Sunday, January 31, 2010

Father Figure

January 31, 2010

I haven't had a dad in my life since mine passed away when I was eighteen years old. Truth be told, he wasn't a prominent figure for me the five years or so prior, our relationship a casualty of a particularly bitter divorce and subsequent custody battle. I mean no disrespect; it was simply a fact of our lives.

Most of the time, I am at peace with this. I am sorry that my dad missed the big ones--my wedding, getting to meet his grandchildren, etc., but my everyday adult life has never known a dad, so it's not something I miss keenly. And yet, I realize at key moments, that there was something missing, something many take for granted.

Not long ago, we celebrated the 70th birthday of Paul Krepp, the dad of our very good friends David, Cheryl, and Dennis. As I was sitting with pen to paper attempting to sign the birthday card with something suitable to the occasion--something to convey the appropriate sentiments--I found myself a bit lost in the attempt. Paul and Carol, over the years, have opened their hearts and their homes to us. For over 25 years, they have been a part of our lives, offering comfort or congratulations or advice or whatever was, at the time, warranted. They have witnessed the weddings, held the babies, and attended the funerals that were important to our family. They have, most importantly, loved us. Each milestone along the way, I have had, though not my dad, a father figure (and a mother figure), who have helped to fill a void I'm not sure I even realized was there. How to express the importance of that in a short three lines on a Hallmark card? I'm not sure it's possible, or at least not by one as ineloquent as I am. To say that I love Paul and respect him is inadequate, true as it is. A little lost in the reverie, I got a little too emotional, and I found I simply didn't have the words to say what I wanted to say. Ultimately, the card read merely, "I am so thankful you are such an important part of our lives." I hope that he could read the depth of my gratitude in those words, and in my eyes as well.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cold as Ice

January 29, 2010

Despite the fact that it's January, the weather has been especially mild this winter, with the exception of a few days here and there. Last week we had one of those exceptions when a hailstorm hit our neighborhood a little bit out of the blue. I was driving Nicholas and Danielle home from school, and it had just started sprinkling. As we drove closer to home, we realized that it was beginning to hail--lightly at first, and then quite earnestly. Now I know some of you may live with pretty inclement weather all winter, but this was a pretty novel experience for our kids. They couldn't wait til we got home, just so they could stand outside and be pelted with the pebble-sized ice falling from the sky.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Winter Formal--Bree's Junior Year

January 19, 2010

Saturday was the Winter Formal at our school. I've been to lots of them, since I love to chaperone the big dances at our school, but this was a special one, since this was the first time Bree attended.

During Christmas, her boyfriend Jeff asked her to the formal, via a sweet message delivered by the stuffed animal that was his Christmas gift to her. Both his parents and I got to be there to see the exchange--it was pretty adorable.

She and I spent some time shopping for dresses and shoes, and making hair and nail appointments for her. Luckily, she's not an extravagant sort of kid, so although she wanted to look beautiful for the big night, she was not out trying to break the Bank 'o Mom, which I appreciate. Ultimately, she decided on a simple but elegant black dress, accented with some killer shoes and rhinestone jewelry.

On Saturday afternoon, Bree and three other girls all got together to get ready at the house of one of the girls. After about an hour, the boys--their dates--all joined them. Parents were then invited to come have our photo op moments between 6-7, while the kids were waiting for their limo to arrive. (I never got a limo to go to any of my dances in, but it seems that's the thing they all do now. Our kids were pretty smart, though--rather than paying to have the limo wait outside the dance for a few hours, they only rented it to take them to dinner and then back to the dance. Parents dropped off cars at the school so that some of the kids could drive everyone else home once the dance was over. It was a pretty smart way to get a little elegance without over-extending their pocketbooks.)

Once the limo driver settled them all in their luxurious ride, they headed off to BJ's, where they had a reservation for dinner at 7:30. It was apparently a popular place, as several large groups chose to dine there. Good thing they had reservations! At the same time, I made my way over to the school, where I settled in at my assigned task as ticket-taker for the night's event. That's a pretty great gig, by the way, if you're going to chaperone a dance. You get to see all of the kids all dressed up coming in the door, their bellies filled with good food and their feet not yet swollen from the uncomfortable heel heights and unfamiliar straps of brand new tortuous (but beautiful!) shoes. The night is still young and fresh with anticipation. Plus, if you're at the door, you don't have to see those elegantly dressed young men and women writhing suggestively on the dance floor on the opposite side of the room, pressed too closely together for the comfort of anyone over the age of 23 whose job it is, by virtue of being witness to the provocative nature of their dances, to wrest the bodies asunder. Especially given that my daughter would be one of the kids on the dance floor that night, those were not images I needed to have in my brain. Nope, I'll leave the dance floor policing to someone else, thank you very much, and just enjoy the polite chit-chat of the attendees at the door, complimenting the gentlemen on their sophisticated tuxes, and the ladies on their finery.

