Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Great Postal War of '10

Many of you have been completely unaware that a great battle has been raging in our fair country these past few months.  A battle, so fierce and divided, it seemed an accord would never be reached.  It was an epic battle, which pitted the evil US Postal Service against the noble Elliots.  Words were said - many of them angry, maneuvers were carried out, laziness was exposed and we, the stronger side, came out victorious. 

While the USPS raises it's white flag, we are delighted to announce that we are now the proud owners of a wall-mounted mailbox. 

But first the back story:  you see, our new, beautiful home had many wonderful features when we moved in February, but not one of these features was a mailbox.  We figured we would remedy this oversight, by hanging a wall-mounted mailbox by our side door, and we figured that the hardest thing about installing said mailbox at the new house would be finding a person to actually do the work once we had arrived.

Our new postman (whom we shall call Lucifer) had different ideas.  The very afternoon that we moved, I ran into Lucifer on his daily mail rounds.  I pulled kindly over and very, very sweetly introduced myself.  I LOVE the mail.  I love everything about it:  the magazines, the catalogs, the newspapers and mostly, the occasional letter.  I am a firm believer in keeping the deliverer of my precious mail happy, and accordingly, I'm the best sort of postal costumer.  I never leave letters in my mailbox for the postman to mail,  I always tip both the regular carrier and his substitute during the December holidays, and I am happy to make small talk when mail carriers need a quick break from their route.  Mailmen/women usually love me back, too.  But there is always an exception to every rule and Lucifer is mine. 

After accepting my jovial greeting, the new mailman announced, "You need a rural mailbox on the street in front of your house.  That's the rule.  All new construction houses need a rural mailbox.  And you have to have a mailbox for me to deliver the mail at all.  Those are the rules."

What?  A rural mailbox?  Was he crazy?  All of you who know my house can stop snickering.  A rural mailbox is ridiculous for many reasons -- the most important of which is WE DON'T LIVE IN A RURAL AREA!!!  It's not even slightly rural.  Each house in this town is literally on top of the house next to it, which is on top of the house on the other side. 

And the way he said it, "Those are the rules," was so bizarre.  If those were truly the rules, there would be rural mailboxes littered all over the town -- in fact, there would be a whole lot on my actual street, the home of four new construction houses in as many years.  And I don't know anyone in this town with a rural mailbox.   And therefore, I don't know why we would have to have one.

In fact, when I began to mention this "rule" to people, most had the same reaction.  "A rural mailbox?  On the street?  Like in the country?  But why?"

I'll tell you why.  Lucifer is lazy.  He has to get out of his van and walk up to each door to deliver the mail and that is not as simple or as fun as pulling over and inserting the mail into a box that is eye level to his van's door.  And most probably, he saw a little blond woman and thought I was a push-over.  Whoops!  It ends up, I'm lazy, too.  And stubborn!

As I dragged a large white bin to the edge of my property with the words "Temporary Mail Box" written on it's lid, I declared war.  First tactic:  force lazy, devil-like mailman to deliver letters to non-usps-approved mail receptacle.  The word "temporary" allowed him to deliver the mail while maintaining a little mail-carrier dignity.  This dignity, I knew, would allow me a few months time to plot my next move.  I may be blond, but I'm not as stupid as I look. 

I began the war by sending out spies to do some reconnaissance work.  Three young children - who will remain nameless to protect their identities - scoured the surrounding streets with a pad and a pencil, writing down the streets/house numbers of any house with a rural mailbox in our area.  For the record, there are two.  Both are houses built circa 1975 and both are situated so far away from the street that it would take the mail carrier hours to reach their house from the road.  Okay, maybe not hours, but certainly many minutes.  It should also be noted, that both rural mailboxes are half-way up their driveways and not on the road, so the mailman still has to drive up or get out of his van and walk.  In addition, my spies recorded the number of new construction houses in our area:  there are three houses on my street, three on the street behind ours and two on the street in front of ours.  Not one of these "new construction" houses has a rural mailbox. 

While seething with indignation and anger, I decided to do nothing. 

I'm a rule-follower, by nature, but I'm not going to be the only person following a ridiculous rule just because my particular mailman is an ass.  Under the guise of apologizing for my eye-sore, temporary mail receptacle, I started talking to the neighbors, trying to get a feel for the mailman's personality.  I thought it was a good idea to get to know the enemy.  Turns out, everyone LOVES the guy.  Not one person had a bad word to say about him.  Most people were shocked to hear that he was insisting on us putting up a rural mailbox.  The other two people with new construction houses were particularly shocked;  apparently, he never once mentioned this rule to them and he happily delivers their mail to their wall-mounted box everyday with a smile and a few kind words. 

