After getting out of their princess dress-up clothes for dinner, RU and MeToo came to the table talking about what they’d each been pretending. MeToo said that, had she not been interrupted for mealtime, she would have gone on to get married, when RU interrupted her.
RU: No, you and I are going to get married, remember? We’d decided that we were going to marry each other.
MeToo: Yes. Because we’re sisters and we can always be together.
RU: Yeah, and it’s easier because we already know each other’s name. When I get married, my name will be [recites her current first, middle, and last name]. Which it already is.
MeToo: When I get married, my name will be Olivia.
It’s been over a month since my last post, and I wish I could say that the break was due to the family taking a nice summer vacation. No. I’m afraid that when the Wife inquired what exotic location I was going to take her to this year, my response was, “After all the money we spent on the move and this house, I think you’re already there.”
Instead the hiatus was begun by some sort of terrible virus or bacteria. Tiny but potent, it preyed upon us one or two at a time, making one and a half circuits through the whole family. Since I have lately been vivid in my descriptions of unfortunate biological incidents, I will abstain from going into detail here. Let’s just say that for two full weeks, I was kept quite busy taking care of those stricken and constantly changing all the bedding.
After that, we all needed a little while to recuperate and take care of all the other things that had fallen by the wayside. And then there was traveling for Independence Day and all…
The other big factor has been that two weeks ago, my laptop crashed. Into the floor. From a height of about two and a half feet. After that, when trying to boot up, instead of serving up all of my files and pictures and apps with laboriously personalized settings, it can only sheepishly produce an icon of a file folder with a question mark on it. Just in case my addled MacBook managed to scrape its wits back together, one of the kids shoved it off the couch the following morning because it was in their spot.
Was it backed up? Are you kidding? Backing up my computer is definitely on my list of things to do, but doing that is like changing the air filters in the house or taking a shower — always getting superseded by more immediate concerns. Or the need to sleep. I’ve only managed to find the time to get one haircut in all of 2016 and you think I have time to back up the storehouse of my most precious data? Of course not.
With luck, the expensive data-retrieval place will be able to find it all. And with a little more luck, I can get back into the writing habit. I hope so, because we’ll have a newborn in two or three months and that should yield some hilarious, sleep-deprived posts!
As you may recall, Dear Reader, we have recently moved. I’m sorry to say that we weren’t terribly satisfied with the moving company we used. Reprinted below is an edited copy of my letter to them (they wanted pictures and descriptions of the items and their damage). I have kept the name of the company we used out of this post because I’m a nice guy, and because our claim with them is still being hashed out.
UPDATE: The moving company got back to us about our claim. They are offering to compensate us to the tune of thirty whole US dollars. So we’ll be continuing this saga through other parties. In the meantime, putting their name in this post and then putting it on their Facebook page is worth more than thirty bucks to me.
Dear All My Sons Moving and Storage,
We used your services on April 11th to finish packing up our old home in [Undisclosed] and transport the items to our new one in [Classified]. We had already packed up and moved about 60% of the house, and almost none of the furniture was going, so it should have been easier than an average job, I would think. However, your movers took all day to pack the rest of the house up and as we’ve delved into the boxes it has become clear that their slow pace wasn’t because they were taking extra-good care of our property. On the contrary, as the following pictures will show, your movers pretty much just shoved stuff into the largest boxes they could get (those expensive wardrobe boxes, mostly) and helpfully labelled them “Misc.” Several items got damaged due to this mistreatment.
Let’s take a look at my first example, shall we?
Oh, look! It’s a wardrobe box, a packing container designed to hold your clothing while still hung up on hangers by means of a bar running across the top. I don’t see a bar on this one, though. Let’s peek inside.
It’s a lampshade! And… two of our long plastic tubs that could just have been loaded up into the truck as-is. That’s it? Two plastic tubs, a shoe box, and a lampshade? For that I had to pay for a whole wardrobe box? Wait, what’s that down the side? Let’s take a closer look.
Oh, joy, it’s one of my wife’s lovely pieces of stained glass artwork! She paid $400 for this particular one. Now it’s got a crack in it. Maybe that wasn’t the best place for this…
Now let’s move on to another wardrobe box. This one is marked “Xmas.”
Unloading the junk on the top (well, it looks like junk now), we find a box within a box. This second box, which is at the bottom of the first box, seems to contain at least a couple of wreaths, one of which is our Christmas wreath made up of glass ornaments. It looks a little worse for wear. Santa can’t find our house without this on the door. Sorry, kids, All My Sons cancelled Christmas!
The theme of boxes within boxes continues in example number three, yet another wardrobe box packed fit to burst. This is the very top of the wardrobe box, where we find three containers — one of them a suitcase! — all full of heavy stuff from the craft room. Underneath that blue, metal lockbox we found Neverland’s favorite fairy, Tinkerbell, crushed to death. Quick, clap your hands, everybody!
