To “e” or not to “e”

December 27, 2011

It’s the day after the day after Christmas, and I’m patiently awaiting the arrival of the girls’ gift to me – a Kindle eReader.  There’s been a slight delay in its delivery, but it will be here any day now. To pass the time since Christmas morning, I’ve haunted Pixel of Ink (a lovely site that rounds up daily free eBook offerings), joined a local book club on Facebook, watched my husband’s childlike joy as he plays with his new tablet, and watched far too many reruns of The Big Bang Theory. Oh, and I’ve also finished one dead-tree book and started another.

eReaders were big this Christmas – and that means the eReader-vs-real books debate is big in the days that are following. I follow the threads of conversation and opinion with a slightly amused but completely interested air; I resolved my own which-is-better internal conflict some time ago.

I’m on record as being a voracious reader and book owner; there’s no debate there.  Books -the reading and owning of – are a part of my very core, one of the things that give my personality some of its definition and depth. In fact, reading is so ingrained in our family’s experience that just this week, during Christmas dinner and conversation, my daughter began to share an anecdote she initially attributed to “someone I know” and then stopped herself. “Never mind,” she said. “I just realized I read it in a novel.”

But I jumped on the Kindle bandwagon a year ago, long before I wanted one for myself.  Oldest Daughter was preparing for a work term on a cruise ship; while friends and family wondered about such things as adequate sunscreen, proper nutrition and serviceable footwear, my concern was somewhat different; how, I wondered, would she get enough to read? There was certainly not going to be any space in her tiny, shared crew cabin for even a week’s worth of books, let alone four months’ worth. And restocking would be limited to whatever was offered in shoreside or airport gift shops. That wouldn’t do at all.

So, a Kindle was under the tree last Christmas. And then, in the spring, when the next daughter’s birthday coincided with her impending trip to explore Europe with nothing more than she could carry on her back, the same concern arose -books may be wonderful, and even vital traveling companions, but they’re heavy.

So – 2011 passed with two Kindles in the family, and sometimes in the household. Online accounts were created, and the joy of “one-click” purchasing discovered. Websites were combed for pointers on acquiring free ebooks. Some university textbooks were even purchased in e-form, making it far more likely that they’d actually be read. (lugging 40 pounds of textbooks every day on the bus can suck the joy out of higher learning in a hurry). And yet, still, books in paper form continued to be purchased, consumed, shelved, re-read and cherished.

And Mama, who felt that her work-at-home-amidst-the-bookshelves lifestyle didn’t justify an eReader purchase of her own, got to borrow the Kindles from time to time. And fell in love with the medium herself.

I’d already begun to form a solid relationship with ebooks when Stephen King’s latest novel, 11/22/63 was released. Not normally a King convert, I really wanted to read this book. I was also about to embark on a trip by train to Toronto. I went to Chapters to investigate the newly-released King hardcover. It was heavier than the laptop I needed to travel with, and cost a whopping $40.

In the olden days, I would have chosen at least one of the following options:

  • Borrow the book
  • Wait until it came out in paperback
  • Choose my trip reading material based more on size and heft than on content

Instead, I picked it up for half the cost in its e-version, borrowed my daughter’s Kindle and barely noticed time passing on my four-hour train ride (each way). It also marked the first time I’d paid for a Stephen King book in my life, if you don’t count On Writing.

Flashforward a few more weeks, and I’m working on a school project. How handy it was to download free and nearly free travel guides on the requisite country as I did my research! On the heels of this came a recommendation from a friend about a popular author I’d never tried myself; how convenient to discover he had a few short stories in the Kindle store so that I could try him out first!

By early December, I was ready to move from dating my daughter’s Kindle to committing to one of my own.

I understand the haters’ perspective; the relationship with one’s books is a very personal, intense one. Books are more than just words on the page; they’re tangible proof of the readers’ and writers’ mutual commitment to sharing the experience. Books have a look, a feel, a smell, even a sound, that cannot be translated into a 6-inch screen encased in plastic. For those who spend their days in front of a screen, eReaders appear to threaten the respite we anticipate when we finally turn from our desks and immerse ourselves in the story. For those who are still apprehensive about using technology, it’s one more example of a changing world that seems to be leaving the fundamentals behind.