What the heck?!!?

So what is exactly going on, I wondered?  Did the builder of my house annoy the mailman?  Was Lucifer angry that the old ranch house that was on this lot originally got torn down?  Was he just in a wretched mood the first time I met him?  Does he hate short, blond women with short, blond kids?  Who knows.

A month or two later, Lucifer pulled his truck up to our house while the kids and I were outside.  He marched over to me and in a sing-songy, voice reminded me of the mailbox situation.  "You need a rural mailbox!   Or I can't continue to deliver mail to your house!" 

And so I took action.  I politely - but firmly - told him that I didn't understand the rule.  Suburban neighborhood aside, why do we have to have a rural mailbox if the other new construction houses on this street don't have one?  Why are we being singled out?  Why are we the only people who have to follow this ridiculous rule (again, okay, I didn't say the word ridiculous.  At this point in the war, I was still trying to get on his good side.)  I told him I would be be happy to put a wall-mounted mailbox near the side door of our house.  I told him he would be welcome to pull his van into our driveway and use our turn-around to make life easier for him.  I pointed out that our road is a narrow, single-lane, old-fashioned one and that any rural mailbox we put up is going to get knocked down by the plow every time it snows. 

He remained stoic and unfazed.  He attempted to pretend that it wasn't his call.  A post office rule is a rule and that's that.  Except..... I happened to know he was totally lying to me.  During my "information recovery" phase, I had spoken to the substitute mailman on our route.  What Lucifer didn't know, was that his substitute was in fact the substitute for our old mailman and I happened to know him well.  All those years of holiday tips and kind words in the old neighborhood PAID OFF!!  No one remembers to tip the substitute mailman --- NO ONE BUT ME, Lucifer!!!  Take that!!  Our dear, wonderful, kind, hard-working substitute mail carrier is very, very fond of me.  And he told me that in cases of mailboxes and new construction, it's really up to the individual mail carrier to decide what kind of mailbox you can have.  He also mentioned that the town's post master was going on leave in a few months and the temporary post master would probably be more agreeable to our situation. 

By the fall, cracks started showing in Lucifer's armor.  A neighbor confessed that he had once read her postcards and then talked about their contents with her.  He acted nervous one afternoon while delivering the mail when Gordy was outside.  I could tell the war was starting to turn in my favor.  The next time he decided to "talk" to us about removing the temporary mail bin and installing a rural mailbox, he chose to do so in a form letter.  Little blond lady was starting to seem like she wasn't going to back down, huh Lucifer?

The top of the letter said it all.

I liked how he stubbornly reminded us of the many times we had discussed the mailbox topic.  "First talked in February, then the summer, now it is autumn...." 

We particularly enjoyed the ten different check marks which dictated each feature of our new rural mailbox. 

He even circled the picture of the proper mailbox, in case we got confused and installed the mailbox on the the left by accident. 

He was correct about the whole ground-freezing thing, though.  It was time for me to pull out the big artillery.  First, I would get the temporary Post Master involved and then.... I would get Gordy involved.  The smell of victory was in the air, hanging like a mist over our mail-box-less house.  I celebrated by checking out wall-mounted mailboxes on line. 

I put on my sweetest, most appreciative voice to call the Post Master.  I apologized for bothering him at the end of what was certainly a long day of Mastering the Post.  I explained that the silly builder who sold us our house forgot to put a mailbox on it;  I explained that our mailman wanted us to put up a rural mailbox;  I explained how I usually am glad to follow all postal rules and regulations, but this particular one confused me.  I used the word "confused" on purpose.  Men in Temporary Power enjoy helping befuddled women.  He listened as I presented my case:  I described my side door's close proximity to the street and the convenience of my turn-around driveway (perfectly sized for a mail van).  I explained that I wasn't expecting the mailman to climb the stairs to my front door, and I told him that we would carefully shovel the snow and ice off the two steps he would have to climb to reach the side door.  I told the Post Master about the other new construction houses in our neighborhood and their wall-mounted mailboxes.  And I ended my case by mentioning the whole "narrow street / dangerous snow plow" argument, which, let's face it, is the only non-selfish point I had. 