I think that by now you have the idea that these damages are clearly the result of our property being packed with an utter lack of care. Also, an utter lack of sense, in many cases. Therefore, I will cut straight to the damaged items for the rest, though you may be sure that each could have been accompanied by several photos of equally baffling packing arrangements.
Below, you will find an antique glass bowl. We don’t know how old it is, or how much was paid for it, because it was a birthday gift to my wife from her mother. The only birthday gift she got that year. Now, it’s chipped.
Next up is a nursing stool. In case you didn’t know, a nursing stool is designed to alleviate stress on your back, shoulders and neck while breastfeeding. This Medela Nursing Stool is gently angled to help you comfortably position your baby for breastfeeding, reducing the chance of soreness caused by poor positioning. The excellent ergonomic and orthopedic design allows you to elevate the feet, legs and lap to help prevent back aches, stiff necks and sore shoulders. Obstetricians and gynecologists also recommend the Nursing Stool for prenatal use in the last trimester of pregnancy.
My wife used this particular nursing stool (constructed of fine-crafted wood) while nursing each of our three children. She is currently pregnant with our fourth child and planning to breastfeed him as well. I guess we’ll have to get a new nursing stool, though, because the old one’s leg got broken and we had to put it down.
Once the baby gets here, we’ll be changing his diaper on this nice, comfy wood reinforced changing pad. Oh, wait…
Pretty much all of our small and medium-sized framed pictures now have scratched-up frames that will need to be replaced. I guess the movers at least tried this time, stacking them on top of each other and putting them in the middle of a box full of diapers (cloth diapers, that is, with metal snaps). The larger framed pieces fared better because I stopped one of the workers while he was shoving them into a box and told him to pack them appropriately. I was rather surprised that I needed to specify that I wanted my nice, framed pictures to be packed in a box designed to keep nice, framed pictures safe during transit. This was towards the end of the moving process, unfortunately, or I might have been able to prevent some of this tragedy.
Hey, remember way back at the beginning of this letter when I mentioned that my wife has lovely stained glass artwork? We’ve found some more of it.
Are you familiar with the process of repairing stained glass? You’ve got to unsolder the lead and remove the damaged pieces individually from the soldered framework. Then, you can hopefully find matching glass, cut it to the appropriate size and re-solder the pieces back into place. I understand that’s it’s pretty labor-intensive and produces lead dust.
Are you, by chance, familiar with the proper way to pack and transport a piece of stained glass? Well, it isn’t to put it at the very top of an unpadded box and stack other heavy boxes on top of it.
Finally, we had a set of Mary & Martha foil pans that were brand new and crushed beyond use. I haven’t included a picture because, frankly, the scene was too gruesome.
The Customer Care Team Claims Form form you sent us only has space to list four items. That was awfully optimistic of you. Unfortunately, all our claims cannot fit on the form. Therefore, I have listed them below. (Your form had a space for an “Inventory Number.” Since your guys didn’t bother to inventory any of our stuff, I have made up some numbers so you don’t have a blank space on your form.)
Item/Description of damage
Stained glass (dove)/cracked
$100 for repair
Stained glass (star)/cracked
$100 for repair
Stained glass (flower)/cracked
$100 for repair
Christmas wreath/broken apart
$150 to replace
$38.99 to replace
Tinkerbell statue/broken wing, shattered ego
$20 for physical therapy
Medela nursing stool/broken leg
$120-$200 to replace with a used, second handone (they don’t make ‘em anymore!)
.5 lbs each
5 picture frames/scratched
$20 each to replace ($100 total)
less than 1 pound
Antique glass bowl/chipped
Unknown, but OLD
Irreplaceable, unknown how much was paid for it, was my wife’s only birthday gift that year.
less than 1 pound
Mary and Martha brand hostess casserole tin/crushed
In closing, I would like to assure you that not everything was damaged. Before contacting your company, we had already purchased some protective slips for the movers to pack plates and dishes in. I’m pleased to say that we found the dish packing materials had been safely packed up in a box and made it to the new house none the worse for wear.
Thank you for your timely assistance in this matter.
Is there anything more tedious than when your kids want to watch the same thing or listen to the same music over and over and over? I know I put my poor parents through it (I’m sure they heard more Weird Al than they ever wanted to) and my own brood are content to listen to the same album in the van for weeks on end.
Fortunately for the Wife and I, our 3-year-old loves The Okee Dokee Brothers. In fact, MeToo refers to them as, “my Okee Dokees.”
The Okee Dokee Brothers, Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing (no, they aren’t really brothers and, yes, I feel lied to as well), can be found in the “Family-Friendly, Folksy/Bluegrass-esque” section of your local record store. I wouldn’t exactly consider their work “kid’s music” because, to me, that conjures up nursery rhymes, Sesame Street, and Disney soundtracks. I tend to describe their songs as being similar to what Kermit the Frog used to sing before he made it big in Hollywood.