To the haters, I say, “Relax.” Since the advent of digital cameras, hard-copy scrapbooking as a habit has skyrocketed. Though everyone over the age of 7 appears to carry a cell phone, most people I know still have a “home” phone. And the rise of eReaders appears to have increased the number of people shopping for books. I’m only one person, but Stephen King’s publisher got $20 out of me that they never would have seen otherwise. (by the way, on the same day I purchased the King novel for Kindle, I also spent $20 in Chapters and another $15 on Amazon for actual books I could hold and handle) 

You can love eReaders without unloving your books. You can be a “book person” without thinking eReaders are part of a conspiracy to clear off your shelves. You can embrace both, and everybody wins.

And for someone who was that weird kid who sat on the steps during recess with a paperback in hand, it’s kind of vindicating to know that reading has become “cool.” All of a sudden, strangers on the bus have no qualms in asking me what I’m reading, or how I’m liking it. There’s never been a better time to be “people who read.”

 

After

September 11, 2011

I flew with my four-year-old nephew last week; it was his first flight. I explained to him that he would likely have to remove his shoes as we went through security. He didn’t blink, slipping off his tiny crocs and dumping them into the bin before striding self-importantly through the metal detector ahead of me. Our stories of a time when you didn’t need a passport and could haul your family size bottle of shampoo onto the plane, fall on disinterested ears. For him, for most children, there is no “before” to compare to – the way it is now is the way it’s always been.

There’s an airshow in town this weekend. For the last two days, the afternoon skies have been filled with the momentary deafening roars of F-something-or-others as they pass through the neighbourhood airspace. The approaching sound is not as noticeable as the fade into the distance; all of a sudden, it’s just there, rattling the windows, disturbing the dog from his nap, making it impossible, for that brief moment, to focus on anything. Everything, for just a minute, stops; pedestrians on the sidewalk, kids playing in the park, men and women working in their yards. Even inside, anyone near a window pauses.

We all look to the sky and watch as the planes pass overhead and then move farther away, over the next neighbourhood, and the next, until we can’t see or hear them anymore. Only then, it seems, do we feel able to resume – to continue walking, playing, cutting grass, talking on the phone.

I can’t remember if we looked up before. I can’t remember if the interruption was as noticeable, or if it felt as necessary to watch and wait until the sky was empty again. All I know is that it feels necessary now.

For the last week or so, the annual 9/11 “where were you whens…” have kicked into higher gear than usual, and rightly so. Significant occasions draw far more of our attention on the ones, the fives, the tens. Wedding anniversaries, for example; ten years garners much more excitement than eleven or twelve. It’s simply how it is.

Even in the face of all the remembrance taking place, I hadn’t planned to write about this. After all, the attacks on 9/11 did not happen to my family, my city or my country. Several hundreds of miles and an international border away from New York City, it’s not assumed that 9/11 changed my world one whit. Oh sure, now I need a passport to shop at Target, but even that turned out to be a smaller deal than anyone would have thought.

But to say that 9/11 changed little for me would be dishonest. It may not have changed my day-to-day world in a noticeable way – but it certainly changed my worldview, in ways noticed and not noticed.

September 2001 was already a month of change for me. I’d spent the first ten days of the month as I’d spent the end of August – making daily visits to my husband who was ill and in hospital. The 10th itself had been a difficult day; we’d celebrated his birthday quietly with our daughters in the hospital cafeteria. Through the evening and the night that followed, not one but two of his hospital room-mates had died. Life was already beginning to take on a new element of vulnerability, and the first hints of awareness at how precious and fleeting life could be had occupied my thoughts for several days.

I was about to turn 30 myself, and had taken the first baby steps toward the calling that would morph into a career over the next decade. Online, I’d begun to discover a wider world of ideas and opinions that I could endlessly explore and consider. For the first time that I was aware of, I was starting to feel like an adult, rather than a young mom who was just pretending to be one.

And then, that Tuesday morning.