The Post Master was very kind and understanding.  He did tell me that it is actually the rule that new construction houses are supposed to have rural mailboxes, but he agreed that the snow plow issue was a real problem in my neighborhood.  He agreed to drive by our house and make a decision.

A week or two went by without any word from the Post Master and I wanted to place my wall-mounted mailbox order.  I had Gordy call to get to the bottom of the decision's delay.  This was my final maneuver but it's a tried and true one.  I like to start off a confrontation as the good cop.  I like to explain the facts and then explain how I want any problems resolved.  And then I step back and allow Gordy to do the nagging.  As a tag team, we are quite good. 

Gordy called every week for the next three weeks.  He was polite, but firm and eventually, the Temporary Post Master got the message:  we weren't going to stop calling him until he let us put up the damn mailbox.  And so he did.

The war ended, the mailbox was installed and peace was restored to our fair land. 

I haven't seen Lucifer in the three days since the box was hung and the temporary bin was put away, but that fact doesn't surprise me.  It's hard to be the loser.  And it will be even harder when the holidays come around and he realizes that I hold a grudge! 

Only time will tell if the Great Postal War of '10 changed the way post carriers dealt with little blond women, but from that moment on, one particular mailman learned not to trifle with those who are lazier and more stubborn than himself.  

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Georgia's Birthday

Georgia is the type of girl who likes to sleep in late.  She's a reader, and even though we put her to bed at eight o'clock, she's often still up at 9:30 reading away.  Many a night, we have to pry the book out of her fingers and physically pull up the covers and turn off the light to get her to go to sleep at all.  Luckily for us, she makes up for lost time by sleeping late most mornings.  This is a good thing, trust me, because my other two children are early risers and no matter what time you put THEM to bed, they wake up at 6:30am.  The only thing that changes is their mood;  late bedtimes equal surly dispositions, early bedtimes equal happy dispositions.

On the morning of her birthday, however, Georgia got up early.  In fact, she was the first person down the stairs after early-rising Gordy and she spent the time poking and feeling her presents until the rest of us got up.  Traditionally, we open presents first thing in the morning.  This fact is important to understand before I show you the photos, where our spectacular bedheads take center stage.

Georgia got many wonderful gifts from her large family, including a light-blue fleece coat she has coveted for a long time.  Now Georgia can go outside and rest assured that she looks like every other 8 - 19 year-old girl in our town.  She hasn't taken the coat off since this unwrapping, so I'm pretty sure the gift was a huge hit.

Georgia was also pleased to receive a Labbit from Elizabeth.  She was particularly surprised that Elizabeth had managed to pick up on her non-stop hints while we were in Philadelphia.  Who knew that Elizabeth was paying attention when Georgia stood, eyeing the Labbit display and saying in a loud voice "I sure do wish I could get a Labbit for my birthday.  There's probably no other toy I'd like as much as a Labbit.  If only SOMEONE would BUY me a Labbit.... It would make a perfect birthday gift for a little girl who is turning 8 in November."   The whole thing was amazingly not subtle, but apparently Georgia had thought it was.  After opening the present, she gleefully exclaimed "I can't believe that Elizabeth knew I wanted one of these!"  I suppose she was too busy staring at the Labbit to see the adults around her rolling their eyes up to the ceiling!

It is hard to watch other people open their presents. 

After breakfast, Gordy took the birthday girl and her brother and sister to Grandma & Grandpa's hotel pool for a nice indoor, winter swim.  I stayed home to make the birthday cake (devils food with seven-minute frosting.  Yum.)

That afternoon, the mail brought another present, this time from Elsie.  Presents from Elsie are exciting for two reasons:  they are presents and Elsie mails her packages using actual stamps and my modern children find this fascinating. 

For her birthday dinner, Georgia chose to eat at her favorite Italian restaurant. 

Having a birthday so close to Thanksgiving means that you get to share your day with Grandma and Grandpa.

The dinner took awhile to arrive after we ordered, but Georgia came prepared. 

After dinner we went back home for cake.

And with that, the birthday was over.  Happy Birthday, Georgia!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  We started our day bright and early with a football game (it feels weird to not type the word "hockey" after the words "bright" and "early.")  Our town's high school team plays a yearly match against their rivals on Thanksgiving morning and we attend whenever we can.  Although it is played outdoors and without ice or blades, we all enjoy watching a little football.  Besides, its a great way to get some fresh air and root for the home team.