In addition to being musicians, Joe and Justin have a great love of the outdoors and this is reflected in their “Adventure Album Series.” What drew our attention, even before we heard their music, was back in 2011 when the Wife learned about their then-upcoming album Can You Canoe. The Okee Dokee Brothers had composed that album while on a month-long canoe trip down the Mississippi. Just the idea of that seemed so rich with authenticity and soul that we sough out the title track, bought the album as soon as it was released, and have been fans ever since.
You see, I grew up in a small Tennessee town, and even though I do not consider myself an outdoorsy person, I’ve done a fair bit of hiking, camping, and canoeing. The songs on Can You Canoe really do feel (to me) like they were thought up while on the river — even the ones that don’t have anything to do with canoeing.
The Okee Dokee Brothers followed it up with a month-long trek along the Appalachian Trail which resulted in Through the Woods. As it happens, my brothers, my father, and I once spent a few days hiking and camping along the Appalachian Trail, so I can give Joe and Justin’s second Adventure Album my stamp of authenticity as well. (The song “Lighten Your Load” felt particularly spot-on.) If Can You Canoe was about the fun and trials of camping or life on the river, Through the Woods contemplates the simplicity and closeness to nature of a secluded life in Appalachia. (The album’s closer, “Baby Mine,” is MeToo’s most-requested lullaby. Fortunately for me, Joe and Justin put their lyrics up on the web.)
Their third Adventure Album, Saddle Up, just released this month and was inspired by a sojourn out West. It’s full of tall tales, Native American legends, cowboys and cowgirls, cows, relationships-as-geography, and at least two different songs about horses. It’s definitely twangier than their other works, leaning a bit towards the classic Country & Western sound, but that’s not a bad thing at all.
So does Saddle Up measure up? How does the family like it? Well, it’s my favorite kind of music: new music that I haven’t heard a thousand times in a row before. MeToo usually requests it whenever we’re in the car (though occasionally she prefers “my old Okee Dokees”) and RU can already sing about half of “Don’t Fence Me In.” It’s not my favorite Okee Dokee Brothers album but its in the same ballpark as the others; it’s jaunty and fun and easy to listen to. I’d recommend Saddle Up as easily as I would Can You Canoe or Into the Woods.
On a closing note, we went to see the Okee Dokee Brothers play back in October (it was, I believe, MeToo’s first live concert). It was a wonderfully good time, very family-friendly, and totally worth the three-hour drive it took for us to get there. (Maybe if more people flock to their venues they will see the value of extending their tours to areas closer to where I live. So get out there and check ‘em out!)
Honestly, I quite like their music and am glad my kids give me an excuse to listen to them. If you want to give them a try yourself, the Okee Dokee Brothers have some videos on their website, and the journeys they undertook for Can You Canoe and Into the Woods are chronicled in two videos available on Netflix.
The Wife was having a phone conversation with a friend while we were in the car and I overheard something about how we hadn’t seen several recent Pixar movies.
The Wife (on the phone): “No, sometimes they look like they might be preachy, and I don’t want that. We didn’t see Inside Out. No, we didn’t see the dinosaur one, either, though I heard it was okay. Yeah, you’d told me it was basically about adoption. We don’t have time to watch them without the kids first, and you never know what message or idea a kid might see and latch onto.”
Me (interrupting): “Uh, weren’t you the one who wanted us to watch Ghostbusters with them just the other day?”
The Wife: “Yes. But I didn’t think they’d pay much attention to it since it’s not an animated movie. Lord knows I’m not animated and they don’t seem to pay attention to me!”
May the Fourth be with you, Dear Reader! (Yes, I know that was five days ago. This one ended up taking a long time to write, okay?)
This seems like an appropriate day to relate to you the tale of showing my kids Return of the Jedi, the last of the Star Wars films (as far as they need to know, for now). I had waited a year between showing them A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, but after RU’s reaction to Empire, I decided they should go ahead and watch the concluding chapter.
So, a few weeks later I took the DVD with us on a weekend visit to Coach and Nana’s house. It did not go as well as I had hoped.
We started the movie late one rainy afternoon. The girls were not in the mood for it, wanting to sit in Coach’s lap and watch YouTube videos of people making Disney characters out of Play-Doh. (“But kids, Jabba the Hutt is a Disney character now and he’s made of Play-Doh!”) They dutifully gave it a try, but weren’t fully paying attention most of the time.