There are a lot of legacies from that day, large and small. I can recall, with alarming clarity, the blue of the sky as I first heard the news, just after the first plane hit the first tower. Since then, I haven’t seen a sky that blue that I haven’t thought, just for a moment, “It could all change, any minute, any second.” It doesn’t stop me in my tracks; rather, it’s an almost subconscious pause, the thought gone as quickly as it comes: that’s what the sky looked like, just before all hell broke loose.

I don’t know if we ever noticed the sound of a plane passing overhead, before that day. Since then, however, it’s always the same; the half-hearted listening, the almost imperceptible nod as it passes into the distance: that one’s good, it kept on going. In 2009, we experienced a small tornado just two blocks away. I was outside when it happened, and heard the roar of the funnel cloud coming closer to the water tower nearby. I stood rooted to my spot on the porch – I fully expected, in that moment, that a plane was about to crash. Not until I saw debris funneling upward one street over did I realize that it was Nature’s wrath, not man’s, that was barreling down on us.

For me, at least, it was still early days for online media. The Internet was, if not in its infancy, than certainly in the throes of an unpredictable adolescence. I belonged to a writers’ email group, and on an average day, about 150 emails came through. On that day, upwards of 1000 emails were sent to the list, as we discussed and shared what we were seeing, hearing and feeling. Almost no one I knew in my online world read many blogs, let alone wrote their own. Facebook, of course, and Twitter were non-existent. It was the search for more information and broader views on that day, and the days that followed, that ultimately made my world web a little wider.

And then there is the date itself. I feel oddly protective of September 11. I can’t remember if it took two years, or three, before it started to seem “ok” to schedule a meeting, plan a party or otherwise act as if it were any other day. Silly as it may be, it felt, and still feels sometimes, like that’s a day that should have been taken out of circulation, so to speak. Most of the time, I can be rational, and say, it’s just a day. And then someone plans an airshow on the 10th anniversary, and I feel irked, like it’s just plain bad manners to torment us with the sound of roaring jets on this of all weekends.

So, on first contemplation, that’s what I can come up with ten years on: small, barely noticeable changes, just rituals and responses that have become routine. I notice planes. I pack the Lady Gillette in the checked baggage. I know to look beyond the newspapers for insight and opinion.

And yet. There has been an impact, so much greater than all that, and so much more consuming.

9/11 solidified a philosophical shift in me that was already in progress. While I may not wear it on my sleeve, or wave it on a placard, it’s there, quietly guiding my days and offering me comfort when times get tough.

Life, you see, is short, and the presence of loved ones a gift to be cherished. People went to work that day – ordinary people with ordinary trials and triumphs. Some of them had new babies, or new jobs, or new homes. Others had bills piling up, kids struggling in school, spouses they were having a hard time understanding. And at the end of that day, none of that meant a thing. All that mattered was the joy that they made it out alive – or the grief of their families if they didn’t.

Very, very few things in life are as important as we’d like to think they are. If we can not predict the number of days we are given in this life, at least we can impact who we are on the days we are given. I make an effort to be kind, to be understanding, to have compassion. I don’t always succeed, but I always try. I try to show the people I love that they are important to me, either by word or action. Because of that day, ten years ago, I try to make this day count.

In my life, that’s what’s important.

The Things I See

July 14, 2011

I’ll throw myself on the sword and be the first to mention how long it’s been since I posted here – almost 14 months. Yep, really, that long. Were there reasons? Excuses? Barriers to producing prose on this page? Sure there were. But it helps no one, least of all me, to even begin to list them.

What really matters, I suppose, is this realization:

I didn’t stop writing on purpose. However, if I don’t start again on purpose, it may never happen. So here I am, starting on purpose.

Several months ago, a friend and I whiled away a chilly Sunday afternoon in my office making Vision Boards. It was my idea; I’d read, in many places, about how useful/therapeutic/uplifting/invigorating it could be, and I decided we could both use some uplifting, invigorating therapy. Or at least I could, and I wanted company. So we spent a week or so gathering pictures from magazines and such, and I invested in a few cork boards, dug out the glue sticks, and then, on that Sunday, we sat on the floor in my office like teenagers and cut and pasted our vision for the year to come.