This year, Georgia and Josie wore the town's colors in their hair to show their support for the black and red.

It was a freezing cold morning, but the sun was out and that made it more tolerable.

Our team played an amazing game including a pretty spectacular sack of the quarterback ,which led to a fumble, which our team then picked up and returned 75 yards for a touchdown. 

We lucked out and got seats right next to the marching band and the cheerleaders, which meant that Georgia and Josie got bored after 20 minutes instead of five.  On Thanksgiving, one must be thankful for the little things!

We're cooking our Thanksgiving feast now and watching professionals play football on tv.  I hope everyone is having an equally wonderful day!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Georgia Turns Eight

Georgia is now officially eight and she couldn't be happier.  It's hard to believe that it was eight years ago this week, that Georgia was born.  She was the tiniest of my three babies (although we didn't know that at the time), she had a full head of black hair and she was happy and alert from the moment she was born.  Georgia was so beautiful and perfect in every way and we loved her instantly. 

Ten minutes after she was born, doctors informed us that Georgia would never walk. 

Georgia was born with Amniotic Band Syndrome which manifested itself as one constriction band wrapped tightly around her right ankle.  Gordy was the first person to notice it after she was born and it was he who pointed it out to my doctor.  The nurses thought it was just an indent from where her legs were pressed together during the birth - like a mark around your ankle when your socks are too tight.  I guess my OB didn't agree because within seconds a team of neonatologists had swarmed into the room and were inspecting my perfect little baby from head to toe. 

I don't think Gordy and I will EVER forget the voice of the doctor who told us in a proper British accent "This child will never walk," because he said it so casually.  (In fact, now that I think about it, his whole attitude reminds me of the first periodontist I saw who told me about my need for skin grafts - no wonder I didn't like that dentist!)  Gordy accompanied the doctors up to the NICU with Georgia so that they could x-ray her leg and run some tests.  I remained in the recovery room thinking about everything that had just happened.  Gordy and I were both terrified but I was also oddly calm.  Henry was attending a local playgroup at that time, and I was picturing how I would have to bring Georgia there in a wheelchair when she turned two.  I distinctly remember thinking that we would never see her run around our backyard or play on the playground.  I wasn't necessarily sad about these facts;  I was mostly thinking about them in a matter-of-fact way.  I had already decided that Georgia was perfect and nothing I could imagine could change my mind. 

Gordy and Georgia returned a half-hour later.  They were accompanied by a Russian nurse who had a very no-nonsense type of personality.  Gordy walked into the room looking as stressed as you can imagine.  He had just spent 30 minutes, alone, in a NICU watching his newborn child being poked and prodded by a team of specialists.  He had spent 30 minutes feeling pretty helpless and no doubt his mind had gone where my endorphin-filled, post-birth brain could not.  He needed to tell all this to me and to explain what the doctors had decided and I was eager to hear him.  He began at the beginning, "they brought her upstairs and took x-rays of her leg...."  The words were pouring out the him, but I guess the Russian nurse thought he wasn't getting to the point quickly enough for her liking.  "She's totally fine!" she interrupted.  "There's nothing wrong!"  She looked triumphantly at me as if I should thank her for cutting to the chase.  Poor Gordy, he needed to tell his story and I really needed to hear it and this nurse totally ruined it all.  We managed to lose her after she attempted to kidnap our baby (okay... she left the room without going through the whole number / id procedure, but it felt like kidnapping to us) and Gordy was able to tell me the entire diagnosis.

The band was tightly wound around the Georgia's ankle, but the muscle, tendons, and bones were all formed and Georgia was moving her toes.  She would need surgery to remove the band at some point, but the doctors had decided that she was going to be fine.  Amniotic Band Syndrome can be really severe.  Many children born with ABS are missing entire limbs and / or have cleft palates or other physical problems.  Georgia was extremely lucky.

Georgia was born in a teaching hospital - all three of my children were - and word spread quickly that a baby with Amniotic Band Syndrome was born there.  Doctors, medical students, nurses, nursing students, cafeteria workers (okay, maybe they stayed away, but it didn't feel like it) all arrived to check her out.  Most did it under the guise of education, pretending that their resident had insisted that they come in and would we mind if they took a look?  I didn't, at first, but Georgia certainly did.  After the first 24 hours, I got tired of listening to her whimper in protest every time a doctor removed her clothes to look at her leg and I started denying them all access to her.  But in addition to the students, we saw many, many specialists - plastic surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, pediatricians, NICU doctors - and they all offered their opinions on what needed to be done in the future.  Gordy and I felt very fortunate that we had chosen to give birth to Georgia in the city as opposed to our small town hospital.  It felt comforting to have so many experts at our disposal.

