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August 2008

Butterflies

I woke up early and couldn't go back to sleep this morning. There are butterflies in my stomach and I feel a bit on edge. It's the same feeling I'd have on my first days of school, except this time it's not my first day, it's Trouble's.

Trouble likes to complain about having to go back to school. He doesn't like all the work he has to do. However this morning, he was in good spirits and ready to go. Not at all nervous or excited or grouchy, just bright-eyed and ready to start second grade. The bus showed up five minutes early and he just made it. I'm hoping they manage to send him home on the right bus this year. Last year on the first day of school, when his bus showed up, he wasn't on it. It took another twenty or thirty minutes for the bus he was on to drop him off. After that, we didn't have too many bus issues. But that first day of school, with the buses and new teacher, new classroom, new grade, new classmates - it's nerve racking. At least it is for me, even if it isn't for him.

We were watching coverage of the convention on the news this morning. Trouble was asking us all sorts of questions about John McCain and Barack Obama and what they want to do if they are elected President. He takes much more interest in these issues than I did at his age, I have to say. I find that encouraging. He was so cute. He asked me this morning, "What's a Barack Obama?"

I'll be thinking about him all day. What teacher did he get? I'll want to scour her web page when I find out. Will he like her? I know all the second grade teachers are women. Will his best friend be in his class? I certainly hope not. I wouldn't wish the two of them in the same class on any teacher. Will he find someone to play with at recess? Trouble can be a bit sensitive. Will he get targeted by a bully? He is learning some karate skills, but I'd prefer him not putting those to good us. Have you been watching Weeds this season? When Shane starts his new school and is all wound up about trying to fit in, his tactic is to identify the most popular kid in school and then wack him in the face with his lunch tray and tell the kid not to fuck with him. I totally get that. He's NOT going to be a target for tormenting after that. I'd prefer Trouble not be driven to such lengths to make school socially bearable. He's a little young for such drastic actions, but I'm sure middle school will be on us before I know it.

We're not there yet, though. To Trouble, butterflies and school probably makes him think more of Don't be Silly Ms. Millie and her saying, "Butterfly, children," rather than the stress of fitting in or disliking his teacher. I'd like to be able to make it stay that way for him, but that I have absolutely no control over. Hence, my own butterflies, which are not at all silly.

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Too Cool

I had a meeting with a company I do quite a bit of work for lately, lets just say they buy and sell used machine parts. I've built them online applications that allows vendors from all over the country to sell them parts. Today I was able to tour their warehouse where they're receiving these parts and sorting them for re-sale or scrap. These parts are all invoiced online and marked with UPC tags generated and printed from the application I built for them. At the moment, they're still typing the codes into a computer to log them, but they're planning to be able to do this with scanning guns before long. It's amazing to see the reality of the whole system actually working, to see my tags on the parts in these orders. Very cool.


What I Learned on my Summer Vacation

Taking a vacation with your kids is not at all relaxing. It's a great deal of work, and while it can be fun, it most assuredly will not be fun the entire time and will absolutely cause you to question what drove you to subject yourself to the ordeal that is traveling with children in the first place.

It seems to me that vacationing with your kids is much like many sexual fantasies - somehow it's not as much fun as you thought it was going to be.(ie. In the movies when they have sex on the beach, how come the sand never seems to get into those places sand should never be? And how does one have sex in the shower without worrying either that it's not clean enough or you're getting bleach rubbed vigorously into your skin? Not to mention the concern of getting seriously hurt trying to balance on a slippery surface.) At the end of three hours in the car with my children, the only thing I'm ready for is to take a flying leap off a cliff. They had their Leapsters, coloring books and crayons, toys, but all they did was fight over everything and throw their toys at each other. I do have a traveling DVD player I bought for long trips, but the darn thing is finicky as all hell and never seems to work when I put it in the car. In the house it works fine, put in the car, it won't play. Just another thing about traveling that's a pain in the ass.

My kids did enjoy Storyland, but I don't think I'd go back, and Blackstone has already informed me that he WILL NOT go back, so there you go. The boys have been and they're done . . . period. I'm not shedding any tears. LT's still too short to go on most of the rides there by himself. Since Blackstone gets motion sickness, that leaves me standing in line with the kids and whirling around in circles all day. It doesn't make me sick, but damn have I had enough at the end of the day. I've also realized it's a good idea to go to ANY AND ALL theme parks in a bathing suit. I knew to go to Sesame Place in one, but I wish I'd done the same with Storyland. The rafting ride in particular will soak you. I let Blackstone handle that one while I tried to get my head to stop spinning. Also a good idea to stick to water shoes or sandals, and under no circumstances should you attempt to walk around barefoot. Blackstone singed the soles of his feet at Sesame Place.