My goal for this project was to choose images and words that projected a few ideas:

  • Who am I? Who do I want to be?
  • What is important to me now, and in the year to come?

So this was the end result:

 I will confess, the finished project languished in my office closet for a while, but eventually I got it onto the wall, where it serves as a daily reminder and inspiration. Has it made a difference? Hard to say: I know it’s there, and I stare at it for a while, every now and then, when I’m feeling a little untethered.

I’ve been saying to myself often lately that, “I will blog today.” And finally, today I have. The journey, as they say, starts with a single step. Perhaps, finally, I’m on the road to writing again.

Unreality TV

May 25, 2010

Not long ago, when I was homeschooling The Baby, we did some learning about media literacy, particularly the rules governing advertising to children. It seems to me that one of the rules (no, I didn’t memorize them and I’m not looking them up) had something to do with telling the truth. You know, like, NOT LYING TO CHILDREN.

I got my toddler fix this weekend, the nephew was here for 48 hours. (when your nest is emptying and you’ll be laying no more eggs, you start to borrow chicks just for fun. No, really.) Let’s call him Peanut, which I do, sometimes.

**Side Note** The child is allergic to peanut butter, and here I persist in calling him Peanut. Is it irony, or just bad taste to call him something that could kill him? Kind of like calling someone Arsenic, isn’t it? **End Side Note**

Anywho. During a rare moment when he was actually sitting still instead of dumping a jar full of sesame seeds in the middle of the floor or feeding the dog every treat in the bag, we watched a bit of YTV or Treehouse or something. A guy was making crafts on the screen, and the point of it seemed to be that a kid could make this craft in a minute or something. There was even a little countdown clock in the corner of the screen.

The guy cut a piece of paper in the shape of ears, glued a rock to the paper, stuck two stickers and a smaller rock on the first rock, scribbled with a marker and voila! A Pebble Puppy. In 60 seconds.

I work with 5 to 8 year-olds every week, and let me tell you something about 60-second crafts:

IT’S A LIE.

This is what it looks like in real life:

Kid cuts paper ears. Kid cries because the scissors slipped and the ears are crooked. Kid tries again. Possibly is happy with the result on the third try.

Kid takes cap off of glue stick. Picks up rock, then has to spend three minutes searching for the ears they just cut, which have fallen off the table.

Kid applies glue to paper ears. Kid puts rock on paper ears. Finger sticks to paper ears and paper rips. Kid cuts more paper ears and tries again with the glue and the rock.

Rock keeps falling off the ears. Kid puts more glue on the ears. Adult has to help unstick all the unused scraps of paper that have drifted over.

Rock is finally stuck to ears. Now stickers must be chosen, peeled off, and stuck to rock for eyes. Kid whines because someone else has used the stickers she wanted. Kid finally gets stickers and accidentally sticks one to ears. The other sticker is missing – after five minutes it is located stuck to hem of shirt.

Now for the pebble nose. The pebble must be located, as it has also fallen onto the floor. Fingers are now covered in glue and everything is sticking to fingers instead of to rock.

Time for the marker to add eyeballs, mouth and whiskers!  Oops, the marker slipped and Pebble Puppy now has a large mole on its cheek. And shirt has a new black stripe. Good thing it’s washable, ha ha, as if.

Kid heads off to wash glue and marker from hands, eyebrows and elbows. The cap to the glue AND the marker have disappeared, Pebble Puppy looks like it has been hit by a car, and the kid ultimately leaves for home and forgets to take the 60-second craft they spent 20 minutes making.

For gifted kids, add five minutes discussing whether the paper ears should be brown or purple, how puppies don’t HAVE two noses, and how they’d really rather just draw a picture with the markers on this scrap of paper, thankyouverymuch.

Truth in children’s programming, my foot.

