is awesome; the fauns, centaurs and other semi-human creatures are extremely life-like. What more could a girl want? I walked out of the theater thinking that I had just seen a good movie. Then ChinchillaBoy started ranting and couldn’t stop all the way home. As I was listening to him, I realized that, on the whole, it wasn’t really a life-changing experience. In fact, I don’t even want to see the movie again. It’s too lukewarm, too spineless, too bland, too nicey-nice. It isn’t really bad, but it isn’t good, either. It is average. And, after waiting for two years, you want to see more than an average movie.

In one of the reviews we have seen, it says that the producers went after two audiences at once – the fantasy fans (lovingly referred to as "the Harry Potter crowd") and the evangelical community. Apparently, the movie was an attempt to please them both. Sadly, it didn’t work out very well.

That said, there are parts and pieces of LWW that I would definitely like to see again. The battle, for example, was out of this world. I also enjoyed following the story of Edmund. In the book, he is a mean kid who is being mean for no reason at all, and then makes a full 180 and becomes good. Kinda like what would happen if your school bully became a born-again believer… oh wait, I think I know how that works in real life. Whereas in the movie Edmund is this misunderstood preteen who lives in his own world and gets a lot of flak from everybody simply for being himself. He reminded me of LilProgrammer. He even looks like LilProgrammer did when he was that age. Needless to say, I found both the movie Edmund and his conversion more realistic than the book version.

The theater was quite empty; there was no applause after the movie; everyone just got out of there as quickly as possible. I probably won’t watch this movie again when it comes out on DVD, because my kids will kill me if I try.

The Goldie has spoken at 9:49 AM

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Christmas Stories II: My Son, the Trendsetter

I am proud of my son ChinchillaBoy. He is doing very well in church. He pays attention during the service, and asks wise questions in Sunday school. In fact, he’s been doing so well, some of our church’s local traditions have been altered because of ChinchillaBoy.

For instance, we have a Christmas tree in church. First time we saw it, there was a beautiful porcelain nativity set under the tree. But when next Christmas came around, the nativity set was gone.

“Excuse me, didn’t there use to be a nativity set?” I asked the man behind the candle counter.

“Yes, we had it, but then last year, someone’s child fell on it and broke it, so we’re not using it anymore”, the kind man replied.

I was mortified, because the child in question had been, in fact, the two-year-old ChinchillaBoy! He had been very antsy during the Christmas service, and, it turned out, for a good reason – he had spiked a fever. Eventually, he fell right into the nativity set, and broke an arm off the porcelain Virgin Mary. I had hoped they’d glue it back on, but instead, the entire set was gone! Of course, I confessed and offered to either buy a new set or pay for one, but the kind man refused to take the money from me, saying kindly, “that’s no problem”. It’s been eight years, and the nativity set is still gone. I hope nobody remembers why.

A few years later, I was at the Christmas service with the five-year-old ChinchillaBoy. Now, one thing I totally understand is that it is very hard for a little kid to sit through an Orthodox service, especially when half of it is in Greek. (LilProgrammer asked me once, “Mom, what do you call this boring part before Sunday school?”) So, when the kids were little, each time I brought them to holiday services, I came prepared. I’d bring them something quiet to do, like books, or paper and pens, or some small snacks. That year, LilProgrammer was into multiplying large numbers on paper, so I brought him some paper and a pen. As for ChinchillaBoy, he loved snacks, so I got him a red push pop.

You know what a push pop looks like?

You know what it looks like after you’ve been working on it for a while?

You know how a person looks when they’re sucking on a push pop?

Well, I didn’t. Or should I say, I hadn’t thought it all through well enough.

We arrived early, and sat in the middle of a pew – myself in the middle, with my kids on both sides of me. Shortly thereafter, three teenage boys walked in and sat next to us. In fact, they sat next to ChinchillaBoy.

Some time later, ChinchillaBoy gets out his push pop and starts sucking away. It took the teenagers less than five minutes to catch on. They chuckled through the whole service. ChinchillaBoy, totally oblivious, went on sucking.

Oh well, at least a lot of fun was had by all.