I am not a good traveler. I know this about myself. I have sinus problems, allergies and back problems. I'm used to the temperature and humidity of RI, sleeping on a tempurpedic mattress and pillow, and in the winter, using a humidifier. I travel with my pillow, so does my husband. When we stayed at the Marriott in PA, that went very well. The air quality was good, for once my sinuses weren't killing me. The beds were comfortable. The room was clean. It's about all I ask from a hotel. The condo we stayed at in NH was nice. It did have the stale, musty smell of a place that spends too much time closed up. The bed was not up to my high standards. But the view was gorgeous, we opened all the windows and aired the place out real well, and we had ample space. The Best Western we stayed at in MA on the last night was horrendous. The carpets were filthy, there were water stains on the ceiling in the bathroom, the beds were uncomfortable and the air quality was terrible. There was also a dog show going on at the hotel. I've never seen pets in a hotel before. It hadn't occurred to me to ask. There were bugs in some of the pre-packaged muffins at breakfast. I didn't see them, but Blackstone told me about it, eewww! All that and the vile coffee found me leaving the hotel with a splitting headache, nausea and  caused me to vomit on the car ride home. It is unlikely that I will ever book a room in a Best Western again. Somehow I thought I could manage one quick overnight just about anywhere, but that is definitely not the case. Go ahead and call me a diva. If I have to book at the Marriot or better in order to sleep, breathe and eat it in peace, then so be it.

The next trip we take will be without the little hellions. And as much as I may be a bad traveler, that doesn't stop me from wanting to travel. I can't wait for our next trip, which will be to the Dominican Republic in April, to stay in a nice adult resort, where I expect much of the food, beds and air quality. I just put down the deposit today. And I will spend almost every blessed minute of the travel experience saying prayers of thanks that my children are not with me, that I don't have to referee over who has what toy, or pull over the car because they're throwing crayons out the window.

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Wild Things

I hate to make universal judgments about boys and girls. I know some little girls who are pretty rough and tumble little girls, but somehow little boys just seem to run, fight, play in the dirt, and love bugs more, at least in general. And more parents than not, when they discover I have two boys, will kind of open their eyes a little wider and ask apprehensively what that's like, unless of course they have two boys of their own, then the look is much more commiserable. It's kind of crazy and dirty. I doubt it would be exactly the same if I had two girls, or even a boy and a girl, I think it might be more similar to having two dogs, but then I've never had dogs, so maybe not.

But even as having boys go, mine are almost in a class all their own. I've always watched their crazy antics, boundless energy, and absolute fearlessness, and shrugged it off as just boys will be boys. And maybe that's true to a degree, but I'm starting to think that my boys are kind of at the forefront of that assumption. They have always been the little toddlers in their swimming classes not the least bit afraid of the water. They could barely walk, but when they put that flimsy mat at the edge of the pool for the kids to jump off of, mine flung themselves with their unsturdy legs, racing to the edge of the mat and jumping with every ounce of momentum they could gather into the water, not even taking the time to assess whether Blackstone or I were there to catch them. Getting a good dunking didn't phase them a bit.

They're constantly finding new ways to hurt themselves - sliding down the banister, climbing the outside of stair cases, climbing out windows, sliding down the stairs in a sleeping bag, climbing fences and trees. They've recently started karate lessons and I find the other parents gazing at me in a combination of fear and awe as they watch my boys run and jump. They are both easily the fastest runners and highest, longest jumpers in their respective age groups. You may be wondering what running and jumping has to do with karate. I have no idea. Maybe nothing. They run relays and jump over bars at certain heights. I think it's about listening, precision, athletic ability and keeping it fun for them. And then there's all the kicks, punches, and combinations. It's not like they've got all that down yet, but they're enjoying the hell out of it, no doubt.

Trouble, being in an older age group, has some competition. There's a girl whose got about a head of height on him and she can outrun him occasionally. Especially, once his asthma kicks in and he starts coughing. It's enough to slow him down a bit, but not for him to want or need to stop. LT, being in the four-year-old group and used to running around with older kids, there's no one who can touch him. I watch the other kids and see their apprehension in running up to the bar and sort of putting one foot, then the other over, not really jumping but stepping over. One little boy runs right up to the bar and stops and says, "I can't do it!" and has to be coaxed into stepping over. LT has no hesitation whatsoever. He runs and launches himself into a flying leap that clears the bar three feet high and three feet long, in a move that would make experienced hurdlers jealous. And he's got nothing on his older brother, that's where he learned it all.