The turning of a page

May 4, 2010

I have been reading, with as much interest as I ever did, blogs from DaMomma, Kira and Dooce, three women who have at least one thing in common-  they have all had babies in the last year or so. As they share the joys and challenges that have come with adding to their household’s numbers, I giggle and nod knowingly; I well remember those early years, when things like bedtimes, grocery shopping and tiny pink shoes were such an integral part of the shape of each day.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that getting from Point A to Point B often resembled military manouvers with their planning, precision and sheer unpredictability in the outcome. I once heard an Early Childhood Education professor describe parenting thusly: Imagine you’re in the cockpit of a jumbo jet, tasked with bringing the behemoth plane in for a safe and happy landing. You’ve never done it before,  have no training, there’s no instruction manual, and your co-pilot is just as clueless as you. It’s also foggy. Now add in three kids pounding on the cockpit door, demanding the drinks cart be brought back around THIS MINUTE.

I read these women, and others like them, and I want to tell them one thing: Love every minute of it, because before you know it, the plane’s on the ground, your passengers have taken their luggage and caught a connecting flight, and all that’s left to do is empty the trash bags and scrub the lavatory.

When my kids were small, I often heard, “This too shall pass.” I always assumed that was a promise, not a threat. Now, here we are, just a few blinks later, and we’ve gone from jumbo jet to twin-engine, and the remaining passenger just glances up from her iPod every now and then to say, “Can you drop me at the mall? “

In rapid succession, the almost-grown-ups have grown up, and are flying the coop, in one way or another. Suddenly, all the chairs fit around the table, days pass without the basement light being turned on, and no one is stealing my socks. It doesn’t take an engineering degree to pack the car trunk for a weekend away.

Oddly enough, though my nest is nearly empty, my basement is still full. I remember Erma Bombeck lamenting the tendency of college students to take everything that wasn’t mailed down when they left home. This is not true – first apartments and dorm rooms don’t hold much, and so the house now feels a little like a storage facility. I’m tempted to charge a fee.

I’ve really been surprised by what a struggle this has been for me. I have always had things other than “mother” to define myself with. I work, I volunteer, I have friends of my own. I have a co-pilot who still enthralls me with intelligent conversation. And, of course, I still have one more chick who’s got several years yet before she can fly on her own.

I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s not so much empty-nest as it is a psychological and emotional morning-after-the-party thing. You know, everyone had a fantastic time, and you danced until dawn. If you’re lucky, the party was fantastic – good times, lots of laughs, heart-warming memories to take out and look at when you’re feeling a bit down.

But then the party’s over and you have to drag yourself out of bed to start clearing up the dishes, taking out the trash, and running the vacuum over the floor. It sucks, a little bit.

So yeah, it passes. Much, much more quickly than you think. So, like the song says: Don’t blink.

Hole Language

May 1, 2010

The Girl With Two Lovely Knees (that’s what we call her now, since her second surgery this winter) started school when “whole language” was the Thing To Do in early literacy. The baby known as Phonics had, at that point, been thrown out with the bathwater, and primary reading focused on teaching children to read using a combination of word recognition and cues. Something like this:

If this word is “cat” and this word is “food” then this word must be “eating” or “ate”.

Their books, of course, had pictures, to help you conclude that, yes, in fact, the cat was eating the food, rather than throwing it, cooking it or poisoning it.

Since then, Whole Language has mostly gone “out”, the bathwater has been retreived, and the value of learning to read through phonics has been recognized.

Side note: When she was halfway through Grade One, I bought Hooked On Phonics and filled in the gaps at home.

Recently, I’ve been teasing her that her early experiences with Whole Language don’t appear to have done her any good in hearing things properly either.

For years, I used a phrase when the kids were in a particularly complaining mood: Don’t hassle me with your sighs, Chuck. It’s a phrase from the Peanuts cartoon, Peppermint Patty used to say it to Charlie Brown frequently. It wasn’t until just a year or so ago that Knee Girl realized I wasn’t saying, “Don’t hassle me with your SIZE, Chuck.”

When questioned, she admitted that her version didn’t make any sense, but that I’m often a mystery to her anyway, so she didn’t worry too much about it.

And just a few months ago, I used the phrase “Fish or cut bait.” From the backseat, she said, “Fish are good plate?”