The last one that I wanted to tell you actually didn’t happen on Christmas. It happened on Holy Friday, the year ChinchillaBoy was in second grade. Our church has a children’s program on Holy Friday. It starts at ten or eleven, the kids go through different stations, and it ends at 3 PM with a service that lasts a little longer than an hour. It is a very solemn event and the kids are usually dead tired by the time it’s over (LilProgrammer actually ended up in tears almost every year.)

That year, ChinchillaBoy suddenly developed a great desire to follow and understand all that was going on in church. At the three o’clock service, he took a place in the front pew, opened the book, and prepared to follow word for word, with a very serious expression on his face. Somber men in black suits were all around us.

The priest started reading from the book of Job. With a concentrated frown on his face, ChinchillaBoy was reading the text in the book. I turned to the new page, where it said how Job got all his possessions back and had all new children and houses and pastures…

“… and a thousand she-asses…”

Right on the top of the next page, there it was. I knew I had to act fast, before ChinchillaBoy either saw or heard that. Somehow I managed, while holding the book, to cover the offensive line with my one hand, and ChinchillaBoy’s mouth with the other.

Did it help? Yeah, riiiight!

He saw it, and he heard it.

Poor ChinchillaBoy tried his best to keep a straight face, but it was impossible. He let out a loud SNORT! I peeked around and saw a hundred men in black suits staring straight at us. I’d have given anything to sneak out of there quietly, but we were right in front.

My fellow parishioners are very nice people. No one ever said anything.

A year later, ChinchillaBoy and I were getting ready to go to church on Holy Friday.

“Remember about the she-asses, ChinchillaBoy. Be prepared. You cannot laugh this time.”

“I won’t, Mom, I promise I won’t.”

So we’re standing at the 3 PM service and listening about how Job got back all his pastures and his children…

“… and a thousand donkeys”.

I could not believe it. They changed the text of a church service because of my son! That’s what I call making a difference.

I’m not letting this kid quit church. He’s way too influential for that.

Coming up next – my children perform in front of a very excited audience.

The Goldie has spoken at 12:02 PM

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Frugal Goldies

(Warning! This post contains TMI about cosleeping, half-naked preteens, etc.)

Our natural gas prices went up twice this season.

(“Goldie, tell us something we don’t know,” you’re probably thinking. Well, here goes.)

Way back in October, we sat down and laid out a plan to save on heating bills. First of all, we programmed our thermostat to automatically go down to 60 at night, then back to a comfortable and healthy 66 after the kids get back from school (or, on weekends, in the morning). It’s not working. No, don’t get me wrong - the part where it has to set the temperature to 60 degrees works perfectly. It just never goes back up until we walk over and manually turn it up. We sleep in on Saturdays, then walk downstairs in our pajamas around noontime to see the number 58 on the thermometer. Eeeek!

Actually, it wasn’t so bad. We learned to wear sweaters and layered clothes, and the crisp, fresh air of the house actually didn’t feel so bad. Then ChinchillaBoy got sick. That’s what you get for prancing around the house in your underwear going, “I’m not cold, Mom! I’m sweating, honest!”

Last Tuesday, we took ChinchillaBoy to the doctor and she found nothing. (Then again, no tests were done.) She gave him cough drops and said to stay home and wait for whatever it was to go away, and call her on Thursday if he didn’t get better. For three days, we kept ChinchillaBoy home, made sure he was properly dressed, covered him with a forty-year-old fur coat we brought from Russia, and set an electric heater next to him at all times. We put him into the smallest bedroom, figuring that a small space would be warmer. And he still wasn’t getting any better.

On Thursday, I went to work and my parents came over to watch ChinchillaBoy. (They were also the ones that took him to the doctor.) Around lunch, I called home.

“So, how’s ChinchillaBoy?”
“The usual… getting worse. He's coughing a lot now.”
“Will you take him back to the doctor, then?”
“Yes, she said to call her today and she will see him tomorrow.”
“Why tomorrow? What’s wrong with today? Why can’t she see him today?”
“Well, she can’t, because today she’s not at her office.”
“Say what? Y’know, this is just too much work. I’m going to find someone who’s in the office every day, and call you right back, okay?”

I hung up, called my insurance, and switched to a different primary doctor. Thus ended a relationship of two years. Good-bye, Old Doctor, we’ll miss ya.