I'm thinking lately, that it may not entirely be about them being boys, that perhaps not all boys are quite so fearless, boundless in their energy, and blessed with such speed and agility. They're night owls too. I could hear LT playing in his room last night while I danced on the edge of consciousness around 10 PM. I have no idea what time he actually decided to go to sleep. And I know Trouble's been putting on his television and watching TV until who-knows-when after we put him to bed at night. At least he's quiet about it. Going to be a rude awakening when he has to start getting up before seven in a few weeks, though.

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Breaking Dawn - The Flip Side

I have to admit that Breaking Dawn was my least favorite of all the Twilight books. Though, when I get caught up in a series the way I have with this one, I'm willing to overlook a great deal. Stephenie Meyer had already caught me hook, line and sink-her, so all she had to do at this point was keep me mildly entertained and I was pretty much willing to forgive her just about anything. I really enjoyed the read and was not looking for anything to criticize, so it surprised me when I finished and started fishing around a bit, that many people were very dissatisfied with Breaking Dawn. To the point where people were burning the book and making an issue out of returning it. I can't say I follow any of that. The mere fact that Meyer has instigated so much fascination with her books is quite a coup for her. To say she was under an enormous amount of pressure over the reception of this novel is a terrific understatement. I have nothing but the utmost respect and awe for what she has been able to accomplish and praise her for creating such a cult classic.

I read one person's complaint over how it could be possible for a vampire to produce sperm. Oh, so you're perfectly willing to accept the vampires and the werewolves, but not the vampire sperm? You should have checked your reality at the door, people. I thought we all knew this wasn't grounded in reality. But speaking with Curls, she brought up some criticisms which I had been willing to overlook. Meyer broke greatly with some of her character development in Breaking Dawn. She had some responsibility to be true to the characters she had developed and with some she faltered. Charlie is likely the biggest example of this. In the first three novels, Charlie was greatly concerned over Bella, but in Breaking Dawn he becomes this absentee father at first, and then this person who's all too willing to accept being disillusioned. It doesn't quite fit. Charlie knew that Bella was gravely ill, yet he never tried to see her? I would have been on the first plane to Atlanta or wherever, and I would have expected that of Charlie. He never went to the Cullen's after he was aware that she was there? Then when he does see her, he's all too willing to accept these half-truths and unexplainable occurrences, on a need-to-know basis? It just doesn't make sense. The Charlie we all got to know shouldn't have behaved that way. I can't argue with Curls on that one.

I was a bit annoyed over what happened with Leah. She's become a more and more prominent character as the novels progressed, and she played quite a large role for a portion of Breaking Dawn. Then she all but disappeared without any explanation. It seemed for a while that Meyer was going to hook Jacob and Leah together, and there's a part of me that wishes she would have. It would have been nice to see one of the main characters coming to a relationship of their own free will, one based out of respect and friendship. I wouldn't have wanted Jacob to imprint on Leah, but for the two of them to find love in mending their own broken hearts. It would have made sense, been a very different example of love and relationship from what we've seen in the Twilight books, taken care of the Jacob problem, and given Bella something to sacrifice. And Bella getting it all without having to sacrifice anything? It's a fairy tale ending sure, and maybe we shouldn't criticize Meyer over giving Bella that, and this is fantasy, so I guess why shouldn't she have it? But then, on the other hand, wasn't it all just a little to easy for Bella in Breaking Dawn? Yes, I know, she almost dies giving birth, but she's all too willing, all too happy to suffer physically. And the baby gets her exactly what she wants, her immortality and quickly. But all the tension between the characters is almost entirely missing in Breaking Dawn. Bella's already made her choice of Edward and making the transformation. She still wants Jacob around, but everyone knows it's just in this pathetic, sad puppy kind of way (yes, Polly, pun intended). The tension is just gone. There is still the Volturi and the threat they pose, but that's not the same personal tension we've known and loved throughout the Twilight novels.

And I'm a Jacob girl, so I love the large role Jacob played in Breaking Dawn. I love being inside his mind, his constant jokes and sarcasm. It sounds much like my own mind, minus the extra voices. I loved the titles of his chapters, his dumb blonde jokes. I love everything about Jacob, at least until he imprints and becomes a bit nauseating around Nessie. But I'm in the minority being a Jacob girl, most readers are ALL ABOUT EDWARD, and Breaking Dawn just didn't give Edward much play. I mean, he was there through all of it - worrying about and loving Bella, but nothing happened with him. He didn't grow, he didn't change. He already had the girl, he suffered watching her carry the baby, but that was it. I love Jacob and was thrilled that he got so much play, but even I missed Edward in Breaking Dawn. He just became this secondary character. He was just Bella's husband.