(As a side note, let me just say that year in and year out, I am amazed at some of the dresses these girls' mamas and daddies let them walk out the door wearing. I mean, yes, I get that if you've got it, you are proud to show it off. But really--are these girls taking their moms shopping with them when they pick out dresses that are almost short enough to be able to see what color panties they've coordinated with? Are the moms looking at these dresses that are so tight they might as well have been painted on their bodies? Are the dads so proud that their daughters can pull off the Barbie Doll look that they're willing to send out that kind of message to the boy who is lucky enough to get to be by her side for the evening? Not that I'm advocating long sleeves, high necklines, and hemlines that fall modestly just below the ankle bone. No, I just think that a dress that a sixteen year old girl wears out in public ought to be comprised of more material than it takes to create a standard pillowcase.)

Anyway, Bree and her group of friends arrived at the dance somewhere around nine-thirty, and stayed to dance until the last song. As promised, I stayed away from her during the dance so that she didn't have to worry about me hovering, and therefore stealing away a bit of their autonomy, which after all, is a big part of what these nights are about. You get to try on a little bit of a new you, when you're a kid attending formal. You dress yourself in the robes of an adult--new and somewhat foreign clothes. You take on, maybe for the first time, the responsibility of ordering and paying for dinner on your own; you learn the etiquette of both figuratively and literally dancing around members of the opposite sex; you negotiate the gentle art of leave-taking at the end of a pleasant (or even not so pleasant, as can sometimes happen) night.

This is what the dance was, is. A metaphor of becoming. I am watching my daughter, and all of her friends, these children who in my mind's eye are yet five years old, or seven, or twelve--whatever age they were when they first fell into the orbit of her world (and by extension, mine), become simultaneously sixteen, seventeen, twenty-four. Becoming who they will become. They are standing on the edge, testing out their wings before taking flight.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Guys and Dolls

January 10, 2010

Bree tried out for the high school's production of "Guys and Dolls" this past week, and was pretty excited to make call-backs on Friday. We learned Friday night that she will be taking on the role of one of the Salvation Army girls. I'm so proud of her! I've always been a little bit in awe of both of my sisters, who are performers by nature, and I'm thrilled that Bree (and Danielle, too, who is already in rehearsal mode for her elementary's production) has the confidence and ability to let herself shine under the spotlights. I'm hoping that she enjoys the experience so much that she'll continue to be involved in other productions as she finishes out her last year and a half of high school.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Christmas Part 2, New Year's Eve, and Softball Saturday

January 8, 2010

We had a wonderfully prolonged Christmas this year, since we had our family celebration on Christmas with Doug's side of the family, and then a week later with my side of the family.
Lisa and her girls came up to visit on New Year's eve, and arrived at around six. I gathered up my kids and my hubby, and we all went over to Jim's house for the festivities. We had a taco/burrito bar set up for dinner--nothing formal, but tasty and filling. We also had a few close friends come join our little family gathering. It was great having Bill and Pat and Michele hanging out with us. Naturally, the evening turned toward karaoke after everyone had let their dinner settle a bit, and almost everyone took a turn at the microphone. After awhile, we broke out the board games and settled into competitive rounds of Scattergories and Sorry.

Just before midnight, we broke out the champagne and sparking apple cider to get ready to toast the New Year. There was Carson Daly, the on-screen countdown,the Ball dropping in Times Square, and then, of course, much clinking of glasses, hugs and kisses, and well-wishes for the year to come. There aren't a lot of people I would rather be with ushering in a New Year.
The next day was our Christmas part 2--the celebration of the cousins. Lisa's family and mine (along with Jim and Kathryn) got to exchange gifts among ourselves. The kids were all pretty excited that they had more presents to open a week after Christmas was over. Afterwards, the discarded paper and ribbons and bows decorated the floor of the living room while the kids all checked out their new toys. We grown-ups got in a little bit of an afternoon nap, which is a bit of a Christmas gift in and of itself.