Turns out, we’re all prone to what they call “aural malapropisms.”  Hence this article I saw on Sympatico today:

http://inmusic.ca/photos/themes/Articles/misheard_lyrics

What song lyric do you always mis-hear?

Even my books don’t have titles

April 30, 2010

This blog had 16 hits last Friday. If you were one of them, I apologize for the dust and cobwebs. Let’s clear them away and settle in again, shall we?

I went on a late night chips-and-salsa run this evening…

<instant shiny thing> Late night, she says. It’s 11:45 p.m. Oh, how the mighty Night Owl has fallen!

Anyway, the chips and salsa run. The clerk – who, while probably not 40, was almost definitely at least 30, putting her firmly in the same age range as me (that range being old enough that I don’t feel compelled to refer to her as “the little girl behind the counter” unlike the 20-something “little girl who works at the gas station”), addressed me 5 times in 5 minutes with the following title: Miss

Good evening Miss. Will that be all Miss? Have a good evening Miss. You get the picture. And I was irked.

Miss, for me, conjures a picture of someone somewhat like Little Bo Beep. You know, skirted and bonneted, demure, quiet, content to sit placidly in the meadow while her sheep get up to who knows what, who knows where.

“Miss” is also what children begin to call all their teachers somewhere around the First Grade when they realize they’re going to have a dozen-plus teachers in their lifetimes and by calling them all “Miss” you don’t have to remember anyone’s name.

I am not the Little Bo Peep type. And throughout all my years of volunteering at the children’s school, I was always tempted to smack the children that called me “Miss.” (I didn’t though)

This comes on the heels of my just-today realization that the government addresses me as “Madam.” Me and my government, we correspond – and every single letter that is addressed to me personally regarding my personal government business follows my name and address with “Dear Madam.”

I am suddenly highly annoyed by this. I am not a Madam, in any sense of the word. I’m probably over-reacting, but I find it archaic, aloof, and somewhat demeaning. Like someone’s looking pointedly over their pince-nez while saying it. They obviously know my first name – why don’t they use it?

Mrs, I’m a little vanilla on. It doesn’t bother me, per se, but it doesn’t warm my heart, either. I’ve never been offended when the children’s friends address me as Mrs; I can appreciate that they believe it’s a necessary indication of respect for my adult-ness. But it’s okay with me if they call me by my first name too, particularly children of friends who are often more like family.

Ma’am leaves me cold too. See Little Bo Peep, only retired.

But it doesn’t leave much for strangers with whom I come into casual contact, like store clerks. I once frequented a store where the clerk called me “dear.” Didn’t bother me a whit – I liked being someone’s “dear” even if I was one of hundreds.

I tend to call people “hon,” as in “honey” (NOT “hunny”, thanks Internet for perpetuating another mis-spelling)  including the girls’ boyfriends, which probably embarasses the boys, so I’ll work on that. But I’m sure they’d feel just as awkward if I suddenly started calling them “Sir.”

Perhaps I’ll just call everyone Little Bo Peep(or Little Boy Blue) – has a nice ring, don’t you think?

The obligatory “there goes another decade” post

December 31, 2009

There’s something about tens, isn’t there? Looking at things in groups of ten keeps everything neat and orderly. It’s one of the reasons Top Ten lists are so popular, every day of every year of every decade. And now, not only are we coming to an end of a group of ten, it’s the FIRST group of ten of a whole century – the 2000s.

Except for a very lucky (and very healthy?) few, most of us will only ever experience the dawn of a century once.  Looking back at myself in the waning days of 1999, I hardly recognize myself. I typed my aimless musings and cutesie stories in the wee small hours on a 386, and when I bothered to back anything up, it was on a floppy disk that didn’t flop. (diskette) Only one of the children had achieved double digits, age-wise. I supplemented alimony and child support by wearing a blue vest and changing watch batteries during the Christmas season for barely more than minimum wage. I’d never crawled around the World Wide Web or sent an email, and the pictures I took were limited to the number of exposures granted by the film in my 35mm camera.