And while I liked the end of Breaking Dawn, the Cullens and friends facing down the Volturi, Curls didn't care for it much. She felt it was all too movie-esque and just not true to the reader. Perhaps. It's not something that occurred to me, and I liked the whole showdown that ended very anti-climatically. Like I said, you get me this wrapped up in a story and I'm likely to forgive just about anything. But I can see for readers that have loved the series because of the relationship between Bella and Edward, how they would feel quite let down over Breaking Dawn, because it's almost not about Bella and Edward at all. It's about Jacob and Nessi and facing down the Volturi. And maybe that's a good thing, because it seems to me Meyer set herself up nicely to continue the series, and I would love to see more Twilight novels.

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Breaking Dawn

I read Breaking Dawn with the same crazed obsession as I read the first three Twilight novels. It was just painful to put it down. And I apologize again to my book club ladies, but there's no way I'm waiting another three weeks to post this. You can string me up by my toes if you want. Better yet, find Edward or Jacob to do it for you.

I have to hand it to Stephenie Meyer, it wasn't at all what I expected. I could just see the wedding and transformation being drawn out through the entire book, maybe not happening at all. I wasn't sure she'd really turn Bella into a vampire ever. The transformation did have to be a life or death situation. I just couldn't see Edward turning her any other way. But a baby! Yeah, didn't see that one coming. Not that there's never been a plot line where a vampire had a baby before. They did that on Buffy years ago. There it was more an issue of vampires not being able to have babies because they didn't have souls, and Angel being the exception to that, actually managed to procreate. Here, it's more an issue of vampires being physically unchanging, so a female vampire could never carry a child, and it never seemed to occur to anyone that a male vampire could get a human pregnant. More than likely, the woman would die in the process even if it were attempted. And it does pretty much kill Bella, Edward just transforms her to save her. Surprise! A half-human, half-vampire child, very interesting. I certainly hope we get to find out more about Nessie. I love that Jacob nicknamed her after the Lock Ness Monster. Too freaking funny. I just love Jacob. How can you not? Even Edward loves him. In the narration, it's his head I enjoy being in more than anyone else's.

I'm not at all disappointed that Bella ends up with Edward. I did rather expect that, despite my fervent hope for Jacob. There's just been so much demanded of Jacob, and he's gotten so little in return for it. I couldn't help but root for him. There could be no Bella and Edward without Jacob. He's been to their rescue so many times and in so many ways - protecting Bella when Edward left, fighting with the vampires to save Bella, breaking with his pack and refusing to kill Bella when she becomes pregnant, agreeing to let Bella be turned without it violating the treaty, keeping watch around the house though it pained him to be there, helping Edward keep Bella alive through the birth when there was no one else there to help. He's done everything Bella and Edward have asked of him, even though it was tearing his heart out to do it. It just didn't seem fair. No friend should have that much demanded of him. But somehow that all seems to even out a bit when Jacob imprints on Nessie. Don't know about you, but that surprised the hell out of me. First, the pregnancy was a surprise, then the whole gestational process only took a month, and Bella was expecting a boy, and the child's half-vampire and Jacob wants it dead for killing Bella. Jacob, Bella's son-in-law? Nope, just didn't see it coming, though perhaps I should have after Jacob's conversation with Quill about the two-year-old he imprinted on. Somehow it just seems fitting, in a really bizarre way. And, yes, I do see the whole Midsummer Night's Dream correlation. Who's running around the forest in love with who again? Let's sprinkle some magic fairy dust and see what happens.

It's nice to see Bella finally strong too. She's no longer the accident prone, weak human. She's physically stronger, her powers dwarf just about all others, and there's little feminists could criticize her for at this point. Edward is no longer a controlling, dominating male in her life. Now she's his equal. In fact, he's more in need of her protection than she is of his. Reminds me of the end of Pretty Woman when Richard Gere asks Julia Roberts what happens after the prince climbs the tower and rescues the princess, and she tells him the princess rescues him right back. Bella may have had to become a vampire to do it, but she's no longer weak and in need of protection. And it doesn't seem she's had to give much up in the process. She has Edward and Jacob, her daughter, her father - everything she's been dreaming of and even some things she didn't even know she wanted. She makes it seem possible that a girl can have everything, in a completely fictional vampire/shape-shifter/half-ling sort of way.

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