By the time the Jabba’s Palace sequence was over it was clear we needed to just call it quits and try again another time. The girls did pay enough attention, however, to be turned off by the opening of the film. Yeah, I’d kinda forgotten that Return of the Jedi actually starts off with all of our main characters being caught one by one by a vile gangster. Jabba is mean and frightening and gross. The droids, our point-of-view characters, are enslaved and abused. An erotic dancer gets fed to a monster. The usually confident and jovial Han Solo is as blind and weak as a shivering newborn puppy. There’s nothing to lighten the mood until a little bit of gallows humor just before the action breaks out. The entire sequence at the beginning of Return of the Jedi can be unpleasant for a kid to watch.
Which is where we left it for the rest of the visit.
At home a few days later, we tried again. As I’ve pointed out before, the Star Wars movies are long (especially Return of the Jedi), so you have to be prepared to have an intermission or two. We started in the early afternoon so we could break for dinner halfway through and end without keeping the kids up too late.
The Dad: “Okay, kids, do you remember what happened in Star Wars so far?”
MeToo: “Star Wars is funny! When Darth Vader told him he was his father, I thought that was funny.”
RU: “Well I didn’t!”
The girls only protested a little that we started back at the beginning and that the upcoming scenes were a little scary. They hadn’t paid much attention before, though, so it was still pretty new to them. This time around, I was able to explain more about what was going on as it happened. Talking about why Lando might be there, for example, or pointing out that “Shoebacca” had been brought in as a prisoner by Princess Leia so that must be part of the plan seemed to help.
As I had dreaded, RU did ask about why Jabba made Leia wear the slave-girl outfit. That one is really hard to explain to a five-year-old. Jabba is obviously sadistic and enjoys going the extra mile to humiliate people. He keeps Han up as a trophy, he makes his slave girls wear skimpy, objectifying clothing, he and his whole court watch behind a curtain while Leia frees Han from carbonite just so they could laugh at her failed rescue attempt. Carrie Fisher has a good take on it, but I just settled on, “Because he’s mean.” By then, Luke had shown up and RU wasn’t interested in a deeper exploration of the subject.
Perhaps the dark ending of Empire and the brutish opener of Jedi damped their enthusiasm, but RU and MeToo didn’t seem quite as into this one. I say that because they didn’t ask quite as many questions or get visibly excited to the same degree — but, on the other hand, maybe that was because they were too absorbed in what was going on. I dunno.
I was very surprised that they did not immediately fall in love with the Ewoks. While MeToo did get a kick out of the baby Ewok you can catch a few glimpses of in their village, the girls were wary of the cute little fuzzballs. Then I remembered that I didn’t warm up to them, either, when I first saw the movie myself. After all, they do capture our heroes (apparently intending to eat them!) and although they look cute, they aren’t played cute. (Yes, that makes them even cuter. “Awwww! They act like they think they’re people!”)
Seeing Return of the Jedi through my kids’ eyes also helped me to remember that, teddybear-like though they are, the Ewoks are depicted with a bit more realism and depth we give them credit for. (They’re far easier to watch than the annoying, one-note Gungans.) Yes, they are there to provide humor. But for all of us (myself included) who have rolled our eyes at the idea of an army of stuffed animals defeating an Imperial garrison, note that the Ewoks get slaughtered up until they start smashing Scout Walkers with tree trunks at the very end of the attack. They get blown up, blastered, and I’m pretty sure one gets stepped on by an AT-ST. The one in the goofy, stone-age hang glider manages to a single stormtrooper, then immediately gets shot down (and I bet the trooper just stood right back up). We see two of the short, furry treehouse dwellers go flying from an explosion; one picks himself up but discovers his buddy wasn’t so lucky, then proceeds to collapse and mourn for his fallen friend right there. The Ewoks may be hokey, but the movie gives them a real story arc and gives you real reasons to root for them (even in spite of yourself).
Okay, enough about the stone-age trash pandas. What did the kids think of the ending?
They had a lot of questions, mostly about what was going on during the scenes between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor. RU was not drawn into the battle scenes as much as she was during the Hoth sequence (though Jedi cuts between three different battles and the context for what’s happening is a lot harder for a young child to grasp). By the end, I think they were a bit fatigued but they continued to show interest. There was no, “Yay! The good guys won!” moment. Then again, I can recall that the way the final confrontation between Luke and Vader turned out really threw me for a loop, too, when I was a kid.
In the final analysis, I think the sequels exhausted my girls’ enthusiasm for watching Star Wars for a while. I think they enjoyed the films — I know they liked the A New Hope a great deal — but they are just a bit too young to be fully engaged, especially with the darker, more complex stuff that develops in Episodes V and VI.
Which is fine. The girls should be ready to enjoy the Star Wars movies again by the time Z and Sprout see them for the first time.
Kudos to my local Discount Tire store for having a baby changing table in its men’s room! (The Starbucks up the road can’t boast that.) I do believe I must be the first person to use it. Can you guess how I know?