Earlier in the day, my sister Laura had called to let us know that she would, in fact, be able to come up for the holidays for a quick two day visit, which was a welcome but unexpected surprise. She was traveling with her boyfriend and expected to arrive in the early evening. In the meantime, my kids' dad had plans to have dinner with not just our kids, but all of Lisa's as well. As it turns out, he was brave enough to take all of them (six of 'em) on for an overnight visit. That left us a little time to hang out as adults with Laura and her boyfriend before subjecting him to the firehose that can be our children in full force at Christmas-time.

Laura and her boyfriend Jonathan, Jim and Lisa, and Doug and I all went out to eat dinner at Applebee's. When we were done, we decided to walk across the parking lot to the bowling alley, where we all bowled pitifully but had a grand time doing so. (In all fairness, perhaps you couldn't call Jim's bowling pitiful, but I'm fairly certain that the rest of us fall pretty safely into that category.) Even Doug and Jim, who can be notoriously competitive, managed to scale it back a little and just enjoy the evening, even when it meant laughing at ourselves. Not ready yet to call it a night, we all came back to my place to play a little more Scattegories. We had a lot of fun, but realized the moratorium on competitive spirit only lasts just so long. For some people, playing the game is the fun; for some people, winning the game is the fun. It's probably a good thing we stopped when we did!

The next day was the real highlight of vacation. We decided to have a softball rematch (our first one was after Thanksgiving), and once again, we sent out the word to all of our friends who were in town. We welcomed anyone who wanted to show up, and we had quite a good turn-out. I believe it was close to thirty people, including Grandma, who came out to watch. Lisa and I were team captains again, this time heading up Team Danger and Team A Dingo Ate My Baby (Team Dingo, for short). Lots of strikes (Seven strikes? That's okay, let's try it again.), wild over-throwing to basemen (who were sometimes of the three-feet-tall variety), an abundance of good-natured heckling, and one super collision between Sister Captains later, Team Danger emerged victorious. The game wrapped up with team pictures and then a little jaunt to the adjacent playground for some swinging, monkey bars, and a rousing game of tag.

Later that evening, we dropped in our favorite local pizza place in full force. We had other friends who joined us there, so we definitely filled the house. As always, the pizza at Me 'n Ed's was great, but the time with family and friends was priceless. Thanks to our Facebook posts, we even had people join us we hadn't seen in years--it was so great catching up with every one! Afterwards, my darling daughter Brianna agreed to babysit some of the kids who were in attendance, and the adults went out for a little while to sing karaoke. Bree adores the kids she was watching, and all of the adults had a fabulous time. (We were especially excited that Lisa, David, and Carrie were all in town--that doesn't happen nearly enough!)

Incredible family, incredible friends, incredible couple of days.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year, Not So New Resolutions

January 4, 2010

Here we go again with New Year's Resolutions. Those of you who are observant will notice that they're awfully close to last year's. That's because I think last year's were pretty good, even though I didn't quite accomplish them all. I'm taking them and modifying, based on my starting point as of now.

1. First and foremost, I want to continue to try to be the best mom and wife I can be. It is my goal to continue to be at my kids' activities and events whenever humanly possible, and to really be a good listener and teacher for my kids, while at the same time loving and laughing and enjoying all of the wonderful qualities that make them unique individuals. I also want to be a true support for Doug and continue to work to keep our partnership and friendship at the forefront of our priorities.

2. I also want to maintain the consistency I've set with the chores and expectations I have for the kids. We started out sweet and simple last year, but there are more tasks that my kids can take on in order to help them gain confidence and self-sufficiency.

3. I want to plan at least one family trip and at least one adults-only trip this year.

4. I'm going to keep my goal of watching at least 10 classic movies that I haven't seen, and reading at least 5 classic novels I haven't gotten under my belt yet. I didn't quite manage this one in the past year, but I'm going to endeavor to pace myself a little better this year.

5. I plan to undertake the immense project of scanning all of my old photos into digital form. Since I am a picture-taking fiend, this will be a massive undertaking. I'll be able to do some during the school year, but I imagine the bulk of it will take place during the summer time, when I have no essays to grade. (I got a start on this one last summer, but now realize that if I manage to scan even half of the pictures I have, that will be a major success.)

6. Like most everyone else I know, I'm going to try to eat better, exercise more (find a work-out partner who suits my style, or figure out a way Lisa and I can be long-distance workout partners), focus a little bit more on my writing (try to get something published, either in print form or on-line), and be more organized (get all of the closets and drawers organized, and tackle the garage). I'm a work in progress, and these are the areas I'll continue to focus on in my life. These goals are less about a number, and more about a general improvement in quality of life. I doubt seriously that these goals in particular will ever be fully attained; they are on-going. As long as I make strides, I'm happy.