ChinchillaBoy, for whatever reason, loved the new doctor’s office, and begged me to make the switch permanent. The new doctor did tests on ChinchillaBoy, took his X-rays, and concluded that he had “a touch of pneumonia”. ChinchillaBoy was very impressed. As soon as we got back home, he got on the phone and called his friend.

“Dude, I have chest penomia. WHAT? I said I have CHEST PENOMIA! Yeah!”

He hung up, went to his room, and promptly got on AIM. Good timing, a girl from his class was IM’ing him already.

“You missed the class party,” she informed ChinchillaBoy.
“I don’t care. I have chest penomia”, replied ChinchillaBoy, manly and stoic in his suffering.

About that time, I started feeling funny. I still do. My throat hurts, as does all of my body. Apparently, “chest penomia” is contagious.

I have moved into the smallest bedroom with ChinchillaBoy. As I lie there, in my sweater and pants and wool socks, under three blankets and with the electric heater running, I contemplate our future.

Will our bodies finally adjust to the cold? Should we give in and turn the thermostat up? Who’s next?

Our bills, by the way, are looking good so far. Our electricity consumption stays the same and our natural gas consumption has gone down. But, hardly a day goes by when I do not wish that I could grow fur like my chinchilla. I’m friggin freezing in there!

How about you? What are you doing to cut down on your costs? Go ahead and share, so I don’t feel like we’re the lonely idiots here. I need all the support I can get.

The Goldie has spoken at 2:31 PM

Friday, December 09, 2005

Rest In Peace, Robert Sheckley

One of my favorite writers has passed away this morning.

The Goldie has spoken at 9:19 PM

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Attention! I Am Renaming My Kids

Well, not really… just on this blog. This “when K10 was 6 and I12 was 8”… stuff can get really confusing.

The kids told me to just use their real names, but seeing how much I write about their school and their friends, that isn’t really fair to everyone involved. Plus, it will ruin whatever’s left of my anonymity. So K10 and I sat down together, and came up with something new, exciting, and non-numeric.

Effective immediately, I12 will be referred to on this blog as LilProgrammer. K10 is going to be ChinchillaBoy. Please make a note of it on your records.

We now return to our scheduled programming.

The Goldie has spoken at 9:03 AM

Nicky Battles A Temptation. Temptation Wins

Yesterday, I worked from home because K10 ChinchillaBoy was sick. He has a cough and a fever. While I was busy doing work stuff, he decided to play with, who else? - Nicky the chinchilla. It all went very well until Nicky crawled under the dishwasher and stayed there for an hour. He refused to come out. When you reached out to catch him, he squeaked and dug further in.

He tried to chew on electric cords, which almost gave me a heart attack. That’s when I discovered something new and disturbing about myself. I realized that I care about our dishwasher a lot more than I care about our chinchilla. Some pet owner I am. I told ChinchillaBoy, and I quote, “if he breaks it, he’s a fur coat!”

That got ChinchillaBoy thinking. He took a series of desperate attempts to lure Nicky out of his new hiding spot. He placed Nicky’s dust bath in front of the dishwasher. Works like a charm in most situations, but, this time, Nicky refused to come out even for a bath. Thirty minutes later, the floor in front of the dishwasher was covered in hay, raisins, dried apple rings and all things pleasing to a chinchilla’s heart. But still Nicky wouldn’t come out.

We went around the kitchen counter and started banging on the walls with our hands, feet, and various kitchen appliances. We shined the flashlight on our chinchilla and we poked him with spatulas. That got Nicky’s attention and he moved to a different spot. But he still didn’t come out.

Exhausted, we plopped down on the couch.

“You know, ChinchillaBoy”, I offered, “this could be like a story of a teenage kid who chooses a bad lifestyle. He has sex with multiple people, does drugs, I don’t know… drives drunk, whatever, and, when people try to talk him out of it, he wouldn’t listen. He thinks he’s having the time of his life. What he doesn’t realize is how dangerous this is, and that he could end up dead. Just like our Nicky sitting under the dishwasher. Do you think it’s a good analogy?”

“No”, replied ChinchillaBoy, ever the supportive son.