The first night at the hospital, the nurse on duty told me that it was okay if I wanted to cry.  She said that it is often overwhelming to have a child with a disability and that I shouldn't feel like I couldn't grieve.  I'm not kidding when I tell you that I thought this woman was clinically insane.  I couldn't understand why people were acting like Georgia wasn't the most amazing, the most perfect child ever born in their hospital.  Why on earth would anyone CRY about having this wonderful child?   I still don't know.  Not only was she sweet and gorgeous, but we had all agreed that she was extremely lucky! 

Over the years, Georgia has proven that British NICU doctor to be right - she never walks.  She's way too busy running, skipping, dancing, and playing to do anything so mundane as walking.  Gordy says that they should have told us that she would never sit.  Things weren't as easy as the doctors originally thought, though.  Georgia had a surgery when she was 6 months old to remove the constriction band but then she had to have another surgery last year to lengthen her muscle and tendon (a heel-cord lengthening procedure) so that she could rest her heel on the ground and walk more easily.  The orthopedic surgeons think she may need a third procedure at some point since her two legs are not the same length, but we'll face whatever happens together.

In the meantime, Georgia will continue to do what she does best:  soccer, lacrosse, ballet, yoga, swimming, bicycling, scootering.....  She will continue to live life with a smile on her face and a spring in her imperfect step.  And we will continue to adore her!

Happy Birthday, Georgia!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Center Ice

We had another busy, but fun weekend.  The highlights included the arrival of Gordy's Mom and Dad from California and Henry's two goals at his hockey game on Sunday morning. 

On Friday, Janet and I ran some errands before picking Josie up from kindergarten and taking her out to lunch at a local pub.  Josie was very excited about this event because it combined two of her favorite things:  Janet and eating. 

Doesn't Josie look thrilled to be dining with the ladies?  She didn't look as happy five minutes later when her hotdog slid out of its bun and landed on the floor under the table. 

It was nice for Josie to get this treat because November is the peak of the Nutcracker season and she's been doing nothing but rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing.  Both she and Georgia had Nutcracker rehearsal on Saturday and Georgia also had an additional rehearsal on Sunday.  Luckily, soccer and swimming are over for the year, so it was their only obligation. 

Grandma and Grandpa arrived on Saturday afternoon which allowed Gordy and me to slip off to the Bruins game in Boston.

 It was the Boston Bruins versus the LA Kings and it was a very exciting game.

I'm a New York Rangers fan, myself, but while I live in New England, I will gladly root for the Bruins too.   I love hockey.  I went to my first game (New Jersey Devils) with my friend Jen and her father back in the 1980's and I've been hooked ever since.  Gordy had season tickets to the Rangers when we lived in New York and it was always one of my favorite dates. 

We took this self-portrait at the beginning of the game so as not to annoy the hard-core fans around us.  It was a close game and the LA Kings won in a sudden death shoot-off. 

Sunday morning arrived and.... more hockey.  This time it was Henry's turn on the ice.  Henry's team played a great game and defeated their opponents 4-2.  Henry even scored two of the goals!  It was fun for Grandma and Grandpa to be able to watch such a terrific match and the close score made the whole game very exciting.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the same good luck with my picture taking.  The action shots (through Plexiglas, no less) turned out fine, but the pictures of our family watching the game came out all blurry. 

Here is a photo of blurry Georgia with Josie and Grandma.  This was before Grandma succumbed to the bitter cold of the ice rink and put on a babushka-like hat that made her look like she just stepped off the boat from the old country. 

Now it's Josie's turn to be blurry.  Honestly, I don't have any idea what was going on with my camera.  Maybe it too was affected by the cold?  Maybe it too needed a babushka?

Here is Henry, skillfully maneuvering around the enemy.

Here is Henry putting all those Laura Stamm Power Skating Camp skills to good use. 

After the game, I took a terrific group shot of Gordy, the three children and Grandma & Grandpa ..... which sadly was so blurry that I can't include it without giving you all a major headache.  Luckily, G&G will be here until after Thanksgiving, so I will have ample photo opportunities. 

Hope you enjoyed your weekend, too!
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