Ha! Ten years is a short period of time, but it is a very long period of time, too. I met the year 2000 with batteries and bottled water aplenty, and thought I was prepared. But life, as they say, is what happens when you’re making other plans. I’m glad I didn’t think too far ahead – how many exciting detours and scenic routes would I have missed if I’d had it all mapped out?

So, in the spirit of Top Tens of all kinds, here’s my personal Top Ten of the last ten years.

  1. I came face to face with the talent for writing I’d had inside of me all along, and realized the joy that came with exercising that talent.
  2. I discovered, almost simultaneously with #1, the online and in-person communities and resources that support me in the exercise of that talent.
  3. So many great books and writers – from Gabladon to Gladwell – that broadened my horizons, deepened my interests and inspired my imagnings.
  4. Being given the opportunity to do what I love while providing for my family at the same time.
  5. My iPod shuffle. Seriously, can you remember what it was like to flip over a cassette in the old Walkman while on the go? Not to mention the suitcase necessary to cart all your music along with you?
  6. Children who have, and are, growing up into amazing young women.
  7. Elastic walls and The Man’s ability to make miracles with 2x4s and drywall. We may not have all the space we want, but there always seems to be the space we need.
  8. Turning 30. I worried about it, you know. Turns out, my thirties really were better than my twenties. I’m almost looking forward to my forties in a couple years. Almost.
  9. Great friends I didn’t know ten years ago – a “village” comprised of people who care for me and mine, that I can’t imagine life without.
  10. My family – the husband, the children, the siblings, the parents -has weathered the changes and challenges of the last ten years with grace and generosity, and that we’ve recognized that it all comes down to loving one another for who and what we are.

Happy new year!

And what a hoopla it was

November 19, 2009

The Baby turned 13 last week – I know! – and had decided, quite some time ago, that turning 13 required a “bash” of the highest order.  I even offered her Black Friday cash in lieu of a party, but she didn’t bite.

So, a bash we did have. She hadn’t thought about much beyond who she wanted there and what she wanted to eat, so as we readied the invitations, we started to make decisions. In the end, although it was a combination of themes, I’m pretty sure a good time was had by all. The kids – all 16 of them, aged 12-14, seemed to really enjoy themselves. So here’s how we did it.

The party was held in the community room of a relative’s apartment building to accomodate the Baby’s friends and family members (I think the final tally was about 30). On the invitations, we asked guests to wear their fancy clothes a a masquerade mask.

We decorated the room in an array of purple, gold and silver. Purple and silver tablecloths, gold doilies with a floating tealight in a glass dish, and gold star ctable confetti. Silver and purple stars hung from the ceiling, and streamers and balloons rounded things out.

Dinner was buffet-style, simple penne and salad. And potato chips – lots and lots of potato chips. And cake, of course.

Stumped for entertainment beyond karaoke, we rented a Crown & Anchor Wheel and Blackjack mat from a nearby rental company. Each guest was given an equal number of poker chips to play with. No one was forced to play – they could also sing karaoke or just sit and loiter, the way teens do. But the kids really took to it – karaoke was quickly abandoned.

After about an hour of gaming, guests were directed to the Auction Table. I’d prepared 16 gift bags, all different sizes, with dollar store items and candy inside. However, the kids didn’t know what was inside the bags, so they were invited to use their “winnings” to “bid” on the bag of their choice.

Everyone opened the bag they’d “won” at the same time, to find that, in spite of shape and size the contents were all equal in value. Things like silly putty, light-up keychains, funky shoelaces, hand sanitizers (ah, the age of H1N1), Post-its, etc.

They really seemed to have a good time.The boys even wore ties, and only one kid didn’t have a mask.  There were adults present the whole time (someone had to run the Crown & Anchor) and the kids didn’t seem to mind. And it seems that kids are a little less rambunctious when they’re dressed up!

And now the Baby is 13!

Smiling on Saturday

November 15, 2009

Five things to smile about this Saturday:

  1. I bumped into Mr. Brennan, who was one of the BEST teachers my kids ever encountered.
  2. The sun was shining.
  3. I had a marvelous three-hour nap.
  4. I finally got the H1N1 shot, and didn’t have to wait in line for it.
  5. It’s been six days since the dog peed in the house.

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