After a while, my patience ran out, and I went to check on little Nicky. He was still under the dishwasher, fast asleep. (Wow, so chinchillas really are nocturnal.) When he heard me, he opened his eyes. I gave him a piece of dried apple. He snatched it from my hands. That was a bummer, because I had planned to lure him out with it. But that also meant that Nicky’s front paws were now occupied with the apple. He was getting hungry (they don’t feed you well under the dishwasher), and he didn’t want to put the apple slice down. I tried to grab him – he hobbled away on his hind paws, holding the apple slice and chewing on it at the same time. Wow, that apple really slowed him down. Another two minutes, and I was holding the squeaking chinchilla with my both hands. Very carefully, I pulled him from under the dishwasher and put him back in the cage.

I wonder how to tie this last piece into my teenager analogy. “If your teenager goes astray, just stop feeding him for a while, and he will come back for the food”?

“Distract him, then grab him and drag him home”?

“Seal off the exits and he won’t go astray in the first place”?

“What works for a chinchilla, won’t work for a teenager”?

I’m out of ideas. Dang, that’s too bad. That was a good analogy, too bad I cannot think it all the way through.

The Goldie has spoken at 9:02 AM

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Christmas Stories I: Santa’s Evil Twin

In holiday spirit, I decided to take a break from posting controversial stuff, and tell you a few funny stories instead. Here’s one.

In the olden days, when the Goldie family was still new to America, and the Goldie children were young and easily amused, they had a Christmas tradition. Every year on one of the December weekends, Goldie loaded her kids into the car, and all three went to a nearby city to see the lights show.

We drove around the lights show, past the Nativity scene, stopped for a visit at Santa’s house, then got back in the car and drove around the area for a while, looking at people’s decorations. We stopped at Damon’s for dinner on our way back, then headed home.

It was a great tradition, and, like most great family traditions, it was doomed to die a natural death once the kids grew older.

Damon’s was the first to go. That was in the year when I12 was seven. During dinner, he excused himself to go to the bathroom, came back five minutes later, and, with a pale face, quietly said to us: “Let’s go home. I don’t want to eat here anymore.” He refused to talk about it for a year. Then, finally, he confessed that, while in the bathroom, he saw “a cut-off penis” floating in the toilet. (Oh, the searches this shall bring...)

A few more years later, he realized what it really was. But he still refuses to go to Damon’s. He’s probably right. Of course, I eat there all the time anyway – their ribs are out of this world, and I don’t care what they’ve got floating in their men’s room.

So, after that incident, we didn’t go out for dinners anymore, but we still visited the lights show. This went on for exactly one more year. I12 was eight, and K10 six years old, when the next disaster struck.

It was 6 PM on a Saturday night when we stopped in front of Santa’s house. I12 didn’t want to go inside. K10, on the other hand, was very excited about the visit. He walked in beaming from ear to ear, and greeted Santa with, “Hello Santa, my brother’s in the car, cause he doesn’t believe in you”.

Santa seemed grumpy, and ready to go home, but K10 didn’t notice. He got on Santa’s lap.

“And what do you want for Christmas, little boy?”

“I want…” K10 began, and stopped with a confused look on his face. Thing is, back then, I had a somewhat unorthodox approach to getting my kids’ Christmas gifts. I’d give them each a 25-dollar limit (that last year, I upped it to $50) and set them loose in a Walmart or Target or a Toys R Us. We had already been on our shopping trip, and K10 had chosen something enormous in a box, called “Cyborg City”. Being an honest little boy, he decided to tell Santa the truth.

“Actually, I already know what I’m getting. It’s Cyborg City.”

Santa frowned at K10 sitting on his lap.

“How do you know?”

K10 was visibly worried. Honesty didn’t seem to go over well with Santa. He decided to go for a little white lie this time.

“Er, I was in the basement… and, er, er, I saw the present. By accident.”

Santa launched into a lecture.

“You should never look at the presents. Never! Do you understand? Even if it’s in your way, and you trip on it, you should just step over it and keep on going. Never, ever, do that again… oh, wait a minute.

How did you see the present if it wasn’t wrapped?

“It wasn’t”, K10 whispered.

“IT WASN’T?!?!?!” – and Santa started yelling at K10 at the top of his lungs. He went on and on. I had never seen anything like that before. It was so unreal that I couldn’t even get mad or upset. K10, on the other hand, sat on Santa’s lap, frozen with fear, and stared him into the face.

“Get out, get out!” – roared Santa. We happily accepted the invitation and ran out of the little house. He didn’t even give K10 a candy cane. What a freak.

K10 ranted all the way home.

“I’m never going to see that Santa again! I’m going to put that Santa out of business!!

And so, we never went back.

But I told K10 to look at it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“Think about it”, I said. “How many people can say about themselves that they got yelled at by Santa? Everybody should envy you! Besides, it’s a great story to tell.”

So I’m telling it.

Merry Christmas! Ho ho ho!

Coming up next: K10 forever changes the way holiday services are conducted in our church.

The Goldie has spoken at 12:48 PM

Monday, December 05, 2005

What Would Santa Say?

small families have feelings too

Okay, guys and girls, I’m going to comment on just one more post on Kim’s blog, and then, I promise, it’s over and out. (BTW this is not a personal attack on Kim or anything, it’s just that her posts happened to bring back certain memories!) Here it is – “Coming From a Large Family”. It was, coincidentally, posted on K10’s birthday, and it really got me thinking…and thinking… and thinking.

In my home country, three children were considered a very large family; four were unheard-of; if you had five, you received a medal from the government (honest!) That had a lot to do with living conditions, of course – kinda hard to cram more than five people into a 2-3-bedroom apartment, and I don’t think they built apartments bigger than 3BR. Add to that the shortage of money, food, clothes, the fact that you had to stand in lines for hours to buy anything, and there you have it. So, of course, I am always interested to learn more about the life and logistics of large families. For instance, I learn a lot from Kim (you know... THE Kim). But back to the post in question.

What got me on the defensive was this part:

“I think being part of a large family helps children prepare for life as a Christian adult.
I'm going to go out on a limb by saying this, but I think that modern small families in which one or two children have their parents' undivided attention have contributed to a basic self-centeredness and irresponsibility that is at the root of many problems in modern society. Don't get me wrong. Not every child of a small family suffers from this "syndrome," but I do think there is a connection in society at large.
What are some of the symptoms?

- children who don't know how to share or get along with others
- children who think they *need* every new toy that their peers have
- teens who think their parents owe them a car when they turn 16
- 18 year olds who think their parents owe them a fully-paid college education
- new wives who know nothing of keeping house, because their mother had no need for their help
- new mothers who know nothing of childrearing because, again, their mother had no need for their help - or there were no younger siblings to help care for
- 28 year olds who are unwilling or unable to leave home and support themselves”

I am an only child. If I had a dollar for each time people called me selfish for that reason alone, I would be able to retire happily and send my children to Ivy League. I have to tell you, there’s nothing like being sent on a guilt trip for a decision your parents made without ever consulting you.

With that in mind, let me go through this list.

1. I was the new wife and mother who knew nothing of keeping house or childrearing. No offense to anyone, but, it isn’t rocket science. I picked it up pretty fast, and that was in Russia where hardly any housework was automated, we cooked from scratch each and every time, we had no disposable diapers, we had no washing machine, etc. (And our friggin husbands didn’t lift a finger to help us with it all!) as opposed to running a house here in America, where everything basically comes down to pushing a button. I am a better cook than my Mom, and I dare say I’m a darn good parent. I enjoy doing housework, and I don’t hold it against my Mom that she hadn’t taught me more earlier. I learned it all myself, and I learned to do it my way, not the way my Mom or anybody else did.

2. Thinking that your parents owe you a car, a college education, etc. I admit, I have met many young adults, back in college and when I started working, who thought their parents owed them this thing and that. Thankfully, my parents put a lot of work into teaching me to depend only on myself and raising me free of any sense of entitlement. I’m trying to pass this down to my children. I12 is very good about going without and giving up stuff, and he never asks for anything. Last year, I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, and he replied, “Do I have to get Christmas presents?” He’s also oblivious to peer pressure, for better or for worse, so, between all that, he hardly ever asks for anything. K10, on the other hand, asks for new toys, etc. a lot. We try to break him of this habit. And, of course, just because he asks for something, doesn’t mean he gets it! Now that he’s older, he is able to actually look around and see that his friends do not get new toys handed to them on a platter, either, and that each family has its own financial priorities and rules.

3. Not knowing how to share or get along with others. Honestly, doesn’t this argument remind you of another one – “homeschooled children will fail in life, because they don’t know how to socialize”? Disagree on both counts. It’s all very individual. My 12yo has Aspergers. You can throw a hundred siblings at him and he still won’t know how to get along with others (or even why he’s supposed to bother). My 10yo is Mr. Social. He has incredible people skills. He was born that way. Of course, the challenge of having to get along with a quirky (and much admired) older brother, as well as the older brother’s friends, has probably helped immensely.

4. Not wanting to leave home or support themselves – don’t know what to say, it never happened to me! I popped out of my parents’ apartment as soon as I was able to (actually wanted to go to a math boarding school at 15 – the school was tuition-free – unfortunately they didn’t admit kids of Jewish ethnicity). That said, it probably isn’t a good sign when the children cannot wait to get out of their parents’ home. I know that, in my case, it was for a reason.

Another thing I hear a lot on the ‘Net is when parents of one or two children are being called selfish. Somehow “a separate bedroom for each child” seems to come up a lot. Yes I am a selfish mother of two, and that is for a lot of very valid reasons. We actually thought about three, but things went so badly with two, we just threw in the towel. Plus our little Aspie, I12, probably wouldn’t be thrilled with the prospect. I am positive that he benefited from having K10 to interact with, but too many siblings could have probably pushed him off the deep edge! I have a scary story to prove it.

Another two people that would be pushed off the edge are my parents. I already have twice as many kids as they had ever wanted, and I had to go to war for that. When I first told my Mom that we wanted a second child, she had a fit. When I came to visit them while pregnant with K10, every one of their friends had to pull me aside and tell me about the horrible mistake I was making, and what a disservice it would be to poor I12 (two-and-a-half years old at that time). Now they are very happy to have K10 for a grandson (sometimes, in my opinion, too happy), but more additions to our family would probably do them in. They live one mile away from us, so we have to take their feelings into consideration.

There are a few other reasons that I cannot share with you, as they are too personal, and involve Mr. Goldie. But enough about him, let’s talk about me. I am a quirky person (what do you expect from a mother of a quirky kid). Among other things, I’m terrified of major changes. For several months after each one of my babies was born, I had this awful feeling that the sky is falling, the world is ending, my family will never be the same, everything was perfect and now it’s horrible, and it’s all my fault because I ruined it all by bringing another baby into the family. I figure I probably had some form of PPD; but then, this summer, I had the exact same feelings when we got our pet chinchilla. So on top of PPD, I probably have some residual Aspergers as well. I had poor Mr. Goldie freaking out both times (I kept to myself my feelings regarding the chinchilla). (The kids didn’t freak out at all. They understand. After all, they’re my blood relatives.) My reaction to my second baby has almost cost us our family. We came this close to getting divorced. Do I want to put my family through it ever again, not to mention 5-6 more times? Heck no!!!

Yes my children have each their own bedroom… guilty as charged. May I offer that I12 needs one? As for K10, he doesn’t really want one. There’s always people hanging out in his room, sleeping there, reading there, etc. His door is always open. He just loves being around people. Besides, it hasn’t always been that way. There was a time when the three of us – my both children and myself – shared a bed, and poor Mr. Goldie slept on the kitchen floor, because he couldn’t sleep with the babies crying. I12 (then three years old) begged me for a bed of his own, but, we couldn’t afford it, and not only that, it also wouldn’t have fit into our only room. They did not get their own rooms till they were eight and five years old. (It was also about that time that I started buying them new clothes instead of second-hand.) So, whatever the reasons why I have a small family, it definitely isn’t because of money, as folks on the ‘Net are always fast to assume. We have been dirt poor once, it wouldn’t kill me to be dirt poor again.

I need to end this post if I want anyone to read it. But, “Goldie, why Santa?” – you’re probably wondering. Thing is, yesterday I heard a sermon that just about made me fall out of my seat.

Saint Nicholas (yes, THE Santa Claus) was AN ONLY CHILD.

Now go ahead and call all only children selfish.


The Goldie has spoken at 6:02 PM

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Background Checks in Church?

I have a skeleton in my closet, but I will tell you about it later.

For now, I have a question. I have received a letter a few days ago. I will refrain from disclosing my source just yet. The letter, however, contained an interesting story about certain aspects of life in a small-town church in my home town. The church is in Russia, but it is being led and sponsored from America. Not sure what the denomination is… you tell me.

Here’s the bit that got my attention:

“Last month a young family moved to (my home town) from (different area). They came to our little town in search of a healthy and active church. We contacted their former pastor and were glad to find out that they had left their home town in peace with everyone.”

Does this last sentence creep you out in any way?

Is this the church’s initiative, or is it customary in any of the Protestant denominations to make background checks on new church members? I’ve gone through five different churches in my life, three of them Protestant, and this is the first I’m hearing of it.

If you were to join a church, and the pastor made a background check on you, would you stay or would you walk out? I would definitely walk out. Correction – I would wait until my records come back clean and they tell me I’m welcome into the fold, then tell them: "sorry, like I said, I was looking for a healthy church... guess I'll have to keep looking!" and walk out.

Oh, my. What is this world coming to?

The Goldie has spoken at 9:50 PM

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Help! Alliterations Gone Bad!

I was helping K10 with his writing homework today. One of the assignments (that we left for tomorrow, as it was too difficult) was to write five sentences, ten words each, where all words begin with the same consonant.

This is where I get stuck. I honestly try to come up with some ideas to help K10 with this horrendous task. Instead, my sick and twisted mind is churning out sentences like these:

Huge hamsters humped happy humans, hooting. Humans held hands.

Monstrous, masked mermaids mugged middle manager Michael. Michael mourns missing money.

Dumb, dysfunctional delinquent drowns desperate, disabled dogs. Despicable! Devastatingly disgusting!

Military microbiologists made mutated, microscopic mice. Marvelous minds!

Wise, wizened wizard worked with white, wondrous wand. Whoo! Wand works wonderfully!

There's no way K10 can turn this stuff in... the principal already thinks we are a thoroughly depraved family, where the children are exposed to who-knows-what.

My mind works in mysterious ways.

We'll probably end up leaving the assignment sheet blank.

The Goldie has spoken at 6:48 PM

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Why Educate Our Children: Goldie Opens a Can of Worms

(Huge post, but interesting links at the end – please keep reading, or at least scroll down or something.)

I found this post on this week’s Carnival of Education.

“Why do parents choose to teach their children at home?”, EdWonks commented on it. “The reasons are as varied as are the individuals who accept the challenge. At Life in a Shoe, A mother of 7 shares with us her reasons why”.

So, when I clicked over, I more or less expected to see a “Why I Homeschool” post. Personally, I would definitely do it if I had the skillset, and felt the need to. Like, if we lived in a “bad neighborhood” (K10’s best friend was homeschooled for several years for that exact reason – he is one of the brightest, most socially adjusted, best-rounded kids I’ve ever met – great job, Mom and Dad!) Or if my child didn’t fit into the school system (believe me, thoughts about homeschooling I12 have visited me more than once – but the kid is so stubborn, I do believe he will benefit from a structured learning environment).

However, Kim’s post is on a somewhat different subject: why do we teach our children at all?

“Next question: how does this affect our daily practice?
Should we just read the Bible to them, and call it a day?”

I could, of course, dismiss the post and the entire site as something representative of a completely different lifestyle, except, in my own experience, I was asked this question at least once (“Why do you teach your kids (blah) when it’s all in the Bible?”) Back then, I was so stunned I couldn’t even think of an answer, so with interest, I read the rest of Kim’s post to see what she would say. Here are a few examples:

“Why do we teach them to read?
So that they can read God's Word, enabling them to know Him and His will, learn the way to salvation, etc.


A necessity for good stewardship, and for a husband to provide for his family. … A wife needs a working knowledge of math to shop effectively for groceries. She needs to be able to teach her sons and daughters math, to prepare them for their respective roles.”

Kim then continues to provide her opinion on the role of education in our lives, as ordained by God:

“The point is, academics ought to be thought of as a side effect, a benefit, but never an end in itself. Education must not become our God or our Savior. We do not homeschool so that our children can get a better education and hence a better job. We homeschool because God has given them into our care, with the command to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This is how we can best do it.”

I understand that this is the POV prevalent in the fundamentalist community. I further understand that, in this community, such approach is viewed as God’s will for all people, and not following it is looked upon as a sin.

That said, I happen to have a different opinion on the subject.

I believe that God had a purpose when He created us the way we are. He gave us legs so we could walk; He gave us hands so we could work with them. Likewise, He gave us brains, talents, and skills, so we could use them. How? By exploring and studying the world around us to the best of our abilities; by determining our own unique talents; and by using them to raise our families, help others, and make a difference in the world.

Yes, most of the time it involves an education and a job. I cannot see anything wrong with it. And if you, my reader, are in disagreement with me here, then next time your child is in the hospital or in the ER, feel free to tell the doctor that he’s only there for the money. And while you’re at it, do not forget to inform the nurse that her place is at home with her family.

Or take a less drastic example. A blogger sits down at his or her computer and posts something to the point of: “Education is not important to God” or “All jobs are just a corporate rat race”, or “It is a sin for a woman to work”, or some such. But think about it – this person is using a computer. Someone has put this computer together. Someone has developed and installed the software. Someone is out there 24 hours a day, making sure the server is up and running so these statements can be posted on the Web. If we were to eliminate all these jobs, why, I would have never found out what an enormous sin I am committing by learning constantly, having a fulfilling job outside of home, and teaching my children to do the same.

You see, I believe education to be extremely important. Of course, part of it is cultural. My home country may have lacked in material goods or political and personal freedoms, but we did have quality education, there’s no doubt about that. (I learned all of my English in school in grades 2 through 10 – not so shabby, especially compared to the Foreign Languages education my kids are getting. And, in case you’re wondering if my knowledge of English was useful to me later in life… well, let me just tell you it was and is.) As an aside, I also believe that, if we trash education and employment as something outside God’s will, then we automatically lose the right to moan and complain that all the good jobs are going overseas. Do you agree? Think about it. You think your kids don’t need education – fine. Their Chinese peers will be more than happy to take over for them. I mean, the work is still there and it has to be done by somebody; if you don’t want it, they will have it.

I only have two children. And even with my small family, I couldn’t help noticing how curious our babies and toddlers are when they first come into this world. Our children are born with a passion for learning. There has to be a reason for that. I believe our God-given responsibility, as parents, is to assist them in this learning, and to help them find a way to apply their learning and their talents with best results for everyone involved.

By the same token, I firmly believe that a parent does not have to justify educating his or her children to anyone, just as we don’t have to justify feeding them or putting clothes on their backs.

For me, “why teach them when it’s all in the Bible” means an automatic end of conversation. Sorry, but I cannot reason with bigotry and ignorance. I’d rather do something more productive, like go beat my head against a brick wall.

I have to admit that Kim’s post, although wonderfully written, made me feel rather sad, as well as her readers’ comments on her other post, titled: “Honestly, Why Do You Homeschool?” Here are a few comments if you’re interested:

“The activity that takes place in "public classrooms" is hardly education; it is social and vocational training with an end towards supplying workers for the corporate and governmental elite.” (again, a good line to use when talking to that doctor in the ER, don’tcha think?)

“We want to raise a generation who knows and glofies God. We believe it would be a sin to subject them to the humanistic teachings of the public school system.”

“A better education, learning the right values, protecting my children from whatever is roaming the government school hallways (and I could go on here for a long time) is simply a wonderful side benefit to being obedient to God.”
(My personal favorite. “Whatever is roaming the government school hallways?” – hey, that would be K10 and I12! Feel free to protect your children from them, but I warn you, they’re missing out on a lot.)

Argh, argh, arrrrgh!

Luckily, not all homeschooling community thinks this way.

Allow me to close with my personal Homeschooling Hall of Fame. I’ve been meaning to post these links for a long time. Well, not only will I post them, but I am also going to submit these sites to the Homeschooling Blogger Awards, over at Spunky Homeschooler.

(drum roll, please…)

1. Kim (a different Kim)

See her two posts here and here

2. Bonnie (UPDATE: Bonnie's site is no longer active, but, she's still the best! I have removed the link because it doesn't work anymore.)

3. Another Kim - I love her blog. Not sure whether to submit her under “Best Canadian” or “Best Inspirational”, or “Best Humor”!

And, last but not least...

4. Our very own product of quality homeschooling, Arethusa!!
See her homeschooling series: part I, part II, part III, part IV

I’m off to make my submissions… c-ya!

The Goldie has spoken at 1:52 PM

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